If you happen to search the internet or social media for information on Taijiquan, as I often do, you will eventually find mention of the 70% ‘rule’. Here at Jinli-Wushu Tai Chi School we refer to this not so much as a strict rule but as important principle in improving your form and health outcomes.

Loosely speaking, the 70% rule states that you should only ever use 70% effort and keep 30% in reserve. This applies to concentration, physical effort, body mechanics, and training in Taijiquan.

So why the 70% rule?

In the western world when it comes to exercise we hear motto’s like, ‘give it your all’, ‘go at a 110%’, ‘no pain no gain’, ‘push through the pain barrier’, and my personal hate, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. What seems to be an alien concept to us in the west but which you will hear in the east is, ‘balance and moderation in all things’. This is the 70% rule in action, and it has origins in Taoist practices. Given the influence of Taoism in the development of Taijiquan and Qigong we see the 70% rule as a foundation principle in these practices

In the western exercise example we often see injury, burnout and diminished health status with these extreme motto’s. Chronically over exercising with the belief that you are benefiting you health is deeply flawed. Strong exercise creates a stress on the human body, in small amounts it creates a positive adaptive change which benefits your physiology – this is called a hormesis and builds resilience. In large amounts it can have a negative effect.

Exceeding 70% of your capacity opens you up to strain, tension and a stress response; both psychologically and physiologically. People, particularly in the west, are in a constant state of stress or sympathetic nervous system overdrive, not withstanding the current pandemic. As an allied health practitioner it has been my observation over the last decade that this is the case, and that it has become normalized. By ‘normalized’ I mean people live with it really not aware they are in a constant state of stress as a baseline.

Another way of looking at the 70% rule is to avoid extremes, in which injury is more likely to occur. So stay at about 70% of your; effort, intensity (both physically and mentally), and range of motion. What does this mean in our Taijiquan or Qigong practice?

  • Never force a movement beyond 70%
  • Never extend or stretch beyond 70%
  • Keep your focus or intent at 70%
  • Only use up 70% of your energy

Staying at or within 70% of capacity reduces your internal resistance which allows you to maintain the effort for longer. You increase your capacity to practice longer without stress or injury. It allows you body to heal if you are carrying injuries, and stimulates your body’s natural healing ability. With 70% focus or intent, you are more able to learn, and retain what you are learning. Concentrating too intently rapidly leads to fatigue and poor form.

So when practicing next, think about the 70% rule. When you think about some of the benefits listed above it might well be worth applying this this rule in life for more balance and resilience.

Yours in Taijiquan and Qigong

Sifu Peter

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