Fitness level

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There are 3 areas of fitness:

  1. Cardio

  2. Strength

  3. Flexibility

In order to exercise the body properly, you need to gain aptitude in all 3 areas. Many people can lift heavy weights but they are not flexible/breathing hard after mild cardio.
This is not good enough for a comprehensive training approach.

The drawbacks of exercise

Not all forms of exercise are necessarily good for you. For example,
running may improve cardiovascular health but is also very hard on the joints.
Lifting heavy weights can cause significant tension to accumulate and - if the muscles are large enough - adversely affect the skeleton. Most forms of exercise have pros and cons; especially sport.

Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. And after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent. Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.

(Gavin Bradley)

Ideal form of exercise

According to the book The Blue Zones it is important to think of exercise in terms of what you can reasonably do long-term.
The ideal form of exercise is moderate enough that you can do it for the rest of your life. It needs to be joint-friendly, provide a gentle workout and be sustainable.
This sounds rather like tai chi, doesn't it?

Hard work

The tai chi combat work demands a high standard of personal fitness. Each successive grade augments your tai chi.

Deliberate practice

Hard work alone is not enough, though. Simply working hard will not necessarily lead to progress.
It needs to be deliberate, focused improvement designed to improve your practice by developing key skills outlined by your instructor.
The student must implement corrections, study the recommended books, undertake assignments and challenge their comfort zone.

Beyond the beginning

If you want to become more than a beginner, it is important to recognise that the training will become increasingly harder.
At some stage you pass through a capacity barrier and it will no longer feel difficult. But that may well be years away.

Breathing hard?

If you are tired and out of breath after a few minutes of training, then you are simply not fit enough. The training has barely started.
You must improve your fitness considerably if you want to complete the fundamentals. This means training qigong and form regularly.


Many beginners think that they do not need to warm-up. Skipping a warm-up will automatically result in pain later on, and that will restrict your fighting abilities. A good pre-workout warm-up protects against future aches and pains. Furthermore, it is also an immediate factor in improving performance.

(Frederic Delavier)

Be realistic

People often see tai chi as being an easy martial arts option. They are the naive ones. Sooner or later they always quit.

Martial artist?

Tai chi is an internal martial art. Once upon a time it was only taught to students who were already highly proficient at external martial arts.
External training is not mild; it requires considerably strength and stamina. Tai chi was what they did after all those years of hard training. It was the next step up the ladder.

Martial fitness

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat.
Tai chi students train: massage, leg stretches, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.


If you train the qigong exercises at home every day, your chest will open and you will start to develop greater strength. You will breathe more deeply and your endurance will improve.
There will be a notable change in your physical appearance.

5-10 times

Qigong exercises should be repeated 5-10 times per side. This encourages the body to relax more and the root to grow.

Physical fitness is a condition in which an individual has sufficient energy and vitality to accomplish daily tasks and active recreational pursuits without undue fatigue.

(Dr Nieman)


Drilling every day will have a similar effect to the qigong exercises. Your body will change, your reflexes and stamina will improve.



This is the cornerstone of your tai chi training. If you are neglecting to practice this daily at home, then you are missing out on a major training opportunity.
The form offers you a chance to train everything at the same time.


It will not get easier. If you are lazy now, expect difficulties ahead of you. We are expecting your fitness level to improve as you move up the curriculum. This should happen naturally.
You grow stronger, fitter and far more capable. But it will not happen by itself.


The trick with tai chi is to keep your training mild. It is not a gym workout. You are not meant to be sweating and straining. Go easy on yourself. Little and often is the key.
If the training is gentle but works your muscles nicely, then it is easy to sustain and your energy levels will stay high. Overdo-it and you will suffer from fatigue, aching joints and sore muscles.


Be gentle with your body. Treat it with care. High repetitions and exotic stances are not tai chi training methods. Train with mindfulness. With attention.
Pay attention to what you are doing, and train it slowly, thoroughly and cautiously. If anything feels unpleasant, something is wrong.

The more difficult the problem is, the higher your talents and willingness will rise in order to cope with the difficulties. You must not hesitate; if you do so, this will make all the difference in the result.


Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023