About Wu's Style Tai Chi Chuan

The Wu family-style Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan) founded by Wu Chuan Yau and his son Wu Jien Chuan is said to be the second most popular form of Tai Chi Chuan in the world today, as well as one of the five recognised styles of Tai Chi Chuan. The five major recognised styles of tai chi chuan in the order in which they appeared are:

  • Chen style
  • Yang style
  • Wu style
  • Sun style
  • Hao(Wu) style

There are many other named styles which stem from one of the original styles e.g. Cheng Man Ching style which is a variants of yang style, or Wudang style is a variant of Wu's style Tai Chi Chuan. There is no one universal style of Tai Chi Chuan, though there are universal principles which bind the styles together as Tai Chi Chuan.

Historical Context

More than a hundred years ago, Wu Chuan Yau, an Imperial Guard in Beijing, pioneered the Wu Style of Tai Chi Chuan.

Wu Chuan Yau was taught Tai Chi Chuan by Yang Lu Chan and his son Yang Pan Hou. Wu became expert in Yang's style and he taught his son Wu Jien Chuan to become adept in the same form. As a father and son team they made their own innovations as an offshoot of Yang's form. Although they together investigated and invented the Wu Style, it was Wu Jien Juan who eventually evolved the form. He essentially narrowed the circle and streamlined the form. Also he made significant innovations in applying the forms for self-defence.

In 1914 the Government appointed Wu Jien Chuan Military Instructor at the Peking Palace and Martial Arts Advisor. In 1916 he co-founded a famous Martial Arts School in Peking. It was their intention to make Tai Chi Chuan available to a wider range of the population. In 1928, he moved to Shanghai and was appointed Director of the Shanghai Martial Arts Association, and the Supervisor of the Chin Woo Martial Arts Club, Tai Chi Chuan section. In 1935, he founded the Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy in Shanghai.

When Wu died in 1942, his daughter Wu Ying Hua and his sons Wu Kung Chu and Wu Kung Yi, the 3rd generation heirs, continued to run the club. Ma Yue liang (the husband of Wu Ying Hua) helped and was Vice Chairman of the Wu Jien Juan Tai Chi Chuan Society. Similar organisations developed in Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and recently Canada. Wu Kung Yi and Wu King Chu ran the Hong Kong branch. They did much to spread Wu's style Tai Chi in the East.

In 1954, there was a famous charity fight, which was the last of the all-out matches, and without protective aids. Wu King Yi was nearly sixty years old, almost twice the age of his opponent, the famous White Crane master Chan Hak-Fu. Wu incapacitated him with a nosebleed although officially it was declared a draw. Wu Kung Chu was an expert in many aspects of Tai Chi Chuan, particularly Chi Kung. He also compiled the first classic book on Wu Style Tai Chi published in 1935 and re-published in 1980, and now available in an English translation .

Wu Ta Kwei 4th generation was also famous and helped promote Wu Tai Chi Chuan in the East. He was the first to introduce it to Japan. Wu Ta Hsin was the 4th generation weapons expert. Wu Hsia Fung, daughter of Wu Ta Kwei took the family style to Vietnam where she received an award from the Chin Woo Society. In 1970, the Academy was re-opened in Shanghai.

Wu Kwong Yu, the son of Wu Ta Kwei introduced Wu's style Tai Chi Chuan to Canada. He opened an Academy in 1975 in Toronto and has since revolutionised teaching methods on video and television. The Wu Style is consequently spreading worldwide.

The current head of the 5th Generation of Wu style Tai Chi masters and gatekeeper of Wu style Tai Chi is Wu Kwong Yu, who lives in Hong Kong.

Diversity of Styles in Wu's style Tai Chi Chuan

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 Push-hands together.

However as time went by the styles began to diverge in practice often encouraged by physical separation of the people, either by death or distance. In this way stylistic differences began to appear, variations on the Wu's style theme.

Wu Chuan Yau taught the style to a number of students, not only his son Wu Jian-quan. His Disciple Wang Mao Zhai and his Tai Chi descendants went on to found what is now referred to as 'Northern Wu Style' signifying its Beijing origins. Wu Jian-quan, in turn passed his teaching on to his son Wu Kong-yi and disciples such as Ma Jiang-bao and Cheng Wing-kwong. Ma and his wife (Wu Jien Chuan's daughter) Wu Ying Hua continued to practice Wu's style Tai Chi Chuan in Shanghai after Wu Jian-quan's death. They established what might be called 'Shanghai Wu style'. The other disciple of Wu Jien Chuan, Cheng Wing-kwong, transmitted the knowledge of Wu's Style Tai Chi Chuan to his nephew Cheng Ting Hung, who formed Wudang Tai Chi Chuan in Hong Kong. These are just a few of the variants of the Wu's style, a quick trawl through the video files on You Tube will provide evidence of many more variations from whom many of today's Wu Style students descend.

The transmission from Wu Chuan Yau to Wu Jien Chuan to Wu Kung Yi and thence to Wu Tah Kwei and his son Wu Kwong Yu may be referred to as the central lineage of Wu's style Tai Chi Chuan. It can be seen as transmission via the eldest son as potential and eventual head of the family, but in practice it is more complex than that. In martial arts families, such as the Wus, knowledge is transmitted via uncles and aunts, fathers and grandfathers and family disciples to the upcoming generation. One thing however is certain all generations of the Wu family have left the world a wonderful legacy of Tai Chi Chuan, rich in technique, complex and profound in form and genuinely manifesting the physical reality of the Tai Chi philosophy.

At the Archway Academy we practice the Wu's style of Tai Chi Chuan taught and promoted by 5th Generation Grandmaster Wu Kwong Yu.

Wu Jien Chuan

Wu Tah Kwei

Wu Yan Hsia

Wu Tai Sin

Wu Kwong Yu

©2012 The Tai Chi Chuan Association. Design by Don Spargo