By Mike Barkham
Have you tried recording your Tai Chi practice and watching it back?
By now, most of us will have attended (or maybe even taught) Tai Chi classes on Zoom during this lockdown. As a result, we’ve all had to create a space in which we can do Tai Chi in sight of the camera of whatever device we use. It may not have occurred to you that in doing this, you have also created a great opportunity to freshen up your practice – to literally give yourself a new perspective.
I’d like to share my own experience with recording, and then watching back, my own practice.
When practising, we are usually focused internally, trying to feel what is going on in our body. But there are always some bad habits that it’s really hard to notice because they are so familiar and feel so natural. That’s why we all sometimes need an external observer (a teacher) to help us notice.
If you video yourself practising, you can be that teacher for yourself.
For example, based on Greg and Jon’s Sword classes over the last couple of years – at ST / WT and now on-line – I’ve been working on a few basic things like: moving from the TT; letting my hand and wrist be less active; keeping the hand in front of my mid-line etc.
I was feeling like I was doing ok with these things… and then I recorded myself doing the Sword version of Constant Bear – from behind, a view you can only get using a camera.
When I watched it back, what I saw was… yes, I was moving from the TT and yes, the hand was staying with the body – but then no, suddenly it wasn’t. Right at the end of each rotation I was adding a little unnecessary extra. It was only a little bit, and it was so habitual that I wasn’t feeling it internally – but the fold in my T-shirt gave it away. It showed my torso was twisting, which means my arm was now taking over.
So then, I practised specifically to eliminate that last bit of arm taking over – after each attempt watching back with a focus on how the folds changed. I had the same internal focus as usual – particularly on rooting down rather than rotating – but with a visual check on the results. I was amazed how much it helped to have the visual feedback loop – to be able to match up my internal intentions and sensations against that external result. It helped me make bigger changes and do that more quickly.
Why not give it a try and see whether it does anything useful for you.
[Photo Credit: Margaret Olmsted]