"Dr. Lam and some of his assistants in this DVD have won medals in China in Tai Chi competition. This reflects their standardness and conformity to the Yang style. If you want the standard stuff, and are not willing to settle for watered-down, careless, or altered versions, this is it. This will show you the Yang Short Form as true to its original developers. I have not had any instruction in karate or any martial art, but was able to follow the individual form presentations fine without having to go to the final demonstration.
I believe that much thought and care was put into the development of the forms to the end of maximizing the benefits to the flow of Chi in different parts of the body, with the attendant health benefits. Departing from or altering the forms could cut across the gains to be had from this. So I say be as standard as possible to reap the full benefits of Tai Chi.
I looked at several other Tai Chi DVDs. Some of them were at a lower level than the Yang Short Form. One of them was at a higher level-- showing 48 forms. The Yang Short Form was developed with the idea of having a set of forms that pretty much the whole population of China could do on a daily basis. The intention was to cut down on health care costs by promoting the preventative health care benefits of Tai Chi. So they needed high participation, and they couldn't make it difficult to learn. They also couldn't have it take much time. It takes only 4 - 6 minutes. Leading practitioners of Tai Chi were given the job of sifting through the larger body of Tai Chi forms and practices to come up with a set of exercise forms that would maximize health benefits in a short period of time. I respect the product of this work, and wanted to stay as close to it as possible. If you think this may be too much for you to start with, ask yourself "Do I think I can understand and apply as well as 80% of the Chinese population?" You probably can. If you think so, don't start out with a lower level "beginning" DVD. As far as a higher level, you can go on to that once you have this down."
Excellent, excellent video for learning Tai Chi
skarpinsk | Central New York | 11/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This video does an excellent job of presenting the 24 forms of this style of Tai Chi. Each form is demonstrated one at a time and at different angles to help the student learn each form. Great video for the beginner or a supplement for a present student of Tai Chi. I highly recommend this video."
Good as a reference, not for beginners
A reader | 07/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I consider myself something of an expert at learning tai chi from videos (not, mind you, an expert on tai chi itself). My efforts to do so span several years and four videos.
I found this video very helpful, because it includes at the end a demonstration of the entire form shot from the back. And it's certainly inspiring to watch Dr. Lam doing the form. I also found the instructional part of the video helpful, because Dr. Lam gives very precise instructions on hand and foot placement, and he also uses clock positions to orient you in terms of which way to face, which is very helpful, because sometimes this is not entirely clear from watching videos.
The reason I took off two stars is because this video shares the same problem as most tai chi videos, in which the teacher demonstrates the movements while facing the camera. This one factor makes the video completely useless for beginners. The problem is that as you face your TV screen, and you see the instructor facing you, he moves his hand out to his left, but the only way you can follow him is to treat the TV image like a mirror image, so you move your hand to your right, because his left is your right. In an actual tai chi class, you stand behind the instructor so that it's easy to follow his movements.
Thus, if you use a video that has this problem, you will end up performing the entire form backwards, i.e. moving left when you should be moving right and vice versa (this is indeed how I first learned tai chi). The Yang Short Form is not ambidextrous; it goes in specific directions. The world won't come to an end if you do the whole form backwards, but if you ever find yourself with a group of people doing tai chi, you will have to learn it all over again, this time in the correct direction.
So, what you have on this and most other videos is the teacher saying "move your foot to the left," while on the screen he's moving his foot to your right. If you think this isn't a problem, trust me, if you try to move your foot to the left while trying to copy someone's movements who is moving to the right, I guarantee you, you'll last about three seconds before you start tripping over your feet.
Some reviewers of this video claim that each exercise is performed from different angles. This is a little misleading. Some of the movements are demonstrated from one angle and then demonstrated from a slightly different angle, but only for one or two of them is the movement actually demonstrated from the back. The back of the DVD case states that it includes "front and back views of each exercise." Again, this is not true, unless you count the demonstration of the entire routine from the rear at the end of the video.
It puzzles me as to why all these makers of tai chi videos seem never to have considered this left-right problem. How is a beginner to learn? Of the four tai chi videos in my possession, only one ("Tai Chi for Busy People" by Dr. Keith Jeffery) solves this problem, by filming the teacher from the back, while he faces a wall of mirrors. Unfortunately, "Tai Chi for Busy People" does not teach the entire Short Form, but a truncated version of the teacher's own devising. I'm no purist, but the fact is that the movements which Dr. Jeffery leaves out happen to be some of the ones I find most enjoyable to perform.
I haven't seen Scott Cole's videos, but my understanding is that these also present shortened routines of the teacher's devising which are easier to learn, and easier to teach as well, I'm sure. Amazon reviewers who are tai chi enthusiasts often write about how they don't understand why people would want to learn watered-down versions of tai chi, but the answer is simple -- until people start making videos which teach the Short Form in a reasonable manner, people will naturally turn to something which is easier to learn.
