With 36 martial arts and health books to his credit, Tai Chi Push Hands: The Martial Foundation of Tai Chi Chuan is only the fourth that Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming has ever co-authored. What's more, Tai Chi Push Hands co-author David Grantham is only the second person with whom Dr. Yang has collaborated. This is also the second book that they've written together, the first being Tai Chi Ball Qigong. Notably for their second work, Grantham is elevated to the first author. "The first book that we wrote together, Tai Chi Ball Qigong, my name was first," says Dr. Yang. "Tai Chi Push Hands is David's time for his name to be first. David has put in most of the effort to complete this book. To introduce David's name to the general public with recognition, his name should be first."
Previously, Dr. Yang has only shared author credits with one other person, the respected grandmaster, Liang Shou-Yu. The two masters co-authored two books, Baguazhang – Theory and Application and Xingyiquan – Theory, Applications, Fighting Tactics and Spirit. It was an unprecedented cooperation between masters. Grandmaster Liang is well established in the martial world. Originally from Sichuan, China, Liang has authored several books on his own, two others with YMAA, as well as three instructional YMAA DVDs. Additionally, his daughter, Helen Liang, has produced six instructional DVDs, and his son-in-law, Chenhan Yang, has produced five DVDs, all with YMAA. The collaboration between Dr. Yang, YMAA, and the Liang clan has been tremendously fruitful for the transmission of authentic Chinese arts into English. And there's more to come.
But who is David Grantham? Tai Chi Ball Qigong is Grantham's first book, and Tai Chi Push Hands is his second. "Although I am not one of Dr. Yang's disciples (perhaps one day) I hold various instructor certificates under YMAA," Grantham explains, "and it is my wish to continue to preserve the knowledge for future generations. Writing Tai Chi Ball Qigong began the adventure of allowing me to be introduced to the world. Writing Tai Chi Push Hands was even more of my writings with Master Yang's support. Hopefully it will also allow people to see my value in teaching this subject matter."
"Our relationship is not just teacher and student, but also as good friends," says Dr. Yang. "He has been with me for more than 20 years. We know each other very well so we can collaborate with each other without problems. David is committed, qualified, willing, and capable." After writing so many books on his own, Dr. Yang is now grooming some of his talented pupils to carry on his literate legacy. What's more, he adds with a grin, "His English is better than my 'Chinglish.'"
Wax On, Wax Off to Write On, Write Off
To co-author a book with your master is a rare privilege and honor. Grantham is an airline pilot by trade (in fact, he is currently an instructor at United Airlines on 757 and 767 aircraft) but his passion is that of a student and teacher of Chinese Qigong, both for health and martial arts. Teaching is a major part of his life. He is certified as a Coach Instructor and a Chin Na Instructor through YMAA. He also holds certifications in speed and agility, as well as high school strength and conditioning. He was an assistant coach of youth football for 12 years. And he's currently working on his Kettlebell and FMS (Functional Movement System) certifications. "I have never left teaching in general," says Grantham. "It just feels good to be able to present something to someone and see them learn it. It is how I learn too."
Writing a book, much less two books, was never part of Grantham's agenda. However, a good master knows how to push his students to bring out their best. It was Dr. Yang who inspired Grantham to put down his sword (just for a moment) and pick up a pen. "Truthfully I never did well in my English classes," confesses Grantham, "and really never thought about writing anything until speaking with Master Yang. We spoke of books that have yet to be written and then he said, 'You should write the Tai Chi Ball book with me.' I felt like he was challenging me but in the sense of a master challenging his student with a task of training - similar to the famous movie The Karate Kid 'wax on, wax off.' I thought about it for a second and said, 'Challenge accepted.'"
