In all of the martial arts classes taught at The Peaceful Dragon (both tai chi/internal arts and shaolin kung fu/shuai chiao), we do a standardized warm-up and body-development routine. The routine consists of a variety of carefully-selected stretching, strengthening, and chi (energy) building exercises to provide you with the traditional body development needed to get the most out of the arts you are training in.
When you start your first class simply relax, follow along and copy the movements to the best of your ability. As a beginning student you may find some or all of the warm-up routine to be challenging—and for some of you quite challenging. Do not be concerned or discouraged if this is the case! Instead, rejoice because soon you will be amazed at the improvements to your health, fitness and vitality you are making. Try not to worry about or compare yourself with the person next to you—only focus on your own steady progress. Pace yourself with the warm-ups (and everything else in class), modify as needed, and don’t try to do too much too soon.
Why Are Tai Chi Students Doing These Warm-Ups?
Some new tai chi students find this more vigorous warm-up and body-development routine disconcerting, thinking that tai chi is comprised only of slow-motion and gentle movement. As you’ll discover, the slow-motion and gentle movements are an important part of tai chi but there is much more to tai chi. The slow movements of tai chi won’t benefit you as effectively if you’re not also developing a minimal level of tai chi fitness. During the many centuries that tai chi evolved in China virtually all people were quite physically fit. Most people did rigorous manual farm labor and those that didn’t still did a great deal more physical work than most of us today. Even with the high general level of fitness in those days, the traditional tai chi curriculum still required many exercises for building internal strength, endurance and flexibility.
All of the exercises in our warm-up and conditioning routine come from the traditional tai chi curriculum, and they’ll help you tremendously in your practice of tai chi. If, however, you physically or for any other reason cannot do some or even all of the routine that’s okay. During the routine you can instead do qigong or other alternatives—ask your teacher for guidance.
About the Warm-up and Conditioning Routine
You need only do the routine once a day, so if you take both kung fu and tai chi classes on the same day you’ll do the routine in your first class only. For the next class those who have already done the routine will move right into that day’s curriculum while those who haven’t will start the routine.
The routine is broken down into four parts: The first part is literally a warming-up set that serves to loosen up and heat up the body. The second part is a power set which serves to build internal power and strength. The third part is a stretching set designed to develop greater flexibility of the muscles, joints and connective tissue of the body. The fourth and final part is breathing qigong to help gather and store the chi.
We rotate the count for the routine among all the students in the class, starting with the front row. When it gets to be your turn in the back row of course you won’t know the exercise since you’re a new student—but the students next to you will help guide you. Before long you’ll have the whole routine memorized. Until then, as an aid for you the warm-up and conditioning routine is listed below.
The Daily Warm-up and Conditioning Routine
- Circle hips and knees 5x each side
- Circle body 10x
- Elbow to toes 10x each side
- Pendulum leg stretch 10x each side
- Outside wheel kick 10x each side
- Lying leg stretch 10x each side
- Front/side combination high kicks 10x each side
- Back high kick 10x each side
Standing deep breathing 30 seconds
- Raise & lower palms 30x
- Cat stretches forward and backward 10x each
- Cross-legged roll backs 20x
- Back arches 10x
Lying down deep breathing 30 seconds
- Side split 1 minute
- Sitting side stretch 1 minute each side
- Front split 1 minute each side
- Pigeon 1 minute each side
Circling arms breathing qigong 10x at own pace
Approximate Total Time: 25 minutes