How to Learn from a Video*
Whereas a form-instruction video is no substitute for a qualified teacher, those who live far from any teacher are still better off learning from a video than if they had no instruction at all. For those who have a teacher, a video can augment and accelerate the learning process. Finally, those who have had prior instruction in internal arts should be able to attain a substantial benefit from a video.
One method of learning a form from a video is to repeatedly do the entire form or blocks of the form along with the video. However, this method is not efficient because there is insufficient opportunity to reinforce each movement. A better way is to refrain from doing movement while watching the video. Rather, it is good to choose a small block of material, watch it a few times. Then, without any major physical action, visualize the sequence of movements as clearly as possible. Next, go back to the beginning of that block of material, and view and visualize it again a few times. Only after clear and complete visualization is achieved should the movements be attempted physically.
At first it will seem extremely difficult to work this way. With persistence, however, it is possible to achieve a level of visualization so intense that the imagined movements are almost as vivid as those seen on a TV screen. The dividends of the process of visualization are twofold: (1) By subduing the physical aspects of movement (e.g., balance, coordination, kinetic sense, timing), you can completely focus the mind on the details of the movement. (2) By cultivating the ability to visualize and mentally encompass complex details, you become increasingly able to observe and learn new movements quickly, especially in situations where it is not feasible to move while observing (e.g., dreams, teacher showing movements while the class watches). Referring to the dimension of self-defense, the more you can observe and mentally encompass the movements of the opponent, the greater the advantage achieved.
*Exerpted from Robert Chuckrow, The Tai Chi Book, YMAA Publication Center, Boston, MA, 1998, pp. 119–120 (formerly self-published as T’ai-Chi Ch’uan: Embracing the Pearl).
©2004 Robert Chuckrow
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