Yang style variations

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Variations within the style

In his book The Power of Internal Martial Arts, Bruce Frantzis talks about the differences to be found in the Yang style approach to the
He suggested nine reasons why these variations occur:

  1. The desire to have a signature/trademark

  2. Individual variations taught as standard

  3. Incomplete forms passed on

  4. Deliberate changes

  5. Neigong emphasis

  6. Martial principles

  7. Hybrid forms

  8. Simplification

  9. Sloppy tuition

As a consequence of these (and perhaps other) factors, Yang style taijiquan tends to be different from class to class.
The overall essence should remain consistent.
If the form no longer adheres to the Yang way of moving, it becomes another style entirely.

The desire to have a signature/trademark

Some tutors perform movements in a particular way that deliberately breaks from tradition.
They see it as being their 'signature' movement; marking their form as distinct from that of other teachers.

Individual variations taught as standard

Variations of certain movements may reflect the character or emphasis of a given teacher.
If these variations on the existing movements become the norm, then an entire school of students may well learn them believing that the variations are actually the norm.

Incomplete forms passed on

Not everyone learns a complete form to start with.

Deliberate changes

Each teacher has their own value system and even an accurately-learned form may be changed by a teacher in order to reflect what they consider to be important.
These changes may then become the standard in that class.

Neigong emphasis

The way in which the physical movements are performed reflects the degree of neigong incorporated.
If a teacher chooses to emphasise certain neigong rather than others, then the appearance of the form will change to accommodate this.

Martial principles

If a teacher favours a particular approach to application, they will practice the form in a manner that nurtures their perspective.
The principles they are seeking to cultivate will become more prominent within the form.
Some schools may even make martial applications explicit or add new movements to extend their ability to realise their martial philosophy via the form.
Similarly, the demeanour of the practitioner may well reflect the ethos of the class.

The Chen form derived from battlefield military movements, where people wore medieval body armour that had to be compensated for. The Chen-style stances were specifically designed to achieve these compensations and obtain a workable position from which to realistically throw an armoured opponent.

By the time Yang had reached Beijing, times had changed. With the advent of firearms, battlefield armour became obsolete; hence, the need for techniques to deal with armoured foes had passed.

Yang and his students had to deal with situations encountered by bodyguards, not armies opposing each other.

(Bruce Frantzis)

Hybrid forms

Some instructors borrow ideas and approaches from other internal arts and even from external systems.
This creates a hybrid practice that is no longer Yang style except perhaps in terms of the superficial appearance.


Water the practice down enough and the essence of the system fades.
Rather than water the taijiquan down, it is perhaps better to teach the material more slowly - offering
beginners a very limited range of skills to learn.
This may not please the ambitious student but the quality of the training remains intact without compromising the integrity of the system.

Page created 1 May 1995
Last updated 29 June 2017