Tai Chi Dynamics by Robert Chuckrow

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Tai Chi Dynamics by Robert Chuckrow

Postby rverbeek » Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:49 am

Recently YMAA published a new book about Taiji called “Tai Chi Dynamics” by Dr. Robert Chuckrow (http://www.ymaa.com/publishing/books/in ... i_dynamics). The book promises to handle the application of scientific principles of physics, anatomy and physiology to Taiji movements and postures. Such a book is a welcome addition to the available collection of books about Taiji that in general do not explain the physiological and physical base of the art. The author has almost 40 years experience in practicing and teaching Taiji and has been a student of renowned Taiji grandmasters as Zheng Manqing and William C.C. Chen. The author also holds a Ph.D. in physics and in combination with his Taiji experience he seems very well equipped to deliver a clarifying book about this subject.

Unfortunately the book does not at all live up to this expectation. The author namely has based his book for a great deal on a newly invented concept called muscular extension, where muscle bundles are assumed to exert force by extending instead of contracting. He connects li or external strength with the familiar muscular contraction and jin or internal strength with the new muscular extension. The phenomenon muscular extension is not at all based on the application of science, as promised in the announcement and on the cover, but only on the author’s “personal experience”. That muscles can actively extend and generate force in this way is in contradiction to all scientific knowledge and experience. Also the indirect mechanism for extension that the author proposes is contrary to basic laws of physics. Further, even if such a muscular extension could occur, it would mean that the muscle would have to exert force to the bones by pushing the bones with use of the tendons, something for which tendons are absolutely unfit. Try pushing an object with a cable! As an example the author writes for instance that the correct way to bend the forearm inwards is by extension of the triceps instead of contraction of the biceps. An illustration of this example is even on the cover. But this is an absolutely impossible thing to do since the connection of the tendons to the forearm is such that it simply cannot push the forearm.

The concept of muscular extension is therefore untenable. If its introduction would have been an isolated fallacy, the book might have been usable after all, but it appears to be the main thrust of the book and many explanations and examples are based on it. Although the book contains several useful and clarifying sections it is interspersed with this faulty concept which makes it difficult to separate the useful from the questionable stuff. Also an included recommendation by no less a person than grandmaster William C.C. Chen is not by far enough to make this an acceptable book. The book is far below the high standard of other books published by YMAA and the publisher does the Taiji community a disservice by spreading a new false myth about Taijiquan with the publication of this book.

Ries Verbeek , Ph.D.
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Postby DavidR » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:41 pm

I remember in the 1980s when Yang, Jwing-ming, Ph.D., began revealing some of the keys of Qigong practice. When he wrote the book, The Root of Chinese Qigong, many letters arrived, both favorable and critical. Dr. Yang was attempting, through logic and scientific reasoning, to unravel and document the mysteries of Qigong. He went on to present various ideas and hypotheses, sincerely hoping others would challenge them and offer their insights and experiences. I think we have all benefited from his courage and willingness to put his ideas to the interested public.

Robert Chuckrow, Ph.D., has written Tai Chi Dynamics. In his "Authors Note" (p. xiii), he says, "It is my wish that the reader exercise skepticism and caution in applying the information and ideas herein. The purpose of any controversial parts of this book is to stimulate the reader's thinking rather than to serve as an ultimate source of information."

And so it is that Dr. Chuckrow is experimenting with "new" concepts of muscular extension. He too presents his ideas and hypotheses, sincerely hoping that others will challenge them and share their insights and experiences. Time will tell how much his courage and willingness will benefit the Tai Chi public.

How exciting!

You can download sample pages (including a portion of muscular action in taiji movement) here: http://www.ymaa.com/publishing/books/internal/tai_chi_dynamics
David Ripianzi
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YMAA Publication Center
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