Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

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Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby GrahamB on Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:46 am

Hi,

I reviewed Ken Gullette's new book - Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi on my blog:

https://taichinotebook.wordpress.com/20 ... -gullette/

I don't review many Tai Chi or martial arts books - only the ones I think are worth your/my time (I decline a lot of requests), so I thought you might be interested in this one!

"Anybody who has attempted to learn Tai Chi in any depth instantly realises that the choreography of a form is just that – choreography – and that the devil is in the details. Internal Body Mechanics is all about the details: How you move, what you move and where you move it to..."
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby xian89 on Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:26 am

Nice review, Graham - would you say it is the best book on internal mechanics you have read, or is there another one you would recommend more, if you had to choose?
I notice the word "groundpath" - did he also study with Mike Sigman?
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby GrahamB on Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:59 am

Hi,

Yes, I believe Ken has been following Mike's work through the various online lists he's used for years. The groundpath chapter is all based on Mike's ideas and he gives him credit in the book. The main influence on the book though is Chen Xiaowang's teaching, I think.

I'm trying to think of another book out there that I've read that actually discusses these sort of "body mechanics" in great detail and I really can't think of one... not that I've read a lot of recently written Tai Chi books though.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:30 am

Interesting... Nice review.

I am puzzled about the name "Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi" when it's obviously focused on Chen Xiaowang's standard. There are so many different philosophies on body methods in these arts, and you can even find quite different approaches in Tai Chi styles.... :-\

But I don't recognise either Mike's method or Chen Xiaowang's as "THE Standard" of IMA body mechanics. I am not interested in a book about these methods however detailed they are so I'll pass this time. ...Maybe next book. Maybe. :P

But I do welcome and appreciate such a work and I am sure it's a great book to recommend to beginners and to many intermediate practitioners as well. I like Ken's podcast and his overall approach.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby GrahamB on Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:25 am

Hi Bao,

I raised the issue of the title in a review, but I tend to agree with you. Alternatively, I can see the point that you have to make the title as wildly accessible to as many people as possible. XY and Bagua practitioners will certainly find many points of commonality and interest.

I think over time people will come to realise that the type of material presented in this book is on point and will become the standard. It's something of a middle way between the two extremes of Tai Chi that we find out there, and certainly preferable to the mystical 'energy' thinking that has characterized the initial spread of the arts, and produced the reactionary 'stand and bang' type of pugilistic "Tai Chi" that has appeared in opposition to it.

Let's hope so anyway.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:28 am

GrahamB wrote: I think over time people will come to realise that the type of material presented in this book is on point and will become the standard. It's something of a middle way between the two extremes of Tai Chi that we find out there, and certainly preferable to the mystical 'energy' thinking that has characterized the initial spread of the arts...


I agree on a general level, i.e. concerning this "type" of middle road material. But not the material itself, or at least how (I suspect that) it is represented. I like to keep things on an understandable manner using modern, Western terms and concepts to explain things. And preferably in a detailed, exact manner. But there are many variations of this "type" of material. Even on the level you are referring to there is no standard. I find the Chen version of mechanics represented by Mike to be a rudimentary, downsized and simplified version. Here the dantian and gua seems to be the main aspects of mechanics to generate jin. Other arts may have a very different approach and can put just as much focus (or more) on other mechanics depending on spine movement, use of lower ribs or scapula. If you look at some Yin Bagua branches, they have eight different methods of arranging the body into different levels of solid and empty. Every one of the eight animals represent a complete style with its own unique body method. So I don't like speaking about shenfa or body methods as there was a general approach in IMA.

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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby charles on Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:28 pm

Book reviews. by their very nature typically involve some level of subjective opinion. Having said that, a good book review should go beyond simply saying, "I agree with what the author says, so it is a good book, you should buy it".

In your review, you state the following:

This is one of the most practical books on Tai Chi on the market right now and you need to get it. It annoys me that there aren’t more Tai Chi books like Ken’s around that actually deal with the mechanics of movement that you need to develop for Tai Chi, and I hope that Internal Body Mechanics is the first of a turning tide, because the world needs more Tai Chi books like this one.


