Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting to Know Yang LuChan

Once again, I challenged myself to the Chinese New Year One Hundred Day Challenge. The idea behind The Challenge is to work on something, basically anything, every day for one hundred days beginning on the first day of the Chinese New Year. I put myself to the test last year and worked on the Chen Style Er Lu, second routine, or otherwise known as the Pau Cui (Cannon Fist) form. Admittedly, it is a shame to have to make an arbitrary excuse for training, but for me it works. The idea is to focus on this one subject, every day, for one hundred days. Before doing it last year I had worked on the Er Lu for years, here and there, when I could, when I could get my teacher to focus on it, when something else wasn't capturing my attention. But I never learned the form correctly all the way through. Utilizing the One Hundred Day Challenge as an impetus gave me the discipline to make it fall into place.

This year I did the same thing but turned my attention to the Old Yang Form, that of Yang LuChan. The greatest proponent for this style of Taiji in the modern age has been Erle Montaigue. Erle died a week before the Chinese New Year. So, in a nod of respect to Erle, and as preparation for the upcoming WTBA, Eastern USA Mini Camp, set for May 13--15, I took on LuChan's form. Consequently, the one hundred days will be over the day before the camp. So doing this has even more meaning for me.

Much like my previous experience with the Er Lu, I had never really given the YLC form my complete attention. I had learned it partially via video, and again had some instruction in the Small Frame approach from Erle at last year's WTBA event. Not long after that event I contacted Erle about learning the complete form, at which point he directed me to his "Taiji to the Max" series. This is a series of eight videos, in minute detail, describing this form complete, including all the martial applications, dim mak, and the Hao Chuan. The Hao Chuan is a nearly extinct style of practicing Taiji, with the ending of nearly every posture whipping at a fa-jing pace. Hao Chuan is translated as "loose boxing."

Of course a lot of Taijiquan history is debatable and disputed, like most history is, especially considering the lack of consistent record keeping methods. So there are some unknowns and some speculation, and various accounts of early Taiji practitioners. But, the way I understand it is Yang LuChan was a practitioner of Changchuan, or Long Fist Kung Fu, who studied the art that became known as Tajijquan from Chen Chang Hsing in Chen Village. He also apparently learned what was known as Great Pole Boxing, a system based on Qi Disruption Forms and the Original Thirteen Postures, separately. From there he combined all his previous knowledge with what he learned at Chen Village and invented his own system, known as Hao Chuan (Loose Boxing). Hao Chuan is faster than most Tajij forms, with jumps, kicks, and explosive fa-jing punches. Every application has a dim mak strike included. This is not your grandmother's Yang Tai Chi. This is pre-Yang Cheng Fu, before it was even called Tajijquan, and before it was made accessible to the masses. Of course the form doesn't have to be performed at the Hao Chuan level, but that is its highest expression.

Since the first day of the Chinese New Year, 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, I have been working on this form, and gaining profound appreciation of Erle Montaigue and of course, Yang LuChan. I do know the form all the way through, but not quite at the Hao Chuan level just yet. I also practice it at the Small Frame level, and find that to be extremely rewarding. As I have noted before, I find much knowledge in the practice of Taiji form. If we approach form with an empty cup, we learn something new every time. So it is with the YLC form. And while I can see the similarities with Chen style, much more so than contemporary Yang, it is still a very different approach to Tajiquan. A very deep, very powerful, intelligent, healing, martially effective approach to Taijiquan.

As of the writing of this post, I have one week left in my one hundred days. It has been very informative. I now know the YLC form. I feel that the challenge has been a success. Now, I have many years of challenge ahead to learn it at the Hao Chuan level, at the Small Frame level, to learn it well, so that it's second nature, so that it becomes a part of me, of who I am. That is, after all, what Taiji is about, isn't it?