People often ask me how much practise I do a day or a week. I remember my first teacher telling us that if you practise every day in between class, that’s ideal but not everyone can manage it. If you don’t practise for one day, you’ll know, but probably no-one else will notice. If you don’t practise for two or three days, your teacher will notice. If you don’t practise at all, everyone will notice.
But what is Training and what is Practise?
One difference is the newness of what you are doing. Training might involve learning something new in a class or workshop which may take a few hours to get into your memory. But then you go home and practise. The desire to reach a good standard may require hours of practise, daily, for years. This applies equally to learning a routine series of moves and practising in order to remember it and learning a technique that you then practise in order to improve.
And then there’s cross-training.
This is where you employ other activities to benefit your practise. A runner who wants to improve doesn’t just run. He or she has to cover strength, speed and endurance, so will use specific exercises for each of these attributes. Swimming, for example, is often used to improve cardiovascular fitness without constantly hammering on the joints.
Most classes and workshops will begin with a warm-up to prepare the body for the work that it’s going to be doing. This consists of a combination of literally warming up the muscles and joints and encouraging flexibility. This could be termed training for training.
Training for Training?
If you are going to do any longer workshops, for example a full weekend, or even a month, should you do any additional training for the extra work you’re going to be asking from yourself? It would almost be silly not to wouldn’t it? In the same way as someone stepping up from running 10 km road races to 26 mile marathons needs to build up to that, you’ll enjoy the experience better, be less likely to overreach and injure yourself and be more able to benefit from the experience if you make sure you are at a good level of readiness. (This is often as much about the ability to concentrate as about physical fitness.)
I hope I’m listening to myself! Next Spring I shall be going to China for three weeks training at Wudangshan. At this point in time, I don’t know much about the workload or the activities but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve a lot more than my normal level. For a start I’ve been told there will be 4 hours of meditation a day.
So to answer the original question, my normal day involves 20 minutes to half an hour of meditation, and one or two qigong sets in the morning. At night taiji or bagua and another 20 minutes to half an hour of meditation. If I have just learnt a new routine, I’ll work more on that. What you learn at the weekend is a dance routine. Only practise turns it into qigong. Similarly if I’m teaching a workshop I’ll do extra preparation on that. And because I’m a gardener I have a tendency to develop a range of peculiar injuries and sore bits and frequently have to do a number of stretching activities to sort myself out.
Quality not Quantity
With a view to making the most of next Spring’s wonderful training trip to Wudangshan, everything is gradually being stepped up and focused. I’m training quality not quantity, being more of a perfectionist and paying attention to the basic details because, as we all know, you can get away with a slightly out of kilter knee once or twice but not a thousand times. I’m trying to find and fix any sloppy habits now!