The 70% Rule – Enjoy It In Moderation | The Art of Tai Chi


In our society, we are taught never to give less than 110%. We’re taught to give it our all, unless we want to be called lazy or a slacker. You’re taught to push hard and succeed to get somewhere. This adds stress and strain to your body.

Stress is a root cause of medical illness

When your mind is overscheduled and overwhelmed, it is in a state of anxiety. When you push yourself harder, it is a breeding ground for stress. 

I urge you to enjoy life. “Enjoy it in moderation.” This is advice often given to those who are about to ingest a more than good amount of sugar, salt, or alcohol. It’s another way of saying, “Stop before you hurt yourself.” Stop before eating too much, or it’ll have adverse effects. Stop before it creates an imbalance in your body. 

One of the key principles of Tai Chi is to enjoy it in moderation. This is how you do all your Tai Chi movements. This is also how you should live your life. This is how you achieve its benefits… through moderation and effort. Tai Chi teaches students to practice and live with moderation.

We call this the 70% rule, which lies at the core of Taoist philosophy.

There’s a saying in Taoism, “In non-doing, there is nothing left undone.” This doesn’t mean that you don’t take any action at all, or you do nothing. It means that while you’re doing something, you are also allowing your body to function naturally. This rule is a guiding light to help you condition your mind and body to soften and relax. It allows you to be in a natural state while participating in a world full of stress.

The 70% rule supports moving your body, your joints without exerting yourself. It helps you to avoid the extremes of any movement, whether it be a stretch or getting into a stance, or doing any activity. When you go at more than 100%, you can strain yourself. When you push yourself too hard, you tend to tighten up.  There is internal resistance you then have to overcome.

This internal resistance may be experienced as fear.

It is a fear of the unknown, fear of how far you will need to go to get something done. By going 100% or more, you can break down your body easily. With 70% capacity, you can move smoothly, naturally, and still generate 100% of the possible Chi that a Tai Chi movement is capable of producing. This is the promise of Tai Chi. If you go beyond the 70% point, you can drain your energy levels.

I urge you to stay within 70% of your capacity. This produces optimum accomplishment, both physically and mentally, while lowering your psychological stress. If you can’t accomplish a goal using 70% of your capacity, it would be wise to change course and try a different tactic or another approach to problem solving.  Find the path of least resistance.

When you practice Tai Chi, you relax. The more you relax, the more Chi you have, and the more Chi you have, the more stamina and strength you will have. Stamina and strength are gained not just by your body, but by your mind as well.

By practicing Tai Chi, you are using your full effort. Make no mistake about it. You are using your effort and your concentration to move energy, but not to a point of strain. Always place yourself in a natural state of comfort and don’t force things. For example, in Tai Chi movements, we’re taught to extend and expand out with our fingers and we do so with the 70% rule. We don’t extend and overstretch the fingers.

We don’t push by locking our arms into this position. We are taught to move and push with just 70% of our capacity and that’s enough, that’s all you need to do your movement. When we do Tai Chi and we move in a 70% capacity, we can ease into being at our best by testing our capabilities.  We do this by experimenting on how far we could go incrementally, rather than going all the way to 100% from the very start.

You can do this without over-exhaustion or damaging your nervous system. If you do this in moderation, you can absorb and integrate what you’ve learned more easily making you grow in ways you never thought you could. By moving at 70% or doing something at 70%, you allow other parts of your being to understand and learn what you are training to do at a very deep level. It enables you to save your energy when you need it the most for learning. Tai Chi is about storing your Chi and then using your Chi to do whatever you want it to do, whether it be recovering from injury or using it to push an object.

When you do Tai Chi in this manner, it helps you to avoid being excessive. In other words, to win a long race, you don’t have to go all out at 100% from the start. You can start off at 40%-50% of your capacity and still win the race by maintaining your energy levels to the end. When people start a race and go 100%, they likely won’t be able to finish first as they will lose more energy over time.  It’s best to spread and allocate your energy over the duration of the race.

Avoid excess, especially when you start something. When you go at 70%, it’ll help you to improve all the aspects of your life so that you can live life smoothly, move naturally and gradually.

Let’s do some Tai Chi now. Follow along with my video to see the movements.

1. Energize the fingers up. Don’t overdo it.

2. Exhale, relax, sink back down. Ease into it.

3. Energize, very softly and gently. Exhale.

Relax. Let everything go.

4. Energize the fingers. Exhale, relax, sink back down.

6. Energize. Exhale, relax. 

7. Energize, ward off right. Turn, exhale.

8. Energize, rollback. Exhale, relax, sink.

9. Energize and move just enough to make your shape.  Exhale, relax, sink back down and let everything go.  

Let everything fall back down to your feet.

Remember the 70% rule – not only does it apply to your physical effort, but it also applies to your emotional and social effort in life. Keep in mind how much effort, how much time and thought you’re putting into things. Maybe they don’t require that much of your energy.

What if you can teach yourself to know your limits? If you know your limits, then you can honor the limitless power and limitless capability of your mind. You can very well change your mind and move very easily without resistance, instantaneously.

When you change your mind, you can find an easier way to do the heavy lifting for you. Follow me on Facebook and learn more about the non-doing aspects of Tai Chi.

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