T’ai Chi Beginning Practice

Runtime: 70 minutes
David-Dorian Ross

It’s all done with smoke and mirrors …

When they stopped offering the tai chi class I’d been taking at my gym, I started looking for a tai chi DVD that I could do at home.

With tai chi, there is a lot of appeal for the uncoordinated. It’s kind of like standing flow yoga – it’s really nice not to have to go from standing up to lying down and back again several times during the workout. It’s also theoretically easier to follow because you are standing up and can see the TV at all times. While it moves very slowly (which also makes it easier to follow), don’t get the impression that you won’t get a proper workout; moving that slowly requires a lot of muscles.

I say all these things so that you don’t think I’m maligning all tai chi workouts during this review.

The T’ai Chi Beginning Practice DVD and I did not get off to a good start. As I try out a DVD, I like to note the timestamp of interesting parts so I can go back and review in more depth later, but when I play this DVD on my DVD player, it does not show the time.

Furthermore, it does not have any chapters (another reason to want to have the time shown, so you’d know what point to fast forward to). This is a DVD that could really benefit from chapters, because the Beginning Practice track has a full six minutes of talking (including the history of chi, which was actually kind of interesting, if vague and fluffy) at the beginning of the workout. During that six minutes you do one or two minutes of warmup, but it is sandwiched on both sides with standing still and listening to instructor David-Dorian Ross talk about tai chi theory.

Next there is quite a bit of time sort of doing a workout, but really more learning the moves than a continuous workout. At several points, you think you are getting to the actual workout, but then it goes back to more instruction (stopping and talking, then doing a move a couple of times, then stopping to talk some more). It is so choppy that it doesn’t feel like a real workout.

The only actual workout in this 45-minute track was the 3-minute demonstration at the end of the 42 minutes of instruction. All that build-up for three minutes of exercise.

Were all these things annoying? Yes. But what really turned me off this DVD is that the moves were not mirrored. I don’t know if it some sort of spiritual thing with tai chi where it’s bad karma to do the moves with the wrong arm or leg, but it sure would have helped if the instructor was mirroring the movements. As it was, instructor Ross would say to step out to the right, and I would step out to the right, and he would be moving to my left (his right) and I would get confused.

There are so many asymmetrical moves in this workout that this became a real problem. Eventually I became so frustrated that I started looking for high-tech solutions to this problem. There is a freeware media player software (VLC Media Player) you can download to play DVDs on your computer, and one of the special effects you can do is to flip the video horizontally. This effectively mirrors the instructor, so when he says move your arms to the left, his arms are also moving to your left (his right).

A lower-tech way to achieve the same effect is to position the TV so you can watch the TV screen in a mirror.

Even this piece of wizardry was not enough to save the T’ai Chi Beginning Practice for me. David-Dorian Ross is a medal-winning tai chi master, and this is probably a more “official” tai chi practice than some other tai chi workout DVDs, but that’s not a selling point for me. If it’s inaccessible to uncoordinated people, then the workout holds no value for me, no matter how authentic it is.

The bonus track is “A.M. Chi for Beginners”, and I found this much more accessible than the main track. It is apparently more qigong than tai chi, but it features mostly symmetrical movements, and those that are asymmetrical are mirrored. It runs 25 minutes (although almost 5 of those are introduction at the beginning).

So, if you find this DVD for next to nothing, you might want to get it for the bonus track (or, knowing GAIAM, they’ve probably repackaged the bonus track on another DVD that you can buy instead). Me? I’m going to keep looking for a tai chi workout that doesn’t require smoke and mirrors.

T’ai Chi Beginning Practice on February 15, 2015 rated 1.5 of 5

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