Part 9: The Popular Modern Styles Of Taijiquan

Other than the major forms described so far, there are other popular forms of more modern origin. These have become notable in recent years and there is a good number of exponents who practice nothing else.

Some of these forms come from noted masters of the art and are their personal expression of the system which they learnt or those who have created new sequences unique to themselves and their students. Others are forms created for competition and for general health care.

Regardless of origin, these new forms have a definite influence and place in the martial art and health care communities and should be covered in the interest of furthering our knowledge into the expressions of the art.

The China National Forms

Some of the most popular forms practiced today are forms developed by the Chinese government to promote the art both as a form of health exercise and as a sport. The first of these forms was the 24 posture simplified Taijiquan form developed in 1956. This form is by far the most popular of the national forms since the public has been exposed to this form for much longer.

Later a long 88 posture form was standardised. Both these early forms were based on the Yang style of Taijiquan and the postures within are essentially the same. These forms were taught to the masses in China as a form of healthy exercise and do not really stress the martial aspects of the form.

With the adoption of Wushu as an Olympic demonstration sport, the Chinese government has also increased the promotion of competition Taijiquan routines. There is one such shortened routine for each of the major styles of Taijiquan as well as forms that combine aspects of all the different styles of Taijiquan. These amalgamated forms do not contain all the techniques of the individual styles but only some selected techniques representative of the different parent styles.

The competition forms are now taught all over the world to competitors and to people who simply want to take it up for health. Because of the official recognition by the Chinese government and the Olympic Council for these forms, they have become the forms of choice for many people.

The Shorter Yang Form Of Zheng Man Qing

Without doubt, the most influential of these new forms in the West is the 37 posture shortened Yang form of Zheng Man Qing. Zheng was a disciple of the great master Yang Cheng Fu. Zheng developed the short form to enable the art to be learnt more quickly and to be less time consuming so that it can be practiced easily with modern day hectic schedules.

Zheng's great skill in Taijiquan made his form very popular. Today it is one of the predominant forms practiced in the West. Many of Zheng's students are today noted masters of the art and continue to promote his short form for both health and self-defence.

The shortened form is still Yang style Taijiquan but with the repetitions and some postures removed. The theories and techniques remain unchanged. Almost all of Zheng's works on Taijiquan have been translated into English and their influence is substantial.

The form is mostly extent in East Asia and in America, the two places where Zheng lived. The impact that Zheng and his form has on the Taijiquan community at large is great. His contribution to the art was substantial.

The Tung Family Taijiquan

The Tung family Taijiquan began with Tung Ying Chieh who was a student of Yang Cheng Fu. Before studying with Yang Cheng Fu, however, Tung had already studied the Wu Yu Xiang style of Taijiquan from Li Xiang Yun.

Later he would make the Yang style his main form. In addition to the traditional Yang style forms, Tung also created a fast form of Taijiquan unique to his lineage. This fast form was based on the fast form of Wu Yu Xiang style Taijiquan and Yang style Taiji Long Boxing. This new form was taught as an advanced form to worthy students.

Tung's ability at Taijiquan made him a sought after master and he later moved to Hong Kong and popularised the art there. Today, the Tung family Taijiquan has spread across the world to countries like America, England, Europe, Australia and in regions like South East Asia. The Tung family continues to teach their art to a growing number of enthusiasts.

The Shorter Chen Forms of Chen Xiao Wang and Feng Zhi Qiang

Chen Style Taijiquan masters like Chen Xiao Wang and Feng Zhi Qiang have also developed shorter sets to help popularise their form of Taijiquan. Chen Xiao Wang created a shorter set comprising of postures from both the Xin Jia and the Lao Jia of Chen Taijiquan. He currently resides in Australia where he continues to promote Chen Taijiquan.

Feng Zhi Qiang is a noted disciple of Chen Fa Ke. He has been a major moving force behind the popularisation of Chen Taijiquan. With his many years of experience he created a shorter Chen set based on the Lao Jia which he learnt from his master. The set is somewhat longer than the one developed by Chen Xiao Wang but is gaining popularity through Feng's books and promotional efforts.

The Kwang Ping Taijiquan Of Kuo Lien Ying

Kuo Lien Ying was one of the few mainland Chinese Taijiquan masters to make his home in America. Skilled in both external and internal boxing, he was a respected boxer in China. He later moved to Taiwan and then to America. Kuo had learnt his Taijiquan from Wang Chiao Yu in Beijing from a young age. Wang himself was a student under Yang Pan Hou.

