Attention! Head on over to to North Star Martial Arts and check out a copy of Scott Phillips new book on Taiji and Bagua, “Tai Chi, Baguazhang and The Golden Elixir: Internal Martial Arts Before the Boxer Uprising“. This is a unique examination of some of the more esoteric practices that could underly many of our common methods in martial arts. The connection between religion, theatre and martial arts is given a lot of thrift here, which is quite refreshing.
The book is a very interesting exploration of the origins and antecedents of practices from Taiji and Bagua. While there is much literature on the military and martial arts history of the martial arts, its connection to theatre and folk religious practices has often been overlooked. Scott Phillips brings light to a great many practices and interesting tangents of well known stories any practitioner of Taiji will appreciate.
Of particular note for readers of this blog, there is quite a lot of discussion about the origins of odd weapons like the Deer Horn Knives and over sized Dao often used in Bagua. He comes to similar conclusions on to the possible predecessors of these weapons as was talked about in this post. The wind and Fire Wheels particularly, are discussed and, even if one disagrees with the conclusions, the information and history he brings to the conversation will be gris for the mill for many future discussions for sure. (And full disclosure; you may recognize some of the Qi Jiguang translations as being from this blog as well.)
It is a good read. For anyone interested in the deeper origins and just differing perspectives on martial arts, this book is excellent. Scott Phillips has some very unique ideas and brings up many salient points through out. It is again, refreshing to look at these arts through a different lens than just the military/martial one. These arts existed in a culture, and as such they were influenced by that culture. to the specifics of those influences, there is a lot to discuss. But This book starts a very important and less traveled path for martial arts studies to go down. It raises some great questions and forces one to think from new angles.
A full review and discussion of this book will be forthcoming. The topics raised deserve more than a simple mention. But I do strongly recommend this book for anyone who is remotely interested in these topics. This is a welcome addition to the martial arts studies literature. Please check it out!