Friday 4 February 2011

Practise makes points

Doing Tai Chi is all about regular practice. But motivating yourself to get into / maintain the routine can be difficult when surrounded by life’s other pressures. That's why in a flash of inspiration I’ve decided to use some of the motivational techniques that dieters and gym freaks use. In both of those systems you have “points” i.e. calories or minutes on the treadmill etc. You create a training program by setting yourself point targets (i.e. max calories per day) and your natural inbuilt competitiveness helps you strive so improve your previous “score”. It also has the added benefit of being able to track your improvement.  Tracking your improvement over time is something that is very difficult to do with Tai Chi as it is all internal, personal and there are no real milestones to judge yourself against.

My plan is therefore to award myself points for every bit of Tai Chi I do. I will set myself a minimum number of points required per day (more is great of course), and then increase that minimum over time. The idea is to make it a very low threshold in the beginning, as what you're really training here is “getting into a routine” (which I believe takes about 4 weeks to make into a habit). At the end of every day I will write down the points I have scored (which I’m sure I will immediately over complicate with statistical analysis). Anyway, the point system I plan to use is:

Lao jia
Long form (takes about 15mins)
Canon fist, Sword, Sabre, or Competition form
“Advanced forms” (takes 3-5mins ish each)
Short form
Takes about 2mins
10mins of standing
Standing meditation / Standing like a tree
One set of Silk Reeling, or Chi-gung
A good 8-10 reps, on both left and right sides
10mins of seated meditation
Going to a group class
A pretty stingy number of points for over an hour class, but the idea is to improve home practice.

My teacher Wang Hai Jun recommends 5 Lao Ji’s a day – that’s 50 points. I think I’ll start with a much more modest 4 points and work up. But remember this is a minimum, I fully intend to do more than 4 points worth most days. The point is, I must absolutely not fail to do at least 4 points worth every single day (i.e. training regular practice), or face the shame of having to write a 0 into my wall chart.


  1. Although technically less difficult (hang on I guess thats highly debatable!) I find it much harder to motivate myself to do standing/sitting out of the class environment - Lao Jia comes a lot easier as you just get on with it for the 15 mins.

  2. That is true - perhaps I should revise my points? Really they should equate to the "Taichi benefit". I suspect 50 minutes of standing meditation is a lot better than 1 Lao Jia. Maybe I'll increase the points for that to 3 or 4? However, I reckon natural laziness will kick in here to balance the situation - If I find myself going for "easy points", then clearly those points need to be reduced. I guess trial and error will reveal the answer!