Yang Fast Form

Postby Audi » Mon Apr 01, 2002 12:17 am

Greetings Charlie,

Let me say in advance that I have difficulty expressing and interpreting tone from printed words on the Internet. As I result, I do not intend anything below as a challenge.

In the past, I have explored the site you linked to and have had some difficulty interpreting aspects of it, since I lack common reference points for many of the statements. For instance, how fast are the fast forms described and what is the point of the speed? Also, saying that someone learned a particular form from someone else is not the same as saying that the form was taught as a necessary part of a curriculum or, if it was, how it was meant to fit in.

Since you apparently have experience with either the Gin Soon Chu or the Dong/Tung fast set, could you give some personal taste of either? What does the "fast" set you know do for you that the "slow" set does not? What principles do these sets reveal to you or train for you that the slow sets do not?

You also mention a small-frame form. Do you have personal experience with this? Is it clearly a different sequence from the form described on this site, or merely a different style of performance of more or less the same sequence? If the former, what is added? If the latter, what purpose was communicated to you for the variation?

I have always interpreted references in the literature to different Yang Style frames (i.e., large, middle, and small) to different expressions and circumstances of the different Yang family members who were teaching. I was surprised to read on the site you referenced that Yang Chengfu was a transmitter of not only a large-frame, but also a middle- and small-frame form. Is it your understanding that all three frames were ever meant to be trained simultaneously or that they were simply variations on a common theme?

Lastly, I have read many references in the literature to "secret" forms in various styles. With respect to Yang Style, some say Yang Luchan and Banhou kept various practices secret. Others say so of Yang Chengfu. Do you know what is meant by "secret" in the context of these unpublished or closely held Yang Family forms? What was meant to be achieved by the secrecy that is no longer pertinent? The few hints I have read in the literature seem contradictory or subject to varying intepretations.

Take care,
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Apr 01, 2002 1:23 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by charlie:
Why so confrontational? Do you really believe there is only one form in Yang family style? Despite all the evidence to the contrary?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It would appear that you have come to our bulletin board from another teacher, who teaches a fast form, to contradict someone here who doesn't. Who is being confrontational? I have pointed out that some of the 'evidence' you mentioned is only evidence of speed variation within the form, not the existence of a fast form. I have very politely accepted your statements and tried to elicit more detail from you. Relax, it's good for your taiji. Please do tell us more about the fast form that you know.
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Postby charlie » Mon Apr 01, 2002 10:25 am

No, I am not at student at that school.

See also http://sunflower.singnet.com.sg/~limttk/historg4.htm
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Postby tai1chi » Tue Apr 02, 2002 4:33 pm

Hi all,

fwiw, as a non-representative of any style, I might as well put my two cents in. I think the distinction between doing a form (or tcc) "fast" and doing a "fast form" is extremely relevant. Sun style, for example, is called "active step," but it's not done as "fast" as the form I've seen done by the Dong (Tung) family. I've seen V. Chu's "fast" form, and it's also done "faster" than Sun style, in most cases. OTOH, it's quite clear from all the significant literature that, in terms of application, tcc has *always* had the potential to be done fast. In fact, it's one of those "dumb questions" that every tcc practitioner has heard at one time or another --for example, from someone who does mantis, crane, wing chun, or some other martial art that bases much of its tactics on "speed." This strategy, i.e., dependence on speed, may be part of some forms/styles/families of tcc; however, it's not the idea of tcc that I'm familiar with. At the same time, I also believe that practicing movements quickly, whether alone or with a partner, is --imho-- absolutely necessary in order to fully develop the martial potential of the art. Yet, it's not absolutely necessary to develop martial potential either. So, if one *never* does the (or a) form "fast," one will not do any harm to oneself or others. Anyway, this begs the question of the place of a "fast" form in the tcc curriculum. Ma Jiangbao, a grandson of Wu Chian Chuan, stated that at one time (pre-1911), tcc was primarily practiced fast. It sounds reasonable to me; and it takes nothing away from him or anyone else to note that the development of a "slow" form was the most brilliant, unique, and significant contribution of tcc to Chinese martial arts --to the extent that the slow moving form was what gained tcc recognition in the 20th century. Personally, I think it was a masterstroke, and should be celebrated, not defended. Ok, but I also think that part of the problem is "political." Certain people have, deservedly in my opinion, received the bulk of the credit for the spread and popularization of tcc. And, some extremely accomplished practitioners have not received the credit they deserve. Oh well, the tcc world often reminds me of the Middle East or Northern Ireland.
Steve James
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 02, 2002 5:50 pm


Very, very, well put.
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Postby TimB » Wed Apr 10, 2002 4:31 am

