No pain, no gain

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The slogan 'no pain, no gain' is often used in conjunction with exercise. Being healthy sounds like an ordeal. But not everybody wants to sweat and strain their way to fitness.


What is pain? Surely pain is a warning. Pain is your body suffering damage. In tai chi you do not ignore your body and impose force. If you are in pain, you are doing something incorrectly.
If you damage your body through exercise, you may have to live with it for the rest of your life.


Tai chi is not concerned with competition. It advocates a different approach; whereby the student addresses their own wellbeing and is compassionate towards others.
By focussing upon your own mind and body, you can become calm and relaxed. If somebody else wants to compete with you, so what?
Winning and losing are concepts best applied to games or sport, not living.

Competition causes suffering

Consider sport... Only the winner is happy at the end of a race. What about the other competitors? They feel depressed, disheartened, frustrated, upset... but why?

Emotional attachment

People become emotionally attached to the wrong things in life - 'winning' and 'losing' are no more real than any other form of measurement.
Running around a track is not the same as finding the cure for cancer. Will videogame victories produce a better world? How many athletes suffer sports injuries from pushing their bodies too far?
Imagine if the time, money and enthusiasm currently invested in sport was applied to real-world problems such as diet, education, homelessness, animal conservation and environmental concerns.


Most martial arts classes involve a fair amount of brutality and pain. This is not unreasonable, since they are primarily concerned with violence.
Tai chi is different - it offers an alternative to pain and potential injury. There seems little point in learning how to defend yourself if you get injured in the process.


We encourage students to explore the way in which they are using their own body. Working in relationship with other people is mutually beneficial. Training tai chi is not a brutal process; there is no competition, no injury, no pain.

Pain is the sensation our body uses to influence our judgement.
Pain tells us that something is not right - this is the most important aspect of pain.
Resisting pain, such as masking it with painkillers, can make things worse.

The earliest symptoms of pain should be heeded.

(Philip Maffetone)

Page created 18 August 1998
Last updated 16 June 2023