Yang Chien-hou (1839-1917)
The second son of Yang Lu-ch'an. When he was young, he was not at all endeared to practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan as much as his father made him do, and even ran away twice to become a monk (futile attempts, of course). He grew up to be a much milder man than his older brother, and was prone to enjoy jokes and pranks. Nonetheless, he was a master. He defeated a famous sword master (?Li?), with only a painting brush as a weapon. Also, he could set a swallow on his hand and listen to its energy - when the swallow tried to take off and push down with his legs and wings, he would yield to this pressure, and the swallow would have no purchase to take off, and could not fly away. He was fond of birds and they would sometimes even try to nest in his outstretched hands when he practiced standing Chi Kung. He was also able to people far away without moving of his hands when he was sleeping and lying down.
One day after a rainstorm, there was just a small path good enough to walk through the courtyard. A pupil named Chao was standing on the path looking up into the sky and had not realised Master Yang Chien-hou had come up behind him. Always ready for a joke, Master Yang touched him with one finger on his right shoulder and Chao felt as if a heavy roof beam had fallen onto his shoulder, then collapsed onto the mud on the side of the path.
On another day, when Master Yang was about 80, a group of students he was lecturing was standing a bit too close, so he decided to joke, and started turning slightly, causing the students to scatter like game pieces thrown around by a whipping top (Kreisel).
Master Yang Chien-hou always said about speed "to be without speed is not good, but chaotic speed is which, is only wild and confused (meaning without base and direction), is useless. Speed only becomes meaningful with skill - and skill requires five qualities: a base, relaxation, effortless power, a direction, and intent" (Yi) (corresponding to the 5 Wu-Hsing: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Metal).
A student of another school once asked Master Yang Chien-hou: I have studied faithfully now for six years, practising everyday, still I am not successful. What shall I do? Master Yang asked him to demonstrate, then said: What I see is horse stances, clenched fists, a red face and a fierce expression. You have as much strength as an ox but Your Chi is nowhere to be seen. You are guilty of the error of double weightedness. Meditate upon relaxation and weight to improve your skills.
Another student of a different school asked Master Yang Chien-hou: I have been practising without any force for six years now, but still I cannot knock over even a 10 year old child. What is the matter? Master Yang asked him to demonstrate; indeed he did not use force, but he floated down like a goose landing, did not dare extend his arms or feet, not even opening his eyes fully. Master Yang said: You are guilty of the error of double floating. Meditate upon useful force and awareness to improve your skills.
Sometime ago in Sian there was an official named Chi Su, who was eager to study martial arts. He heard that Master Yang Chien-hou had received the full transmission of Wu Tang secrets, so he travelled to the capital and invited master Yang to stay in his home to teach him. Sometime later the best fighter in Shanxi a man called Great Sword Wang, the Bravo of the Red Inn, with 500 students, heard about Master Yang Chien-hou from Chi Su. Wang pressed Yang for a duel, and finally Master Yang acquiesced to do so with spears. Wang lunged in, aiming for the others chest, which met only a rollback and emptiness. Wang met nothing at all when he applied pressure on Yang's spear. When he pulled his spear back, Master Yang stuck, adhered and followed. He applied peng fa jing, knocking the opponent's spear up into his face throwing him back 10 feet to land on his back. Great Sword Wang rose, apologised and said "From now on I respect your miraculous power". Wang became one of Master Yang Chien-hou's most ardent followers and pupils, studying under him for a long time without any jealousy, and even enjoyed such a great reputation himself. After this duel, the official Chi Su helped to have Master Yang Chien-hou appointed as the Imperial Tutor.