Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Journey In Wu Style Taiji By Dr Stephen Yan( Yan Zhi Yuan) 30-04-09

My initial exposure to Taiji Quan was learning the Wu Style Taiji Fast Form in 1981. At the time I was still studying at the Shanghai Medical University (currently known as Fu Dan University Medical College). It was in my first year at the University.

One day I had the opportunity to witness Wu Style Taiji Master, Master Ma Yueh Liang, performing the Fast Form at the Shanghai Wan Ren Stadium. It was this eyes opening event that first aroused my curiosity in Taiji Quan. Until then I always had an understanding that Taiji was a slow exercise. I was curious about the “Fastness” in the Fast Form. Due to conservatism in the ancient Chinese arts, many of the arts (the Fast Form especially) was seldom displayed in public.

I went with a school mate from my High School, Mr Yang Ming Qian. We both enrolled into the Fast Form class. It was an honour to see first hand Master Ma’s performance as well as receiving instructions from him.

Master Ma did not take much notice of me as I was one of the many students who were in the class. There was no special teachings or attention given to me. Also I had not yet seen Master Ma’s push hands techniques. Yet it was in this hazy arrangement of fate that my journey in learning Wu Style Taiji Quan began.

Around the end of 1982 and the beginning of 1983, my University started a Martial Arts association. As I had trained in the Martial arts since the age of 13, I was also an active member in the newly formed association. Eventually I was made a Committee member.

In my role as a Committee member I invited Master Ma and his wife Master Wu Ying Hua, to be consultants for the Association. Ma Jiang Bao (Master Ma’s son) and Shi Mei Lin (Master Ma’s adopted daughter) also came along with them. Ma Jiang Bao and Shi Mei Lin were both made instructors in the Association.

Shi Mei Lin was already the instructor of the Xu Hui District Martial Arts team. She often represented the Shanghai Wu Shu Team in performances overseas. Whenever she was away I was asked to look after her team.

It was during those few years that I learnt the Wu Style Taiji Slow Form and Weapons forms from Shi Mei Lin. Master Ma’s senior student Pei Zu Yin also taught me the elementary push hands. Later I learnt more advanced push hands from Shi Mei Lin, including dynamic stepping push hands techniques. However the applications of the forms and “Lan Cai Hua” were taught later to me by Master Ma.

In the mid 80’s I got to know the people in the association well and often visited Master Ma’s residence as well as the Xu Hui District training Hall. I got to push hands with Master Ma’s students there. Out of respect I never did that in a competitive manner.

Six years passed and I graduated from the Medical University, and I worked a year as a General Practitioner at the Hospital. Due to my preference for a govt system that is more inclining towards treasuring human values and freedom, I decided to immigrate to NZ. Not long after, I made arrangements for Shi Mei Lin to come to NZ from Europe where Shi Mei Lin was then teaching Taiji. Shortly after she arrived we were married. We studied the arts together. Unfortunately there were times my queries on the Martial aspect of the arts could not be satisfactorily answered.

In 1990, we invited both Master Ma and Master Wu to come to NZ. Master Ma was in his 90’s and Master Wu around 85.We were honoured by their acceptance.

At that time my martial art focus was in Xin Yi Liu He Quan and external martial arts. I was not fully convinced of the Taiji Quan system yet.

One day at the family home pushing hands with Master Ma I decided to try a Chin Na techniques called “Chien Jin Chui” taught by Master Ji Jin Shan. The intention is to try to seize Master Ma’s arm.

The next thing that happened was something that shocked me thoroughly. My body sprang like a plate off into mid air for half a circle and then I fell squarely on my side. Lying on the floor I was unable to utter a word, my eyes wide open looking at Master Ma. I did not get up until Master Ma motioned for me to rise. I then slowly picked myself up off the floor.

Master Ma was not upset with my “sneaking attack”, and he decided to show me more ‘higher level’ martial techniques of Taiji Quan. He even allowed me to use punching and kicking techniques on him. In the exchange, I threw a left punch intending to follow on with a right kick. To my surprise, I felt that I could not raise my right foot at all. Master Ma has stuck his arms to mine, leading me off the centre of gravity, and at the same time he then followed through with a “Pan Lan Cui” to my chest area.

There and then I felt the full body momentum of Master Ma’s punch. It was as if it had gone through my body. I could no longer response but with great fear in me. Master Ma stopped the attack on seeing my reaction.

