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Review by Christopher Dow
Douglas Lee’s Tai Chi Chuan: The Philosophy of Yin and Yang and Its Application is yet another Category I book; however, it’s a pretty big step up from the norm. The historical section covers a basic background on kung fu in general and distinguishes the soft schools of martial arts from the hard. Lee goes into the mythical history of tai chi, but begins by saying, “No one knows for sure the exact origins of Tai Chi Chuan.” He tells the stories, not because he believes them but because they are part of tai chi lore.
He then moves on to more specific material on tai chi, including the philosophy behind it. Next comes a chapter on the general principles of tai chi practice, and in this, he’s fairly thorough, economically covering many aspects, such as naturalness, calmness, flow, attention and intention, and breathing, among others. Experienced tai chi players may know all this, but it’s an excellent exposition for those who are newer to the art.
Then comes the chapter demonstrating the form, and the usually clear photos are accompanied by fairly detailed text. This is a non-standard and fairly small-framed Yang style. Lee refers to it as “Tai Chi’s Eighty-Eight. The movements are clearly expressed and executed decently enough.
An all-too-brief chapter on the Tai Chi Classics, here unnamed, boils down a few of the Classics into essential points. The chapter that follows covers push hands, but the verbal explanations do not have photos or illustrations, so it’s hard to see how they can deliver real information on this aspect of tai chi except in the ideas that can be found here and there in the text, such as an adequate discussion of tai chi’s circle/square dichotomy and a couple of good sections on faulty and correct practice.
Another brief but economically stated section on applications does not attempt to detail specific applications but discusses such concepts as distance and positioning, sticking, focused power, base of support, and the power of circularity. Again, the information is not something you can’t find elsewhere, but Lee delivers a condensed version that covers most of the bases.
The book winds up with another brief chapter on weapons and, finally, with a couple of pages on the master/pupil relationship.
In the opening above, I called this a Category I book, and it is, but it’s one of the better ones and begins to edged into Category II territory. If you’re in the market for a beginner’s book on tai chi, you could do a lot worse than buying this one.
by Douglas Lee
(Ohara Publications, 1976, 160 pages)