SINGING DRAGON have emerged as the leading UK publisher of books related to internal cultivation and Chinese martial arts. Here’s an overview of four recent books that explore different dimensions of this rich and flourishing culture.
Following hard on the heels of Lindsay Wei’s Valley Spirit, a poignant and reflective journal that took us on a journey of discovery to White Horse Mountain on the westerly edge of Wudang comes another book from a similar “seeker”.
Robert Sheaffer‘s Ten Methods of The Heavenly Dragon begins in the pouring rain in Taipei and the chance discovery of a tea house which proves to be a major catalyst in changing his life. It provides him with an intimate insight into Taipei daily life while opening up a minefield of potential cultural misunderstandings. It’s also delivers a fortuitous introduction to the Adept Shun Yuan of the Heavenly Dragon sect.
His encounter with Shun Yuan opens up a brand new set of challenges which confront his ingrained western world view. Shun Yuan is a mysterious person, not least of all because is he is also a Westerner. Unfortunately, we are given no information as to how he came to be an adept of an esoteric Buddhist order laced with Taoist practices. Interestingly, my own research points to the Heavenly Dragon sect being an ancient martial arts society initiated by the Jade Emperor dedicated to maintaining the “Mandates of Heaven”, which usually means that they end up fighting supernatural creatures like ghosts and vampires who have violated Heaven’s Mandate by remaining on Earth after death.
While there are no such celestial encounters in this book Shun Yuan is clearly capable of extraordinary feats. We are simply left to follow our often bemused narrator as he attempts to decipher Shun Yuan’s life lessons while devoting himself to the practice of meditation, qi gong, baguazhang and push hands.
lf you are looking for a deeper insight into esoteric Buddhism or the practices outlined above you may be disappointed with Ten Methods of The Heavenly Dragon. However, I happily consumed Robert Sheaffer’s personal journey and the Ten Lessons he underwent at the hands of Sun Yuan.
If you are looking for a book that delves deeper into the relationship between student and teacher in the martial arts you need to snap up Alex Kozma‘s excellent Warrior Guards The Mountain. I’ve been fortunate to do the odd training session and workshop with Alex and can testify as to his skills in xing yi quan and baguazhang. Over the years he has published several self-penned books documenting his own experiences with various teachers. Having read The Inner Path Of The Warrior, Beyond The Mysterious Gate and Ziranmen I was keen to see what this weighty new tome promised
“Long fascinated with the mystical and energetic aspects of the martial arts, I set out on a journey to study with the masters of these traditions.” says Alex. “From the Taoist arts of bagua , taiji and hsing i… to the Tibetan spiritual fighting arts… to the magical practices of Indonesian pentjak silat… along the way I saw many amazing things and witnessed strange skills. Some of these things I have written about in this book, along with the life stories and training skills of the various masters. The more I practice and teach these arts , the more I see that they are about far more than just fighting… they are a way of facing and working with the deepest aspects of who we are . And that is the way of the esoteric warrior.”
Warrior Guard the Mountain is a serious book of which Alex can be most proud. It builds on the content of the previous books and it takes the reader onto a whole new level. Decades of practice with teachers and friends are distilled into the book’s 350 pages and page after page we are treated to a flow of historical knowledge combined deep and personal insights into the actual practice of various martial arts. Alex takes us on a genuine journey to China, Japan and south east Asia. He delivers concise in-depth interviews with his long-time friend/mentor Dr Serge Augier (Ziranmen), He Jinghan (Baguaquan), Cheong Cheng Leong (Pheonix Eye Fist), Paul Witrod (Chow Gar Southern Mantis + The Vedic Warriors), John Evans Sensei (Fudo-Ryo), Steve Benitez (Silat + Ziranmen) amongst others. The experience of the two women included – Lindsay Wei (Wudang) and Laarni Benitez (Silat) – are a welcome inclusion, as is the chapter Gordon Tso, a Hong Kong banker and with a real passion for martial arts.
Above: A young He Jinghan practices Qing Gong (Lightness skills). Deep!
Regardless of what discipline one might favour in one’s own life, each of these practitioners provides plenty of food for thought. I know that will return to this book again and again. Highly recommended.
While we are on the subject of practice I also enjoyed Richard Bertschinger’s lively little book Everyday Qigong Practice. This long time practitioner/teacher (over 25 years) has constructed a simple but excellent guide to basic daily practice that anyone can embark on. If there’s no teacher’s in your locality or you simply wish to try out early Morning Meditation, An Eight Sectioned Brocade, Three Circles Posture (Standing Post), Ten Aggrievement Exercises or The Three Lowerings in the seclusion of your own home, this is a good a good place to get started. That said, it does require discipline if you wish to get results. As the man says of The Three Circles posture : “A hundred days of this and you should be flying!”
Finally, a short mention of CS Tang’s The Mysterious Power Of Xing Yi Quan which has just been published by Singing Dragon. I reviewed this book when it came out on Alex Kozma’s Line Of Intent imprint and heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the art “Form/Intention Boxing – Xing Yi Quan. Check my earlier review here: https://ancienttofuture.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/exploring-the-mysterious-power-of-xingyiquan-by-sifu-c-s-tang/
PS… If you missed the review of Lindsay Wei’ book check this: https://ancienttofuture.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/the-valley-spirit-lindsay-weis-story-of-daoist-cultivation/ + I’m just going through Mike Patterson’s self-published book on Xing Yi Quan… more on that in the near future… right now, got go the park and practice taiji… all this thinking and typing – need to release the tension.