A Brief History of My Family
by Grand Master Wu Kwong Yu
My great great grandfather Master Wu Chuan Yau (1834-1902) was the founder of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. He was a Manchurian member of the Imperial Guard in Beijing. He learned Tai Chi Chuan from the founder of Yang Style, Master Yang Lu-Chan. His area of specialization was neutralization. His eldest son, Master Wu Chien Chuan (1870-1942) was the second master of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. His influence on the development of the Wu Style was very significant. Master Wu Chien Chuan modified the forms taught to him by his father. He utilized a narrower circle and created many new ways to apply the form in a practical manner.
In 1924, Master Wu Chien Chuan, along with colleagues, Xi-Yiu Seng, Yang Shoa Hoa (Yang Shou Hou) and Yang Cheng Fu founded a famous martial arts school. This had an important effect in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan as it became available to the general public for the first time.
Master Wu Chien Chuan moved south to Shanghai in 1928. There he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Shanghai Martial Arts Association. Subsequently, he became the supervisor of the Tai Chi Chuan section of the famous Ching Wu Sports Association. In 1935, my great grandfather established the first Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan Academy in Shanghai.
Master Wu Kung Yi was the eldest son of the third generation. He was instrumental in establishing Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan throughout the Orient. In 1954, Master Wu Kung Yi responded to the controversy started by the newspaper in Hong Kong regarding the validity of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art by agreeing to accept a challenge to fight another style of martial art. He put only one restriction on the match – that the proceeds of it be donated to charity. The contest of the two different styles of martial arts intrigued thousands who came to view it. Wu Kung Yi was fifty-three at that time, twenty years older than his opponent. It soon became apparent to the committee overseeing the fight that the opponents were not mismatched and that the contest was a serious one indeed. At the completion of the second round, they ended the fight by voting it to be a draw. Master Wu Kung Yi had clearly demonstrated Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan as a formidable style of martial art.
Master Wu Kung Yi’s younger brother Master Wu Kung Cho and younger sister Master Wu Ying Hua also influenced the development of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. Master Wu Ying Hua assisted in the operation of the academy in Shanghai. It was under her direction that the academy re-opened in the late nineteen seventies. Master Wu Kung Cho was an expert in many facets of Tai Chi Chuan. He was the author of the first book on Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan, which was initially published in 1935. This classic was published again in 1980.
My father, Master Wu Tai Kwei was the eldest son of the fourth generation. He was a highly respected martial artist who continued the work of Master Wu Kung Yi in establishing Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan throughout the Orient. There were academies in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Macau, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. The Japanese invited him in the nineteen fifties to introduce the style into Japan. He also brought Tai Chi Chuan to the mass media by often appearing on television in Hong Kong and Singapore. One of my father’s aspirations was to expand Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan into North America. However, he did not live to see that become a reality.
(Note: The Toronto Academy was started in 1975 by Master Wu Tai Chi. Later, Master Wu Kwong Yu (Eddie) was brought from Hong Kong to be the present Chief Instructor of the Academy. Master Eddie Wu has introduced and promoted Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan throughout North America. Today there are thousands of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan practitioners in North America & Europe, with official Academies in Toronto, Fredericton, Vancouver, Detroit, Ann Arbor, New Jersey, Washington DC, London, Hawaii, Athens and Vienna.)