I bought a VCR in 1978 -- one of the first in the nation to do so. It cost $998 and a blank VHS tape cost $27.99. I was a poor radio news reporter in Lexington, Kentucky earning around $10,000 a year but I had to have it.
Before long, I started adding martial arts videos to my library. Wing Chun, karate, a little kung-fu -- I was ready to see it all and study it all.
By the time I began studying Chen taiji in 1998, I bought some videos by Chen Xiaowang to study his movement. And that really was all the videos were -- movements repeated at various angles with very little instruction. I got instruction from from my teachers but wanted more from the investment I made in the DVDs.
My first instructional video was Tournament Point Sparring -- a sport that I had been doing pretty successfully and had some helpful techniques to offer. It has sold a lot of copies over the years. I demonstrated winning tournament techniques with a partner but I also added a lot of actual tournament video that I had taken over the years.
When I made my first Hsing-I video, I decided to take a different approach than most of the videos I had seen. I put real students in it, demonstrating techniques with them and coaching them through the movements. I wanted my videos and DVDs to actually instruct -- going in-depth in not just how to do the movement but the body mechanics involved and the self-defense applications.
It's rare to see internal arts videos that teach the real body mechanics of the art. The use of the ground path, peng jin, whole-body movement, opening and closing the kua, silk-reeling, rotation of the dan t'ien -- and how all of that works together for quality movement but also for powerful martial arts.
So that became my main goal with each DVD -- to drill deeper and give customers something they couldn't find anywhere else.
I have taken this approach in each of my DVDs and it works. Each time someone around the world buys one DVD, I can usually expect them to return to buy a few more, because I try to put value in each one -- information they usually don't even get from their own teachers.
Some of my favorite compliments have come from people who have studied directly from people like Chen Xiaowang, who have told me that they have learned things from my DVDs (and the online school) that they haven't learned from Grandmaster Chen.
I have plans for more DVDs this year. You can explore different DVDs on the right side of this blog. Coming up this year will be the complete 12-Animal Xingyi form, the Bagua 8 Main Palms Form, the Bagua Elk Horn Knives form, and the Chen Straight Sword form and -- with a little luck -- Laojia Yilu. All the video I shoot for my DVDs ends up on the online school -- in fact, the website has hundreds of video lessons that aren't yet on DVD -- videos that go in-depth into Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua.
It's frustrating to see a video that demonstrates moves from several angles but doesn't go beneath the surface. I suppose the top masters don't want to go beneath the surface in their videos. So I will gladly do that. :)