Yang Shao Hou was born as Yang Zhao Xiong in 1862 and died in 1930. He was also named Meng Xiang, and later called Shao Hou, most just called him “Mr. Big”. From the age of seven he studied with his grandfather Yang Lu Chan, his father Yang Jien Hou and his uncle Yang Ban Hou. Shao Hou was unusually gifted in learning martial arts and because of this all three of his family seniors privately taught him as much as possible. He learned the greater part of his skill from Ban Hou and was said to be similar to him in temperament.
Yang Shao Hou’s grandfather, Yang Lu Chan, the founder of Yang family Taijiquan, learned his art from Chen Chang Xin of the Chen village, who studied under Jiang Fa. Chen Chang Xin’s learning an art other than the village art made him forbidden to teach the family art of Pao Chui, which the Chen family was famous for several generations, earning the name “Pao Chui Chen Family”. Weather Chen Chang Xin’s art was a totally separate art from that practiced in the Chen family, or was just heavily modified by his learning with Jiang Fa, is unknown.
Yang Lu Chan taught his art to his sons, Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jien Hou. Yang Jien Hou later modified the form to create his middle frame, making the hidden internal circles manifest on the outside thus making the form easier to learn.
When Shao Hou was young, he taught the middle frame established by his father, but later changed direction. He developed the small frame form that was high with small movements done in a sometimes slow and sometimes sudden manner. This “small frame” was mainly developed by the teachings Shao Hou had received while living and training under his uncle, Ban Hou.
Among the lineages that came from disciples of Yang Shao Hou, there are a number of variations of this small frame. This reflects the reality that forms were not standardized at the time and were taught in varying ways to develop different skills. Nonetheless, the authentic small frame always shares the same characteristics and the differences are only minimal. Some of the characteristics of Yang Shao Hou’s small frame are
- both high and low stances
- heavy emphasis on the empty stance
- varying speeds, both slow and sudden
- complex spirals and an emphasis on the yi and qi in the fingers
- the use of Heng and Ha sounds, with sharp and crisp fajin
When crossing hands, Shao Hou would stand with one hand behind his back, he would touch his opponent with just one or two fingers and they would be thrown out. His jin was hard and crisp and he would change freely and swiftly, always stepping in and out like a ghost, appearing and disappearing. Shao Hou’s infinite techniques earned him the nick name 1000 hand Gwan Yin.
Yang Shao Hou was known as a brutal and strict teacher, he had few students compared to his younger brother Yang Chen Fu and because of this the art is rare.