The Yang family’s tai chi chuan style is unique to the Yang family. It was started by Yang Lo Sim, who was born over two hundred years ago, and has been passed down to family members, generation after generation to the present day. The lineage under discussion is that of Yang Sau Chung, the eldest son of Yang Ching Po.
Yang Sau Chung moved to Hong Kong with his family in 1949 and continued to dedicate his life to practicing and teaching his family’s tai chi chuan style until his death in 1985. Since that time, his family also has been devoted to practicing and teaching this tai chi chuan style. Yang taught for over fifty years, and his daughter, Yang Ma Lee, has been teaching for over twenty years.
In these seventy plus years, they both have taught countless students. Their method of teaching is personal and individualized. Through this formula, they have employed various approaches that take many factors into consideration, including individuals’ learning level capabilities as well as their personal physiques.
Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise practiced for health, and in its more advanced forms, for self-defense. Its principles of effortless strength were developed several hundred years ago in China by a monk named Chang San-Feng. The system passed into the Chen family, and from the last member of the Chen family, Chen Chang-Hsing, to Yang Lo Sim, the first member of the Yang family to learn the art. Tai Chi Chuan has remained in the Yang family for the past five generations.
In the late 1940’s, Yang Sau-Chung arrived in Hong Kong from China. During the course of his life, he taught thousands of people. However, over the years, he accepted only three disciples or “family students.” According to the Chinese family tradition, the criteria for choosing a family student are exceedingly strict, including many years of study.
The second disciple, Chu Gin Soon, was accepted in the late 1970’s. He took John Conroy, (Rhode Island School of Tai Chi), as a family student/disciple in 1988. In 2006, after eleven years of intensive study, Steven Brooks (Training Taichi) become John Conroy's first family student and disciple.
The Yang family has classified the levels of learning into three categories:
Yang family members are taught the complete body of knowledge. In the family, the methods and formulas are observed most strictly, and the teaching methods employed are quite severe. While all family members learn, not all like teaching and not all take disciples.
Generally, a disciple is required to spend a specific amount of time studying with the teacher before being considered for discipleship. Once accepted, disciples acquire from the Master skills that lead to a level of comprehension that far exceeds that of students so that they can help the master spread the martial art. Disciples are allowed to use the Yang’s family name when teaching and can also choose accept their own disciples. All disciples are listed in the “School of Yang’s Style of Tai Chi Chuan,” ledger, but not in the Yang’s family lineage, despite the fact that some people shamefully promote themselves this way.
The level of training students receive is less profound than that of disciples, and whether a student is qualified to teach is up to the judgment of the master.
Yang Tai Chi Chuan is both an extraordinary defensive art and an unparalleled health maintenance exercise. However, the principles and applications are only as valuable and effective as the source from which they spring.