Monday, October 12, 2009

A little History of Classical Tai Chi

Young Wabu and Wu Jianquan Hong Kong


I excerpted
the following from a website http://enlighteners.com/history.html and it gives another perspective on both the practice and evolution of Square Form and Round Form, that are the primary course of study in Classical Tai Chi (See picture above) Grandmaster Yang Wabiu (Young Wabu) is spoken about in the article as being "Dr. Young" and Wu Jian Quan is referred to as Mr. Wu. It speaks of how Wu Jianquan developed the "small frame (small step)" from the "large frame (large step)"...and more.

Dr. Stephen Hwa who is my teacher is featured in the Square and Round Form link in the above paragraph. He also studied with Young Wabu (Dr. Young made his living as an Osteopath in Hong Kong before moving to Rochester, NY and Dr. Hwa studied over 30 years with him. Visiting Young Wabu's house for a memorial service a few years ago, I had quite a discussion with both Dr. Hwa and Young Wabu's daughter Sonia about this history)



A little different perspective on Classical Tai Chi

Mr. Chow: "Yes, we both started Tai Chi Chuan in 1949.
"
Stephanie: "Who was your teacher?"
Mr. & Mrs.: "Dr. Young"

Stephanie: "He was teaching Wu Style Tai Chi?"
Mrs. Chow: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Stephanie: "Because I know Yang Style is very popular now."
Mr. Chow: "Dr. Young was last student of Mr. Wu who started Wu Style Tai Chi in Hong Kong."

Stephanie: "Why and how is Wu different from the other forms? How is it different from Yang or Chen?"

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu, he was yang (master) with big steps. After sixty years he developed smaller steps."

Mrs. Chow: "He thinks when you getting old you don't like to do big steps. See?"
Mr. Chow: "Don't expend the energy. We want to get more energy not to expend."

Stephanie: "So, the circle (in Wu Style) is smaller. Does that mean the energy intensifies inside? You once told me, Mr. Chow that our style is the healing tai chi and you can feel warmth emanating through the fingertips and sometimes people lay hands and make people feel better. I've seen you do that."

Mr. Chow: "Yes, yes."
Stephanie: "And you get it from the chi?"

Mr. Chow: "Energy."

Mrs. Chow: "Tan-tien." (Area of chi energy)
Stephanie: "Which are about two fingers beneath the navel?"

Mr. Chow: "Important with this energy is your angle and timing, co-ordinate."
Mrs. Chow: "Together."

Stephanie: "Your angle and timing. And that's why our tai chi takes such a long time to learn when compared to other styles. Our angles are very important?"

Mr. & Mrs.: "Yes, yes."

Mr. Chow: "This is very scientific."

Stephanie: "When we learn, we're taught Right Hand Square Form first."

Mrs. Chow: "Mr. Chow, you tell them why! Must teach them square using numbers (counting the steps) because it's easier to remember."

Mr. Chow: "Never gets lost!"

Stephanie: "Mr. Chow it was your idea to count while you were teaching?"

Mr. Chow: "Yes, I started. Even square. The old fashioned don't teach square! When your teacher decided you were very good student and you could become teacher, then would teach you square."

Mrs. Chow: "Square is good foundation."
Mr. Chow: " We turn it upside down (referring to teaching square before round). The square let the student really understand first (the tai chi form.)"
Stephanie: "So you did that or did your teacher turn it around?"

Mr. Chow: "Ya, ya."

Stephanie: "So your teacher Dr. Young. "

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu's family even now, only teach round, no square!"

Stephanie: "They bend deeply and it looks different from our round."

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu when Japanese attacked, (he) came from Shanghi to Hong Kong. My teacher lived in his house all day long. He taught one student at a time. He (Mr. Wu) taught our teacher square first and ordered him to teach square first."

Stephanie: "So that's how it started. That was a big change. Now, we learn Right Hand Square first, then Right Hand Round. People think that round is beautiful but I think square is beautiful, too. But the most important aspect is to always practice both. Then the student is taught Left Hand Square and Left Hand Round. Why is that?"

Mrs. Chow: "Because of the circle, you know!"

Mr. Chow: "Because of yin and yang, contrast and balance."
Stephanie: "I think that's good, it exercises the other side of your brain."
Mrs. Chow: "Yes, yes!"

Stephanie: "I remember when I learned Right Hand Square and then when I began to learn Left Hand Square, I thought I should know what I was doing. But I would get very mixed-up as if I was exercising some other part of my brain. And I do feel more balanced now."

Mrs. Chow: "Some people difficult to learn the left."
Stephanie: "You have to once again have the patience."

Mrs. Chow: "Yes."

Stephanie: "What was the school's name in Hong Kong where you learned tai chi?"

Mr. & Mrs. "No, no. No name, just Mr. Young."

Stephanie: : "How long were you students of his?"

Mr. & Mrs. "Seventeen years, sometimes two times a week."

Stephanie: "When did you both start teaching?"
Mrs. Chow: "Teaching?"

Stephanie: "Teaching."
Mr. & Mrs. "After we moved here."
Stephanie: "So you never taught in Hong Kong, tai chi?"
Mrs. Chow: "No! We were too busy to teach art."

Stephanie: "What year did you move to America?"

Mr. Chow: "1967"

Stephanie: "In 1967, you came to Miami?"

Mr. Chow: "No, no, no. We came to New York."

Mrs. Chow: "The end of 1968."

Mr. Chow: "We came to United States invited by TWA for art exhibit in Kennedy Airport."

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