looking for workout schedule ideas ...

looking for workout schedule ideas ...

Postby bik3rd00d » Tue Jan 02, 2007 3:26 am

I've been attending a school for 2 years now. I am amazed at what I have learned but find it difficult to come up with a workout schedule. I mean there are: forms (weapon + bare hand), chi kung (tons), push hands, ...

As a runner, I knew how to divide up the week into daily objectives and training practices. I also knew how to insert recovery time and establish goals. I could measure progress and make adjustments. And there was always the local college track team if I wanted to compare workout schedules.

So, basically I am looking for ideas about how to construct a training workout for tai chi. Examples of the sort of things I hear:

- practice at sunrise
- practice daily
- 1-4 hrs per day
- always do the long form 3x
- silk reeling !
- meditation !

But I am looking for guidance on organizing everything: warm ups, cool downs, stretching, limbering, weapon practice, chi kung, form practice, etc ... to come up with a weekly workout schedule.

This post is about making Tai Chi personal. It isn't about attending a class. I do that. It is all about what to do when you go home after class. How to improve the time you spend practicing and enjoying tai chi while embracing it as part of your life.

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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 28, 2007 1:03 am


I think you have asked an excellent question that many people grapple with, including myself. There is so much potential material that training eight-hours a day, seven days a week, would still require making some choices.

In my view, a workout schedule should be intimately linked with one’s goals for Taijiquan. Different goals or even different priorities for the same goals should require different approaches.

I find it helpful to think of training issues in terms of Yin and Yang and the principle of Taiji. For me, saying that Taiji is about balance is often a useful shorthand, but is often also quite misleading. For instance, as you form a Chinese character with an ink brush, you draw not only with the ink, but also with the white space in between the ink strokes. Spacing is an integral part of the character. It does not mean that any particular character needs to have equal amounts of ink and white space.

Quality vs. quantity, intensity vs. frequency, predetermined movement vs. spontaneity, enjoyment vs. diligence, maintaining old skills vs. learning new skills are perhaps some examples of Yin Yang pairs that apply to training. To me, they are best viewed as Taiji wholes when considering what training approach may be best.

One issue that I think may not get the attention it deserves is physical conditioning. Good physical condition requires a certain minimum of intensity, duration, and frequency. For example, I think leg and ankle strength are important for balance, wrist strength is important for weapon’s usage, and lower back strength can be important for some staff drills.

My practice routines change from time to time, depending on many factors. Recently, because of personal circumstances, I have been emphasizing intensity over frequency. My practices tend to be the same, except that I do one set of things for solo practice and another set for push hands. I also tend to alternate between saber and sword.

I would love to increase my frequency, but I think this would be difficult in my current circumstances, and the quality of my training would suffer substantially. I think intensity helps me deepen and explore understanding, while frequency helps maintain and consolidate proficiency. Sometimes, one is more important than the other.

I have chosen not to practice any special Qi Gong and so save some time in that way. My reasons for not doing Qi Gong make sense to me, but not might make sense for you. Basically, the things I would want from Qi Gong, I believe I get from the form or other exercises.

I also take the approach that Yang Chengfu’s form has a built-in warm-up and so use the long form as my warm up. At times, when I have really wanted to focus on the long form and general proficiency in body movement, I have tried to do the three recommended consecutive repetitions. At other times, I have tacked on the 49-Movement Form to the traditional long form when I have wanted more practice, but not so much practice as the three reps of the long form. Recently, I have usually kept to one rep, but always try to concentrate on some particular theme I want to preserve throughout the form. Examples would be feeling the subtle release (fajin) at the culmination of each posture, connecting the waist, or perhaps making sure that I really keep the speed even and smooth, even at difficult moments.

After doing the form, I do saber or sword. Sometimes, I try to incorporate whatever new learning I have had from the bare-hand form for that day. More often, I am struggling with some issue specific to weapon usage, such as how to release the jin appropriately in different movements or how to make sure my lower back is truly governing the movement. I usually precede the weapon form with some brief basic weapons training, but not always. After sword or saber, I do a staff drill to explore fajin and check on my postural alignment.

After the weapons, I do various non-Tai Chi exercises I enjoy and conclude with a few stretches.

My push hands sessions usually have various components that might include: circling, exploring/discussing some particular principle, some simple drills, applications of the eight energies, and free pushing. The typical sessions I have now last about two and half hours and occur once every one or two weeks.

The circling typically involves doing anywhere between five to ten patterns, including the transitions between them. We always start with single-hand horizontal circling and then go on to more complicated patterns. How many circles we do depends on time, interest, and goals for the session. We try to practice both right and left and clockwise and counterclockwise, when this makes sense for the pattern.

