Inside Tai Chi Reviews
Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol 12, Number 1 – 2003
There are already a significant number of Tai Chi books, which show the aspiring student how to do Tai Chi. Add to this the number of how to videos, audio tapes, and CDs, and there might be those who wonder at the need for a teacher at all, let alone another book.
John Loupos does not add to the crowd in his recently published Inside Tai Chi. His book is not another “how to” book (although a fair amount of space is devoted to various rooting and breathing exercises), but is more concerned with the application of Tai Chi to life in ways other than the martial. Any book that promotes this kind of application is to be applauded, as we should be encouraged to apply the principles inherent in Tai Chi as much as possible. The late Dr. Chi Chiang-tao, when asked how much we should practice, replied simply, 24 hours a day.
Loupos, similarly, would encourage us to apply Tai Chi’s physical lessons, such as improved posture and physical relaxation, to our daily life, but also to use the principles developed through our increased understanding, in resolving conflict, changing our perspective on our live, and our inter-personal relationships. As is the case with many authors, Loupos reveals a lot about himself by how he writes as well as what he chooses to write about. He is a Tai Chi and martial arts teacher of many years experience, and comes across as a competent teacher and very decent human being. Mr. Chiba, one of the great Aikido teachers, was once asked what was the most important quality in a student of the martial arts. His answer was sincerity, the quality that pervades Loupos’ writing.
The book imparts a body of knowledge which the author believes is important for the student’s development and understanding of principles such rooting, energy/qi awareness, and self-awareness. While it is difficult to criticize the content, the style of writing may not be universally welcomed, as the language and tone have much in common with popular psychology books. Loupos’ background in psychology has clearly influenced his approach to Tai Chi and also his writing.
The book really comes alive, however, when the author recounts from his considerable experience as student and teacher of several martial art systems with various teachers. I found the Preface giving a fleeting biography fascinating and would like to have seen this developed further. While respecting an authors right to privacy, it it my preference to follow a personal account of successes, failures, and insights along the “great way.”
Much of the book is aimed at helping the student deal with the difficulties encountered in life. He is an advocate of using the well-known Tai Chi practice of rooting as an aid to dealing with stressful situations at the time of occurrence. He extends the use of Tai Chi beyond simply a rebalancing exercise, for use once or twice a day, toward a method to deal with the potential stressor at its source. Stressful situations do not convenience us by occurring at times when we can nip out to do a form, and so, a method which can be applied instantly and in all situations is very important in controlling our reactions to threatening situations. As Loupos put it, What emotional rooting can do is help you avoid getting stuck with the stress-causing emotions that others may direct your way.æ For many of us, this type of self-defense is needed in today’s environment more than physical self-defense.
Loupos invites reflection on another interesting Tai Chi related topic when he argues, very persuasively that we ourselves determine what we perceive as conflict. He believes that the universe is always in harmony and that what we might regard as conflict can more accurately be described as “opposing,” rather than conflicting forces. These forces ebb and flow but remain in balance and therefore, according to Loupos, the only “real” conflict in the universe exists in the hearts and souls (and bodies) of man, and then only because we make it so.
This is more than just a semantic debate. It reaches into the area of thought which suggest that how we experience life will be determined, at least to some extent, by how we perceive it. As the saying goes To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Loupos goes a little further in this discussion by suggesting that free will is, in his own words, the operative factor in determining whether any two forces are opposite or conflicting. Loupos is opening up the possibility of using Tai Chi to help us change our perspectives on what conflict is, and so, change our attitudes in our daily life. This is once again a crucial area of Tai Chi practice which may not be obvious but well worth exploring.
Loupos also enter the debate on whether or not the practice of Tai Chi can make someone a better human being. There are of course problems in defining what exactly it means to become a better human being, there are well respected figures on both sides of the debate, but Loupos clearly feels that it is possible and the impression given is that, he himself, is committed to practice what he preaches in this direction.
n the final chapter, Lectures and Musings, he discusses a number of related topic and ideas which are of interest to those who practice and teach Tai Chi. What, for instance, shall we wear on our feet while practicing, at what age should children begin attending classes, and how Tai Chi affects bone density as we grow older.
