Wu Style Tai Chi

Wu Style Tai Chi as taught in the Wu Ch’uan-yu lineage is characterized by small frame movements and small circle hand techniques mixed with some large frame circular movements. In small frame Tai Chi every little movement has specific meaning and purpose and as a consequence there is a lot of attention to detail. The entire body is used and each turn, twist, rise, fall and rocking motion has multiple applications. Also, within each movement, there are applications for every part of the body.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the style is a specific lean forward from the waist that is unique to Wu style. All real Tai Chi is concerned with body connection and specifically the connection of the upper and lower body. The lean that is immediately discernible in Wu Tai Chi is so that the body connection is easily made even by beginners to the style. As a result of this training method the level of Chi that can be felt from the practice of Wu style is quite noticeable.

There are two major Tai Chi styles with the name Wu. The characters and pronunciation of the two Wu’s are different from one another and the families are not related.

Wu Chien-ch’üan, the son of Wu Ch’uan-yu became the most widely known teacher in his family, and is therefore considered the co-founder of the Wu style by his family and their students. He taught large numbers of people and his refinements to the art more clearly distinguish Wu style from Yang style training.

Another important aspect of training in Wu Chien-ch’üan style Tai Chi is the emphasis on Push Hands techniques. Wu style is known for having a very comprehensive push hands training regimen and practitioners of the style consider it to be the most comprehensive push hands training of any of the Tai Chi styles.

Ma Yueh Liang married Wu Ying-hua the grandaughter of Wu Chien-ch’üan in the 1920’s and as a result he was accepted as a direct family member and learned the art directly from Wu Chien-ch’üan. Master Ma and Wu Ying-hua were both famous for the quality of their Tai Chi in the 1930’s. In his lifetime Master Ma did much to refine and help spread the art of Wu Tai Chi including creating a freestyle form of Push Hands that became quite prevalent in Shanghai in the late 1980’s.

I had the pleasure and the privilege to study from Master Ma in 1995. My visit was shown in an article in Inside Kung Fu with a picture of me demonstrating the Wu form for Master Ma and his wife. The Push Hands that I learned from Master Ma took me deep into the real internal aspects of Tai Chi and have profoundly influenced my studies in the art ever since for which I am eternally grateful.

  1. Tai Chi Styles
  2. Martial Tai Chi
  3. Chen Style Tai Chi
  4. Yang Style Tai Chi
  5. Wu Style Tai Chi


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  2. Thank you.

  3. Ty Talbert says

    I was looking for information on the slant and figured you would know. I was going to ask you about it the next time we spoke. But, of course you have written an article about it. You never disappoint.

    • Matt Holker says

      Hi Ty, looking forward to seeing you again! Sigung Clear has written, filmed, and otherwise recorded a great wealth of Tai Chi information. It’s great to have such diligent students and Tai Chi teachers like you out there really making use of it!

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