View Full Version : Learning from Books/dvds and Yang Lu Chan

07-30-2004, 02:57 AM
Hi there... I have been thinking recently about the way alot of people make negative comments about learning from books and dvds... whilst I agree you need a teacher and that learning from a live person is the best way I have also been thinking that for a long time Yang Lu Chan learnt only by observing classes and not actually participating... sort of like an old fashioned dvd (especially as he had to remain hidden whilst watching and thus would have had a limited view)... now if it was possible for him to learn this way then it goes without saying that with dedication and perseverance it is possible for someone to learn using books and dvds... (although once again learning "live" is the best way I agree... and if you can the oppurtunity should not be missed if you have the chance to learn live)... thoughts and comments...???

07-30-2004, 05:04 AM
For many of us there is no alternative to studying from books or DVDs. The value of sitting on the sofa and reading is not great for physical health. Training with DVD or book is of much greater benefit. A SKILLED teacher is surely the best. I do know excessively rough martial arts instructors that hurt their students; that is worse than no teaching at all, because beyond injury, it demoralizes many students from continuing martial arts.
A highly motivated person can gain a lot from any teaching. Will you learn some mistakes from DVDs or books? Yes, but I still think that's better than doing nothing. The caveat is that if something you are practicing on your own causes pain, troublesome changes in your breathing, or other unintended changes, you need to stop whatever that activity is.


07-30-2004, 06:24 AM
the stories of Yang Luchan
are the stuff of nice mythic legend.as Douglas Wile points out,there are more than a few conflicting accounts of Luchan's rise to prominence;one story claims that "he diguised himself as a mute mendicant and after sweeping Chen Ching-Ping's door for some years is finally accepted as a student;after completeing his training he goes to Peking where after defeating pa-kua founder Tung Hai-Chuan to a standoff he subsequently challenges the whole martial arts community,beating all comers and reigning supreme untill the end of his life."
dvd's and books make an excellent suppliment to one's continuing education
in T'ai Chi Chuan.(were that it were that easy)
however there are certain vital intangible elements that can only be taught through "feel" for this is the ONLY way that they can be experienced.
There are also details to be observed in posture which if you don't catch right away,then it's like they say,"on inch can lead you thousands of miles astray"

07-30-2004, 07:11 AM
Video/dvd instruction can serve as an introduction, be a memory tool, clarify 'fine points' of posture execution/transition, and a refresher.

When I first started out, I learnt many forms but I also forgot a lot and some teachers did not want to repeat so luckily I found someone from the Beijing PE department who told me about videos of some forms that were popular. I buy them periodically to show to students and they serve as a refresher/memory jogger. Just seeing someone doing a form a bit different can add insight for a seasoned practitioner.

Beginner can learn alot through this type of introduction. People learn in different ways so not everyone may appreciate this. There are some teachers who will never let you see their classes because they think that what they teach will be grasped immediately, while others knowing the subtle realize proper instruction is always the goal.

There is a story about Chang Tungshen (shuaijiao) who, when teachers refused to teach him, would attack the teacher (in a good way) to learn how to execute certain techniques. He learnt by participation (he was already proficient) and that is how his legend grew.

07-30-2004, 07:43 AM
I agree with all the above. Some aspects of body mechanics and positioning are specific to an individual's build and flexibility. Copying a form from DVD or a teacher will not by itself help a practitioner find the EXACT posture that is correct for them. Tui Shou and other aspects of Tai Chi training are required to help people find out exactly where their center of gravity is, at what point in "Ward off" or any other technique you need to turn your hand over, and so on. These are a matter of feeling rather than looking. I trust that learning a form by book or DVD prepares a student to be "polished" by a teacher should one become available, but still is of benefit for the Qiqong content.

On a slightly different line, there is a real phenomenon called covert rehearsal in psychology. A high school wrestling team mate of mine was generally successful with a very limited repetoire of simple moves, especially a "Bar and Chancery". He unexpectedly placed in the New England championships repeatedly using a sophisticated take-down (Fireman's Carry) he had seen, thought about, but never practiced. Bill

07-30-2004, 08:37 AM
BillT... I agree that a skilled teacher is the best way but have to comment on your remark about sitting on the sofa to read... I learn from a book in conjunction with a teacher and I certainly dont sit on the sofa... (unless its taiji theory) I will practice each movement and then put it in the form... eventually making a string (I am up to the 5th movement at the moment in Chen style lao jia yi lu) then my teacher corrects my posture when I have a class... so far its going quite well... I fully agree with you re the martial arts instructors that hurt their students... and I also agree that if it causes pain (not just discomfort but pain) then dont do that movement or seek advice... good 2nd post too...