We usually explore or discuss principles as part of a theme that we will work on for that session or as something that comes out of analyzing places where we can improve in our circling. Sometimes we try to note when we are applying the principle or skill during the circling. Sometimes we try to correct each other when the skill is lacking. At other times we do simple drills that emphasize the principle or skill. Examples of principles we explore are empty vs. full, sticking, adhering, connecting, following, giving up the self, or how fully to employ circles.

Sometimes we use simple drills to test certain skills in a semi-competitive, but controlled environment. I find it easier to develop skills this way than in free-style pushing, where it is too easy to fall into bad habits.

Another component of a typical session is going over applications of the eight energies. This usually involves practicing, one by one, pre-determined applications out of one of the circling patterns and critiquing the results. We usually include some work on counters to the applications and occasionally even counters to the counters. We try to work on applications from both closed and open circles.

At the very end of the session, we sometimes do a little bit of free-style pushing just for some fun or maybe to test whether we can really apply any of the skills we have worked on for the day.

Take care,
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:47 pm

Why not ask your teacher what they feel is appropriate for you?
Your teacher is the best source to get you to your goals while staying true to the training you are receiving.

Bob Ashmore
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Postby fol » Mon Mar 12, 2007 9:23 pm

Hey, I'm sorry this question didn't get more replies, since I'm also curious.

Personally, the rest of my life is so scheduled that I try to keep my practice largely without objectives (and, thus, achievements!). Except that I generally stick close to working on the "ten essential points"--all twenty or so of them.

Also, to echo something Audi said: I've been lured into trying some "physical conditioning" as a supplement to practice. It's just like the old thread about shoes. If I could only get <insert muscle group or shoe feature here> a bit better, then finally I'd be able to <insert gesture here> just right! That's all that's stopping me!
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Mar 13, 2007 12:05 pm

This post likely didn't generate much response because "working out" is one of the most individualised things we do. Every single person would tell you what is right for them, but what is right for you is what counts and no one but you knows what is right for you.
That takes me back to my original post, as only your teacher can really help you set goals that will keep you on track to achieve what it is you are trying to achieve in your TCC training. He or she will certainly be familiar with you, they understand TCC, or should, and can help you design a training regimine that will help you get where you are going in the least amount of time.

As for hectic schedules, 99% of us have them. It's all about setting priorties.
What is most important to you?
Once you know that you can get yourself pointed in the right direction pretty quickly and all the rest just kind of falls into it's proper place.
All you have to do is decide that TCC is important and you'll suddenly find the time to do it.
Good luck.

Bob Ashmore
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Postby Linda Heenan » Tue Mar 13, 2007 5:09 pm

I recently devised a tool to make sure I was covering all aspects of my practise. I work full time in a professional job, have a home and family to take care of, organise the Australian branch of our taijiquan school, etc ... busy like the rest of you. I can put 2-4 hours at the most into practise per day (and that's if I give up sleep).

I constructed a chart on my computer, listing every aspect of my practise, and set it up with small boxes on a weekly basis. By filling in those boxes with what I do in practise sessions, the amount of time taken, and what I focussed on improving in each part, I can look back over a week or more and see where the gaps are. If the boxes for basic jian cuts don't get filled in for a week, for example, I can see what is out of balance and put more into that one over the following week. Writing it down takes away the guesswork for me. I can see at a glance what is happening and what needs to happen.

I hope that helps someone else.
Linda Heenan
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Postby fol » Wed Mar 14, 2007 3:38 am

Hey, Bob: Like I said, I'm not actually looking for advice--I'm just curious. I live pretty far from any big center of taiji activity, so I like to hear what other people are doing. Makes me feel connected.

So what *do* you do, Bob? Don't worry, I won't believe anything you say!
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Mar 14, 2007 3:57 pm

"Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see."
There's my advice for the day.

I *do* my TCC practice six mornings a week without fail. I start with Chi Kung, then I do the 16 posture form to loosen up, then the long form, then sword and saber forms on alternate mornings.
I *do* two form classes, one sword one hand form, and a form and sword practice group every week.
I *do* one push hands class and one push hands practice group every week.
I *do* stair walking, 40 flights both up and down every day, five days a week, incorporating Cloud Hands into the stepping.
I *do* have a very good place where I can sneak off to at work and *do* the long form on my breaks, usually twice a day.
I *do* the long form again every evening, six days a week (I take Sundays off) and occaissionaly a sword or saber form in the evenings as well.

That's what I *do* to train TCC.
I'm not very good at it, but I certainly enjoy it.

Bob Ashmore
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