By: Tina Chunna Zhang and Frank Allen
Classical Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan
The Fighting Art of the Manchurian Palace Guard
by Tina Chunna Zhang & Frank Allen
(Blue Snake Books, 2006, 204 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Even though this is a Category I book, it is more significant than most simply because it depicts Northern Wu Style Tai Chi, which is only rarely seen in Tai Chi literature.
The introductory chapters on the philosophy and general history of Tai Chi are fairly standard fare for books such as this, but then the authors go into an entire chapter on the development and dissemination of Northern Wu Style, including page-long biographies of several important Wu and Northern Wu masters, from Wu Quan-yu to Li Bing Ci, who taught author Zhang.
The chapter ends with a section on the characteristics of Northern Wu Style, which leads effortlessly into the next chapter on the principles of Wu Style. These include principles of internal posture, breathing, compression and expansion, lengthening, and harmony of opposites.
The form instruction chapter is preceded by a short chapter on hand postures and stances. The form instruction photos and text are fairly complete and are detailed enough to follow. Push hands and applications come next, and again, the photos are pretty good. Straight sword instruction occupies the next chapter, and it’s on par with the open-hand form instruction.
The final chapter is titled, “The Practice of Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan,” but the information applies to the practice of Tai Chi in general. Included are sections on jin and spirit, and while the material is not specifically instructional, there’s a lot of important stuff here about posture, connectedness, softness, rooting, and other important aspects of Tai Chi. You might have heard most of it before, but the authors state it pretty well.
This book didn’t come out until after I’d been practicing Northern Wu Style for twenty years. In fact, it was discovered by one of my students who’d moved out of state and sent me a copy. But I wish it had come out sooner. The form depicted is the closest that I’ve found anywhere to the form I practice. However, like most of us, I didn’t learn from books, so it probably wouldn’t have helped me much in that respect. But it’s nice to see validation of a form that is less-well known than most but that remains interesting and effective. And this is a pretty good book of its type, particularly considering the Wu-specific biographical material in chapter two.
For another take on Northern Wu style, see Wang Peisheng's Wu Style Taijiquan.