Shark... a might oak begins with but a single acorn... ie there must be some form of truth for a myth or legend to grow on... I agree that the stories are probably way over blown but he must have been good to form the myths and legends in the first place... also if the secrets of taiji were closely guarded then he must have had to watch from concealment to have begun learning... later he may have been taught... good point that you need a teacher that can correct you... I have found that even though I am not doing too badly via books and dvds... my shifu helped my posture immensley just by moving my hand about 2 cms...

Stanton... yes I have found that books and dvd have been a great intro... it also helps me remember my form... re the doing it a bit different... I was worried at first as my shifu did some movements differently to what I had learned from the media resources but I have learned that there are even differences between him and his teacher and that that is acceptable... (not wild differences but things like hand position is slightly inward or stance isnt so low, which is good cos at the moment my stance is that low...) I definitely have learned alot and not just about the forms but also the ideas and philosophy behind the forms... Good story... and an innovative (if somewhat painful) way to learn...

07-30-2004, 11:34 AM

When I said, "sit on the sofa and read," I meant doing exclusively that; I certainly intend to support, rather than disparage, what you are doing. I learned the first few forms of the Yang 37 from a Community College class, then finished it from a book (Cheng Man'ching's). I applaud your efforts. I have watched friends and family sit around and gain enormous amounts of weight by reading novels and snacking every evening, rather than do what you and I have done. Bill

07-31-2004, 12:29 AM

I do think that different people learn differently from different tools and media. I studied Chen 56 competition forms from the video and promptly won the first prize. Competition is however more "show" than real Tai Chi and this reminded me of my figure skating pre-Olympic competition.

The essential principles are most important and once you know these then learning TCC become easier. It also depends how high the level you would like to achieve. If it's only health and enjoyment dR. Lam's videos are great and gives you a good foundation to be corrected by a teacher.

Grandmaster Chen spent a long time teaching me Zhan Zhuang, mind-cleansing, he said without this I could forget anything about Tai Chi. I was already a certified Yang teacher at that time. He placed great emphasis on rooting exercises, on shifting weight prior to turning, striking or performing any upper body/armhand action. Until now i very seldom lose my balance no matter what form I do. Master Jan Silberstorff teaches essential principles to open classes regardless of style and form(he is Gm Chen's disciple) and corrected all my forms which i learnt from Paul's dvd. I was also taught to close my eyes to FEEL the posture so i would be able to correct myself in the future. A good teacher will teach you how to correct yourself because the form is already self-correcting and self-teaching.

07-31-2004, 07:35 AM
BillT... I understand better what you meant now... I agree with you fully... I once had a lady come to me for training (in a gym) that wanted to lose weight and couldnt understand why sitting on the sofa watching movies and eating junk food was detrimental to her weight loss program... go figure...!!!

Thanks for the post Soraya...

Dr. Paul Lam
08-02-2004, 02:18 PM
glad to see this topic being popular, let me take this opportunity to re present my article:" how useful is tai chi books and videos/'
at this link

08-02-2004, 11:46 PM
Good Article and I agree completely regarding the combination of teacher, book and video... thats the way I am learning now and having the books and video to refresh my memory of the movements is helping my progress I feel... thanks for taking to answer and show us the article...

Shirley Brown
08-11-2004, 03:42 PM
I am using the DVD Tai Chi for diabetes. I'd like to be able to use the warm up exercises and then go directly to the next exercixe without hearing all the instruction again. I find it easier to do the exercises with the "group" once I've learned the movements. Is this possible? I don't watch much TV, movies, etc. so I guess I'm not up to par if this can even be done but waiting in position while the steps are explained again is difficult for me to do. I'm not that far yet. I've only been doing the first one Dr. Lam explained and then the 1st 2 movements. There isn't an instructor within driving distance and this seems to be working for me. The moves are so carefully explained it's easy to follow.
Shirley Brown

08-11-2004, 07:01 PM
i too found it to be of great help if i practiced a move with an instructional video beforehand;that is before it was introduced by the teacher;the familiarization
allowed me to stay one step ahead of the class and helped me with my comprehension;but learning moves is not all there is to taichi and you may be decieved into thinking you've learned them correctly when in fact you have not;video is an excellent learning tool and a useful supplement to personal instruction;but that's all it is.most all taichi instructional videos
will,from the outset, inform the consumer that they are in no way intended as a substitute for personal instruction.If they don't...caveat emptor

08-26-2004, 12:34 AM
I would say the ideal is to have a teacher where possible, but from friends comments, I know there are not teachers in all areas, so books and DVD/videos are a substitute.

Whenever I can't get to class my teenage son helps me get the right position as he is able to compare what I am doing with what the video is doing or what the picture in the book looks like.

There are many ways of learning Tai Chi, so we do what suits us best. We are all individuals!