By: Herman Kauz
Tai Chi Handbook
Exercise, Meditation, and Self-Defense
by Herman Kauz
(Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1974, 190 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Before I attended my first Tai Chi class in early 1980, I thought I’d better get an idea of what I was getting into, so I went out and bought a book. That book was Tai Chi Handbook: Exercise, Meditation, and Self-Defense, by Herman Kauz. Why did I pick this one? I don’t remember, but probably it was one of the few in the bookstore at the time.
I found the book interesting when I first read it since everything in it was new to me. That was then. Now, I look on it as a rather typical Category I book, with introductory text that gives a decent gloss on the history and philosophy of Tai Chi followed by a section of instructional photos and text that occupies the vast majority of the book.
One of the good things about Kauz’s introductory chapters is that he inserts a note of caution when discussing the more extravagant claims about Tai Chi. In the “Introduction,” he writes: “Often unbounded enthusiasm of teachers and students for their particular art must not be permitted to cloud our vision.” And he takes a level approach to examining the claims made for Tai Chi and putting them into proper context and focus, noting that Tai Chi isn’t the perfect exercise and that those who become expert at it also work very hard and diligently to get to that point.
The form depicted in the photo series, like those illustrated in several such books of the era, is Cheng Man-ching’s short form, demonstrating Cheng’s pervasive influence on American Tai Chi. The photo series and accompanying text, however, are more complete and thorough than are found in most similar books, and a person might just be able to learn the form from them. But they also would prove valuable to anyone who practices Professor Cheng’s version of Yang style.
This isn’t a bad book, but it’s a beginner’s book or, perhaps, a reference for Cheng style students. Maybe it’s most lasting influence on me was that it convinced me to wear V-neck t-shirts since Kauz looked so good in them.