training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
May 2009 Issue

The Tai Chi Spear

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The story of the Yang family tai chi spear centers on the system's founding grandmaster, Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872), also known as Yang Fu-Kui. Yang was born in the town of Nan Guan of Yong Nian County, in the Hebei province of Northern China. Originally, Yang Lu Chan received his tai chi hand form and fighting training from the famous Chen family grandmaster, Chen Chang Xing. However, as extensive as the training was, the Chen grandmaster never taught Yang any weaponry, since Yang was already an expert with several different types of weapons, including the spear.

Yang Lu-Chan only taught his spear techniques to his sons and a few close high-ranking students. He never called any of the techniques that he taught was tai chi, nor did he ever create a form or pattern to standardize his teachings. Often he would teach the spear movements using a staff, so that his students could safely practice the fighting applications on each other. For this reason, the Yang family spear and staff techniques are one and the same.

Sometime during the sixties, one of the fourth generation Yang masters was invited to a large banquet where Chinese martial arts were to be performed. After a few drinks, the host of the banquet asked Yang to perform some tai chi. It so happened that some kung fu performers had just finished a demonstration, and there was a spear laying in front of him on the stage. So, he grabbed the weapon and began a free style spear performance that linked together all of his family's spear techniques into one seamless form. The demonstration greatly impressed all of the students that had accompanied Master Yang to the banquet.

The next day, one of Master Yang's closest students begged him to learn the spear form. This particular student was one of the master's most dedicated and respectful students, who had financially supported the Yang family for many years. For this reason, Master Yang could not turn him down. So, he agreed to teach his trusted student the form he demonstrated at the dinner, and the "Yang Family Spear Form" was born. There were no tai chi spear forms in all of China at that time; so many people believe that this was the first tai chi spear form ever created.

Recently, tai chi masters in Taiwan and Mainland China have added weapons training to their curricula as a way of adding variety to tai chi training. These forms include the fan, cane, double wheels, staff and spear, just to name a few. In my organization, the Plum Blossom International Federation, we teach a tai chi spear form called "Nine Dragons Tai Chi Spear Form". This form contains 13 techniques and 48 movements, and is reserved for only the most advanced tai chi student. This form is named after the nine dragons, which were chosen by China's emperors as a symbol of the highest level in classical Chinese society. The form's 13 techniques are:

  1. Yellow Dragon Comes out of the Cave.
  2. Spiritual Dragon Goes through the Cloud.
  3. Golden Dragon Stretches its Claw.
  4. Green Dragon Raises its Head.
  5. Black Dragon Swings its Tail.
  6. Hungry Dragon Searches for Food.
  7. Silver Dragon Spits out Water.
  8. Heavenly Dragon Looks for the Earth Tiger.
  9. Golden Dragon Lies Prostrate on the Ground.
  10. Spiritual Dragon Snatches the Pearl.
  11. Fire Dragon Turns its Body.
  12. Green Dragon Dives into the Sea.
  13. Aquatic Dragon Rises from the Water.

The conclusion movement is called "The Nine Dragons Gather Together." The Taoist Five Elements and The Buddhist Four Elements are represented by each of the nine dragons as follows:

  1. Golden Dragon (metal)
  2. Silver Dragon (metal)
  3. Green Dragon (wood)
  4. Fire Dragon (fire)
  5. Black Dragon (water)
  6. Yellow Dragon (earth)
  7. Aquatic Dragon (water)
  8. Spiritual Dragon (wind)
  9. Heavenly Dragon (air)

This unique tai chi spear form makes use of the tai chi yin and yang theory. The techniques employ sticky and coiling energy for the purpose of redirecting and controlling the weapon of an opponent. While sharper thrusting energy, or fajing, is used for all of the spear pokes contained in the set. When a student first learns the form, he or she is taught to perform the movements slowly and smoothly. The purpose here is to focus on connecting the energy of the whole body to the weapon's tip. Only after a student has learned the proper form and connection should the form be practiced at a more practical speed with fajing.

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

May 2009 Inside Kung-Fu