Tai Chi as a martial art has both fighting applications and health benefits. Dr. Paul Lam
of Sydney, Australia has put together a nice series of DVDs teaching the benefits of
Tai Chi for the elderly and infirmed. His introductory DVD Try Tai Chi is a 45
minute sampler of moves that benefit patients with arthritis, diabetes and other
similar diseases. His five part form stresses fluidity of motion and slow pacing that
should help patients get exercise without taxing their bodies too much.
With any essentially unsupervised exercise there is the possibility of something going
wrong and Lam's program is not a direct substitute for an actual Tai Chi class where
the instructor can give direct feedback to students and make sure that nothing is done
in a way that could cause damage. But Lam is a good enough instructor that, if followed
closely, his mild movements shouldn't be a problem.
The program spends a good deal of time teaching warm up and cool down movements to make
sure that even the most inexperienced student is ready to begin and finish. These
exercises are performed by a group of mostly older students, showing that these slow
movements should be possible for just about anyone. The five movement set itself (which
consists of moves designed by Lam to work together and give a basic Tai Chi experience)
follows these exercises and is taught piece-by-piece by Lam together with a student.
Lam's instruction is pretty clear and his own examples are impressively fluid and
natural. As always, the names of the moves can get pretty fun, with the best one here
being "Fair Lady Working at the Shuttle."
Lam follows the entire program by demonstrating
the set himself, first shot from the front, then from the back, to give the student the
chance to see the movements from multiple angles. A really slick presentation of this
material would have utilized DVD's capability for multiple simultaneous angles, but I
guess that's not really necessary. Regardless, this is a good program for older folks
to get their first taste of Tai Chi.
The full-frame video is unremarkable. The program seems to have been shot on a consumer
grade camcorder and doesn't look great. It doesn't really matter for the kind of
program this is, however.
The Dolby Digital Stereo audio is also nothing special. Lam's voice is reasonably clear
but this is obviously not any kind of serious audio production.
There is a short preview of other videos in the series.
For someone interested in trying out Tai Chi and especially for those with health
issues, this might be a very nice introduction. It's also mild enough that it should
work even for those for whom lifting a donut is considered exercise. It's tough not to
feel a little self-conscious standing in the middle of your living room slowly raising
and lowering your hands, But once you get over that minor hurdle, it feels really good
to relax and try to follow along. Dr. Lam takes it slow leading his students through
these introductory movements and there's always the option of those interested to
follow up with a longer program or to seek out an actual Tai Chi class near them.
Also see Tai Chi For Back Pain