What I felt was likely to be more aptly described by two Chinese proverbs :
“Fire arrow penetrating the heart” or “As if collapsing a thin wall”

From then on I began to study Taiji Quan in equal proportion to XYLHQ.

For 6 months both Masters lived with us in NZ. Other than practising Taiji Quan I requested for my forms to be corrected. Shi Mei Lin had attained very accurate forms, so both Masters did not need to correct me much except to explain the moves. It was then I began to ask questions, including all those martial questions that were on my mind from 1981 to 1990.

Master Ma was most talented in Taiji Quan. He had full understanding on Taiji’s history, forms, weapons, and their applications. He knew more than any others. Be it accurate measurements in posturing, standards, applications, martial understanding, historical facts, and internal gungfu (nei gong). Master Ma had firm grasp of all. His explanations were detailed and indepth. Having said that I felt he actually knew more, and many subtleties had yet to be revealed. It was then I resolved to make Master Ma my role model in martial arts, and to learn the total syllabus of Wu Style Taiji Quan.

In Wu Style Taiji Quan many techniques are not transmitted outside, be it select hand or weapon forms. Even though Shi Mei Lin and I were a married couple, the rule still applied. There was this form called “Lian Huang Jian” (the Wu 3rd sword form), which only Shi Mei Lin knew, at that time not even Ma Jiang Bao knew it. I wished to learn, so I exchanged with Shi Mei Lin using an ancient and precious YiJinGin set that I learnt from Master Zu Yun Fei. This was how I learnt “Lian Huang Jian”.

In that period of time Master Ma had passed on to us many of his push hands videos. Also in their final years at their Shanghai family home there were many recorded videos of Master Ma’s explanations of push hands to me. They were all very valuable and have never been revealed to outsiders. It can be said that without Master Ma’s explanations it is impossible to truly understand real push hands!

Master Ma’s Nei Gong was also at a very high level. He taught me the “Five Elements Nei Gong”.

In September 1992, after I became Master’s Ma disciple at his home I was then taught Wu Style Taiji’s
* 13 Spear set
* Life Saving 3 Spear set
* Sticking staff (spears without spear heads , 2 sets for two man practise)
* Crossing spear set
* Eight posture Nei Gong

Master Wu taught me the Dual Sword Form with both Masters correcting my forms.

Both Masters did a tour around NZ with Shi Mei Lin and I joining in push hands with Master Ma. These videos are now displayed on the Youtube.

In 1991, while sending Master Li Zun Shi (my XYLHQ master) back to Shanghai, we visited Master Ma and Master Wu. They were please to see us. There was even a welcoming party at the Jian Quan Association for us, and a Vegetarian dinner party at Long Hua Temple.

It was in those few months stay in Shanghai that Shi Mei Lin learnt her acupuncture at the Chinese Medical College. I visited Master Ma almost everyday, practising push hands and attended the push hands sessions at the gardens with his students, such as Qian Zhao Chun, Zhang Jin Gui, Chen Zhao Mao etc. The gardens we practised in were:
Shanghai Public Garden
Fu Xin Garden
Xiang Yang Garden
Zia Bei Garden

I benefitted a lot from this learning. It was definitely a good variety of people, and very different from pushing hands with Master Ma. He was in a totally different level of skill, out on his own, so to speak.

In the second half of 1991 due to our differences in the pursuits of martial arts Shi Mei Lin and I were separated.

In the beginning of 1992, I went back to Shanghai in order to explain to both Masters seeking forgiveness and understanding from them for this unfortunate event.

To my surprise they understood my situation and accrued the whole matter to the “intention of Heaven”. Both Masters treated me just as before. Their teaching and their explanations remained the same as well. I was really touched by their kindness and great capacity to understand and forgive.

I had a wish to be the disciple of Master Ma, but it remained unexpressed for fear of adding pressure to both Masters and for two other reasons: firstly, my separation with Shi Mei Lin, secondly, considering Master Ma's other senior students were already jealous about me learning much more than them, even though they had followed Master Ma many years earlier than me. But both Masters had already guessed my wish.

In September 1992 it was my second trip that year back to Shanghai to learn push hands, Martial theories and its practices.

One day I was invited to a tea drinking session at Master Ma’s residence. Master Ma then asked if I have heard of the story of the 6th Generation Zen Master Hui Neng. I replied “Yes”. Master Wu was there as well.

