This an interview with Chang Yiu-Chun from the mid seventies from China Wushu magazine.
Q. How long have you been practicing the tai chi chuan.
A. Since 1911.
Q. Who was your first teacher and how long did you study with him.
A. My teacher was Yang Shou-hu the grandson of the founder of the Yang style, Yang
Lu-chan. I was with Yang from 1911 until his death in 1930.
Q. Many people have commented upon the sometimes brutal nature of Yang Shou-hu's
A. Yes, quite often we would finish a training period with blood on our vests and many
bruises. Sometimes a bone would be broken. Yang did not have many students.
Q. What are your views on this type of training?
A. It was good for me because I was very undisciplined in my younger days. I always
wanted to fight and so with Yang I got plenty of fighting. It taught us that if we did
not do tai chi chuan correctly then we were hurt.
Q. Most people in the West would look upon this type of tai chi chuan training as being
quite brutal. The style of Yang style tai chi chuan today in the West is not brutal at all.
A. I do not know about what they do in the West. But what they do in China is a
modified form of tai chi chuan invented by Yang Shou-hu's brother Yang Cheng-fu.
This style is Yang Cheng-fu's own invention so that many older and sick people can
do tai chi chuan.
Q. What you are telling me is that there are actually two different types of Yang style?
A. Yes, the one that was founded by Yang Lu-chan is not like the Yang Cheng-fu type.
Q. What are the differences?
A. When my teacher used to do his tai chi chuan, we would often say that he was like a
canon shot one second and like the great river in the next second. He was very
energetic. The Yang Cheng-fu style is just all soft.
Q. I have never heard of this and I find it quite interesting. Why is it
that no-one knows that there are two Yang types of tai chi chuan. Did
Yang Cheng-fu do the original tai chi chuan?
A. In the early days before Yang Cheng-fu, we would only teach tai chi
chuan to family members and very close friends, friends who were almost
like family members. I am a family member, a second cousin to the Yang
Shou-hu family. Yang Cheng-fu was the first one to teach everyone and he
became very famous all over China. So this is why we only ever hear about
this style. Yes, Yang Cheng-fu did the original Yang style of his
grandfather before about 1915, then he changed it. Many people watched him
practice the original style and he even taught a few people. But when he
invented his own style and changed it over a few years, all of his students
forgot about the original style.
Q. From what you know about him, was Yang Cheng-fu as good at self defense
as we are told today?
A. Yes, he was very good at self defense. He was quite large and strong and
he could also be quite brutal in his pushing hands but he learnt the original style first.
Q. Other tai chi chuan styles sometimes say that the Yang style is
no good for self defense, why is this?
A. Yes, it is no good for self defense if you are talking about the Yang
Cheng-fu style. But if you mean the Yang lu-chan style then it is very good
for fighting. No-one outside of the family knows the Yang Lu-chan style
and so everyone thinks that the Yang style is useless.
Q. How good then is the original Yang style of tai chi chuan for fighting?
A. ... it is the best.
Q. What do you train for fighting.
A. By using the shan-shou. But there are also today two versions of
the shan-shou. The new version by the Yang Cheng-fu family is soft and
the older version is quite brutal.
Q. Brutal, why.
A. We do the shan-shou in three ways. The first way is to learn the
movements of attack and counter attack. The second way is to do these movements
faster and with much more power, this is where we get some bruises. The
third way is when we try to strike each other for real and try to get each
other off balance by doing the movements in the wrong sequence.
Q. So you think that Tai Chi has changed much since it was founded by Yang Lu chan
A. Yes, I look around China and see everywhere people who think they are doing Tai Chi Chuan but
not many are realy doing Tai Chi Chuan.
Q. What do you mean, surely it does not matter what style they do, it must all be Tai Chi Chuan?
A. I am not talking about the different styles, I am talking about the way in which people learn Tai Chi Chuan today. They think that if they learn some slow movements that they are doing Tai Chi Chuan. It takes much longer and much more dedication to learn Tai Chi Chuan properly.
Q. But surely, those who do not wish to do Tai Chi for fighting will only ever have to do the slow movements for good health.
A. Some of them will gain some small benefit to their health, I agree but much better health is available through doing Tai Chi in the correct way.
