The Teachings of Yeung Sau Chung

Yeung Sau Chung (1909-1985), also known as Yang Zhenming, was the oldest son of the famous Yang Cheng Fu and a Tai Chi Chuan tutor for his three younger brothers who are living in mainland China today.

Sau Chung started his Tai Chi Chuan training at the age of eight. When he was 14 years old, he learned the complete Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan system and qualified as his father's assistant.

When he was 19 years old, he was hired by many organizations as their private Tai Chi Chuan instructor. Later, he accompanied his father to teach Tai Chi Chuan throughout China.

In 1949, he left the mainland China for Hong Kong. He believed in quality and personal instruction. Therefore, all of his Tai Chi Chuan instruction was conducted one on one with each student in the privacy of his residence on Lockhard Road until his death in May 1985.

Although Yeung spent all of his life to achieve the highest standard in his family art of Tai Chi Chuan, he was hardly known by Westerners.

With an increasing demand from our organization members for an authentic Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan book, my father Gin Soon Chu asked Yeung to publish the "Practical Use of Tai Chi Chuan: Its Applications and Variations" in English in 1977 and my father was the publisher. This same book translated to German by Stephan Hagen in 1996.

In 1984, I was fortunate to obtained Grandmaster Yeung's personal instructions and insights on the art of the Yang Style. On this sixth anniversary of his passing, I would like to share some of his teachings.

Grandmaster Yeung said that there are many different ways to practice the Yang Style solo form. It is different according to the student's objectives, levels and discipline.

What is important for a Yang Style Practitioner is to acknowledge and understand this so that this information will be available later. He said that there are three levels of stances (for the legs) and frames (movements of the hands and body) for each posture.

As a beginner, if a student is in a reasonable physical condition, he should begin with a high stance and a medium frame posture. If an older student begins, a higher stance can be combined with a large frame posture. This is generally recommended because the large frame provides more movement with the body and hands which is better for the blood circulation.

Also, a higher stance does not demand a lot of work from the legs. These are the best ways for most novices to get into Tai Chi Chuan training.

A serious practitioner should work with either a medium or low stance in combination with the three frames to achieve maximum practice. The difficulty of the low stance pushes one to achieve the highest skills in Tai Chi Chuan training as a martial art system.

In self defense applications, a high stance combined with the small frames is best because a high stance gives better mobility and a small frame moves in a straight line rather than a circular line to execute a movement to defend oneself.

Although his father, Yang Cheng Fu, was famous with the high and large posture, from the explanation given by Yeung Sau Chung, one can see why he taught his family style individually, according to the student.

Grandmaster Yeung said that the advanced Knowledge in Tai Chi Chuan integrates the philosophy of Yin and Yang in practice. As we see from the Tai Chi Chuan diagram, Tai Chi Chuan is but the unification of Yin and Yang. This is what the Tai Chi Chuan classic called, "Tai Chi was born from Wu Chi and the mother of Yin and Yang."

Therefore, in order to be able to advance in Tai Chi Chuan training, one must understand the philosophy of Yin and Yang and all the postures much posses this concept at all times. This is why the classic said that only if the practitioner truly understands the interaction of Yin and Yang can he be considered to understand the power.

The following is a list of four interpretations of Yin and Yang and one should consciously keep them in mind to integrate them into Tai Chi Chuan practice.

  1. Yin and Yang Opposition
    In this interpretation, everything exists in two components and they are opposite and complementary from each other as in Yin and Yang. They do not exist equally with each other in one unit. Rather, they they are constantly struggling to overtake each other in the same unit. It is this constant struggle that puts everything in motion for the positive way.
  2. Yin and Yang Complementary
    In this interpretation, the two components coexist together in one unit and they depend on each other to survive. It cannot survive by itself. e.g. left and right. If there is no right, then there is no left. Therefore, the Yang component relies on the Yin component to survive and the Yin component relies on the Yang component to survive. Each component needs its opposite to exist. If this Yin and Yang harmony is disrupted the Yang component by itself will not survive and the Yin component by itself will also not survive.
  3. Yin and Yang Balance
    In this interpretation, the Yin and Yang are not equally divided. Each is constantly struggling to overtake the other. Sometime there is more Yang than Yin component and others times, there is more Yin than Yang component in a constant state of struggle and yet they are able to live together.

    An example can be shown with the four seasons. In the summer, there is more Yang than Yin component and in the Winter, there is more Yin than Yang component. At the end of the year, the Yin component and the Yang component remain equal to each other. Although the Yin and Yang are complementary to each other, one should not neglect the importance and significance of balance. Everything must exist in a balanced state in order to grow and prosper.

  4. Yin and Yang Interaction
    In this interpretation, Yin and Yang always struggle and have a tendency to overtake each other and grow in opposition. Therefore, at certain times, Yin becomes Yang and Yang becomes Yin in a constant interchangeable state as they evolve and reproduce. This interaction begins when Yin and Yang reach their maturity.

Grandmaster Yeung said that when a practitioner truly understands the Yin and Yang and incorporates its philosophy into their practice, the advancement of Tai Chi Chuan training should be very quick.

Let's take the concept of hard and soft and see how it is incorporated into practice. The philosophy says that one component can not survive by itself. Therefore, soft must coexist with hard together as in one concept and practice, accordingly.

How do you incorporate this into practice? Grandmaster Yeung said that the first thing one needs to know is to simplify the concept into its sub-components: roundness and squareness. In order to know the concept of roundness, one must know the concept of flow and its characteristic. In order to understand the concept of squareness, one must know the five bows (two bows on the hands, two on the feet and one with the whole body). One must also knows the concept of contraction and extension or the open and close motion and its characteristics.

He also said that at the beginning, a student learns to be relaxed and soft to remove all the brute strength. Relaxation begins with the major joints such as the shoulders, wrists, waist, hip and the whole body. Regional relaxation such as only the hands or the body is not enough. Relaxation must involve the whole body. This relaxation will benefit people with good health by circulating the chi throughout the body without any inhibition. At this time the solo form should flow freely. This is the process of practicing roundness.

If one is interested in continuing on to a higher level of Tai Chi Chuan training, one should practice the procedure of squareness. The squareness is composed of the open and closed motions, which provide one with a sense of knowing at which moment the power should yield or should issue. Therefore, squareness is the practice of projecting energy outside the body.

The round procedure is for circulating or yielding energy. The square procedure is for issuing of energy. If the solo form is primarily composed of roundness, it is said that the solo form is too soft.

If the solo form is primary composed of squareness, it is said that the solo form is too hard. The perfect solo form is said to have 50% of each.

After one has incorporated roundness and squareness into Tai Chi Chuan training and mastered the concept of hard and soft, one can execute the softness of the body smoothly like a snake's movement or execute the hardness of the body like iron. The utilization of the hard or soft technique depends on the opponent's action.

Grandmaster Yeung said that criteria to determine good posture begins with some of the principles such as whether a posture is centered, balanced, tranquil, comfortable, round and full, etc.

When a student correctly executes these concepts, he should be strong and stable like a mountain. Grandmaster Yeung said that whether a student truly understands the varied concepts of Tai Chi Chuan training is determined by how he incorporates the concepts into his training. Just speaking of the concepts' literary meaning is not enough.

Although Grandmaster Yeung Sau Chung has been dead for six years, he will never be forgotten.

Article by Vincent Chu
Copyright © V. Chu. All rights reserved.