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A Brief History of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

wu_chien_chuan.jpgFounding Master Wu Chuan Yau studied under Master Yang Lu Chan, then under his son Master Yang Ban Hau. Master Wu's disciples included Hsia Kong Pu, Wang Mao Chi, Kuo Song Ting, Chang Yuan Ting among others.

The second generation Master Wu Chien Chuan was originally employed by the Ching court in the palace battalion of the Imperial Guards. After the emperor Puyi abdicated the throne, Chief of General Staff Yin Chang recommended Master Wu Chien Chuan to President Li Yuan Hong. Subsequently he was appointed teacher to the Eleventh Corps of the Presidential Body Guards. Among his students were Chiefs of Staff Chang I Ke, Tuan Chih Kui, Lu Mian and others.

In 1916 Master Wu Chien Chuan, along with other famous Wushu experts of the time Yang Shao Hou, Yang Cheng Fu, Hsu Sheng Chi Tzu Hsiu, Sun Lu T'ang, Liu En Shou, Liu Tsai Chen, Chang Chung Yuan, Tong Lian Chi, Chiang Teng Tsui, Hsing Shih Ju and others established the Beijing Institute of Physical Education. The Institute recruited more than sixty students from the teaching ranks of high schools and universities throughout Beijing. Third generation Masters brothers Wu Kung Yi and Wu Kung Cho were among the first graduates. Because of the excellent results achieved by students there, the institute won the praise of the Beijing University Dean Tsai Yuan Pei who recommended to the Ministry of Education that the Institute be moved to a new location and expanded. The new institute was named the Beijing School of Physical Education. Students were selected from the provinces to go to the capital and train at the school for a two year period. After returning to their respective provinces they became Wushu teachers. This aided the spread of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan throughout China.

In 1924 Chu Min Yi, the director of the Medical Corps of the Main Headquarters of the Guangdong Nationalist Revolutionary Army, also the dean of the Zhongshan University, asked Chiang Chong Cheng, director of the Huangpu Military Academy to cable Beijing and invite Master Wu Kung Yi to take up the position of enlistment corps and advanced Tai Chi Chuan group instructor. At the same time he became a physical education instructor at Zhong Shan [Sun Yal (Yat) Sen] University. His followers included Fang Yan Ying, Tan Ting, Chu Pei Te, Hsiong Shih Hui, Chen Chia You, Wu Si Yu and others.

Following the success of the Northern Expedition [1926-1927] the Central Guoshu Institute headed by Li Ching Lin and Chang Chih Chiang was established in Nanjing. This institute always invited Master Wu Chien Chuan to sit on the judges committee during Guoshu examinations.

In 1928 the Shanghai Municipal Government, the Ching Wu [Wu here means "martial"] Physical Education Association, the Sino-French University and local notables Huang Ching Jong, Tu Yue Sheng, Chang Hsiao, Lin Wang Hsiao Lai and others jointly cabled the Beijing Physical Education School to invite Master Wu Chien Chuan to move south and teach Tai Chi Chuan. The local response was overwhelming. Important party and national figures Chiao I T'ang, Wang Yung Ping, Hsiong Shih Hui, Peng Yang Kuang, Ai Liang, Wu Sse Yu, Ku Cheng Lun, Chu Fu Cheng, Chen Pu Lei, Zhang Nai Ch'i and others also followed Master Wu Chien Chuan to Shanghai. In 1929 Master Wu Kung Cho left the Thirteenth Brigade of the Nationalist Revolutionary Army and headed to Shanghai to teach at the Ching Wu Association. The first Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy was established in Shanghai in 1935. It was directed by Master Wu Chien Chuan himself, with his son-in-law Ma Yueh Liang as vice-director.

In 1931 the Commander Ku Cheng Lun of the Nanking Military Police invited Master Wu Kung Cho to be a martial arts teacher in the Nanking Police Training Centre. In the following year he became Tai Chi Chuan instructor at the Railway Police Management Board. In 1933 Master Wu Kung Cho accompanied Wu Chih Hui [another person with the same surname], Li Shu Cheng, Chu Min I and Hsiao Yu on a sight-seeing trip to Changsha. During a welcome reception they gave a Tai Chi Chuan demonstration which impressed the audience, especially the Provincial Governor Ho Chien. The Provincial Secretary Hsiang Chi Jan recommended to Ho Chien that Master Wu Kung Cho become teacher to the Huana Guoshu Training Centre and the provincial Party Headquarters. He also taught to the Departments of Civil Affairs, Finance, Construction and Education. In 1934 the Nanjing Central Guoshu Association organized the second pan-China Wushu examination [competition]. Master Wu Kung Cho led the Hunan Province team, achieving remarkable results at the meet. Ho Chien was fond of Wushu and so supported the establishment of part-time Wushu training classes throughout Hunan province. Master Wu Kung Cho taught these for three years. His students ranks steadily rose to over three hundred people, spreading the reputation of the Wu Tai Chi Chuan throughout Hunan Province.

In 1937 Master Wu Kung Cho moved south to Hong Kong and set up a Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy. Master Wu Kung Yi and his eldest son Master Wu Tai Kweialso set up academies in Hong Kong and Macau. After the Japanese army invaded Hong Kong the Wu family moved inland until the war ended. The Hong Kong Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy was headed up by Master Wu Kung Yi and the Macau Academy by Master Wu Tai Kwei. These two centres developed large followings.

In January 1954 Macau's New Flower Garden Hotel sponsored a charity fight: "Wu versus Chen". In the opening seconds the opponent was struck on the nose causing profuse bleeding. After exceeding the allotted rest-time, the fight continued, but a kick to the knee violated the regulations and the fight was called off. Following this spectacle Wu Tai Chi Chuan became even more popular. Various Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia requested that branch Academies be set up for them. Master Wu Kung Yi ordered his eldest son Master Wu Tai Kwei to set up a branch club on Nathan Road in Kowloon, while sending his second son Master Wu Tai Chi as well as Master Wu Kung Cho's second son Master Wu Tai Sin to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila to set up branch Academies. At the same time the Academies in Hong Kong and Kowloon were becoming too small to accommodate the growing number of enthusiasts, so the top floor of the Haldwin Mansion on Kowloon's Jordan Road was purchased and made into the central Academy. The original central Academy on Hong Kong's Lockhart Road was made into a branch Academy headed up by Master Wu Kung Yi's daughter and Master Wu Ying Hsia and son-in-law Kuo Shao Chiong.

In 1975 members of the Chinese community of Toronto, Canada invited Master Wu Tai Chi to establish a Canadian Wu's Tai Chi Chuan branch. Master Wu Tai Chi returned to Hong Kong Headquarters in 1976, and management of the Toronto chapter was transferred to Master Wu Tai Kwei's eldest son Master (Eddie) Wu Kwong Yu. This Academy continues to receive the support and interest of Canadian enthusiasts.

Ching Fu

Translated by Doug Woolidge

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