Chuantong 85

Last spring I asked Jesse Tsao what the traditional Yang-style long form was called in Chinese, and he told me it was known as Chuantong 81 or 85, most often the latter. That is, 传统杨氏太极拳八十五式 (chuántǒng Yáng shì tàijíquán bā shí wǔ shì): Traditional Yang-style Taijiquan 85 form. The key identifier is 传统 (chuántǒng), meaning traditional.

libookAccording to Li Deyin, Yang Cheng Fu, grandson of Yang Luchan, originally counted 81 movements in the long form we call the 108 (some say 103 or 105). Again according to Li, Yang Cheng Fu later separated some of the moves to arrive at 85 steps. In his book, Taijiquan, Li describes the 85 movements, which were recorded in a text and demonstrated with photographs taken in 1931 at the Shandong Provincial Martial Arts School, under the direction of Yang Cheng Fu and the deputy head of the school, Li Jinglin. The movements are demonstrated by Li Yulin, dean of studies at the school.

Li’s book (available on Amazon) is a great reference, not only for the interesting chapter on the traditional Yang-style long form, but even more so for the detailed descriptions of the contemporary forms, starting with 24. The book covers 24, 42, 32 sword, and 42 sword. It would be impossible to learn these forms from the book, but if you know them, the book is invaluable for checking the correctness of each move. Since Li is (or was for a long time) a (if not the) top judge in China, his specifications can certainly be trusted.

I am not sure how to reconcile the list of 85 with Yang Zhen Ming’s (if that’s his voice) list of 108 movements (see the post before this one), or with the Yang Family list of 103 moves. As I said before, these lists vary more than the actual form. But using the name, 传统杨式太极拳八十五式, (chuántǒng Yáng shì tàijíquán bā shí wǔ shì), I came up with this video, which I love.

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Tashi performing chuantong bashiwu

This woman is 扎西老师 (Zhā Xī lǎoshī). Laoshi means teacher; Zhaxi is her name. I found a couple of bios for her. She is from Qinghai, Tibet, and her Tibetan name is written Tashi in English. She was born in 1932 and began to study Tai Chi in 1974, at the age of 42, when she was desperately ill. She was taught by Zhao Bin, a senior disciple and nephew of Yang Chengfu. She not only recovered her health but also became the first Tibetan Tai Chi master ever, widely recognized and much celebrated.

Her form looks very close to Yang Zhen Ming’s, and there is plenty of good video available. Here are her tutorials on the long form:

Here is another demonstration of the whole form by Tashi. Zhao You bin is Zhao Bin’s son, and he also offers demonstrations and tutorials for the traditional Yang-style long form as taught by his father, Tashi’s teacher, Zhao Bin.

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Yang Family Videos

Here is a very interesting video of Yang Sau Chung (守中Pinyin shǒu zhōng), Yang Cheng Fu’s oldest son demonstrating his father’s long form.

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His name is actually杨振铭 Yáng Zhèn Míng. How Yang Zhen Ming comes to be Yang Sau Chung is a mystery to me, as is the very poor video quality, seeing as this film is not ancient. It was recorded in 1980, when Yang Zhen Ming was 70 years old. This one (same raw footage) has corrected aspect ratio but the ending (where quality deteriorates badly) has been deleted.

This biography of Yang Zhen Ming is hard to follow using Google translate, but this much is clear: He studied and taught with his father from childhood until Yang Cheng Fu’s death in 1936, when Yang Zhen Ming was 26. In 1949, he moved to Hong Kong, where he lived and taught for the remainder of his life.

Yang does the form quickly—in less than nine minutes. Someone in the comments attributes this to the limitations of the camera (couldn’t record the 20+ minutes that the form usually takes). The names of the moves are voiced over. I transcribed them and got 108 names (I did add qishi as the first move—the video picks up after the opening):

Yang Zhen Ming List [PDF]

The lists I’ve seen for this form—the number of movements and the names—vary a lot more than the actual form, but I noticed a couple of things in this version of the form itself. The first ward-off is called xie fei peng (slant flying ward-off) and appears to be left che bu (the sideways bow stance), facing right. This movement (xie fei peng) also follows the four corners (yu nu chuan suo).

Another surprise: He does ye ma fen zong (part the wild horse’s mane) four times, not three. Also, the single whip that follows the first bao hu gui shan (embrace tiger return to mountain) appears to be normal (and is not called diagonal); only the second is diagonal (and that one is called xie danbian). And bai he liang chi (white crane spreads wings) faces straight ahead.

Another resource is a slideshow with photographs of Yang Chengfu demonstrating each of the postures of the long form. Below: Yang Chengfu demonstrating lou xi au bu (brush knee push).

108

Yang Chengfu Taijiquan 108 Movements

Yang Zhen Duo, the youngest son of Yang Cheng Fu, would have been about ten when Yang Cheng Fu died, so I conclude that he would have learned primarily from his brothers. He offers a lengthy tutorial on the long form, much of which is lecture, at least in the beginning. I can’t say I got much out of the English subtitles and voiceover in the first hour. Demonstration begins at about the one-hour mark.

I found a set of four shorter videos of Yang Zhen Duo doing the long form (demonstration, no lecture). The parts do not correspond to the usual division of the form into sections; they are just equal-length (about 8 minutes) segments:

The Yang Family’s website offers a list of movements, which differs on a number of points from the list above (transcribed from Yang Zhen Ming), but again, the difference lies mainly in the names, less in the execution of the form.

Instructions for 56-Sword

This sword form has two sets of names. A list I have already posted gives the traditional poetic names of the movements. A different list names the moves as instructions, usually the stance plus the sword technique (jianfa). So, for example, Da Kuixing (the Big Dipper or Major Literary Star) is duli fan ci (stand on one leg and reverse-stab). I’ll post both lists here:

The numbers of the moves agree: #23 on the second list is the instruction for #23 on the first list. Here is a beautiful walk-through demonstration of 56-Sword with names. Elsewhere I have posted links to Li Deyin’s tutorial on 56-sword, broken into short segments. Here is an earlier version, also by Li, as one two-hour tutorial with the same person demonstrating (Fan Xue Ping).

You would be amazed how much you can understand of a Chinese instructional video knowing the terms for sword techniques, the names of stances, and a few miscellaneous instructional words, a total vocabulary of less than a hundred words. That vocabulary covers all the instructional names in the list above (which is why I have not bothered to translate that list into English).