Tai Chi is learned and practised in stages. First, as a beginner, the practioner learns the skeleton as a repetitive exercise. After that they'll move on to concentrate on corrections of posture and principle. Then, listening skills, breathing, focus and more correction. So on and so forth. After these skills have been practiced to a acceptable level. Then and only then will the practioner start learning how to do the "fast form" or should we say do the "form fast". Push hands is also very important at this level as well as weapons. See the ranking system for the Yang Family Tai Chi or pick up a copy of the Tai Chi Classics or the Yang Family Transmissions. Then give up on this silly discussion and start practising!
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Nov 15, 2002 11:14 pm

There can be little doubt that there is a Yang family "fast" form. What is in question is where it came from.
There is no indication I have ever found that Yang Lu-Chan, Yang Ban Hou or Yang Cheng-fu did or taught a "fast form".
The popular theories I have read and heard are that some students saw one or more of these individuals doing their forms "fast" and obviously without error. This would have led them to believe in a "faster" form and we all know what happens when someone gets an idea stuck in their head...

The part of this discussion that most interested me was the introduction of the idea that Yang Cheng-fu did a "different" form that still retained Fa-Jing (or Fa-ching?).
I have heard this also, but not in the context of a "better" or more secret form. Only in the context of he "refined" his form and after he did so that is what he taught. That he changed how he taught his form to reflect what he felt was an impovement in the art.
Certainly, Fa-jing is not a part of Yang Cheng-fu's form, and it is widely recorded to have been a part of Yang Lu-chan's form. Someone "took it out" and replaced it with Chi. The widely accpted theory is that Yang Cheng-fu removed the Fa-jing from the form and replaced it with Chi for greater limb extension and that is what he taught later in life.
I have read this in a lot of books, on websites and several Masters I have studied under have related this to me in this way.
Obviously, I have no first hand knowledge, and neither does anyone else.
If Yang Jun, the descendant of Yang Cheng-fu, says a "fast" form did not exist, I can't see how we can argue that point. Let's face it people, if Yang Jun hasn't heard of it, it very likely did not exist! I think he's in a much better position to know than anyone here.
If Yang Cheng-fu considered these refinements of the form to be necessary and this is how he taught his families traditional form in the end, then I can't see how anyone today could argue with his wisdom.

An aside that may be helpful.
The Masters and members of another Taiji family I had the priviledge to study under also claim no such "fast" form ever existed. That it was invented by students of Yang masters, not the Yang family.

The question was also raised about the different frames. That perhaps a misunderstanding of large, middle and small frame styles may be causing this debate.
The histories I have been taught and have researched seem to all show that the small frame was conceived by Yang Lu-chan to teach to the courtiers and Princes in the Imperial court, to keep them from getting tangled up in the long sleeved, voluminous robes they wore.
This was not a "better" or a "watered down" form, this form embraced all the principals of Taiji, just smaller in frame. I have never heard that it was done "fast".
This form comes directly down to us today through Quan Yu, a student of Yang Ban Hou, and his son, Wu Jian Quan. This is the form from which they distilled their family form of Taijiquan and they still retain the aspects of small frame to this day.

Want another theory?

Ever heard of Yang Shao Hou?
He was Yang Cheng-fu's brother, from what I have read. (correct me if I'm wrong here, people, this is what I have read in many places but I am not an expert on Yang family lineage)
The way I understand it (and this is right from the hip, I haven't read into this stuff in just ages) he taught a small frame that was called (if memory serves me) a combat set. I believe it consisted of 73(?) postures that had approximately 200 movements and was supposed to be the boiled down essence of Taijiquan. The way I recall it, Yang Lu-chan created this form combining elements of small frame with the Old Yang form and it retained the Fa-jing aspects.
I have heard that Yang Shao Hao was trained by Yang Ban Hou, learning his martial skill, and that while he publicly taught the same large frame as Yang Cheng-fu (and I believe in the same school in Shanghai) he privately taught this very advanced combat form to students who were skilled in the large frame of the Yang family or the small frame of Quan Yu.
This form was RUMORED (agian, no one I know can say for sure) to have been optimally done in a very short time, while retaining the original elements of Taiji.
This may be where the whole ball of wax started with rumors of a "super secret fast form known only to the family".
I heard this story from members of the family I previously studied under. I have also seen this story online in various places.
I have no idea as to its validity other than that.
The way I heard it, this form could have led to the rumor of a fast Yang form, or it could be that lesser students witnessed this form being practiced by the Masters and assumed it was a "secret" form known only to the family.
I have seen one person perform a version of this form. They claim to have learned it from a student of Yang Shao Hao.
It was done quickly, but with balance, rootedness, agility, relaxation and co-ordination of movement. It was very graceful at times, but then would suddenly be clearly deadly and accurate. Having some experience with Fa-jing, I was able to observe that it was retained in the performance of the form.
I could very easily see how this form would have been considered a "fast" form, or even a "secret" form, reserved for the Yang family alone, due to the fact that it was only taught to the highest level of student.

