"Sign-Chi-Do" Butchers ASL, Excludes Deaf People

A fellow interpreter tipped me off to a bizarre website the other day called signchido.com. The website is a sort of “infomercial” for an inspirational form of “moving prayer” that attempts to incorporate ASL into Tai Kwan Do Tai Chi. The woman who invented it says she is a doctor who designed Sign Chi Do to help patients “synchronize body, heart, and mind.” I suppose one could argue that anything that helps people heal is a good thing — and they may have a point — but there is something so “infomercial-ly” about this whole scheme, and I don’t believe anyone should profit from ASL at the expense of the American deaf community and their language.

I would not take issue with Sign Chi Do if it incorporated ASL in a way that would make sense to a person who relies on ASL for communication, if all of the videos on the website were captioned, and if even one of the three “testimonial” videos featured a deaf person!

Unfortunately, the whole scheme seems to be a concoction of someone who has co-opted the language of a people without involving the people she took the language from, and no attempt seems to have been made to reach out to the very people who created the language in the first place. It all appears to be a feel-good entertainment for hearing people who have never met a deaf person nor taken a sign language class.

For the benefit of people who cannot hear the singing on the videos, as well as for the benefit of people who don’t know ASL, I have watched and listened to the introductory video, transcribed the song lyrics, and translated (or back-translated, if you will) the “ASL” (if you can call it that).


The first verse is sung:

Let me be thankful this day
From sun up
To sun down
Let me be thankful

The first verse is signed:

LET ME ARRIVE
RISE (as in telling an audience to stand up)
SETTLE (as in telling an audience they may be seated)
LET ME ARRIVE

The second verse is sung:

And let me be thoughtful this day
From sun up
To sun down
Let me be thoughtful

The second verse is signed:

LET ME DECIDE
RISE (as in telling an audience to stand up)
SETTLE (as in telling an audience they may be seated)
LET ME DECIDE

The third verse is sung:

And let me be tranquil this day
From sun up
To sun down
Let me be tranquil

The third verse is signed:

LET ME RELIEVE
RISE (as in telling an audience to stand up)
SETTLE (as in telling an audience they may be seated)
LET ME RELIEVE

The fourth verse is sung:

Healthy am I
Happy am I
Holy am I

The fourth verse is signed:

BRAVE ME (“healthy” is signed from the shoulders, not the chest)
HAPPY/EXCITED(?) (a contrived sign blending the movement, location, and palm orientation for EXCITED with the “B” handshape for HAPPY) ME
HOLY (exaggerating the sign by lifting it way off the hand as if “gazing across the horizon into the distance”) ME

The fifth verse is sung:

Take my heart: enfold it
Take my mind: transform it
Take my will: Conform it
To yours, to yours, oh Lord

The fifth verse is signed… well, it gets really hard to translate:

For “take my heart,” she makes the shape of a heart with both hands in a curved “B” handshape at her heart location.
For “enfold it” (bless her heart), she signs “SQUEEZE, WRING-OUT”
For “take my mind,” she points to her head with both index fingers.
For “transform it,” she signs something that looks like a blend of “EXPLODE” and “INFORM”
For “take my will,” she signs something that looks like “loooooooooong sennnnntennnnce” (SENTENCE)
For “conform it,” she signs something like “NARROW” and “STRAIGHTEN”
For “to yours, to yours, oh Lord,” she continues the sort-of “STRAIGHTEN” sign, and then signs “LIBERTY” for the word “lord”

The last verse is sung:

My heart is open
My mind transformed
My body strengthened
My will conformed

The last verse is signed:

“heart-shape” EXPAND
MIND EXPLODE
BODY BRAVE
SENTENCE STRAIGHTEN

I understand that the lady who created Sign Chi Do may have done so with good intentions. And I suppose it is flattering that ASL is considered beautiful to people who don’t know it. But I think the doctor needs to know what her signing means to a person who knows sign language, and I think she ought to include deaf people in creating this form of “moving prayer”– especially in making her site accessible to deaf people, which at this point it is not.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

24 thoughts on “"Sign-Chi-Do" Butchers ASL, Excludes Deaf People”

  1. I know ASL and have interpreted for years. I also know there are several different types of sign language all of which are different variations. And then, there’s “pidgen” which let’s face it, a lot of deaf folks use.

