Kung fu (2)

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Taijiquan way

Taijiquan is physically and mentally challenging; but in a very different way to mainstream martial arts. Long, gruelling training sessions are discouraged. Overtraining is as bad as not training.
Tired muscles and sore joints are unhealthy.


Although taijiquan seeks to achieve many of the same goals as external martial arts, it is not external. Hard-style training is external
. Taijiquan adopts a slightly milder approach.
The difference is not in the aims of art but in the manner in which the work is undertaken. Refer to the Wang Treatise.

High repetition

To gain familiarity with the taijiquan movements, high repetition is necessary. This is the same as external. The difference lies in the time scale.

Be patient

An external person hammers their body by training intensively; thereby accumulating the required number of repetitions. The taijiquan person spreads their training out.
Instead of long, sustained training sessions, they train little and often. It takes far longer to perform the necessary practice, but there is far less risky of injury and the body is not unduly taxed


This same attitude is applied to strength-building. Be patient. Give yourself time. Rest. Allow your body time to grow and change. Avoid pushing or forcing an outcome

Deliberate practice

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.

A young boy travelled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist.
When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the sensei.

"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.

"I wish to be your student and become the finest karateka in the land," the boy replied.
"How long must I study?"

"Ten years at least," the master answered.

"Ten years is a long time," said the boy.
"What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?"

"Twenty years," replied the master.

"Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?"

"Thirty years," was the master's reply.

"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked.

"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way."

(Joe Hyams)

Combat skill

Taijiquan combat skills take a lot of time to develop. Alongside applications, striking methods and grappling skills, the student is also discovering how to move in a whole-body, energy efficient manner.
This multi-faceted approach ensures that the training remains intelligent and moderate. There is no scope for overtraining or being aggressive.

Bad influences

When you read accounts of how traditional masters trained, it can be tempting to commit to a punishing regime. Ask yourself: is this necessary? Is it even productive?
By being patient, you are following the Taoist method of not too much and not too little. Just enough.

The tortoise and the hare

Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare captures the difference between taijiquan and external training very nicely. The taijiquan training is often slow and steady whereas external is fast.
Speed becomes a major issue later in the taijiquan syllabus when the student learns cold jing and fa jing. Until then, sensitivity, timing, positioning, agility and jing are cultivated. 

Running on empty

Modern people are often running on empty. They fail to take adequate rest. Many of the exercise methods they adopt lead to even greater fatigue.
Stimulants, sugar, caffeine and fatty food enable the individual to carry on when in fact the real solution to fatigue is of course rest.
Taijiquan doesn't endorse this attitude. If you're tired, rest. Don't push yourself. Train every day, but train moderately. Not to an extreme.

4 methods

Our students study 4 kung fu methods:

  1. Chin na (seizing)

  2. Shuai jiao (take downs)

  3. Taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist)

  4. Baguazhang (8 trigrams palm)

They all use the body in an internal way. Chin na and shuai jiao are kung fu methods rather than a separate system.

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Do your work, then step back.

(Lao Tzu)

Worth reading

Confusing internal & external training methods
External to internal
Neijiaquan (internal martial arts)  
Technique-based mentality 
Cross-training martial arts
Taijiquan combat

Taijiquan fighting method

Page created 21 May 2003
Last updated 09 June 2019