By: Yiu Kwong
The Research into Techniques and Reasoning of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
by Yiu Kwong
trans. by Mok Kwing-yuen
(Yiu Kwong Herbalist, 1978, 260 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
I currently own two books by Yiu Kwong: the one under consideration here and Tui Shou & San Shou in T’ai Chi Ch’üan, which he published three years later. (See below.) The order of publication befits the subject matter, this book being about general Tai Chi history, principles, and methodology, including a form instruction section, while the latter book focused on push hands. I find the push hands book a weaker effort than this one, which manages to divulge adequate information at a basic beginner level.
After eight pages of forewords, Yiu starts with a short exposition on health benefits imparted by Tai Chi before moving into the use of force in Tai Chi. This includes the distinction between muscular strength and chi power and basic explanations of each of the Eight Gates (Peng, Li, Ji, An, etc.). He then discusses various Tai Chi “powers”—or jings—such as adhering, listening, containing, and issuing. Next he illustrates the principles of pyramidal stability, inertia, and centripetal/centrifugal forces. This latter subject is generally ignored in most Category I Tai Chi books.
Yiu then describes different body parts—head, lungs, jaw, torso, waist and hips, upper limbs, and lower limbs—and how they function during the practice of Tai Chi. This also is information that is rarely divulged, at least in the context of a beginner book. He next uses Monkey Moving Backward to illustrate several details of how one transitions smoothly from one posture to another.
A handful of basic guidelines for practice follow, and after that are several illustrations of principle bones and joints and the basic range of motion of the limbs. The next four pages contain some of the briefest iterations of the Tai Chi Classics that I’ve ever seen, presented in several lists of one-liners.
The form instruction section, occupying 170 pages, finishes off the book. This shows a Yang style in fairly good detail, and the photos include stepping diagrams to assist in turning and placing the feet properly. Unfortunately, the text is not as complete as it could be to really impart instruction.
As with Yiu’s later book, this one is contains the text in both Chinese and English, which adds substantially to the page count without adding substance to those pages. In addition, the English version is marred by awkward translation. You can read it, but sometimes it’s like walking through thick mud that keeps your feet dragging.
This is not a bad beginner book, but there are better in terms of both content and writing.
Tui Shou & San Shou in T'ai Chi Ch'uan
by Yiu Kwong
translated by Mok Kwink-yuen
(Yiu Kwong Herbalist, 1981, 160 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
It’s tough to learn the movements of Tai Chi, in any of its aspects—form or push hands—from a book. Maybe not impossible, but tough. When this book on push hands came out in 1981, there were few Tai Chi resources aside from a couple of score of books and a handful of video tapes, which is why I bought it in the first place.
The text is presented in both Chinese and English, and the English version is very awkward. The author acknowledges this in his introduction, writing, “This book has been ‘roughly’ written by me. I wish readers would excuse my misinterpretations appeared in the book which have been brought about by my low level of academy.” [Sic for that whole sentence.] The awkward writing might be excused if the information imparted is of relatively high quality, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. The brief expository material is limited to thumbnail descriptions of the Eight Gates (Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Push, Pull/Pluck, split, Elbow Strike, and Shoulder Strike), which the author calls “force feats.” You can work through the unwieldy prose to glean what the author is saying, but you still won’t get a whole lot out of the descriptions.
This meager introduction is out of the way by the end of page fifteen, and the remainder of the book is devoted to instructional material on several types of push hands patterns and a great many applications based on form postures. This material is not bad, per se, and might serve if you and your partner don’t have a live teacher or access to videos, but just barely.
Over all, this is a pretty weak book in more than one aspect: My copy has fallen apart at the spine, and that certainly isn’t from overuse. Yiu's first book, The Research into Techniques and Reasoning of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, is a better beginner book, though still far from the best.