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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful introspective look into internal martial arts
The difficulty with understanding internal alchemy,internal power, qi, is that even in the original Chinese, the language is highly symbolic. Ideograms (Chinese characters) can have different meanings in different contexts. Combine that with the Chinese penchant for exaggerating and analogizing things, and any translation of original Chinese texts must be taken with a...
Published on September 16, 2003 by V. K. Lin

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Esoteric
If you are interested in a path to internal power/internal strength in your martial arts practice, this probably isn't a good place to start. Mr. Ralston clearly knows of his subject, but is verbose and speaks in such esoteric terms that it isn't very helpful for one starting to explore this area. I didn't find it helpful to any degree, nor did my friends who read it...
Published on February 28, 2011 by Michael Hackett


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful introspective look into internal martial arts, September 16, 2003
By 
V. K. Lin (Eugene, OR United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
The difficulty with understanding internal alchemy,internal power, qi, is that even in the original Chinese, the language is highly symbolic. Ideograms (Chinese characters) can have different meanings in different contexts. Combine that with the Chinese penchant for exaggerating and analogizing things, and any translation of original Chinese texts must be taken with a grain of salt. At the very least, a deep understanding of the context is required in addition to fluency in the language.
For those of us with primarily Western backgrounds, Peter Ralston's book Cheng Hsin is wonderful. He relies more on personal experience, takes quotes from the classics to support his narrative, to define what he feels is the key to understanding the internal martial arts-- specifically, effortless power.
Although some of his sentences are complicated, and take several readings to completely understand, this is forgivable. Finding the precise words in English to convey his meaning is a difficult task, and Ralston does so effectively-- albeit not simply with respect to grammar.
What Ralston does is break down all those esoteric principles you've read and or learned from studying internal martial arts-- be it Tai Chi, Ba Gua, Hsing-I, or others-- and put them in understandable, and IMO, realistic terms. There is no actual spirit here, or internal energy, simply awareness, understanding, consciousness, and biomechanics. To me, a wonderful, realistic interpretation that makes sense from a Western standpoint.
Having ongoing formal training in this area, I can tell you that unlike other reviewers, I found this book delightful. It corroborated all the teachings that I had gathered from my instructor and guest intructors and readings, and put it in another perspective, adding increased insight.
In many respects, it IS a step-by-step guidebook for developing improved structure, internal awareness-- and better yet, there is no quasi-mythical/symbolic gobbledygook to confuse you! To native medieval Chinese, references to earth power and qi may have been intuitively obvious, but I have been trying to understand these terms from a Western point of view. Ralston makes a great stab at it-- right or wrong-- he strips out the spiritual per se-- and gives us something to really focus on and work on. Yes, he talks about consciousness and focus and awareness and being, but anyone who has worked in meditation or internal arts will instantly grasp what he means. Ralston does a nice job of DEFINING what he means when he uses these words.
When the world-famous Chinese master says to you "Move your qi here..." and you say... "Okay, what do you mean by qi, and how exactly should I move it?" You get different answers from different masters... many high-level masters downplay qi. Ralston eliminates that all together. This is what he discovered, this is how he interprets it. Fantastic.
Now, the only question is whether he's missing something or not...
A must read. If I had my own school, this is the one book so far that I would make mandatory...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheng Hsin for fighting, playing, living., August 6, 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
Ralston is hardly the first fighter to realize there is more to be gained from internal martial arts than the ability to knock people down effectively, but few if any have written as effectively or honestly about the connection between the principles that make internal martial arts work and the exploration of one's own physical and conscious being. Ralston's Cheng Hsin cannot be 'explained' by a book any more than internal martial art can be learned from a book, but Ralston offers the reader both concrete, valuable advice on training, and a way for the reader to begin his or her own study of the connection between internal martial arts and ontology. The book is dense; the dedicated student will find multiple readings rewarding.
Also recommended: William C.C. Chen, _Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan_. Tai Chi pugilism straight-up, from a consummate teacher and master of the art.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book that can change how you live your life, August 17, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
Every once in a while you find a high impact book. Something that awakens something deep within and lasts forever. This is the one. It is a book that you can pick up time and time again and always gets something new out of it, or something deeper than you ever did before. It is written by a man who is one of the most courageous I have ever met, some one who dared to venture into experiences we might dream about and others that we might never have considered possible. It is about fundamental ways of being, of connecting with principles - a source - that somehow we find ourselves disconnected from, and to the degree that we are disconnected, disempowereed, distressed, even suffering (though we may not acknowledge it). This book is about the effortless joy and freedom and power in our humanity that is available to us all, right here, right now, in every moment. Peter Ralston has made a huge diffence in my life. Allow him into yours.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those rare books ..., April 20, 2006
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
If you are an individual interested in exploration of being and consciousness, and especially the interaction of body and mind in this endeavor, The Principles of Effortless Power can easily become a kind of bible, a constant source of learning with unceasing depths.

