This is contrary to what I was told by a variety of well-meaning instructors: "Taiji slow form is the perfect form of exercise" or "Never lift weights or do strength-building exercises as you will get stiffer not softer." or "If my teacher didn't do it than I am not going to waste my time either."
As to the first statement,"Taiji slow form is the perfect form of exercise" So logically all those millions of people since taijiquan was invented in China who have gone their whole lives without a dedicated practise of taiji form have been fooling themselves as to the state of their health.
To be fair, it is true that taiji solo form work is good for a variety of health-building purposes but that is less true if you only do one such solo form and that is your only source of exercise! Your body, especially an aging body, needs to be stimulated in a variety of ways in terms of strength-building and movement patterns to stay optimally healthy. I'll give you a simple example: most Yang style teachers discourage their students from lifting their shoulders in an attempt to help them avoid tension; the down-side of this is that many students stop or never do supplementary exercises that strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the shoulder in a full range of motion.
Secondly, "Never lift weights or do strength-building exercises as you will get harder, not softer." This can be a tricky issue in that some people [usually those training on their own without adequate knowledgable feedback] will get "muscle-bound" in a variety of ways and that certainly can't help one's taijiquan which is ideally about developing and using the core muscles of the trunk and coordinating a relaxed expression of force through the limbs. But, and that's a big "but", the message is sometimes communicated that being weak is somehow good if you want to learn taijiquan and this is sometimes even linked to potential martial ability. Nonsense! Whether you want to live to a healthy old age or become next year's taiji poster boy or girl you have to have muscles that function optimally for your age.
Thirdly ""If my teacher didn't do it than I am not going to waste my time either." A tricky issue as your teacher may have spent years/decades doing other activities before taking up and focussing on his or her taiji form. We are the sum of our experience, even if a teacher choses [or has, for medical reasons] to limit that experience later on and focus on one discipline. In the long run, If you do a variety of “things” in your exploration of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts it can be tricky to do justice to all the things you may be working on. Balancing the needs of one person compared to the needs of the many is always tricky on a social as well as an individual level.
In the end, a gentle self-discipline is essential but needs to be tempered with “going with the flow” since we’re talking about taiji. For example, this morning when I finished my 20 minute warm-up on the treadmill, I went into my training space and thought ‘I don’t want to stick to my self-imposed schedule today!”
So I did basics in baguazhang [walking the circle while holding the Eight Mother Palms, one after the other] and then xingyiquan [the five elements — Split, Drill, Crush, Pound and Cross-cut] one after the other. To finish, I practised the basic footwork patterns of Sun-style taiji and that was it.
Did I feel like I was leaving a lot out of my morning routine? Yup!
Was it a refreshing change of routine? Yup!
Would I do that every day? Nope!
Is sticking to a schedule, tedious? Yup!
Is having a schedule of training that you change periodically important? Yup
Is a question and answer format tedious when it goes on for too long?
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