    I’ve done “moving prayer” with Dr Anne (she IS a physician by the way) and she appears to me, to use some signed English along with ASL.

    Think about it, isn’t this a good way of SHOWING hearing folks that ASL and other types of sign language are more than just “deaf sign language” but rather beautiful expressive types of communication with enriching potential for all?

    I’ve seen what could be more called “pidgen” used in schools and many other places for expressive art and I think this creates awareness. I would like to see ALL children taught ASL in first grade – this would (1) make them bi-lingual which means they would develop an alternate language center and (2) teach them language STRUCTURE helpful in learning most other languages. But most important of all, it would mean that non hearing kids whose ONLY disability is not hearing the spoken word, be easily mainstreamed without interpreters etc. From my long years of teaching, I know that kids LOVE ASL! It’s so natural…

    Awareness of the fact that ASL is wonderful and useful for ALL people and a great way of expression (not withstanding very handy at times), is a good way of perhaps working TOWARD bringing it in as a second language and helping parents of non hearing kids understand that they are NOT doing their kids any favors by restricting them to “lip reading” – this was the opinion of the lady who taught me sign and I feel a worthwhile opinion. I taught our son ASL, we loved using it between ourselves, he can always communicate with non hearing folks, and the knowledge of this second language gave him ease with learning other languages… it’s all good… see…

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  2. I have been in contact with Dr. Borik off and on for several years now. As a hard of hearing person who more and more depends on sign language, I have repeatedly suggested captioning for Anne’s videos. I do hope one day she will do this because I believe that all my Deaf friends would benefit from the exercise and ignore the less than exact ASL signing. They are generally very understanding and tolerant about the hearing population’s inability to sign precisely and, like people in other lands, the attempt to speak their language is appreciated.

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  3. Dear Daniel, My hope is that you find peace in your mind, Spirit and body. Sign Chi Do was created out of love and is something everyone can learn. It is a “language” that transcends words and signing to reach a person’s Spirit. May your Spirit be touched with the love and grace that Dr. Borik intended when she created this beautiful movement. Please know that this is a “love” mail and sent with the utmost warmest of wishes. We are all connected and grow stronger when we see the good in others. Namaste…

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  4. You know, I wrote this three years ago, and I thought that Deaf people would be outraged at Sign Chi Do, yet it seems that Deaf people don’t care and it’s the Sign Chi Do folks who are outraged. Apparently, Deaf people don’t give Sign Chi Do a second’s thought because they know it wasn’t created for them. As much as I have a philosophical problem with it, it obviously doesn’t have the Deaf community up in arms. So, go ahead and do your thing– not that you need my approval. This is the last time I’ll fight a battle for the Deaf. If something bothers them, they can fight their own battles.

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  5. I’ve never met an “ASL translater,” Sophie. A translator (spelled with an O, not an E) works from one written language to another. Since ASL is not a written language, I’m not sure what you are talking about when you say that you are an “ASL translater.”

    In any case, it’s amazing to me that I’m still getting “hate mail” about this blog entry three years after the fact. Yes, I could have approached Dr. Borik individually, but I was under no obligation to do so. She published her work to the world, and the world has a right to criticize it. As to Dr. Borik’s willingness to listen and openness to change, I can only say that I still don’t see a Deaf ASL user testimonial on her website, and her videos still aren’t captioned for those who can’t hear them. If Dr. Borik is as open to change as you say she is, perhaps she would be willing to at least caption her videos. Here is a link to a tutorial on YouTube Captions and Subtitles.

