Showing posts with label taichi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taichi. Show all posts

December 22, 2014

"Wisdom of Taiji Masters" by Nigel Sutton - Book Review

Tambuli has classically been known for being the preeminent publisher of all quality things Filipino Martial Arts related, but there most recent releases are setting the precedent for Chinese Martial Arts texts.  "Wisdom of Taiji Masters: Insights into Cheng Man Chings Art" by Nigel Sutton is the best text to come out of Tambuli's stock and across my desk.  A work well over 30 years in the making, Sutton's book is a perfect last minute stocking stuffer for the Taiji player on your list.

Nigel Sutton has had the absolute honor to train under two generations of Cheng Man Ching disciples and decided to share the insights and philosophies of eight teachers of Cheng Man Ching Taiji: Lau Kim Hong, Lee Bei Lei, Zhou Mu Tu, Ho Ah San, Tan Ching Ning, Dr. Fong Fung Tong, Wu Chiang Hsing, and Koh Ah Tee.  Not only is it unheard of to gain access to such a bevy of teachers, but to record, organize, and eventually publish the insight of these men into their art is a gift unto itself for those of us that would never have the chance to train with even one of these men.

Written with a smooth even tone, Sutton does well conveying the interviews as they were given.  In other words he does not interrupt the flow and context of the information being shared via the teacher, but rather interjects contextual or cultural notes as needed.  I liked reading "Wisdom" because though I was aware Sutton was guiding me through a story (series of stories) his presence was always well in the background, ensuring the spotlight was solely shining on the interviewee.  He allows the teacher to spit his knowledge and leaves a trail of words for the student to continuously ponder on their path, as surely those words will never change in print but their meaning will endure a constant change of meaning.

Any time a task such as culminating a number of interviews and lessons into print form is taken on, one must take great care to ensure the "masters" at hand do not become too grandiose.  Once again Sutton's smooth editing circumvents such masturbatory tendencies and makes for quick reading.  It is fascinating to garner so many different perspectives on the same art from disciples of the same teacher, a testament to the complexity and individuality of the martial arts in general, and Cheng Man Chings Taiji specifically.

Subjects such as push hands, nei gong, weapons, form, etc. are all covered, but honestly it is the actual process of listening to these teachers that is the gift.  You can read about push hands all over the net from a number of people, but very few places can you sit and listen to a teacher convey a story and layout a lesson where you least expect it.  "Wisdom" surprises you left, right and zhong ding! 

Whether or not you are a practitioner of Cheng Man Ching Taiji, or just Taiji in general, I think you will enjoy "Wisdom of Taiji Masters" by Nigel Sutton.  A unique and different perspective on a martial arts book that is well written and easy to read.  Does the text harbor any ancient secret that will make your Taiji better?  Most likely no.  But perhaps a tip, a word of encouragement, or an honest criticism read herein will give you a different perspective on your practice and be the ripple that offers a fresh breath of air igniting your curiosity into the deep art of Taiji.

Click here to order "Wisdom of Taiji Masters"

March 17, 2014

Chinese Martial Arts Training in Seattle

Private lessons, small group classes, and seminars are certainly available in the Chinese martial arts here in Seattle, WA.  Jake Burroughs has trained in the martial arts for over 20 years and is a student of Tim Cartmell and Hu Xi Lin.  With experience in Baji, Qigong, weapons, Tui Na, etc. the core arts taught are:
  • Song Family Xing Yi Quan
  • Sun Taiji
  • Sun Bagua
  • Northern Praying Mantis
Lessons are open to all ages and levels of experience.  Please contact Jake at: [email protected] for more information or to schedule your lesson today.

November 23, 2012

Book Review: "Taiji, Xing Yi, and Baguaquan Throwing By Way of Our Modern Masters" by Mark Small

Mark Small has been training in the traditional Chinese martial arts for over four decades and has combined his understanding of the "internal" arts, with his training in Shuai Chiao (Chinese wrestling) in the writing of his first book, "Taiji, Xingyi, and Baguaquan Throwing By Way of Our Modern Masters."  Broken into seven chapters over 100 pages, Mark includes an extensive glossary and lineage charts in his self published text, that is furnished with photos of old masters as well as technique breakdown of various movements from Xing Yi, Bagua, and Taiji.

Mark makes a valid attempt to combine the metaphysical aspects of the Chinese martial arts with modern combative stand up grappling, and overall I think he gives an honest effort regarding a subject matter that is near impossible to convey in English.  Starting off with a short chapter explaining the basic foundation of internal energy, upper-middle-lower dan tien (he defines these as energy centers), and how the masters of old applied this theory.  My first observation is the reader is inundated with foreign, complex terms right from the get go, so the glossary comes in handy for sure. Subject matter such as silk reeling, rooting, "dragon body" posture, etc. are quite diverse and intricate topics and Mark tries hard to convey the metaphysical classical texts in a modern combative context.

Honestly these subjects and topics are intricate and detailed enough to warrant texts of their very own, and while Small offers an introduction to these principles, it is cursory at best and I fear the absolute beginner picking up this text would be lost within a nebulous maze of verbiage.  In one breath "bio mechanics" is mentioned, but then the reader is quickly whisked back into metaphysical talk.  Fort example from chapter three:

"Let the nei jia principles and tactics needed for throwing your opponent pertain in your bio-mechanical interpretation of his intrinsic energies at the moment you intercept his force, and spiral with it, neutralizing him along changing radii and curves.  Your silk reeling dragon body  will then allow you to press into your bowed arms from your body's core, as you squeeze yourself into your opponents space or body shape.  Turn your dragon body as he turns his body to avoid being neutralized or counterattacked by him."  

A lot of info in that little paragraph that is never really clarified throughout the text.  Mark goes into some partner exercises from there which offer sound fundamental drills.  This in my humble opinion is one of the better chapters albeit too short!  Partner drills are sadly overlooked in the Chinese martial arts and true and honest sensitivity exercises often turn into weird ego contests that eventually are ruled by strange dogma.  Here Mark offers a progressive series of four exercises as a primer for getting into the actual throws and take downs that dominate the remainder of the 35 pages.

Chapter seven on the 37 throwing applications from the internal arts is a great chapter showcasing applications from one of the least respected grappling arts.... Taijiquan!  Comprised of 80% grappling and counter grappling techniques, most people think of Taiji as being a goofy, crystal rubbing, tree hugging meditation, Mark shows that to be rather inaccurate of all practitioners.  Teaching a variety of throws and takedowns, Mark also corresponds the pic to the principles found within the book which is INCREDIBLY helpful!

The pic's are black and white but Mark is savvy enough to ensure his partner is in contrasting colors so that readers can easily discern whats going on (a common mistake by authors).  The photo's are cut out which gives a rather flat / one dimensional view of the movement, but overall I think the photo's are clear enough to convey the movements and technique.

Overall Mark Small gives an honest effort with his first book, which could have benefited from some honest, objective editing.  Kudo's to Mark for tackling a subject that most would not dare, and I feel this is a step in the right direction for Chinese martial artists in regards to dissemination of information.  Far too long have we kept principles and theories "secret" for no good reason.  Way too much info has died with past secrecy.  Part of dispelling this issue is writing and producing material to get to the mass public.

So on Black Friday why not actually support a small business for once, as this book would be a perfect stocking stuffer for the martial artist in your life!

"Taiji, Xing Yi, and Baguaquan Throwing by Way of Our Modern Masters" can be purchased for $30 by clicking this link.