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Book Review: T’ai Chi Ch’uan for Health and Self Defense: Philosophy and Practice by Master T. T. Liang

Review by Joan Gehrke

"At first I take up T'ai Chi as a hobby,
Gradually I become addicted to it,
Finally I can no longer get rid of it.
I must keep on practicing for my whole life-
it is the only way to preserve health."

Thus begins Master T. T. Liang's unique contribution to T'ai Chi literature: T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self Defense: Philosophy and Practice. There are many books on the shelf that one can use to learn the Solo Form. This one is different. Not a simple manual delineating the postures, it is instead a complete articulation of the basic principles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. The author based his lifelong study of the art on the T'ai Chi Classics, three treatises written by ancient masters. These essays distilled the wisdom of the ancients and continue to be the key to correct and effective study of the art.

In this slim volume, Master Liang provided a clear and concise translation from the ancient Chinese of the T'ai Chi Classics, as well as his own commentaries and clarifications. This was, according to editor, Paul Gallagher, "to my knowledge, the first time that such detailed commentaries on the Classics have appeared in English." The commentaries are especially helpful since they are the product of Liang's many years of learning, practice and teaching.

Master Liang shared not only his considerable knowledge of the techniques and practical use of the art for self-defense, but also personal experiences and lessons learned about life, health, happiness and the art of getting along with others. Included also are a variety of stories about Chinese masters, legends that give us a taste of the authentic literature. Like the writing attributed to Lao Tse in The Tao De Ching, occasionally Master Liang's language seems quite simple. Yet, for the beginning student and well as the longtime practitioner, time and study reveal rich depths. During many years of study, I find this is a book I return to over and over again for its comprehensive and thoughtful advice.


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