5 stars: The best outline and explanation of Taijiquan
Whether beginner or expert, Master Yang Yang’s book will provide a foundation on not only what Taijiquan is and is not, but how to work your way into an understanding of it.
The book begins with some self-history of Master Yang Yang, then dives into what exactly Taijiquan is, and what it means to practice a martial art, with emphasis on both words. There follows an excellent chapter on how to pick an instructor, which is often neglected in the face of advertising and convenience.
The meat of the book goes through the three pillars of Taji practice: meditation (feeling and building your Qi), forms (using and extending your Qi) and push hands (feeling Qi from the outside). In each section, he provides the why’s (why is meditation crucial), the how’s (how to get started, the basics) and motivation (if you need any). The chapters also discuss how these three pillars are linked to one another.
The final chapter, “Why Practice Taijiquan?” pulls it all together, describing what you will, might and will not get out of efficient practice.
There also follows a quite well done appendix on the history of Tajiquan and the Chen school.
This is not a technical “how-to-do-the-forms-and-moves” book. For that, I recommend Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming’s series of books and DVDs (or, if you are lucky enough, take one of his seminars).
You will not learn Taijiquan from this book. But you will get a excellent background and a sense of what it is, how you should approach it and practice it, and what it can become inside you. Master Yang Yang writes not only with thought and intellect, but you can feel the passion that he has for his art. Martial artists say that the art lives through them, and that comes through in this book.
Picked the pace back up in the series
Sword of Truth: Book 10
For a series that started with the amazing Wizard’s First Rule, pulled me back in with Faith of the Fallen and has gone on and on and on (not as long as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, which I could not stick with, but on for a while), Phantom finally picks the pace back up.
Many of the past few books have centered on too few (or just one) of the characters or plotlines. Phantom brings them all back together (albeit some of them do not remember who they are), and manages to introduce a few new ones without getting us too off track.
I still enjoy most of the us (we are here to enjoy life) vs. them (this life is for suffering, the next life is better) back and forth bantering. This book makes me draw comparisons to what I understand about ancient times where suffering was what the church/shaman called for, similar to what the Order is calling for here in the Phantom. The depictions of the violence inflicted by the order (real and in dream sequences) is vividly described(Crusades, anyone?).
Most every character is either very bad or very good.And, after all, this has come down to good vs. evil, us against them, so there is no time for any fence sitters, is there? But I like characters with conflict. For that reason, I enjoy the brief moments of Shota the witch, who is out for her own purposes and is sometimes one of us, sometimes one of them. I used to enjoy the character of Nicci for this reason, but she was pure evil in the first few books, now she has been converted by Richard and is pure good.
I do look forward to the Final and Concluding book in the series, and tip my hat to Mr. Goodkind for such an epic work.
The connectedness of everything
You can call it the “small world” phenomena, or the theory that everything is connected. But David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas portrays a sometimes tight and sometimes loose connection of six pieces of time and the characters in them. Each of the separate stories is individual and very well written, with characters that bring out emotions in the reader one way or the other…yet each story is pulled together.
The book is written as a wrapper, with half of the first five stories started as incomplete, then the complete sixth, followed by the last halves of the five in reverse order, revealing or completing the revelation of how they are interconnected.
The author captures the “voice” of each of the characters, their situations and time periods admirably. From the obviously 17-1800′s based Adam Ewing on a sea voyage to Robert the moocher who finally finds inspiration, and inspires others in the story, to the futuristic times where life has gone backwards into kind of a stone age…very little description of the environment, but you can see it in the dialog and actions of the characters.
Even though some of the stories are smoother to read than others, and more impactful, the thread(s) keeps them together.