Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

The Wu Family style of Tai Chi originates with Wu Quan Yu (1832-1902),  who learnt the “Small Frame” from both Yang Lu Chan (founder of the Yang Style of Tai Chi), and his son, Yang Pan Hou.  He was Manchurian by race and worked as the captain of a bodyguard unit in the Imperial Court in Beijing.  Because of his skill in martial arts,  he quickly mastered Tai Chi Chuan.


Some say that the smaller movements and more restricted style of the Wu Form (in comparison with the Yang Style of Yang Cheng Fu) has its origin in the elaborate and restrictive clothes of the Imperial Court.  In order to be able to practice combat in this apparel,  the movements of the original Yang Style had to be modified.  Some suggest this is not true,  and that the small movements were traceable to the Small Frame of Yang Pan Hou.  Because the movements were small and compact,  they appear to be quite linear to onlookers who are nor familiar with the style.


The Yang and Wu exercise routine follow the same sequence, generally.  Historically,  these lineages were very close to each other.  For many years,  there was no differentiation between the Yang and Wu Styles.  There was close contact between the two families and, for instance Wu Jian Quan and Yang Cheng Fu would practice Pushing Hands together.  It is said that when Yang Cheng Fu was defeated in his ‘old age’ by the Mi Tzung fighter,  Wu Jian Quan immediate issued a challenge and defeated the victor.  (Yang Cheng Fu died at an early age of 53 only, having contracted the debilitating venereal disease syphilis in his debauchery youth when he lived in the capital.  His physical reactions, power and nervous system would have been degenerating at the age of 50,  at the time of the contest,  so it is not a true reflection on his previous skills)


Wu Jian Quan taught in the Physical Education Institute in Beijing together with Yang Cheng Fu.  In the 1920's (when Yang Cheng Fu was standardizing the "Large Frame"), Wu Jian Quan also also revising his family's forms by omitting some of the repetitions, jumping and stamping movements,  in order to make the forms smoother and more structured.  This form became known to the modern world as the Wu style of Tai Chi Chuan,  founded by Quan You.  The original jumping and attacking movements were retained in a fast form,  which is seldom taught.  The Wu style is characterized by its agility, lively footwork, and well-knit small compact movements.  The Wu and Yang families remained close with mutual respect.  For example,  Wu Gong Yi,  the son of Wu Jian Quan, studied with Yang Shao Hou,  the son of Yang Cheng Fu.


Wu Quan Yu taught the style to a number of students,  including his son Wu Jian Quan (1870-1942),  who,  in turn passed his teaching on to his sons,  Wu Kong Yi (Wu Kam Yu) and Wu Kong Zao,  and daughter Wu Ying Hua,  and to students such as Ma Jiang Bao, Ma Yueh Liang, Wu Tu Nan, and Cheng Wing Kwong from whom many of today's Wu Style students descend.


The Malaysian and Singapore lineage of Wu Style are descended mainly from Cheng Wing Kwong.  Sifu John Chow’s Wu Style lineage descends from Cheng Wing Kwong which came to Malaysia and Singapore.  Robert Chow,  in addition,  also learnt from Cheng Yu Fook,  who is probably Rocky Kwong’s closest student.  Rocky Kwong learnt from Cheng Ting Hung who learnt from his uncle Cheng Wing Kwong. 


The Wu style has maintained a fair degree of cohesion and has not suffered the factionalism of the Yang style.  In China, the Shanghai branch continued to popularize the Wu style in mainland China, led by Wu Jian Quan's daughter Wu Ying Hua and son-in-law Ma Yue Liang.  Their son,  Ma Jiang Bao,  carries on the family lineage.


In 1954 Wu Gong Yi,  the son of Wu Jian Quan, fought a White Crane master in Macau.  For many followers,  that match established Wu style Taichi as a popular martial art.  Schools established in Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia by Wu Gong Yi and his sons Wu Da Kwai, Wu Da Qi and nephew Wu Da Xin became popular.  Though Wu Gong Yi modified his father's style slightly,  his proven fighting skills precluded any possible accusations of 'dilution'. (Although Cheng Tin Hung disagree with this assessment). 


The descendents of the Wu family are still intact,  and teaching their family art. 


Currently the Wu Style of Tai Chi is second in popularity only to the Yang Style.


For more detailed information on the historical development of these styles of Tai Chi see Peter Lim's fine article:   The Historical Development Of Wu Jian Quan Style


Wu Family Genealogy


Wu Kam Chan practicing Tai Chi.                         Wu Kam Chan practicing Tai Chi.

Wu Kam-chanWu Kam-chan