The next biography I read about internal arts and Daoism was Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard, which details the story of Wang Li Ping and the training he went through with three Daoist teachers. The story has some incredible training notes, and together with Master Wang's Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu, the would be student will find many helpful practices. The first time I read it I was actually in China with my qigong teacher Michael Winn visiting the very same mountains that Li Ping visited during his own training. Wang Li Ping holds seminars every year teaching Daoist nei gong, and his is considered a national treasure by the Chinese.
I discovered the autobiography of Lindsey Wei, The Valley Spirit, through a posting by her publisher on a popular martial arts forum. Knowing nothing about her, I picked up the book simply to support a fellow martial artist. What I found was an incredibly honest journal detailing Lindsey's search for a teacher in China. Many of her experiences and stories mirrored my own, and though I haven't had the chance to study with her yet or visit with her teachers in the Wudang mountains, those trips are definitely in my future.
Fourth Uncle in the Mountain by Marjorie Pivar was given to me as a gift by a fellow tai ji student and acupuncturist. The story details the training of Quang Van Nyugen, an orphan who is adopted by a spiritual teacher and barefoot doctor in Vietnam during the 1950's. Nyugen learns about herbalism, and acupuncture as well as martial arts during a tumultuous time in Vietnam's history. A moving story, and a great read.
Adam Hsu is a very well respected martial artist, teacher, and author. His work entitled The Sword Polisher's Record is a collection of articles he originally wrote for Kung Fu and Blackbelt magazine. Hsu discusses many principles of kung fu, training, and even concepts of how the training fits into our modern lives. Though a bit negative at times, I think its difficult for him to watch what has become of the arts in modern times, it is a worthy reference in any martial artist's library. The Sword Polishers Record is a book I refer to again and again.
Robert Smith's Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods is a classic, a must have. Smith also studied with Chen Man Ch'ing, and spent ten years traveling throughout southeast Asia studying martial arts. He provides details on his encounters with various teachers, and relates some incredible stories. I especially like the book because it shreds the myth of mystical monks training in the mountains, and presents some very normal men who live in cities, smoking and drinking, but who have amazing gong fu.
And finally, Alex Kozma's Beyond the Mysterious Gate is a quiet legend in the martial arts world. Like the Blofeld works I mentioned in last week's blog, if you meet someone who's read Kozma you know are standing with someone who's probably put in the work, and broken through the superficial layers of martial arts research. Kozma details his early years in the UK getting beat up by the neighborhood toughs, and finding his first teacher Serge Augier. He then strikes out on his own and studies with teachers around the world. His second book is more widely available, Warrior Guards the Mountain, and includes great history and details about a variety of martial arts...
There are so many more, Iron and Silk, American Shaolin: An Odyssey in the New China, Warrior Odyssey, but the list has to end somewhere…