Book and Video Recommendations
I'm always being asked about any reading materials or whatnot that I could recommend to my students as background material. Here are some of my recommendations for English books and videos that I consider worth adding to your library. The books can all be purchased through online retailers such as Amazon.com, and many of them may also be found in your local brick and mortar bookstore as well.
For the books below, I've kept my list limited to those I have personally read. There may be others of value out there. There are certainly other books I've read that are certainly great books. But my choices reflect a good base for those looking into serious study of the martial arts, especially for those of you who are my students.
- Effortless Combat Throws by Tim Cartmell
This is honestly a book that I've gone back to again and again, more than any other. My copy is pretty ragged. It is, in my opinion, the best book ever written delineating any aspect of the internal martial arts. Although the title of the book suggests it is limited to throwing techniques, the information and explanations in this book are aplicable to all aspects of combat. The author, Tim Cartmell, is a veteran of a wide range of martial arts systems, as well as spending five years studying directly with Luo Dexiu and becoming one of his first disciples. Tim is not only learned and very, very able in the practice of martial arts, he can explain them in a simple, precise and approachable manner. You should have this on your bookshelf, its that simple.
- The Pa Kua Chang Journal edited by Dan Miller
This is a series of journal issues published for a span of just over 7 years in the early to mid 1990's. They were solely dedicated to information and research on the martial art of Baguazhang. For English language material on the whole of the art of Baguazhang, this is the motherload folks! Although it was originally a print journal, it is now available in CD format. You can purchase it through its current distributer Plumflower Press by clicking here: http://www.plumflower.com/frames.htm.
- Chinese Boxing - Masters and Methods by Robert Smith
An oldie but a goodie! This is one of those books that I read over and over as a teenager when I first began my study of the Chinese martial arts and was probably one of the reasons for my unbreakable determination to travel to Asia to learn the internal martial arts. And from hearing from others, this book has influenced many more martial artists over the years than just me. More to the point for us, it is centered about the author's experiences in Taiwan in the late 50's and early 60's. It also has a section specifically on Hung Yixiang, Luo Dexiu's main martial arts teacher.
- Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts by Donn Draeger and Robert Smith
This is a great book for an overview of all the Asian martial arts systems. The authors are both pioneers in the study and practice of Asian martial arts by westerners. They were also its most early proponents in bringing these arts to the attention of the Western reading public. This book goes into each geographic region of Asia and touches on the history, current practice, and some specifics of those regions' martial arts traditions. Its a backbone type of book, sort of like a condensed encyclopedia of Asian martial arts.
- Nei Jia Quan - Internal Martial Arts edited by Jess O'Brien
The editor is one of our YiZong brothers and he set out to put together a book for all us IMA geeks like himself... and God Bless Him! This book is a series of interviews with various martial arts teachers. The interviews are great to get a feel for ideas and practices espoused by each of these teachers. Of special interest to us YiZong guys, both Luo Dexiu and Tim Cartmell are interviewed for this book. Frankly, that alone should be enough to convince any of you that its worth buying. 'Nuf said.
- Xing Yi Nei Gong by Tim Cartmell and Dan Miller
This book is in actuality a compendium of material - it is part translation of some Xingyi classics, it is part history editorial, it is part tutorial on a set of neigong exercises passed down through one Xingyi lineage, and it is part explanation of core facets of the art of Xingyiquan by Tim Cartmell. As with anything Tim is attached to, this is quality. It also gives great basic background information for those studying the art of Xingyiquan.
- The Canon of Judo by Kyuzo Mifune
This book was originally published in 1960 and was written by the last 10th dan in Judo directly promoted to that rank by the founder Jigoro Kano. Kyuzo Mifune was known as one of the most technical of all judoka, his skill and abilities were such that he became known as the "God of Judo." He can still be seen in video while in his 70's impressively throwing much younger and much larger judoka. This book not only shows the basics of much of the entire curriculum of Judo, it also goes into detail on counters, combinations, specifics and principles. The latter is something rarely seen in traditional martial arts books, especially of the period. Its a classic.
- A Tooth from the Tiger's Mouth by Tom Bisio
Up until this book, it was darn hard to find a good overview on basic traditional Chinese medicine as it relates to martial arts. Actually, this might be the only book of its kind that specifically writes about traditional Chinese medicine with the martial arts in mind. The author is a noted and highly skilled martial artist, who is also highly skilled in Chinese tuina and healing arts. If you are an internal martial artist who actually trains to fight, and especially if you have a bent towards the healing arts, this is a wonderful book to add to your collection.
- The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master by Takuan Soho
The study of martial arts, internal arts in particular, deal greatly with the training of the mind. Yes, I realize this book is collection of letters written by a Japanese Zen priest who didn't actually study martial arts. But don't dismiss it. Un-fetter your mind, read the book, meditate on what is said, and let's see what you get out of it.
- The Way of the Warrior by Howard Reid and Michael Croucher
Howard Reid and Michael Croucher were part of the BBC team who came to Taiwan as part of series on the martial arts of Asia. They had a rather extensive stay with Hung Yixiang and his brother Hung Yimian as part of this. Some of that material later became part of this book. There are photos of a young Luo Laoshi as well. Beyond this section on the Soft Arts with Hung Yixiang, there is more information on other Asian martial arts traditions.
- The Power of Internal Martial Arts by B.K. Frantzis
Love him or hate him, think he has something to say, or think he's full of shine-ola, this is actually a fairly indepth introduction to the internal martial arts of Bagua, Xingyi and Taiji. Its part B.K. Frantzis travelogue and part explanation of various aspects of the internal martial arts. Although I do likely have issue with some areas of the book, I would recommend it to a new student who wants a peek and an overview of what the internal martial arts are often about and some of their differences from the so-called external martial arts. Again, if you're just starting out, its a good read.
This is the second of the two original High View Publications videos. This one again features Luo Laoshi and this time he is being assisted by Aarvo Tucker. There is a continuing and more lengthy introduction to the art of Gao style Baguazhang on this tape. It features a further explanation of the principles of Baguazhang training, practice and application, there is a short section on basic standing meditation, and of course, there is still a good amount of application.
- All the Gao style Bagua and Xingyi videos on Marcus Brinkman's site
Marcus Brinkman has been putting a lot of work in producing videos and translating books. All but one of the videos available on his site are related to Gao style Baguazhang. I'd say this is essential stuff to us Gao guys. If you've learned this stuff before, its a great reference. If you haven't, one day it will be great reference, you'll get there. Access his site and purchase by clicking on this link: http://www.gaostylebagua.com/