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.

tashi-1

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.

yangzhenming

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).

24 Taiji Jian

A friend in my practice group comes back from Beijing with the most interesting forms. This time it’s 24-sword. I haven’t been able to find out much about it, except that it seems to be relatively new (2001?) and allegedly contains 16 sword techniques (jianfa)(I count 12) and 10 kinds of step. I’m using this video:

jutui24

I’ve come up with a list of the 24 movements. Some of them sound simple (#13 gong bu ci jian, for example) but involve quite complicated transitions. According to one page, it’s a Yang-style form, but it looks combined to me.

Here’s the list:

  1. 起势 Qǐshì
  2. 白鹤亮翅 Bái hè lìang chì
  3. 并步点剑 Bìng bù diǎn jiàn
  4. 野马跳剑 Yé mǎ tiào jiàn
  5. 歇步刺剑 Xiē bù cì jiàn
  6. 勾腿劈剑 Gōu tuǐ pī jiàn
  7. 虚步点剑 Xū bù diǎn jiàn
  8. 上步搅剑 Shàng bù jiǎo jiàn
  9. 弓步刺剑 Gōng bù cì jiàn
  10. 架剑蹬脚 Jià jiàn dēng jiǎo
  11. 独立点剑 Dúlì diǎn jiàn
  12. 弓步斜削 Gōng bù xiē xiāo
  13. 弓步刺剑 Gōng bù cì jiàn
  14. 阵脚刺剑 Zhèn jiǎo cì jiàn
  15. 转身抹剑 Zhuǎn shēn mǒ jiàn
  16. 架剑举腿 Jià jiàn jǔ tuǐ
  17. 马步推剑 Mǎ bù tuī jiàn
  18. 弓步刺剑 Gōng bù cì jiàn
  19. 马步扎剑 Mǎ bù zhā jiàn
  20. 弓步斜削 Gōng bù xiē xiāo
  21. 叉 步穿剑 Chǎ bù chuān jiàn
  22. 弓步和剑 Gōng bù hé jiàn
  23. 虛 步穿剑 Xū bù chuān jiàn
  24. 收势 Shōu shì

Chen Sword (49-step)

My class at Master Gohring’s Tai Chi and Kung Fu is reviewing Chen sword, and I’ve been searching out the names of the movements. The form we do is the late Grandmaster Cheng Jincai’s version, and here he is performing it (this is the only video I know of):

Chen Zhenglei’s version is more widely known and practiced, and there’s plenty of video for that. Here video of Chen Zhenglei performing Chen Sword:

chaoyang-jiajian

Chen Zhenglei (Chau Yang)

In addition, I’ve found a series of short videos in which Chen Zhenglei goes through the form a few moves at a time, with names and some instruction. The videos are in Chinese, but with a list of names and a modest vocabulary for sword techniques and stances, etc., I find I can understand quite a bit.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4ef-8oCcIU (Moves 1-10)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNta5a-lfhA (Moves 11-21)
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESnV8IVL0xA (Moves 22-28)
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7nkgG6QDNg (Moves 29-37)
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd3MDlS-Q7k (Moves 38-44)
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF-A8TJ1pCM (Moves 45-49)

A major difference between the two versions is the opening (起势 Qǐshì), which is basically everything up to taking the sword in the right hand. Another difference: In the early move called Protect the Knees (hu xi), Chen Zhenglai travels, while Cheng Jincai does not. A thorough comparison will take me a while yet. Anyway, the list of names seems to work for both.

The form has 49 steps; it is called 陈氏太极剑四十九式 (Chén shì tàijí jiàn sì shí jiǔ shì): Chen Style Tai Chi Sword 49-step form. The list:

ChenSword List of Movements (PDF)

I arrived at the list above by transcribing from the six videos. I also referred to the list of moves on Chen Bing’s excellent website (ChenBing.org). The Chinese on that list is all good, the Pinyin not so much—numerous typos, at least according to the dictionary I use (MDBG). I rely heavily on Pinyin, so I worked out my own. The English translations are mine and are not guaranteed (or even likely) to be accurate! This form is not so well known that there are established English names. As usual, I prefer to learn the Chinese.

By the way, Zhong Kui (鍾馗)  is the Ghost King (vanquisher of ghosts).  Luóhàn (罗汉) is Arhat, an enlightened person in Buddhism, one who has reached nirvana.     Yèchā (夜叉) is a malevolent spirt, Nézha (哪吒) is the protection deity, and Wéi Tuó (韦驼), aka Skanda, is one of eight divine protectors in Chinese Buddhism.

Chen ZiQiang also offers a step-by-step instructional video on YouTube, with names. I have elsewhere linked to a good (eye-opening!) article about him from KungFuMagazine,com: WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A TAIJI MASTER IN CHEN VILLAGE.

At about 5:40, he lists the nine sword techniques (Jian fa) in the Chen system: beng, gua, liao, pi, ci, dian, tuo, jia, and sao. So, for example, the instruction for Chau Yang is jia jian (the overhead block pictured above).

One last resource, which I think I’ll turn to after my class finishes its review of this form, is Jesse Tsao, who offers an English instructional video which can be downloaded or streamed.

Jesse is a lineage-holding Chen Master under Chen Zhenglai, so he is teaching that version of the form. I find that his videos are well worth the reasonable cost.

