A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
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Review by Christopher Dow
The title of An Introduction to Tai Chi and Taoist Energy Meditation says it all about this book. It is only an introduction, and a spare one at that. A slight expository chapter introduces the philosophical basis of tai chi, but does not go into the history or principles of the art.
There follows a depiction of a short Yang style form with descriptive text. The text is only adequate, but the photos actually manage to depict movement rather than just static end postures thanks to their linear arrangement along the top of the page and helpful arrows that indicate how the limbs will move to arrive at the pose shown in the next photo.
A chapter titled “Taoist Energy Meditation” is next. These are essentially chi kung exercises mixed with stretching, all well-enough explained that the reader could learn how to do these exercises from the photos and descriptions.
A lot of people who practice tai chi for a while feel the need to write a book. I can’t knock that since I’m the same. Maybe it's just a part of the learning process: Organizing your thought on tai chi and putting down what you think you know so you can see if it makes sense.This is Khor’s book—or at least one of them—but I have to say that it isn’t very informative, even for a beginner. It's the photo on the front cover that points to the book's strengths. The cover shot depicts Khor performing Snake Slithers Down, oddly from a left-hand set instead of the more usual right-hand form. Or perhaps the book cover designer flopped the photo for design purposes. Either way, this stroboscopic type of photo, of which this is a relatively early example among tai chi books, gives a nice sense of movement over shots of static end postures only.
When this photo—a visual example of movement in stillness—is combined with the way the form is depicted in the photo series, it would seem that the book has more positive visual qualities than it does infornational ones. And that's not a bad thing considering that tai chi is a dynamic art. So perhaps its strengths outweigh its weakesses for a book of this type. Today, though, these sorts of photos are relatively moot with the advent of easily-accessed videos of just about every aspect of tai chi possible.
In the end, the book's lack of real informational value is its downfall, but it does possess some historical interest within tai chi literature as a fairly early and fairly successful example of attempts to show movement with still photos.
by Gary Khor
(Boobook Publications, 1981, 64 pages)