Hao Weizhen version of
Wu Yuxiang's Tai Ji Quan
Zhou Zenglin student
of Hao Yueru.
In memory of my first Wu (Yuxiang) style teacher.
( 1899 - 1978 )
Wu style Tai Ji Quan 武氏太極拳
The Hao family never used the name Hao
style Tai Ji Quan - they always referred to the style as Wu (Yuxiang) style of Tai Ji
Quan showing respect to the founder of their form. As the Hao family came to be
representative of this style and famous boxers it was natural that people around
them started to refer to the style as "Hao style".
(1812-1880). From Guangping prefecture, Yongnian county. The Wu family was originally from Shanxi and when reaching Wu
Yuxiang they were already at the 7th generation. He had two brothers Wu
Chengqing (1800-1884) who took the imperial exam in 1852 and Wu Ruqing (took
imperial exam in 1840). Wu Yuxiang studied as a young boy the popular style in the
with his father. He and his brothers were all fond of boxing. The Chen family were
renting a store in Guang Fu, Yongnian from the Wu family. It was a herbal store
named Tai He Tang. Due to
this the Wu brothers had the opportunity to have some basic studies in the
Chen family boxing and so when Wu Yuxiang later studied with Chen Qingping (1795-1868) he already had a good foundation. Chen Qingping was troubled by a law suit
in the village of Zhaobao where his family was doing business but with
the help of Wu Yuxiang it was settled to his satisfaction. Seeing that Wu
Yuxiang was a clever learner he had him stay with him for some time, according
to Li Yiyu it was in the year 1852. It is interesting to see that in the old
manuals of Li Yiyu we can find forms that can be traced to the "small
circle" style of the Chen family, like the "yi shi duan da",
"shisan dao", "shisan qiang" and others that are not found
in other Tai Ji Quan styles.
At this time, following the words
of his mother, he visited his older brother Wu Chengqing in Henan. His brother had
a manual called "Wang Zong Yue Tai Ji Quan Lun" and he gave the manual to
Wu Yuxiang. Wu Yuxiang and his brothers Wu Chenqing and Wu Ruqing wrote several articles on Tai Ji Quan.
These are the Tai Ji Quan texts later used also by other Tai Ji Quan
schools, some with slight changes.
is also argued by some that Wu Yuxiang studied with Yang Luchan (1799-1872) who
is said to have taught at the Tai He Tang herbal store owned by Chen family. The
6th generation manager of the Chen herbal store in Guangfu told me that such a thing would have been
totally out of the question in such a feudal society. They would never let a non
Chen family person and former employee of Chen Dehu teach their family's traditional art at their own
It is told by Li Yiyu that Wu Yuxiang
wanted to study with Yang Luchan at his return but that Yang Luchan was
unwilling to teach. Due to that reason Wu Yuxiang went to Henan and then studied with Chen Qingping.
The only one to have received teaching
from Wu Yuxiang except for his nephews Li Yiyu and Li Qixuan, was Yang Banhou -
son of Yang Luchan. (Note: the wife of Yang Banhou was of the Hao family)
Li Yiyu 李亦畲
(1832-1892). From Guangping prefecture, Yongnian county. His
mother was of the Wu family and they were four brothers, Li Yiyu being the
oldest. He studied with his uncle Wu Yuxiang for over twenty years and had the
habit of writing down everything.
At old age he compiled three handwritten
manuals containing the works of Wang Zongyue and his uncle Wu Yuxiang. One he
kept himself, the second he gave to Hao He (Hao Weizhen) and the third he gave
to his brother Li Qixuan, these are called "the old three books".
had the students Hao He (Hao Weizhen) and Ge Fulai. His sons Baolian, Baorang
also practised but only Hao Weizhen was representative of the complete art of Li
Yiyu. His second son (Li Xunzhi) was very young when Li Yiyu passed away so most
of his skill came from Hao Weizhen.
In the Hao Weizhen copy of the boxing
manual that I have there is only the usual handform names listed apart from the
theoretical parts. In the other handwritten Li Yiyu manual that I have a copy of
there are forms listed with similar names like those in the Chen small circle
boxing. These forms are still taught to some trusted students.
NOTE: Above pictures of Wu Yuxiang and Li Yiyu are only the
artist's impression of what they might have looked like based on the features of
other relatives. The Yang Luchan painting figuring in some books and websites is said to have come via Fu Zhongwen
in Shanghai where someone painted the picture and is not the actual Yang Luchan.