8 and 16 Forms

I found an interesting free local Tai Chi class taught by a Taiwanese gentleman in his seventies. I think he’s very good. He teaches the curriculum that begins with 8 forms, and then 16 forms, before proceeding to 24. I’ve already gotten some great corrections from him. It’s a rigorous class.

8formsaminwu

Since I know 24 pretty well, learning 8 and 16 is just a matter of learning the sequences. There’s plenty of good video. The person demo-ing in the video pictured above looks like Amin Wu.

The eight forms are:

  1. Dao Juan Gong (R/L) [Reverse Reeling Forearm*]
  2. Lou Xi Au Bu (R/L)  [Brush Knee Push]
  3. Ye Ma Fen Zong  (L/R) [Part the Wild Horse’s Mane]
  4. Yun Shou (L/R) [Cloud Hands]
  5. Jin Ji Du Li (R/L) [Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg]
  6. Deng Jiao (R/L) [Heel Kick]
  7. Lan Que Wei (R/L) [Grasp the Bird’s Tail]
  8. Shi Zi Shou [Cross Hands]

Notes: Dao Juan Gong is performed in place. Both Lou Xi Au Bu and Ye Ma Fen Zong have a 180-degree turn. Yun Shou is one step left, one step right.

*I don’t use Repulse Monkeys because when you add the footwork, it won’t be the same as the traditional form with that name. Besides, this is the more accurate translation. Repulse Monkeys would be Dao Nian Hou, which is the name used in the old form. That said, a lot of people would call this Repulse Monkeys. Avoid confusion; use the Chinese.

The sixteen forms are:

  1. Qishi
  2. Ye Ma Fen Zong (L/R) [Part the Wild Horse’s Mane]
  3. Bai He Liang Chi [White Crane Spreads Wings]
  4. Lou Xi Au Bu (R/L) [Brush Knee Push]
  5. Jin Bu Ban Lan Chui [Step Forward Block Parry Punch]
  6. Ru Feng Si Bi [Apparent Closing**]
  7. Dan Bian  [Single Whip]
  8. Shou Hui Pipa [Play the Lute]
  9. Dao Juan Gong (L/R) [See above*]
  10. Yu Nu Chuan Suo (L/R) [Fair Lady Works Shuttle]
  11. Hai Di Zhen [Needle at Sea Bottom]
  12. Shan Tong Bi [Flash the Back]
  13. Yun Shou [Cloud Hands]
  14. Lan que wei (R/L) [Grasp the Bird’s Tail]
  15. Shizi Shou [Cross Hands]
  16. Shou Shi

I used this video to get the sequence. Hai Di Zhen and Shan Tong Bi are both on the left, opposite of 24, which feels pretty strange. This, by the way, is a pipa, a Chinese lute:

pipa

**AKA Withdraw and Push, an accurate description but not an accurate translation.

Chinese Swordsmanship

I have been studying such an interesting book: Chinese Swordsmanship, by Scott Rodell.

swordsmanship

Rodell describes two systems of swordfighting, both attributed to Yang Luchan (1799-1872), the founder of Yang-style Tai Chi and of the Yang sword form. During the early years of his career (mid-nineteenth century) Yang Luchan kept his swordfighting techniques secret. That Yang system, and the sword form that demonstrates it, Rodell calls the Michuan system.

秘传 Mìchuán: “secretly transmitted, esoteric lore”

The Yang sword form most of us are familiar with, which Rodell calls the public form, was a later development.  The Michuan system has eight named swordfighting techniques (剑法 Jiànfǎ).  The public form has thirteen.

This clears up a mystery for me: I had always heard there were thirteen essential swordfighting techniques, yet the Chen masters seem to name only eight and the Wudang masters nine. So apparently, the number of Jiànfǎ  depends on what system you’re talking about; it is the Yang sword system that has thirteen.

There is still plenty of room for confusion (on my part) and further study. In some cases the same technique has different names in different systems; in other cases, the same name attaches to different techniques in different systems. Rodell does include a chapter on other swordfighting systems, though it is not exhaustive by any means.

The Yang techniques are: dian, ci, pi, beng, ya, chou, dai, ti, ge, ji, jiao, jie, and xi. Rodell describes how each is executed, and while I don’t suppose it’s possible to learn the techniques entirely from these descriptions, they are very useful.

What is also helpful is the way he categorizes the different techniques, beyond the obvious distinction between attacking and defensive maneuvers. He describes the Jiànfǎ in terms of long, medium, or short energy, the part of the sword being used, and the part of the body targeted.

Rodell also sorts Jiànfǎ  by cutting method, of which there are four: deflect or neutralize; straight thrust to pierce; what he calls a “percussion cut” (a chop with the edge of the blade without a lateral draw); and slicing cuts that draw or push the edge lateral to the cut. Hitting with the flat of the blade is in a  miscellaneous category of additional “minor movements” not really part of the system.

The book includes step-by-step illustrations and descriptions of the both the Michuan and public sword forms. It is particularly illuminating is that he provides the applications for each movement. In many, if not most cases, a single named movement involves multiple techniques.

I particularly like the way Rodell relates the sword forms to the use of the sword in actual battle, and the historical material makes very good reading. He even briefly comments on the comparison between Chinese and European swordsmanship. Between the definitions of the techniques, the applications, and the illustrations of how to do the form, history, philosophy, metallurgy, and accounts of Rodell’s own extensive training experience, this is quite a dense book, more a reference or text than a cover-to-cover read. Excellent book, a great find —highly recommended!