Tai Chi is a method of gentle movements that will help direct the positive flow of Qi in your body. When I was a graduate student at Columbia University, I would see students practicing Tai Chi in a small park near the campus off Amsterdam Avenue. I would silently watch their soothing movements and I found myself drawn in to their level of deep meditation.
The Morningside Heights Tai Chi practitioners did not mind me watching them and joining them in spirit and that in itself is quite a rarity in New York City. In New York, if your gaze lingers too long on a person, the innate, guttural response that must be delivered from that person is, “You lookin’ at me?” That question is always followed by a gritty facial expression coupled with a step towards the person staring. I’m happy to report the Tai Chi practitioners I watched had no desire to challenge my curiosity.
It’s taken me 10 years to hunker down and discover how to perform Tai Chi on my own. I have a book and two videos from Wen-Ching Wu that will help facilitate that end.
Tai Chi Beginning
7×10 Paperback, 128 Pages
Tai Chi Beginning starts with an outstanding history of Tai Chi. Demonstration photographs are large and thrive with a lovely aesthetic quality. You begin the workout by warming up your body and freeing your spine. The warm up will get your arms and legs moving.
The spinal exercises are a bit difficult to entirely understand because of the loose clothing worn by the model. You can’t precisely see or determine how to make a “wave” with your spine (this bears true for the Tai Chi Beginning Workout Partner videotape reviewed later in this article, as well). With some practice, a few assumptions, and many mistakes, I believe I finally had my stomach and shoulders working effectively together to give my spine a good “wave” workout.
In Chapter 2, you will “Feel the Qi.” This is an effective and dynamic section of the book because, in 10 minutes or so, you have a 90% chance of actually feeling the Qi emanating from your body. I will discuss my curious experience with this experiment in the Feel the Qi video review later in this article.
The Tai Chi taught in this book is a version consisting of only 24 postures. Some refer to this method as “Simplified Tai Chi Chuan” because it was spawned from Yang Style Taijiquan in 1956 by Tai Chi masters who chose to simplify and standardize Tai Chi for new students. Each of the 24 postures are broken up into steps with photographs demonstrating movement.
I was confused by the purposeful placement of the photographs on the page. Sometimes you read them left to right, other times, right to left — it all depends on the movement of where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
Another minor missing point is the history of the movements. Wen-Ching Wu’s books are extremely thorough and historical and I would have liked to know the origin of “Pat the Wild Horse’s Mane” and “Repulse Monkey” and “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail” and “Needle at Sea Bottom” instead of just dryly following the movements and wondering how and why they flowed into one another.
The Lesson Plan Appendix is a welcome teaching method. The 24 postures taught in the book are broken down into 12 manageable lessons. You are encouraged to practice each posture for a long time before adding another posture to the routine. It could easily take you three months to appropriately learn, master and then seamlessly join together all 24 Tai Chi postures. Don’t pressure yourself to learn the entire book in a week. Let time be your greatest teacher.
(four GREEN, one RED)
Feel the Qi
40 Minutes of Instruction
Feel the Qi is a wonderful video. It begins with a short history of Qi and its power followed by precise Qigong instruction. The instruction is clear and concise. Each posture is slowly demonstrated and repeated and repeated and you are told when to exhale and when to inhale.
During the instruction phase, a problem I’d been having for two weeks with my left bicep, suddenly felt much better. The soreness and the pain I’d been experiencing was replaced with a calm coolness. Did I heal myself in 10 minutes? It certainly appears to be so. I did nothing special to propagate the healing. I simply followed precisely the demonstrated instructions. Even now, twelve hours later, my arm is, frankly, 100% improved. Perhaps my wife’s Healing Qi was at work as well as she massaged my entire arm the night before.
The Workout part of the tape was exhilarating. I went into a trace and gave myself over to the Qi emanating from the presentation. My legs went numb. My hands became very cold and white and splotchy. My palms were repelled from each other as if they were opposing magnets. I was then able to “brush” the Qi into both of my palms and it felt like an electrified metal paint roller pressing across my palms.
When I made Qi circles into both of my palms, it felt as if I were rolling a cool metal ball around my palms. When I had finished brushing and circling, my palms were strangely and inexplicably drawn to each other as if they were magnetized! It was as if I had changed the magnetic polarity of my palms in the span of five minutes! Amazing. As I rested my hands on my Dantian, my fingers and palms were hot and buzzing with electricity.
The productions values of the video are very good, but, alas, the video is not Closed Captioned.
Tai Chi Beginning Workout Partner
60 Minutes of Instruction
The Tai Chi Beginning Workout Partner video was not what I expected it to be. I enjoyed the introduction, Warm Up and Spinal Exercise. The Qigong section was a 12 minute redacted version of the Feel the Qi video.
I was surprised with the 24 Posture presentation. I thought this video would break down each of the 24 Tai Chi postures and slowly demonstrate and repeat and repeat them in the same manner demonstrated in the Feel the Qi tape.
This tape assumes you’ve learned all the postures from the book (or from another source) and it simply demonstrates the entire routine from the front and then again from the back. You are not shown how to perform the postures individually apart from each other. You are not instructed when to inhale and exhale. This tape is really just what it claims to be — a “workout partner” — it is not a posture teacher. I was, however, expecting a more intensive one-on-one learning session for the 24 postures based on my experience with other Wen-Ching Wu teaching methods.
The video is not Closed Captioned but the production values of the tape are quite fine.
(three GREEN, two RED)
To find more information about Tai Chi Beginning, Feel the Qi and Tai Chi Beginner Workout Partner, head over to Way of the Dragon Publishing where you can place an order online right now.