How much is too much? How much is too little? These are important questions when you begin learning a new physical discipline. If you do too much, you may hurt yourself and discourage yourself from doing something again, too little and you may never learn enough or get enough practice to become competent at what you’re learning. This is as true for Tai Chi as any other activity.
So, how long should you do Tai Chi for?
A Tai Chi session can vary from 20-30 minutes, to 2 or more hours depending on what your goals are. A Tai Chi session of half an hour is long enough for its physical and mental benefits. For teaching Tai, or using it as a martial art, a 2-hour long session will be better.
Let’s see exactly how long YOU need to practice for, and why.
What Does Learning Tai Chi Entail?
Tai Chi is considered to be an “internal” martial art. That means that there is more emphasis on mediation and self-mastery than there is in mastering the physical forms. This is not to say that the physical aspect is unimportant (it is important) but rather that mental discipline is at the forefront.
This means that in many respects the way you go about learning and mastering Tai Chi is very different from mastering boxing or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as these martial arts are much more concerned with physical discipline.
This is good news for many students because it means that Tai Chi is easier to take up even if you are not of a high level of fitness. You won’t see many elderly, overweight boxers but you’re never too old or too large to start Tai Chi, for example.
However, that doesn’t mean that Tai Chi is easier than other martial arts. In fact, to the contrary, mastery of Tai Chi can take far longer than mastery of boxing or BJJ. This is because mental mastery is often much more challenging in the longer-term than physical mastery.
How Long Should You Do Tai Chi For As A Beginner And Why?
So, let’s turn to the question of how long should do Tai Chi for? Well, for many students of Tai Chi there is no intention of becoming a Tai Chi master. What they are looking for is a simple routine that they can carry out in harmony with the rest of their lives that helps them keep fit and achieve mental peace.
Tai Chi is ideal for this. There is ample evidence that a regular workout will help you stay healthy and happy in the long-term and there is also a huge body of evidence that shows that people who meditate are happier and often have a greater sense of purpose than those who do not.
So, a beginner in Tai Chi who is simply looking for some of the benefits of the discipline does not need to give up too much of their life to its practice. The ideal length of practice is around 20-30 minutes a day. This is long enough to learn some techniques and to develop muscle memory to gain, over time, some mastery of those techniques.
It also allows you to meditate whilst practicing and clear the stress of the day or of life in general from your mind.
If you can’t practice every day even 2 or 3 times a week ought to show benefits and over time, you will improve in your Tai Chi practice.
If you can’t do 20-30 minutes twice a week, however, the odds are that you will never see the benefits of Tai Chi and that you will never get any better at it. This is true of all exercise not just Tai Chi, mind you.
How Long Should You Do Tai Chi For As An Intermediate Student?
An intermediate student is not formally defined in Tai Chi but might be considered to be someone who would like to achieve a reasonable mastery of all the basic forms and to develop their meditative practices to reap more benefits from them.
It might be possible for a beginner student with great aptitude and many years of practice to attain this level without additional study, but for most people – it is obvious that if you want to develop your skills to a higher level, it’s going to mean a bit more work.
This kind of student should expect to spend 1-2 hours a day practicing and it can take 3 years (or more) to master the basic forms. Note: There is not a defined number of basic forms as this varies between different schools of Tai Chi.
It is, of course, possible for a beginner to change to aspiring to an intermediate level at any point in their studies. It is fine to choose a level which you are comfortable with at any time and move up (or, indeed, down) to suit your circumstances and desires.
How Long Should You Do Tai Chi For If You Want To Teach Tai Chi?
If you are thinking of teaching Tai Chi then you will need to put in more effort again, at least, that is, if you want to teach ethically. Sadly, the martial arts remain unregulated around the world and anyone can open a training school at any time in any martial art without so much as an hour of practice in that art form.
We’re going to assume that you are not aiming to open a McDojo, as these low value dojos are commonly known, and that you want to teach people the kind of Tai Chi which brings wonderful physical and mental benefits to their lives.
In that instance, you should be prepared to spend between 7 and 10 years practicing Tai Chi for at least 1-2 hours a day. You may also want to take some larger blocks of time to improve your mediation skills. Monks who learn to meditate may take up to 3 years for a single block of meditation! We don’t think most people will have quite that much time, but some 1 or 2 week retreats might be possible.
We’d recommend that you then seek certification with the school of Tai Chi that you have been studying with. There is also a Tai Chi Foundation which offers certification programs if your school does not. You may also be able to help with lessons and guiding other students for a period before you qualify – this will take more time but will help you prepare for teaching others too.
How Long Should You Do Tia Chi For If You Want To Use It As A Martial Art?
This is the hardest question to answer because most Tai Chi practitioners don’t use Tai Chi as a martial art, instead, they concentrate on forms and internal meditation.
Those who do choose Tai Chi as a martial art should be aware that you will, usually, have to master another martial art (typically a form Kung Fu/Gong Fu/Wu Shu that is closely related to Tai Chi) before attempting to master Tai Chi fighting.
That means you can expect to spend 7-10 years at 1-2 hours day mastering Kung Fu, before you begin mastering Tai Chi! You can then expect to spend another 3-5 years at 1-2 hours a day to gain Tai Chi mastery.
If that sounds exhausting, you’ll understand why most people opt for the other benefits of Tai Chi rather than choosing to use it as a martial art.
One Other Thing
There is no such thing as true “mastery” of Tai Chi. No matter what you learn Tai Chi for, there is always more to learn after you have mastered what you are learning. Thus, “how long should you do Tai Chi for?” might properly be answered as “for a lifetime.”
How long should you do Tai Chi for? Well, it depends on what purpose you want Tai Chi to play in your life. 20-30 minutes a day is probably enough to gain physical and mental health benefits. To master the basic forms, however, will require more effort and to move to teaching or martial arts will require more effort still. And as there is no such thing as true mastery of any martial art, you really should be doing Tai Chi for the whole of your life.