My movement background…

I have been playing Taiji since 1978. I started with Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s form and have studied with a number of Yang style traditions. My practice includes sword and saber, standing meditation and qigong. I have also studied a little Wu style, some Bagua, some Aikido and a bunch of Karate and Kenpo. I have my third degree black belt in Daimon Ryu Kenpo Karate.
I also have a background in massage – used to do that professionally as well as having taught prelicensing classes in Oregon.
Over the years I have studied a bit of Feldenkrais, Rosen work, Polarity, Shiatsu, Connective Tissue work, Authentic Movement, Continuum, Alexander technique, and Kentro.
I love partner play, whether we are sparring, doing push hands or dancing. The latter has led me to square and contra dancing, ballroom and Contact Improvisation.
I love the martial side of Taiji, and as I’ve gotten older, my interest goes more to the moving meditation aspects of Taiji. This is drawing me to take my love of push hands and apply what I learn there to relationships in general.
A pet peeve of mine is that those who study one movement art can be so ignorant of the broad field of Somatics and movement in general. This is particularly true in T’ai Chi and other martial arts. In my view, the task of Western Taiji authors is to demystify the art. This means writing in clear English, grounding the art in accurate physical descriptions including specific bones and muscles, and it means connecting Taiji to other movement arts. My wish is that this blog will help students of one art broaden their studies and see that all these somatic practices are studying the human body.

T’ai Chi “how to” books and DVDs

Each year there are more “How to” books and DVDs on Taiji form. This is a good thing. As more people become exposed to Taiji, the benefits of practice will become more apparent. However, we should all recognize that it is very difficult to learn form well from a DVD and even harder from a book.

Books and DVDs are great support for beginners taking classes and can allow more advanced students to compare the details of one form or interpretation to another. There are also sets of DVDs (Jiang Jian-ye’s or George Xu’s, for instance) that serve as archives of many different forms and allow those who do not have access to teachers locally to get an introduction to these forms. Even for an advanced student, however, it remains challenging to learn a brand new form well from a DVD.

Personally I have used books and DVDs to broaden my understanding of forms I already know and to compare interpretations. I have also found it very useful to “learn” a form from a DVD prior to attending an event where I can receive instruction on that form.

On this blog I will review several “How to” books and DVDs. If you are a beginner, I would recommend that you find a teacher first and then ask the teacher what books or DVDs you can get to support your practice and understanding.

Book Review – T’ai Chi by Cheng Man-ch-ing

T’ai Chi by Cheng Man-ch’ing and R. Smith, Tuttle, Vermont 1967

This is a hardback. It has a few chapters of discussion – history, principles, a brief discussion of push hands, a few martial applications, and translations of a few of the Classics. Most of the book presents CMC’s shortened version of the Yang style with good B&W photos of CMC (Cheng Man-ch’ing), weight diagrams for the feet and decent descriptions of the movements. The book also includes a fold-out of all the movement photos and another that shows the foot placements.

For those who do the CMC form, this book is the definitive description of the movements of the form. The brief additional material also merits periodic review.