Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tai Chi and Weight Training

For as long as I can remember there has been a debate about the pros and cons of training with weights if you are a Tai Chi practitioner.

Some say it impacts negatively on your Tai Chi, others that it helps. When I first began Tai Chi at John Kells' place in London, I used to train regularly on a multi gym. I stopped  for a while when a senior student told me it would not be good for my " Chi ". I resumed because I enjoy the positive energy gained by lifting weights.

My then Teacher, John Kells, had a number of weight training machines in a basement room. He used to practise with a focus on cross energy. He was building a dynamic connection between opposite foot and hand.

Examples of this were bench pressing and lat pulldowns. For the bench press machine he would have his feet on the bench and push one foot down whilst focusing on the opposite hand as he pushed the bar up.

When performing the lat pulldown he would pull with one hand, the body moving diagonally down towards the opposite foot. The other hand was on the bar as an assist only.

To begin with the movements were small and short, gradually getting bigger over time. I asked him why he trained with weights. He said that he started to develop power by using a heavy iron bar to do his sword form and then the penny dropped!

He also had a Tunturi exercise bike. If you want to fight with Tai Chi, then you need to train like a fighter. He said you had to be able to take a blow. It was no good being weak.

It was interesting, then, to come across the following article by David Gaffney on his Chen style blog about strength training in Taijiquan - which supports the need for a good physical condition and strength in order to develop.

For myself I now use mostly dumbbells and very light weighted gloves by Golds Gym. As I age stretching has also become more important. I would welcome any comments positively addressing weight training with regards to internal martial arts and methods used.


  1. I have to admit that I do not do weight training. But I don`t think that doing it would do much harm to my Qi. Looking back in history, I think, Tai Chi was never only done by people sitting most of the day. But there were farmers and other (physically) hard working people practising Taijiquan, I guess. So they could lift bales of hay all day long and then do a Taijiquan-form!

    1. Hallo Angelika,

      Ja, meine ich auch.