Tai chi for fitness
Cross training tai chi

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Cross training

School members who are seeking a more challenging workout can ask to study 'tai chi for fitness'. This is a more comprehensive syllabus which includes:

  1. Standing qigong (various)

  2. Moving qigong (4 sets)

  3. Long Yang form

  4. Balls & grips

  5. Core strength (3 sets)

  6. Leg stretches (2 sets)

  7. Psoas exercises (4)

  8. Self-massage

  9. Taoist Yoga (3 sets)

The training is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.

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 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.

Start with health

Tai chi for health offers a mild introduction to exercise; making it perfect for anyone who is seeking to improve their health and wellbeing. The syllabus is concerned with health rather than fitness.
Being healthy and being fit are two entirely different concerns... being healthy must come first.


Being healthy is all about feeling good, relaxed and at ease. Aches and pains fade. Your body is well-coordinated, mobile and comfortable to move around in. 


Fitness is different to health. Being fit entails a wider range of concerns e.g. increased flexibility, suppleness, strength, cardiovascular health/fitness, agility...
These considerations are only addressed at length in the tai chi for fitness curriculum. They may be too demanding for somebody who is out of shape.

4 areas

There are 4 areas of fitness:

  1. Cardio

  2. Strength

  3. Flexibility

  4. Coordination

In order to exercise the body properly, you need to gain aptitude in all 4 areas. Many people can lift heavy weights but they are not flexible/breathing hard after mild cardio.
This is not good enough for a comprehensive training approach.

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

(Bob Klein)

Fitness level

We reserve the right to decline 'tai chi for fitness' tuition if we feel that a student is physically unable to study tai chi for fitness safely (e.g. bad back, bad knees, arthritis, chronic fatigue).
Rachel will always act with the
wellbeing of the student in mind. Insurance regulations prohibit a student from training material that is unsuitable for their fitness/ability level.
Tai chi for health will be offered instead.

Beyond the body

Tai chi for fitness training considers different aspects of

  1. Physical wellbeing
    - strength
    - power
    - agility
    - balance
    - flexibility
    - stamina
    - endurance
    - coordination


  2. Mental wellbeing
    - self-awareness
    - the capacity to let-go
    - the ability to adapt, change & improvise


  3. Emotional wellbeing
    - calm
    - detached
    - comfortable
    - without fear

    - being honest with yourself


If you want to become fit, it is important to recognise that the training will become increasingly harder. At some stage you pass through a capacity barrier and it will no longer feel difficult.
But that may well be months away. Be patient and train at home between lessons.

When we are young, we can enjoy lots of external movement. When we are older, we become less active and can't as easily enjoy large movements, speed, high impact, and quick twisting of the muscles. Unfortunately, this is exactly the time our bodies really need good exercise to maintain youthful energy and health. Most of the exercise systems available in our society can't satisfy this need.

(Adam Hsu)

Harsh training?

Strenuous training methods such as gym work, running or sit-ups are not part of the tai chi repertoire.
Many exercises actually create muscle tension, and this impedes the natural movement of the muscle itself. The less easily a muscle can move, the less effectively it works.

Punishing the body?

Some people attend the gym having never exercised before...
They are given a dumbbell for the first time in their life and persuaded by a 20 year old personal trainer to perform a series of strenuous exercises.
The activity is mentally unstimulating, the 'motivational' music is too loud, their body is unaccustomed to gym work.
If they are fortunate the individual becomes bored and stops training.
If they persist they may get a rotator cuff injury.

Unsuitable exercise?

50 year olds undertake military-style 'boot camp' training that was designed for 18 year olds. Other people with very poor body awareness can be seen running down the street in a very unhealthy manner.
Is this really what they should be doing?


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

Take your time

Being in condition entails:

• Increasing your strength
• Improving your ability to last (endurance)
• Overcoming fatigue 
• Being fitter
• Being more efficient in your body use
• Being more capable
• Overcoming stress


A committed regime of on-going tai chi for fitness training transforms your health. Your body becomes stronger, more mobile, balanced, flexible and supple. Stamina and awareness improve significantly.
Energy levels are boosted.

Tai chi addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.

(Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication, May 2009)


Your immune system grows stronger. The common viruses, colds, flus and diseases that are making the rounds often have little effect upon you.

How does a fit person move?

A healthy person is akin to a cat:

  1. Nimble

  2. Agile

  3. Coordinated 

  4. Graceful

  5. Balanced

  6. Mentally sharp

  7. Aware

  8. Calm

  9. Clear

  10. Fluid

They can squat with ease, get up without groaning, without effort. They do not have a bad back, stiff shoulders, stiff neck, headaches or bad knees.
Their footfalls are light, they can move freely and comfortably...

Motor learning

Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Tai chi combines exercise with motor learning.

Does tai chi involve physical contact?

Yes it does. Students explore qigong, form, fitness exercises and partner work.
Qigong and form are solo training methods.
Partner work involves training with other students. Physical contact is necessary in order to receive feedback (tense/relaxed/connected etc) and to practice the tai chi skills.

cross-training     exercise     lower body strength     massage     muscle     physical     rejuvenation     Strength     Stretching     Vitality     yoga

Page created 26 August 1994
Last updated 20 December 2020