For beginner students of Tai Chi Chuan, Robin Gamble’s book is a helpful resource for those looking for a brief introduction to each of several topics. An international instructor and competitor now living in Thailand, Gamble takes the curious through what he terms the “Tai Chi Dance” (wide accessibility to gentle physical movements for relaxation) versus “Tai Chi Chuan”, the Chinese internal martial art (combat self-defense that grows mental freshness, personal development and vitality, that initially was reserved to a select few).
Through daily practice, Gamble points to three main levels of benefit. Holistic health (physical, mental, emotional), combat (self-defense, confidence, courage), and cultivation of the mind. Cultivation of the mind supports inner peace, calmness and joy and needn’t only be attempted in a temple or mountain like the ancient Taoists. And again, as with like-minded experienced practitioners, Gamble outlines some differences between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Western medicine and their approaches to health and wellness.
Gamble discusses the philosophy of a ‘Scholar Warrior’ who balances Yin and Yang harmonies in his life and scholarly pursuits for a balanced, well rounded life, and who actively seeks out opportunities to serve others. The importance of selecting the right instructors to match your Tai Chi goals is also a directive of this and several authors. Included also are diagrams and instructions for a starting, energizing form – Wuji, Goat Stance, Lifting the Water and Cloud Hands. And the importance of partner training, such as in the practice of ‘Push Hands’ readies the practitioner over time to better interact with and understand others. Myths are debunked relating to the perception of Tai Chi Chuan as slow, new age, is not a martial art, or has no scientific backing studies to support its health benefits.
One of my favorite quotes from The Power of Tai Chi Chuan is: “When you have a practice every day of centering yourself, regulating your breathing and calming your mind, the benefits seep into your day to day life and your emotions become less volatile and more balanced. I feel many people live on an emotional roller-coaster, they never know when they will be up or down. But Tai Chi Chuan makes the ride much smoother.”
Gamble’s book also includes several real world case study examples of Tai Chi Chuan’s impact on health, daily life, work and relationships. Santiago, an online marketer from Spain, feels his negotiation skills have improved and he has been able to turn an unfavorable relationship into a favorable one, and now has better relationships with his managers. Relinde, a dance choreographer from the Netherlands, finds Tai Chi and Qi Kung have complimented her dance and yoga practice, help her overcome two injuries, and improved her coordination. Mark, a martial arts instructor in the US finds his decisiveness and problem solving abilities have improved. And Dominic, a home improvement contractor in Ireland, has overcome anxiety and shyness, was able to return to work after disability, and also grow a personal dating relationship.
These stories and several others help to illustrate the Jing (body), Chi (energy) and Shen (spirit) benefits of the ancient art of Tai Chi.