Master Wu Chuan Yau –吳全佑 1834 – 1902

First Generation

Master Wu Chuan Yau (1834-1902) was the founder of the Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan 170 years ago. He was a Manchurian member of the Imperial Guard in Beijing. He learned Tai Chi Chuan from the founder of Yang Style, Yang Lu-Chan, and also studied under his son Yang Ban Hou.

A long time ago during the reigns of Huo (1851) and Tung (1862) in the Ching Dynasty, Master Wu Chuan Yau was employed by the royal household. He was from the Ta-hsing district of the province of Hopei. At that time many Manchu princes studied a martial art, namely Tai Chi Chuan, in order to improve their health. They were taught by Yang Lu-chan and his son, Yang Pan-hou. Because they only taught Manchu princes or guards of the royal household, everyone thought that this was an aristocratic art. Further, because the body and arms in Tai Chi Chuan moved slowly, people thought it to be beneficial for health, but not equally useful as a martial art. People in general held this view and Master Wu Chuan Yau and others in the martial arts worlds were no exception.

When Yang Pan-hou taught people, he held to the principle of “no pain, no gain”. Every time he would Push Hands with his disciples, they would fall so often that they injured their arms and legs. Many Manchu princes and royal guards suffered so much that they stopped studying. At that time, among the royal guards, there were only three who had not quit, and Master Wu Chuan Yau was one of them. However, Master Wu Chuan Yau suffered so much from Yang Pan-hou’s brutal treatment that his left leg had become slightly lame.

What the Son didn’t teach, the Father taught.

Master Wu Chuan Yau studied in this arduous way till he mastered the skills of the Big Circles; but he still knew nothing about the Small Circles. One day Yang Pan-hou wanted to leave Beijing and return to this old home in the district of Huang-ping. For this reason, his father took over his duties teaching the Manchu princes and the three hardy, but barely surviving royal guards. Yang Lu-chan noticed that Master Wu Chuan Yau’s left leg was slightly lame and asked him the reason. Master Wu Chuan Yau answered truthfully. However, he stressed that although this was the case, he still wished to continue training.

Impressed by these words, Yang Lu-chan felt that this kind of young man who was willing to undergo such hardships, after having been so knocked down, was rare. In addition, he could tell from this that Yang Pan-hou had only taught Master Wu Chuan Yau the Big Circles skills and had not taught any of the Small Circles skills to this long-suffering lad-in-training. Otherwise, he would not have become crippled, as a result of falling back on his leg so often during Push Hands, because he was unable to push Yang Pan-hou back.

After watching him carefully for several days, he felt that the lad was worth teaching. Then he threw out entirely the Big Circles that Master Wu Chuan Yau had previously learned from Yang Pan-hou and started from the beginning with the Small Circles method. This continued for three years, and during that time Master Wu Chuan Yau was learning everything without even realizing it.

When the Teacher left, his Disciple followed

After a good many years passed like this, Yang Lu-chan wanted to leave the capital and return to Huang-ping district. Yang Lu-chan had ridden for several days, when the driver noticed that someone was following the carriage. Feeling this was strange, he mentioned it to Yang Lu-chan who raised the green oil-cloth shade behind the carriage and saw at once that the person following the carriage was not a stranger, but was Master Wu Chuan Yau. Summoning him to the front of the carriage, he asked him why he was following and was reluctant to part? Master Wu Chuan Yau spoke up without any reserve and said that he wanted to return home with Yang Lu-chan and continue training with him. Yang Lu-chan disclosed to him that after searching his heart, he clearly saw that he had taught him as much as he could and had held nothing back. So there was really no need for him to study further, and nor was there any need for him to remain in the capital and continue studying with Yang Pan-hou. He could even teach others. After saying all this, he continued on his journey. Master Wu Chuan Yau watched the carriage pass into the distance, and with his heart full of sadness, he returned.

After Master Wu Chuan Yau’s return to the capital, he told Yang Pan-hou what Yang Lu-chan had said. Yang Pan-hou acknowledged that he could teach disciples, as he had studied the complete Yang family system of Tai Chi Chuan, both the Big Circles and Small Circles, for ten years and had advanced to the highest level. Obtaining Yang Pan-hou’s permission, Master Wu Chuan Yau immediately resigned his military position and set about establishing a training hall to teach Tai Chi Chuan.

He wanted to demonstrate that what he would teach and Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan would differ in the following respects: First, he would only teach common people in his training hall, not Manchu princes. Second, his style would not have Big Circle and Small Circle Divisions, but emphasize only Small Circle Tai Chi Chuan. From this, he created a style which he called Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan.

After he established his training hall and could clearly differentiate himself from Yang Pan-hou, he broke off from the Yang standard. Yang Pan-hou continued to teach only Manchu princes and royal guards and only taught them Big Circle Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan. Master Wu Chuan Yau, on the contrary did not teach Manchu princes and royal guards, but only commoners; and he only taught Small Circle Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan. Because of this, in a short time, his disciples became more numerous than those of Yang Pan-hou in the royal palace.

After a time, just after the 1911 revolution sixty years ago that toppled the Ching Dynasty, because Master Wu Chuan Yau was getting old, he left Beijing and moved his family back to his ancestral home in Ta-hsing district in the province of Hopei, resolutely disbanding his classes. His son was Master Wu Chien Chuan. Taught from an early age in Beijing by his father, Master Wu Chuan Yau, he had an excellent foundation. After returning to Ta-hsing, Master Wu Chuan Yau devoted all his attention to teaching him. The method he used was the same as Yang Pan-hou’s “no pain, no gain.”

During this period, Master Wu Chien Chuan counted on suffering. Often when father and son Pushed Hands, Master Wu Chuan Yau would use his former vigour to throw this son to higher and higher heights, before crashing down. This method of “no pain, no gain” was the way Master Wu Chuan Yau taught Master Wu Chien Chuan all his secrets.

After disbanding, Master Chien Chuan establishes his name

After a time, Master Wu Chuan Yau, in turn, delivered the same speech to Master Wu Chien Chuan that Yang Lu-chan had said to him. He informed him that he had taught Wu Chien Chuan all of the secret methods of Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan. There was no need for him to teach him further, and he could now watch him receive disciples and teach. Master Wu Chien Chuan respectfully accepted his destiny. However, Master Wu Chuan Yau did not actually see Master Wu Chien Chuan receive disciples, as shortly thereafter he died.

After Master Wu Chuan Yau’s death, Master Wu Chien Chuan prepared to carry out his fathers words to teach Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan to disciples. At that time there was a group in Beijing headed by Hsu Yu-sheng who went to the Wu home in Ta-hsing to invite Master Wu Chien Chuan to return to Beijing to continue his father’s wishes to teach Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan in Beijing. Because of this Master Wu Chien Chuan demonstrated his talent in Beijing for the first time, so that Wu Family Tai Chi Chuan was developed further.