Tai Chi Notebook News, May 25th 2023

So, a heads up about a couple of new books on the way, a robot teaching Tai Chi and a seminar write up that’s worth a mention. This post actually makes me think, should I be doing a newsletter? What do you think? Do you want one? Would you read it? Let me know!


Dragon Body, Tiger Spirit

Byron Jacob has a new translation of the Xing Yi Classics, Dragon Body, Tiger Spirit, coming out, which looks like it will include a chapter on the history of Xing Yi written by Jarek Szymanski who you may know from his popular website China from inside.

Image Credit: Mushin Martial Culture

This is looking like it’s going to be good. The title is a nice play on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and it refers to things mentioned in the Xing Yi Classics. The cover also features a nicely-colourised version of the only photo we have of the famous Xing Yi master Guo Yun Shen, which has been very nicely done. (Master Guo is the guy seated centre right, and wearing the light blue tunic, next to Master Che.)

There have been many books that contain the Xing Yi classics translated, of course, but I’m hoping that Byron’s commentary will be the thing that makes this one different.

Byron says: “Dragon Body, Tiger Spirit will be available in hardcover, softcover as well as digital versions. To be notified of release visit mushinmartialculture.com and sign up to the newsletter.”

I’ll do a review once I get my hands on a copy.


Yang Style Short Form

Another nicely presented book on my horizon is Yang Style Short Form by Sifu Leo Ming and Caroline Addenbrooke. The short form in question is the Cheng Man-Ching Tai Chi form, and calling it the “Yang Short Form” is a bit of a liberty, since it is not the official Yang Short Form. But names aside, it looks like it’s going to be interesting.

Here’s the description:

“A beginners guide to Taiji Chuan is a comprehensive training guide for all students of Taiji who are serious about mastering the art of Taiji. It is unique in that it details each of the forty four postures that make up the complete Yang Style Short Form, and it does so in a way that the student can experience the smallest nuance of each movement, from the opening sequence to the closing posture.”

It sounds interesting, especially since it goes on to say it will teach you how to breathe correctly during your practice and how the “Tan Tien drives all movement, opening the meridians so that the universal llife [sic] force can flow through you. “

A spelling mistake in the description of the book on the website (“llife”) is a bit of a red flag, but that could be Barnes & Nobles fault, and nothing to do with the book. However, I’m curious about the use of “Taiji Chuan” as a Romanisation on the cover though, since it seems to mix both Pinyin and Wade-Giles Romanisation systems. I have genuinely never seen anybody mix the two quite like this before. It’s usually either “Tai Chi Chuan” or “Taijiquan”. This will upset some people, I’m sure, but I don’t mind.

I’ll be reviewing the book soon.

Robot Tai Chi

I guess it was inevitable, but somebody has made a life-size robot that teaches Tai Chi.

Image Credit: Credit: Rochester Institute of Technology

Depending on how it works (there’s no video!) this looks quite impressive, however, I’m left with one burning question – why? I don’t know how many thousands or millions of dollars it took to create this robot, but economically I’m pretty sure that paying Bob, your local Tai Chi teacher $50 to teach Tai Chi to the people in the old folks home once a week is a business model that is going to be hard for a multi-million dollar robot to beat. This looks like a solution in search of a problem to me.

Chen style seminar write up

Let me give a shout out to my friend Ken Gullette of Internal Fighting Arts for his write up of a recent seminar with Chen Tai Chi mastermind Nabil Ranne in Philadelphia. Here’s a quote:

“What impressed me most about Nabil’s teaching was the level of detail. And there were differences — in the shorter stances where feet are parallel most of the time, in the shifting of weight, in the awareness of different jin in each movement, the fullness of the dan t’ien and the coordination of the mingmen, the opening and closing of the chest and back, the folding of the chest and stomach, the closing power in the legs, the grounding from the heels, the stability of the knees and the spiraling through the feet, and connecting it all in each movement; and peng — always maintaining peng, which I have worked on for over two decades but still learn new aspects.”

Image Credit: Ken Gullette

Nabil teaches Tai Chi in the Chen Yu lineage, and to my eye seems by far the best of the teachers available if you want to follow that particular line of Chen style. Plus, you can learn with him online at the Chen Style Taijiquan Network

If you want to get a quick glimpse of his style of Tai Chi then check out this Instagram page.


Recent Tai Chi Notebook posts

Here are 3 things I wrote this week that you should read:

1. The power of connection with Henry Akins:

I came across this video recently of Henry Akins explaining the concept of connection in BJJ, as taught to him by Rickson Gracie, and it doesn’t half remind me of Tai Chi…

2. Way of the Warrior episode: Shorinji Kempo

The classic BBC TV series, Way of the Warrior’s episode on Shorinji Kempo just appeared online, and it still holds up today.

3. Where should the elbows be in Xing Yi?

This blog is about a weird quirk of the Xing Yi world. There’s a surprisingly large amount of online debate in Xing Yi circles about where the elbow should be when performing Xing Yi.

If you haven’t checked The Tai Chi Notebook out on Facebook then please do, and why not give our Instagram page a look too, and our YouTube channel?

6 thoughts on “Tai Chi Notebook News, May 25th 2023

  1. Mike – I don’t know what these intriguing anecdotes in Xingyiquan lore you are talking about are, but might I humbly suggest that if you want to see that material out in the world, then why not just write it? I’m happy to publish it here for you. 😉


  2. The Best book recently released on Tai Chi is a book called Yi Chi Li of Opening & Closing and the Five Loosening Exercises of Tai Chi by Glenn
    Blythe a must read for anyone who is serious about Tai Chi.


  3. Hi Kathy – it has the same price on Amazon. It’s hardback and contains over 200 photographs (possibly all in colour???) That might just be the price of a product like that these days?


  4. Hi. Thanks for the info on the books. I’m interested in both but also interested in the Yang Style Short form for my beginner students. However, the book is $49 on Barnes and Noble. Do you know if it is less expensive elsewhere?


  5. Check the date in your title, Graham.

    Surely the West has advanced further than to give legitimacy to various choreographies like the ones from robots, or Cheng Man Ching’s misuse of the Yang name, etc.? I’d be more interested in seeing legitimate and knowledgeable discussions about the body mechanics of the internal arts and less focus on the superficial forms and historical guesses. For instance, there are some intriguing anecdotes in Xingyiquan lore that discuss physical attainments from extended standing-post exercises: those would be great topics. How about the why’s and wherefores of Fangsong, across the spectrum of martial arts? Few westerners really know about Fangsong other than as a buzzword to dutifully acknowledge. As long as we’re on the level of giving the least head nods to things like robots teaching Taiji choreography, we’ll never get out of this hole! 😉


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