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Masters of Heaven and Earth
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Explore the most mysterious martial art of all ... Tai Chi Chuan. The Supreme Ultimate. The Heaven and Earth. Come with us to meet the best Tai Chi masters in China and gain a deeper understanding of Yang style, Chen style and Wudang Mountain Tai Chi Chuan. With the backdrop of the Forbidden City, Chen Village and the peaks of Wudang, this is not the Tai chi you see everyday in your local park! This is real Tai Chi Chuan. While the world pummeled each other with fists and iron, China discovered a new way to fight. Not with strength but with softness. Not with speed but with slowness. Culled from the ancient texts of The Tao or Book of Changes, this internal fighting art became a way to live one s life in accordance with the principles of nature. We start this exploration with a small park at the Forbidden City in Beijing. But this is no ordinary scene. Yang style Tai chi has been taught in this same location by the same family of Tai chi masters for over one hundred years. Today we meet the 5th generation descendent, Master Cui Zhongsan one of the worlds top Yang style masters. Visit the small remote Chen village, the birthplace of Tai Chi and learn the history of Tai Chi with the Chen family. It was here that Yang style was born through Chen student Yang Luchan. Travel to Tai Chi Chuan s spiritual home, Wudang Mountain and learn how Taoism and Yin and Yang formed the foundation of this internal martial art. This is Tai Chi in its authentic natural setting at the origin. You will learn about the history of Tai Chi Chuan and how the three main styles developed. Understand the internal health principles of Chi or life-force from master Zhong Yun Long, Wudang s most important and knowledgeable Tai Chi master who now lives in seclusion. His students have taken over his teaching and provide us with some beautiful scenes of martial arts including baguazhang and Wudangquan. Witness breathtaking demonstrations by Chen Xiaowang at the Yellow river and master Yuan and master Chen at Wudang Mountain. Masters of Heaven and Earth is packed with interviews and demonstration featuring Master Cui Zhongsan (Beijing), Chen Xiaowang and Chen Xiaoxing (Chen Village) and Priest Zhong Yun Long and Master Yuan (Wudang Mountain.
The photography and filming is beautiful, as expected from filmmaker Jon Braeley who is a wonderful documentarian, and I love his subject matter many of his movies that explore Consciousness and the Mind/Body connection from disciplines around the world. The opening of the movie features a master teacher a 9th generation Tai Chi Master who shares his linage and the styles tweaked by his ancestors. The art is passed along from generation to generation inside one China village from master to student, and taught by members of the Chen family. The movie really starts to move and become interesting when we see him teach his students, and demonstrate the details that differentiate a student and master small details, but powerful when demonstrated with the master s Chi. The opening is gorgeous, with Chen Xiaowang practicing by the Yellow river , one of my favorite parts of the movie as we watch him practice the movements and forms. The ending of the movie is the best, with a mystical feeling from Wudang mountains and incredible Tai Chi masters doing practice in a cave with monkeys and the invisible Spirits watching. Tai Chi is more than moving meditation, or self defense, or a martial art. Tai Chi is a practice of The Tao, a way of life, an art, and this movie gives a glimpse into the world of the masters, of what they strive to attain. There is a sadness as we can see what they (and some foreigners) are giving up to learn the art, although they never give a sense they feel any sadness or regret. If you love the connection with Mind/Body/Spirit, or you are learning Tai Chi, you ll love this movie. As a new student of Tai Chi and Qigong, I m looking for ways to help me understand the complex styles and Spiritual teaching behind Tai Chi. The question, how does Tai Chi integrate the link between body/mind and the subtle with hard and soft movements as in Chen style. I could have spent the afternoon practicing, but watching Masters of Heaven and Earth on a cold January day isn t a bad way to go either, so I settled back and rented this movie online and watched it in a couple of sittings. --Talking Purposes MagazineSee all Editorial Reviews
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Top Customer Reviews
I practice Shaolin Five Ancestors system and have also been interested in Taoist martial art systems such as those practised in Wu Dang Mountain.
This documentary was informative and very interesting and inspired me to take up some Wu Dang kung fu taichi training.
I'd love to see more such dvds in the market!!!
Review by John Loupos
Written and directed by Jon Braeley, this DVD opens with scenes of martial splendor, depicting masses of Tai Chi and Kung Fu performers, including a brief cameo by Jet Li.
Once it begins in earnest the DVD is comprised of several `chapters', each one focusing on a different Tai Chi master or tradition. Throughout the DVD informational voiceovers are helpfully spliced in with interviews.
The first section takes viewers to Beijing and interviews with Master Cui Zhangsan, whose Tai Chi family has taught Yang style in the same park for more than 100 years. Viewers are informed that Master Cui Zhangsan's grandfather was the first student of Yang Chengfu. Despite the historical interest of this chapter, I have to admit that I was not especially enamored with this teacher. According to Cui Zhangsan, Yang style Tai Chi's "most obvious feature is its stretching," with an emphasis on big steps and hand positions that are open and suited for grabbing one's opponent. I wondered if maybe something was lost in the translation, until his many students-at-practice evidenced these training priorities. Certainly, these features may be more or less important during one's training, but they hardly seem to me to encapsulate the essence of Yang style Tai Chi. Especially in comparison with the teacher interviews that followed, this first segment was not outstanding. I give this section ** 1/2.
The next section brings viewers to Chen Village where we meet Chen Xiaowang, the current standard bearer of Chen style Tai Chi. Master Chen looks very impressive as he performs his Tai Chi alongside the Yellow River. Engaging interviews and historical background on Master Chen's early studies as a youngster under the tutelage of his father' and other relatives follow. No doubt these tidbits are as real pearls for Chen style enthusiasts. I give this section ***.
Section three stays focused on the Chen style, but turns its attention to Xiaowang's brother, Chen Xiaoxing, who oversees the family school in Chen Village. Chen Xiaoxing is immediately a warm and soft spoken man who exudes Tai Chi. The footage of his Tai Chi performance was inspiring and, by my estimation, nearly flawless. The interview with Chen Xiaoxing cast additional fascinating insights into the history and development of the various Chen form routines. ****.
Viewers are next transported to Wudang mountain, which we are informed is actually 72 separate peaks. Here we meet both Masters and devoted students. Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long of the main (Purple Cloud) temple is another deliberate but soft spoken steward of a great tradition. Master Long's Tai Chi performance was exquisite. He and Master Chen Xiangwen offer compelling perspectives and information on the more esoteric aspects of Tai Chi and Taoism. The student interviews contribute to the overall flavor*****.
The DVD also contains some less engaging footage of a `Tai Chi for tourists' school and a field trip to a local sword shop.
All things considered this is a well made DVD with quite a good bit of fascinating information. There's not much here that will help you improve your Tai Chi from a technical standpoint (it's not intended as a teaching DVD), but many serious students will find the historical and theoretical information useful and inspiring nonetheless.
It's not a how-to-do DVD but rather a documentary on this ancient martial art form. It's shot in HD with an inspiring sound track.
I've been training in the martial arts since 1965, which includes tai chi study. I highly recommend this high quality, well produced DVD.
There is then a very brief interview with a Yang style master and a short look at some of his classes. So-So. We see fragments of the 24 form.
Then they have a long look at several Chen style masters including several detailed form demonstrations and a discussion of Chen style. This includes the relationship between the hard and soft Chen forms. Very interesting.
The documentary concludes with a long look at the Wudang Mountains martial arts. Again very interesting. There are discussions of the relationships between the hard and soft forms and talks about the relationship of Taoism and martial arts in the Wudang styles. Curiously there are several form demonstrations that look a lot like the Bagua circle walking exercises.