By: Paul Crompton
T'ai Chi for Two
The Practice of Push Hands
by Paul Crompton
(Shambhala, 1989, 122 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
You might be able to learn push hands from Paul Crompton’s T’ai Chi for Two. Maybe, though these days, you probably can learn this stuff as well or better from YouTube videos if you don’t have someone to teach you. But instruction isn’t the real value of the book despite the basically adequate descriptions of specific push hands patterns and techniques.
Instead, the best thing about this book is that it’s an extended meditation that delves into the personal, interpersonal, and larger spiritual aspects of push hands. Crompton lays these out in a calm, measured tone tempered by experience. In general, he takes a no-nonsense approach that insists on the ideas that detached observation trumps desire and that letting go is the swiftest way forward.
Along the way, he delves into the implications of the taijitu (the tai chi symbol), the concept of chi, and the importance of having an empty mind, all with a healthy debunking of some of the more extravagant mythology surrounding Tai Chi. And the whole is peppered with stories and anecdotes to illustrate his points, making this more fun to read than his otherwise composed prose might indicate.
Most of the middle of the book is taken up by instructional photos and text, but even if you’re not specifically interested in studying the techniques, you shouldn’t skip this section but continue reading since there’s a lot of interesting information tucked into it. The final chapters discuss Taoist teachings in modern terms.
This book falls somewhere between Category II and Category III, containing a lot of philosophical musings mixed with somewhat detailed instructional material, though it is geared more toward the beginner and intermediate student than toward the advanced one.