Taijiquan Master Kao Tao - Dr. Yang's teacher
Dr. Yang's first Taijiquan master, Grandmaster Kao, Tao (高濤), who Dr. Yang lost contact with after leaving for college and moving to the U.S., has finally been found in Taipei, Taiwan. After resuming to teach Taijiquan in 2005, Grandmaster Kao has at last resurfaced. It has been over 40 years since Dr. Yang last met with him.
Much of YMAA's internal foundation and theory can be attributed to the root and lineage learned from Grandmaster Kao. We are all extremely elated to know that Grandmaster Kao is well and continuing to teach Taijiquan. Dr. Yang has said many times in past interviews that he feels very fortunate to have started learning Taijiquan from Grandmaster Kao, who is a rare teacher that emphasized the martial aspects of Taijiquan.
Many thanks to Noelle Kasai, who helped tremendously in helping to reunite Dr. Yang with Grandmaster Kao. There will be a reunion during the World Cup Tai Chi Chuan Championship this October. [UPDATE: Read about the reunion in Taiwan at this link.]
Dr. Yang: "A week after Master Cheng told me to learn Taijiquan, I found out there was an English/ Taiji teacher in the Provincial High School which was near my high school. I decided to go to see him and beg him to accept me as a student. One morning I woke up early and went to the meeting hall of his high school. I saw him teaching five students Taijiquan . I stood far away and watched for a while. When I saw there was a chance I approached Master Kao , bowing humbly. I told him that I had a problem with my internal organs and wished to learn Taijiquan to heal it. Master Kao Tao was 29 years old at that time. He had come to Taiwan with General Chiang Kai-shek. I did not know and did not ask about the origin of the style. I only knew that we were learning Yang style. I did not have any idea of the lineage. As matter of fact, I did not even care since the main goal of my learning was to regain my health. And at that time, it was rude to ask a teacher about his background. All the teachers were very strict. This was especially true of Master Kao.
After he had looked at me for a while, he said: “You really want to learn Taijiquan?“ “Yes, master,” I replied. “You have to be here every morning at half past six . Can't miss any day, otherwise, you are out.” “Yes, master.” I answered. He then asked me to stand still. He placed both of his palms on my chest and suddenly bounced me out about 15 feet away. He asked me approach to him again. He said: “You now know Taiji's power. Now, you obey.” I began tough daily workouts with him. That I did not get too much from my White Crane master. Surprisingly, six months later my ulcer began to ease and in no time it was gone. The simple breathing techniques and spine movements solved the problem which had bothered me for nearly seven years.
I continued to practice with him until I was almost 19, when I had to move to Taipei for college. I studied with him for a total of two and half years. It was not until I came to the USA in 1974 that I started to realize that the reason I have a good martial arts foundation and profound understanding was because of training with Master Kao. What greatly surprised me was when I went to Taipei and compared Master Kao with other Taijiquan instructors, Master Kao emphasized a great deal of body movement and the martial applications, while others ignored all of these vital aspects even though these have often been discussed in the ancient Taijiquan classics.
It was not until the beginning of 1975 when Purdue University asked me to offer some credit Taijiquan classes for the Theater Department that I started to dig deeper into theory and search for the essence and the meaning of every movement. Only then did I start to realize that what I learned from Master Kao was a precious foundation that I could never find in other sources."
Interview with Dr. Yang, Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 12, 2003, Michael De Marco.
Master Kao Biography
Born in 1932, his ancestral home is Tianjin in Hebei province. In Shanghai in 1944 he became a formal student of master Yue Huanzhi from Henan province, from whom he studied Yang style taijiquan for three years. After graduating from junior high school, he moved to Hong Kong, where through an introduction from master Yue, he studied under Dong Yingjie, who in those years was a famous Taijiquan master, originally from Hebei province.
He graduated from senior high school, and then moved to Taiwan in 1954, attending what is now known as National Chengchi [pinyin: Zhengzhi] University. During the ensuing four years he received invitations to demonstrate pugilistic skills on many occasions. In 1959, after graduating from university, he took up a teaching position at Xinzhu Provincial High School. During the many years he taught there, he simultaneously provided Taijiquan guidance at five schools.
Upon retirement, he moved to Zhuwei, near Danshui in Taipei [pinyin: Taibei] county. Beginning in 2005, in the Guanhai Jipin (“Widely Experienced, Best Quality”) residential community, he again began giving instruction in traditional Yang style taijiquan. Soon thereafter, his name became known and the places he has been invited to teach include the Meng Die (“Dream Butterfly”) community in Puding and the Dizhong Hai (“Mediterranean Sea”) community in the town of Bali. He received a similar invitation by the Teacher Friendship Association at Sacred Heart High School for Girls, also in Bali.
For more than sixty years he has practiced and taught martial arts, achieving a high level and enlightening others. Taijiquan has been his constant companion. Now, students have recommended that he participate in the World Cup Taijiquan Championship by giving a demonstration and thereby form bonds of friendship with people from around the world who are likewise interested in Taijiquan and would seek his advice.
A Chinese version of Master Kao, Tao biography is also available here.
Read more about Master Kao and the YMAA Taijiquan lineage.