By: Gene Po Wong
Tai Chi 37: Fist and Qi
Tai Chi Eleven:
Low Maintenance Exercise
by Gene Po Wong
(Gene Po Wong, 2016, 106 pages, and 2015, 112 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Tai Chi 37 and Tai Chi Eleven by Gene Po Wong are both basic Category I books designed to explicate form rather than to impart the history, philosophy, dynamics, or techniques of Tai Chi.
The former book demonstrates a version of Cheng Man-ching’s thirty-seven movement Yang form. The scanty prefatory material segues quickly into the form instruction, which is illustrated with good-quality color photographs accompanied by explanatory text. All of this is presented as adequately as in most such books, and clearly this book is of most value to those who practice Cheng’s thirty-seven movement style—particularly beginners and Wong's own students.
Tai Chi Eleven is essentially similar in scope, but it is a bit more interesting in that the form it depicts is a version of the rarer Wu/Hao Style—specifically, a twenty-one movement form developed by Wu Yu-xiang (1812–1880). These days, Wu/Hao is a lesser-seen style, but it occupies an important place in Tai Chi history: It, along with Yang Style, are the only two direct offshoots of Chen Family Tai Chi.
In addition to illustrating and explaining the movements of this relative rarity, Wong begins with some light-stress limbering/chi kung exercises that are easy to perform and learn and that would work well with any Tai Chi style. They also would be excellent for people with limited strength and mobility. Following the chapter of form instruction, Wong delivers another, shorter set of limbering/chi kung exercises that also are simple yet effective.
Both of these books are clearly intended for students of these particular forms, and they serve that purpose well, though there will not be much of interest to practitioners of other styles or those who are more experienced.
Wong prefaces Tai Chi 37 with a poem of his own composition, so it is worthwhile to note here that Wong, who professionally is an engineer, also is a photographer and poet. He has collected samples of both these arts in a small coffee-table book titled Mindography, juxtaposing beautiful color photos taken around the world with pithy and evocative poems that frequently relate to the images they are paired with. Not specifically Tai Chi related, but very nice, nonetheless.