By: The People's Sports Publishing House
The Chinese Way to Family Health & Fitness: Wushu!
The People’s Sports Publishing House
Material selected and translated by Timothy Tung
Edited by Jane Garton
(Simon & Schuster/Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1981, 144 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
The Chinese Way to Family Health & Fitness: Wushu! has almost as many chefs as it does dishes, and it offers a large menu. In basic content, if not in form, the book is similar to The Chinese Way to a Long and Healthy Life by another of the Chinese Government's departments, the People’s Medical Publishing House. Both are compendiums of kung fu, wushu, and chi kung exercises and other health techniques. This one begins with a two-page introduction by none other than Dame Margot Fonteyn, the prima ballerina assoluta of the English Royal Ballet, who writes briefly but knowingly on the basic parameters of the Chinese martial arts.
After that, it’s nothing but workout after workout, arranged in three logical sections: external exercises, internal exercises, and exercises to prevent certain diseases. Each section opens with a introduction on the principles involved in its particular style of exercises, and that is followed by several groups of exercises that often are linked together, sometimes in a form, sometimes in a routine. For example, the first cluster of exercises in the external exercise section is called “Silk Exercises.” These consist of four sets, each with seven to ten individual exercises. This basic pattern holds true for every cluster of exercises, though the number of sets and individual activities varies.
The second cluster is interesting for a martial arts exercise book. Titled, “First-Year Exercises,” it offers a number of exercise activities that a parent can do with an infant. Start 'em young. The other clusters are Playground Exercises, Farmer’s Exercises, Coffee Break Exercises, and Animal Play. This last one displays exercises related to the tiger, bear, monkey, deer, and crane that go back to the dawn of Chinese martial arts. After showing each basic exercise, the rest of the chapter shows a large number of variations on each animal theme.
After its intro on principles, the section on internal exercises begins by demonstrating the 28-movement Tai Chi form created by the Chinese National Sports Committee. A short Tai Chi sword form follows, and the section winds up with several pages on push hands, here called “the Taiji Duet.”
A great many of the exercises to prevent certain diseases are repeated from earlier sections, here given more of a medical slant. They are accompanied by other healthcare strategies, such as breathing, eye exercises, massage, and certain kinds of baths. The book closes with a table of the exercises in the book showing physical effects and points to remember.
Because most of the exercises in this book—excluding the tai chi forms—are simple movements that repeat, it should be fairly simple to learn whatever you want from this book. The exercise are succinctly but well explained, and they are accompanied by small but excellent drawings showing the body movements.
It’s hard to criticize a book like this. The material is cogent, and the book is well done, informative within its scope, and illustrative of what it speak of. But it’s also a sort of pick-and-choose sort of book. There’s no way a person could do all these exercises daily and hold down a job. But if you could, you’d be the fittest person around.