Kuo Lien Ying is credited with bringing Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Ch’uan to the United States.
There appears to be controversy on whether this is a “notable and even distinct” style of Tai Chi Chuan, and its adherents have battled this mis-perception for many years. Thanks to the efforts of Grandmaster Henry Look, the first president of the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association, Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan has been acknowledged and listed as a separate Tai Chi Chuan category in many competitions and tournaments across the country, such as the Kuosho International Martial Arts Tournaments and the UC Berkeley Chinese Wushu Tournaments.
History of Tai Chi Ch'uan
The fighting system of Tai Chi Ch'uan was purportedly created by Zhang Sanfengin approximately 1270 A.D. Legend has it that Zhang Sanfeng was inspired by watching combat between a snake and a crane, observing the grace and flow of these creatures. When the snake would strike, the crane would gracefully retreat. When the crane attacked, the snake would recoil. In this contest the principles of yin and yang, where the soft overcomes the hard, became evident.
The forms and postures as they were originally performed are no longer seen today, but the 'operating principles' were codified in the writing of Zhang Sanfengand are enacted today in modern forms.
The form of Tai Chi Ch’uan is based on the ideas from Taoism, a philosophy or world view derived from the I Ching and from the writings of Laozi. The I Ching, which embodies the idea of yin and yang and their opposition, alternation and interaction, originated and was developed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, B.C.E. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching sometime during the 5th century, B.C.E. One of the most common images in this book is water, which is soft and yielding but which can overcome the hardest of substances. So, too, is Tai Chi Chuan, seemingly soft and yielding, but holding the capacity for great power.
Tai Chi Ch’uan translates as “Supreme Ultimate Boxing”
The Supreme Ultimate refers to the Tao , the framework within which Yin and Yang manifest in nature. Tao is the Path or the Way. Yin and Yang represent opposite aspects of the universe. One cannot exist without the other, one contains the seeds of the other, and each is opposite in relation to the other. Examples of Yin and Yang are day and night, light and dark, empty and full, masculine and feminine, receptive and active.
Tai Chi Chuan therefore indicates that the art contains within itself all that is necessary for these dynamic forces to interact and be reconciled. The character Ch'uan refers to a school or method of boxing or combat. Tai Chi Chuan, as it was originally conceived, is a sophisticated method of self-defense based on the reconciliation of dynamically interacting forces. The Tai Chi Chuan practitioner seeks to neutralize the opponent's use of force before applying a countering force. In this give and take, this interplay of energies, Tai Chi Chuan finds its highest expression as a form of self-defense.
History of Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi
The Guang Ping form is traced back to the great Tai Chi Master Yang Luchan , who had been adopted by the Chen family and had learned the Chen style Tai Chi Chuan from them. Yang Luchan moved his family from the Chen village to the town of Guang Ping, and developed Yang style tai chi chuan. The stances of this modified form were not as low as the Chen style Tai Chi Chuan form, with a combination of hard and soft styles, long and small circles and incorporated double jump kicks, and other wide sweeping kicks. The movements were long and deep, more energetic, with more apparent martial combat character. This Yang style tai chi chuan became known as Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan.
Yang Luchan taught his son, Yang Pan-hou, the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan.Yang Pan-hou was reportedly the official teacher for the Imperial court of the Manchus. The indigenous Chinese, known as the Han, had been subjugated by the Manchus and therefore Yang Pan-hou did not want to pass down the family's true art to them. Also, the Manchurians were aristocrats and were not inclined to the more strenuous exercises, so Yang Pan-Hou adapted his father’s Guang Ping form to be more subtle and taught them a very elegant, middle-to-small frame form. This is the Yang Tai Chi Ch’uan style that has come to be known as the Beijing Yang style. Yang Pan-hou secretly taught his father’s form only to select students who were not his family, who then taught it to only a few of their students and the art was subsequently lost to the Yang family.
