WILD COLONIAL BOY - REVIEW BY DOCTOR MARNIX WELLS
Tai Chi the True History & Principles by Lars Bo Christensen
REVIEW BY DAN DOCHERTY
Mr. Christensen is a Danish practitioner of Tung Style Tai Chi. He kindly sent me a copy of his new book ‘Tai Chi the True History & Principles’ for review.
The premise of the book is that since Yang Luchan went to teach Tai Chi in the Forbidden City in 1852, the true history of its origins have never been told until now…
The book’s contention is that it all started in the Tang Village in Henan Province, when, during the compilation of a genealogy of the Li clan and the Tang Village some ancient dated and signed copies of TCC texts were discovered - some predating Yang’s move to Beijing by more than 250 years.
As well as the TCC texts, they discovered an old rubbing of a stone tablet from the 1000 Year Temple [said to have been built in the Eastern Han dynasty , 25-220 AD], in the Tang Village. The1000 Year Temple with all its records was demolished in the 1950s. The stone tablet from which the rubbing was taken was erected in 1716.
The rubbing records the life of Li Daozi from the Tang dynasty [618-956 AD]. Li was a martial artist who used softness to overcome hardness, had magic healing powers and died in the temple at the age of 128. He created Wu ji / Chi Yangsheng Wugong [No Ultimate Health Preserving Martial Training]. He was given the art in a dream.
The Li family recorded in the genealogy that the 8th generation founder of the Li family, Li Chunmao [1568-1666] learned philosophy and martial arts at the temple, including 13 Movements Boxing.
The genealogy also claims that Li Chunmao’s two sons were cousins of Chen Wangting from Chen Village and that these three cousins all studied at the temple. Eclectic boxer Chang Naizhou is also claimed to have studied with the Li family.
There is more. The Li family Manual gives a list of Tai Chi Classics and names of techniques which are almost identical to those from the Yang and Wu families. They are all signed and dated.
What are we to make of all this?
First off everything seems so glib. There is also a Question and Answer you can go to which deals with verification issues and other matters. We know that faking and lying is endemic in Chinese culture. I have a beautiful Chinese vase in my art collection. The reign name Cheng Hua [1464-1487] is stamped on the bottom. The Percival David Foundation for Chinese Art pronounced it a fake.
When I first visited Wudang Mountain in 1984 n the hillside just above the temples at the Southern Cliff, there was a sword which purported to have belonged to Chang Sanfeng[circa 14th century]. It looked near new. The same applies to the sword supposedly that of General Qi Jiguang [1528-87] which I saw in a temple in Quanzhou
Dr. Alan Peatfield, my archaeologist friend, told me that a Chinese colleague confided in him that when ancient bronze artefacts were unearthed and their dating was different from the official listings, they were simply destroyed.
It seems amazing that all trace of this mysterious Li family TCC just disappeared for hundreds of years
It seems strange that there is no mention of them in any TCC texts until now.
It seems strange that the TCC Classics texts were stored in a small room for 300 years.
It seems strange that Chen Wangting is listed as a disciple of the Li family yet he doesn’t mention them in his writings.
It seems strange that Wang Zongyue is listed as a disciple of the Li family yet he doesn’t mention them in his writings.
It seems strange that Chang Naizhou is also listed as a disciple of the Li family yet he doesn’t mention them in his writings.
It seems strange that leading TCC historian, Wu Tunan and his detailed investigations into the origins of TCC, are nowhere mentioned.
It seems strange that there is all this new detail about certain people, but little or nothing about Jiang Fa, just a vague speculation that he may have introduced other martial arts techniques to both the Chen and Zhaobao Villages.
It is the world of truth and lies after al, so I find Mr. Christensen’s case not proven. I believe him to be honest and sincere and his book contains some very interesting new material and for this I recommend the book.
The Qigong Bible by Katherine Allen
Review by Dan Docherty
The excellent Godsfield Bible series has a recent addition to its Bible format with the publication of my good friend, Katherine Allen's new book, 'The Qigong Bible'.
There has long been a need for a book like this; a book that traces the origins and development of Qigong, but which shows and clearly explains both individual basic exercises as well as complex Qigong sets. The beginner, the older student, those suffering from a medical condition are shown how to modify some of the exercises to fit their own level of mobility.
All aspects of Qigong are covered - martial, meditative, health, sexual, alchemical. medical and more. People often say that you can't learn Tai Chi or Qigong from a book. This book proves the doubters wrong; the text and illustrations are so clear that it would be no problem at all to learn the vast majority of techniques shown directly from the book.
