Introduction

The Wu Shi Taiji Quan & Qi Gong Association is a Community Amateur Sports Club (CH10450) based in Finsbury Park, North London. Our Association was founded by Michael Acton and Grandmaster Li Li Qun (Shanghai) in 2006 and registered as a CASC in 2015.

We teach the authentic Southern (Shanghai) Wu style of Taiji Quan as passed down by Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942) to his senior disciple Ma Yueh Liang (1901-98) and his daughter Wu Ying Hua (1907-96), ‘gatekeepers’ of the Southern Wu style lineage in China.

We also teach an extensive syllabus of Qi Gong practices passed down by Grandmaster Li Li Qun and our founder Michael Acton, who has over many years of teaching, travelling and living in China studied a diverse range of Qi Gong methods.

History

Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872)

The Wu style of Taiji Quan is a derivative of the Yang style as first practised by Yang Lu Chan. He studied under Chen Chang Xing (1771-1853) of Chen village, who taught a style of boxing that was based upon Daoist principles and believed to have been first developed by a Daoist master Zhang San Feng. The accepted subsequent transmission is that the style developed by Zhang San Feng was eventually inherited by Wang Zongyue (16th Century) and passed to Jiang Fa (1574-1654 – documented at Zhao Bao village). He taught both the Chen and Zhao Bao villages, most notably Chen Wang Ting, and then via other Chen family members to Chen Chang Xing.

Yang Lu Chan became a well known and undefeated boxer in Beijing. He had three key students; Ling Shan, Wan Chuan and Quan You, later to be known as Wu Quan You. For political reasons they became the disciples of Yang’s eldest son Yang Ban Hou, who was already regarded as a high level martial artist like his father. Wu Quan You is said to have developed exceptional skills in ‘rou hua’ or ‘soft/yielding energy’, which has since become a defining quality of the Wu style of Taiji Quan.

Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942)

Wu Quan You’s son and senior disciple, Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942), and Wang Mao Zai (1862-1940), became the key inheritors of his Taiji Quan. Both became teachers and exceptional martial artists.

Between 1914-16, Wu Jian Quan co-founded a famous martial arts school in Beijing with other renowned ‘internal boxers’ such as Yang Shao Ho and Yang Cheng Fu. This signalled the beginning of the wider dissemination of Taiji boxing.

Wu Jian Quan moved to Shanghai in 1928 and subsequently became a respected teacher in Shanghai and southern China. From then on the Wu style became known as “Southern Wu” and the northern style as “Northern Wang”, which referred to the two lineages that evolved from Quan You’s original teaching.

In 1935, Wu Jian Quan, along with his daughter Wu Ying Hua (1907-96) and his senior disciple and son-in-law Ma Yueh Liang (1901-98) established the Jian Quan Taiji Quan Boxing Association in Shanghai.

Wu Jian Quan died in 1944 and was buried in Shanghai with his wife. By then his eldest son Wu Gong Yi (1900-70) had moved to Hong Kong and established the Wu style outside of mainland China. His daughter Wu Ying Hua stayed in China.

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Ma Yueh Liang (1901-98) and Wu Ying Hua (1907-96)

Ma Yueh Liang was the senior disciple of Wu Jian Quan and studied with him from an early age in Beijing. As a youth he had studied a variety of other martial arts but from around 18 years old he focused exclusively on Wu’s Taiji Quan. He studied western medicine at Beijing Medical College, graduating around 1929. Like Wu Jian Quan, Ma was of Manhu descent.

When Wu Jian Quan moved to Shanghai, Ma followed and after Wu set up the Jian Quan Taiji Boxing Association in Shanghai in 1935, Ma became the Deputy Director. He married Wu Ying Hua, Wu’s daughter and together they became the ‘Gatekeepers’ of Wu Jian Quan’s Taiji Quan system in mainland China.

During the cultural revolution (1966-76) no one was allowed to practise Taiji Quan or any other martial art. It was considered a remnant of ‘feudal’ China and consequently something to be eradicated. Over the years of upheaval much cultural knowledge was lost and many masters passed away or were punished for their knowledge. Consequently, Taiji Quan suffered and did not re-emerge until the cultural revolution was over.

In the late 1970’s, Masters Ma Yueh Liang and Wu Ying Hua along with other surviving martial artists were able to teach and demonstrate again and the Jian Quan Taiji Boxing Association was allowed to reopen.

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In Shanghai, Master Li Li Qun was formative in bringing Taiji masters back into a more public role as teachers and restorers of Chinese culture. Masters Ma and Wu became well known again and respected for their lineage, skills and knowledge. Meanwhile, the Wu style led by Wu Gong Yi had taken root in Hong Kong and surrounding countries like Malaysia and Singapore.

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Wu Style Today

It is well recognised that Wu Jian Quan adjusted the original form taught by his father so it would be easier to practise and teach. In addition, the Yang style represented by Yang Cheng Fu, a peer and training partner of Wu Jian Quan, also adjusted the original Yang form for a more public and user friendly practice. Over time, these forms developed different stylistic characteristics and consequently became known as the Wu and Yang styles, and are the most common face of Taiji Quan in China today.

As a consequence of becoming ‘public’, the emphasis of the art drifted from being a secretive martial art to a popular health practice, and some of the original methods of training, forms and martial skills either became extinct or hidden from the public.

In Wu style Taiji Quan there are three main form variations.

Firstly, the original Kuai Quan (Fast Form) which contains obvious martial vocabulary, and a broad range of martial skills are required to practise it. This form was considered too complex and too martial for public learning and remained hidden until the late 20th Century. It is a form shared by both the Wu and Yang lineages, though practitioners and representatives from both families still refute its provenance.

Secondly, the Fan Jia (Square Frame), sometimes referred to as the ‘Small Frame’. It is almost entirely associated with the Wu Gong Yi lineage and what is now referred to as the ‘Wu family’ style, almost exclusively taught outside of China.

Finally, the most popular Da Man Quan (Big Slow Form) which is, at least in China, the common and most public face of Wu style Taiji Quan. It remains the best ‘all inclusive’ expression of Wu style Taiji Quan, whilst the Kuai Quan is the necessary form for advanced boxing skills.

Each of these methods of practice has different characteristics, but they are all based upon the Kuai Quan form, which is considered (Ma Yueh Liang) to be the original form passed down from Yang Lu Chan.

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