    It is a good thing to relax and help others to relax. All I am asking is that, if you’re going to adopt ASL and alter it to suit your artistic needs, you do everything you can to include the people whose language you adapted. You can show your appreciation to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people by closed-captioning all of your videos and including Deaf ASL users in your testimonials. Those are the changes I recommended three years ago, and the recommendation still stands.

    P.S. I have about 30 closed-captioned videos on YouTube. I use MovCaptioner on my Mac.

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  6. I am an ASL translater. I am a nurse practioner. I am practice SignChiDo and was invited to try it by one of my clients. In my opinion the greatest injustice that has been done here is the lack of consideration Mr. Greene has shown Dr. Borik. You speak of inconsideration for many groups: the deaf community, the translating community, the American Indian community. Yet, you demonstrate the very trait you accuse Anne of engaging in. You do so by not contacting her directly and becoming informed as to her intent, her willingness to listen and her openess to change. Until that is done, your opinion and statements are simply an extension of what you accuse her of engaging in.

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  7. This is america.don’t be so easily offended. The doctor created sign chi do for her mother. She also created it for a distresser. You as a translater probably make money off of deaf people. So we need for you to give the money back.

    I attended a pscyh at my community college and found it very destressfull.

    She, like you, is trying to help people. Don’t knock here creativity.try it for a month and she how much calmer you fell. You seem very stress my friend.

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  8. Hello all. I just got home from a Tai Chi yang style, short form class.

    Naturally, I had to comment here because basically I’m deaf. I was struggling in the class because I couldn’t understand the teacher verbally (she’s Chinese) and I had to watch everyone intently to see how it was done. But I’m memorizing the moves and it will take time.

    Now if you’re not aware, there are some Tai Chi videos out there that are closed captioned. I intend to order one.

    You can locate them on Amazon.com, and they will tell you if it’s captioned or not. Read the descriptions carefully, as there are different forms of Tai Chi. The basic, classic one you should get is known as Tai Chi, Yang style, short (or 24 movements.)

    Also, there are books on the subject. The one I have is Tai Chi For Dummies, and it gives a good explanation and history of Tai Chi. This would be good for DHH (deaf, hard of hearing) people who have no problems with reading, and want a greater understanding of Tai Chi.

    Now, I know ASL, but I’m not a native signer. But it would help me with my Tai Chi practices.

    I completely understand Tai Chi is specifically set with specific movements and shouldn’t be changed. This is so you can get the health benefits of it.

    There is no reason, though, why we cannot develop a Tai Chi program for DHH people. Put it into a CC video and have a book with it as well. I mean, why not?

    I would hope that a Tai Chi master with excellent knowledge of ASL will do this project.

    No matter what, I will continue with Tai Chi, despite my hearing loss. It’s a wonderful activity to do.

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  9. Hello,

    Just wanted to check in on this conversation and offer another thought if I may. I am a long time Tai Chi teacher and I write this on the heels of receiving my 1st request to teach to a deaf person.

    I will be the first one to tell you that my skills in ASL are non-existent. However, it is indeed my intention to make “my program accessible to the deaf and also to allow them to teach me how to communicate in their language”.

    Fortunately, and prior to meeting this individual, I have already been experimenting with putting captions on a free introductory video that I designed. During these hard economic times, I have begun to offer classes either free or for what the individual can afford to pay. I have always felt that the price is open to compromise, the teachings can never be compromised.

    In light of that the point I’d like to make however, is that although Tai Chi should indeed be made accessible in ANY language, teachers and students should also remember not to “cut corners” in the learning.

    This is in light of the many ventures that promote such things as “Tai Chi for the elderly”, “Tai Chi for children”, “Tai Chi for …”, “Tai Chi for …”

    It is up to individual teachers to make the art accessible and promote “Tai Chi for everyone”. By painting the accessibility with broad strokes one we can reach all audiences and still maintain the integrity of the art for future generations.

    Leaving a movement out here, adding a movement there, cut a corner here, skip over a teaching there all add to passing something on that does not resemble what was passed on to us.

