The older brother of the celebrated Master Yang Cheng Fu, Master Yang Shao Hou (1862-1930) has not been often mentioned, if at all, in the popular history of the Yang family tai-chi chuan.
The grandson of Master Yang Lu Chan, the founder of the Yang school, Yan Shao Hou studied the art of tai-chi chuan under his father Yang Jian Hou, but also under his uncle Master Yang Ban Hou, who was admiringly called “the invincible Yang.” Strongly influenced by the brutal method and tumultuous character of his uncle, Yan Shao Hou was himself reputed for his excessive temperament and his extreme strictness with his own rare students.
Master Yang Shao Hou
He was known for not restraining his strikes with his students. Also, he trained only a few students. In contrast to his brother, Yang Cheng Fu, he did not seek to change his tai-chi chuan training to make it more accessible and more popular to the masses. On the contrary, he sought to teach the art of combat to only the best students, sorted on the fly through the roughest and strictest of teaching methods.
However, his influence on certain masters would bring him to leave his imprint on the history of contemporary tai-chi chuan. Such celebrated masters as Tung Ying Chieh, Wu Kung I, Wu Kung Tsao, Wu Tu Nan, for example, benefited from his classes and training. But it is through the training of his closest and rarest students, of masters much less known, that his training methods continue to survive today.
His form of tai-chi chuan is often referred to as being that of the “small frame” of the Yang school of tai-chi chuan. Its execution demands a very high level of preparation including intensive practice and systematic zhan zhuang, as well as other internal re-enforcement exercises. It is characterized by alternating slow, rapid, spiral and explosive (fa jing) movements. In fact, it appears that there are various different levels of execution in one form within the teaching tradition of Yang Shao Hou. It is a form of tai-chi chuan centered on efficacy in combat.
Today, there appears to be a return of the popularity of the character that is Master Yang Shao Hou and many contemporary practitioners associate themselves with his teachings in presenting a form of tai-chi chuan known as the “combat” style of the Yang school. This new fashion should be taken with a grain of salt, understanding that very few practitioners could survive the training and extreme strictness of this master, thus being allowed to become one of his close students. They have then, themselves, trained very few current active students.