History of Wu Tai Chi
One of Yang Luchan’s disciples during his tutelage of the Imperial Guards in Beijing was the Manchu, Chuan You. Chuan You stood out for his specialty of developing to a high level the art of neutralizing an opponent’s force. Chuan Yu learned a smaller frame of Yang from both Yang Luchan and his son Yang Banhou. He also learned both slow and fast variations.
This training he passed on to his son, Wu Chian Chuan who may have additionally had input directly from Yang Banhou. This son is credited with synthesizing and formalizing this small frame variation into the Wu form we know today. Three main branches of the Wu style exist today in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong and it is the second most popular style worldwide. Wu and the Yang grandson, Yang Chengfu, were both involved together in athletic institutes and to the interchange of knowledge and to the training of the public in both Beijing and Shanghai.
The Wu family placed special emphasis on five areas of the mental and bodily preparations: stillness, lightness, slowness, exactness, and perseverance. The art itself is characterized by a hip/shoulder width frame, and uniquely by the raised toe empty stance, by the forward inclination of the back heel to the crown of the head in the archers or bow stance, and by the central equilibrium nature of the horse stance in such movements as Single Whip. The postures are compact but not crowded. The tempo is slow, even, light, and rounded with the internal feelings of looseness, sinking, nimbleness, and calmness. Very strong feelings of substantial vs. insubstantial are incorporated and the internal energy is compressed in spiral movements to feel the connection with the gravitational force. The style is straight and centered, the void and solid in every posture should be distinct, the flow of strength should be continuous without pause, and the exertion force should be steady, distinct, and aimed in one direction as if it were supported on all sides.
This style is best known for the ability to gently dissolve an opponent’s force. Because it derived from the Old Yang Style (pre-Yang Chengfu), it holds much of the knowledge of the fighting applications and because Chuan You was also a Manchurian wrestler, its style contains and evokes throwing techniques.