In Try Tai Chi Dr. Paul Lam gave a cursory introduction to Tai Chi and the style of movement that students can expect. His Tai Chi For Back Pain is a much more in-depth look at the parts of Tai Chi that Lam feels most benefit patients with that particular ailment. Coming from both Tai Chi and medical perspectives, Lam designed this program to strengthen not only the obvious joints and muscles involved in back pain but also the smaller parts of a patient's anatomy that contribute to these problems. In fact, he suggests portions of this program even for wheelchair-bound patients, suggesting that there really are some serious therapeutic values in this program.
This two-hour program starts with interviews from a few doctors and physical therapists giving a little background on the causes of back pain. This isn't riveting viewing in a cinematic sense but it is good to know that Lam is serious about keeping physical health in mind when he prescribes Tai Chi. This isn't some la-di-da exhibition: His patients include the very old and chronically infirmed.
The program can be watched straight through or accessed from a three page menu. It's very involved, with eight lessons broken into multiple segments each. Lam introduces new moves one part at a time, often dividing individual moves into footwork and upper body work. His patience and clarity really help to explain these deceptively simple-looking moves. Using students as teaching tools Lam does a nice job of making his forms clear.
After the individual lessons Lam offers a complete demonstration, shot from the front and then from the back. Watching Lam himself stitch it all together should give the viewer a good sense of the fluidity of Tai Chi. He's really excellent and, even though he's a reedy guy, he's clearly in excellent physical shape. With impressive credentials (including a gold medal from the Beijing International Tai Chi Competition) he's clearly an authoritative figure in Tai Chi.
In my review of Try Tai Chi I mentioned my concern over people attempting to learn Tai Chi simply from a DVD. With the more involved forms of this edition that concern is still there: Lam is a cautious teacher and these are not fast forms, but with the target audience consisting specifically of people with back injuries and other sensitive ailments extra caution is a must. Still, if you're going to attempt Tai Chi with only the benefit of a televised teacher, Lam is a good choice. His lessons are clear and he has overall wellness in mind.
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.
Tai Chi For Back Pain is much more detailed and lengthy than the introductory disc. Students looking for this level of instruction should take it slow and not be afraid to break the program up into segments. It's also not a bad idea, at this point, to seek out a local Tai Chi school.