The Early Years…
I was introduced to Tai Chi through one of the first books on Tai Chi published in America. The background of this art was fascinating. The history was riveting. I couldn’t read it fast enough to get to the section where I would start learning this mysterious martial art. Learning from these diagrams on the right of the page made it seem as if I was learning directly from the ancient masters. However, it left a lot to interpretation. I’m sure I got it kind of right, but thirty-five years ago Tai Chi instructors were few and far between to ask if I was doing it correctly. My insecurities about doing it wrong won out and I stopped practicing for a few years. Thank goodness between great and plentiful instructors, books with sharp photos and detailed descriptions and DVD’s we are able to practice with confidence that we are performing the movements just as if the master was looking over us. Here are some of the books that I highly recommend. They have helped me understand how vast the subject of Tai Chi is and how it can help everyone live a more balanced life.
The following are four books that I refer to frequently. I recommend them highly. If you are interested in purchasing any of these books just click on the picture.
Lao Tzu was a contemporary of Confucius. While Confucius was focusing himself on rules and regulations and the proper behavior of society, Lao Tzu was trying to integrate society with the nature of the universe. They were very different people. While Confucius was straightening out people’s actions Lao Tzu was working in the Royal archives as the librarian. At one point Royal nepotism was starting to turn his stomach so he decided to leave. As he was leaving the city the gatekeeper asked him, “Hey, aren’t you Lao Tzu”? He said “Yes.” The gatekeeper asked where are you going? Lao Tzu responded, “this city is going to hell in a hand basket, I’m outta here.” (I may be using literary license here) the gatekeeper said, “you can’t leave you’re the wisest man in the city”. Lao Tzu asked the gatekeeper for a writing implement and proceeded to author the Tao Te Ching. He handed it to the gatekeeper and said great, here’s my knowledge, ciao.
Well, this is only the beginning of the book. The wisdom of Lao Tzu can be used every day for the rest of your life. This is a great read.
The Tao of Yiquan was one of the first books I sold in my schools. It focuses on what happens with our energy when we are still. This idea of standing for long periods of time is fascinating to me since I began my martial arts training Shaolin kung fu. My idea of training was kicking and punching hundreds of times and doing hours of calisthenics. How could you develop strength and power by looking at a wall or tree? This didn’t make sense to me. It all fell into place when I met master Henry Look. I was in peak physical condition and he was an older gentleman who had actually had a stroke. At one point he asked me to push him, so I kind of nudged him. He looked at me like he was very disappointed, so I pushed him, well, attempted to. As soon as I made contact with him I was thrown back about 8 feet into a wall. I was astonished and asked him how he did it, he told me it was there standing meditation using Yiquan (I Chuan). I became a student that night. This is one of the books he recommended.
During my years of teaching, I have found that my students fell into two categories of trust: all or none. When the analytical person joins the class, they are normally pretty skeptical and need special attention. This was difficult for me at first because I had experienced the power of my teachers and these students hadn’t. I would tell the other students just do it and they would. The analytical student would clock his head and ask, “Why?” This meant I had to go back to school. How can I communicate to someone who needs to know the ins and outs of everything? It took me many years to be able to discuss and enumerate each move and its purpose. Recently, I came across The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. Boy, would this book have saved me a lot of time. For those who think that much of tai chi is mumbo-jumbo, this is the book for you. The author’s perspective is from a Ph.D.’s search for the tangible evidence of the benefits of tai chi. It is not a fun read but very beneficial. A great reference.
Listen to an interview with the author Peter Wayne, just click the link below.
Back in the day when I was learning from my first tai chi teacher he introduced me to nutritional Chinese herbs. Certain formulas ware being sold by a company called Traditions of Tao. I would hold classes the benefits of these herbal products and sell them. After a year or so I was invited down to the company’s headquarters in Santa Monica California for a few days of seminars. These seminars included detailed benefits of each of the herbal products and movement seminars by doctors Daoshing and Maoshing Ni. I was able to spend quality time with both doctors. One of the most impactful moments was when Dr. Ni brought me in for a traditional Chinese medical evaluation. I knocked on the door of his office, he told me to enter and sit down. He started making notes. I asked him when we were going to begin he told me we were already half over. After questioning him about this he told me part of the evaluation consists of my gate, posture, skin tone and six or seven other behaviors that he had already noticed from the time I opened the door to sitting in the chair. He then proceeded to check my many pulses, tongue color, and certain acupressure points. He then gave me his evaluation. I was curious as to how this was possible. He basically told me that it was observation and sensitivity. I asked him about the correlation of this medical observation technique and the energy movement exercises that he taught me the day before, he told me it worked hand-in-hand. He recommended this book as a follow-up to fully understand how these tai chi movements and one sensitivity can create a beneficial experience that will solidify the knowledge of the benefits of tai chi.