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Bob Boyd - Bao Tak Fai Tai

As the Disciple of Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak and founder of the International Snake Style Association (ISSA), Bob Boyd ( Bao Tak Fai Tai) is teaching the Snake Style tai chi system world wide. If you would like to know more about organizing a snake style tai chi workshop in your area, please contact him here.


Yang Style: The Truth About the Snake Style


 Since I introduced the Snake Style to the general public over ten years ago, and since the publication of my book: “Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan, The Hidden System of the Yang Family,” there have been many false rumors on the internet about the Snake Style.

Here are the facts:

  1. When I formally became Grandmaster Ip's Disciple in 2001, he told me that I could now learn the Snake Style. He said that the Snake Style was taught to Grandmaster Yang Sau Chung by his father, Great Grandmaster Yang Chen Fu, and that Yang Sau Chung taught it only to him. Now, as Master Ip's adopted son, I would have the opportunity to learn it.

  2. I have a copy of Grandmaster Ip's notes on tai chi. They are written in Chinese and were taken over the 28 years that Master Ip worked directly under Grandmaster Yang Sau Chung. When my Chinese student translated the chapter on the Snake Style, I found this quote in the introduction, and used it for the beginning of my book:

      Master Ip: “When I became Master Yang's Disciple in 1958, he privately taught me the secret Snake Style of tai chi. The Snake Style represents the hidden principles of Yang Tai Chi that strengthen one's kungfu and body. One snake form is equivalent to three ordinary forms.”

The Snake Style is a method of movement, not a singular form

There is also a rumor on the internet that Master Ip created the Snake Style and that it is done very low with angular body movement. This is not the Snake Style, it is Long Boxing. Long Boxing is part of the curriculum of the Yang family tai chi system. In 1985, I learned it from my first teacher who is a Disciple of Grandmaster Gin Soon Chu of Boston. It was then called “The Fast Form (or Fast Set).”

As Master Yang's adopted son (First Disciple), and a devoted martial artist, Master Ip was in a position to question certain moves of the Yang system that he did not feel were as effective as they could be. Master Ip told me that, although Yang Sau Chung agreed with him on many of these points, he could not make changes to his family's tai chi form. On the other hand, Master Yang gave Master Ip permission to modify the Long Boxing to suit his martial interests. From that point of view, the Long Boxing that I practice today is Master Ip's modification of the Yang family form, but it follows the same sequence of the Yang family “Fast Form” that I learned from my first teacher.

Long Boxing is a form, whereas the Snake Style is a method based on the principles of Yang family tai chi as written by Yang Chen Fu. These principles unite all of the forms that make up the curriculum of Yang family tai chi – including Long Boxing.

Myth – Snake Style is practiced low to the ground

Another misconception about the Snake Style is that it is practiced very low to the ground, therefore the name “snake style.” If this were so, I would think that a reptile like an alligator or a crocodile would be more representative of this kind of tai chi, as these animals are low to the ground and move in a straight line.

When the snake moves forward, it does so using a powerful coiling action of the spine from side to side. This same method of movement is used in snake style tai chi. Each movement crosses the center line (either right or left) when moving forward, backward or from side to side. This serpentine movement creates a strong root at the foot and a powerful disruptive force for unbalancing the opponent.

Answering the critics

Veteran martial artists, including tai chi practitioners, have long been aware of the secrecy common to Chinese martial arts clans. It is not unusual to keep the family “secrets” exactly that – secret. This is still true today, even in business in America. Does Apple freely exchange information with Microsoft regarding their respective technological innovations? I think not. Snake Style was a secret system of the Yang family.

When I began teaching the snake style, I was compelled to inform the tai chi world that this was the original Yang family system. I knew this information would not be received well by the established Yang style tai chi community, and in many cases it wasn't. But put yourself in my place – what would you have done? Once Grandmaster Ip gave me permission to teach the snake style openly, it was my obligation to teach it. It was an obligation not only to honor my immediate master, but to honor the Yang family as well, and it was an obligation to preserve the Snake Style for future generations.

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