A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
is published by
All material © 2016
Review by Christopher Dow
Da Liu is one of the earlier writers in English on Tai Chi, and he produced several books on the subject, most of which could be called Category I books. T’ai Chi Ch’uan and I Ching is no different, though it does trend, in parts, toward Category II, thanks to its delving into the parallels between Tai Chi and the I Ching.
In the introduction, Liu succinctly outlines Tai Chi philosophy and history, giving several paragraphs to the Chang San-feng legend without lending it unalloyed credence. He then moves on to an introduction to the I Ching, and from there, to a look at Taoism and the concepts of yin and yang. As with the history, Liu covers the bases without wasting words, and he includes a couple of nice anecdotes to illustrate his points. He also briefly discusses the elements of the Microcosmic Orbit and how it functions. Again, this is not deep stuff, but it’s a good introduction.
The next chapter, “The Principles of Movement in T’ai Chi Ch’uan,” performs as advertised, discussing the role of the mind before making a distinction between internal movement (breathing and blood circulation) and external movement (smoothness, balance, centering, relaxation, continuity, and coordination). The chapter winds up with a section guiding practice, going into slowness, effortlessness, and heaviness and lightness.
Following is the form instruction section, which displays a short Yang style adequately described and depicted. But it’s the next chapter that makes this book diverge from the usual Category I book.
In this chapter, Liu draws direct parallels between the Tai Chi postures and specific hexagrams from the I Ching. The material is more akin to the texts describing the meanings of the hexagrams than it is a specific learning aid. But it is interesting nonetheless. Apparently, there are only 37 such parallels—at least as relate to his form—instead of 64, which would be the full complement available in the I Ching. Maybe if his form were longer…?
A chapter on self-defense comes next, and this probably is the weakest parts of the book, giving only a superficial gloss on push hands and a few applications. But then, this is an introductory text, not a lengthier, in-depth analysis of Tai Chi’s self-defense aspects.
The final chapter covers Taoist meditation as it relates to Tai Chi. In it, Liu describes Tai Chi as a sort of alchemical transformation, echoing the self-development theme that runs throughout the book. He then goes into how chi is circulated in the body through the Microcosmic Orbit, which he calls the Lesser Heavenly Circulation, and from there into how the chi moves within specific Tai Chi movements. This is not a catalog of chi circulation, but more of carrot dangled in front of the donkey’s nose to help lead us in the right direction.
I appreciated the good quality of Liu’s writing, which delivers solid information that is well-organized. For an introductory book, you could do a lot worse than this.
by Da Liu
(Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972, 86 pages)