Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, June 04, 2018

Book Review: Laoshi and Laoshi's Legacy

"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning." - Thoreau

Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. To internalize what one has learned. Easy enough said, but how do you do this?

For many of us, we are attracted to our martial arts practice "for the philosophy," which may be difficult to articulate and even more so to bring into our everyday lives.

Luckily we have the book, Laoshi by Jan Kauskus, and his new book Laoshi's Legacy to help us along the way.

In each of these books, Kauskus has taken conversations and episodes from his training under his teacher, Laoshi, as both life lessons and Taijiquan based upon his Taijiquan practice. He's given these chapters only a light touch of artistic license facilitate continuity and smoothness in the narrative.

These books are about internalizing the philosophy of Taijiquan in general and the Taijiquan of Zheng ManQing (Cheng Man Ching) in particular. Having studied ZMQ Taijiquan under a direct student of The Professor myself, I can state that the words as they flow off of the page resonate with the stories I've heard and lessons I have learned.

Laoshi primarily centers on Kauskus' time as a student, while Laoshi's Legacy focuses on the period when he took over a few classes for his teacher, then grew into a teacher in his own right as his teacher retired to focus on his own practice.

The topics aren't airy topics discussed in a bamboo grove over tea, or maybe they are - the tribulations of trying to support one's self by teaching Taijiquan, recruiting students, dealing with money, fencing, characters in the training hall, push hands, dealing with whomever should walk in the door, getting your life in order, the perils of practicing in the park, difficult people, jealousy, envy, expectations; it's all in there.

By way of comparison, I haven't enjoyed reading such martial arts memoirs since Wolfe Lowethal's books about his days of training under The Professor.

If you are interested in letting the philosophy of the martial art that you practice becoming a part of who you are, I think that you'll be doing yourself a favor by reading both Laoshi and Laoshi's Legacy by Jan Kauskas.

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