Training at Home for Beginning Students

Tai Chi alone on the beach, way back in Florida!

Tai Chi alone on the beach, way back in Florida!

How should I train at home in between classes?

The biggest challenge to a novice martial artist is making the transition from coming to classes and participating in group training to continuing their practice at home. Sifu Duran, my teacher, taught me that class times should be seen as a test of your progress and opportunity to further your learning. The most profound transformations happen when you are consistently training on your own, getting stronger, more flexible, and deepening your understanding of each movement daily. Put simply, go home and make it your own. Find a space you connect with. Above is an old picture of me training in Florida - back when I had the opportunity to train for over 6 hours every day! Your solitary training can become a beautiful meditative experience that will improve every aspect of your life!

Starting from the beginning can be daunting. There are many exercises to remember and the basic conditioning will push you to new levels of athleticism if you follow it through. Here is a rough outline of what the first 6 months of training for total beginners should look like. This is based on devoting an hour a day to martial arts practice, allowing for one day of rest per week. This should be seen as a minimum for those who want to devote themselves to excelling in the art, and can absolutely be increased. For those who can't manage daily training, something is always better than nothing. It will only make you a better martial artist!

For Kung Fu students:

Warm-up: joint circles (5 minutes), can supplement with jump rope or jumping jacks


  • 4 count stretch (4x each side)
  • 2 count stretch (4x each side)
  • leg swings (front, side, 10x each per leg) 
  • low kicks (toe, heel, side, 5x each per leg)
  • 9 count push-ups (aim for 10x)
  • knuckle pushups (set your daily target and aim to accomplish it in one set) 
  • sit-ups (set a daily target and aim to accomplish it in one set)
  • horse stance (start with 1 minute, increase by increments of 30 seconds each week, then after 3 minutes increase accordingly while paying attention to stance quality. 5 minutes is good for a beginner, 10 minutes for an intermediate student, 20 minutes or more for advanced students)
  • stretching: hamstring stretch, straddle stretch, butterfly stretch, dragon drop stretch, twist stretch (2 minutes each, total 10 minutes)

Striking: Pick ONE basic strike each day and repeat it 50 times. 

Kicking: Pick ONE basic kick each day and repeat it 20 times on each leg.

Form: Pick ONE form each day and practice what you can remember for 15 minutes

Work on stance quality ALWAYS!

For Tai Chi students:

 Warm-up: joint circles (5 minutes)

Light stretching (5 minutes)

Dynamic Qi Gong exercises (15 minutes)

Yang style long form practice (repeat entire remembered section or broken into parts for 25 minutes)

End with Dantien meditation and breathing exercises (5 minutes)

Final Word

Keep in mind that your practice will evolve as you do as a martial artist. There is a method that has been tested and developed over centuries that is being passed down to you. Over time you will discover more about yourself and cultivate your inner strength. The forms and complexities of technique will come alive and become a part of you forever. It will feel natural, smooth, and amazing. Just keep going and you will get there!