Last year when I first reported that action movie superstar Jet Li’s Taiji Zen started Tai Chi (Taiji) training (http://www.examiner.com/article/want-to-be-a-certified-tai-chi-instructo...), I got enthusiastic inquiries from a few readers in different countries. People in the West wanted to know how they could be trained by Jet Li’s Taiji (Tai Chi) system. After working three years with Tai Chi masters, Taiji Zen now rolled out its program to the world online.
Founded by Jet Li and Chinese e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma in 2011, Taiji Zen emphasizes that it is a lifestyle company with a mission of spreading “Health and Happiness for All” through a balance of physical wellness and mental fitness. Jet Li states that Taiji Quan (boxing) originated from ancient Chinese culture offers a different perspective to the ever fast-paced 21st century lifestyle. Tai Chi is based on the philosophy of Yin and Yang, which can be translated into fast and slow, hard and soft, dark and light, motion and stillness not just for exercise but also for everything relevant in life.
Following Jet and Jack’s vision, Taiji Zen has worked with the Chinese Wushu Association and Tai Chi masters to develop a training system. They have designed a training program with nine levels (duan) for both physical fitness and a healthy mind. Prior experience is not required. Taiji Zen recommends six months for the Beginner Training, which includes Levels One through Three courses. I like their training approach, which breaks down the Tai Chi fundamentals, “Suspend from the Crown,” “Round the Chest,” “Hollow Back,” “Sink Shoulders,” “Drop Elbows,” and “Relax Waist and Sink Hips,” into segments and designate appropriate Tai Chi movements for students to practice. The training program incorporates two-person games for students to work with a partner. It integrates several meditation techniques on sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, and consciousness for daily practice. Levels 4 through 6 are the Intermediate Training levels and the recommended length is 12 months. Students will learn Tai Chi forms to cultivate their Qi, or internal energy, as well as build up their strength. The two-person games are Push Hands, and the mediation is Awareness in Motion (or during the form practice). Levels 7 through 9 are the Advanced Training levels, and the recommended length is 18 months. Students will learn Harmony of Breath, Intent, and Flow. The two-person games are advanced Push Hands techniques, and the meditation is Perception and Insight.
The Level One courses are free now. I test drove it and found the teaching in general is very good and clear. David-Dorian Ross, an American Tai Chi champion and founder of TaijiFit, and Chinese Tai Chi Master Wang Zhan-Hai, a 12th Generation Chen Style Tai Chi Lineage Holder, are enlisted as master instructors at Taiji Zen. In the training video, which is in English, David-Dorian does most of the lecturing and movement demonstration. It is nice to hear David-Dorian Ross speak the Tai Chi terminologies in Mandarin Chinese. There is supplementary narration done by other speakers to make the video livelier. Master Wang Zhan-Hai does form demonstration, martial art application demonstration, and Push Hands demonstration with assistance of Taiji Zen senior instructors. Taiji Zen employs multiple cameras to film the lessons and make learning easier. One important principle in Tai Chi movements is that practitioners do not step forward or backward in a straight line; instead, it should be done in a 30 to 45 degree of an angle. Beginners commonly miss this, and many don’t even understand what it means to step out diagonally. With a top-view camera, students can have a clear vision as to exactly where to land a foot. Taiji Zen produced a Tai Chi floor mat, which was used in the filming to facilitate students’ learning. Students can see clearly where David-Dorian is heading or turning during movements. The digitally edited video enhances users’ experience. There are blue lines or curves added after filming to highlight the focal points (You can see those in the slide show).
Each Level has its own curriculum broken down into several sessions, and within each session, there are short classes of video clips. It tells you the estimated time for each video clip so you can plan your study. You can mark a course once it is complete. You cannot review a video clip out of sequence, but you have an option to go back to the video previously studied. There are written documents for each course to be viewed online or to be printed out. At the end of each training level, students will be tested. It does not earn you a formal certificate but helps gauge your knowledge. If you want to get a formal certification, there will be formal tests. You can find out details from its website http://www.taijizen.com/en/singlepage.html?36_34#.UqzwmJFfOcc.
Dr. Peter Wayne of Harvard Medical School calls Tai Chi a biopsychosocial approach to health. The interactions among students and with a teacher are an important part of the healing process. Learning Tai Chi online will not provide students with this type of health benefit. Including two-person games in the training curricula can encourage students to seek a partner. The learning portal supports a comment field for each course that allows fellow students to post ideas, comments, and feedback. It would be better if Taiji Zen staffs knowledgeable trainers to addresses students’ questions online.
The consensus among practitioners is that Tai Chi is difficult to learn. Often time, people don’t realize their postures are out of alignment until pointed out by an instructor. Working with a friend and taking online courses together can create the opportunity for feedback. But students generally don’t have a trained eye nor have the knowledge to provide constructive advice. With that, David-Dorian will provide onsite training starting next year adjunct to the online courses. Click the link for more info http://taijifit.net/taiji-zen-training.
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