Below photos are all the genuine persons.
Hao Weizhen 郝為真
(1849-1920) From Guangping prefecture, Yongnian county. Due to the family's
decline he had to give up his studies and do business to support his parents.
He was a big man, strong, sincere and upright. He is said to have been able to
carry a 50 kg bag in each hand.
Li Yiyu accepted him as a student
and he studied diligently for over twenty years achieving skills only second to
his teacher. Many times he was the one sent to meet with other boxers who came
to test the skills of this strange style that looked rather soft compared to the
common styles in the area.
In 1903 he was invited to Xingtai by
the Shen family to teach the two sons Shen Wenkui and Shen Wukui. At this time
he also took Li Shengduan as a student.
While travelling to Beiping to visit a friend he came down with
stomach aches and a man named Sun Fuquan helped him to recover. Sun Fuquan
(Lutang) studied with Hao Weizhen and later a style was named after him as Sun
Hao Weizhen taught his son Hao Yueru and several
students, among them Li Fuyin, Han Qinxian, Zhang Zhenzong, Li Xiangyuan (1889-1961), Li Shengduan (1888-1948) and Fan
Hao Yueru 郝月如
(1877-1935). From Hebei province, Yongnian county. He was the second son of Hao
Weizhen. He studied with his father from a young age and later also studied
reading and writing with Li Yiyu. As he from a young age saw Li Yiyu doing
"da shou" and was able to hear him explain the theory of the style he
later after many years of hard practise became a famous boxer.
At a young age he was an active
business man. Later he was employed to teach Tai Ji Quan at the Yongnian school.
In 1928 he was the head of the Yongnian county Martial Arts School. In 1930 he
went to Nanjing to teach at the High Court and at the Central University. He
passed away due to illness in December 1935 in Nanjing.
He taught his son Hao Shaoru and
had many other students like Zhang Shiyi, Xu Zhedong and others, among them a lawyer and schoolteacher in Nanjing and
later Shanghai named Zhou Zenglin.
Hao Yueru was well known for his
"duan da" skills and was able to repell any attack from any direction
with any part of his body. Sounds incredible but many different authors have
mentioned this fact. It was also told that he had a room in Nanjing with padded
walls and that he would stand in the middle of the room with his hands on his
sides. Then he would let the students attack him and he would send hem flying
across the room into the walls, that was why they were padded! Also Zhou Zenglin
used to tell this story while smiling at the memory.
Zhou Zenglin 周增霖
(1899-1978.10.27), lawyer, from Jiangsu, was introduced
to Hao Yueru by the well known scholar Xu Zhen (Xu Zhedong). Zhou Zenglin was
not a big man but he was a man capable of taking care of himself
with a style fit to his physical stature. Zhou Zenglin was not only familiar
with the empty hand forms of Hao Yueru, he was also skilled in the use of
weapons like "shisan qiang" and "shisan dao".
He taught me the Hao Yueru
version of what could be called a first and second routine. The
second routine is not a Pao Chui though it might remind you of a Pao Chui. The
way the form and the teaching is built up reminds me a lot of the Chen small
circle way of practise. The
Hao Yueru version still keeps the slapping of the feet, skip jump move, half kneeling
punch and jump kicks. However the low seven inch "kao" and other
really low moves did not exist. The form is compact and active and shows a
very strong inclination toward attack and infighting. When showing this form in
Shanghai to Hao Shaoru students they considered it too obvious as to the intent
typical of Zhou Zenglin and they wanted me to change it to the
"kinder" look of Hao Shaoru's late form.
I was the first to bring this style of Tai Ji Quan to
the late 1970's, however, the style of Zhou Zengling was not taught, instead a
version from Hao Shaoru was taught to students interested in the Wu/Hao style.
The style from Hao Yueru was considered more physically demanding than the Hao
Shaoru version. That does not mean that the Hao Shaoru version was any easier as
a boxing art, probably the opposite as it was like going directly into
university without passing through basic schooling. Unfortunately many students
did not realize this but were content with just learning a form.
Zhou Zenglin and the family of Hao
Shaoru were very close while Zhou was still in Shanghai. The old apartment
belonging to Zhou was left to Hao Shaoru when Zhou left Shanghai to go to
Sichuan and later to Taiwan. The preface for Hao Shaoru's planned early book was
written by Zhou Zenglin, this preface was handed over to me by Hao Shaoru's
widow in mid 1985.
