"Hsiung Yang-Ho's San Shou Form"

�Harvey Kurland MSc, CSCS, MFS, 1998


Our system is based on the "Older Form" of Yang family style. The long form is passed from the Yang Shao-hou lineage, as is our San Shou form. Hsiung Yang-ho is one of the important figures in what we do.

  Our sections 7 & 8, which is called the San Shou ( Fighting, dividing hands, separating hands) form, comes from Great Grandmaster Hsiung Yang-ho.  Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen studied with the famous Hsiung Yang-ho (1886-1984) in Taiwan.  Hsiung was a disciple of Yang Shao-hou (1862-1930). Yang Shao-hou being the son of Yang Chien-hou (1839-1917). Yang Chien-hou was the son of the founder of the Yang style, Yang Lu-chan (1799-1872).  Yang Shao-hou was also the Older Brother of Yang Cheng-fu (1883-1936) and also trained with his uncle Yang Pan-hou.  Hsiung, was a very famous martial artist in Taiwan.

What is now called "Orthodox Yang Style" is the later form of Yang Shao-hou's younger brother, the famous Yang Cheng-fu.  Yang Cheng-fu modified the form so it was easier to practice and popularized it for the intelligencia as an exercise. This is one of the more important steps that took t'ai chi ch'uan out of the realm of just martial artists and tough guys and into the modern era of health promotion and seniors exercising in the park to benefit their health.  According to some historians, Yang Cheng-fu took out the fast kicks, fast strikes, as well as the more complicated waist turns to make the exercise art easier to learn. There is considerable debate over that issue and there is an inter-family debate over the true history.  In the world of t'ai chi, revisionist history is commonplace.  It is what people want to believe rather than what is true that becomes important to many of those promoting their schools.

Yang Cheng-fu's older brother, Yang Shao-hou, taught what is often called "Old Yang Style" or the versions before the 1930's modifications.  So, what is considered Orthodox Yang Style comes from Yang Shao-hou's younger brother Yang Cheng-fu, but some experts consider it a simplified method? Again there is much debate about this.

The senior students of Yang Shao-hou, who did not become disciples of Cheng-fu were written out of the Yang family lineage after the death of Yang Shao-hou and for that reason are not as well known.  Some historians claim that Yang Cheng-fu did not have the martial skill of some of some of Shao-hou's students. And some experts believe that what is called the Orthodox Yang Form is a watered down form.  There is no way to know and as much of the history of t'ai chi ch'uan is just speculation, fairy tales, and the official history is revised liberally depending on who is telling the stories.

What we can determine is that our system comes from the Older Brother, Yang Shou-hou through two masters, Hsiung Yang-ho and Tian Zhao-lin.  Tian Zhao-lin was a very famous t'ai chi master and is claimed to be a student of Yang Shou-hou, but some historians also claim Yang Chien-hou, Shao-hou's father, as Tian's main teacher and claim that Tian was inherited as a student of Yang Shou-hou after his fathers death. Others claim Tian Zhao-lin to have studied with Yang Pan-hou, but I have not found evidence for that. Our Long "Slow" form comes from the Tian Zhao-lin lineage and our San Shou form comes from Hsiung Yang-ho.  Hsiung was a well known martial artist and fighter on Taiwan.  He was very selective in who he taught and if he did not like you, he wouldn't teach you.  Many teachers were rejected from attending his classes. Hsiung was one tough master.

Hsiung taught the San Shou form, what we call "Sections 7 & 8" to a few students including Tchoung Ta-tchen and Liang Tung-tsai.  They in turn taught it to other students, many of them masters, in Taiwan and North America.  Many of the people doing this form in North America can be traced directly back to them and from them to Hsiung.  There are several versions of the form taught today, as several of the masters made their own changes to the form. 

Tchoung Ta-tchen taught the San Shou form to his senior students, and thousands of students in Taiwan, Africa, Canada and the United States of America. See Certified instructors for a list of instructors in Canada and the USA.  American teachers, Harvey Kurland in Southern California and Andy Dale  in Seattle, learned the form directly from Tchoung and they have taught many American students the form.  Corona instructor Scott Mullen learned the form from Kurland.

The san shou form is a two-person set.  Andy Dale who also learned the form from Tchoung speculates is may be an off shoot of the Pao Chui form of Ch'en style, as it has many similar movements.  

It is choreographed and each person knows what the other is to do.  This is a traditional training method in many systems of Kung-fu.  By practicing this form, the t'ai-chi ch'uan comes to life as the student discovers the marital art applications.  It is also a fun set to practice and you exercise more than the slow form.  It is first taught as a solo form. Then it is done with a partner.  At first is should be practiced slowly so that the subtleties can be practiced.  Later it is performed fast.  After you learn this form, you will understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan at a deeper level and how the techniques are really used.

Tchoung's system is based on the premise that "The form is the alphabet; Pushing hands and san shou is learning to read and write.  The ability to read and write is what makes the alphabet useful."  In order to understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan basic form, one needs to study pushing hands and San shou.  He feels that it is important to understand the t'ai-chi ch'uan applications in order to really teach it correctly.  Learning the san shou form is one way to learn the art at a deeper level.