Yang Chang Fu Tai Chi vs. Cheng Man Ching

Yang Chang Fu Tai Chi vs. Cheng Man Ching

Postby Richard Man » Sun Jul 15, 2001 2:43 am

I have been studying Yang Tai Chi and now Chen Tai Chi (from the same teacher) for 8 years. My experience with Tai Chi people are mainly in the California Bay Area, and my knowledge of Tai Chi beyond the school teachings are practices are mainly from books (including a little in Chinese, but my Chinese isn't very good), magazines etc.

I understand that professor Cheng Man Ching is a very famous Tai Chi teacher, especially in U.S. where his excellency in other matter such as Calligraphy is more well known in, say Taiwan. I have few direct experience w/ the CMC form, having only seen couple of the students who came to our school for brief moment. I do notice that their form is not quite like the Yang forms that we do, which is basically the Yang Cheng Fu forms.

I was discussing Tai Chi via email with someone lately, and I was doing searches on the web and I seem to stumble upon some major philosophical differences between the CMC stylists and other stylists, including Yang stylists.

I am not looking for defamation or any putdown, but just plaintative search for knowledge. I'd appreciate some information on what I observe:

1) It seems that some people claim the original Yang Lu Chan style, contains fa-jing, and that some Yang stylists still practice and teach them.

2) According to Yang Jun's posts that I found on this board. He claims that the Yang Cheng Fu style does not contain Fa-Jing but some of his students put them in.

3) Is it true that (some of? ) the CMC stylists believe in AND ONLY in the softness overcoming the hard. e.g. the most important principle is the 4 ozs deflect a thousand pounds, and that ANY use of speed and strength is considered against the Classics.

4) Some people claim that the Yang fa-jing (when they do them), is different from the fa-jing in the Chen forms. Are there more information on this?

Again, I am looking for more information, not flames. So for example, regarding #3, I am not looking people to say CMC's style is better or worse because of it, I just want confirmation whether it is a correct assesment of the situations.

// richard
Richard Man
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Jul 20, 2001 7:27 pm

Hello Richard,

To answer your questions as best as I can:

1) It seems that some people claim the original Yang Lu Chan style, contains fa-jing, and that some Yang stylists still practice and teach them.

The version of Yang Tai Chi Chuan that the Tung (Dong) family teaches contains Fa Jin. (Yang Chen Fu taught Tung Ying Chieh)

2) According to Yang Jun's posts that I found on this board. He claims that the Yang Cheng Fu style does not contain Fa-Jing but some of his students put them in.

To quote from an article on Yang Jun's other website (http://www.yangstyletaichi.com) "Yang Cheng-Fu's figure is big, his push hand technique is excellent, he is good at neutralizing attacks, and had command of release power "Fa-jing". His Tai Chi appeared gentle and soft on the outside, but was as hard as steel inside."

Aparently what Yang Lu Chan and Yang Chen Fu taught in public was good basic form, but their more advanced students progressed beyond this. Remember that Yang Lu Chan was a Chen master. His children and grandchildren, and their advanced students learned what he knew.

3) Is it true that (some of? ) the CMC stylists believe in AND ONLY in the softness overcoming the hard. e.g. the most important principle is the 4 ozs deflect a thousand pounds, and that ANY use of speed and strength is considered against the Classics.

I got that same idea from a local CMC stlist, but I'm not familiar enough with it to comment. There is an article at:
http://adincl.go2net.com/adpopupsite=VA&shape=noshape&border=&area=DIR.R EC&sizerepopup=1&hname=UNKNOWN
which talks about the difference between Yang style and CMC's style.

4) Some people claim that the Yang fa-jing (when they do them), is different from the fa-jing in the Chen forms. Are there more information on this?

From what I understand from friends who do other styles, Fa Jin is Fa Jin no matter what style. There may be slight differences in how it is expressed, as Yang stresses Peng-Jing, Chen involves more spiral techniques, and Wu/Hao stresses open/close techniques.

I hope this helps.


David J

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 07-20-2001).]

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 07-20-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Jul 21, 2001 8:39 pm

Hi Richard,

I would basically support what David has said, but wanted to add a few points.

Many discussion of whether certain features are in a style or not do not adequately distinguish between the style itself and the principle hand form the style uses. Many Yang stylists simply practice "fajin" separately from the form. Yang Zhen Duo demonstrates "fajin" on his video and has done so during seminars, but I can say nothing of his private practice.

Another problem about discussing Yang Cheng Fu's practice is that he apparently changed some aspects of the principal form he taught many times, leading to confusion among some as to which variations should be thought of as the "Yang Cheng Fu" form. If he occasionally continued some of the earlier variations in private or at different locations, or, worse yet, practiced them simultaneously for a time, I can imagine how this itself could give rise to talk of secret and public forms.