As to teacher Zhou Zenglin, he can be
described as a man having a no nonsense approach to Tai Ji Quan free of all
superstitious theories and wild ideas.
Hao Shaoru 郝少如
Shaoru (1908-1983) had many students in Shanghai and in Nanjing after
his father passed away. Zhou Zenglin had a very close relationship with the Hao
family confirmed by the widow of Hao Shaoru.
After the passing away of Hao Shaoru
many former students, some real some fake, started taking on the titel of
master and even grand master, something they would not dare while the real
master was still alive.
Due to political climate in Shanghai many students never
got the whole art. Hao Shaoru is mentioned as enjoying students doing the
form in a low position to build skill. It has also been mentioned, by Gu Liuxin,
that Hao Shaoru knew
a "pao chui" form as a young man. This so called "pao chui"
is most likely a second routine of the "shisan shi" form but not to be
confused with a "pao chui" of the later Chen styles. His father Hao
Yueru mentioned that there was no need for a "pao chui" form, probably
due to the other form also mentioned by Zhou Zenglin.
At an exhibition of martial arts in
Shanghai Hao Shaoru took the stage and was asked to show "da shou"
("tui shou" popularly translated as "push hands", sounds
nicer). It is reported that the opponent was on the left hand side but suddenly
he was flying in a horizontal position over to the right hand side, then again
starting to bop up and down, then he was seen going way up in the air! It was
said that Hao Shaoru could make the opponents go whatever way he wanted, this
type of awesome skill in "da shou" has only been mentioned with
another Wu stylist, the father Hao Yueru!
A young student who was like a son to
the family named Wang Muyin taught
the later version of Hao Shaoru. I met him the first time in 1985 in Shanghai
and at that time I also met with Hao Shaoru's family. We continued meeting
during the years and later he stayed with me in Sweden in the early
1990's and he taught for a week in Stockholm at a summer camp. Later when I was
living in Shanghai he used to visit me and tell me about students he had had
after I left Sweden and what he actually taught and why. He has used the
pen-name Hao Yinru when writing articles and books. The Hao Shaoru form taught
by Wang Muyin is in a high position, no slapping of feet, no jump kick, one form
done in an even motion, small compact moves.
Wang Muyin teaches students in Shanghai
but he has no
designated inheritors or special students named having the status as bearers or
teachers of his style, neither in China nor in any other countries,
at least not according to himself.
Li Shengduan 李圣端
Li Shengduan (1888-1948).
Hui nationality. He was born in Xingtai, Hebei province. The family was
originally from a place outside Beijing, his father moved south to Xingtai to do
As a young boy he studied Cha
Quan and Tan Tui with a teacher named Chen Fada. When Hao Weizhen was in Xingtai
the first time in 1903-04 he was accepted as a student of Hao Weizhen. In 1907
Li Shengduan's mother died and he decided to devote all his time to Tai Ji Quan,
thus he instructed a relative run the three stores belonging to the family. He trained
hard and used a heavy iron spear and an iron sword to practise to build strength
and concentration as to how to move properly. He lived in a traditional housing
complex called "si he yuan" with a wall around the houses. Teacher Wu
said that Li Shengduan used to wear a long robe as a gentleman. Where he had
been practising one could see a deep imprint in the garden like a shallow ditch
after all the years of walking up and down doing the forms. At one time he was
at a slaughter house of bulls and he gave one bull a slap of his palm. When they
took away the hide they saw a blue palm imprint. They were all surprised at the
"tie zhang Li" (iron palm Li) as he was then called. He had to take on
many challenges as many people who saw the Tai Ji Quan said it looked like
"an old man fumbling for fish in muddy water" or just "old man's
boxing" and thus built up their confidence to challenge him.
It is said that he was good to his friends but that he saw no
reason to be good to enemies.
Hao Weizhen student, taught
many students, among them Chen Gu-an, Wang Biqing and Wu Wenhan from Hebei. Li
Shengduan had all students practising basic exercises before advancing to the
"Shisan shi jia" of Tai Ji Quan. As a Hui minority he also taught the
Jiao Men Tan Tui, a form of ten routines "springy legs boxing".
Li Xiangyuan 李香遠
Li Xiangyuan (1889-1961).
He was from the west of Xingtai city from a village called Huining village. His
father Li Deheng was a doctor of Chinese medicin.