In sum, Mr. Loupos has written a book which invites us to broaden our view of what Tai Chi is. As he says, Sometimes Tai Chi is just about Tai Chi, and sometimes Tai Chi is about everything.
Jan Kauskas, M.A. Glasgow Univ.
Inside Tai Chi: Hints, Tips, Training & Process
for Students and Teachers
by John Loupos, YMAA
Publication Ctr., Boston MA, 2002, $20.95.
Review by Heidi Rain. (Sept 02 issue of Spirit of Change Magazine)
The most widely practiced martial arts/health care system in the world, Tai Chi is regarded in China as an official exercise and a national treasure. In reading Inside Tai Chi, we are offered a piece of that great wealth starting with an introduction to the fundamental principles of tai chi: relaxing the breath, relinquishing stress, improving your posture, and feeling your connection to the Earth. The strong, friendly voice of the narrator offers expert knowledge about the training of attention, awareness of bodily energy and stillness-in-action fostered by this art.
Obviously a dedicated teacher, John Loupos also comes across as a wise and caring friend, sharing his knowledge of the yang (technical expertise of the form) and yin (internal energetic experience) aspects, as well as his own story in coming to practice and teach Tai Chi. The early chapters explain how our bodies can become more resilient and less vulnerable to injury, with enhanced efficacy of our immune system, making us less susceptible to illness while maintaining and restoring our youthful vitality. We learn how Tai Chi also serves to reduce stress, beginning with improving our flexibility by relaxing, rather than stretching, the muscles. Among other valuable skills offered are mindful breathing, pushing without pushing, relaxing effortlessly into standing postures, displacing negative emotions, and opening ourselves up to heartfulness and freedom. Loupos suggests that we employ visualization techniques in rooting ourselves, so this more direct and deliberate connection with the Earth can soothe our souls and afford us some sense of sanity.
Though some of the more advanced sections may be of greater interest to the Tai Chi aficionado or teacher, the information about our bodies and their possible “right alignment” is fascinating for anyone interested in good health, balance, and well-being. The last few chapters attest to the healing wisdom of this age-old system for promoting well-being as teenaged, middle-aged and elder practitioners offer their personal stories of the physical and psychological benefits of Tai Chi.
For anyone interested in a practical, thoughtful and uniquely accessible view of this adjunctive natural healing therapy, Inside Tai Chi is the book to read.
Inside Tai Chi: Hints, Tips, Training & Process
for Students and Teachers
by John Loupos
One of the best!, By J. Prescott. December 14, 2007
Great book and info on tai chi, very clear and easy to understand, tackling alot of important issues that I have not found covered in other books.
This is one of the better books out there on Tai Chi and I’ll tell you why.
1) Theres no esoteric jargon; it’s easy to understand. 2) Theres not pages upon pages of pictures and descriptions, like some books out there. 3) It tackles the *important* issues of Tai chi, such as rooting and body mechanics, as well as stress relief and philosophy.
Overall, this book covers, in great detail, a major part of Tai chi. It’s also ‘geared’ towards westerners. It’s easy to understand, and relates alot of the benefits of Tai chi to counteract the ailments of today’s culture, such as the fast paced and stressful environments of the work place and other things.
The author, who is an expert sifu (teacher) of Tai chi, kung fu, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, writes in a clear, concise, witty and detailed manner. Each chapter has various aspects of the subject on hand, with illustrations as well. This book covers ALOT of aspects of tai chi. I found this book answered alot of my questions of tai chi that other books did not.
So much of todays information on martial arts / tai chi is hard to understand, or hard to obtain. A lot of sources are hesitant to devulge the “secrets” of the art (and by secrets I mean proper way of practicing). It’s books like this one, and John Loupos’ other titles, that make your practice so much easier to understand and enjoyable to practice. It seems like he tackles every question you have, no matter how small or insignifigant.
One thing about this book is that you cannot breeze through it. It is a resource of information that you will be referring back to as your tai chi progresses. I could go on and on praising this book, but you really must check it out for yourself to see how detailed it is.
