How many hours per day or per week do practitioners practice?

Robin Wu

Panda Cub
How many hours per day or per week do practitioners traditionally practice gongfu?

Or perhaps to use a different metric: How many times should beginners experience 'critical mass' (collapsing from pain) per day?


I think it varies by individual, in terms of physical condition, age, available time and ability to recover, etc. Right now a "punch the clock" type workout for me takes between 60 and 80 minutes. I usually manage that 2-3 times a week outside of class. On days when I won't get to practice due to schedule, I try to at least get in some box horse and cloud hands to not feel like a complete bum. Some days I'm too tired to do anything, so I rest and don't try.

At my current level of practice, I feel like I'm more or less keeping up, but not any more than that. Ideally, with where I am right now, I'd like to go for 80-100 minutes (essentially enough to add another repetition of the form) and do it 3-4 times a week outside of class, but I just haven't been able to manage it. That's more than none, but probably on the low side for developing gongfu in a reasonable timeframe. I'll let you know in another 5 years.

By contrast, a year or a year-and-a-half ago I was practicing 4-5 times a week (with no weekly class) for about 25 minutes. I had to stop and rest twice in order to get through the form. So maybe 15-20 minutes of my 25 minute practice was actually doing something. That was about all I could handle, and I really needed to take those 2-3 days a week off. There's no way 2018 me could have practiced for over an hour consistently without injuring myself. So I think it's a matter of pushing yourself without being stupid, and honestly trying to evaluate whether you're getting after the bitter practice, or not.

Adam Liu

I remember when I first started doing box horse and stuff like that I would put on a kung fu movie and try to sit for the entire movie. I tried to do this every day, so that was about 1.5-2 hours every day on a good week. I didn't sit on my legs the entire time, and rested every time there was a cool fight. That being said, once I started learning form, the movie turned out to be distracting and eventually less interesting.


Lao Tou
Staff member
How much people practice really varies, and a lot of that would depend on age, lifestyle family obligations etc. Also this depends heavily on the style and approach to practice. In our case, well this is a really difficult style. It is suggested to practice the forms at least once a day once you know them and that is about 40 minutes for Yilu and then would be about a full hour or a bit more if includes Erlu. That is kind of the standard, to try for an hour per day, but really to do everything and keep up ones progress requires more than that. But, we do what we can given the time we have.

For beginners, who are young and without overwhelming obligations, try for an hour a day. If it is not possible try a few times per week.
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For (nearly) the last half century I've averaged 45 to 90 minutes of daily practice. Never really felt it was enough to make the kind of progress I thought I wanted to experience, but it did get me through my career to retirement weighing what I did when I began and fit and limber enough to keep doing more or less what I want. Now I don't watch a clock and often practice more than once a day. I probably log between 2 and 3 three hours more or less daily and may be starting to see some of the things I thought I was looking for before—am at least seeing some physiological transformation and recovery from old injuries. It still doesn't feel like enough practice when I look at what there is to learn, but I do find my self wanting to nap too . . . . !

Here's a poem by William Stafford that helped me balance life obligations to find both the freedom and discipline to maintain practice regardless of what else may have been going on. I always found that if I got up early enough I could start the day with some practice--and then, in some way, I was free to integrate practice throughout the day.


Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
though, if you want to.

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.

No leader is free; no follower is free–
the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.

from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Copyright 1998 by Graywolf Press