So, there's my two cents.
If the Yang family knows differently, I most certainly will bow to their wisdom.
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Nov 16, 2002 1:31 am

Hi Wushuer,

fwiw, I don't think that whether or not there is a fast form in the Yang family tradition is not even the real issue. Most of the time, when it is brought up, it is done to show what someone else doesn't have and what that means. I.e., if someone in the Yang family did something, and another family member did not, then the one who did more was "more" complete or authentic or faithful to the original. Well, first of all, it is safe to say that there are Yang-style fast forms --within the tradition of people who learned from YLC and his sons. The Wus (North and South) have one, the Dongs have one, within the CMC tradition, there are those who practice one; it's not really that uncommon, and certainly not secret. But, the issue is "What does that mean?" The fastest of them do not compare to some forms within the Chen style --that aren't even considered "fast." So, if the premise that "more is better" or "fast is better" is maintained, then even those who consider their curricula more complete are still way behind --by that logic. Personally, I tend to recall that YCF was/is considered the "Great popularizer" and "standardizer" of the Yang school. To me, that means that there are/were other varieties and expressions of Yang style within the Yang family. I'm not going to argue that this was right or wrong or that it was just political or that someone else's variety should have been chosen. But, there are those who do, as there are those who claim that at one time tcc was primarily practiced "fast" and that the "slow, even" forms came later. Ma Jiangbao, WCC's grandson, believes that this was so, for ex. Anyway, imho, there are probably things that the first and second generation did that most of us do not do, and there may be things that we do that they did not. I don't think that anyone can claim to "know," yet I respect the opinions of all the parties. At the same time, I think that people make a lot more out of it than it warrants.

Steve James
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 17, 2002 5:46 pm

Hi all,

Wushuer and Steve, excellent posts! Please keep them coming.

I had a few additional thoughts on this issue I wanted to add. At the last saber seminar I attended, which was taught by Yang Jun, he discussed subtle distinctions between the qualities the saber form should have and those that the barehand form should have. Basically, he said that the saber form should be done with somewhat greater speed, more evident power, more flow, use of momentum, and generally longer steps.

From Yang Jun's words, I got several distinct impressions and have drawn several conclusions. What I am about to set forth here, however are my own impressions and conclusions, and not his words.

It seems that there are indeed certain things "lacking" from the barehand form and that this is a deliberate part of its current design. It seems to me that the Yangs' curriculum is somewhat progressive, by which I mean that certain characteristics of their total art are deliberately suppressed in certain practices for various reasons.

It seems, for instance, that momentum has been deliberately eliminated from almost all of the barehand form. To achieve this, certain compromises have been made with the stepping patterns that vary somewhat among Yang Chengfu’s students. I understand that the reason behind this practice is to force the student to focus on certain aspects of the art that are harder to discern if one mixes in momentum and speed.

As one begins to master these aspects of the art, the requirements are loosened as other practices are studied. Other requirements are tightened. In the saber form, we are supposed to show that we can use and control momentum, display some power, and know how to flow and circle through all our movements. To allow this, we no longer have to show total control over every instant of a step. We no longer have to “pause” at 100-0 and 0-100 points of balance, because we are assumed to have begun to internalize the concepts of “central equilibrium” (zhong ding) and distinguishing full and empty.

After beginning to understand the barehand form and know our own movement patterns, we begin to study fixed and moving step push hands to know the movement patterns of our opponents. We no longer focus on ourselves; we focus on our opponent. We begin to understand the primary or square energies (jin) of ward off, roll back, press, and push.

Although the primary energies are theoretically complete, they are dangerous and difficult to apply in pure form. (Yang Jun gave a brief explanation of this, showing how applying these energies can threaten our central equilibrium.) Accordingly, once we begin to understand them, we begin practice of the Da Lü to study the secondary or oblique energies: split/rend (lie), pluck, elbow, and bump/shoulder stroke (kao). We can now supplement the primary energies with these. We begin to fill out our circle of movement potential by exploring the corners. The techniques become more and more overtly martial and can begin to blend into sparring, as we change speeds and allow for separation with our opponent.

As we spar, we try to retain all the earlier principles, but completely cast aside any concept of “standard” positions. We focus more on what works than on what is theoretically pure. Choreography ceases.

Within the various gradations of practice, there are additional possible gradations. Each practice begins by learning some sort of standard movements; but once one masters these, they can be cast aside. At the same time that standardization loses importance, one never really graduates from even the simplest practices. For example, one continues to do slow even form. Single-hand fixed-step push hands is never abandoned.

