Cross-training in our school
External strength
     

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Tradition

Historically, kung fu students would not start their martial arts training with taijiquan.
Taijiquan is an 'advanced' style of kung fu.
It is not the ideal starting place.
People typically studied an external system for many years before moving onto taijiquan.
How come?


The fundamentals


Kung fu addresses fitness training in the standard martial arts manner:

  1. Cardio work

  2. Leg stretches

  3. Psoas exercises

  4. Yoga-type stretches e.g. cobra

  5. Core strengthening exercises

  6. Dynamic stretching

  7. Punching/kicking drills

  8. Endurance/stamina exercises

The student acquires stamina, fitness, flexibility, strength, agility, coordination, balance, concentration and willpower.
They get fit. They learn how to move their body.
Then
they consider learning taijiquan.



No fundamentals

Most taijiquan new starters do not have a foundation in an existing martial art.
Often they have never done martial arts training before.
They are starting from scratch.
This is far from ideal.


Strength training must adapt to the fighter's needs, not the other way around.

(Frederic Delavier)

 

External strength

To get fit for combat a taijiquan beginner must commit to different training methods designed to encourage the maximum muscular development for the least amount of time commitment and effort.
Essentially this is the same sort of training that a traditional kung fu student would undertake.
Suppleness, nimbleness, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are vital.
These may be considered 'external' fitness training considerations.



No shortcuts


To reach a high level of skill, the taijiquan student needs to take a lesson from sport.
They must become a martial athlete.
The training doesn't get easier. You get stronger. But only if you practice.


Dream

Many people who commence taijiquan 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.


Modular

Sifu Waller's approach to strength training is to offer modules; each lasting 5-10 minutes approximately.
They
are intense and focussed.
The aim is to avoid complacency and boredom.


Methods

 
These training methods are systematically taught as the student works through our curriculum:

  1. Standing qigong (various)

  2. Moving qigong (4 sets)

  3. Form (4)

  4. Solo drills (various)

  5. Partnered drills (various)

  6. Weapons drills (various)

  7. Balls & grips

  8. Leg stretches (2 sets)

  9. Psoas exercises (4)

  10. Cardio work (2 sets)

  11. Core strength (3 sets)

  12. Taoist Yoga (3 sets)

  13. Self-massage

  14. Neigong (50)
     

Moderation

It is OK to train a wide range of exercise methods without ruining your taijiquan.
The key concern is moderation.
Avoid over-doing it: over-stretching, straining or exerting. Be mindful of posture, poise and tension.
 

I commend you on this approach. There are too many completely out of shape tai chi "teachers".

(Bob Klein)


Skipping external training?

If you trained qigong (daily), form (daily), weapons drills (daily), partner work, pushing hands and applications you will gain quite a lot of muscle
.
However, qigong/tai chi is not 'the perfect exercise'.
It often fails to address cardio and neglects certain muscles.


The norm

Most martial arts recognise the need to get fit.
Consequently, they include a very extensive range of stretching, cardio and strength building exercises in their warm-up.
Taijiquan classes usually do not.


Do more qigong?

Doing extra qigong won't help you to build truly versatile combat fitness.
More of the same will not lead to growth and versatility.
You will max out quite soon
.


Qigong, pushing hands and form?

Most tai chi people simply do qigong, pushing hands and form.
They balk at a more varied training regime.
Why?
Because they are lazy.
Giving your body a comprehensive workout takes effort: stretching, core exercises, cardio work...


Tai chi for health

Faced with a major health crisis in the 1950's, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution.
They wanted a form of exercise that could be performed by students of all ages.
The simplest way to achieve this was to remove the more demanding fitness component and the kung fu (combat).
Most modern tai chi classes are teaching an Art that an old person could cope with...
By definition this cannot conceivably be a martial art.
 

Ideally, you should end by actually hitting something. When you practice explosive technique just by doing shadow boxing, your own antagonistic muscles stop your fist or foot.

(Frederic Delavier)



The difference between experienced fighters and beginners is the speed of muscle relaxation, which is 8 times faster in champion fighters. For an inexperienced fighter, the speed of muscle relaxation is too slow for the leg or the fist to gain enough speed when striking a blow. Keeping the antagonistic muscles contracted automatically slows down the movement.

(Frederic Delavier)



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)



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.

(Frederic Delavier)
 

Start externally

Taijiquan students must start off with external training. It is all they are physically able to do when they commence classes.
They use force, tense up and employ their body in a disconnected manner.
This is to be expected.


Be patient

Only after coordination, balance, stamina etc has been cultivated can the teacher lead the student towards internal training methods.
To try and be 'internal' from the onset is pointless.
The student feels like a 'wet sock' in combat.


Internal strength training

Once the student attains 'martial arts fitness' they can move onto more sophisticated, intricate concerns.
They can now work on
lines of force, pressure, leverage, groundpath, centre, peng, jing and whole-body movement.
Focussed and patient, the exponent is dedicated and capable.
Their practice moves away from external concerns and they begin to discover the true nature of taijiquan.
Skills consistently
improve through frequent, regular practice using low effort.


Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 29 July 2007