Yang-Style Long Form

I’ve been on a mission this year to correct my Yang-style long form to make it as authentic as possible. I’m studying Jesse Tsao’s instructional videos (available on taichihealthways.com), Yang family videos, and these two books:

chengfu fuzhongwen

Yang Chengfu was arguably the most influential tai chi master of the 20th century, and it is his long form that defines the Yang style today. Fu Zhongwen studied with Yang Chengfu from an early age and traveled with him throughout Yang’s teaching career, demonstrating for him and representing him in push-hands contests, at which he was famously unbeatable.

Yang Chengfu explains each movement in terms of its martial arts application. Fu Zhongwen, by contrast, describes each movement in great detail, but does not make reference to the purpose of the move. I don’t know that you could learn the form from these books, but they serve very well to check the authenticity of one’s own practice.

The Yang style originated with Chengfu’s grandfather, Yang Luchan, who developed a new style of tai chi after studying for ten years with Master Chen Changxing in Chenjiagou. Yang had three sons and many disciples to preserve his teachings, but there is no concrete record of exactly what his form was like.

The historian Gu Liuxin suggests that Yang Luchan’s boxing initially shared more characteristics of Chen style, such as fajin and bursts of speed. Over time, his form took on more and more of the smooth, continuous, and gentle character that we associate with Yang style today.

Yang Chengfu learned directly from his grandfather, and according to Gu, early in his career his kicks were swift and explosive, his movements generally more physically challenging. It was only in the later years that he modified his entire form to adhere to the principle of slow, steady, and soft movements.

Whatever mystery may surround Yang Luchan’s practice, we can be pretty clear about Yang Chengfu’s fully developed long form. We have photographs of every posture as well as the careful descriptions in the two text books. Variations in detail are few and minor, and in the practice of Yang’s best-known disciples there is very substantial agreement and consistency.

In addition, we have the photographs and descriptions of Li Yulin, dean of studies at the Shandong Provincial Martial Arts School, who prepared teaching materials under the direction of Yang Chengfu himself. The major content of the 1931 book is reproduced in Li Deyin’s  book, Taijiquan.

While we can be pretty clear about what the movements were, the naming and counting varies significantly. Some count 81, others 85, 94, 103, 105, and 108. The form doesn’t vary; it’s mostly a matter of whether you count a repeated movement one or three times (cloud hands versus cloud hands 1, cloud hands 2, cloud hands 3). My own list compiles all notable names but no repetition, and comes out to 86. I still usually call the form the 108.

See also:

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The Horsetail Whisk

The fuchen (拂尘 Fúchén), or chen (尘), is a soft Taoist weapon from the Wudang mountains. My friend and teacher Hu Pei Yi brought me one from China and she is teaching me a 38-step routine. Here is a video of Vicky Ting performing the same one we’re doing:

vickyting

This is a modern combined wushu form. There is a shorter, faster and more furious traditional form practiced by the Wudang masters. The setting of this video makes me long to go back there!

wudangchen

The chen makes a beautiful sound much like its English name: whisk. A number of its movements are borrowed from the saber (daofa): chan tou, hua. Others are derived from sword (jianfa): jiao, pi, dian, ci, beng. Miss Hu also gave me a list of names and instructions, which it has taken me the better part of a month to decipher.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Here is the PDF list of names, many of which are familiar from other forms: fuchen38names.

I have worked out all the instructions (with a lot of help) in Pinyin, but haven’t bothered to translate into English; the vocabulary is familiar, with just a few new words. Here are several new (to me) words that are good to know: 弹dàn  (flick); 曲qū (bend, as in 曲肘qū zhǒu, bend the elbow); 把bǎ (handle); 后坐hòu zuò (sit back); 拉 lā (pull). I needed to clarify for myself: 反 fǎn is reverse; 翻 fān is flip over, overturn.

Fuchen 38 names and instructions (may not be 100% correct, errors are mine): fuchen-instructions.

I always enjoy coming across idioms among the names of the movements. Love this one: (#10) 虎踞龙盘 Hǔ jù long pán is literally Where tigers crouch and dragons coil, a lovely figure of speech to describe forbidding territory.

Other good ones:

  • (#15) 声东击西 Shēng dōng jī xī means to threaten the east and strike the west; in other words, to use diversion.
  • (#4) 芙蓉出水 Fú róng chū shuǐ is translated as Lotus emerges from the water,  but Furong is actually hibiscus, not lotus. Anyway, this one is an idiom for blooming, either figuratively or literally.
  • (#17) 横扫千军 Héng sǎo qiān jūn is literally Sweep aside a thousand troops. It is an idiom for total annihilation.

Elsewhere I have seen Bawang ju ding as hero raises a pot. But when I looked up Bawang ju bian (raises the whip), I read that Bawang is a despot! A Simon Legree!

Shuang Dao Review

I first learned Chen double sabers two-three years ago at Master Gohring’s school. I’m reviewing it now with the help of a series of YouTube videos by Chen Zhenglei. Here he is doing the whole form:

CZjump

Here is my final list of Shuang-Dao Names, derived from multiple sources as well as my own translation. The Chinese and Pinyin are certainly correct; the English translations are as usual all over the map. I’ve settled on fairly literal, simple English. I think it’s easier to just learn the Chinese.

Shuang Dao Names (PDF)

Chen Zhenglei has also made a tutorial consisting of 8 short videos, each covering a few of the 35 moves.

  1. Moves 1-3
  2. Moves 4-8
  3. Moves 9-13
  4. Moves 14-18
  5. Moves 19-22
  6. Moves 23-26
  7. Moves 27-29
  8. Moves 30-35

I also have Jesse Tsao’s instructional video (available here), which is in English and well worth the small cost. When I worked my way through the form in 2015, I also used the long, two-part tutorial by Master Tzu Tian Cai. It’s in Chinese with some English subtitles and rewards patience with very clear footwork and swordplay for every move.

Here’s the link for all my posts (notes) on this form, but the resources in this post cover everything I found useful. The version I’ve arrived at this time around is a little different from what we learned in class; it now agrees with Chen Zhenglei , Jesse Tsao, and Tzu Tian Cai.

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.

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