Discipleship, Snake Style Taijiquan and Erle Montaigue
January 24, 2013
Because I studied with Master Yang Shou-Chung, recently I was asked why Master Yang Shou-Chung had only 3 disciples, each operating in a different region (Asia, America and Europe) and whether there is such a thing called the Yang Family Snake Style Taijiquan, also about Erle Montaigue’s relationship to Master Chu King-Hung. Below is my answer:
I am originally from Sydney Australia but born in China (Guangdong), now living in Berlin. I studied with Master Yang Shou-Chung for 2 years in Hong Kong from 1978-1980 and was offered a chance to become a disciple to take care of the Australia/NZ territory not yet occupied by the other three (Ip Tai-Tak, Chu Gin-Soon and Chu King-Hung). The offer for me (done through Mrs Yang in Cantonese who attends each of our private classes and make sure I’d pay my fees on time; this offer was for me only and I cannot say it is for the others as well) at the time it was a financial proposition and it was an obligation free discussion. In the deal I have to pay a certain amount up front (bishi-laisi money or lucky money for the discipleship ceremony) and afterward to do annual (or there about) training in HK for another fixed fee, then each student I get using the family discipleship tilte, Master Yang will take an annual “membership” fee from them. I was tempted but declined because at that time I have a young family and was struggling with my architectural practice. I knew Erle quite well; we used to practise together every Sunday with some of his students like Tony Ward (who went on to study with Master Huang Sheng-Shyan, much to the displeasure of Erle). As far as I know, the reason why Erle left Master Chu was because he was asked to make similar contributions to be named as Chu’s disciple. Looking back, when discipleship is based on a financial arrangement with a territorial right and not on genuine commitment to the art and skill, it seldom works out well. After Master Yang Shou-Chung died in 1985 I went to see Master Chu Gin-Soon in Boston, Master Ip Tai-Tak and also Yang Ma-Lee (Master Yang’s daughter) in Hong Kong (with Sifu Chen Yong-Fa of Choy Lee Fut) but ended up furthering my Yang Family Taijiquan study with Fu Zhong-Wen’s son Fu Sheng-Yuan from Perth and also with Chen Xiao-Wang (Chen Family Taijiquan) in Sydney (Master Chen Xiao-Wang stayed in my home for a few years). Master Chu King-Hung was the only disciple out of the three who refused to see me in person (“Go learn from Ma-Lee”, he siad). I have never heard of the Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan from the Yang Family and nor from the Fu Family either until recent time from a younger genearation of students. When Master Ip was alive, I went to visit John Ding (Master Ip’s disciple) in London and he did not mentioned the Snake Style at that time as well, so I would imagine it was a made-up thing after Master Ip’s death, by his disciples and not directly from the Yang Family. Master Yang did teach a family long-form, which an ex-pat dentist from Canada was learning from him at the same time I was taking my private lessons.
I might have said things contraversial and made what is private and confidential public, but it is better to write them down now that I am 65, at least there is a first-hand record of what went on in the 70s and 80s as compare to now, from my perspective (needless to say) as one of the few private students of Master Yang Shou-Chung towards the end of his life.