Anatomy of Yang Family Tai Chi

anatomyreview1Steffan de Graffenried
copyright 2007 , Nomentira Publications
108 Pages

In every book where an experienced practitioner “tells it like it is” you have the potential for real benefits and, at the same time, some real confusion. “Anatomy of Yang Family Tai Chi” by Steffan de Graffenried is a perfect example of how hard it is to do the one without the other. There are some really helpful insights here which can offer aid to the right student at the proper time. As de Graffenried says in his preface:

“Applying the principles in this book may or may not shorten your Tai Chi journey but at least you will have a clear idea of where you are going and how you will get there.”

Even this “at least” is a tall order for anyone trying to represent Tai Chi’s complexity through the written word. De Graffenried definitely exhibits the real ambition of attempting this by expanding and explaining theTai Chi Classics.

His points often nicely clarify and simplify. “When we say dropping the elbows, it means to drop the elbows downward with gravity naturally.”

Sometimes his enthusiasm for sharing technical points (like every other instructor, including your reviewer) leads to puzzlers like … “You will move the skin on the outside of the upper area of the rear thigh toward the front. The skin on the inside of the rear thigh moves to the rear. In essence, the rear (empty) thigh is rotating inwardly.”

The author also takes on some of the more difficult and layered aspects of teaching this art such as introducing concepts of qi and qi projection. Some of the examples given as being demonstrative we found less than convincing but the effort to deal with this complex area will be of interest to instructors.

But the real question is how do you aim just the right level of information to just the right reader? You don’t. In this game you re-awaken the original meaning of the word “broadcast”, throwing out the seeds at random and hoping some will catch and grow.

The best thing about de Graffenried’s new book is its open-hearted, straight forward attempt to offer what he has learned and what his students have taught him. A long time practitioner of the arts, he has seen and noted the statistical tendency of errors to fall into certain patterns. In this book he speaks to the solutions with analogies and insights. Will they work for everyone? It doesn’t matter. If they work for you the price of the book is insignificant.

P. S. If you are that new kind of creature, that I call the “dumb literalist” then avoid this book. When, for example, de Graffenried mentions “hollow the crotch and protect the hips”, he’s not writing about a shovel and a shield. You will need a modicum of imagination and applicationg to transform what could be misread into practical, useful advice .


Mr. Steffan de Graffenried is a linguist and martial instructor. He has been studying since 1972. His current teacher is Doc Fai Wong and has been since 1992. Mr. de Graffenried has worked in many styles such as Judo, Tang Soo Do, Hung Gar, Northern Shaolin, Bagua and others.

Take me to this book.

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