Long Feng surprised me one day by showing me Ba Shi Ba — 88 form. The surprise was that 88 turned out to be the traditional long form that I know as the Yang 108. And sure enough, if you look it up, 88 is supposedly the traditional long form.
What I call the Yang 108 and what Long Feng knows as the 88 are unmistakably the same form, but the differences are numerous. One movement is missing entirely–the shoulder strike–and some movements are almost unrecognizable, most notably Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain (Bao Hu Gui Shan).
In addition, nearly every single movement is styled a little (or a lot) differently, more like the modern Beijing-style forms that I’ve been learning from Long Feng. I take it that 88 is the traditional Yang long form as performed and taught in China today. Modern Tai Chi is highly standardized. It’s taught in universities in China and is a college sport.
Although it sounds like 88 would have twenty fewer movements, it’s not actually any shorter except for lacking the shoulder strike. The difference is in how the movements are counted. I haven’t studied the details, but I’ve watched (and followed) the whole 88, and it is the complete 108 (sans Kao). Lan Que Wei alone could account for the difference, depending on whether you counted each Peng, Lu, Ji and An separately.
The picture above links to an instructional video by Li Deyin, who has been an enormously influential Tai Chi Master and instructor in Beijing for many years. He created 42 and 48 forms, and is considered an authority on 88. The performer is one of his students.
I would love to learn to do the long form this way, but I am afraid of confusing myself in advance of my test. Maybe this spring.