Li Xiangyuan loved martial arts from a
young age so he had asked for teaching by the Ren county "San huang pao
chui" master boxer Liu Yingzhou. Liu Yingzhou was good friends with Yang Zhenyuan
(Zhaolin) from Yongnian county so he let his son Liu Donghan and Li Xiangyuan
practise Tai Ji Quan with Yang Zhenyuan. Yang Zhenyuan was the grandson of Yang
Luchan and the son of Yang Fenghou. Yang Fenghou died early so Yang Zhenyuan
studied with his uncle Yang Banhou. His style was different from his cousins, Yang
Shaohou and Yang Chengpu (according to Dong Yingjie). Yang Zhenyuan died in the
early years of the Republic (est.1911) so not many people are aware of this
member of the Yang family.
When the Shen family invited
Hao Weizhen to Xingtai to teach Li Xiangyuan was working in a mill.
When he heard that Hao Weizhen had arrived he asked friends to help him with an introduction
and asked to be taught by Hao Weizhen. Thus he was accepted and started to study
what also was called "Kai He Tai Ji Quan". At this time it was usually
referred to as "Hao jia" or " Kai He jia". As he had a good
foundation from previous training and was clever in learning the art he made
quick progress and was liked by Hao Weizhen. Li Xiangyuan got to be called
"Tai Ji sheng shou".
When challenged he always tried to
decline and ask that no fight be done but usually without any effect. At one time he used
"clouded hands" just to neutralize the opponent and at the end the
opponent was so frustrated that he said that if Li Xiangyuan would not strike
back he would feel like he was not at all regarded as a man by Li. Thus Li
Xiangyuan said that if that was the case he would fight back and sent the
opponent in to the wall. At another time in Shanxi the local heavyweight Niu
Tianlu was challenging and was caught with making trouble to an innocent country
girl selling her vegetables. Li Xiangyuan told him to stop right then but Niu
Tianlu would not stop, instead he attacked Li Xiangyuan who used a "palm to
the face" sending Niu Tianlu down to the ground taking half a day to
recover enough to get up on his feet.
In 1929 he was teaching in Suzhou as a
result of his student Dong Yingjie introducing him to the Wu Guyi family. At
this time Zhang Shiyi and Wu Zhaoji studied with Li.
Li Xiangyuan had three requests of his
students that were similar to the Xingtai group
1. do not show off your boxing
i.e. don't practise so others can see you,
2. you can not strike first i.e. you
can of course defend yourself but not lightly go around and beat up people,
you can not lightly teach people the art.
Cui Yishi 崔毅士
Cui Yishi (1892-1970). From Ren county, Hebei province. When
young he studied "San huang pao chui" from neigbouring village master
boxer and caravan protector Liu Yingzhou at the same time as Li Xiangyuan.
As he admired the skills of Li
Xiangyuan he later studied the Hao style with Li Xiangyuan.
He was a big man looking very
impressive and strong. When touching out with his hands it was impossible to
find out how he was changing, at a young age he was called "Cui Pan"
meaning "Cui the judge". In the old times in the Cheng Huang Temples
there was a temple figure called the chief official judge ("Pan guan")
who decided on life and death. To give him a name like that says something about
how his boxing skill was admired by others.
After Wu Wenhan he also taught Wu
Pinzhi from Shandong. Wu Pinzhi took good care of Cui Yishi at his old age. Wu
Pinzhi visited Tianjin and met with Yao Jiazhen student of Hao Zhenduo, due to
illness he passed away in 1975. I do not know what students Wu Pinzhi might have had
that could carry on the Li Xiangyuan art of Cui Yishi.
Wu Wenhan 吴文翰
- ) born in a village belonging to Nanhe county, Xingtai city, Hebei province
where his father was a doctor of Chinese medicin. When he was 8 or 9 years old
the people in Xingtai asked, with the help of Wu Wenhan's father, Fan Shupu (Hao
Weizhen's student) to go to Xingtai to teach. That is when he started to study
Wu style Tai Ji Quan. When he had reached 11 years old his father choose Li
Shengduan to be his teacher of Tai Ji Quan.
So he studied every day with Li
Shengduan and heard many stories told by older students about Wu Yuxiang, Yang
Luchan and Hao Weizhen, this increased his interest in Tai Ji Quan. During these
years he saw many people coming to try their skills with his teacher Li
Shengduan and all
were beaten, some harder than others.