Master Ma then proceeded to explain that Hui Neng was a man of great wisdom. After only hearing the chant of the Diamond Sutra he actually understood it, far exceeding any other students including the student Shen Hui of 5th Genaration Zen Master Hong Ren. It was for that reason the title was decided to be passed on to Hui Neng. But fearing jealousy from amongst the other disciples, Master Hong Ren decided to ask Hui Neng to meet him at 3am in his living quarters. The ceremony of the transmission was carried out in secret.

After tasting a mouthful of tea, Master Ma continued that such an arrangement was out of no other choice.

Master Ma then spoke of his awareness of my wish to be his disciple. They were very touched by my tenacity to learn and patience to wait, and my attitude and ability to comprehend their teachings had impressed them. In order not to harm Shi Mei Lin or rouse any unease amongst the rank, Master Ma decided to accept me as his disciple without public announcement.

I was then asked to come to Master Ma’s living quarter on 28th September 1992 at 10am. It was mainly to avoid any visitors’ intrusion. It was on the second floor, in Master Ma’s bedroom. I was asked if it was a good idea.

I was touched by this kindness and I was practically in tears on hearing that.

Master Ma’s advice to me was that though I am highly talented and acute in understanding Taiji, which is important in learning Taiji, I must still train very hard and to accept no limitation in the arts of Taiji.

After the ceremony I was taught “Hun Yuan Zhuang “,”Eight Postures Nei Gong” and “Lan Cai Hua” push hands in detail.

From 1993 to 1996 I invested in a medicine production plant in China and was made a General Manager of the plant. For those three years as I lived in China, Master Ma further taught me Wu Style Taiji inner transmission methods and its secrets. He was around 94 or 95 years of age. I was always invited to lunches or dinners with both Masters(often in 2nd floor where they had bed and table in the big room and where only very close people would be invited there).
One day Master Wu related to me that there was another set of Nei Gong called “Yin Yang 24 Methods”(also called "taiji gong"). Due to both Masters being busy making a living, they had forgotten it. Master Ma’s martial brother and brother-in-laws Yu Sheng was also taught by Master Wu Jian Quan this very set. In the 60’s Master Wu requested Yu Sheng to teach Ma Jiang Bao, but was only met with rejections. Until Yu Sheng passed away no one had been taught that Nei Gong set. Master Wu felt very disappointed about this.

I have heard that while Master Wu Jian Quan was in Hong Kong he had taught this set to Master Cheng Yong Guang. It was then transmitted to Cheng Tin Hung (Master Cheng Guang Yong’s nephew. Cheng Tin Hung also learned it from Qi Ming Xuan whom was Qi Ke Chen’s son). The only difference is that they have renamed the set as “Taiji Gong”.

I then expressed my wish to go to Hong Kong to learn this set and hence completing the entire Wu Style Taiji system.

At the end of 1995, I was in Hong Kong. It was in Guang Dong Zhong Shan Taiji Shan Village I finally got the opportunity to meet Master Cheng Tin Hung . Master Cheng knew my background in Taiji, and he was happy to teach me “Yin Yang 24 Methods” (Yin 12 methods and Yang 12 methods).

Master Cheng gave praise to my being a hard worker. He said it was as if I have already learnt the set before.

While I was there Master Cheng’s disciple Mei Xiang Ming learned push hands from me. It is quite a humbling occasion.

One day when I visited Master Ma he appeared very solemn and said that Master Wu was taken ill and in Xu Hui hospital asking me to be there to talk to the doctors to see if there is anything that they can do for her.

I went and there were many of my classmates and school mates there. Unfortunately the doctor responsible told me that there was nothing he can do for her. They can only make her feel comfortable for her last days.

This news weighed down heavy on all of us as I related that back to Master Ma. It was a most difficult news and time as if stood still for us all.

As previously mentioned, from 1993 to 1996 I worked as a general manager in a Pharmaceutical company near Shanghai. During those three years Master Ma who was already 95 years of age orally transmitted unreservedly the Wu Style Taiji secrets. It was the most important three years of my taiji learning.

In 1996, Tian Chong my son was born in NZ, I left my work in China and returned to NZ.

