Fit for combat

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Fitness types

There are many different fitness approaches in modern society e.g.:

  1. Body building

  2. Boot camp

  3. Cardio

  4. Circuit training

  5. Core strength training

  6. Cross training

  7. Cycling

  8. Dance 

  9. Gym

  10. Running

  11. Swimming

  12. Weight training

  13. Yoga

The training is either concerned with flexibility, dynamic strength, static strength, aerobic fitness or circuit training.

Your goal

People choose their method of fitness relative to what they want or like to do. This is fine. In martial arts training we select our training methods with fighting in mind.

Martial arts are dangerous

The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:

Combat sports such as boxing, judo, karate or kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.

Your art

The type of training you undertake is typically determined by the way in which your given martial art approaches the experience of combat. Martial arts differ. Your training should too.


Traditional training methods can vary between extremely effective fitness practices that have stood the test of time and things that are nowadays regarded as medically/anatomically unsound.
It is important to be discerning. A martial artist can comfortably combine the old and the new; thereby getting the best of both worlds
An instructor shouldn't be reluctant to drop any redundant training method and replace it with a better alternative.

Get fit

To get fit for combat a martial arts student must commit to different training methods designed to encourage the maximum muscular development for the least amount of time commitment and effort.
Also, they cannot afford to bulk up. Body building will impede mobility and agility. Suppleness, nimbleness, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are vital.
If a fighter is panting for breath after 10 minutes of cardio, they are not fit enough for combat.


The aim is to supplement traditional training methods with a targeted selection of strength training methods that address the areas qigong neglects.
Cardio work, leg stretches, Taoist Yoga, psoas exercises, core strengthening exercises, dynamic stretching, punching/kicking drills, endurance/stamina exercises, baoding balls, hand power grip exercises, wooden & metal swords and sticks (of various lengths and weights),
wallbag work and heavy bag work all combine to comprehensively increase your overall strength and fitness.

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

(Frederic Delavier)

Why bother?

Qigong, form, partner work and the 6 forms in our syllabus will undoubtedly provide you with the skills necessary to perform taijiquan adequately. But this training is 'internal'.
For your taijiquan to become kung fu you must supplement it with additional strength training concerns. This is the 'external' component.
e.g. Wang Shujin carried two iron bird cages at arm's length from his home to the training area every morning in order to increase his power. This exercise is now known as the 'farmer's walk'

Hard work

Most new starters are not prepared for the amount of physical work involved in learning a martial art. The public image of tai chi creates a false sense of effortlessness. Few people expect to train hard.
This is naive.

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.

Be realistic

Set aside talk about relaxation, qi, softness and other concerns... Your body is flesh and bone. It is moved by muscles.
In order to be strong, agile, flexible and adaptive in combat - you need to strengthen your body.

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

  1. Standing qigong (various)

  2. Moving qigong (4 sets)

  3. Form (5)

  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. Core strength (3 sets)

  11. Taoist Yoga (3 sets)

  12. Self-massage

  13. Neigong (50)


Sifu Waller has designed the syllabus such that everything works together. There is no discord between different facets of the curriculum.
Every exercise, drill and form works in conjunction with everything else. The entire syllabus follows the teachings of Taoism and The Tai Chi Classics. All areas of study are in harmony.


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.

Iron Age

A lot of modern people like to train with weights. Most martial artists do. Weight training does not equal fighting skill.

Delavier advocates undertaking weight training specifically chosen to supplement your art. This usually means just only a few exercises each session; usually working a large number of muscles at once.
Working out at the gym will not help in this regard. A standard gym workout or machine-based practice runs counter to what we are looking to accomplish
Will weights help with your taijiquan? Not really. Most people just become tense.

Programs for fighters should consist mostly of compound exercises. These allow for intense work on a maximum number of muscles in a minimum time.

(Frederic Delavier)

Page created 11 June 1996
Last updated 09 June 2019