So how much should a Tai Chi practitioner practice Tai Chi and for how long? Sometimes I read books from people as Yang Jwing-Ming who has very special demands on very slow speed of form practice as well as tons of jibengong exercises, (basic practice) advice on sitting meditation (about two hours a day recommended by the mentioned teacher) and has a whole lot of different Qigong sets with different demands. So I wonder if he and similar teachers practice about 36 hours every day. At least, they can’t get any food, because they never eat one or two hours after training. But then I think about that they still have time to write a whole lot of books and make videos. So their demands can’t be so serious after all.
Others says that 20 minutes a day is quite enough. They speak about form practice of course, as there was nothing else in Tai Chi worth practicing. Sun Lutang, the creator of the Sun Family Internal Arts, proposed 20 minutes of standing meditation in wuji stance before practicing form. So there goes the twenty minutes that the common “Yang short form” teachers speak about, just on preparation. Jibengong, other stance practice, stretching and similar is not included.
So how much should you practice your Tai Chi and for how long? First, I must ask you: Why the heck do you ask me? I am not your teacher. And besides that, everyone has different goals with their practice. What do you want to accomplish and why do you practice Tai Chi? If you can’t answer those questions, how could you know how much you should practice? If you know the answers to these questions, just practice enough so you can see that you develop in the speed that you want to develop. Easy answer, huh?
But then, are there no general rules or any minimum amount of amount of time for practice? No, of course there are not. Again, it depends on what style you practice, what exercises you are working on for the moment, your own level and it depends on what you want to accomplish, i.e. your personal goals. You need to come to your own understanding about what is enough, what is too much or what is too little.
But I can tell you something about practice, like this: When I practice form, I need at least 20 minutes to “get into the flow”. After twenty minutes, and often it takes the double amount of that time for my system to warm up properly, I get my “motor” running. AND first after that time, the real practice and the real progress begin. I will move, breath and focus in a completely different way after that time of warming up. This is my own personal experience. But of course, sometimes I might focus on drills and jibengong, and stance training instead of form practice. Then it’s another way to deal with the whole thinng, another way to warm up the system, a shorter or a longer time. And also there’s another way of dealing with my own body after this time of warming up the system. “You need to pump up the qi”(ch’i) as a Qi non-believer so wisely said.
This might be the very reason for practicing long forms instead of short forms or drills. And I agree with this. Drills has it’s own place, but there is really something very special about longer forms that other kind of martial arts practice can not give you. So from my own experience, I have become a real fan of long forms practice. It can be both very demanding and very rewarding.
Then after “getting warm”, how much do I practice? Hopefully one or two hours, at least. But mostly, I won’t have the time to practice as much as I would like to. I am a busy man. But there’s another component to the deal than the time you do practical exercises. You are not actually limited to the time you do physical practice. If you practice regularly, practice is a way to tune and refine your system. It’s a way to develop your nervous system and muscle memory. Practicing Tai Chi, if you do it regularly, 20 minuets a day or 2 hours a day, a progress of development that goes on 24/7. If you are very passionate about the art, and do a lot of thinking and reading about the art, the overall development will go faster and reach deeper. This is my conviction anyway. I haven’t read things like this in other places, but I know something about learning. And I speak from my own experience.
No, I have never heard anyone speaking about practicing time the way that I do in this article, or have read anything similar. You can throw everything I said into your mental bin if you like, but still, I hope that you will think more about thus subjekt in terms about how you develop yourself into your tai chi, or how you personalize your practice to suite your own goals and your own personality. This is actually a more “Chinese thinking” than giving general advice about time and amount of practice. A Chinese doctor creates an individualized cure for every patient. The way to handle a decease, how to cure it, is different for every situation. I look at Tai Chi as a “good decease”. You must be like a good doctor and treat yourself according to your own prerequisites. Don’t listen to other “doctors” as different teachers. The only way to develop in Tai Chi is to find the right road by yourself. Maybe easier said than done, but the art of Tai Chi really demands responsibility from the person practicing it. You can’t really hide away from your own responsibilities if you want to develop and progress for real.