I have just started learning Tai Chi as my first martial art. I’m following group lessons so the instructor cannot always follow everyone’s doing.

Could you please suggest a good book for a beginner studying Chen style tai chi? In particular I’m looking for a book on

  1. philosophy, story, and theory
  2. exercises and movement explained thoroughly
  • 1
    Welcome to the site, could you highlight what research you have already done (and why this was not adequate)? in its current form this question is likely to be closed for lack of prior research.
    – Collett89
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 14:58
  • Sure! My teacher gave me some Italian video links and book resources but I do not like them, find them too personal and not broad enough. Looked for videos on YouTube and found something but my knowledge doesn’t let me understand if they are good or not (hence the looking for advice). Let me know if this is fine Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 15:00
  • We are still reading like we are expecting a list - I think there is enough information there to make a good question - recognising a good book from a bad one seems like a reasonable fit. Perhaps change the title to "How to recognise reputable resources on Tai-Chi philosophy?" - with most martial arts there are huge differences school to school (and instructor to instructor) so a good book for me might be a bad book for you - hence knowing what to look for is usually better than "which book/s"
    – Collett89
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 15:13
  • Done! :) let me know if this looks good! Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 15:14
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    Trying to suggest a book based only on the thin criteria of covering taiji is very difficult. Although the philosophy and theory may basically be the same, the way movements are performed between styles is not. Forms will not be the same, and significant elements like whether the body leans or remains upright may be different. Although you are not asking for a list of books, every book will equally meet the criteria, leading to a list from multiple answers. To be more helpful, you should at a minimum include what style of taiji you are learning and what forms if any are covered.
    – mattm
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


I recommend The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan by Wong Kiew Kit. Take my advice with a grain of salt; although I studied tai chi for a couple years, I never made progress beyond the beginner stage.

From the back cover:

It includes:

  • The history and development of various styles
  • The basic set of movements
  • The physical and mental benefits of Tai Chi Chuan
  • The relationship of Tai Chi to Taoism

The history of tai chi is debated. The Chinese martial arts tend to embellish their origin stories with elements of ancestors and the fantastic.

The usual caveats for martial arts book resources apply:

It is not easy for beginners to learn any martial art from a book; it is even harder to learn internal arts like Tai Chi Chuan

The description of movements covers common fundamental movements and forms from multiple styles of tai chi, including a Chen style form. I don't know whether this will match what you are learning.

The study of tai chi is not for the short term:

In my opinion, the practising Tomoi or Siamese Boxing is probably the fastest way one can learn to fight

In my personal opinion, the portions of the preface are most useful to understand the book's contents:

Nevertheless, practising patiently does not mean following a method blindly. If a student who has patiently practised Tai Chi Chuan for many years still remains sickly, weak, or emotionally unstable or mentally dull, then he or she has not been judicious or wise. Such a person should either turn to something else, or seek more information from masters or books to improve his or her practice. Generally, people who have correctly practised an established method for a year should reap the benefits that method is reputed to bring.


Although Tai Chi Chuan has a rich philosophy, usually recorded in poetic language, and some examples are found in this book, it is geared towards practical use in combat, and more significantly, in our daily life. In other words, if you have practised Tai Chi Chuan for 20 years, but cannot yet defend yourself when an assailant attacks you, or are still prone to anger or nervousness, or lack the energy to run and jump irrespective of how old you are, you have wasted your time. This book explains why and how Tai Chi Chuan enhances your health, work, and play.

  • Thank you @mattm (also for editing my question so professionally). I indeed go every week to Tai Chi class and practice home as often as I can, but I needed some kind of theoretic support. All this is great! Thank you Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 7:19

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