An examination of Kuo's Taijiquan shows characteristics of Yang Pan Hou's Taijiquan but it differs somewhat from the old Yang form. Kuo called his form Kwang Ping Taijiquan after the city of Kwang Ping where the Yangs had taught for a while. He did it to differentiate it from the more extent forms of Taijiquan which he felt did not contain all the theories of Taijiquan and that the form he had learnt represent the whole transmission as taught by the Yangs in the city of Kwang Ping before going into the Imperial Court. It should be noted that Kuo's form is not practiced in Kwang Ping city.

Today, Kuo's Taijiquan tradition is being carried on by his wife Simmone Kuo and his son. Based in San Francisco, the style continues its growth primarily in the United States where the number of its practitioners continues to increase.

Fu Zhen Song's Taijiquan

Fu Zhen Song was primarily noted as a Pa Kua master and is famous for his creation of the Dragon Form Pa Kua Chang art. He was also skilled in the art of Chen Taijiquan whom he learnt from Chen Ting Xi. Inspired by the principles of Taijiquan, he incorporated the key elements of Pa Kua Chang into several new Taijiquan forms he created. Fu created unique Taijiquan forms like Fu Style Taijiquan, Taiji Lightning Palm and Taiji Lightning Fist. He was one of the Canton Five Tigers and became head instructor of the Central Guo Shu Institute in 1928.

Fu's Dragon Form Pa Kua Chang contains two man push hand sets like Taijiquan and Fu's Taijiquan has the Dragon like characteristics of his Pa Kua Chang. Today, the Fu family continues to teach these forms of Taijiquan which is unique and differ from the more traditional styles.

Chen Pan Ling's Taijiquan

Chen Pan Ling was one of the greatest modern masters of Chinese martial arts. Both a scholar and a great master, Chen had studied under noted masters in his youth and continued to research Chinese martial arts theory and history until his death in 1967.

Chen Pan Ling had the good opportunity to go to the Chen Villiage to study their arts and also to study under Yang Shao Hou, Wu Jian Quan, Xu Yu Sheng, etc. He also associated with great masters of Taijiquan and learnt much from them. The result of his studies was his own form of Taijiquan that is mainly based on the Yang style and Wu styles he learnt from Xu Yu Sheng, Yang Shao Hou and Wu Jian Quan. It is unusual but there is no evidence of Chen Taijiquan input in the form. The information about Du Yu Wan's Taijiquan in the Chen Villiage does provide the possibility that the Taijiquan Chen Pan Ling learnt at the Chen Villiage was a set similar to that of the Yang school rather than the current Chen Taijiquan.

Chen was also an expert at Hsing-I and Pa Kua and he created some basic practice sets that reflect such influences in his art. The old sequence of learning is preserved with single posture training and fast form training.

The Chang Style Of Taijiquan

The Chang Style Taijiquan is the name given to the Taijiquan set created by Fan Su Fen. She had studied since she was seven years old. Learning Shaolin, Tung Bei, Hsing-I, Pa Kua, Old Yang Taijiquan, qigong, Xin Yi Liu He, Mien Quan, Liu He Pa Fa, Chen Taijiquan from noted teachers like Gu Liu Xin, Wang Qing Jian, Wan Lai Sheng, Wang Ju Rong, etc.

She later studied and made her main style the old Wu Jian Quan style of Chang Yun Jia, whose father Chang Yun Ting had studied with Quan Yu, the founder of the Wu Jian Quan style. Fan integrated the best parts of all the arts she had learnt into the form taught to her by Chang and developed a unique style of Taijiquan. The form itself is low and has postures from both the Old Yang Form, the Old Wu Jian Quan Form. Out of respect for her teacher, she named the new form Chang style Taijiquan.

The Chang style of Taijiquan was first taught in 1981 and through books, classes and a television series teaching it, has become quite popular. Today the form continues to spread in popularity primarily in China and Taiwan.

The Li Style Of Taijiquan

The Li style of Taijiquan was created by Li Wan Dong who was a student of Wang Lan Ting, a treasured student of Yang Lu Chan, and Gan Yan Ran, the grandson of the great internal boxing master Gan Feng Chi. From his two teachers, Li learnt the Wudang internal Taijiquan arts.

Li's Taijiquan form has elements of the Yang Small Frame, the Yang Old Frame and has all three heights of training in the same form. Li was fortunate to receive Wang Lan Ting's boxing manual which Wang had gotten from Yang Lu Chan. Inside it we find several interesting works including a much extended Five Word Formula with unique theories. The Five Word Formula coming down from Yang Pan Hou through Wu Meng Xia is contained within it.

Also contained is the Chen Chang Xin Preface which is proportedly an original document from Chen Chang Xin delinating the details of his teacher Jiang Fa. The information within agrees with some of the earlier testimonies of old masters who had trained under Yang Lu Chan. The letter was given to Wang Lan Ting by Yang Lu Chan, possibly because Yang was illiterate, who in turned gave it to Li Wan Dong.

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