Not quite T’ai Chi, By T’ai Chi student. December 16, 2007
Mr. Loupos uses a lot of good words, and imparts some useful information, but in my opinion this book doesn’t really represent T’ai Chi — at least not as I’ve been taught it. My suspicions were aroused as early as page 6 of the book which shows him demonstrating the posture Snake Creeps Down (aka Squatting Single Whip). In this posture all of your weight is supposed to be borne by the right foot, and Mr. Loupos certainly talks in the book about keeping the Bubbling Well point in the center of the foot in good contact with the earth, but he doesn’t actually do it. The photo shows his right foot up on edge rather than flat, and his right knee nowhere near positioned over his right foot. It’s hard to imagine all of his weight is being borne by that right foot. (In contrast, look at pages 197 and 297 of Robert W. Smith’s book “Martial Musings” to see the posture performed correctly by two different practitioners — foot is flat, knee is over the foot in both cases.)
The focus in T’ai Chi is on being relaxed and using ch’i rather than muscular force to move an opponent. Mr. Loupos gives lip service to the idea of relaxation and softness, but his recurring references to force and power — e.g., transfer of force, flow of force, issuing outgoing power, efficient release of power, etc. — raise the suspicion that his idea of T’ai Chi is one of superior body mechanics rather than the cultivation and use of ch’i. Oh, and the principles of T’ai Chi, those ideas on which the entire discipline is based, are relegated to an appendix.
The Author’s response to ‘Not Quite Tai Chi’.
I always appreciate comments on my writings, positive or negative, as they pave the way for lively debate as something we can all learn from. The Reviewer, whom I’ll refer to as ‘R’, has raised some interesting points. Starting with his observations regarding the Single Whip photo and his assertion as to where the weight is “supposed to be borne,” the posture in question is actually a move. This is an important distinction as postures are static, whereas moves are dynamic. In the referenced photo, the camera captured my Single Whip in a dynamic, rather than static, phase (Good catch ‘R’). Before the camera clicked, my right foot would assuredly have been flat. In the case of any Tai Chi master practicing that move, their heel must lift, at some point, as they shift forward into the next move. It’s also important to note that even the fabled masters of old reportedly evolved and adjusted in their technique according to their age or physical condition, or presumably other circumstances. Tai Chi is very much about being able to adapt and go with the flow. It is not about being stuck in any way.
Regarding the second point ‘R’ raises, that of ‘force versus Chi’, I am a long standing proponent of cultivating Chi (Qi). However, after 32 years of Tai Chi and internal arts practice, I believe that Tai Chi is, indeed, proportionately more a discipline of superior body mechanics than one of Chi development. Others may differ in their priorities, and that’s fine. There’s no denying, though, that the first thing one notices in observing Tai Chi is that it moves. Tai Chi is not primarily a discipline of sitting or standing meditation (Chi cultivation). I get the impression that ‘R’ may have misconstrued my references to ‘force’ and ‘power’. I don’t mean to invoke them in their overt sense, but rather as the necessary and inevitable means by which any movement is accomplished. No movement can occur without some aspect of force or power. In Tai Chi we seek to use force and power in an optimally efficient manner. Sometimes that means ‘softly’, as ‘R’ correctly notes. But other times our application of force and power may need to be more overt, yet still premised on Tai Chi principles. The most important point for readers to keep in mind regarding Tai Chi is to develop yourself such that you can avoid being stuck in any way with your body or your mind.
I want to thank ‘R’ (who is clearly a dedicated practitioner) for sharing his thoughts. Being so clearly of a Tai Chi mind, I would hope he might find more value in my two subsequent books on Tai Chi. J.L.
Well written and extremely informative., January 15, 2003
Reviewer: diogenes303 (see more about me) from Somerville, MA USA I got involved in Tai Chi because I read that it can be useful for reducing stress and improving both physical and mental health. I wanted to learn more about how Tai Chi accomplishes this. Mr. Loupos gives an in-depth explanation of how and why Tai Chi provides these benefits. He does an excellent job of explaining the Eastern philosophical underpinnings of Tai Chi from a Western psychological perspective.
