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Part 6: The Development Of Wu Jian Quan Style


Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan is second in popularity only after the Yang style of Taijiquan. It is in fact representative of the Yang style Small Frame which was developed and taught by Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang style, for the students in the Imperial Court.

The founder of Wu Jian Quan style Taijiquan is Wu Jian Quan's father Quan Yu (1834-1902). Quan Yu was one of Yang Lu Chan's top students and was said to have gained his master's skill in evasive techniques. He worked as a bodyguard in the Imperial Court and was Manchurian by race. Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942) did the most to popularise this style of Taijiquan and the style is named after him. Because of his efforts, many people came to learn this style of Taijiquan and his form soon became the accepted standard for this style.

The Yang Style Small Frame Of Quan Yu

When Yang Lu Chan began teaching in the Imperial Court through the recommendation of Wu Yu Xiang's brother. He encountered conditions which merited a modification to the form he normally taught. The Imperial Court Dress had long sleeves and long robes which made certain movements awkward, these factors had to be taken into account in order for the art to be used effectively for combat in such clothes.

What resulted was the Yang style Small Frame. This is primarily a modification of the Old Yang Form to take into account these factors. It was smaller in terms of movements and its postures allowed combat in the restrictive clothes of the Imperial Court. The Yang Small Frame comes down to us also from Gong Tian Ren who was also a student of Yang Lu Chan in the Imperial Court. It agrees substantially with the early Wu Jian Quan style set.

Because the Yang Small Frame was different from the Old Yang Form that Yang Lu Chan taught before he was in the Imperial Court and at his private classes. There arose a misunderstanding that he taught a watered down `Manchurian' directed form in the Imperial Court and a secret `Han' form to his family and close students.15 This was not the case, his family knew the Small Frame and taught it as well and some of the Imperial Court members like Wang Lan Ting who practiced outside with him also practiced the Old Yang Form. Other than the postural modifications to take into account the dressing differences, the art remained essentially the same.

The Three Major Lineages From Quan Yu

Quan Yu taught many disciples his art and three main streams come down to us from him. Wang Mao Zhai (1862-1940) who taught the famous Wu Jian Quan style master Yang Yu Ting (1887-1982), Chang Yun Ting (1860-1918) and his own son Wu Jian Quan.

From these three lineages come the modern masters of Wu Jian Quan Style Taijiquan, like Mah Yueh Liang, Wu Ying Hwa, Wu Kong Yi, Wu Kong Zhao, Eddie Wu, Wang Pei Sheng, Ma You Qing, Chang Yun Jia and many others who carry on the task of promoting the art.

Quan Yu is recorded as a disciple of Yang Ban Hou and indeed he had trained under Yang Ban Hou as Yang Ban Hou would assist his father in teaching the classes. But he was primarily a student of Yang Lu Chan. One must understand the importance of status in the Imperial Court. Yang Lu Chan instructed not only soldiers and bodyguards but also taught the Imperial household, the princes of the realm themselves. It would be unseemly that the princes would have boxing brothers with commoners, an in terms of boxing seniority, these commoners were sometimes boxing seniors to the princes. So these non-royalty students were made to bow to Yang Ban Hou as master. This would ensure that they were at least one generation below, in terms of boxing rank, from the royal princes.

When Yang Lu Chan left the Imperial Court to retire in his old age.16 Quan Yu also left the Imperial Court and lived in Beijing and taught his art to many students. He attained a great reputation as a boxer and produced many fine students.


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