A Review and Plea to Tai Chi Magazine -- Sell the Magazine or Pull the Plug
May 04, 2015
It is time for Marvin Smalheiser to either sell Tai Chi Magazine or pull the plug.
In the latest issue, I found one of the worst articles ever written, by William CC Chen. It is bad enough that two or three paragraphs were repeated at least four times, a horrible proof-reading error, but this is the type of bogus "medical" information contained in the article:
"The benefit of the magical art of Tai Chi Chuan for heart diseases is not magic. It is simply a matter of releasing the rib cage muscles and enlarging the inner volume of the torso. The organs are then able to work effectively due to the increased space of the chest cavity."
"The reason for the changes is that releasing of the rib cages without the arms floating up helps to keep the armpits open slightly. It may also help to enlarge the inner volume of the torso."
"The rib cage muscles release to increase the volume of the torso, giving more space to optimize the working conditions of all organs. Maximizing the volume of space in the torso promotes better function, allowing full inflation and deflation of the lungs."
"At the same time, the toes press against the floor and the fingers push against the resistance of air to create an additional forceful energy flow in the body. This creates a dynamic "jet-stream" wave effect within the torso which flushes out any contamination of the organs. It is similar to the water-jet in a dishwasher which rinses off the dirt from the dishes, making them like new and ready for reuse."
I mean, seriously? A dynamic "jet-stream" wave effect that acts as a dishwasher? And what type of research has gone into this discovery? According to William CC Chen, "This information I have accumulated and evaluated from my daily practice with students for the past 60 years."
Well, slap that story into the next issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of General Internal Medicine.
I hate to break this to Grandmaster Chen, but Tai Chi students, including his students, suffer heart disease, cancer, worn-out joints, and other illnesses, and they die at the same ages as the rest of the general population, this despite the extra room our organs apparently have to move around and get "lubricated" and "washed" like dishes.
William CC Chen also quotes Cheng Man-Ching, who allegedly said, "The organs of cats and dogs are healthier than humans because their organs are loosely hanging inside the body as they walk."
This is "medical" information at its worst. But it is not the only example of sloppy standards in this issue.
In another article, the writer uses the story of Zhang San Feng without question as the source of Taiji. I hate to break this to the editor of Tai Chi Magazine, but there is not one shred of evidence that Zhang San Feng ever existed.
There is one article in this issue containing good information, called The Eight Gates of Tai Chi Chuan, by Dax Howard.
One of the reasons I teach, and one of the reasons I started my podcast, Internal Fighting Arts, is to take people beneath the pseudoscience and bogus, unsubstantiated claims made in so much of what we read in magazines and books.
I understand times are probably hard for Tai Chi Magazine, with bookstores closing and circulation probably way down over the past (I am assuming). But the way to make a magazine relevant is to hold writers to a higher standard. The opposite seems to be happening at Tai Chi Magazine, and it is sad, because it could do so much good for the art. One way to do that is to keep it real, not buy into the bullshit and let anyone pass it along.
I won't even go into the Jiang Jian-ye videos plastered across the pages in the back of the magazine. This has been a waste of space for a LONG time.
You have done a great service to the art over the past 40 years, Marvin, but if, after all this time, you can't make it real or maintain quality control, sell the magazine, please. Or pull the plug.
Note from Ken: Marvin Smalheiser passed away in October, 2016. Tai Chi Magazine went out of publication at that point. It is a shame there was no one to carry the magazine forward. It did a lot of good for the art, despite some of the myths and the bad science that it helped perpetuate. Obviously, his age and health had a huge impact on the magazine during the final years.
"Well, slap that story into the next issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of General Internal Medicine. I hate to break this to Grandmaster Chen, but Tai Chi students, including his students, suffer heart disease, cancer, worn-out joints, and other illnesses, and they die at the same ages as the rest of the general population." RIGHT ON. At our 20 year anniversary dinner I was sitting with a table of people who have been practicing for 2 decades. Hum, cancer, Parkinson's, depression, knee replacements, all kinds of shit. Oh geezus, Qi didn't heal us??? What did keep us going is that we are the people who keep going. Yes, our practices are great touchstones and fabulous whole body exercise but they are not a fantasy. I'm involved with Western science for grant studies on the efficacy of Taiji, and part of it is a pain in the rump but part of it is not, because it is rigorous, replicable and measured. Its not a fantasy. That's useful if we are to ever really gain the reputation in the art that is, uh, rigorous, replicable and sustainable.
Posted by: Embrace The Moon | May 04, 2015 at 06:30 AM
Thanks, Kim. Good stuff!!! You have done a lot of good.
Posted by: Ken | May 04, 2015 at 06:50 AM
I agree that Tai Chi magazine has definitely slipped in the last few issues, however we all owe a real debt of gratitude to Marvin Smallheiser. And, I am saddened to hear of his passing. He will be missed! He really did something for all of us who practice the internal styles.
Posted by: Dave Liberman | April 16, 2017 at 02:26 PM
I agree, Dave. We do all owe Marvin a big "thank you." Perhaps at this point in the history of print publishing, there were no offers or buyers, or perhaps he didn't think about selling it. It's a shame, but there was so much nonsense in the magazine, I can't honestly say I have missed anything since its demise that would have moved my knowledge or practice any further. And for that, we have a lot of story writers, including teachers like William C.C. Chen, to blame for using the magazine to spread nonsense.
Posted by: Ken | April 16, 2017 at 03:33 PM
What internal martial arts are you proficient at, and how long have you trained if mastered it?
Posted by: ju | July 26, 2018 at 05:39 AM
I am proficient at Chen Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua. I have trained in all three for 31 years, but the first decade of that, 1987 to 1998, I studied Yang style Taiji. In early 1998 I switched to Chen style and have made it my foundational style since. I have competed in and won many tournament competitions, as have my students. Very few people master these arts, so I am not a master. I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung-Fu National Championships doing the Yang 24, so I guess I'm proficient.
Posted by: Ken Gullette | July 26, 2018 at 06:26 AM
Ju, I guess I should mention that I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung-Fu National Championships doing the Yang 24 form.
Posted by: Ken Gullette | July 26, 2018 at 06:27 AM
Yang 24, now that's a traditional form. This guy Ken has had it in for Grandmaster Checn for several years. If I compare their backgrounds, I think I'd listen to Master Chen over the guy that won a gold medal for the 24
Posted by: Mike Quinlan | May 21, 2019 at 08:09 AM
Well, Mike, I did do a bit more than that. I competed in many tournaments. You have, too, haven't you? Didn't you win something in 2011 in Orlando?
I don't have it in for Grandmaster William C.C. Chen at all, as I have carefully explained. But I do think you exhibit a cult-like mentality that some of his students display. For example, instead of addressing the issue, you attack me. That says it all. It's like expressing a doubt about Jesus' divinity to a Christian. The immediate reaction is to attack the doubter personally and threaten him with eternal torture.
And here I thought you were a "serial cynic and purveyor of irritation to koolaid drinkers." :) That's what I was doing when I reacted to this now several year's old magazine. I was not being a koolaid drinker and I was trying to point out places where it should have been improved. I didn't realize that Marvin was sick at the time, and I wish he had tried to sell the magazine. But as a former journalist and writer (with a few awards for that under my belt, too), I felt my review was needed.
I miss Tai Chi magazine, but I don't miss some of the content, where writers seemed to be able to print any claim without being called on the claim, or asked to back it up by a good editor.
I hope you are still practicing.
Posted by: Ken Gullette | May 21, 2019 at 08:35 AM