Monday, December 20, 2010

What happened to Yang Shao Hou Taiji?

The question I asked some time ago and in the context of a series of articles on Yang Cheng Fu’s Taiji, was “What is Yang Shao Hou’s Taiji”?  Just yesterday, I  received a very nice letter and attachment from Michael DeMarco who is the publisher of the prestigious  Journal of Asian Martial Arts:

“Hello Jim,

…Because of your professional involvement in taijiquan, 
we are sending you this attached article gratis for  your own reference. We welcome any article ideas you may wish us to consider for possible publication…”

Xiong Style Taiji in Taiwan: Historical Development
Author: Michael DeMarco — Date: Vol. 18 No. 3, 2009 
Copyright: All Rights Reserved 

Here we have Yang Taiji that is not heard of but is nevertheless is an evolution of Yang Shao Hou’s Taiji.  Xiong Yanghe is listed as a disciple of Yang Shao Hou who emigrated to Taiwan.  He was a published writer of Taiji and DeMarco’s article also includes Xiong’s writings, “disciples writings, Taiwanese websites, personal observations and photographic observations”.  

What I found of particular interest is DeMarco’s use of English information that gives us a look into the socio-political background of the earliest Yang Taiji.  Here we have a clearly shown link to Yang Shao Hou, the lesser known brother of Yang Cheng Fu. In my humble opinion,  it is certainly a welcome respite from  looking at all the little criticized and varied  manifestations of  Cheng Fu’s incredibly popular (just for health) art.

Xiong himself as well as his teacher’s in the Yang Family had much to contribute to Taiji, but little known is the influence that their time and circumstances had on their Taiji as well.  This provides a better map of Taiji territory since that is what is really needed  because we do not want to get stuck on half baked notions about the art, its founders or contributors.  As a work in progress, or better yet a  work in process, we eventually start to understand  that our perspective is in continual flux but also hopefully in continual development.

Understandably the incredible amount of  as DeMarco puts it: “…nearly incomprehensible violence from the downfall of the Qing Dynasty to the founding of the PRC…” was an overwhelming influence on early Yang Taiji.  China was once referred to as “sick man of Asia” because of  not only the social unrest but also the many foreign incursions. I believe DeMarco when he says that Taiji history in China is “…influenced by a sense of nationalism and (an overall ideal) of self-strengthening for the country itself…”.  With these factors in mind we begin to see a glimpse of  what Yang’s Taiji evolved from .   Certainly Yang Lu Chan gave us an art that was used for fighting but what present day practitioners largely fail to comprehend is those fighting functions have a profound impact on the way they practice the art. 

As we have said before, taking the art that Yang Cheng Fu practiced, removing the martial influence and watering it down even further to various ethereal offshoots does a practitioner little good. In many cases these diluted versions may be harmful to health.  It appears from DeMarco’s article that he has captured the flavor of what Xiong taught as a fighting art that is also good for health benefits.

As Classical Taiji is being taught by Stephen Hwa and his disciples, it is also good for martial purposes, health and longevity.  The vast majority of practitioners in the world today under Yang Style and the influence of Yang Cheng Fu’s “self-strengthening” are practicing Tai Chi that bears little to no resemblance to that of Yang Lu Chan.  How can it, with no recognition of the principles provided by its martial origins?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post!
But my Taiwanese sources tell me, that Xiong Yanghe's Taijiquan has many origins, from some nephew of Yang Luchan (named Liu Zhongfang), from Yin Tianxi (in the Gan Fengzhi lineage) and finally also some Yang Jianhou.
On Xiong's website from his students, their is nothing to be read on Yang Shaohou.
Do you know anything more?
After Chinese Newyear, I'll start in the Xiong system, after more then 20 yrs. of 37, 64 and 108 (all YCF linegae).
Happy holidays!
Hermann from Taiwan