Arranging your own training


LESSON 14 – 1.1.14

This is a supplement to 13 video lessons (6 hours 50 minutes) of the first module of our course.

You have just completed learning the content of the first module of our program. If you came to one of our intensive courses, you will still learn 2 more modules during next days, if it is 1 week course or 5 more modules, if it is a 2 weeks course. During this time you will not have much time or energy for your own practice on top of the course classes. You should just follow the instructions, the classes will be arranged by the teacher. But in your free time after the classes you should at least try to think about the excercises which you learned, trying to remember all important points. Making some notes during the small breaks and also immediately after each class would be helpful, especially that you could receive some information intended specifically for you, because of your own problem with executing some excercises, which might not be typical, so they are not addressed in our standard study materials. After going back home you will need to include excercises of the first section (3 modules) or two sections (6 modules together) in your own training sessions.

But if you learned the first module at a weekend seminar, now you should practice these excercises by yourself at home, before you come to learn next module during another of the weekend seminars. So now you might wonder how often you should you practice, and how long each time? How much time should you spend on each of the excercises?

Sincerely, there is no fixed rule. If some teacher tells you how many minutes you should practice every time, actually this is not because there is some scientifically proved evidence that practicing this amount of time works the best. It is rather that giving a beginner some fixed numbers can help him/her to discipline themselves and actually practice regularly. But people are different, have different needs, different goals, different likes and dislikes. Basically you practice for yourself, so the way of training and duration of training sessions is something which can be decided by yourself, and can be kept changing according to your wish and according to what resuls of your practice you will notice.

Some people will be willing to spend more time on Yiquan training, and some other less. Some will have more time to do this every day or every week, and some other will have less time (some might want to use some of their free time on other sport activities too). Some will feel better, more vigorous, more powerful or more healthy when they practice longer, and some will feel too much exhausted and in low mood if they would try to practice so much. So it is you, who should decide about your training back home. If you will love it, you will try to practice as much as possible – the limit will be the amount of your free time, but you should also observe how your body reacts, if it makes you feel well, happy, full of energy, or whether it becomes too much of a burden at some point, making you feel worse and not achieving expected results, when you are try to train too much.

Now, there are different excercises. If you have decided how much time you spend on training everyday, the next question would be how much of this time should be spent on various excercises/training methods. And there is no one answer for everybody. There are too many factors. In many cases you will choose to spend more time on the excercises you like more. This is not bad idea. This way, by practicing what you like, you will develop some attributes, some skills which will become your own characteristic, something in which you will be better than other practictioners (who could become better at different aspects of some skills of course). On the other hand you will notice some problems, some difficulties, which you would like to overcome. So you will probably decide to spent some time not on doing what you like, but on working on some problems. So it will be in some part about enhancing your better points, while at the same time trying to get rid of your weak points. Those are two sides of the learning and improving process. How much time you spent on which of them can be your decision, your subjective preference.

Some of your choices could be based on some objective conditions. More decisions will be based on those, if you actually have some very specific and relatively easily verifieble goal. For example if you participate in fighting competitions, the results you get in those competitions will become the main indicatior of the results of your training, and you will keep modifying your training according to this. You will notice a problem which makes you lose your fights, you will start working on removing this problem, using methods which bring desired effects. In combat sports, like in any competitive sports, the athletes use to train according to quite precisely designed programs, long term (many years), yearly and shorter. But still those programs are being modified constantly, according to actual results, and still a lot of unpredictable factors and effects appear.

If you don't train for competition, even though your goal might be developing fighting skills/figthing abilities, you might have not much opportunity to verify your actual skill, so there will be not enough solid input on which you could build this kind of training plans as which the coaches make for the athletes. And no one else will have enough input to do so for you.

However you might engage in sparring practice - tui shou (pushing hands) and san shou (free fighting) with your training partners, and this can became the indicator of your actual skill level, and can help you to notice at what aspects you are turning out too be quite good and where are your weak points - this input could help in rearranging your own training. Of course this will be possible when you get at least some decent basis, so your sparring practice could make sense, and you would start understanding the relation between basic training methods and sparring. At the most basic stage of learning there is not much point explaining it in more detail. But you should have at least some idea about it.

In the first module of our programme you learned:

3 so called health postures:
-tuobao zhuang (lifting-embracing),
-changbao zhuang (expanding-embracing),
-xiuxi zhuang (resting).

3 basic shi li excercises, practiced both in pingbu and in dingbabu position:
-pingtui shi li (level pushing),
-kaihe shi li (opening and closing),
-boshui shi li (moving water).

1 basic combat posture with the first variant of mo li:
-hunyuan zhuan (universal unity) – qian hou mo li (forward-backward seeking strength).

2 mocabu excersises (friction steps)
-dingbu mocabu (fixed position friction steps),
-zoubu mocabu (walking friction steps).

2 fa li excercises (issuing power)
-dingbu xiangqian fa li (fixed position forward fa li),
-zoubu xiangqiaqn fa li (walking forward fa li).

2 tui shou excercises (pushing hands)
-dingbu dan tui shou (single pushing hands in fixed position),
-dan tui shou qian hou zoubu (single pushing hands with forward-backward step).

2 supplementary shuai shou fangsong fa excercises (relaxing by moving arms).

Important thing is that you should not only think about making some longer training sessions at some fixed times, but you should also try to develop a habit of playing with some excercises at some short free moments during your day too.

