Wu style originated from Quan You (1834 – 1902) who was born in Da Xing County, Beijing. He was a Manchurian and a member of the Imperial Guard in Beijing. He learned the art of Tai Chi Chuan directly from Yang Luchan, and also under his son, Yang Banhou. Quan You later modified what he learned, and his art evolved to be recognized as a separate style of Tai Chi Chuan. His style became known as the Wu School because his son Wu Jianquan (1870-1942), himself an accomplished master, adopted a Han family name “Wu”. Hence Quan You, through his son Wu Jianquan is honored as the founder of the Wu School of Tai Chi Chuan.
Wu Jianquan also modified the forms taught to him by his father. In 1928 he moved to Shanghai and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Shanghai Martial Arts Association. He also became the supervisor of the Tai Chi Chuan section of the Jing Wu Association.
The first Wu Tai Chi Chuan Academy was established in Shanghai in 1935 and was directed by Master Wu Jianquan, with his son-in-law Ma Yuehliang as vice-director. Ma Yuehliang (1901 – 1998) was a student of Wu Jianquan and was the husband of Wu Yinghua (1905 – 1996), the third child and first daughter of Wu Jianquan. She was recognized as the senior instructor of the Wu family in China, along with her husband. Besides his daughter, Wu Jianquan also had two sons, Wu Gong Yi and Wu Gong Zao who also helped to spread the art.
Wu style’s distinctive hand form, push hands and weapons training emphasize parallel footwork and horse stances, with the feet relatively closer together than the modern Yang or Chen styles. It includes small circle hand techniques (although large circle techniques are taught as well). Wu style has an initial focus on grappling, throws, tumbling, jumping, foot sweeps, and at advanced levels, pressure point leverage, joint locks, and breaks. It seems to have a distinct forward leaning but actually the leaning is around the center. It is very rooted.
Wu style will be represented at the 2014 Symposium by Grandmaster Ma Hailong, the son of Masters Ma Yuehliang and Wu Yinghua.