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What is strength?

This is an interesting question. In the internal martial arts, the idea of 'strength' encompasses a wide range of physical and mental abilities.
Strength is the ability to cope, to endure, to sustain, to see alternatives, to move skilfully, to deliver power, to see harmonious options instead of conflictive ones.
In tai chi, having strength of character is as important as physical prowess.

Cross-training in our school

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. Initially, the training is 'external'. Later it becomes 'internal'.


Our class requires the student to achieve a comprehensive degree of fitness. The following areas must be fully addressed:

  1. Strength

  2. Power

  3. Agility

  4. Balance

  5. Flexibility

  6. Stamina

  7. Endurance

  8. Coordination


In order to use the fighting skills of tai chi, the student must get stronger. Without physical strength, the martial art will not work.

If you let go of your muscular strength your body will start relaxing.

(Bruce Frantzis)

Legendary skill

In a 2008 Stanford University experiment tai chi expert Chen Xiang generated a force 14 times his body weight when striking. 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. This is power.


Agility is the ability to change your position efficiently and effectively. It requires the student to combine balance, speed, strength and coordination.


Tai chi students cultivate static balance to begin with. They then work through increasingly challenging forms of movement designed to improve dynamic balance.


Flexibility, mobility and suppleness are important concerns when it comes to avoiding injury. We explore many different ways to increase our range of movement.


Stamina is the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort; to remain active for a long period of time without fatigue.


Endurance is the capacity to withstand hardship. It is the ability to handle difficulty. To recover from trauma, injury and fatigue.


Coordination is all about combining different body parts in action. A simple example is eye-hand coordination.
The motor abilities of a tai chi person are exceedingly refined; they possess the grace, coordination and poise of a dancer.


Conditioning is about strengthening the body so that it can cope with the demands of rigorous exercise without the risk of injury. It is directly related to stamina and endurance.

He drew his strong bow and invited me to step behind him and feel his arm muscles.
They were indeed quite relaxed, as though they were doing no work at all.

(Eugen Herrigel)

Work your mind

Watching class DVDs, meditating and reading about tai chi, martial strategy and Taoism will enhance your physical performance.


Once an exercise becomes familiar and easy, it ceases to challenge the body and mind. This is why there is a syllabus in our classes.
Students are encouraged to deepen and widen their range of skills and continually develop themselves.

Movement quality

Tai chi contains several sequences (forms) that were designed to simultaneously work the body, improve balance and practice martial arts skills. These patterns are taught crudely to beginners.
They become increasingly sophisticated as the syllabus unfolds and the student becomes capable of performing more subtle and complex movements.
Mobility, stability and control are essential as the body moves through a wide range of joint angles. Repetition leads to improvement and familiarity.

Mechanical efficiency

Tai chi values efficiency and takes into account the biomechanical nature of the human body. Pressure, angles, leverage, range, force and stability must be taken into consideration.
The aim is to achieve optimal body use: minimum effort producing maximum effect.

Page created 21 May 1994
Last updated 16 June 2023