After 1948 he went to Beijing where he
had relatives and later took a test to be admitted to "People's Northern
Revolutionary University" and after graduating joined the Central Gongan
(Police) Cader School and was later sent to work within the Gongan (Police)
In Beijing he was told that he had a
relative named Cui who was famous in Tai Ji Quan and a student of Yang Chengpu.
Due to being a relative Cui Yishi agreed to teach him Tai Ji Quan but not Yang
style, only Wu style as he himself was a long time student of the famous Hao
Weizhen student, Li Xiangyuan.
the summer of 1993 I met Wu Wenhan the first time
and at first we only discussed history and no forms. After half a year we
started to discuss moves and theory. At this time I was fortunate that he agreed
to teach me the old Hao
Weizhen version that he learned as a youngster from Li Shengduan and Fan Shupu.
The old Hao Weizhen version
is the form that he taught in Xingtai in 1903 and the same that Wu Wenhan studied as a young
boy. It is very complex and physically demanding. Movements are done low, jump
kicks, reverse roundhouse kicks, heel kicks, toe kicks, skip jumping with flying
kick, seven inch "kao", from high positioned moves to low ground
moves, from low ground moves to high positioned moves, several variations of the
different moves, seemingly similar moves are actually different in content.
Within the old style they have kept the traditional explanations of the writings of
the earlier boxers of the style. There is also an explanation of the traditional names listed in the Li Yiyu "shisan shi jia"
as found in Li Yiyu's own handwritten manual. Explanations are sometimes different than the popular versions found in
books and in the common books in the western world. It would be difficult for
someone not familiar with the details of the old Wu (Yuxiang) style to understand the
explanations as they are closely related to the forms.
The students of Li Shengduan and Li
Xiangyuan who carried the art of the old Hao Weizhen forms used to practise at
home behind closed doors, pulling the curtains so nobody could see them
practise. If asked if they knew Tai Ji Quan they would always state that either
they didn't know or that they had very basic and limited knowledge. To their
own students they were always very generous when sharing knowledge both of
theory and practical training. (See above the three rules of Li Xiangyuan)
students Wu Wenhan taught several versions of the form and one version of the form with 108 named moves that was based on
the old form but slightly less physically demanding compared to the older version.
Some mistakingly calls the changed later form "the old Hao
Weizhen form", this is not correct.
My teachers of Wu (Yuxiang) style,
Hao family versions of Tai Ji Quan
1. Wu Yuxiang-Li Yiyu-Hao Weizhen-Hao
2. Wu Yuxiang-Li Yiyu-Hao Weizhen-Fan Shupu-Wu Wenhan
3. Wu Yuxiang-Li Yiyu-Hao Weizhen-Li Shengduan-Wu Wenhan
4. Wu Yuxiang-Li Yiyu-Hao Weizhen-Li Xiangyuan-Cui Yishi-Wu Wenhan
Others I have had discussions with and had some instructions from:
5. Wu Yuxiang-Li Yiyu-Hao Weizhen-Hao Yueru-Hao Shaoru-Wang Muyin
6. Pang Daming, not to forget a good
friend and a Wu style boxer who has done thorough investigations into old Wu
history and styles, Pang Daming. He has had close relationship with all
the old teachers like Yao Jizu, Wu Wenhan, Li Disheng and others. He studied
with Fu Zongyuan and Zhao Bin, students of Yang Chengpu. Fu Zongyuan's older
brother was Fu Zhongwen who became Pang Daming's teacher after Fu Zongyuan
passed away. Pang Daming is also originally a student of Lin Jinsheng and Jia
Zhixiang, students of Li Wancheng who studied with Yang Banhou. He has written a
book on Yang style revealing many Yang style forms and theories never before
There are still Hao family people in
Hebei province that practise the Hao style Tai Ji Quan.
Usually the form taught today is the form set by Hao Shaoru as seen in his book.
The other forms such as the early Hao Weizhen form, the Hao Yueru form etc. are
seldom taught. The old Wu Yuxiang style has several
hand forms and different weapons. Mostly students are only taught one simple
hand form some two person pushing hands execises.
Wu 武 form
that was made some years back has nothing to do with a traditional Wu Yuxiang
style form. Some of the people
listed in the book as "participating" in creating this form say that
they were run over by the organization and that their ideas were not
Some people like to put themselves in
lists with generation numbers. This not the traditional way of this style.
There are still Hao family people in Hebei province that practise
style of Tai Ji Quan.
Old traditional Wu (Yuxiang) style Tai Ji Quan has a no nonsense approach to practise
and application that some people find refreshing and others find appalling and