Writings on the art of T'ai Chi

T'ai Chi is an art with profound depth and subtle meaning. In its case reading may not be absolutely essential but it can be of great help. Here are the rules and the concepts which can make practice a more interesting and rewarding experience.

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#KH014 The Hidden Metal of T'ai-Chi Ch'üan
by Peter Frohlick
122 pages, photographs and illustrations, softbound

Quantity  $26.95

Is Tai Chi really a fencing art? In this intriguing book Mr. Frohlick examines Tai Chi from a fencer's perspective. His thesis relates that the mysterious postures of Tai Chi may seem completely non-functional UNLESS you see them referenced to the Chinese art of fencing. He further points out that though there are fewer surviving martial arts in the West there are actually more records of martial movements and strategies all the way from the Middle Ages to the present. He cites sources such as Europe’s oldest fencing manuscript, the Royal Armouries Manuscript 1.33 written in Latin, and the work of Johannes Liechtenauer, a fencing master from the fourteenth century. He also points out the much greater cross-pollination of technique than standard histories generally take into account. We find Mongol, Steppe, European and Chinese influences mixed like a great soup. He speculates broadly but calmly on parallels in Chinese and European techniques and theories. He adds quite a number of old illustrations from European texts, adding yet a finer flavor to the work. Published by the author this little gem is a bit pricey but worth it to those interested in this fascinating intersection of historical influences. Many insights: for instance the concept of the “bind”, the push-pull touching of two blades together and its relation to Push Hands.

While I agree with Mr. Frohlick's point--that Tai Chi postures might best represent not empty handed but armed techniques--it also raises my one real criticism of the book: he presents this as a new idea and it is not. While this analysis might be news to many Western practitioners of Chinese martial arts, at the advanced practitioner level in Kung Fu this is well known and widely accepted. In fact, this 'weapons over hands' approach shows up everywhere and even causes the opposite misunderstandings: for instance, why martial artists stand with extended postures; or why they don’t keep their guards up by their faces.When I learned three sectional staff from Sifu Wing Lam I remember coming across a posture exactly the same as one from the basic hand form, Tan Tui. I remember thinking, “Oh, that must be what it means to have a system. Every item relates to every other item.” This is not only true of every Kung Fu system but each system adds its flavor all the way through weapons usage so, for instance Wing Chun, moves its weapons in the Wing Chun manner, much like different fencing schools in the West.However, this criticism becomes a rather minor quibble, especially considering that Mr. Frohlick has amassed actual sources from old manuscripts and other hard to find reference material.

The Yin of Tai ChiKY007 The Yin of Tai Chi , Tai-Chi and the Mysterious Female
John Lash

$9.95, 299 pages, softbound, spot illustrations

John Lash brings intelligence and insight to everything he writes about Tai Chi. This exceptional little volume ranges far, engaging topics like Wu Wei and Tao and their relation to the proper practice of this art. "Because no other part of creation has a rational mind (as far as we know), no other creature can lose its oneness with the Wu Chi. The loss of Wu Chi is a purely human condition. Our choice, as human beings, is whether to seek to recover the oneness of the Wu Chi by delving ever deeper into our loving nature or to surrender ourselves to the rational mind with its view of separateness and its overwhelming fear... ".

Tai Chi NotebookKT003 T'ai Chi Notebook for Martial Artists
Scott Rodell

$13.95, 82 pages, Softbound, photographs and calligraphy

Teacher Scott Rodell herein shares observations on the art of T'ai Chi in this book of essays. This little book comes under the heading of "inspirational" though there are numerous anecdotes based on personal experience. Rodell has studied Yang T'ai Chi, a branch of this called Mi Chuan and Jin Shan Pai. From decades of training he speaks about the misconceptions in this art, the attainment of skill, fangsong and relaxation exercises, breathing, basics practice, fear, opponents, conflict and all the other subjects which not only do we want to read about but we know we should write about too.

Lost Tai Chi Classics

KL009 Lost T'ai-Chi Classics
from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty
Professor Douglas Wile

$24.95, 233 pages, Softbound,

A very important book by one of the few competent Chinese scholars who treats martial themes as though they were important. These recently uncovered documents DRASTICALLY expand our knowledge of the origins of T'ai Chi. This rich new text allows us to make a fresh new survey of long standing issues in T'ai Chi history: the origins of the art; the authorship of the "classics"; the differences between Wu, Yang and Li; and the role of Chang Sen Feng, Wang Tsung Yueh, Chiang Fa and the formerly missing link, Ch'ang Nai-Chou. In addition to everything else, Prof. Wile's book is nicely written and proposes a few well-considered theories of his own. Original Chinese texts appended.

