Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Bad Kung Fu Series #1: Tim Tackett Hsing-i Kung Fu
Here at Dojo Rat, we've had a chance to post reviews of some very high quality martial arts books. Most of the ones that don't quite rate I have avoided reviewing out of respect for the author and publisher.
But that's changing.
Sometimes you pick up a martial arts book and it leaves you scratching your head and going "huh"?
So I'm going to go ahead and review a few books which I will put under the "Bad Kung Fu" banner, regardless of what type of martial art it is.
Today we look at Tim Tackett's 1982 book "Hsing-i Kung Fu, Volume 2: Combat".
To begin with, it's pretty hard to find any literature about the traditional Chinese art of Hsing-i (Xingyi), so I was pretty excited to find this at a used book store. Because it is obviously out of print, I have not gotten a copy of volume one yet.
Tackett trained in Taiwan from '62-'65 and went on to train with Dan Inosanto in Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do method. That's important, because one of the main problems with this book is is not Hsing-i (Xingyi) at all.
None of the nomenclature of the traditional art, the stances, the Five Elements or animal forms are shown.
Most of the postures resemble bad Wing Chun stances and techniques. By that I mean weak, high center-of-gravity stances that are anything but Hsing-i. The punching has that typical off-balence rear-foot tip-toe front leg weighted off-line punching that looks like a grappler could just shove the guy over.
This is a great disservice to what I know off all the Chinese internal arts, let alone Hsing-i.
To his credit, Tackett attributes these modified stances and techniques to his instructor Chen Mei Shou:
"From the basic, formal positions, he encourages whatever modifications that assisted the hand movements and added speed and power to their delivery. Such modifications included transferring the weight to the lead foot to assist the forward motion of a strike, angling the body for better power and accuracy and pivoting one or both feet to "launch" the hands".
To which I say; fine, then the book should have been called "Wing Chun".
But, even a blind pig can find an acorn. I still found the book interesting if somewhat confusing. I suppose in 1982 Tackett was becoming enthused with Jeet Kune Do and wove such details into an art he had been practicing for some twenty years.
Despite being a sad disappointment to traditional practitioners, the book retains value as a period piece in the era of evolving American martial arts.
I'll probably look around to see if I can find a used copy of volume one to see how he presents the basics.
By the way, Tim is still around, giving seminars and working with small groups in California.