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The Absolutely Not Tongue in Cheek Magic Mathematical Formula for Learning Tai Chi (or anything else)

This week in our Friday blog post, we’re going to take a slight detour from our recent theme of Chinese philosophy, Taoism, culture and explore a simple formula (that I made up) which will help you to improve your Tai Chi, or anything else for that matter.

With everything I practice, teach, and learn – as well as in many, if not all, areas of my life – I always try to keep things simple. 

I know when this isn’t happening because I get what I can only describe as a scattered feeling in my mind, I then know that only a refocusing of my attention will bring myself and whatever it is I am trying to achieve into something that I feel that I have control over and can improve. 

For me this honing in of my concentration usually means an increase in meditation, a decrease of caffeine and looking at my to-do list to see what really is important and what I can remove totally, or put back to another time. 


My Very Own Mathematical Interpretation of Improvement 

When I was a student, new to my White Crane training, I found the path to improvement an incredibly straightforward one to understand and follow. 

It was simple – the more I trained, the better I got!

Add in the element of taking corrections and there you have the simple formula (that I just made up for the sake of this blog post): 



Allow me to explain…

Effort multiplied by Time of course relates to the length of time and how hard you train. 

Add this to Corrections – which you receive along the way. 

All of this will inevitably result in Improvement

There can’t be any other outcome – with effort, time, and corrections, you will improve!


The Beauty of Simplicity 

There comes a point where you want to deepen your knowledge, explore the vast subject matter around the theory of martial arts, Chinese philosophy and how it relates to your training, history and culture of the art form you study, etc. These do go pretty deep and can get quite convoluted and confusing at times.

However, this is all superfluous. What really counts is time and effort training. It’s really simple.

There is no magic formula (other than the one above!), no deep profound secret. To improve, to understand, to go deeper into your training you have to put in the work over a sustained period of time, and you have to train hard, and apply corrections.

You have to develop a blind faith in this formula in order to progress. 

It’s simple – I didn’t say it was easy!

We tend to be our own worst enemy and the reason that we don’t advance as quickly as we would like is because a negative mindset takes over, and we get in our own way with our mental chatter. 

Two common questions that this mental chatter screams and shouts at us are:

  1. How much effort is required? 
  2. How long a period of time do you mean? 


Are You Trying Hard Enough? 

You can always put in more effort, you can always train more, you can always find a spare moment to practice… it’s just a case of how much do you want it.

Even doing an extra 5 minutes per day has an enormous compound effect. 5 minutes per day is 1.26 days over a year! 

If you’re struggling to see how to train more, maybe the following could help:

Wake up 10 minutes earlier

Have 5 minute exercise breaks throughout the day

Integrate training with other areas of your life – stand on one leg whilst you clean your teeth, peel your vegetables whilst sitting in a squat position

Play training related games with your children

Stretch for 5 minutes before sleep

Set an alarm every hour to do one kung fu form or a tai chi move

… use your imagination and the possibilities are endless. 

If anyone tells you they don’t have time to get fit – send them to me for 10 minutes – I’ll change their minds. 

For me personally, I’m disappointed if I haven’t trained for 2 hours per day. This could include tai chi, kung fu, kickboxing, meditation, qigong, stretching, strength and fitness training. It may be a 2 hour block, or it may be over a few sessions throughout the day. I realise that I don’t have a 9-5 office job so you may think this easier for me that most, however, I did this (and much more at times) when I did have an office job. 

It’s up to you, how much do you want it? 


The Relativity of Time 

As well as being incredibly under qualified to make up mathematical formulas – (ExT)+C=I I’m  also sure I’ll make the scientists amongst you weep when I write about the relativity of time. 

But hey, it’s my website and my blog, so if you don’t like it, fine, I’ll take my ball and go home 🙂

If anyone is unsure about the relativity of time, try 5 minutes in Low Horse Stance – you’ll realise that 5 minutes is incredibly relative to what it is that you are doing!

I suspect that I may be missing the finer points of  Einstein’s theory of relativity in my example but my point is that time is different for everyone, and it depends on what it is that you are doing.

For some people improvement is quick, for some slow, for most it’s somewhere in between, and the duration before you feel and see improvement depends greatly on what it is that you are trying to improve. 

Personally when I started learning martial arts my flexibility improved rapidly, strength took longer. I found some tai chi moves easy and managed to pick them up straight away, others took more work. In kick-boxing, boxing took longer to get to a level I was happy with than the kicking. Wrestling and grappling took even longer (but this is the element I much prefer and am better at nowadays). Some kung fu forms I felt comfortable with from the offset, others took hours and hours of practice. 

If you love martial arts – and if you’re still reading this I’m assuming that you do – the time shouldn’t matter, the days, weeks, months, years, and decades are going to pass anyway – if you’re practicing an art that you are passionate about it doesn’t matter, what’s better than doing something you love to the core of your being!? 

Just do it, and again, and again, and keep going…


The Second Theory of Relativity

One of the common negative personality traits of martial arts instructors are their vastly over-inflated egos. So, like Einstein, I hereby present you with a Second Theory of Relativity:

The Relativity of Adjectives.

Good, bad, better, worse… what should they mean to you in your own training? 

Unless you are competing in some sort of tournament or competition, which personally I generally avoid, none of the above adjectives matter in relation to another person – and even then they are rather tenuous.

The only person that you want to be good in comparison to, or better than, is yourself yesterday. I can’t stress that enough. No one else matters. To compare yourself against others is one of the most surefire ways to halt your progress. 

For one thing, you have not lived their life or had their experiences up until this point in time and space, so there is nothing to compare!

Secondly, it’s all relative, it has no basis in anything other than a person’s own insecurity or egocentric viewpoint. 

However, if you can’t get out of that adjective-mindset, use it as a means of inspiration and compare yourself with others as a way to aspire to what you consider to be their level (and then go beyond!)


In Conclusion – It’s all about Kung Fu!

The meaning of ‘kung fu’ in Mandarin isn’t the fighting art that we think of in the West, it literally means something that takes hard work over a long period of time – this is how training should be approached.

It’s the basis for success and improvement.

There are no secrets. 

There is no profound message. 


As with all of the best lessons in martial arts, it’s a simple lesson to learn – and can be applied across so many areas of our lives – business, education, family, friendships, learning physics… whatever it is that you want to improve: give your best effort, allow time to pass – learn from your corrections – and most importantly have fun as you do it!

And yes, I need more time and effort in my study of physics. I know:)


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