Our Saturday class is currently learning a rare form of Tai chi called Yang Style San Shou. San Shou is a two person fighting form that applies tai chi principles and movements.
This specific form was brought to the United States by Chu Fongchu (Chu’ Fong-Chu) who was a senior student of Yang Chengfu. It is unclear if Yang Chengfu taught San Shou to his students, however, many of his students ended up with a similar two person fighting form. We do know that Yang Chenfu’s older brother, Yang Shaohou (Yang Shao-hou) taught San Shou to his students and perhaps that is where Chu Fongchu learned the form.
San Shou is a two person choreographed fighting form. It can be practiced slow or fast. Each person knows their opponent’s next move and works towards perfecting neutralizing the move, accepting their opponent’s energy and giving it back in the form of the next move. Like mixing push hands with a solo form, San Shou incorporates the competitive aspects of push hands throughout an entire tai chi form. There are 44 moves from each side, A and B, making a total 88 moves.
Tai chi practitioners soon discover that San Shou is much more involved than the solo form. It is not easy to learn. The practitioner must search for a deep understanding of the martial intent for each piece of every move and employ the correct energy. You must be soft and adhere to your opponent, search for their center and listen for their next move. You can’t fake it. Your opponent knows your every move and will test your ability. Evenly matched or not, both of you will continue to advance your tai chi skills.
San Shou is unique and wonderful, an intense mind-body workout with martial and meditative aspects. As a bonus, after your workout you may feel as if you just received a deep massage from the inside out.
The best place to practice San Shou is in the park next to some really old large trees. The trees will find you interestingly amusing and so will the people walking by.
In this website, go to (About/Quiet Teachings/San Shou) to view a video of the form. This video illustrates the slow version.