Quality and quantity are two issues that come up a lot during training and seem to be the cause of some debate amongst practitioners. Generally most people have strong opinions about these two ideals and normally have specific training habits which clearly show which catergory they fall into. Some believe and train with the mindset that quantity is the most influencial factor when trying to make progress in their practice. These students believe that high repetitions and numbers are the key to Taijiquan. There are also the students who believe that quality is the major contributing factor to speedy progress. These students usually train slowly and focus most of their attention on the finer details. These types of people also seem to be the deep thinkers who revere the and intellectual aspects of practice. Even though most people never stop to think and observe themselves in this respect, I think most of us would be able to place ourselves in either one of these two catergories.
I have personally experimented with both types of training and have observed many interesting factors that come into play with each of them. Although most people would argue that one is better than the other, I strongly believe that they both have positive and negative aspects which affect training and progress in different ways. I have concluded that the best training system is the one that does not exclude either quality or quantity but includes and incorporates them both. I feel that with a deep understanding of the meaning of quality and quantity and how they apply to training, these ideas and specific training methods can be used together to form a very profficient and effective training regime which ensures steady and speedy progress in all areas of training. In my opinion, quality and quantity go hand in hand as they are simply opposite sides of the same coin. In effect, you cannot have one without the other, much like Yin and Yang.
I think the reason quantity is seen as such an important factor during practice is due to the common belief that the more often you do something, the better you become at it. Although at first glance this statement might seem to be true, in my opinion there are also other important factors that must come into play in order for this to become reality. I strongly believe that in order to become better at something, one must not only do high repetitions, but more importantly be conscious while doing so. Simply going through the motions thousands of times during practice might produce some desired results, but more often than not, these results are superficial and this kind of mindless training is nothing more than a waste of precious energy and time. Even though high numbers of repetitions are extremely important, especially when trying toat the early stages of one’s practice, care and attention should always be present. When one adopts the belief that quantity is superior to quality, students naturally seem to fall into the trap of focusing mainly on speed and numbers. If left unchecked, the mind quickly becomes more focused on numbers than on the the actual training and the progress being made. Such things as paying attention to detail and conscious learning unfortunately often become too time consuming and tiring for these students.
Quality is also normally viewed as a very important factor when practicing Taijiquan. I believe this is true to a certain degree. To practice something with the aim of getting better requires some attention to detail. However, I believe that quality is often confused with perfection. Many students who view quality as the most important factor seem to become obsessed with details andwhich are normally not relevant to their level of practice and usually spend most of their time training their minds and not their bodies. Being a bit of a perfectionist myself, I have observed how the mind easily gets addicted to the need to fully grasp every bit of information and perform every action perfectly. Although and attention to detail definitely have their place in practice, a practitioner should realize that Taijiquan is a physical activity and that intellectual understanding is a miniscule part of the big picture. After all, knowing all the and being able to recite all the principles of the art means nothing if you are not able to apply them in practice.
The number of repetitions one is able to achieve at any given time is also dependent on many variables which normally fluctuate daily. Energy levels, recovery time, mood and state of mind are all factors that change according to the external circumstances and greatly affect the practitioner’s ability to perform. Trying to reach high targets which were previously set can often be exhausting to both mind and body if the conditions are not right. Trying to force yourself to do something which you do not feel like doing is in my opinion, counter productive and harmful to long term progress and overall motivation.
The level of intensity one uses during training can also greatly affect the number of repetitions one is able to perform. People who train very lightly are able to perform many more repetitions than the ones who train hard and intensely. I feel that intense training shows that a student is working at a certain level where conscious effort and concentration are present. Quite often practitioners seem to mindlessly flay their arms around with very little effort in order to be able to complete higher numbers of repetitions. In the long run however, these types of students are the ones that get bored with practice and make very minimal progress.
There should always some purpose to everything you do in training. To do something with no aim in mind is a waste of time. Therefore a student should always understand the reasons he is performing certain actions in certain ways. This helps the mind build a clear picture of its intended goal which enables it to clearly direct its attention to specific areas in need of special attention. When one becomes self-aware during training through being conscious of every aspect of practice, a more interactive approach can be taken towards making progress.
At a certain point one should develop a training system which aims incorporates every aspect of the art in which learning happens automatically and naturally without effort. In this way the mind is always focused and aware of what areas of training need to be worked on and it is therefore constantly observing and evaluating every aspect of training. At this point, the art and the principles of Taijiquan themselves become the teacher and progress made in training becomes limitless.