Q. Why did you take up Tai Chi Chuan, as a health improver or for fighting.
A. Most of us when we started our Tai Chi Chuan training years ago only knew it as one thing and that was for fighting. No-one even suspected that this great art could be
good for health until Yang Cheng-Fu popularized his version. In doing the fighting, we also improved our health automatically but we did not take classes with the thought
of improving our health.
Q. But surely, many people must build up the body first of all before fighting and isn't this where the slower forms come in?
A. What people today do not realize is that back then when I was learning and it was still relatively unheard of even in China with only the main families like the Chen, the
Wu and the Yang keeping it to themselves. It was only after Tai Chi became good for the health that many people started to learn. Most of us were already good at other
styles of fighting. I knew Tiger Boxing and because of this and having to work very hard I and many others were already robust so we did not have to do the slow Tai Chi
Chuan and even if we were not robust, there was no slow Tai Chi Chuan anyway!
Q. What was the area in which you trained when you first went to see Yang Shou-hu?
A. As I have already said, I was good at Tiger Boxing and so I was boastful about my ability. This boastfulness was soon taken out of me by Yang Shou-hu.
Q.How was this done?
A. I was much younger than Yang Shou-hu and thought that I was strong and like a young stallion but when I arrived at my Cousin's school I was forced to fight with him.
Q. You had to fight with Yang Shou-hu!
A.Yes, before this he was just cousin Yang but now he was no longer my cousin, he was someone that I had to fight.
Q. What happened?
A. I thought that I could surprise him with a technique we used to call The Tiger Is Cornered and this is when we use many attacking techniques to get us out of a corner.
When I attacked Yang, I thought at first that he had disappeared but later I believed that he just moved so quickly and at the same time that I moved that he was right in
front of me before I could do anything. My strikes were aimed at a greater distance than Yang actually was and I found myself hitting the floor unconscious.
Q. How did he knock you out?
A. He used a very advanced technique, one that I am unable to talk about.
Q. Were you hurt badly?
A.No, only my behind was sore when I hit the floor, I did not feel anything at first but later there was some slight swelling around where he struck me.
Q.And did you eventually learn these techniques.
A. Only when I had been with Yang for many years and even though I was a family member, I had to prove myself to be an honorable person.
Q. What do you mean by an honorable person.
A By that I mean that I would never go out and use these techniques for the purpose of being boastful or to show off. Yang taught that if we were ever provoked that we
should try to play the coward first of all but if that failed then we must act so quickly as to not allow our attackers to know which techniques we were using.
Q. Did you have to defend yourself many times.
A. As I progressed, I became one of the senior students and it was my job to teach the younger students. When I say younger students, there were only about three ever at
a time because the training was so brutal. Many times we would have people from different schools coming around to Yang's house and be boastful about their ability. We
were told to ignore this. It was only when these people actually came inside of Yang's house that I was allowed to fight them.
Q. And the outcome?
A. I am no longer boastful. I will say that in all of the years with Yang, I never saw any of his students beaten.
Q. Not once.
A. Well, there was one time when this person came to the school but he was different and did not seem to show off like some of the others. He would look in and we would
stop, he would go away, then he would appear again and we would stop. This went on for some time until I was asked to go out and invite him inside.This chap was called
Chiang and he was apparently good at Pa Kua Chang. I did not fight him but one of the other students did and the fight lasted quite a long time with no-one winning. In the
end Yang stopped the fight and congratulated the young man and then invited him to attack. This seemed to be getting serious but in the end the young man just stood
there waiting. Yang stood there waiting. Then they bowed and he left.
Q. Why did they do that?
A. Yang and Chiang knew that they both knew something. There are no attacks in Tai Chi Chuan or Pa-Kua Chang. It may look like we are attacking but we only ever
attack after we have been attacked so Chiang did not attack and neither did Yang and so there was no fight. We were all disappointed but learnt a good lesson.
Q. What happened after Yang Shou-hu died, the style seemed to disappear.
A. Yes, the few senior students of Yang Shou-hu decided that it would be best not to teach what we knew to everyone and so we all went our different ways to teach only a
selected few students.
Q. How many students did you have?
A.I only taught about seven people what I knew and they in turn did not teach many.
This article was sent to us, forwarded, and it is interesting for the
flavor of the training that Tchoung and Liang went through with Hsiung. But
that we do not know anything about Chang or if there in fact really was a
Chang or not. Just an interesting story.