    According to my “teacher’s” teacher Grand Master Yang Wabu, he heard his teacher, the legendary master Wu Chien Chuan (who lived in Yang’s house in Hong Kong during the Japanese invasion of China) said that Wu did not change the Yang Tai Chi learned from the Yang’s. In fact, Wu Chien Chuan emphatically said, “It can not be changed”.

    Also, throughout the Tai Chi form movements, the synergy between martial art AND health is spontaneous and natural without coercion. In other words, every aspect of Tai Chi has to satisfy TWO requirements simultaneously; 1) it has to be useful for martial art applications. 2) useful for health benefits. Being “useful” however does not imply that the martial “application” is even shown during practice, like a Karate kata. This concept is misunderstood, one hears the refrain “I don’t want to learn a martial art”, etc. “I only want it for health, meditation, centering, movement, etc”.

    Although the martial application is not “shown” when one practices the Tai Chi, the practitioner learns to show the “intent” of the movement in their practice. Of course most people are now learning Tai Chi probably for reasons other than for serious martial art applications. So the question is how much should we emphasize the martial art aspects of Tai Chi? Certainly Tai Chi Form movements make more sense and are easier to
    remember if they are corroborated with the martial art origin of the movements.

    Tai Chi Form should be practiced with “Yi” (martial art intention). “Yi” is not something complex and elaborate. It is single minded and somewhat intuitive with the desire to deliver the internal power externally through hands, arm and foot, what ever the movement is. If the hand is moving forward, then the Yi goes to the palm and fingers; if the hand is moving laterally in a blocking movement, then the Yi goes to the leading edge
    on the side of the hand; etc.

    Another way (simplification) of stating this is that “yi” is mental, “showing application” is physical. Without this “intent” the movements become meaningless and simply a “dance” or “exercise”. Yang Wabu was saddened by this trend of “changing” the art and the subsequent fecklessness of practitioners.

    The fact is that the knowledge cycle of learning the classical Tai Chi to understand its eventual consequences is very long. To learn the Tai Chi form takes several years to be proficient. The majority of people are not interested in “martial application” but it does not mean that the art has to be changed to eliminate the “intent”. There is a big difference between “showing application” and “showing intent”.

    Even for those who still aspire to martial art prowess, to test the effectiveness of what has been learned in actual martial art application takes another few years. To confirm what the health implications are, especially during older age, requires a human generation.

    Here we have the classical Tai Chi with its numerous components meticulously optimized to satisfy both the requirements of martial art application and health benefits. It must be a multi-generation effort. When Wu Chien Chuan taught my “teacher’s teacher”, Tai Chi was already in such an advanced state. One can fully appreciate what he said, “It can not be changed”.

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  10. I am open to progress as long as you don’t run people over. I still don’t see any deaf people on the website, and the videos still aren’t captioned. I urge you to thank deaf people for their sign language by making your program accessible to them and by allowing them to teach you how to communicate in their language.

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  11. Fellow Followers of Sign Chi Do: If you are getting the relaxation and results from your desire to initiate this practice into your life, that alone is good. This is not an infomercial, as can be seen from the low cost to enjoy this new way to combine your spiritualness with the practice of ancient techniques.

    I understand the fact that this is not a perfect translation in the ASL genre. Was not meant to be… I am sure that with dual cooperation, these techniques could be updated to reflect a more accurate depiction of sign language. In the meantime, many people are benefiting from Sign Chi Do in its current form. Be careful not to be swayed by pundits that are not open to new progressions.

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  12. Can any of you — Jonathan, Diane, or Mary Elizabeth Kilber — tell me what accommodations have been made in embrace deaf people in Sign Chi Do? Can you give names and provide testimonials? From where I stand, I see a bastardization of ASL that is inaccessible to the people who need it most. It matters not how much pleasure hearing people get out of Sign Chi Do as long as the people who created the language you butcher are alienated from it.