A challenge is exactly that – challenging. Writing a book alone is a herculean task. Writing a book with your master has its own unique demands. For Grantham, there was a lot of redundancy. "The biggest struggle I feel for us is often when we write things separately then put them together, we find a lot of the material written is duplicated just written in our own words," admits Grantham. "Let's face it – he is my master and I have been learning his material for many years so why wouldn't that occur? When we first put together Tai Chi Push Hands it was like 600 pages and we hadn't even begun to discuss pictures. I looked at the material and found too many duplicates even though they had been written using our words. So I took it apart, restructured and rewrote a majority of it. I also made an attempt to not completely duplicate past books. It was important to give the reader as much fresh material as possible."
Picking the Brains of the Master
Nevertheless, working with Dr. Yang was a dream come true. As a student, having unlimited access to the master opens untold opportunity. It's an invitation to really probe the profoundness of the subject, to really pick the brains of the master and get answers to nagging questions that others wouldn't dare to ask. "His knowledge is really in depth," says Grantham respectfully. "I also do not have a lot of access to historical writings which are solely in Chinese writing and for that matter my Chinese is very limited. So I can ask him for these things. I get to write my ideas and he can look at them and we can discuss the theories together. It also allows us to write something together and find the best way to present it to the public. Sometimes you find your idea in your head is not what the reader will interpret. So having Master Yang or another writer allows you to see an idea presented in a different manner."
For any tai chi practitioner, Tai Chi Push Hands is a must-have book. The confluence of Dr. Yang's wisdom and David Grantham's expertise and western perspective combine to deliver a comprehensive work, a complete curriculum for partner practice that can be referenced by students and instructors for years to come. Tai chi is rooted in the martial arts, and even though many practice tai chi strictly for their health and well-being nowadays, to truly understand tai chi, that martial root must be acknowledged. The practice of Push Hands a key element. It is what makes tai chi practice a true living art. Through extensive and detailed explanations of the various two-person tai chi exercises within this book, practitioners can cultivate their own profound sense of feeling in their bodies and minds.
Leaving the Nest
At some point, if all goes well, the student becomes the master. Now that Grantham has two books under his belt, his future as a writer is established and both authors can move onward. "Master Yang and I have discussed this at length," reveals Grantham, "and the short answer is no more co-authored books will be done with us together. I have been kicked out of the nest and it is time for me to go on my own writing books. It has been a true honor to work with Master Yang thus far and I will always consult with him for historical knowledge, etc."
"Tai Chi Push Hands will be the last book that David and I will collaborate on," confirms Dr. Yang. "David will not need me anymore. Since the first book, Tai Chi Ball Qigong, he has established his reputation. Now, it is the time for him to be independent." "He has made it well known that one day he wishes to retire," adds Grantham, "and his wish is to pass the knowledge on so the next generation of students can continue to teach and preserve the arts. It was the idea behind his Retreat Center as well."
What's next for David Grantham and Dr. Yang? "I do have a few ideas for some books," teases Grantham. "I need to focus my energy on a few things first." For Dr. Yang, co-authoring is becoming his latest avenue for publishing. "My time is limited," states Dr. Yang. "Co-authoring will not just save us time, but also give readers different aspect of the topic. Having different points of view about the topics is very valuable for readers."
The Next Generation
Beyond Dr. Yang's 36 martial arts and health books, he has also written 5 novels. You simply cannot be that prolific of a writer without keeping one eye towards the future. He already has his next collaboration in the works. "My daughter, Kathy K. Yang, and I are collaborating now to write a book about Tai Chi Chuan and Health. Kathy has received her master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She will be able to contribute a viewpoint of this topic from TCM aspect. Kathy will be the first author and I will be the second for this Tai Chi Chuan and Health book."
Whether it be master and student or father and daughter, Dr. Yang's co-authored books are bringing fresh perspectives to our time-honored traditions. YMAA is looking forward to bringing you a new generation of authors and more authoritative books so you can deepen your practice and find your inner peace.
About the Author: Gene Ching is staff writer and publicist for YMAA. He is a 32nd generation disciple of the original Shaolin Temple in China, a Provost Master of Fencing, and served as the Publisher of the newsstand magazine, Kung Fu Tai Chi, and a Weapons Expert on El Rey Network's Man at Arms: Art of War.