Debunking the Myths: You Can Learn Tai Chi from a Video/Book
Category : General
I’m just going to come straight out and say it: you cannot learn Tai Chi from a video or a book.
Before you consider arguing with me, let me qualify that statement.
Learning Tai Chi is unlike learning many other forms of exercise, or many other skills for that matter. In fact, to say that you “learn Tai Chi” might not even be an accurate statement. A similar concept might be learning a language; you can learn the words and their meanings, phrases and correct grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure, but to become proficient or fluent in that language, you need to immerse yourself in it with other fluent or native speakers. Only in this way do you discover the nuances that go with using language that simply learning the words and phrases cannot give you. You have to experience it, and the only way to truly experience it is with someone else who is more proficient than you.
It is the same with Tai Chi. Tai Chi is more than just performing a slow exercise. It is more than just choreography. It is something you have to feel and experience. It’s something you need to be guided towards, yet discover for yourself. To do that, you need someone to guide you. To help you understand not just what you’re supposed to do, but how it should feel. You need someone to help you know what to look for.
What you need to learn Tai Chi is: feedback.
Even the best book or video, by the most expert Master, with the most detailed instructions and hundreds of images for you to compare yourself to cannot give you any feedback on your performance. Without having someone in person to guide you, you can’t know whether you need to (for example) sink a little deeper, relax more, extend more, direct your focus, or any one of numerous other adjustments that you might need to make. Even if you are able to copy the Instructor’s movements exactly like they show you, at best you are imitating Tai Chi, not performing it.
That isn’t to say that books and videos are without value. In my own practice I have (and continue to) read many books and watch many videos to help deepen my understanding and overall development of Tai Chi. I also make videos available to my students and encourage them to read from books on a recommended reading list I maintain. The difference is, I use these resources to supplement my learning and instruction, not substitute for it. These resources are there to enhance and expand knowledge and understanding of Tai Chi. The learning occurs in the class, with the Instructor. At best, a book or video can only show you what the path looks like. Only the Instructor can tell you if you are on the right path, and if not, help guide you towards it.
If you are interested in Tai Chi, by all means pick up a book or watch a video and discover what it is all about. However, if you want to learn Tai Chi, find an Instructor and attend classes, as well as reading the book and watching the video.