Much of what you allude to echos debates I have read about whether Yang Cheng Fu "watered down" T'ai Chi for ease of teaching to the greater public. People who have this view often seize on the lack of fajin in the hand form as evidence of a lack of martial quality. Whatever Yang Cheng Fu's motivations, I think it is inappropriate to put such emphasis on the form itself, which in all styles lacks certain techniques practiced in other ways. Yang style practices have undoubtedly evolved to accommodate modern concerns about health and the lack of a need to be proficient with sword, spear, etc. What one makes of this, however, is more a question of individual teaching styles than of the style itself.

By the way, the first form I learned, which I believe to be from the CMC lineage, was supposed to be performed at an absolutely even tempo. Each move had a specific count so that it could even be performed to a metronome. I am unsure of the reason for this, but think it had to do with teaching an appreciation for timing that would have been impossible if explosive moves were peppered throughout the form. I was taught in the context of Kempo Karate instruction and street self-defense techniques, and so health considerations were almost wholly absent from the method of teaching. That is why I have trouble viewing the presense or absence of fa jin in the form as indicating anything other than a practice preference.

I personally believe that there are indeed many philosophical difference between CMC stylists and many other Yang stylists. I do not believe, however, that the presence or lack of fajin in the form is one of them.

In my opinion, the main difference between the two groups is in what "relaxation" entails and how to practice it. CMC stylists seem to stress lack of muscular exertion, whereas others in Yang Cheng Fu's lineage seem to stress extension and loosening the joints. In the first thirty seconds of critically watching someone do form, CMC stylists I have known will invariably comment about tension they see in various muscles. During one three-day seminar I attended that Yang Zhen Duo taught, I do not recall him doing this even once. Instead, he was constantly adjusting the postures of attendees for being under-extended and not sufficiently "loosened out." When asked about how to relax, he responded that you had to "loosen out" more and would demonstrate visibly extending the limbs.

CMC stylists cultivate being empty, while many other Yang stylists cultivate being full. CMC folks talk about having light arms and heavy legs, while many other Yang stylists view heavy arms in push hands as a good attribute. These differences result in different compromises about various issues, for instance, about how much to bend the wrists and in what postures and how much to straighten the legs and in what positions.

Lastly, just as there is a dispute among some about how much Yang Cheng Fu retained the flavor of what his grandfather practiced, I think there is some dispute, even among CMC stylists, about whether CMC intended to found a separate style or simply was teaching what he learned from Yang Cheng Fu.

As for whether CMC stylists have specific views about the 4 ounces question, I would say that they seem indeed to put more emphasis on this than others, and on being "soft." I have heard tales told of CMC stylists that thought pushing hands was an inappropriate exercise for anyone who had not spent at least five (or maybe ten) years with the form, because of the tendency of beginners to use crude force.

On the other hand, someone who I understand to be a 3rd-generation CMC stylist, who has an international push hands reputation, and who frequents this board on occasion, does not seem to view T'ai Chi as particularly a "soft" art.

As to whether there is a difference in fajin between Yang and Chen styles, I would again support what David says. Yang Style is said to stress ward off energy (peng jin), and Chen Style is said to stress silk reeling energy (chan si jin), which is the spiraling energy that resembles the motion of a thread as it is pulled off an oval silk cocoon.

Strictly speaking, both of these are considered energies separate from "issuing energy" (fa jin), which should be the same for all styles. Now that I think of it, however, I do recall that Yang Stylists talk about collecting energy in curves, but releasing it in a straight line; while Chen Stylists think of releasing energy in spirals. Perhaps, this is the difference you are referring to. I reconcile this by considering that the best arrows have feathers that allow them to spiral in straight lines.

Take care,
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Postby benny » Tue Jul 24, 2001 10:38 pm

Hi Guys:
I am a beginner. I have read the articles, and now I am confused.
If CMC was a student from Master Yang Cheng Fu, why did they have a different form? As a beginner, I want to student a correct form. I have talk to some people who said they studied with Master CMC, they said their forms are the correct form, and it looks like that too, because they said if they do the wrong forms, they wouldn't be able to practice the pushing hands as powerful as they are doing now.

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Postby Audi » Thu Jul 26, 2001 5:32 am

Hi Benny,

Great question; however, I hope nothing in my post led you to think that I was claiming one form or another was the only correct one.

There really is no consensus in the T’ai Chi world, or even within Yang Style, about a single correct form. There is fairly wide variation in practice among the lineages that derive from Yang Cheng Fu. All would claim to reflect his teachings to one degree or another. Some Yang Stylists even claim lineages that stem from Yang Cheng Fu’s older relatives and pretty much bypass his form altogether as a standard to emulate.

