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David Carradine's Complete Mind And Body Workout (4 Discs) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000124456
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 26/12/2009 19:47
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    David Carradine's Complete Mind And Body Workout (4 Discs)

    6 / 10

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    After the excesses of Christmas, many of will be looking at ways to lose a bit of weight and get fit. In fact, it will be the news year resolution of more than 70% of Brits who confess to making resolutions.
    For me, Gyms are not really a very attractive proposition with bikes that don't move and machines that make you feel like a hamster on a wheel. The idea that you can get fit from watching DVD's, on the other hand, has fairly obvious appeal.

    So when I received this set from the lovely folk at 'Revelation' I decided to give it a go. After all, Carradine had been a childhood hero (in the role of Caine in 'Kung Fu') and despite being a bit nasty in 'Kill Bill', for me he always carried the mystique of a Shaolin warrior.

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    Carradine's death earlier this year was something of a shock as it seemed at first as if this practitioner of the positive arts had taken his own life, an act incongruous with such practice. However, it emerged that his enthusiasm for the more esoteric side of life extended into self-bondage and asphyxiation in order to maximise sexual highs, though there is no reference to this contained within this set unsurprisingly.

    So how does the set shape up? Well, I have had an interest in yoga and tai chi for something over twenty years though I have seriously lapsed in terms of practice, and I found this set to be a very good re-introduction. Despite its obviously dated look and feel (this was made, I think, in the early 1990's), its 4:3 format and a not-too-clever NTSC to PAL transfer,  the positive's outweigh these peripheral negatives.

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    In truth, Carradine does little more than front these instructional work-outs leaving the actual instruction to others with more expertise and ability.

    They are very straight-forward productions, set in a studio with two camera positions allowing a mix from a wide to a mid, but with little more than that. It's really video in its native application, capturing a course that you may well have attended in person.

    The combined running time of this set of almost 8 hours means that you will get plenty of mileage out of them before they become too repetitive to be of value. Despite enjoying the Tai-Chi and Chi Kung so much more than the kick-boxing and Cardio work-outs, by varying the routines offered here I think they will have a very reasonable shelf-life.

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    If you're new to the whole concept of Tai Chi then it may be worth a brief introduction. The Masters of Tai Chi believed that development of the body without the mind was dangerous and that cultivating the mind while ignoring the body was a waste of time and energy. Tai Chi strives to meld the mind and body into one, so that the mind and body are in harmony, establishing perfect unity between thought, action and health.

    Three of the four discs included in this set have Tai Chi at their core.

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    This DVD has a series of simple exercises designed to not only strengthen the body but to relax the mind and body too. These involve a series of gentle stretching exercises that combine deep breathing, balance and posture to raise the level of positive chi energy. Even for a slightly out of shape middle-aged man like myself, the exercises on this disc were manageable and fairly invigorating, though some of the kicking could prove dangerous if you haven't got the space for an occasional unintended topple.

    The Tai Chi elements of the DVD really seem to drain away tiredness and create a positive, glowing energy, and the meditation sequence was really enjoyable too.

    Extras on the disc include a brief interview with David Carradine, and some of his 'original songs' which you may want to fast forward through.

    If you were buying a single disc then this one may prove to offer best value, running at a total of some 160 minutes and combining two previously issued discs on a single set.

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    The Chinese believe that your health and vitality is directly influenced by the flow of your internal energy. This flow of energy (or 'Chi') can be easily enhanced by combining smooth and circular body movements with mental relaxation and focus.

    This DVD is divided into two workouts (with a total running time of approaching three hours).
    The first part is entitled: Tai-Chi: Maintain and restore health. The workout lasts approximately 60 minutes in total (though you don't have to do it all in one session) and takes you through basic Tai Chi stances, movements and postures. Once you have these, you can turn off the droning instructional commentary (which can intrude on your peace of mins) and put on your own favourite relaxing piece of music whilst you follow the examples. (I particularly like to use Brian Eno's 'Music for Airports' or 'Tuesday Afternoon' for this purpose).

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    The second part (Chi Kung: Energy Skill) was, for me, more of a revelation. Chi Kung literally means "energy skill" and was created 5000 years ago in ancient China as a way to find inner peace, harmony, strength and health. The Chinese believe that the mind, body, emotions, and the spirit are all components of energy or "chi". This chi affects not only our physical health but our mental and spiritual well being. In essence, inner harmony and mental focus are not just achieved by understanding, but also through efficient, simple and gentle exercises.

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    AM - Tai Chi for the Mind: This workout is very gently paced, with stretching, deep breathing, slow flowing movements and mental visualizations to strengthen and relax the mind and body. The moves are designed to affect the subtler levels of your energy. It starts with stretching to warm up your muscles, and then you move on to the stances, Tai Chi Ball movements, and The 8 Moves of Chi Kung. It ends with something called Dan Tien Ball Rotation which uses an imaginary ball of energy. It may be wise to pull the curtains as you do this to avoid the inevitable mickey-taking by neighbours. I liked this workout best in the whole set and it left me feeling energised and raring to go!

    PM - Tai Chi for the Body: This workout is more intense and physical than the AM workout. The stances are lower, promoting more muscular development. The moves are designed to greatly enhance chi flow thereby energetically cleansing the body of the tension and stress accumulated throughout the day. Again it starts with some warm up stretching but then moves on to individual stances before putting them all together in to a 'Combination' or 'Complete Form'.  This is bit harder to master and will only come from repeated sessions I think.

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    The monks of the Shaolin temple in Northern China were legendary for their great boxing ability and physical prowess. They became experts in body development, health, movement and fighting by carefully studying the grace and power of animals in nature. They found that complete physical fitness required stretching, breathing, isometrics, body awareness and sensitivity, balance and coordination. By combining these qualities into basic movements, the efficiency and effectiveness of exercising apparently increases ten-fold. This session is based on the graceful movements of the Shaolin Five Animals. It incorporates the secrets of the Shaolin Boxers into a cardio workout routine that strengthens, stretches and energizes the entire body, building flexibility, endurance and power.
    Here's how the 'Five Animals' are presented.

    *THE PROGRAM: *The Snake: Warm-up & Flexibility. The snake is known for flexibility and fluidity of movement. This section teaches a full body stretch.

    The Crane: Kicking & Balance. The movements of the crane are quick, light and graceful. This section emphasizes kicking and balance exercises that will work the legs, buns and abs.

    The Leopard: Punching & Power. The leopard has explosive power, speed and agility. This section guides you through punching and boxing drills that develop the arms, wrist and hands.

    The Tiger: Isometrics & Strength. The tiger is acclaimed for its great strength. This section uses isometrics and dynamic tension exercises to quickly and thoroughly develop muscle definition in the arms, chest and legs.

    The Dragon: Cool Down & Internal Energy. The dragon represents the "Spirit". This section explores internal energy techniques that will sharpen and focus the mind while relaxing and cooling the body.
    Whilst I enjoyed 'The Dragon' tremendously, the Cardio Kick-boxing routines were less appealing to me. I found these took me away from the stress-busting calm of Tai Chi though I'm sure that this is more to do with my own mind-set than the DVD itself. Wherein lies the weakness of home tutorship on DVD - there is no bespoke instruction to assess how you are doing and to motivate you to improve.

    However, this set does make up a very good introduction which might be just enough of a catalyst for you to turn your life round for the better. The fact they are presented by / endorsed by a dead movie star is really superfluous.

    From a value point of view you won't find a better introductory set for your money, as long as you are prepared to forgive the eighties haircuts and space 1999 style exercise outfits. I am sure there are better sets out there though I am no expert. And as such, these will do just fine for now.

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