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Tai Chi The Supreme Ultimate by Lawrence Gallante, was my very first taiji book! TCTSU is a fairly well-rounded book, that, in addition to demonstrating taiji, touches on several intersecting ideas on mind-body training, and spirituality.
TCTSU was and perhaps still is, a great book. I got it during a time of my life, when I was cross-training in different styles, like karate, aikido, and praying mantis kungfu, and I wanted in on the whole soft style, internal power--chi development thing. I was also a practicing Wiccan then, and so his section on the occult really jibed with me.
Around 1991, a martial arts friend of mine, a tae kwan do guy, lost a brand new knife I had just bought, when he threw it at a telephone pole, missed, and the knife vanished into a sand dune, never to be recovered. He had this shiny new taiji book laying around, that he received from an uncle, who was into internal arts. I asked my friend, if he had ever read it, and he said, "No", as he really wasn't interested. He had his extensive He Il Cho TKD book collection to go through. I flipped through it, wanted it immediately, and told him I would take the book as payment for my lost knife. He shrugged and told me it was mine. Over twenty years later, and I am still practicing taiji :)
In addition to a picture-by-picture tutorial on the Chen Man Ching Taiji form, it contains applications. Personally, I have been in fights, more than one or two, and so I think that the applications may be the weakest element of the book. Fine motor coordination, precision hand and finger movements, skills like Chin Na, are very hard to pull off, under the pressure, tempo, aggression and adrenaline of being in a fight. With that said, the applications are still intriguing, when looked at as potential opportunities.
Beyond the form section, are discussions of Taiji and Western Psychology. Taiji and Zen. Taiji and Yoga. Taiji and two other internal martial arts, Ba Gua, and Hsin I (which later on, in my early twenties, I also took up). There is also a talk about the I Ching, and a section on the Taiji Classics. There is a detailed and fascinating section on the health benefits of taiji and research outcomes of studies of taiji and various medical conditions.
There is a very interesting section on a brief experiment, introducing taiji, to patients as well as staff, at Bellevue Hospital, in 1975. The program was canceled due to budget cuts, but the director of activity therapy stated that he felt the taiji was successful in helping patients and the nurses and psychiatrists who attended, in learning to tune into themselves, and manage their stress. He stated that he thought that with financial support, the taiji therapy group would have been implemented into Bellevue's programs.
It's a shame that it did not. The healing power of internal practices like this is considerable. I used taiji to help me deal with stress, anxiety, tension, and depression, and taiji very much helped alleviate, and eventually cure me of those issues. Taiji makes your body and mind, easier to bear, easier to deal with, easier to experience. If it were up to me, taiji would be taught and practiced in mental as well as physical hospitals. It's natural medicine, with no intolerable side effects.
I still remember painstakingly trying to teach myself Master CMC's Yang style short form out of the pages of this book. As a minor, living either in group homes, or foster homes, sometimes working part-time at Dunkin Donuts, I had little opportunity or money, to find, much less train with, anyone who knew anything about taiji in rural New England, during my teens. After reading this book, some of my next acquisitions were, "The Sivanandu Companion to Yoga", "The Three Pillars of Zen" and some of Alistair Crowley and Scott Cunningham's works on the occult. Lawrence's cross-interests, became my cross-interests, as well.
Today, I practice mainly the Hunyuan Chen and Wu styles of taiji. I have had the opportunity and privilege of studying with some genuine taiji masters, and some of their indoor disciples, but as a teenager, this book was all I had. It was the beginning of a lifetime of taiji practice. It was a treasure, at a time when there were few taiji books available for Western consumption. The fact that it crossed so many genres and related fields, is one thing that continues to make this book a unique contribution. Thank you, Mr. Galante!