Jul 18

Book Review: Simplified Tai Chi Chuan

Overall, I enjoyed Simplified Tai Chi Chuan: 24 Postures with Applications & Standard 48 Postures (Revised).

After many years of reading books on Okinawan martial arts, it’s refreshing to learn new information from the Chinese martial arts, and it’s enlightening to corroborate information between the two styles.

To me, the first three chapters were the most beneficial of this book. That almost seems contradictory, since the final two chapters are dedicated two the 24 postures with applications and the 48 postures.

I’ll explain why.

First of all, the history and philosophy of martial arts are always interesting to me. Dr. Liang and Mr. Wu do it in a way that’s different from another prolific YMAA writer, Dr. Yang, but effective, nonetheless.

I found their explanation of yin and yang very beneficial, explained to me in a way that resonated with me that hadn’t before. Additionally, they goes into detail about the five element theory, which I also benefitted from.

Dr. Liang and Mr. Wu go to great length to suggest the proper body movements and breathing for tai chi chuan practice.

Finally, they provides a number of stretches and qigong exercises, adding to my growing library of them.

As the authors say, “it is never an easy task to learn from a book.”

I would agree. They provide great information for body awareness and positioning as you’re in the postures, but I take issue with some of the applications here. I would prefer to see principles of movement taught by tai chi chuan as opposed to the selected applications that are in this book.

There are two people in this book: White and Gray. White is always attacking Gray, and Gray is always showing you the applications of the moves.

Except White’s punches often look very much like a traditional karate-ka’s, a position that is often criticized. It’s something I’m to move myself and my students away from in karate for the purposes pointed out in that link.

Two, some of Gray’s defenses seem awfully contrived.

For example, in the second application of Wave Hands Like Clouds, White attacks with a simultaneous punch and a kick. I don’t watch a lot of UFC, but it’s the closest thing to actual street fighting I see. And I don’t see a lot of simultaneous punches and kicks.

Further, White often appears to have the ability to throw a second punch when Gray completes his initial defense. Some moves, in particular, suggest Gray moving directly into the line of White’s attack.

This means one of a couple of things.

One, the pictures were taken for one of the earlier editions of the book.

Two, the authors are showing very basic interpretations.

Three, a combination of both.

Whatever the case, there is a DVD available to accompany the book (as is with most YMAA publications).

To give you a preview of what the moves look like, YMAA has selected a few videos to watch on their site.

What’s more, they’re great at giving you a PDF excerpt.

Pick up this book if you’re serious about tai chi, but work the applications with an instructor you trust to help you decide whether you think these will work for you.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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