In my opinion and experience, it is very unlikely that one will learn the "correct" physical body mechanics of Taijiquan from a written description. It is material that needs to be felt and experienced first hand. As an experiential art, teachers/authors attempt to put into words their experiences. Unfortunately, words are inadequate to unambiguously do so: the room for incorrect interpretation is very, very high.

There are numerous authors who have attempted to put into words what are the physical mechanics of Taijiquan: Mr. Gullette is hardly the first to attempt to do so. What frequently seems to happen is that readers learn buzzwords and then apply their interpretations and definitions to those buzzwords, largely making it up as they do so. Given how ineffective written descriptions are, in my opinion, the last thing the world needs is yet another book on Taijiquan. I have an entire bookcase full of books on Taijiquan, all but a very few of which aren't worth the paper on which they are written. That is less a reflection of the authors and more a testament that it is nearly impossible to adequately, unambiguously do what they have attempted to do.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby GrahamB on Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:39 pm

So.... you're reviewing my review of a book you haven't read. And you think Ken the one at risk of being ambiguous?
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby Bhassler on Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:13 pm

Some old videos with Ken's take on body mechanics. No idea if his current ideas are similar or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSKzR9WBGhU


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F2OiVjs_Js

Sparring video posted a year ago. Nothing in it is obviously "internal" or not "internal".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gN0ip2xqOG4

Recent application video. Seems fairly typical of the village stuff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59oQqbxUiGs


I didn't find any of it exceptionally good or bad in comparison to what's widely available, and like Bao I wouldn't consider it universal even to Chen style, let alone all IMA.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby xian89 on Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:52 am

charles wrote:I have an entire bookcase full of books on Taijiquan, all but a very few of which aren't worth the paper on which they are written. That is less a reflection of the authors and more a testament that it is nearly impossible to adequately, unambiguously do what they have attempted to do.


Out of curiosity, which taijiquan (or related arts) book(s) do you find worthwhile, "do what they have attempted to do"?
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby charles on Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:10 am

xian89 wrote:Out of curiosity, which taijiquan (or related arts) book(s) do you find worthwhile, "do what they have attempted to do"?


That is a good question. Rather than hijack Graham's thread, I'll start a new one.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby greytowhite on Wed Aug 22, 2018 3:45 pm

You can always take advantage of Ken's free trial on his site to get a taste of his instructional material and what may have influenced his book. Ken is very personable via e-mail and is very candid about his training in the past. After some exchange with Ken he basically said that once he learned the silk reeling from Chen taiji he went and reworked his other styles with that as the internal engine. His bagua teacup lessons basically refer back to his taiji silk reeling lessons and so forth. It's not bad stuff - it just is what it is - Ken's take on internal gong fu.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby Bugang on Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:23 am

Bao wrote:Interesting... Nice review.

I am puzzled about the name "Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi" when it's obviously focused on Chen Xiaowang's standard. There are so many different philosophies on body methods in these arts, and you can even find quite different approaches in Tai Chi styles.... :-\

But I don't recognise either Mike's method or Chen Xiaowang's as "THE Standard" of IMA body mechanics. I am not interested in a book about these methods however detailed they are so I'll pass this time. ...Maybe next book. Maybe. :P

But I do welcome and appreciate such a work and I am sure it's a great book to recommend to beginners and to many intermediate practitioners as well. I like Ken's podcast and his overall approach.


aggree!

B.t.w. I'd say "Body Mechanics" (even if referring to internal muscles) and the "internal" in "Internal Martial Art" (refering to Yi or/and Jing) are two entirely different things and should not be mixed up.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby Bao on Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:03 am

Bugang wrote:B.t.w. I'd say "Body Mechanics" (even if referring to internal muscles) and the "internal" in "Internal Martial Art" (refering to Yi or/and Jing) are two entirely different things and should not be mixed up.


Absolutely, an important distinction for sure.
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Re: Book review: Internal body mechanics by Ken Gullette

Postby GrahamB on Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:49 pm

External arts use jin/jing and yi too.
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