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A Kowtow to the boxers of old by Alan Sims

Wu Yu Xiang's Taijiquan
This article is based on Sun Jian Guo's book on the Taijiquan of Wu Yu Xiang (1812-1880), and some of it's components. In It are included 3 traditional fist forms, an excellent timetable of events, 2 postures from the practice of the training logs situated above the ground, some self-defense applications, biographies of several important boxers and a short lineage chart. 

Also included is a DVD. There are photos of Sun Jian Guo (student of Li Jin Fan 1920-1991) with the sword, knife, and staff and also demonstrating Fa Jing (explosive power). Two of his students are posed to begin sparring with knives. These knives are shaped like one half of a spearhead on the dull side of the blade for catching weapons in combat. The author is also shown practicing the staff with a Caucasian student in the mountains, and even Chen Xiao Wang from the Chen family, makes an appearance on page 6.  Also included are certificates, and old manuscripts in this 286-page book, with Sun Jian Guo posing on the cover of the book in a posture from the Wu style 2nd routine called Pao Chui or Cannon Fist.  The author has been frequently featured in Chinese martial arts magazines, and has almost 100 listed students, and his teacher Li Jin Fan, is a direct student of Li Yi Yu's (1832-1892) student.  

The timetable of events as everything else, is written in Chinese, but not the years in which events take place, from 1634-2011.  The 1st routine or form of Wu Yu Xiang was created by him in 1857, and called the center or main form. In 1859 he created Pao Chui, 13 Posture Knife, and 13 Posture sword. Li Yi Yu the prized student of Wu Yu Xiang, is actually the one credited with the creation of the 3rd form simply called "Xiao Jar" (small frame), in the year 1862.  Even for one whose grasp of written Chinese is a foreign subject, the timetable is a fascinating read. Familiar names appear and disappear, associations are seen, and creations of the boxers are born.  

Some comparisons of the forms are as follows; the first routine is quite long and the stances are large. All 3 forms begin the same way, but the first form has large stances. The second form has even larger stances than the first, while the third form has small stances.  Each photo is given a number, for example the first routine numbers from 1-374, the second routine 1-159, and the third routine 1-141.  These photographs are large, performed by the author, and beautifully done. There are arrows outlining the movements, and instructions and commentaries. In this one book the author wears 5 different outfits.  There are no jumps or skips in the 3rd form, as there are in the first two. In form 1 posture 159, both feet leave the surface, left hand extended forward with the right hand hidden by the body, right foot higher than the left with the left toes pointing towards the surface, leading up to the movement of striking the opponents groin.  In posture 164-165 of the same form, there is the slapping of the right foot with the right hand, also with both feet in the air.  

The jumps in the second routine of Wu Yu Xiang are very pronounced, and when turning the pages of the book, cause one to just stop and look. In posture # 64, the author (demonstrating all 3 forms), looks up into the air, lowers his body, opens his eyes wide, spreads both arms to his sides, before springing into the air into our directional view of 9 o'clock. Both hands are at his left and right sides, similar to athletes giving each other a chest bump.

Video of Sun Jian Guo performing Pao Chui form.

From posture # 72 also in the second routine, from a posture resembling the Yang's family "Crane Spreads Wings" with the weight mostly on the back left foot with hands forming into fists, the hands switch (left going down and the right coming up) and once again both feet leave the surface looking as if the author is being blown from behind by a very strong wind. 

The first jump lands in a bow and arrow stance, while the second jump lands in a horse stance.  The second routine is pretty much its own form. Besides the opening and a few postures such as a large Single Whip, it bears little resemblance at all to the first routine, although some postures are seen in all 3 forms.  Although the Xiao Jar of Li Yi Yu is comprised of small stances with Li Yi Yu being the teacher of Hao Wei Chien (1849-1920), it is actually the first form of Wu's Taijiquan that bears the closest resemblance to the Wu/Hao form that we see today.  

Xiao Jar the third form is very short and is comprised of some movements from the first and second routines. It is probably the strangest looking of the 3 forms in terms of martial arts application, but one can see the connection with the Wu/Hao form of the future.  Returning to the timetable, there are connections of names that should be stated. Li Qi Xuan (1835-1899) student of Wu Yu Xiang, is recorded as studying from a book written by Chen Ching Ping in 1854.  The lineage chart in Sun Jian Guo's book is shown with 2 main branches. Li Qi Xuan's branch is very short with only a few students. Li Yi Yu's lineage on the other hand continues today, but breaks off into the Hao family. Although the Hao family ends with Hao Yue Ru (1877-1935) in the chart shown, the book does discuss both he and his son and successor, Hao Shao Ru, stating in fact that Hao Shao Ru studied the Wu, Li, and Hao family's Taijiquan. Hao Shao Ru's postures can be seen in "The Dao of Taijiquan" authored by Jou Tsung Hwa.  

The locations featured in this book are absolutely enchanting and appear to be at a temple. There are two items for training purposes shown on the grounds.  One is a thin wooden plank which runs over and partly above a body of water. On it the author is seen practicing with one of his students with left forearms touching and right arms placed downward near the right hip with the right palm down and fingers pointing forward.  The second apparatus are the logs on which the author assumes 2 postures. One is a single footed stance, and the other is a posture resembling the Yang family's "Snake Creeps Down". There are 3 rows of 3 logs with one row of two. 

The author places one foot on the first log of one row, and the second foot on the last log on the next row.  According to research, there is a 4th form in this tradition but that is not presented here. It is supposed to be very difficult to perform, exceeding the difficulty of Cannon Fist.  It seems today that there is no longer such a thing as martial arts, there is only martial arts business.  Fortunately for us, Wu Yu Xiang was above this philosophy, otherwise in his case especially, we would never have had this knowledge.  He wasn't practicing or teaching for money, he already had it. Wu Yu Xiang also didn't teach Yang Lu Chan;s eldest for money, but as a favor to Yang Lu Chan. 

There is a very nice story about Wu and Yang's son.  One small article is hardly enough of a worthy tribute to the accomplishments of Wu Yu Xiang, Li Yi Yu, and Li Qi Xuan in their systems of Taijiquan, but it's a good introduction.  Let us all kowtow at least in spirit, to the lineages of the boxers of old, and to Sun Jian Guo as well.  This article is dedicated to boxers everywhere who have lost teachers, students, and loved ones in the boxing world.


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