For example let's talk just about the most basic zhan zhuang practice. Generally in Yiquan two a bit different approaches have developed. One is about trying to stand for relatively long time during one session from the very beginning (40-60 minutes). Another suggest short times first (5, 10 or 15 minutes), and when you feel relaxed and comfortable, you gradually make the times longer, toward the relatively standard 40-60 minutes.

Most of the early period students of Wang Xiangzhai were people who were already long time and rather proficient practitioners of Xingyiquan (or Xingyiquan and Baguazhang). It wasn't too hard for them to start Yiquan training from relatively long times of standing.

During later period, especially in 1960 most of the new students of Wang Xiangzhai were patients of hospitals, many of them old, sick, weak, so different, „softer” approach was developed then.

Both approaches have their advocates, and there are people who benefited from sticking to them. But we usually say that quality of zhan zhuang practice is more important than just time. If standing long time makes you only feel stiff and uncomfortable, why to continue this way? Why not to start from feeling comfortable and relaxed during shorter sessions, when you can actually focus on „seeking strength” and make clear progress in this, and then naturally prolonging the time, when it feels comfortable and bringing clear effects.

On the other hand, many people notice that after practicing zhan zhuang for 40 minutes and more the feeling becomes different than when standing for shorter periods, the mind enters different state, body starts working different way. But what if you are not ready for this, if it doesn't work for you?

Starting from shorter time and making it gradually longer can be a good idea. Gradually doesn't need to mean very long process though. For some people it can turn out to be just a few days of systematic practice. For some other needs to be longer. People vary. To get to know what works for you, good idea is to do a bit of experimenting.

Generally with this kind of trainig, like zhan zhuang and shi li, which is about coordinating mind and body, and the physical effort is minimal, it is advisable to practice as often as possible. Better six or seven days per week, than just once or twice a week. Trying to make the sessions longer, but not so regular will not bring the same result. So this should give you some idea toward how many sessions per week you should aim.

The more often you repeat the actions of trying to work with mind and body coordinated, the more natural it becomes, the deeper the coordination. This is while apart from the training sessions at some fixed times, you should also play with those excercises many times a day, during short breaks at work etc. Could be just a few minutes of relaxed standing or moli, or shi li movements. Could even be just one minute or less. The more often this happens, the better. As Wang Xiangzhai said, gradually anything you do can become part of your training.

As for the main, fixed training sessions, how long they will be will depends on how much time you will have and how much you will be willing to use. Maybe you will have free time only once a day, maybe twice a day. But it would be good if one of your sessions would be at least 1 hour or more, so you would be able to do at least 40 minutes of zhan zhuang plus other excersises. It doesn't need to be like this from the Day 1, but would be good, if you can make it after a week or two of your practice.

As a beginner you should focus on the most basic things, and spend most time on practicing them. The most basic zhan zhuang postures – health postures, are the most basic part of Yiquan practice. Combat postures and shi li (including moca bu which is also kind of shi li – we call this shi li for legs) are more advanced, then fa li and tui shou are most advanced of the excercises you learned in this module. So this should give you some idea about which you should practice for longer time and which for shorter time during your training sessions. Most time at this stage should be spend practicing most basic things. You should repeat those more advanced, so you don't forget them and you can gradually better understand how basics are related to more advance methods, but you will not be able to make much progress in things which are more advanced, if you have not a good basis.

You will need to make a lot of decisions by yourself, because you are supposed to be quite smart, otherwise you wouldn't start learning something demandint such a high level of learning abilities as Yiquan. You will design your own training plans, and you will keep modifying them, depending on the observed results of using those plans.

I will give you only one example. Let's say on some day of a week you can make a training session about one and half hour. You could:

- start from light warming up movements (you might use the moving arms relaxing method as part of this), with the idea of making your body a bit more relaxed before practicing zhan zhuang, not literarly warming up like before more strenuous physical training – 5 minutes,
- do health postures – changbao zhuang being the main one, but you could change to tuobao zhuang or to xiuxi zhuang for some time, if you cannot keep your shoulders relaxed, at beginning you should focus on mind activities which help you to relax, but you can also do the most basic mo li for some time – 40 minutes,
- do one chosen of the shi li excersises in pingbu position - 10 minutes,
- do moca bu – mostly zoubu variant, but might do some dingbu movements too – 10 minutes,
- do one chosen of the shi li excersises in dingbabu position (might be the same or different than you did in pingbu position) – 10 minutes,
- do xiang qian fa li in fixed position or with steps – 5 minutes,
- do another shi li, maybe again one which you did in this session, maybe different – 5 minutes,
- practice in tuobao zhuang posture, focusing on relaxing ideas – 5 minutes,
- then maybe have some nice walk, preferably in a park, garden.

In this sample session plan, I didn't include tui shou, because unfortunately not many students can find training partners at their home places. However you should not neglect it. You should at least sometimes try to rember how it should be practiced, as if practicing with an imagined partner.

It's just one of many possible plans for a training session at the starting point of learning Yiquan. You don't need to follow it exactly. But it is better to create some plans of this kind, because it can help you to keep discipline, practicing regularly. However you should not stick too much to once written down plans, but should observe the results and modify those plans according to your conclusions. Of course you will also need to keep rearranging those plans because gradually learning more excersises.

Andrzej Kalisz - YIQUAN ACADEMY
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