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The Wu style of t'ai chi ch'uan (taijiquan) was created by a Manchurian named Quan Yu in the 19th century. He later took on the Chinese family name of "Wu" to downplay his Manchurian origins, as Manchurians weren't too popular in China during the Qing dynasty. Therefore, he is also known as Wu Quan Yu. Quan Yu created the Wu style of t'ai chi ch'uan by combining the Yang style he had learned from Yang Lu Chan with concepts from other arts he practiced. Quan Yu worked as a bodyguard in the Imperial palace, so as a result he learned several other styles. Most notably, he was well known as a "wrestler" (this is different from the modern Western sport of wrestling; it is a type of martial art that emphasizes joint locks and throws).
The Wu style t'ai chi ch'uan was taught to A.F. Walker in the 1960's and 1970's by one of his teacher's friends. This man went by the name of Wu Chen Ik, but he didn't reveal too much about his past. What we do know from what he said is that his grandfather was Quan Yu, and that he had a sister that also taught t'ai chi in California. He wasn't even clear whether his father was Wu Jianquan, or if he was a descendant of a different child of Quan Yu's.
It is said that there are as many styles of t'ai chi ch'uan as there are practitioners. As a result, even within the same style one will find many different versions. In particular, the version taught by Wu Chen Ik is somewhat different from the more popular version as taught by Wu Jianquan (Quan Yu's son). Wu Chen Ik claimed that his version was closer to original form of Quan Yu (it is well known that Wu Jianquan made significant changes to his father's form). Wu Chen Ik's version does not include the changes that Wu Jianquan made to the form. The most obvious difference is the angle of the back: Wu Jianquan modified the postures so that the back was leaning forward, which he believed facilitated better flow of energy. Wu Chen Ik's version has the back upright, similar to other t'ai chi ch'uan styles, such as Yang or Chen style, which was probably much closer to what Quan Yu practiced. Other differences between Wu Jianquan's version and Wu Chen Ik's version include some changes in the sequence of movements, as well as some of the names used for the postures. It is known that Wu Jianquan changed several posture names, as documented by his descendants. The Wu Chen Ik form also uses some names that are not used in other empty-hand forms, although some of the posture names do show up in the weapon forms of other t'ai chi styles. Wu Chen Ik's version of the long form is also somewhat longer than Wu Jianquan's version.
Wu Chen Ik taught 3 different forms to A.F. Walker, which he said was the complete curriculum:
  • Wu 189 Posture Long Form
  • Wu 36 Posture Short Form
  • Wu Taiji Jian (Sword Form)
Although there are other weapons forms present in the Wu Jianquan lineage, it is likely that these came about later and were not created by Quan Yu himself.
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