Discovering Tai Chi

by Scott Morrice on 08/08/2012

I have always been interested in discovering Tai Chi. Not only is it a natural extension of my own journey into the field of mind, body, spirit, but, like everyone else I am sure, many times I have noticed devotees of the art practice their skills in open squares, parks, gardens and gymnasiums and I am always struck and impressed by the peacefulness, grace and fluidity of their movements.

I have always considered taking the first steps to learn more, but, again like everyone else, I keep running into time budget issues and I never seem to get very far beyond silently expressing that one thought.

Well, I ran into a partial solution to the problem of discovering Tai Chi the other day.

True Mind, a home entertainment label, is releasing a DVD featuring Tai Chi Master Jian Liu Jun explaining and demonstrating the principles of Tai Chi Chuan (the “supreme ultimate fist”). The title of the release is Tai Chi—Discover The Ancient Art.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the DVD in advance of its formal release, with a view to providing a review.

As you may know, Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Chi, is a Chinese martial art form. It was originally practiced for both its defense training and for its health benefits. And both of these benefits are still important motivators—but I would suggest not to everyone. I am guessing that the slow movement practice of the groups of people you see in the parks and open squares is being done by those primarily interested in the health benefits of Tai Chi.

For those that don’t know anything about Tai Chi, in other words, for those like me, this DVD is a great place to start. Master Jian Liu Jun does a excellent job of demonstrating and explaining several basic Tai Chi techniques, and in so doing gives one a “feel” for what this martial art form is all about.

Each movement is demonstrated several different times, from different viewing angles, at different speeds of execution, and they are all accompanied by an easy to understand verbal instruction. In addition, you are warned about the most common problems in proper execution, and then the improper execution is also demonstrated. So really—no excuses.

The pace of instruction is a bit slow—a function of doing several different demonstrations of each movement I think.

I also found the quality of the DVD itself to be a bit of an issue. As I was playing it on my computer the background images were a bit wavy and not as clear and distinct as they might have been. This might have been a function of my own computer settings, but I couldn’t seem to correct the issue. Not fatal—just a heads up.

Perhaps my biggest criticism of the DVD might be that it doesn’t leave me with an understanding of what is behind, or the reason for, each of the movements. For example, in respect of my own particular motivation for studying Tai Chi, I don’t really understand how the various movements actually result in health benefits—I don’t doubt that they do, I just don’t yet understand how that works. And that would have been helpful to me. This might well be beyond the scope of what this particular production is ultimately trying to provide, but it left me with a feeling of being a bit incomplete.

I don’t think that this DVD is intended for anyone other than complete beginners. You are not going to be able to get very deeply into this martial art form on the strength of this DVD alone. There is obviously so much to learn that I think it would be impossible to do much more than what was actually accomplished here.

But I do think it does an excellent job of giving you a good first look, and a feel, for what Tai Chi is about. And I think that this is a job well done.

  • Geo

    And therein lies the need to take instructions from a qualifed instructor.
    Master G., Martial Arts Center of Jupiter (http://www.jupitermartialarts.com/)

    • scottmorrice

      Yes, I agree with you! And I think this DVD does exactly what it is intended to do—answer the initial bite of curiosity and funnel a more informed desire for more information towards exactly what you suggest.

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