As for whether the form Yang Zhen Duo teaches or the form taught by CMC is more “correct,” that is something difficult to discuss in a forum like this without giving offense to someone. In my opinion, it is also a far less important question than whether the instruction you are receiving is of good quality, regardless of style or lineage. Among my T’ai Chi friends and acquaintances, I can think of no one who would dismiss either Yang Zhen Duo or CMC as unworthy of respect in T’ai Chi matters, even if they might have strong preferences about which of the two they have adopted as personal models to emulate.

CMC was one of the main drivers behind the initial spread of T’ai Chi in the U.S. One drawback of this pride of place is that his teachings are sometimes given such prominence here that one can receive an incorrect impression of how much variety there is in T’ai Chi and how many different authorities are given respect. For instance, early in my study of T’ai Chi, I was unaware, even after reading many books, that descendants of Yang Cheng Fu were still teaching T’ai Chi on a widespread basis. I believe such situations were one of the reasons why efforts were made to reconnect the T’ai Chi community in the U.S. to the Yang family.

Since this is a website inspired by people who have adopted Yang Zhen Duo and Yang Jun as their standards of correctness, I will close by saying that I have received two very strong impressions from attending the Yangs' seminars, speaking to a few of their senior students, and reading the statements on this board. The Yangs seem completely uninterested in serving as T’ai Chi or Yang Style police and seem to want to foster the overall development of T’ai Chi and harmony among it practitioners, regardless of style. On the other hand, they do not appear to accept second place to anyone else as interpreters of the essential Yang style tradition and do not take an “anything goes” approach to the form and principles they teach. In short, they seem to have a very firm idea of what they like, but do not begrudge others’ their ideas or tastes.

I hope all this is helpful.

Happy practicing,
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Postby Michael » Fri Jul 27, 2001 3:12 pm


The form that CMC stylists do is "correct" as is the form that the Tung family or the Yang family does.

Cheng Man Ching developed his style from the teachings he received from Yang Cheng Fu. Certain aspects fitted his personality or philosophy better than others and those became more emphasized in his form.

The sons of Yang Lu Chan, Ban Hou and Jian Hou were different men and had differences in their forms, and so did Shou Hou and Cheng Fu as one trained more with his uncle (Ban Hou). So "correctness" of a particular form is really not an issue as long as the system you are in is followed and not altered (this last I will not get into here--though a clarification might be necessary).

Problems can occur if you mix two or more systems as each can have different emphasis or structure. I study In the Yang Zhen Duo lineage and the Kuang Ping Yang style (Ban Hou style). Certain aspects greatly benefit the other, others do not...oil and water.
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Jul 28, 2001 4:31 am

Hi Benny,

Imho, taijiquan is like "the blues." We know that someone invented it, or put all the pieces together so that anyone who knew would recognize it. We know that person had a name, and maybe a family. And, if people knew who he was at the time and liked what he did, then they would have studied him, if not studied with him. His sons and daughters would naturally have the opportunity --sometimes-- to study with him. When he passed on, they might continue to teach what their father did. But, they would not be their father. They might be better; they might be worse; they would surely be different; and they could not be exactly the same. So, 3 generations later, you can learn from the son of one of the sons, or you can learn from a son of one of the others who studied him. However, the blues has its own structure. Some like it; some don't. Maybe it won't become well known until someone makes it popular. Then, the way he does it will be the way most people do it. This won't make it any less the blues than the less popular styles. Finally, if you learn it, you might copy the greatest hits of your teacher or favorite performer. But, I think your greatest wish would be to be able to "manifest" the music with your playing. That's where the art will be. Anyway, as for tjq, I think it's possible to simply prefer one style or manner of practice to another. Of course, there are reasons why each style does what it does the way it does. And, imo, the intention can change the shape of what it done. At the same time, the same shape (as in tjq form) can be used with a different intention. So, a good CMC stylist will be able to explain why he does what he does. The same is true of someone who follows YCF. A student might eventually find that one way of doing things fits better than another. That won't make his blues better than ours.

Steve James
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Re: Yang Chang Fu Tai Chi vs. Cheng Man Ching

Postby nicos » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:13 pm

"all tai chi is one" it passes through different hands and all form his or her interpretation. this is how it is supposed to be. no two people play the same, Tai chi is not the only martial art with this history there are many.even the very modern very standardized forms created for competition have changed over the years to become more demanding and make stiffer competition. the traditional forms should be no different each instructor has his own intention and mode of thinking and each student has his individual reason for learning therefore... now that Ive said what everybody already knows check out wudang tai chi which is a small part of a broader sysem: wuji(emptiness) taichi(bringing yin and yang together) and liangyi (seperation of yin and yang) (this one is full of fajing) three different aspects of the same system yang tai chi highly resembles this even more than chen
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