Discover Tai Chi for Beginners
Natural Journeys // Unrated // $24.95
Review by Geoffrey Kleinman | posted February 25, 2003
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version
Let me preface this review by saying that in general I dislike workout DVDs. No matter what the subject matter I often find it quite difficult to comfortably work out in front of the TV. Many work out DVDs I've tried have either been paced too fast, too difficult to both do and watch or so choppy that they're utterly unenjoyable. Perhaps this is why I was so pleasantly surprised with Discover Tai Chi for Beginners from Natural Journeys.

For the first time, I've found a workout DVD which I actually feel comfortable working out to, at a pace that matches mine, and with clear and good instruction that doesn't make me feel like a complete idiot right out of the starting gate.

The whole idea of trying Tai Chi is a new one for me. In the past my exercise mostly consisted of more high impact activities like playing basketball or hitting the treadmill. Unfortunately over the past couple of years injuries and back to back winter colds have kept me off the courts and out of the gym. Working in front of a computer day in and day out without some sort of exercise is just murder on my muscles. Enter Tai Chi, a low impact exercise where I'm not worried about injury, an exercise I could do even if I had the sniffles, and most importantly something that can be done any time, any where without the need for special equipment.

At the helm of Discover Tai Chi for Beginners is Scott Cole who has to be one of the better fitness instructors out there. Cole does a fantastic job of clearly walking you through the basic moves of Tai Chi and then building on what you learn. The way the DVD progresses you'll find that you're going from 'how the heck do you do that?' to actually doing a move in a relatively short period of time. Cole is also extremely upbeat and supportive, he manages to capture the 'vibe' of an in-person class and translate that to DVD.

Discover Tai Chi for Beginners starts off by laying the foundation of Tai Chi by teaching some basic moves and postures. Once you're walked through the basics the DVD switches from the 'studio' to a cliff near the beach in Hawaii where Cole brings you through an entire set of the routine. Cole does a great job of knowing when to talk and when to just let you move, so you aren't so torn between focusing on what you're doing and what he's saying. After you're walked through the routine (which consists of fifteen different moves) the whole routine is repeated without any instruction, just music. This whole progression worked quite well and my first time through I felt like I had started building the foundation for doing this again and again. The DVD wraps up back in the studio with some formal Tai Chi closing moves and stretches. In all the program runs just under an hour.

Discover Tai Chi for Beginners is presented in standard full frame and while not perfect it is clear. Many work out DVDs I've seen look like they come from tape, this one looks like it was indeed mastered for DVD.

I was quite surprised to see that Discover Tai Chi for Beginners features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. This is really nice for the parts of the DVD where it's just music (like the 2nd set of the routine towards the end of the DVD). The sound is clear and enveloping, the instruction from Cole is clear and understandable with no problem.

Special Features
In addition to the main program there are also seven multi-angle postures. These seven postures aren't in the main program so they are truly 'bonus' postures. Each posture has 3 angles which you can watch it in: a main angle, a side view and a close up of the legs and feet. This is a great way to really see how some of these postures are done. It's nice to have a group of more advanced postures on the DVD to turn to once you're comfortable with the main routine. I also really like the fact that selecting the first posture will auto-play them all. You have the option of either watching the posture with narration or music, effectively creating an entire additional workout routine.
Also on the DVD is a Workbook slideshow which are detailed descriptions of each posture in the routine with small sketches of the move. This is a nice touch for people who learn by reading or for clarification on a particular move.

Discover Tai Chi for Beginners has a nice break down of each posture in the Chapter Selection area which lets you jump right to a posture, as well as a link in the Special Features area which jumps you right to the narration free routine (in Hawaii) set to music. This is nice if you want to jump right in to the routine without trudging through the instruction.

Final Thoughts
I was extremely pleased with Discover Tai Chi for Beginners, it's as solid a work out DVD as you'll find, with clear instruction, paced just right, that builds from learning the pieces to putting them all together. If you're looking for a lower impact way to stay fit or you haven't found a workout video you can stand I highly recommend you give Discover Tai Chi for Beginners a try!

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