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  13. I can’t believe people would attack Sign Chi Do for the reasons listed on this blog. If anything, people could be flattered that their language is being used for positive things.

    The Sign Chi Do movement will contine, and it’s already been out for a while. It does not insult ASL. The greatest insult to ASL that I have seen so far is how greedy and territorial some of you seem to be with it. To think that using ASL could cause a bunch of people to gang up on you and slander you on the world wide web makes me sick.

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  14. I know that fighting breast cancer is a good cause, and a popular one, but that doesn’t make Sign Chi Do any less of an insult to American Sign Language. Why not try Tai Chi? It relaxes you when you need it, too. And it’s accessible to both the hearing and the deaf, with no offense to either.

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  15. Are you all nuts ! We did this relaxation technique at a breast cancer retreat on Saturday. It is for relaxation for heaven sakes ! Whats wrong with people ! It relaxs you when you need it ! Get a life !!!!!!!!!!!

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  16. Mary Elizabeth,

    What would you think of an “art of moving prayer” that involved a bastardization of Native American Indian chants and dances that would make no sense to the tribal people themselves? Or an art form that involved dual modalities: a visual modality visible only to sighted people, and a kinesthetic modality involving a bastardization of Braille — visible and touchable to sighted people, but invisible and meaningless to blind people?

    Or, what would you think if a doctor expounded upon the health effects of sitting down and running one’s fingers along pages of Braille… suppose they claimed that it lowered people’s blood pressure and alleviated depression to sit in quiet contemplation of the tactile stimulation offered by all those lovely little meaningless Braille dots? And then — on top of that — what would you think if there were no blind people on the informercial to offer their own testimonials to the health benefits of reading Braille? And what would you think if none of the promotional materials were published in Braille?

    Gosh, have I gotten through to you yet? Don’t you realize the gravity of the insult Sign Chi Do is to ASL and deaf people? I’m not even deaf, and I’m insulted! It’s an insult to the language I use to make a living and the people I serve in my vocation. It’s not nice to mess with other people’s language. That ought to be common sense. Sorry if you don’t like my tone or the tone of others expressing their opinions here, but my comments are certainly not ignorant; on the contrary, they are much more informed than the concoction of Sign Chi Do!

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  17. Dear Detractors of Sign Chi Do – Dr. Borik does not have a “scheme” in any way whatever and I can’t think of how you believe her work is done at the expense of the deaf community in any way. Whether or not her art of moving prayer speaks poor sign, it speaks good health and spiritual well being and its benefits are attested to by Edward Diethrich, the Director of the Arizona heart Institute. I don’t think Dr. Borik meant for her Moving Prayer or Power of Mind and Body Fitness to be a communication tool but to be one of healing and stress management through breathing, thought and movement and for a full understanding of the technique I recommend her book to you. I am very sorry to read the “tone” of the remarks in the comments here – they are unkind and ignorant and do not speak well of all of you. Mary Elizabeth

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  18. Hi,
    Oh Rats, I’m an ASL student, and I heard about this recently and thought “what a good idea!”. I have been doing and helping teach Tai Chi for quite some time. I like the concept in general, but if she really doesn’t know sign language/ASL, it doesn’t sound like something I’d want to do. Well, who knows, maybe I’ll come up with something different that uses the same sort of idea, but call it something else. We’ll see.

    Take Care,
    Patty

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  19. OK, OK, here’s a comment. Now you won’t be so lonely🙂 Anyway, it’s nice knowing there’s other guy interpreters out there in the world. There’s only a handful in our state and only one in my area in SC. I attend Spartanburg Community College’s online program in interpreting and I enjoy developing my intralingual skills in ASL. So, yeah, found you on deafread.com. Good night!

    JB

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  20. Good find! I think the idea of combining ASL and Tai Chi is interesting but her approach is all wrong! I agree with your assessment that she has no respect for Deaf people nor the language.

    If this was done by a Deaf person who was fluent in ASL, my opinion might change.

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