The old 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.

Zhou Zenglin (1899-1978). Photo
( 1899 - 1978 )

 

Wu style Tai Ji Quan 武氏太極拳

The name

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". 

Wu Yuxiang  武禹襄

Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880)Wu Yuxiang (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 area 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.

( It 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 grounds!) 

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

Li Yiyu (1832-1892) Li Yiyu (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". 

He 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

Hao Weizhen (1849-1920) Hao Weizhen (1849-1920) From Guangping prefecture, Yongnian county. Due to the family's economical 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 style. 

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 Shupu (??-1948).

Hao Yueru 郝月如

Hao Yueru (1877-1935) photo kept by KW Hao Yueru (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

Zhou Zenglin (1899-1978). Photo  ()Zhou Zenglin (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 Sweden in 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

Hao Shaoru (1908-1983)Hao 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)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 business.

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)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, 
3. you can not lightly teach people the art.

Cui Yishi 崔毅士

Cui Yishi (1892-1970) 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

Wu Wenhan (1929.01.xx - )Wu Wenhan (1929.01.xx - ) 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) Bureau.

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.

In 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)

When teaching 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 Yueru-Zhou Zenglin
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 published.

There are still Hao family people in Hebei province that practise the Hao style Tai Ji Quan.

Today's teachings 

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. 

The competition Wu 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 appreciated. 

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 this 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 even frightening.


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