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How much training should you do?
The traditional answer is to drill until your arms and legs are so tired that you can barely move them. Sifu Waller is more sensible.
Sifu Waller used to train a massive amount. Nowadays he does a basic routine and staggers the other exercises/drills across the week. Some days Sifu Waller does a lot more but not often.
Simple questions but useful to consider...
Usually the student decides for themselves how much practice is suitable for them. This approach has drawbacks if you are seeking to gain skill.
In what way are you qualified to determine how much training is necessary to get good at tai chi? Which criteria are you applying? And why? Based on how much actual skill and experience?
The more time you commit to form practice, the better your tai chi will be. Practicing form every day at home will aid with coordination, mobility, strength, relaxation and balance.
Even 10 minutes a day is worthwhile. Do more if you can.
The risk of injury in combat sports is especially high. To prevent injury,
do the following: 1) Learn to warm-up well before any exercise, 2) Do
everything possible to accelerate recovery between workouts.
The different exercises in the syllabus usually take between 2-5 minutes to complete e.g. psoas exercises, moving qigong, drills... and so on.
Some take longer but most don't. The modular nature of the syllabus allows the student to train briefly if they choose to, or commit to a longer session.
It doesn't get easier. You get stronger. But only if you practice.
Many people who commence tai chi practice are essentially 'daydreamers'.
They have fanciful notions of becoming a martial artist but entirely lack the grit and determination required to accomplish the task.
Instead of committing to a challenging regime of on-going comprehensive, rigorous training, the student is contented with the dream.
Learn from sport
People who undertake sporting activities usually invest a lot of time in thorough training designed to promote good body use, muscle growth and recovery.
These same concerns apply to martial arts training, including tai chi. 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.
A martial athlete?
Combat is not easy and there is a risk of injury if the student is unfit. This is true of any martial art. To reach a high level of skill, the student needs to take a lesson from sport.
They must become a lot fitter, but not necessarily a martial athlete.
When your teacher
demonstrates something for you, you are obligated to practice it, or else
you may invoke the following consequences of your own free will:
1. Your teacher may not correct you because your actions have shown that you did not really want to learn the skill.
2. You will not achieve the skill.
3. If you learn the next stage of the skill, it will be weak because it has no foundation.
4. Your skill will not rise to a high level until your attitude changes.
Sifu Waller got into yoga in the early 1980's and then Alexander Technique, Pilates and light weights (not body building).
His body awareness is quite good; with opportunities being offered to teach Alexander Technique and Pilates over the years.
He's combined good body skills with a growing, ongoing learning process and brought it all into our class.
Nowadays, Sifu Waller doesn't train cardio or light weights because he does weapons forms which address both.
Do we have to train like crazy? No, of course not. Moderate your practice.
One important point is to recognise that there are many different kinds of fitness. e.g. a marathon runner couldn't necessarily do shuai jiao without injury.
Nor could a wing chun guy... but they'd have far less risk of harm than a runner.
Gaps & deficiencies
Our fitness program focuses upon filling the holes/weaknesses inherent in Chinese martial arts transmission. Deliberate omissions and things that were simply never there. Times change.
Body knowledge changes.
Students must commit to a regime of strength-building exercise: qigong, leg stretches, etc...
An increased degree of whole-body strength is necessary if the student expects to eventually be capable of employing the art in combat.
Tai chi simply will not work unless you firstly have strength and secondly can use it in a unified manner.
This Zen story perfectly expresses the situation:
Kung Yi-tsu was famous for his strength.
King Hsuan of Chou went to call on him with full ceremony,
but when he got there, he found that Kung was a weakling.
The king asked, "How strong are you?"
Kung replied, "I can break the waist of a spring insect,
I can bear the wing of an autumn cicada."
The king flushed and said,
"I'm strong enough to tear apart rhinoceros hide and drag nine oxen by the tail
- yet I still lament my weakness.
How can it be that you are so famous for strength?"
Kung replied, "My fame is not for having such strength,
it is for being able to use such strength."
(Zen story/David Schiller)
There is a significant difference between the two qualities Schiller mentions: having and using are not the same thing.
King Hsuan has strength but is not famous for using it. Kung Yi-tsu can use strength but does not have any real strength.
The tai chi student must possess strength and be able to use it.
Tai chi involves a balance of external and internal qualities. Understanding this is crucial. Talking about qi won't cut it.
Square on the inside, round on the outside
You need to be externally and internally strong, and that requires hard work. In actual combat application, the external strength is subsumed within the internal principles of usage.
The student must connect the separate body parts together and start using the body and mind as one unit. This is the real start of your internal strength training.
Start your day right
Training first thing in the morning makes your body feel great. Your mind is sharp and your nervous system responsive. The benefits of the training will last all day.
Nothing can substitute for serious practice. Practice seriously, correctly and patiently. Use your brain, not just your body. Don't hide weaknesses in your training. Don't lie to yourself. If you cheat, you only cheat yourself.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 19 September 2023