For those of us who have already seriously invested in the Art of Tai Chi Chuan (or aspire to), do you dare to take the red pill and have your understanding of Taiji challenged and deepened? If so then get Glenn Blythe’s book: “Yi Chi Li of Opening and Closing and the Five Loosening Exercises of Tai Chi”. For those of us who have felt secure in having our identities connected to our years>decades of Taiji “expertise” - this book will challenge (in the best way possible) even your basic understandings and the way you practice your Tai Chi Chuan - for the better. Although the target audience for this book are the advanced students taught correctly within the Master Huang Sheng Shyan Yang Style, in my opinion those well-versed in other styles who have been true enough to the Taiji Classics, can also greatly benefit.
Book Contents & How this Book is Different
Taiji (Quan) is a subtle, complex and mysterious puzzle made up of apparently simple concepts building on/coordinating with each concept, that can only be understood with correct and accurate teaching, research, study, diligent and accurate practice and honest reflection. And getting instructions in the more advanced levels of Taiji (Quan) is notoriously difficult, who do you trust? Am I willing to travel and stay in a different country? Will that teacher accept me as a serious student, etc etc? And even when you do find someone reputable their teachings can often still be ambiguous and mysterious hence to find a book written from someone who obviously has made it his life’s work to meticulously learn, understand, master and explain the Master Huang Sheng Shyan’s Yang System in original, concise, logical/systematic and detailed way for the modern mind, is rare & invaluable. If you think that this is just a rehash/rewording of the Classics or numerous other Taiji instructional books, you’re mistaken.
The book is 144 pages packed full of practical, specific and consistent content (and illustrations), that documents the meticulous, genius and innovative system that Master Huang Sheng Shyan devised. The content comprises of 25 chapters covering the:“Opening and Closing Exercise;
Preparation and conclusion of the five Loosening exercises”; then each of the five Loosening exercises addressed individually; and finally;
“The application of the opening & closing and the five Loosening exercises to the Taiji Form”.
Within each topic Glenn Blythe logically breaks down each exercise or movement to: a/ “The Purpose & Methodology of….”; b/ “The Main Points of…”; and c/ “Common Faults of…”.
What’s valuable and rare about this book is that it is a very comprehensive documentation of the details, nuances and variations/permutations of these critically important exercises in the Master Huang Yang Style. When other authors/teachers matter of factly instruct us to apply Tai Chi concepts or movements as if they were so simple that any fool could do it when in fact the simplest of these processes or correct way to move can take many years to cultivate and the method of cultivation is never explained, this book elaborates in detail about how we should activate and practice these internal (including “Yi”) aspects of this Art. So unlike most other Tai Chi references Glenn’s instructions detail the (internal) mental as well as physical (seen and unseen) aspects of our training and practice in order to tap into and cultivate these subtle internal processes. Just as the Master said: “There are no secrets in Tai Chi, just infinite call details that are overlooked” (P22: Blythe, 2022). In this invaluable way Glenn Blythe breaks down every aspect of this process by interpreting every nuance of what the Master must have been intending for his dedicated students to discover and unlock for themselves and hence nothing is “overlooked”.
Who is the Author and can we trust him or this review?
You can check out Glenn Blythe’s Taiji credentials and experience here:
Am I biased because Glenn Blythe is one of my teachers? Of course I’m not completely objective, but in fact for over 2 decades of me listening to, puzzling over and struggling with, and challenging his interpretations have I “emptied my cup”and accepted Glenn Blythe’s teachings. These years of verifying his interpretations, coupled with repeated hands-on experiences of being successfully “uprooted with emptiness”; I know that what Glenn understands, applies and teaches is systematic, consistent, detailed, accurate, meticulously and critically researched, from all the information he has received from our teacher Wee Kee Jin, Master Huang, Tony Ward, other acknowledged Masters (too many to name) and the Taiji Classics.
Significance of the Book
The book does us all a big favour by joining many of the dots and clues that those cryptic Taiji Master’s left us to work out for ourselves. And even then it was left to those who had dedicated themselves enough AND had the perceptive intelligence to pick up on the clues. Usually other more contemporary authors don’t dare to define or clarify, instead deferring to and/or quote phrases of those old Masters as though they were set in stone. Glenn has spent years/decades interpreting them for our contemporary intellect. As with any written or spoken definition, whether they are 100% in agreement with what the old masters meant we’ll never know but Glenn’s definition’s stimulate greater insights into or own understandings of what Tai Chi and this system is. Keep in mind that; “The Dao that can be spoken of is not the Dao”… In fact my initial, honest feelings and thoughts about this book was that it had way too much information, too much detail …..and revealed too many “secrets”. I mean why should this be so easily made available when I had to travel, struggle, persevere, attend regularly and develop personally in order to put aside my Taiji ego and “empty my cup”; then I had to do the work…and now any self-proclaimed Master Huang “expert” can buy, parrot and contort the information in this book to suit their own purposes and vanity? I guess that’s the way it’s always been… but I guess it’s worth it if it serves the purpose of helping keep this subtle, mysterious Art alive. And in time the Wheat from the Chaff will be separated.
Let me further emphasise - this book is so packed with so much “insider” information and instruction that after several months of possession, I still haven’t felt the need to move forward and study/integrate into my practice any contents past page 17 (Opening and Closing Exercise). To those who don’t understand, you might find that a bit simplistic, or lacking in ambition… lazy? Or even too boring but there is a lot of Gold to mine, refine and shape and that it can only be mined and processed little by little and that takes time and applied energy if you want a quality product.
In conclusion, I believe that this will be a book referred to as the reference guide/bible for current and future generations of serious students who recognise, are inspired by, and follow the genius of Master Huang Sheng Shyan’s teachings and the amazing Art of Tai Chi Chuan. Tony Ward (one of the few acknowledged and respected inner-circle, Western students of the Master) refers to it as a “game-changing”contribution to The Master Huang Sheng Shyan Canon of Knowledge. It is that and one that compliments and impressively expands on the previous books (by fellow acknowledged inner-circle students of the Master) Wee Wee Jin and Patrick Kelly.
In the end Glenn Blythe’s work is a very significant contribution to the Taiji body of knowledge (not only to the Master Hang Sheng Shyan Yang Style). Not only does this book build and expand on the foundational books by our teacher Wee Wee Jin as well as Patrick Kelly but as with all bodies of knowledge their job in my opinion is to accurately document methods/systems for current and future generations, stimulate thought, discussion, practice and further refinement….and to progress the Art…or at least keep it alive. I believe this book does all that and will be referred to as a reference for the Master Huang Style hundreds of years in the future.
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