We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants!
"Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who- a decade or a thousand decades ago- set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a "conversation" with you."
"If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you. Any commander who claims he is "too busy to read" is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way."
"Reading sheds light on the dark path ahead."
- General Jim 'Mad-dog' Mattis (as written in Call Sign Chaos)
With these words in mind I want to share the books that have sped up my understanding of the Tao and improved my Chi Kung and Tai Chi practice drastically!
The Depth of Tai Chi and Chi Kung practice is impossible to undertake effectively without fully exploring how modern science mixes with ancient Chinese culture and traditional Taoist texts.
This pursuit isn't easy but it's not impossible, and I've found some great resources to help out. In any college curriculum there's always a book that accompanies a class. As my friend and mentor Dr. Tony Zayner used to say, "However good your teacher is, your success relies on how hard YOU study."
Here's some great books to read and to study on various aspects of Tai Chi, Chinese medicine, Chi Kung Taoist Meditation and other wise. I'll do my best to categorize them by novice, beginner, intermediate and advanced/ in depth knowledge seeking. Each title is hyperlinked to order on Amazon. ENJOY! :)
For those of you who are not students of mine I highly recommend start with these. For my students YOU SHOULD'VE READ THESE A LOOOONG TIME AGO, use this opportunity to refresh yourself. ;) In short I would say an important place for everyone to start is my simple and concise introductory packets. In these packets I have written and compiled my personal views on the history and context of Tai Chi, Chi Kung and Kung Fu in relation to how we practice these arts. In these you can find my personal lineage of instruction and my viewpoints outlined simply. I try to stay as matter of fact as I can. Download these by clicking the links down below.
Alongside of our intro packets I also highly recommend the following books for more in depth knowledge on the following topics as listed below... With all these books I don't subscribe to everything they contain, and some things are dangerous to practice without the guidance of a qualified instructor. I highly recommend anyone interested in these practices seek out a qualified teacher.
Most of these practices and exercises are benign, however some caution should be taken in the pursuit of herbal remedies, fasting, and of course take caution with certain spiritual practices in light of your particular religious inclination. That being said much of Taoist meditation practices are secular when properly understood. Due to the specificity and personal nature of meditation I highly recommend seeking out a qualified teacher and guide to help with these practices. I'd be more than happy to offer guidance in this respect by phone. Text me to introduce yourself (336-542-7525) and we can set up a one time appointment to chat, free of charge.
Beginner Chi Kung Books
The most common question I get about Chi Kung outside of "what is it?" is, "What is Chi?" The most common answer among a variety of western instructors is "Chi = Energy" I despise this answer. Chi or Qi is NOT JUST energy, rather it is something akin to a concept or idea that the Chinese originated to describe the connected nature of things. This esoteric fabric of principles that run through things principles and a certain tangible-ness that brings about movement to universal functions and human sensibilities. In our Tai Chi and Chi Kung practice we say that Chi is the relationship and actual flux between Yin and Yang. Without movement there is no Chi/Qi...
A Brief History of Qi gives a broad and deep historical look into understanding how this concept of Qi has deeply effected art, painting, writing, medicine, strategy, politics, and philosophy in China.
Cultivating the Energy of Life gives a good translation and commentary on the classical Taoist text of the Hui Ming Ching. This text is a foundational one when it comes to the practice of Taoist meditation and it plainly outlines how the breath is used in meditation to achieve health and 'transcend worldly problems'. I urge my students to always seek practical application for everything we do. This "meditation" is not only visualization, feeling, or a mental construct, but rather it is also/or more importantly a physical thing we are doing to effect our body through a breathing mechanic of relaxation, a shift in mindset, and a deeper more nuanced way to use our muscular system to improve overall spinal and internal organ health.
A Complete Guide to Chi Kung offers an in depth and broad overview of a variety of Chi Kung practices. Everything from physical exercises, meditation, mindset, eating, and sexual practices is touched on in this book.
Beginner Tai Chi Book + DVD
For direct knowledge of our Tai Chi practice I recommend the following books at the beginner level. Our beginner level primarily has to do with learning the movements of the form and the 26 basic principles. These books are a great reference to help with learning the movements of our Tai Chi form, and to get a general understanding of the man Prof. Cheng Man Ching was.
"Tai Chi: The 'Supreme Ultimate' exercise for Health Sport and Self Defense" by Prof. Cheng Man Ching and Robert Smith
Intermediate Chi Kung Books
Intermediate Tai Chi Books
I urge all readers to look at the push hand and self defense sections of Cheng + Wolfe's books more as a strategic exercise instead of taking it literally. Push hands has some limited value to train a deeper awareness of relaxation and yielding, but it is a very limited value. I hold and teach that Tai Chi is NOT a self defense, nor 'martial' art directly. As a 2 time combat veteran and training and working with professional fighters, in the past and on a regular basis, I feel grants me foundation enough to make these claims.
Even if Tai Chi was used as a fighting art a long time ago, it doesn't fit that bill currently. However, (And this is a very big however) I have been using Tai Chi exercises for over a decade to rehabilitate an array of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries to great benefit. Tai Chi is much better served as a healing art, in which it bares much fruit. All the talk of self defense in Tai Chi books should be taken with a heap of salt, and always with an emphasis on strategically dealing with life lessons instead of practical advice to defend ones self.
Advanced reading exploring history and Taoist Foundations for Tai Chi and Chi Kung
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu
Tai Chi Chuan
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage