LEARNING FROM BOOKS
They also said that you disdained at learning from books, but you wrote a book on Taijiquan to teach people.
-- Dan, England
Although I have not mentioned this before in public, many of our Taijiquan students know my immediate reason for writing “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan”. Many years ago I was excited when someone showed me a video of a famous Taijiquan grandmaster demonstrating combat application. But after viewing it I was very disappointed and sad.
The grandmaster was bouncing about as in Taekwondo and pushing away his assailants clumsily. This was not an impromptu shooting, but a premeditated video specially made to show Taijiquan combat application. It was obvious and shocking to me that this Taijiquan grandmasters not only did not use Taijiquan techniques in his pre-arranged combat application, but also did not understand basic Taijiquan principles!
For example, the way he bounced about indicated his disregard for the importance of stances in traditional Taijiquan, and the way he pushed his assailants indicated his starting his movement with his hands and ending at his feet instead of starting from the back foot and ending at the hands, as advocated by past Taijiquan masters.
This prompted me to put my thoughts and practice of Taijiquan into a comprehensive book so that I could share the wisdom of past Taijiquan masters with the public. The result was “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan”.
It is not true that I disdain at learning Taijiquan or any martial art from books. I myself have read and benefited a lot from reading kungfu and chi kung books and classics.
What I often say in my question-answer series may be tabulated as follows
- It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a beginner to learn kungfu (including Taijiquan) from a book. (This is different from reading a book to know more about kungfu.)
- It is likely that a reader will learn only the external forms, and it is easy for him to mistake the external forms for kungfu, thereby debasing the art.
- If one wishes to get the best benefits he should learn personally from a master.
More than 20 years ago I discussed this topic of learning kungfu from a book in my manuscript on Wing Choon Kungfu. I did not offer this manuscript to any publisher, but I hope to do so in the near future.
How well or badly one learns kungfu from a book, depends on an interplay of three factors, namely the reader, the author, and the kind of kungfu involved. If the reader is a beginner, the author writes in an arcane manner, and the kungfu involves advanced skills, it will be impossible for the reader to learn anything. On the other hand of the scale, if the reader is a master, the author presents his material systematically, and the kungfu involves simple techniques, it will be easy.
The above is taken from Question 2 December 2002 Part 3 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
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