Each of the practices is capable of being altered to resemble more advanced practices. Some of this seems to be encouraged, and some seems to be discouraged. I think ultimately, this is a matter of individual teaching and study methods, rather than a matter of clear teaching principles. For instance, one can alter form practice, by doing one-posture sparring, but this is of clear value only if one has experience with the principles normally practiced through form, push hands, and Da Lü. One can alter even the basic push hands patterns to allow for unambiguous strikes and kicks; but again, this substantially changes the nature of the exercise. Da Lü seems to be the practice that most lends itself to major variations in the level of engagement, without varying the nature of the exercise.

Keeping what I have said above in mind, the question of the proper role of relatively fast Yang forms is not easily answered. I think that the Yangs do not currently see a need for this within their curriculum, since similar content exists in their other practices (e.g., the saber form). On the other hand, I would guess that they would not object to others having a relatively fast form in their curriculum. The only thing that might be suspect would be neglecting to have a teaching vehicle for the content that is taught through the relatively slow even form.

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 11-17-2002).]
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Nov 18, 2002 1:57 pm

You have done my heart good!
I am the merest beginner at YCF style Taiji, I am however versed in other sytles. What you just printed, gives me a big smile and a much greater insight into YCF style taiji than any I have read before.
You will understand, I hope, when I tell you that you have answered more questions than the one posed here for me!
I do not at this moment have a lot of time. I must leave for work right away, but I wanted to take a moment and let you know that your post has given me insights into YCF taijai that I really needed at this time.
Thank you.
I will post more as time allows.

You have the right of it, I believe. Much ado about nothing?
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Postby Michael » Mon Nov 18, 2002 7:43 pm

Audi, Steve and Wushuer,

I think that says it, very good.
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Nov 20, 2002 10:43 pm

Just got back here. Yes, I do believe we've covered the bases on this topic!
I did want to expand on my last post. Yes indeed, the Wu family does have a fast form. Someone earlier reported that in this thread.
I have learned the Wu fast form and it is very fun to do, with all the Fa-jing retained in the form anyone could ever ask for.
I did not receive this training until I had been studying with the Wu family for about six years, and had achieved a pretty high standing in their school. Also, I was told I needed to have a nearly flawless hand form and be extremely proficient in Saber form before I would be taught this, so I must have done something right somewhere.
I noticed that while it did not help me very much with my hand form, it did really go directly to theory of what I was learning in both saber and spear.
It also helped me a lot with my balance in free style sparring. The fast changes in form were extremely helpful for that.
Da Lu was taught to me a bit before this, so I found it helpful for that also.
In other words, once you've achieved a certain amount of success with the normal, what we are here calling "slow" forms, then a certain amount of "advanced" or "fast" or "more realistic to combat" training seems to be in order.
The "fast" form I was taught, was taught to me slowly. Just like the "slow" form. But then it was sped up considerably.
I was told by my Sifu at that time, that it was acceptable to speed up the fast form AND the original hand form, as long as I only practiced Fa-jing in the fast form. To leave only Chi in the slower form no matter how "fast" I did it.
Saber forms or other weapons training are also taught slowly at first, then you speed up to aid the flow and balance. It sounds wierd, but I did find it easier to go a bit "faster" when swinging a saber to keep my balance and the flow of the form. But had I not learned it "slowly" at first, I would just be a guy jumping around with a big peice of sharp steel in my hand, not someone practicing Taijiquan.
The "aggresivness" of saber also has a lot of appeal after a lot of time training everything very slowly. You feel good to finally be moving and swinging with vigor. Purely a personal observation there.
So there you have it.
Fast or slow, no matter. Just so long as what you do retains the basic Taiji principals.
Thanks for the wisdom.
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Postby etsiegel » Mon Dec 02, 2002 10:13 pm

CK Chu, who teaches in NY City has a video of what he calls "fast form." You can see it at http://www.chutaichi.com/chu.html.
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Postby dragonprawn » Fri Dec 20, 2002 4:00 am

I study with C.K. Chu. Our fast form has the same movements as our slow form. After gaining competency in the slow form the students train to increase the speed if they are planning to use their TCC for self defense.

The emphasis is on moving from the dan tien, maintaining an even height, and visualizing an opponent. Everything still has to be correct and nothing is left out. Even breathing is still attended to. It is somewhat more compact, but at the same time has more follow through in a way.

If someone is interested only in meditative practice & health benefits they can leave out the fast form (& for that matter push hands). At the beginning of push hands & application classes the whole class does part 1 of the yang short form fast (tht'a what you see on the website).

I am surprized to hear that some of you don't seem to practice fast form. It is a necessary prerequisite for our self defense practice.
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