History of Wu (Hao) Tai Chi
This Wu style was originated by Wu Yuxiang, a wealthy Mandarin bureaucrat, who as chance may have it was also native to the village of Yongnian in southern Hebei Province, the same hometown as Yang Luchan. Wu was not only native to the same hometown as Yang Luchan but was a contemporary with him in time (during the 19th Century) and interest in the martial arts.
Wu is believed to have had previous martial training before his interactions with Yang Luchan after Yang returned home from training in Chen Village. Yang referred Wu to Chen Village and Chen Changxing, Yang’s teacher, but Wu’s fate led him to engage with Chen Qingping, the progenitor of the New Style, Small Frame (or Zhaobao) Chen. Thusly, Wu’s taiji influences were through Yang Luchan and his large frame Chen influence and his son Yang Banhou (and vice versa) and then through the small frame Chen New Style.
Wu additionally was influenced by his family’s discovery of Wang Zhong-Yueh’s classic, The Treatise of Taijiquan. Wu formulated a new distinctive small frame style with compact, subtle movements and high stances. The emphasis is on bodywork, posture, equilibrium, sensitivity and the exertion of inner power and chi development. The body is held in a straight and relaxed position during stepping, weight shifts, and waist turning, with each hand controlling its own side of the body and generally not crossing. The hands are not stretched out beyond the foot and toes. There is a strict emphasis on rising, falling, starting, connecting, and opening and closing states within the movements. Leading steps are generally followed by a soft empty toe stance of the trailing foot in the closed state stance. Jumps, strength releases, and fajing have mostly been removed from the forms as we know them today.
The internal feeling should be large while the external display should be small and controlled and synchronous. Coming from an influential family involved in government affairs, Wu did not transmit his style to a large following. The art was passed to his nephew Li Yi Yu and then to Hao Weizheng who was instrumental in popularizing the style to a wider audience, thus the addition of his surname to help distinguish the style from the other Wu style.