Tuesday 31 July 2012

More tai chi on kinect - but this time it's dangerous

I see there is another Microsoft kinect game on the market that uses tai chi, this time "Self-Defense Training Camp". As I have written about before, I do believe that the kinect system is a viable way for people to learn some basic tai chi and chi gung exercises.

However, I have to disagree with the whole premise of this program. There is absolutely no way anyone should ever attempt to learn any self defence techniques from the kinect system. That is just plain ludicrous. Even some real word self defence classes I consider to be a bit dubious, as no one should be attempting any of these techniques unless they really know what they're doing.

In self defence situations, overconfidence is an extremely dangerous trap - running away or screaming for help is usually the best defence. If you think you can perform a technique, and it goes wrong, there is a much more significant risk of you being harmed. The point being that I can almost guarantee it will go wrong if all you use is this kinect game.

Actually I think this is bordering on corporate irresponsibility by Microsoft. I mean listen to this trailer.

The woman says "self defence made me feel more confident...". But she is a black belt in karate! She doesn't mean "self-defence the kinect game" made me feel more confident, but is being deliberately ambiguous to mislead people. I should basically stop there before I go on an extended rant about how advertising (which is deliberate manipulation) is harming society. This is just an example which is actually dangerous.

In short do not buy this game. If you want to learn some tai chi (rather than self-defence) using kinect, I recommend you try "Your Shape Fitness Evolved".

Wednesday 25 July 2012

The duan wei tai chi qualification system

My article on a mathematical way to calculate your tai chi skill level, was designed as an informal guide to your own progress. However (currently) the only true way to be able to gauge progress is to be judged by others.

I see that the Chinese Wushu Association has introduced a formalised assessment process to assign skill levels to practitioners. Given that it is all in Chinese, it's hard to actually see what the skill levels translate to. But Violet Li has a brief description, in her article about Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei being elevated to the 9th and highest level.
"The Duan Wei system is sub-divided into three categories: Elementary Duan Wei: One through Three; Intermediate Duan Wei: Four through Six; Advanced Duan Wei: Seven through Nine. For the Elementary Duan Wei and Intermediate Duan Wei, tests are required. Often times, practitioners need to score high in tournaments to qualify for a rank promotion. For the Advanced Duan Wei, practitioners need to have publication and/or research and exhibit significant contribution in promoting the art. There are also waiting times required between each Duan, for example, one has to wait at least six years before being eligible to apply for a rank promotion from the 6th Level to the 7th Level. With that, most masters who earn the highest honor of the 9th Duan have at least 50 years of experience in practicing the art and most of them earn their title in their 70’s or later."
I personally believe that formalised panels of senior practitioners conducting an "examination" over a few hours is most likely to give you an accurate reading of your skill. After all, this is essentially the same approach that we use for all other qualifications, academic or otherwise (this is especially true of nonscientific disciplines).

Tai chi ability is in some senses relative to the skill level of your peers (certainly when we are talking about martial arts applications). So what better way can there be to measure your own level, other than be to be judged by tai chi "professors"? 

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Tai chi gardening

Tai chi is a bit like gardening. When you go to a chi gung or "energy" type class, there will be all sorts of little tips and tricks that you should do to ensure your "chi flows properly". I'm thinking here of things like making sure men circle their hands one-way and women another, or making sure you do your chi gung exercises in the correct order.

If you are a gardener, you will be aware that there are precise times of the year to do each of the pruning, watering, feeding, harvesting jobs for optimal planting. You can even take this to the extreme by taking account of the lunar cycles.
Both however suffer from the same problem, that you just need to get out and do it. If you only go to one tai chi or chi gung class a week, which order you do your exercising is effectively irrelevant. Likewise, if you only have a restricted amount of time when you can do your gardening, just do what you need to at that time.

It is important to try and understand what is important and what is merely "enhancement".

Your tai chi will improve only if you do it every day, and at that point you can start worrying about all the subtleties. Just as your garden will look more beautiful, if you get out there every day tending to things just when they need it. If you only have limited time however, just concentrate on your breathing or prune like mad!

Friday 13 July 2012

Tai chi in outer space

Extremely unusual Tai Chi article by Violet Lee over at Examiner. She reports how a Chinese astronaut has no doubt claimed a world first, by becoming the first ever person to practise Tai Chi in orbit around the Earth!

Obviously a bit of a stunt, as clearly when you're in a weightless environment, there's no such thing as rooting as you have to be strapped to the "floor", to prevent you floating away. Fascinating stuff. Presumably the body structures you would need in a zero G environment are entirely different to the ones you would need on earth. Or are they? Mmmm...