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You probably came to this page looking for a recommendation for a Tai Chi DVD.
But I'm going to ask you to stop for a moment and consider something you might not be aware of when it comes to learning Tai Chi, or indeed any other exercise, from a DVD.
Back in 1982, the actress Jane Fonda released a VHS tape called the "Jane Fonda Workout." This was in the early days of home video, and Fonda's videos was the first "follow-along" aerobics tape to sell in big numbers. Some people bought their first VHS player just to follow along with Jane.
Over the last 30 years, we've switched from tapes to DVDs and now to online videos. But thanks to aerobic-Jane, people still have this 1980's robotic conditioning to expect to follow along with someone while exercising.
And that's true with even in something opposite as you can get to aerobics, such as Tai Chi.
I guess that's why occasionally someone asks me why our course is online and not on DVD. I think they ask this because they are expecting to put in a Tai Chi DVD, watch us do some movements, and imitate us.
Well, while "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," it's the LAMEST form of Chi Development. You will NOT learn good chi development through playing "follow the leader" in front of your TV with a Tai Chi DVD.
The best benefits of Tai Chi - health, stress relief, well-being, and chi development - come when you learn to adapt the movements to your unique body, mind, and energy system. You can't do that while learning to be a copycat of someone else in a "monkey-see, monkey-do" fashion.
Besides this "follow-along" mentality, there's another legacy of Jane's work, thanks to the aerobic revolution she helped create.
And that is ... pain.
Trips to the doctor, the chiropractor, and the surgeon.
In some cases, an injury that never heals, and a lifetime of suffering.
Today, cardio-kickboxing is the most popular form of follow-along aerobics. And it's causing serious damage to a lot of bodies. One study published by the US National Library of Medicine found that 29% of the participants in their kickboxing study suffered injuries. And 64% of the time, these were not old injuries that were aggravated by following along - they were NEW injuries that people never had.
New injuries ... new pain .... for people that didn't have it before.
A few years ago, on one of my YouTube videos, Marie posted this comment: "I was so in love with Cardio Kick? and seeing results in my ab area. I did not know that those are number #1 ways that people injure their knees. I tore my meniscus while doing a Defend Bob Dip and Weave move with fast music."
Are follow-along injuries limited to aerobics and cardio-kick?
Sadly, no. Monkey-see, monkey-do Tai Chi also can cause these same injuries.
Here's what Tjielie wrote to me by email: "I started to learn taichi at 1982 because I have had severe back pain. After half a year, I forgot about the backpain. Maybe I have been one of those monkeys. Truth is : 2 Years ago I had had the 1st knee surgery. This Summer the other one will be the next!"
You may not have heard about my own injuries from follow-along Tai Chi and Qigong - sppecifically bad shoulders and bad knees. I healed myself once I stopped playing "follow along" in Tai Chi like most DVDs encourage, and learned how to adapt the movements and practices to my own body.
That's the approach we now use in all of our courses, even in the free online lessons on our site.
Truth be told: That's the whole reason I became an instructor, and why I'm on this quest. I don't want my students to have to go through what I went through. I don't want them to injure themselves in the first place.
The bad thing about follow-along Tai Chi, whether on DVD or in a class, is that you can practice it for a DECADE (like I did), injuring yourself just a little each day, but not knowing it or having any problems.
Then one day, you notice a little pain. You don't think much of it. But it starts to get a little worse.
And you start to think, "Well I just have bad knees, or bad shoulders, or a bad ankle, or a bad wrist, or a bad back."
But that's wrong. You don't have a bad "whatever."
What you really have is bad Tai Chi.
Interestingly enough, when I was a Tai Chi student, and got to the higher levels of Tai Chi training, we NEVER followed along with our masters. High level training was NEVER about choreography or learning movements or following along with an instructor. It was ALL about Chi Development and applying what we learned.
For example, in one 20 hour training workshop, we learned precisely ONE movement. That's it, just one movement. And while the master demoed the movement a few times, we never followed along with him.
Instead, we spent the whole time working mostly on our own. We focused on the details of each part of our body in the movement, making sure every part of the movement was customized to our unique bodies, minds, and energy systems.
At the end of 20 hours, we had one movement. But the movement was completely customized to us.
I'm sorry, but there's no way you can do that from a follow-along Tai Chi DVD.
Now, in our courses, even in our free online lessons, we do use video in every lesson. But the videos are short, most are under two minutes. They aren't there to follow along with, but to give you an overall idea of how the movements flow. The videos are just the STARTING POINT for learning tai chi, not the focus. They are the appetizers, not the main course.
You see, to get the most health, stress relief, and chi benefits from your Tai Chi practice, we really don't want you follow along with us. We want you exploring your mind, your body, and your energy system, and following along is not the right way to go about that.
Of course, not everyone can let go of their "robo-Jane, follow-along" brain washing mentality for exercise - even though Tai Chi is on a whole different level compared to aerobics.
And I also know what makes it difficult to let this brainwashing go in Tai Chi. It's the dozens of lame tai chi DVDs you can find that use this same lazy teaching method. Just look around - you can find these horrible videos everywhere, even down at the local Walmart!
But really, ask yourself this.
If your chi health is so precious, so valuable, and so important to your well-being, to your healing, and to your life ...
... do you really want to trust it to something you can find in the bargain bin down at Walmart?
You have my best wishes for health, well-being, and Chi Development,