A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
is published by
All material © 2016
by Bruce Frantzis
(Blue Snake Books, 2008, 226 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Bruce Frantzis has become pretty well know since I first saw articles he wrote for Tai Chi Magazine back in the 1980s. These days, he’s one of the more successful of the crop of American tai chi players who’ve risen to the top of their game during the past couple of decades. He’s also a fairly prolific writer on tai chi, chi kung, bagua, and xing-i, with a double-handful of books to his credit, some of which are fairly hefty tomes.
In the dedication to The Chi Revolution: Harness the Healing Power of Your Life Force, Frantzis says, “This book is the culmination of all the knowledge of chi I have acquired in over forty years as a martial artist, chi master, Taoist priest and energetic healer.” Perhaps, though as we all know, words simply can’t say everything, and tai chi and chi kung are pretty deep subjects. Nonetheless, Frantzis has produced in this book a fairly interesting survey that defines chi, both microcosmically and macrocosmically, encourages the reader to take up chi-building and -developing exercises, and gives practical examples to accomplish that.
I have to admit that I’m not a fan of self-help and self-realization books—the sort of book that combines a rather amorphous sense that we, too, are gods, with the idea that, despite our godhood, we need the author's help to give our lives meaning or to fulfill our destinies. It’s not that I don’t believe that we, as individuals, can’t do something to better ourselves. I do. Heck, I’ve been practicing tai chi for nearly forty years, so I must think we can do something to make ourselves more whole. It’s just that too many of these books are page after page of “positive thinking” that all too often seems more like wishful thinking.
The Chi Revolution might dip a little too deeply into this territory for my taste, but Frantzis is a good enough writer that he can maintain an extended narrative such as this, and he drops enough solid information here and there to keep it real and interesting for the most part. Perhaps one of the more significant aspects is that he draws a direct link between discomforts, faults, and deficiencies that are physical and those that are mental, emotional, and spiritual. That’s not really a new idea, but Frantzis provides practical ways to help integrate the body, mind, and spirit through specific chi-building and developing exercises. These exercises comprise roughly the second half of the book.
Even though the book contains some instructional material, I think it’s best defined as an extended meditation on chi arts and what they mean on a larger scale as well as for individuals. All-in-all, this book is for the beginner or intermediate student, and I can’t say I really learned anything from it. But it was a nice enough read, and sometimes it’s reinforcing to hear, once more, how things work and why we should try to make them work better.