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Martial arts

Chinese tai chi master finds online lessons hard to deliver

Ye Yongxiang, a sixth-generation tai chi master, says the internet is a great way to promote Chinese art to the world

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 10:40pm

Internet technology can satisfy many demands in China, but if you want to learn traditional tai chi online, there are limitations, according to Ye Yongxiang, the sixth generation tai chi master of the widely performed Yang-style form.

“I am always thinking about how to take advantage of technology for tai chi demonstration and promotion,” said Ye, at the Credit Suisse China Investment Conference in Shenzhen on Wednesday, where she was a speaker.

The young master, who is committed to promoting the martial art, launched a series of online video lessons on tai chi on Mixiong.TV, a popular live streaming platform in China, in February.

Tai chi is a form of martial art exercise that emphasises inner peace and strength through calm breathing and seamless body movement.

“Without tools to simulate face to face interaction, I can only teach some basic movements such as how to breathe smoothly or how to stand erectly,” said Ye.

Ye said that virtual reality and augmented reality technology are not mature enough to offer an immersive digital environment that can allow her to take tai chi lessons to the next level.

But she said that the internet is definitely a great way to clear misconceptions and promote tai chi and other Chinese traditional arts to the world.

Wang Xiyuan, 35, a tai chi aficionado, said she seldom follows online videos while practising. “I watch the videos to appreciate the beauty of the art and enjoy the peace it brings to me,” said Wang.

“I do not think I can make the movements precisely by following the videos and I may hurt myself without the guidance of a tai chi master.”

Whatever the shortcomings of technology, some famous personalities and tycoons are keen followers of the art.

Jack Ma, founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, is devoted to promoting tai chi with his big-screen debut, Gong Shou Dao, or The Art of Attack and Defence.

Ma assembled a team to realise his decade-long dream of becoming a tai chi master, and he unveiled the movie’s poster on his microblog account, showing him surrounded by the other stars. The movie will be released on November 11, synonymous with the online shopping extravaganza known as Singles Day in China.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.