Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: "The Essence And Applications Of Taijiquan"

Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan is the most popular version of Taiji, practiced all over the world. Given the vast numbers of practitioners, it may also be the most popular "martial art" in the world.
With that said, it may also be the most misunderstood martial art in the world. As Tai Chi Chuan rose to it's familiar image as a "new age exercise", it lost the "Chuan", or "fist" within the art.
Countless knock-offs were created as a yogic practice for hipsters or a balance enhancement pattern for senior citizens. Part of the blame must also lie with the Chinese Communist Government, which attempted to standardize Tai Chi practice and made it into a mundane cross-cultural fitness program. The fighting system once known as "Grand Ultimate Fist" was almost lost.
When we want to return to the true roots of Tai Chi Chuan, no one source can deliver the information like the words of Yang Chengfu, the founder of the Yang style as it is meant to be practiced.
Louis Swaim has provided us an excellent translation of Yang Chengfu's "The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan". The book has an introduction by Swaim, followed by forewords by Zheng Manquing, Yang Chengfu, and his son Yang Shouzhong. Each movement in the long form is viewed with a picture of the posture and Yang Chengfu's description of the application and expression of the form. Each posture is also commented on by translator Swaim for clarity.
Following the form presentation, there is a chapter on push hands, the Da-Lu (Great Rollback) two-person form, and the poetic "Taijiquan Classics".
Nothing comes closer to the true intent of Yang Tai Chi Chuan than the words of the Master:

"There is only one school of Taijiquan: there are not two ways of learning. One may not make a show of one's cleverness by rashly making additions or deletions. The former worthies developed these methods. If alterations or corrections could be made, the ancestors preceding me would already have already put them into effect".

I highly recommend "The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan" as a valuable resource for Taiji players, with the actual words of Yang Chengfu to guide them in their practice.

This book and hundreds of other martial arts titles can be found at the website for Blue Snake Books.

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