Yang Chengfu 楊澄甫

Yang Chengfu
Yang Chengfu (1883–1936) is a famous teacher and practitioner of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (太極拳), who is known for having been one of the first to teach the art to the general public and made it popular China in the early 20th century (1914-1928). Many of the practitioners of T'ai Chi Ch'uan today teach a lineage of Yang Chengfu. In fact, most of the well known teachers are, in some way or another, associated with Yang Chengfu's lineage.

In some regards, Yang Chengfu broke a tradition of secrecy which had run strong in T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Instead of limiting his teaching the art strictly to family members, he was willing to teach a redacted version of the art to individuals from the general public. The version of T'ai Chi Ch'uan he taught the public, however, was significantly altered from that which had been transmitted to Yang Chengfu himself. Due to these changes that he made, many of the secrets of the art remained shrouded from the public.

Much of the fundamental training of the ancient practitioners was not taught by Yang Chengfu. Students did not learn the standing meditation training which transforms the body on a very deep level and develops a deep level of song. Instead they practiced simplified versions of the Yang Family Forms from a very early point in their practice. As a result of this, the forms of these practitioners are often considered empty Tai Chi by practitioners of earlier lineages.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan Prior to Yang Chengfu

Prior to Yang Chengfu, T'ai Chi Chuan was significantly different. For the first several years of training, the practitioner would stand in T'ai Chi postures and meditate, to develop a deep mastery of song. It was a grueling effort, which required a great deal of inner work. Only the most dedicated students were willing and able to successfully accomplish this. Then, only after many years of practice would the student be allowed to learn forms.

Generally, any students who were being taught were family members or very close and dedicated disciples. As such the teacher often would put the few students they did have through very difficult training and would have very high standards for them. In some cases, the pressures of training/teaching would even drive practitioners to suicide.

As a result of these high standards, in traditional T'ai Chi, the caliber of practitioner in authentic lineages prior to Yang Chengfu was significantly better than those who were taught the Yang Chengfu lineage.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan After Yang Chengfu

Since Yang Chengfu did not teach the foundational aspects of T'ai Chi, such as the standing meditation, students would instead learn the T'ai Chi forms very early on in their training and these forms were often greatly simplified and devoid of the substance they would have otherwise had. In his version of the Yang Family Form, for instance, different footwork was used, such as half-steps, because the practitioners of this lineage were unable to do T'ai Chi without being double heavy.

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