Before I left Master Ma told me that to improve the martial arts I would have to be brave and put to practise what I have learnt. Do push hands more often with others talented practitioners, students and any outsiders from other systems... That I must not train in isolation as the arts has no limit in itself.

It was very sad and unpredictable that farewell in 1996 was the last farewell as well with Master Ma. I have never forgotten Master Ma’s advice, hard training and hard study, and put into practice what I have learnt. Especially in the last two years I felt that I have improved a lot. It goes to show that the arts indeed has no limit.

Master Ma and Master Wu Taiji system is the most complete of all in China.

Nei Gong:
· Hun Yun Zhuang Nei Gong
· Five Elements Nei Gong
· Taiji Yin Yang 24 Methods (also called 'tai ji gong", was the one Master Wu Jian Quan learned from Master Song Shu Ming 宋书铭whom was Song Yuan Qiao's宋远桥 17th generation decendent,and Song Yuan Qiao宋远桥 was a disciple of Fu Zi Li麸子李in early Ming Dynasty ,Fu Zi Li 麸子李 was a direct disciple of the great taiji founder Zhang San Feng.Master Song Shu Ming 宋书铭wrote a book called "taiji gong太极功"in 1916 , when Master Wu Jian Quan met Master Song , Song was also a secreatary of China president 袁世凯)

· Modefied Form by Master Ma and Master Wu
· Slow Form (founded by Master Wu Jian Quan)
· Fast Form (Zhang San Fong's original 13posture soft hands)
· Single moves' practise of above forms

Push hands:
· Single person practice
· Two persons basic practice (5 types for single hand and 3 for double hands)
· Also for two person push hands there are distance and near methods,Upper ,middle and lower sections method 13 types,8 Types of dynamic stepping and finally “Lan Cai Hua”

· Taiji Broad sword
· Jian Kun sword
· Seven Star sword
· Lian Huang sword
· Double sword
· 6 sets of sticking sword(two person)
· 24 Spear
· Life Saving 3 Spear
· 13 Spear
· Sticking Spear( two sets of two man Sticking Staff --spear without head)
· Nian Lian 4 Spears
· Nian Li 4 Spears

Both Masters have had many students. Those who had learnt the whole system remain at not more than 2-3 people at the most. I am one of them who possess its history, theories, applications and various other in-depth studies.

At present I have selected 5 disciples to transmit the total system to so that Wu Style Taiji will have a future.

As I recalled before I left Shanghai in 1996, as I wish to know how much I have learned in push hands I did push hands with a few of Master Ma’s senior students but to my surprise no one was able to push me out then. That had caused some discomfort which I can totally understand. If only they knew about my being accepted by Master Ma and the reasoning behind it they might be upset. Especially one who has divorced their adopted daughter and yet receiving all the oral transmissions unreservedly. How can any of them remain calm let alone understand?

Both Masters are persons of knowledge of Dao, and they possessed great compassion towards others’ feelings. Their secret acceptance is totally out of their kindness and wanting no one to be affected unduly. I hereby also reply to the Internet remarks by a few of the younger generation students doubting my lineage from Master Ma.

In the beginning I did not wish to write that essay nor reveal a personal letter written to me by Master Ma, as I too do not wish to hurt others’ feelings, especially while both Masters were still alive. Unfortunately the rumours of others have been taken as truth by the writer on the Internet not only doubting my lineage but also made mention that I was actually pushed out by Master Yek Sing Ong in one of my many exchanges with other Masters in push hands. I therefore have no choice but to put the still pictures of the push hand videos with Master Yek on the Internet as well to defend myself. Please refer to my Blog ( on these matters mentioned.

Some people use information from Master Ma's disciples who are not fully aware of the special situation to doubt that I am Master Ma's disciple. If that is the case then why did Master Ma write a personal letter to me in 1993 in which he addressed me as his "Good Disciple" and signed off with "Yu Shi" (which is a traditional way only applied to Master to his own disciple). Why would Master Ma not respect himself to have said that if I am not indeed his own disciple? (please see the pictures of the letter in my above blog)

This is merely to reply to the rumours against me. It was never an intention to hurt Master Yek or Master Ma's other disciples at all. If there is a need to assign blame those who spread the rumours should be the ones to be blamed.

Monday, June 15, 2009


颜紫元 2009年6月4日
















心意、太极、阴阳八卦(盘)拳掌的传统哲学概念 颜紫元 2009年6月10日