Learning tai chi using DVD videos is great because it allows you to practice at your own pace right in the comfort of your own home. On that note, choosing the best tai chi DVD depends on what you personally want to learn. For newcomers, we highly recommend BodyWisdom's Tai Chi for Beginners because it takes a step-by-step approach that's easy to follow. However, there are also a number of other great instructional DVD's for more unique purposes, such as learning balance and mobility, or even tai chi designed for those with arthritis. Read our guide below to see our recommendations for your personal preferences. Article Summary
Martial arts are not only a great way to learn to defend oneself, they are a great way to get exercise, strengthen the body and gain flexibility. One type of martial art that is commonly practiced for exercise is tai chi. Tai chi is one of the more passive forms, focused on redirecting attacks instead of becoming the aggressor. Because of the passive and intercepting qualities, it is very soft and is taught mostly using slow, controlled movements.
However, learning tai chi can be a long and tiring process. Going to classes multiple times a week can be difficult to do if you have a busy lifestyle, which is why one of the most popular ways to learn is by watching videos – and more specifically, DVD’s. There are dozens of great DVD’s made to teach tai chi to beginners, allowing you to learn right from home on your own time and at your own pace.
Tai chi DVD’s come in many different styles suited for different skill levels and specific purposes, so choosing the best one for you depends on what you’re interested in learning. Are you a beginner looking to get started for the first time? Are you interested in tai chi for its physical fitness benefits, energy improvement, or to help overcome an injury? No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve provided a list of the best tai chi DVD’s below categorized by their specific purpose, so that you can get started whenever you’re ready.
The best tai chi DVD for beginners
BodyWisdom, a brand that has long been in the fitness and martial arts media game, has developed a great set of DVD’s covering the wide topic of tai chi. Their Tai Chi for Beginners features several moves and exercises needed, along with guidance and step-by-step instruction for each move.
Flexibility and strength are emphasized in this DVD, and the end-game of the instruction is to present the student (namely you) with the ability to complete 8 tai chi forms that increase body awareness, balance and coordination.
If you’re thinking that the course offering of 8 forms is very little, that’s because this DVD only covers the basics, which take little time to learn, but a long time to master. Once you master the forms in the beginner DVD, you can progress to the next DVD in BodyWisdom’s series to further your education; or, you might decide after the DVD that you want to progress to classes. In any case, this video is a great first step.
A great DVD for learning balance and mobility
Scott Cole is an actor and celebrity tai chi enthusiast who produces videos instructing the art for beginners and intermediates. Sometimes training ‘gurus’ like this can lack some credibility, but Scott’s Tai Chi for Balance & Mobility has gained a huge amount of popularity online and is widely applauded for clear instruction and linear progression.
Great for beginners, this DVD teaches poses focusing on increasing and training balance and mobility, making this an extremely popular choice for those who are new to regular exercise and those in old age seeking a peaceful activity to keep the body moving and healthy. Many arthritic, Parkinson’s and other disabled communities swear by this video series as a way to be active without too much strain or discomfort.
The most comprehensive tai chi DVD (24 forms taught)
As the title implies, Dr. Paul Lam’s 24 Forms video dives straight into 24 separate forms of tai chi. The 24 forms-methodology of tai chi is one of the most widely taught systems of tai chi, and one of the most complete in covering all of the separate concepts and movement patterns in tai chi.
Heralded by many for being easy to follow and the forms themselves to be a great pain reliever in certain joints, the 24 Forms DVD by Dr. Paul Lam is a great intro to tai chi, and is one of the more inclusive introduction DVDs, as many other beginner DVDs feature far fewer tai chi forms. Although this DVD is great for beginners, it has been noted to move a little more quickly than some of the others, so be prepared to pay close attention.
Other videos for more unique needs
There are other DVDs on tai chi that, while they are highly regarded in the wellness community and teach tai chi well, they are more tailored to specific health conditions or learning styles, rather than being more inclusive of many forms and general overviews like the other videos. Here are some videos that are great for these niche purposes, but not ideal for someone looking for a more complete instruction of tai chi:
For fitness purposes
We mentioned Scott Cole and his series of tai chi videos in our top 3 list, but he has another DVD made for the instruction of Tai Chi for Fitness. Tai chi, although generally composed of slower movements, does have several forms within a few styles that focus on strength and explosive movement. Tai chi can be great exercise when instructed and performed in the correct manner, and consumers love this video for its clear and appropriate instruction to get a good workout.