Each exercise is analysed and explained and the health benefits are given. It is interesting also to read the case histories of people Katherine has helped with her teachings.
The historical and cultural material is detailed and includes some unusual references
With the publication of this book, Katherine and her publishers have done a real service to the Chinese Internal arts and to the public health
Available at: amazon.co.uk
A MANCS LIFE BY BOB MELIA
I’ve been friends with Bob Melia from Manchester for more than 20 years.
‘A Mancs Life’ chronicles Bob’s life in the complex Manchester martial arts world. He started out with a bit of Judo, then went to Wing Chun including a period under the well respected Samuel Kwok. His conclusion was that though it was effective, it didn’t suit his temperament. For some time he trained in Thai Boxing at Master Toddy’s gym. Finally he got into the old style Kung Fu he loves so much under Sifu Chiu Siu-woon who was originally from Tibet. Sifu Chiu’s skills included Butterfly Palm, Iron Palm, Virgin [before puberty] Qigong, 72 Qinna Hand, Buddha’s Sabre, Small Plum Blossom Fist, Lion Dance [Bob is generally considered the best non-Chinese Lion Dance drummer in Europe] etc.
Sifu Chiu’s core system was Chu Gar Hung Kuen and Bob was the only student to receive a complete transmission of the art, through daily personal tuition. For many years he has been searching for dedicated disciples to whom he can give a full transmission of this rare art.
Bob also trained in Escrima and other Filipino warrior arts under Krishna Godhiana so much so that he was able to develop his own syllabus.
In 2001 through the kind offices of our mutual friend, Phil Morrell, Bob met Dave Martin, a disciple of Sun Lutang’s daughter, Sun Jianyun. Being a fast learner, Bob pretty soon became a certified instructor of Sun Style and went on to train in China in Sun Style Tai Chi and Sun Style Xingyi.
Subsequently in 2010 Bob met Sifu Chen Huiying, a discipline of the famous Feng Zhiqiang who sorted out bob’s herniated disc with Qigong. From Sifu Chen Bob learned a 38 step Pao Chui form, Hunyuan Qigong and pushing hands.
Bob is something of a renaissance man. He has a wife and young daughter in Thailand and has got involved in Krabi Krabong weapons training. He has trained in how to make and apply traditional Thai herbal remedies and gives Thai massage. He also gives lessons in traditional Thai cookery.
Bob’s life has been something of a saga. This is reflected by the many interesting anecdotes. He talks of fights with triads, of his long term diabetes and weight problems, of the many interesting characters he has met along the way. The book is fun to read and instructive too – there are few martial artists I have met with the dedication Bob has shown throughout his life. He’s a good man and I’m proud to be a friend of his. I wish the book every success.
[Bob’s book can be downloaded from Kindle, from www.lulu.com and from other E book sites.]
Wile, Douglas. 2016. ‘Fighting Words: Four New Document Finds Reignite Old Debates in Taijiquan Historiography’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 17-35.
I wrote a review of Lars Bo Christensen's recent book, 'Tai Chi, The True History and Principles', which is on my website. Now Professor Douglas Wile has made his commentary on the new 'ancient' documents. He is correct in appraising some of the translation as slipshod, but he himself mistranslated 'Chen Xiang', the proper name of a mythical character from the Classic of Boxing.
It is clear that neither Professor Wile is really aware of what training is necessary in order to fight using Tai Chi Chuan. It is clear that neither Professor Wile is really aware of Tai Chi Chuan techniques [not found in Chen or Yang Family syllabi] with the same name as some of those written on the gravestone of Nei Jia Chuan boxer Wang Zhengnan, such as 'Using Zhou to Break Open The Door', 'Leading a Goat Smoothly', 'Flick the Whip Left & Right', 'Tiger Embraces Head' etc. There are also many technique and concept names not found in any books.
Professor Wile is correct to criticise Mr. Christensen for his somewhat naive references to the skills of great masters of the past Yet he has done a similar thing in his own writings. For example 'Yang family Touchstones is full of photographs of Yang Cheng-fu showing risible applications of form techniques with no evasion and using bulk rather than skill.
That the origins of Tai Chi are not purely Taoist, I accept, but there are many Taoist and Neo- Confucian influences. I have written of this elsewhere. Chinese history right up to the present day is riddled with new 'discoveries' of ' ancient artefacts and texts.
Don't kid a kidder.