[Chicago Slices raw: Tai Chi In Chinatown]

Raw footage for "Chicago Slices," a television series about life in Chicagoland. This video features a trip to a park in Chinatown, where a group gathers to practice tai chi. Videomaker Skip Blumberg interviews instructor Larry So and his older, female Chinese students, while younger Chinese teens in the park question its validity as real exercise.

00:00Copy video clip URL Driving on the expressway, videomaker Skip Blumberg briefly “interviews” some ladies riding in the back of a stationwagon with the back hatch open. They say they’re going to the beach.

00:38Copy video clip URL The tape cuts to a park in Chinatown along the highway. Blumberg does a brief intro with Larry So, the tai chi instructor, and then So and his students begin their exercise.

03:15Copy video clip URL A group of teenagers say that they want to play basketball and barbecue, and that tai chi is just for older people, that it’s kind of “stupid.” One of the teenagers says he was born in Trinidad. They add that they didn’t sleep at all the night before because it’s “boring.”

07:35Copy video clip URL Another youngster pulls up in his car, and they playfully fight each other for a moment. They call the tai chi “funny looking” and say that it’s “embarrassing.”

08:45Copy video clip URL Shots of group doing the very slow movements of tai chi, juxtaposed with cars speeding on the expressway that borders the park.

11:40Copy video clip URL Blumberg tapes the teens playing basketball in the street.

12:30Copy video clip URL An elderly man, Gene, is sitting in the park, and tries to convince his grandson, Nathan, to speak on camera. Blumberg allows the boy to use the camera briefly, then interviews the boy. Nathan says that the people in the park are doing tai chi. Blumberg and Nathan talk about traditions, and the boy says that he’s Catholic, reporting that he’s going to finish school tomorrow, and will be going to Florida with his grandfather after that.

17:00Copy video clip URL Blumberg records more footage of the group practicing tai chi in the park.

26:00Copy video clip URL The group finishes the warm-up and So calls them together, offering more specific instruction in Chinese.

30:58Copy video clip URL A man suggests that Blumberg go in the middle to tape. Blumberg asks him about tai chi, and the man explains that it’s a system of movements, and that mostly women do it. He says that the slow motion of the exercise makes you very tired, even more so than if you were to move fast.

35:35Copy video clip URL So says that tai chi is a very Asian form of exercise and philosophy, and the goal is to achieve a balance between the yin and yang. He says that doing it so slowly is difficult on one’s concentration and it is hard for beginners to persevere in their practice. He explains that this form of tai chi has 64 movements, and if you go further, there is also a self defense aspect to the practice. So says it is very good for muscles and for relaxation. So is a social worker at the Chinese-American youth center and does tai chi to stay young.

42:00Copy video clip URL So explains that he’s not concerned that young people are not interested in this part of their culture. He has faith that they’ll “come back.” He explains that he had “urban disease,” which consists of body pain, fatigue, and weight gain. He went to his doctor, who suggested tai chi, which is not, according to him, an ethnically bound practice. Later on that day, they will have a party at the youth center.

47:00Copy video clip URL Helen Wang, a participant, says that she wakes up at 5:30, goes to the park at 6:30, does her chi gong and then does the tai chi. She explains that this is important to her because she’s sick with a number of ailments such as high blood pressure and kidney stones, and has had two angiograms for her heart. She demonstrates the movements and explains that it is helpful for your internal organs. She says that mostly older people participate because they get sick and want to do something more for their health, and then continues to disclose various medical conditions.

52:00Copy video clip URL A participant introduces herself as Yu Li and says that she has been doing tai chi for ten years. She explains that the doctor recommended that she do tai chi, and demonstrates a few of the movements.

54:00Copy video clip URL Another participant sits on the bench and chats a bit. Another lady, Chin Li, says that she came from Hong Kong, but that she started tai chi after she came to Chicago. She explains that she also goes to the Chinese Community Center to learn Mandarin. They single out another woman who sings in the Chinese opera. She says that she likes living both the Chinese and American lifestyle, and that the tai chi is helpful to her health. They also speak briefly about cultural differences and challenges.

58:50Copy video clip URL So does some individual teaching with one white, male participant. So agrees that the group is good because everyone teaches each other and it functions as a social group, as well. The other man says he does tai chi because he was interested in a martial art that he can do for the rest of his life. He says he commutes from near Midway, and that this is only his second class. He explains that he has chronic fatigue and hopes that tai chi will give him energy.

01:02:00Copy video clip URL A participant passes out fliers for a picnic in both English and Spanish.

01:03:12Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

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