Peter Ralston's knowledge on "being" and his profound use of the English language started my mind racing... Professor Cheng Man Ch'ing in his book "Tai-chi the supreme ultimate exercise for health, sport, and self-defense" (by Cheng Man-ch'ing and Robert. W. Smith) states on page 107, that "T'ai-chi hinges entirely upon the player's consciousness (i) rather than upon his external muscular force(li)." What Peter Ralston accomplishes in his book is explaining this consciousness -- and the idea of opening the mind to what "is" rather than what the player may "assume" it is. This book showed me what a lazy mind I had and gave me directions on how to make it active by being in the moment. It is instruction on having a beginner's mind -- always questioning, always alert. If you think you know it, you are ignoring what is really there and therefore you do not know. Most important, he writes, "Correction is not a 'bad'; it is a power. It is ability." One caution -- unless you are ready to activate your brain by his indepth approach to this consciousness-training, do not waste your time -- it's not for a lazy mind.
This book provided this beginning tai-chi student with a rich, methodical philosophical "grounding" on some concepts that that are at the core of Eastern martial arts. Ralston helps the reader develop an awareness, quite literally "from the ground up", of reality. He conveys how complicated, profound and mutable are the interrelationships between the physical universe, the self and others, and how man has the capability to adapt harmoniously and effortlessly to change. Ralston even manages to shed some light on that elusive, yet pervasive, concept of "chi". I highly recommend this book. It should not be read quickly, though. Like most good things, its insights will come to you gradually, and in their own good time.
In Mr. Ralston's other books they are mostly on philosophy, that is they do not delve into techniques. Only a couple of chapters in this book are on philosophy. And this book is focused mostly on techniques--a lot of techniques.
This book is a blend of Tai Chi (now called Taiji), Aikido, Pa Kua (now called Bagua Zhang), and throws from Judo and Japanese Jujitsu. Thare are about 130 applications and each with about 4 pictures and some having as many as 9 pictures to show the techniques.
The book integrates and explains in a progressive manner starting with Taiji push hands and techniques, and then throws such as those from Aikido and from other martial arts such as Judo and Ju Jitsu. And also there is a large chapter on Bagua Zhang (Pa Kua Chan) stepping and merging techniques, in which he explains how to integrate the other techniques with Bagua.
This book is an intermediate to advanced book for those martial artists that are already familiar with Taiji Quan, Aikido and Bagua Zhang. And it does a good job of explaining the techniques with lots of pictures. However, due to the large amount of coverage this may be overwhelming for the beginner. Also it is challenging to describe these techniques with just words and pictures and for someone seeing these for the first time it will be confusing. Hence I recommend this book for people that are already familiar with these martial arts.
This book does not cover Taiji forms (although the author does comment that he created his own form), or Bagua Zhang circle walking (an essential part of Bagaua). Nor does it cover striking, punching, and kicking techniques. But it does cover the push hands and throwing techniques and follows up with using these with Bagua Zhang stepping techniques in great detail.
This is the second copy of this book I have purchased. I gave the first one to a friend not knowing how hard it would be to find afterward. This is the companion volume to Cheng Hsin: Principles of Effortless Power. Both books studied together are written well enough to allow the dilligent learner to grasp the concepts and techniques taught in this book. That doesn't mean it's easy but Peter Ralston Has given every detail possible without showing up at your doorstep to deliver the book himself. Highly Recommended.