History of the WU’s Tai Chi Chuan
Before 1912 Tai Chi was passed on within unopened circles, (family circles), which at times absorbed things from the outside martial arts world, but what was accepted was strictly restricted. This is why Tai Chi is called ‘internal’. (In the Chinese language internal martial arts are expressed by the character that means inside or within a family.) After 1912 Mr. Xu Yusheng established a sports research society in Beijing and invited the great masters of that time such as Wu Jianquan, Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu and Sun Lutang to teach Tai Chi. Thereafter Tai Chi started spreading to the masses and was then taught relatively openly. Because it then became possible for so many people to study it, the number of people doing Tai Chi rapidly increased.
After a while Tai Chi gave form to the modern styles. During their respective development there were various changes in the postures, but these were not so great. We can still now see that all the different schools of Tai Chi have similar postures. It is after these developments that the styles were given their respective names. The popularity of each of them – namely the Chen, Yang, Wu (Woo), Wu (Hao) and Sun styles – grew rapidly inside China. The main goal of those teachers was to popularize Tai Chi on a grand scale in order to improve the health of the nation. Another important reason why Tai Chi is so widespread nowadays is the research and exchange that these masters and their students carried out during that period. Nowadays, especially in China, a lot of new styles with a lot of different names are created and mixed with the five original styles without sharing any real roots with them. This is very unfortunate. It not only complicates things but also mixes everything up in a way that brings about many misunderstandings, especially to people who are new to Tai Chi.
Wu-style Tai Chi was created by a Manchurian namedQuan You (1834 – 1902). Quan You was a student of Yang Luchan, (founder of the Yang style), and Yang Banhou. Quan You’s son, Wu Jianquan (1870-1942), loved martial arts from his youth and studied under the tutorship of his father. By doing so he rapidly improved and deepened his Tai Chi skills. After 1912 he continuously developed the teaching of the Wu-style at the Beijing Sport Research Society, gradually refining his father’s style. His two sons, Wu Gongyi and Wu Gongzao, were his first students. Along with other students they rapidly reached a high level of skill. In 1928 Wu Jianquan was invited to Shanghai to teach Tai Chi. In 1935 he established the Jian Quan Association of which he was the director and his son in law Ma Yueliang was the deputy director. At that time Wu Jianquan went to Hong Kong and Canton as well as numerous other south China cities to spread the Wu-style there. When Wu Jianquan died in 1942 it was a great loss for the Tai Chi world. His sons started to teach Tai Chi all over South China and Wu Gongyi’s son, Wu Dagui, spread the style to South Asia. Wu Dagui’s son, Wu Guangyu, teaches in Canada today.
Wu Jianquan’s eldest daughter, Wu Yinghua (1907 – 1996), started studying Tai Chi with her father at a very young age. In 1935 Wu Yinghua was also appointed deputy director of the Jian Quan Association in Shanghai. She married her father’s student, Ma Yueliang (1901 – 1998), and throughout her life she taught with her husband all over China. In martial arts circles she was regarded as one of the most renowned teachers. Ma Hailong, the eldest son of Wu Yinghua &Ma Yueliang, also liked Tai Chi from a young age and is now the president of the Jian Quan Association.
The third son of Wu Yinghua & Ma Yueliang (Ma Jiangbao) moved to Europe in 1986 to spread the Wu-style. He teaches students from many countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, England, Denmark, South Africa and others.
Before 1912 Tai Chi was practised as a fast form. After 1912, because many people came to study Tai Chi in Beijing some of whom had not previously done martial arts, the fast movements and jumps were taken out to make the form more subtle and precise and the stops were removed to comply with the theory of Yin and Yang. That was the birth of Wu-style with its own unique slow form. At the same time Yang Chengfu and Sun Lutang etc created their own styles. Thereafter Tai Chi became a slow form, but the Wu-style kept the fast form. The Wu-style slow form has such special features as its compactness, and it is relaxed and calm with smoothness from the beginning to the end so that it can be practised by everyone.
The Wu-style push-hands (partner exercise) is strictly structured. The body is kept straight and each method is precise and exact. Push-hands should be very soft and smooth. When practising one must try to keep a very calm attitude, not actively trying to attack or use force. Ma Yueliang said, ”Overcome hardness with softness”. To try to use force is in contradiction to the principles of Tai Chi Chuan. To meet the hardness with softness is to go along with. To go along with is to neutralize. The important thing for the beginner is to learn neutralizing. The push-hands techniques incorporate single hand and double hand training methods. There are also many different stepping methods which are learnt after the fixed-step push-hands. The push-hands techniques are a very important part of Tai Chi, and only through its practice is one able to manifest the Tai Chi theory. The Wu-style still makes use of a lot of weapons such as broadsword, sword and lance. Together with the slow and fast forms and push-hands, Wu-style Tai Chi is a traditional system of Chinese martial arts.
Wu-style Tai Chi is a sport that respects and adapts to the physiology of everyone.