For self-defense purposes
There some of us who not only wish to learn tai chi for exercise, balance, strength and confidence with movement, but also for self-defense. Tai chi is, first and foremost, a martial art – it was designed and built upon with self-defense in mind. There are several principles and forms in tai chi that can be applied to real-life scenarios, and Jesse Tsao’s Self Defense in Simplified Form video can walk you through several of these situations and the forms and moves that accompany them.
Although Dr. Paul Lam has already been featured on our list, we felt that his Tai Chi for Arthritis is worth a mention as well. The arthritic population is one that is often limited to sports, exercise and especially martial arts. Tai chi is a great way for people with arthritis to stay active and gain more muscular ability. The arthritis community praises this DVD set very highly for its specific instruction and accommodation.
Everything you need to know about tai chi
Tai chi chuan was not an art that was simply invented one day – it was formed over many centuries through the culmination of the applied principles and teachings of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and other collective ideologies and religions. These different ideologies formed the foundations of tai chi that lie in principles of peace and interception and conversion of negative, or forceful energies, which explains why tai chi is centered around stable poses and slow, graceful movements that aren’t solely focused on striking or submissions, unlike most other martial arts.
Tai Chi’s practice is thought to have reached a form where it was starting to be widely practiced in China in the 12th century. The teachers and students of tai chi continued to grow and adapt the art, developing intricacies and differences unique to each region, and have continued to do so until present day. While many countries around the world now practice tai chi chuan in all its forms, its heart still lies in China, as with taekwondo and Korea or capoeira and Brazil.
The forms and practice of tai chi are focused around 42 forms, which were made the standard in 1989 for competition purposes. The movements of tai chi range from long, sweeping movements to short, transitional or intercepting movements (the kind you might find in wing chun). Tai chi as we know it today includes the use of several weapons, including swords, spears, daggers and whips – most of these weapons, along with most others in Asian martial arts, were derived from tools that farmers and peasants used for self-defense. Tai chi is not only practiced for self-defense, but there is a large focus on qigong in modern, Westernized tai chi. Qigong is related to tai chi, as tai chi is used in qigong training and vice versa. The practice and aspects of qigong are more focused on healing and meditation than self-defense, and the inclusion of qigong in modern tai chi make it particularly attractive as a sport and hobby for the elderly and those with physical limitations.
There are three distinct styles of tai chi: yang, chen and wu. Yang-style tai chi chuan, the most commonly taught in the Western world, is characterized by being the intermediate of the two styles, characterized by a medium-stance in terms of hip height and foot width. This style was developed by Yang Luchan in the early 20th century and was taught with slow movements, as they were easier to correct. Chen style has deep stances with low hips and extreme bursts of speed, making it the most sporadic and agile form of tai chi. Wu style is much like yang style, with limbs kept closer to the body and a higher stance. All of these different styles have aspects that have found their way into other styles, to create a melting pot unique to each instructor.
Other things you’ll need to start practicing
Although one of the reasons why tai chi is so widely practiced is because it is so easy to get into and has low entry requirements, there are a few other things you need to get started.
First, and most importantly, you’ll need a good pair of tai chi shoes. The best tai chi shoes have a cotton sole that make sliding across hard surfaces (which you’ll want to practice on) more manageable so that you can perform these new movements confidently. Luckily, the shoes that are the best for tai chi are also extremely inexpensive (under $20) and pack up flat for easy traveling. Other martial arts shoes are more stiff and take up more room in your luggage.
Another thing you’ll need for tai chi is loose, comfortable clothing. Since you’ll be practicing at home, or otherwise outside of a studio at first, with the instruction of a DVD, you won’t necessarily need to wear a tai chi uniform. However, loose clothing that you can easily move around in is extremely important for ensuring that you aren’t restricting your movements. Compression pants and tight leggings are the new trend for fitness wear, but loose clothing is not only better for tai chi, it aligns more with the principles of free, flowing movement that are central to practicing tai chi.
Wrapping it up
Learning tai chi via DVD is a great way to accommodate and work around your busy schedule while still staying active and learning a new skill. Tai chi is a great form of exercise and a way to become more aware of and confident with your body. Taking classes can be inconvenient and also expensive, especially if you want to learn with your friends or family. Learning with DVD’s give you a ton of flexibility with time and the ability to control your pace while training. As we’ve said several times now, choosing the best tai chi DVD depends on what you specifically want to learn. We’ve created this guide based on the needs of the general public, but if you can’t find anything that fits your interests in our guide, branch out to other retailers and see what other options you have.