Northern Wu Style Taiji Quan

Sifu Yan Long Jiang
5th generation bearer of the Wu Taiji Quan Lineage

Sifu Yan Long Jiang was born in Yi Chun, a remote village in the Heilongjiang Province (North East) of China. Due to ill health, at age nine he was sent by his parents to practice external martial arts in the hope that physical exercise would strengthen his body. Indeed, his body was strengthened, his health improved and at the same time, although unknown to him, he embarked on a martial art journey which now seems a predestined course of action.

Contrary to his feeble childhood image, Sifu grew up to be physically big and strong as expected for a northern man. His physique was complemented by his outstanding skills in martial arts. By the age of 16 he was seen as the most competent martial artist among his peers. One day, however, he was defeated by a lady notably smaller in physical strength and stature. This encounter not only destroyed his pride, it unsettled his trust in all that he had learned over the years. The unanswered questions shook his personal equilibrium and motivated him to search beyond his past experience. This was a major turning point in his martial art journey.

By now, Sifu had moved to Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang, to be near to the university that he subsequently attended. The lady who had defeated him was a student attending Taiji classes nearby. She was taught by Master Zhan Bo, a 4th generation bearer of the Wu Style Taiji Quan lineage. Zhan Bo plays an important part in the history of the lineage, for it was he that managed to keep the Wu Style intact by retreating to Heilongjiang Province when the Cultural Revolution broke out in the 60s. During this time, traditionalism was discouraged and practitioners were prosecuted. As a result, many traditional arts and their knowledge were either lost or attenuated. However, Zhan Bo safeguarded the Wu Style through these troubled times and, as the political atmosphere changed, he was able to bring back the traditional form in its entirety. Ironically, it is because he posseses the traditional skills at high level that he is now regarded as a national treasure.

As mentioned earlier, Zhan Bo happened to hold classes near the university. Curiosity brought Sifu to the classes and he subsequently became a loyal student who frequented the place everyday. Sifu's skill and knowledge of the external martial arts assisted his understanding of the internal art of Taiji Quan that he was now learning. Coupled with his dedication in training, he rapidly acquired the skills and principles of the Wu style and other related internal arts. By now, it was only a matter of time before he was able to reach a very high level of the art.

Yet more surprises awaited him. Of all the hundreds of students of Zhan Bo only 11 were identified as promising, with Sifu among them. Furthermore, Sifu was chosen by Zhan Bo as the 'crown prince' of the 5th generation and made bearer of the lineage. From Sifu's account, he was chosen not by his skill, for other 'kung fu brothers' were/are at a higher level than him. This suggests that the selection criteria were based rather on Sifu's personal attributes. That is, whatever Zhan Bo was looking for, he found in Sifu.

No doubt, the awesome title as 'bearer' of a lineage gives Sifu a sense of responsibility and obligation as well as a clear mission and vision, which reflect in the way he teaches. He not only teaches the principles and skills in depth and breadth, he is also in a position to pass on the heritage of the Wu Taiji Quan. We, as his students, feel so fortunate and privileged not only to receive genuine tuition from an authentic unlimited source, but also that it has been possible for us to cling tenaciously to an identity as the descendents of a lineage simply by our association with Sifu.

Written by Eva Golding, Chinese Cultural Xchange