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Training Methods

by: Fernando Bernall

My teacher had a great little saying that went something like this: “If you want to have a big school, when teaching keep this in mind, older people, make them relax. Young people, make them sweat. Karate people, give them more belts, and Kung fu people, give them more forms. If you do this, you’ll have large classes”.

Since I opened my first school back in 1992, I have thought of his saying many times and have realized that not following his advice is what has kept my schools from being full. Students always want more. This is particularly true of the younger generation. They want more and want it quickly. It is almost as if the kung fu school is likened to a website - slow downloads of martial arts instruction is a sure way to lose students.

The teaching of martial arts as a commercial endeavor is bound to lead the instructor in the path of compromise in order to keep the lights, water, phone and rent payed. This may not be true of the instructor who for one reason or another has gained famed and respect. But for the rest of us, this is usually the only recourse to keep the doors open. To the adept, however, this path eventually leads to disappointment, unfulfillment, frustration, and without the financial rewards one expected, not to mention a closed school.

In an attempt to reconcile the desire to transmit solid instruction in the martial arts and keeping the doors open, it is crucial to adapt an approach to teaching that meets the needs of those who are simply trying to stay fit, healthy, and in some cases just occupied, and the needs of those who are sincerely searching for ways to improve as martial artists. This is not to suggest that those who seek martial skill are not interested in the health benefits the arts offer. On the contrary, we are fully aware that without these, there’s no martial development. In other words, within the term “martial arts” one finds inclusion to the healing, cultural, and meditative arts.

The teaching of forms, katas, hyuns and patterns, are essential to the novice in that they serve as pointers to training methods needed for good form execution, and are in themselves training methods, albeit a bit advance for the novice.

What follows, is a list of training methods I think every student of Tai chi should observe on a regular basis. The beginner should find comfort in knowing that in the early stages of practice the level of difficulty is equal to one’s experience: not too difficult at first, and gradually becoming more complex, intense and demanding. This is true with all worthwhile disciplines.

I will enumerate them, not necessarily in order of importance, but as they come to me as I write. Later I will expound more on each and categorize them in a sequential mode in accordance with my own experience.

  1. Zhan Zhuang (Standing Practice)
  2. Silk Reeling (Chan Si Gong)
  3. Dan Yu (a type of squat)
  4. Scatter Circles (Luan Huan)
  5. Mei Hua Tui (kicking drills/footwork)
  6. Tien Kan (Celestial Stem)
  7. Block Practice (repeating short sessions of the form numerous time)
  8. Eight Powers (Ba Jin)

Again, the above are just but a few of the training methods I think every student needs to practice on a regular basis prior to learning the entire solo tai chi form, and definitely before touching a weapon, which have training methods of their own.

Fernando Bernall, DOM
Swimming Dragon.School of Kung Fu


Make them work! Make them work!—-War

Posted by Danny  on  05/01  at  09:48 PM
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