I also agree with the reviewer below who complained that the demonstration of the entire form as shot from the back isn't given its own separate scene break on the DVD. Instead, the scene break is at the beginning of the demonstration from the front. This means that if you want to see the one from the rear, you have to go to the front demo and then fast forward to the rear one.
Dr. Lam, an Australian physician, has a soft-spoken, gentle demeanor which is completely devoid of charisma. This isn't a problem for me, since my interest is in learning tai chi, not being entertained by a personality. I actually enjoyed his serene disposition, although it took me a few minutes to penetrate his Asian accent. Likewise, I couldn't care less about the production values when I'm trying to learn the movements. If I want to be entertained by a flashy production, I can watch reruns of the Carol Burnett Show.
Another problem for beginners, besides the left-right thing, is Dr. Lam's method of teaching each movement, which is to have one of his students demonstrate the movement, freezing at various points so that Dr. Lam can point out particular things. This makes for a start-and-stop method will be difficult for beginners, who won't get a chance to actually practice the movement all the way through unless they go to the demonstration at the end. Dr. Lam has videos designed for complete beginners which I haven't seen, perhaps they do it differently. In the two videos I learned from, "Tai Chi for Busy People" mentioned above and "Tai Chi Fitness & Health" by Joshua Grant, the teacher would first demonstrate the foot movements, go over that a few times, then demonstrate the arm movements, go over that a few times, and then put them together and go over that several times, which I think is a much better way to learn.
Included on this video are instructions for six qigong exercises. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than I could tell me why these exercises are important and how I'm supposed to incorporate these into my tai chi practice, but such information is not included in this video, and I ended up watching a few of them and then skipping the rest altogether.
So, to sum up, this video makes a good resource for someone who knows some tai chi and wants to have a refresher course. The left-right problem limits its usefulness as an instructional video, and would make it very difficult for complete beginners, as does the stop-and-start method of teaching the movements."
Excellent Companion to Physical Instruction
Fred J. Fritz | Virginia Beach, VA United States | 05/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My wife and I enrolled in a Tai Chi class in the local area. The class has been great but sometimes it is difficult to see the complete move demonstrated by the instructor as his back is usually toward us.
In this video, Dr. Lam presents each of the 24 forms, also known as the "short form" in great detail. He uses students to demonstrate each movement while he describes the positions. He also demonstrates the entire form with a front view and a back view. This way, the student can see each evolution of movement.
With so many versions of Tai Chi out there, I'll share the names of the movements here to assist you. I know I had to go through several videos to find the one that most closely resembled the style my wife and I are learning!
24 Form: Beginning Parting the Wild Horse's Mane (3 times) White Crane Spreads its Wings Brush Knee and Side Step (3 times) Play the Lute Step Back and Repulse Monkey (4 times) Grasp the Sparrow's Tail - left Grasp the Sparrow's Tail - right Single Whip Wave Hands Like Clouds (3 times) Single Whip High Pat on Horse Kick With Right Heel Strike Ears With Fists Kick With Left Heel Snake Creeps Down (left) and Golden Cockerel Stands on right leg Snake Creeps Down (right) and Golden Cockerel on Right Leg Fair Lady Weaves the Shuttle (right and left) Needle at the Bottom of the Sea Fan through Back Deflect Downwards, Parry and Punch Apparent Close Up Cross Hands Closing Form
Even if you aren't in a structured class, this video will be most helpful. If you are in a class, this video greatly assists your daily workout and fills in the gaps that you might have missed.
The quality of the movements as shown by the students on the video isn't that great but to be honest, it doesn't matter. You don't want to buy a Tai Chi video for background cinemaphotography!"
Knight | 08/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tai Chi - The 24 Forms, by Dr. Paul Lam is my pick for the best of the Tai Chi dvds I own. The instruction is very detailed on the traditional 24 Yang Short Form. I really do not know how anyone could present this material better on a dvd, but some of the reviews I have read here are negative and that seemed to be because 1. - the dvd isn't instruction from a live teacher (No kidding!) or 2. - the person wanted something quick and easy like the instruction presented by Scott Cole (If that is what you want, I highly recommend Scott Cole's Tai Chi Series of dvds). With Dr. Paul Lam's dvd you actually learn the proper way to perform the movements and some really good qigong exercises through very detailed instruction. The dvd was transferred from vhs, but the video quality is excellent, as well as the menus. Dr. Lam performs the entire sequence from both a front and back view at the end, which can easily be followed. I read some people complaining about this here, but, again, I don't know how anyone could present this material better on a dvd. Another reviewer explained that to improve the flowing sequence "stops and captions" should have been added to it, but that is exactly what is done throughout the instructional chapters. Each posture is presented in its own chapter with a caption clearly explaining which posture it is in the sequence. So, there is no need to add such things in the flowing sequence, and I think doing so would harm its nature as being a flowing sequence. I actually feel like I am receiving serious private instruction in Tai Chi from a Tai Chi expert while watching this dvd. This is my favorite!"