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.

Master Yang Shou-Chung

Master Yang Shou-Chung

9 Responses to “Discipleship, Snake Style Taijiquan and Erle Montaigue”


  1. Thank you for sharing you life. A most interesting unfolding of events.

  2. Hermann Bohn Says:

    Yes, indeed go to know, many thanks from Taiwan!

  3. Tommaso Says:

    Dear Choy, I am glad to read this page. Let’s get into touch, perhaps, for further discussion and to know each other.

  4. Frank Says:

    Dear Howard,
    Thanks a lot for this insight! See you in March!

  5. Jim Says:

    This is all very interesting. The Snake FORM does exist and it was Ip Tai Tak’s take on the advanced fast form. This was taught to John Ding and his son Alan Ding.Here is a link to John Ding’s web site: http://www.jdiatcc.com/content/blogcategory/41/60/

  6. howardchoy Says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you for your link, it supported my observation that the Sake Form is not from the Yang family, but made up by Ip Tai-Tak towards the end of his life and promoted by his disciples, each with a diffferent take on their teacher’s creation as well.
    Howard.

  7. Jim Says:

    Hi Howard,
    Just dug around on John Ding’s site and found an article by Alan Ding on the Snake form, which i found informative.
    http://www.jdiatcc.com/content/view/108/60/
    Regards
    Jim

  8. howardchoy Says:

    Hi Jim,
    With two links mentioned to the same website, what is your relationship to John Ding? If you know him, please say hello for me, I have not seen him for years.
    Howard

  9. Brian Says:

    Hi Howard, thanks for sharing your experience of learning with Master Yang. My original teacher was Mr Mak Po-Sun from Lane Cove in Sydney who spoke about also learning his Tai Chi from Masters Yang Chung-Kee and Yang Shou-Chung in Guanzhou and Hong Kong from 1947 until arriving in Sydney in 1973. Erle Montaigue wrote an article about Mr Mak in 1985 where Mak spoke of learning Tai Chi with the Yang family.
    Perhaps you knew him also.


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