The Yang family first became involved in the study of t'ai chi ch'uan (taijiquan) in the early 19th century. The founder of the Yang-style was Yang Lu-ch'an (楊露禪), aka Yang Fu-k'ui (楊福魁, 1799–1872), who studied under Ch'en Chang-hsing starting in 1820. Yang became a teacher in his own right, and his subsequent expression of t'ai chi ch'uan became known as the Yang-style, and directly led to the development of other three major styles of t'ai chi ch'uan (see below). Yang Lu-ch'an (and some would say the art of t'ai chi ch'uan, in general) came to prominence as a result of his being hired by the Chinese Imperial familyto teach t'ai chi ch'uan to the elite Palace Battalion of the Imperial Guards in 1850, a position he held until his death.
Yang Lu-ch'an passed on his art to:
- his second son, the oldest son to live to maturity, Yang Pan-hou (楊班侯, 1837–1890), who was also retained as a martial arts instructor by the Chinese Imperial family. Yang Pan-hou became the formal teacher of Wu Ch'uan-yu (Wu Quanyou), a Manchu Banner cavalry officer of the Palace Battalion, even though Yang Lu-ch'an was Wu Ch'uan-yu's first t'ai chi ch'uan teacher. Wu Ch'uan-yu became Yang Pan-hou's first disciple. Wu Ch'uan-yu's son, Wu Chien-ch'üan (Wu Jianquan), also a Banner officer, became known as the co-founder (along with his father) of the Wu-style.
- his third son Yang Chien-hou (Jianhou) (1839–1917), who passed it to his sons, Yang Shao-hou (楊少侯, 1862–1930) and Yang Chengfu (楊澄甫, 1883–1936).
- Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang, 武禹襄, 1813–1880), who also developed his own Wu/Hao-style, which eventually, after three generations, led to the development of Sun-style t'ai chi ch'uan.
Yang Chengfu removed the vigorous fā jìn (發勁 release of power) from the Hand (solo) Form, as well as the energetic jumping, stamping, and other abrupt movements in order to emphasise the Da jia (大架 large frame style), but retained them in the Weapons (sword, saber, staff and spear) forms. The Hand Form has slow, steady, expansive and soft movements suitable for general practitioners. Thus, Yang Chengfu is largely responsible for standardizing and popularizing the Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan widely practised today.
Short forms Edit
The Cheng Man-ch'ing and Chinese Sports Commission short forms are said to be derived from Yang family forms, but neither is recognized as Yang family t'ai chi ch'uan by current Yang family teachers. The Chen, Yang and Wu families are now promoting their own shortened demonstration forms for competitive purposes.
Yang Chengfu also developed his own shortened version of the Yang Long Form in order to have it easier to teach to modern students who are busy with modern life. Despite being shortened, Yang Chengfu managed to keep the essentials of the Yang Long form. Correctly taught and practiced, the 108 movement form still retains much of its health and self-defense benefits (the original comprises over 300 movements). The Traditional Form (or, Long Form), is a common one.
The Chinese government has also commissioned short 16 Forms from each of the five major families recently.