This book does not provide step-by-step instructions for completing any of the Tai Chi forms. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll need to look elsewhere. I don’t think it’s possible to properly learn Tai Chi from a book anyway. You’re going to need someone to teach you. And once you start learning, this book provides a wealth of background information, advice, and tips that you’ll find to be an invaluable addition to your practice. While there are no step-by-step instructions, Mr. Loupos does provide a ton of information about the subtle but extremely important basics that underlie all of the movements.
Mr. Loupos doesn’t guarantee that everyone will experience all of the many benefits of Tai Chi, but he convincingly demonstrates that the possibility is there. The end result is that every time I open the book I end up putting it down so I can start practicing.
Mastering the basics of the Tai Chi martial art, June 7, 2002
Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (see more about me) from Oregon, WI USA Inside Tai Chi: Hints, Tips, Training, & Process For Students And Teachers by seasoned marital arts expert John Loupos is 194 page, step-by-step book dedicated to understanding and mastering the basics of the Tai Chi martial art. Black-and-white photographs illustrate the practical and straightforward text, which addresses everything from body positioning to breathing to working with a partner. Inside Tai Chi is very highly recommended reading for martial arts enthusiasts with a serious interest in Tai Chi, as well as the non-specialist general reader considering a Tai Chi exercise regimen for their general health and well-being.
“Inside Tai Chi…” Review from
Taijiquan Journal, Summer 2003
John Loupos’ book “Inside Tai Chi” covers personal philosophy, Taiji as a way to live one’s life, and a wealth of technical details for learning and improving one’s taiji solo form, as well as suggestions for push hands. The book is also one of the first I am aware of to apply current learning theory to teaching and study of taiji.
Part One explores interpersonal connections and mindfulness with a taiji spin. Loupos clearly considers taiji as a way to handle the difficulties between people and within oneself. For example, one essay on achieving and maintaining physical root is followed by a section on “emotional rooting.” His message: “none of the skills inherant in taiji are entirely separate from any others.” This section may interest taiji beginners and/or those who value the more meditative aspects of taiji. It emphasizes a spiritual side to taiji practice as a means of reducing interpersonal conflict.
Part Two, “Intermediate and Advanced Practice Skills,” offers technical tips from Loupos, a longtime student and teacher. Its appeal is to those seeking to check or improve structural aspects of solo form and push hands practice. In this section, Loupos offers stretching exercises to enhance the practice of the taiji form. This is followed by technical details for alignment and rooting practice, starting with the feet and moving up through the tailbone, spine, hands, arms, chest, and head, even including the tongue and eyes. A chapter on “Advanced Rooting and Envelopment Skills” is for the more advanced student concerned with push hands concepts.
In a chapter titled “Optimizing Your Practice,” Loupos discusses individual learning styles and their impact on student progress, offering practice suggestions.
Part Three brings together the author’s thoughts, lecture materials, and personal commentaries, with biographical accounts of students’ taiji experiences. The author’s personal philosophy reappears here (one section is entitled “The Power of a Smile”), along with helpful suggestions and medical research findings. The book’s appendices include lists of taiji principles, a bibliography, and a helpful glossary.
Noteworthy in “Inside Tai Chi” are photographs and diagrams illustrating correct and incorrect execution of moves, which are great for people who may not have the benefit of regular class attendance.
A pitfall of books such as “Inside Tai Chi” that cater to varies skill levels is that some of the tips and suggestions in this book may confuse beginners who lack the ability to discern the more important aspects for initial focus.
Loupos’ voice resonates throughout the book as a dedicated practitioner for whom taiji is decidedly a lifestyle. His work is solid and extensive. The book communicates his love of taiji and eagerness to share his personal philosophical perspectives. Drawing topics that can be associated with a wide view of the effects of taiji practice on daily life reflects a sincere interest in the well-being of students and the societies in which they live.
Review by Mary Lukas, Dancing River T’ai Chi, Iowa City, Iowa