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Part 4: The Development Of Yang Style Taijiquan



Taijiquan first became a noted martial art through the prowess and teachings of the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan. It was largely through the efforts of the first 3 generations of the Yang family that Taijiquan has such a large following in the world today. The Yang lineage also resulted in three of the five most important schools of Taijiquan today. To them the Taiji communities of today owes a great debt.


Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang style of Taijiquan learnt his art from Chen Chang Xin, a martial arts master from the Chen Village in Wen County, Henan. Chen Chang Xin was versed in his family martial art Pao Chui (Cannon Pounding) and was also a student of Jiang Fa whose master was Wang Tsung Yueh. From this lineage, the art was traced back to the Internal Boxing founded by Chang San Feng, a Taoist residing on Wu Dang Mountain, the founder of Wu Dang martial arts, second in popularity only to the Shaolin school.2


Yang Lu Chan's Teacher Chen Chang Xin


From noted Taiji master and historian Wu Tu Nan's interview with Chen Xin, a noted Chen family martial artist and historian3. We learn that Chen Chang Xin was teaching his students when Jiang Fa was passing through the village, returning from a visit from his mother in Henan and on his way back to his Tofu store in Shanxi. He happened upon Chen Chang Xin and when he saw how he practiced, he could not help but laugh. Having revealed his presence, he hurried away. Chen Chang Xin took offence at the laughter and persued him, grabbing Jiang's shoulder from behind. Jiang simply turned around and Chen was thrown to the ground. Realising that he had met a superior martial artist, Chen asked Jiang to accept him as a student. Jiang specified that he would return after three years to teach Chen and he did so.


Because Chen Chang Xin had studied under Jiang Fa, the seniors of the Chen villiage forebade Chen Chang Xin to teach the family art of Pao Chui which they had been famous for several generations, gaining the title `Pao Chui Chen Family'. This may very well be the reason why Chen Chang Xin held his classes at night in his back court yard.


So it would seem that Chen Chang Xin's martial art would have been part Pao Chui and part Wu Dang Internal Boxing which would lend credence to the common belief first voiced by noted Taiji historian Hsu Chen that the Taijiquan we know today was Chen family Pao Chui softened by input from Jiang Fa4. From early Chen martial arts manuals we can see such a influence. The earlier Wen Xiu Tang Ben martial arts manual does not mention any form called '13 postures' or `Taijiquan'. The later Liang Yi Tang Ben is the first to mention the art but calls it in addition to '13 postures' also '13 sections'.


How Yang Lu Chan Learnt The Art


There have been many variations of the storey of how Yang Lu Chan learnt his art from Chen Chang Xin. All are variations of the simple fact that Yang Lu Chan journeyed from Yung Nien southwards to the Chen villiage to eventually study with Chen Chang Xin. The most commonly accepted version is also one that is probably the most credible5.


We know that Yang Lu Chan was born poor, a son of a farmer. He loved martial arts and had studied Shaolin Hung Quan6 with a local boxer, building up a good martial arts foundation. One day as he was passing by the Tai He Tang owned by Chen De Hu, a member of the Chen family of the Chen family in Henan, he witnessed an encounter between a shop assistant (who was a member of the Chen family also) and an unruly customer. The customer attacked the shop assistant who dispatched him with ease, causing him to be knocked out the door of the shop. Yang Lu Chan had never seen such an effortless repost before and enquired after Chen De Hu, seeking instruction in this superior martial art.


Chen De Hu disavowed any great knowledge but offered to recommend him to Chen Chang Xin, a great martial arts master in the Chen village. As the Chen family were rather protective about their martial arts, only family members were taught at that time. Chen De Hu wrote a letter recommending Yang Lu Chan as a servant to work for the family so that Yang could learn their martial arts.


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