Nei Jia Quan

KN004 Nei Jia Quan
Internal Martial Arts Teachers of Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang
Compiled by Jess O'Brien

$19.95, 325 pages, Softbound,

This is a book of interviews. For long time practitioners that will be of sufficient interest in itself. Many of these are well known teachers, particularly in the Western world. The list includes B. K Frantzis, Tim Cartmell, Tony Yang and Allen Pittman. Opinions vary much on certain topics. Cartmell's section is particularly interesting as we witness his struggle with the concept of Chi. On the other hand, much of the information is similar; echoing well established truths: basics are important, Kung Fu is more than it seems, skill lies in little things, etc. Documents like this, where knowledgeable instructors give directly of their experiences are - we feel - vital to Wu Shu research. However, our feeling is that the editor/compiler, Jess O'Brien, did not dig enough to really reveal much. It was more like he snapped on the tape recorder and just let it run. A good example is the title of the book itself. More than one instructor pointed out that there is no such thing as the "Internal Arts" but of course that's is nonetheless the book's title. We know this is a popular name for these practices and recognized by many, but it shows the ambivalence of a book for people who know enough about the arts to know the "labels" but not enough to know what they are and aren't. Like Tai Chi Magazine, the range of information is often confusingly non-specific and unfiltered.

Some nice moments:
James Wing Woo: "Then he (Bruce Lee) said that he was going to show me Jeet Kune Do. I told him, "B.S. Do! You should stick to Wing Chun, you'd be a lot better off!"

Gabriel Chin: (Talking to Sun Chien Yuen about Cheng Man Ching) "She said, ' Cheng Man Ching? I never heard of such a person! Also Chen Da Gu (her relation with Chen Wei Ming made it possible for her to call him Elder Brother) was not in Chungking. He was in Shanghai at the time.' Then I realized that Cheng Man Ching was telling stories."

Other teachers represented are Fong Ha, William Lewis, Gail Derin-Kellog, Luo De Xiu, Zhao Da Yuan and Albert Liu with an interesting history on the development of Liu He Ba Fa.

Tai Chi's Ancestors

KT016 T'ai Chi's Ancestors
The Making of an Internal Martial Art
Professor Douglas Wile

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$19.95, 224 pages, softbound, illustrated

For the first time in English three 16th to 18th century martial arts traditions are introduced. These include the extremely famous Chi Chi-kuang "Essentials of the Classic of Pugilism", Wang Chen-nan's "Art of the Internal School" and Ch'ang Nai Chou's classic on internal boxing theory. Each of these is a famous text in the history of Kung Fu. Practitioners will find in this book the authentic historical origins of their art and the scarce and rare writings that illuminate the very heart of Kung Fu practice.

Professor of Chinese language and literature and long-time practitioner of T'ai Chi, Douglas Wile has contributed a number of important texts and translations to the field of Wushu studies.

This book reviewed

Secrets of the Tai Chi CircleKS014 Secrets of the T'ai Chi Circle
Luke Chan

Quantity $10.00

"Told as a novel, this entertaining tale offers insights into not only the principles of T'ai Chi and Taoism, but the relationship of instructor to student in this ancient tradition."
At least that's what we wrote over three years ago when we first listed this book. Then it almost immediately went out of print. But it's back - and now it's personal. We LIKE this book. It's FUN. We like Luke Chan. The back of the book states "You will cry. You will laugh." You're all too sophisticated for that, we know. But that's the author's intent at least and he's written a kind of "quest book" that many martial artists and seekers will want to read just for sheer enjoyment. Try a little taste...

"So one side of me chose to live in my own world of being young, curious, and always growing and learning while the other side of me detached myself from my own world, seeing my life just as it was - having the same sorrows and joys as other individuals. In my own world, I was a child, always growing; out of my own world, I was an adult, always sharing. Finally when these two sides fused into a perfect T'ai Chi Circle within me, I felt as though the water source of the pond had been connected to my body, and my mind became as clear and open as the Reflecting Pond itself. Indeed, the Fourth Secret of the T'ai Chi Circle had just been revealed to me."