Although it has been said that what Ralston does best is clarify the internal martial arts, it is much more than that. Any student of Zen will quickly see the similarities in language and concept between Cheng Hsin and Zen studies. Read about self-questioning, not-knowing, direct experience of the moment, and grounded openness, and you will quickly realize where things are going.

Ralston's Cheng Hsin deals with matters far beyond what would appear to be the narrow interest of martial arts. Indeed, its depth reaches concerns of the deepest kind, yet being always aware that its content is to be found in constant actualization, questioning, and interaction. Cheng Hsin cannot be explained because the well from which the manifestations of its principles spring is fundamentally unspeakable.

As a reviewer for another one of Ralston's books said, Cheng Hsin is not for a lazy mind. It is not one of those quirky books that you read once, get the gist of, and move on from. The Principles of Effortless Power is very challenging, and at times very obscure and tedious. The book and Cheng Hsin itself require unceasing patience. Throughout Ralston implies that all the elements of Cheng Hsin he is describing are simply manifestations of deeper principles which cannot be put into words, and he is constantly hedging himself against any appearance of dogma or pseudospirituality. As he says on his website, he establishes Cheng Hsin as a way of openness planted on the firm ground of practice.

Peter Ralston is one of those rare people, a modern master who has realized the fundamental principles all the classics refer to on his own terms. As a modern and genuine system, The Principles of Effortless Power is the scripture of Cheng Hsin. But that isn't saying much, as like any worthwhile master, Ralston makes sure to drive home the knowledge that Cheng Hsin is a matter of personal effort. Words can only point the way.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars revolutionary grounding, September 25, 2006
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
This is one of the most amazingly insightful books I have ever read. Not a martial artist myself, I have applied its principles to tennis, chess, sitting, sleeping, and generally walking and biking around the physical world. Ralston emphasizes grounding in such a way that he changed my body. For example, in several metaphors, he urges us to imagine a weight pulling us down to earth. When I fall asleep now (never a problem for me), I sink more fully and luxuriously into the pull of gravity. When I stand or walk, I enjoy my connection to the earth as if there's a large sphere surrounding me, extending equally far below the ground. My words can't do justice to his presentation, which, as some other reviewers have pointed out, is often rather cumbersome or even ugly stylistically. It's not a mental change that this book helped me with; it's a physical transfiguration. This is one of the very few books of which I never read more than one or two pages at a sitting because each page gives me so much to try to assimilate into my new feelings of how my body moves within space.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful book for martial artists of all types., June 20, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
As an American with an interest in internal martial arts, I am often frustrated trying to understand, both conceptually and bodily, the meaning of the traditional Chinese terms for the principles that are the foundation of these arts. This book communicates these ideas in a refreshingly accessible way for English speakers without diluting their power. However, this book demands repeated readings. The concepts that are discussed are not easily communicated by language but are best understood through direct bodily experience. With perseverance and dilligent training these principles can transform the skill of any martial artist. This is an indispensable resource and the most enlightening book I have ever read on this subject. I highly recommend it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Esoteric, February 28, 2011
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This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
If you are interested in a path to internal power/internal strength in your martial arts practice, this probably isn't a good place to start. Mr. Ralston clearly knows of his subject, but is verbose and speaks in such esoteric terms that it isn't very helpful for one starting to explore this area. I didn't find it helpful to any degree, nor did my friends who read it. Once you are truly on your way to exploring internal power practices, this could be a good addition to your library.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best!, March 23, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
As a practicing martial artist of many years with tastes running to the ecclectic, there are only two books that I have read that show what I would call BRILLIANCE! One is "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do", by Bruce Lee, and the other is this book! Ralstons insights into the deep nature of martial arts movement are astounding! I couldn't help but be amazed! This is a book that one can go back to repeatedly over the years, and each time find something new, and indeed, I have! It is very gratifying to see this volume back in print, as I,ve already gone through two copies. It will always have a place on my bokshelf. Ralston's book does what few do, to literally go to the heart and soul of martial arts, and to make the secrets of expession of power in those arts intellible to the reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will change your perspective on internal arts, January 30, 2009
By 
Demitri Pevzner (depends on time of year) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
While Ralston primarily writes about his own art, Cheng Hsin, it has has had a profound effect on the way I view my own arts, from Karate to Taijiquan.

The book covers many topics, from posture, to Chi/Ki, to philosophy of martial arts. All of them I found to be useful in my own practice. I highly recommend this book to anyone practicing internal martial arts, or anyone looking to improve their martial skills.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To me, not a martial arts book., December 12, 2007
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This review is from: Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power (Paperback)
This is one of the best books ever written, in terms of its content.

Peter Ralston knows something important, and he knows it well. Read this book with your life's question in mind, and you will understand.
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Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power
Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power by Peter Ralston (Paperback - January 29, 1999)
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