Strength training and taijiquan practice

Assad

Jingang
I don't know how things are in other countries, but in France, in the mainstream taiji circles, strength training is considered as rude, dirty. Tajiquan is a subtle art that requires to be relaxed, strength training is for brutes. I don't agree with that approach, I did some research and found that in Chen village, in the old days, they used heavy stones for instance to practice deadlifts.
In all martial arts, they practice strength training. They may emphasize some exercises over others, depending on the art. For instance, grappling arts do not focus on the same physical qualities than striking arts. In our practice, what kind of training would be advised ? And in what proportion ?
For several years now, I made my own rule: 2 for 1. If I spend 20 mn working push up, squats, ..., I will spend 40 mn training martial art.

Please share your insights, your experiences, I would be glad to read.
 

Marin

Lao Tou
Staff member
I don't know how things are in other countries, but in France, in the mainstream taiji circles, strength training is considered as rude, dirty. Tajiquan is a subtle art that requires to be relaxed, strength training is for brutes.
This is always the case among ideologues who either don't know the actual art at all, or learned "it" from people who learned from "lineages" far removed from the source, such that it was allowed to cater to the needs of the delicate, educated, and safely domesticated and civil.
 

Assad

Jingang
And in a more practical aspect, how is your approach to this question Marin ?
Do you have any special advice for us ?
Thanks for your answer.
 

ofekd

Jingang
Staff member
I occasionally do the strength part from the old "recommended routine" on Reddit's Body Weight Fitness:


Here's the new one:


And here's why they changed it:


I don't do the legs, Taiji takes care of that. It's more for upper body in lack of tui shou partners
 

Marin

Lao Tou
Staff member
And in a more practical aspect, how is your approach to this question Marin ?
Do you have any special advice for us ?
Thanks for your answer.
Originally when I trained in China Chenyu was very much into the strength training. We had weighted vests, ankle and wrist weights available. I actually bought a (something like) 40 pound Guandao for Chenyu that he loved as well. There were Taiji balls made of marble or fiberglass in ranges of weights up to maybe 40 pounds, I have several of those. Chenyu also had made some chrome plated steel short staffs. I have mine here, it is very very heavy.

I have many weighted tools here to use. Now, having said all that, when I was living there and training on a regular basis I did some of the strength aspect as well. However, I also observed a significant number of fellow student being quite unsuccessful in seeing, attaining, or understanding Chenyu's basics & detailed method at the level of just having something clear enough to practice properly and develop. Point being, many people were not getting it, did not get it, and then many of them were excited to involve strength training, which is simple, raw and will make detail and intricacy even more elusive by adding a secondary layer of stress and tension.

My in person students know very well that even just box horse (and any other stance) is already so painful and challenging without adding a weighted vest or anything else. If you cannot align joints properly on your own I see no point in simply adding weight. Of course I consider that once one is very well accomplished and aligned then adding weight can be great. The problem for me, with that, has been that as I became better my weight bearing became more efficient=more painful as the weight bearing is more focused. So, adding weight could still be good but it may or may not be necessary.

In terms of weighted tools, I still much prefer the poles and balls (no jokes ..). The ankle weights and wrist weights are Ok, but one has to be really really good on the shapes and actions in the movements before applying these as they will disturb by adding resistance on just one direction, downward, and that is not always the direction of force your movement would be ideally working against.

I have a number of specific practice methods for specific tools such as kettlebells, taiji ball, long pole, metal pole, medicine ball, all configured specifically to our line and my approach. Mainstream sports equipment such as kettlebell and medicine ball I do not use in the mainstream way. Additionally, I favor bodyweight exercises, pull ups, push ups etc. Some people like squats, Chenyu did, but I found them a bit redundant.

Chenyu had his own reasons and agenda for the strength training approach he took at that time. I understood it but it is a long topic. I think if you want to learn gongfu, start with accuracy. Adding strength at a very early stage is detrimental. I don't care who my statement conflicts with, people have all kinds of agendas that will not be clarified. Adding suitable strength training at appropriate stages is good and has always been part of the practice. But then there is another issue set to discuss. Some people are naturally strong or naturally able to gain strength faster than others. If you are a natural muscle builder then strength training may be better for you than for some others. If it is a very uphill battle to gain muscle and strength then you have to consider carefully how much of your time you want to put towards that at the expense of other aspects of training, because we only have so much time in a day.

If you are somewhat weak, then building strength is important. If you dont build strength efficiently then build some but find those other areas of focus that will build on your natural strengths/abilities. If you are naturally strong, be strong, ad build if your body allows it, but then do not become complacent thinking that being stronger than everyone else will be a substitute for attaining gongfu.

This could be broken down into three simple ideas:
Use and practice your natural strengths and abilities.
Develop your weaknesses, but don't favor your weaknesses more than your strengths.
Don't be mislead that your strengths will overcome deficiencies in gongfu & method.

(edit: one of the best strength apparatus is a resistant practice partner)
 
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