Yang Pan-hou's lineage-holding disciple was Wang Jiao-Yu, a Han and a stableman for the Imperial family. As the legend goes, one day Yang Pan-hou heard a noise over the fence and looked to see Wang Jiao-Yu practicing the Guang Ping form. He confronted Wang Jiao-Yu and demanded an explanation. Wang Jaio-Yu told him he had been secretly watching Yang Pan-hou practicing the Guang Ping form during the magic hours of 3:00 to 5:00 a.m. Since Wang Jiao-Yu was a Han, Yang Pan-hou took Wang Jiao-yu as his student and trained him in the secret Guang Ping style, and made him promise not to teach this art as long as the dynasty was in power.
Wang Jiao-Yu kept this promise, and only began teaching the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan much later in his life.
Kuo Lien Ying learned the form from Wang Jiao-Yu. Wang Jiao-Yu, purportedly 112 years of age at the time, accepted Kuo as one of very few disciples. From Wang's teaching, it is said that Kuo learned all the true skill and essence of Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan.
Kuo Lien Ying moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s and opened one of the first Tai Chi Chuan studios in America
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association
The Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association was formed In 1997 to honor the memory of Sifu Kuo Lien Ying and in commemoration of his unselfish sharing of his many skills. The mission of the Association is to promote, perpetuate, develop interest in, and preserve the quality of Guang Ping Yang style Tai Chi Chuan throughout the world, and to provide support for research and education in Guang Ping Yang T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association Honorary Chairmen:
Y.C. Chiang, Henry Look
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association Past Presidents:
Henry Look, Donald Rubbo, Nick D’Antoni, Dominick Ruggieri
Current President, Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association:
Basic Tai Chi Principles
The whole body is relaxed; do not use force. Relaxation does not mean slack, the body is full of potential yet empty. The term in Chinese for this is "sung".
Keep the mind focused; if the mind wanders, gently bring it back to its focus.
Be natural and at peace, release any tension.
The head should be as though it were suspended on a string from above, relaxed and lifted.
The body should not lean to any direction, and the spine should be lifted.
There must be a clear distinction between the empty and full feet .
Breathing must be long, even, and natural; do not hold or constrict the breath.
In even the slightest movement the whole body must move; do not let any part stop separately. When one part moves, all parts move; when one part stops, all parts stop.
A Mnemonic of Thirteen Tai Chi Chuan Movements
Let no one esteem lightly the Thirteen Movements
But bear in mind that your consciousness of them commences in the waist,
In performance, care must be exercised regarding your transposition
from one stance to another,
the twists and turns in each movement, and the distribution of blanks and
substantives in a given movement,
While keeping the chi freely circulating throughout your whole body.
All changes and motions are conceived and touched off in the stillness of absolute quietude,
Hence motion and action are kindred to rest and inaction, in other words, ultimately
indistinguishable from each other.
Likewise, the mystery of Tai-Chi Chuan is that
It is your opponent's movements that condition your own as adapted by nature
to his own undoing.
Remember to be mindful of every single move by trying to feel its meaning,
And you will eventually come into possession of the art's secrets without conscious effort.
Rivet your attention, without even a moment's interruption, onto the waist interval, and
Keep your abdomen free from tension due to food or impurities, so that
Your vitality flux may, as it were, boil and rise like steam.
Keep the lowest segments of your vertebrae central in relation to gravitation all the while,
Your limbs and body are gyrating with effortless nimbleness, and your head is held
buoyant as if suspended from above.
Carefully observe and investigate and convince yourself that
Your way of bending or straightening, your closing-in or throwing open should never
be as you will them to be, but as Nature wills.
A novice will require verbal instruction during the initial stages.
But practice will steer its own course and bring about its own perfection.
As to the theory and practice, i.e., the constituents and functioning of Tai-Chi Chuan,
The spirit is sovereign and the body its servant,
The end purpose of these exercises is to prolong life and endow it with the youth of eternal
Oh, sing! Oh, sing! Sing this short song of 144 Chinese characters;
Commit every single word of it to memory without exception.
Enquiries and researches that deviate from this approach
Only waste time and leave behind regrets and sighings.
From Kuo Lien Ying's book ''Tai-Chi Chuan in Theory and Practice''