Demystifying Tai Chi

by Tu-Ky Lam
249 Pages

bk_etc22mAccording to his own report Tu-Ky Lam was amazed, when he first encountered Yi Quan, at the power that could be generated using their methods. This wasn’t the first time he had tried to get to the core of the Internal Styles and Tai Chi in particular. But this event marks well his determination to learn, and the fact that he goes on to explain the dynamics of his Yi Quan encounter–how it works and why–attest to the honest attempt to fulfill the promise of the title.

But CAN you “demystify” Tai Chi? The answer has to be a yes and a no. We are reminded of the story that physicist, Richard Feynman, tells about worrying what he was supposed to say to reporters to explain why he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics. On the cab drive to the meeting Feynman explains the situation to his cab driver (picture that) and gets the sage advise, “Don’t explain it. Tell ’em if you could explain it you wouldn’t got it in the foist place.” Which is what Feynman does.

So can Lam explain and demystify Tai Chi? Not the question. Are we interested in how he tries to accomplish this? That’s the question. Through a compilation of articles he has writte–many of which appeared in Tai Chi Magazine (not a periodical itself known for demystification)–he tries to build a picture of all the techniques that might bring success, and the wrong thinking that assures wheel spinning.

He proceeds to do what all us hopeless teaching enthusiasts do: he gets into the nuts and bolts. He discusses the pelvic tuck. He spins the tale of the rotating Tan Tian of Chen style. He compares standing in Tai Chi, Yi Quan and Xing Yi. He translates his teacher, Ma Hong’s, essays (!). He shows us how to increase internal power through strength training methods. He shoots out honest opinions (not something unusual with the new opinion-journalism approach)and also shows his shortcomings (more unique). He teaches you how to visualize Yi Quan style and discusses how important Push Hands can be. The book has occasional typos, few pictures and sometimes repeats itself in different essays. It doesn’t set out to accomplish what it’s title boldly pronounces, but it does fulfill another Feynman requirement, “Never lie to the layman.”

If you wish it would all be a lot simpler and more straightforward you should understand that we are repairing centuries of suppression and neglect. Lam and others are coming forward in unprecedented numbers to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand. We’re all a little crazy trying to share secrets we barely understand and can’t even communicate with ease. But there’s an excitement starting and the CHEN trigram, Thunder, is rumbling under foot.

Tu-Ky Lam was Ma Hong’s (a disciple of Chen Zhao-Kui) senior student . He’s spent over 15 years researching, writing about and teaching Tai Chi.

Take me to this book.


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