Here are more basic functional things to look for or a functional aim to understand while practicing your Zhan Zhuang (standing post practices), and for when you practices movement as viewed through the Wujifa system. Many people will find these helpful for other practices as well. Development and understanding of fascial connections or pathways are keys for strong powerful movement. Many internal arts like Taiji or other “internal martial arts” may also seek this kind of connection which links the body.
More on Zhan Zhuang and Movement
Standing Practice (Zhan Zhuang)
A. Beginner’s targets for functional standing practice and body awareness:
1. Learning to adjust structure and to discover relaxed balance. Remember “relaxed is not limp” although depending on the level you are at this can be understood in a number of ways.
2. Sinking the weight... As one starts to understand this first point they will feel an area in the quads about the size of an United States twenty-five cent piece or fifty cent sized area about 6 or 8 inches up from the top of the knee or almost half way up in the center of each quad get very warm, if the weight hits other places then something may be off in the structure and one structure should be adjusted accordingly. Although some people may feel general heaviness in the legs, as one learns to adjust their structure more clearly they may discover this smaller fifty cent sized area as they get a little more understanding. Many people will also get very warm and sweat a lot. This is just a sign post and this should be viewed as only one of the many "byproducts" of one's training. More important is that fifty cent sized area. If it gets too heavy one can adjust their stance a little higher, although it is possible to stand with legs almost completely straight and still get this weight down into the legs like this. A common mistake is the feeling hitting the knee area; this is commonly caused by holding in the pelvis or lower back, or even by tightness in the ankles.
3. Fascial connection… For most people (but not everyone) the next functional step is when they start to notice the feeling of fascial stretch in the lower back or the thoracolumbar fascia area of the body. This is another good sign in understanding. This means they have started to understand the correct way to widen the femoral heads by relaxing the glutes and relaxing the lower back while keeping the shoulders over the hips, etc. A few people will feel this fascial stretch in the upper back first, although if it’s the first or second thing noticed the key is to connect the whole back. It can take some time to develop the correct feeling. As one continues to develop, so too does the understanding of this suggested fascial stretch as just one of many ways to move as one connected whole.
B. Mental aspects of physical development
1. Development of neural connections both in the mind and body: as one practices, the neural pathways in the mind and the body also develop. As we understand the feeling of physical connections so do the pathways in the mind and body that send information. They also grow and develop and become more functional. Like a simple path in the woods that is traveled often becomes a road and then later a highway as they get used over time. Neural pathways develop in the same fashion.
2. Intention and how you notice is important as well. Learning to eat bitter is a common saying. What I mean by this is that some people will notice opportunity as they practice. This is a good method. Some may want to notice what is wrong, yet if you go one step deeper you can notice there is opportunity in there as well. This can even be suggested as a deeper understanding of being open. I will say at times it is good to be critical of what one is doing, although noticing opportunity in this is still possible. Imagine later if sparing the difference in noticing an opportunity or noticing what is wrong. Building in this kind of intention early on is a good idea.
3. Moving Practices
A. Learning to move and maintain a functional structure and to relax and balance: remember relaxed is not limp. Maintaining a good structure will help one understand this idea of not being limp better as well.
1. As you develop those good fascial connections made in doing a good stance practice movement can be very helpful as well. As you start to move these fascial connections and pathways also come into play here. Your understanding of the feeling will be very helpful as you start to move. Also, movement can help you gain a greater understanding of these connections as you continue to do your Zhan Zhuang or standing.
2. The feeling of movement is a wonderful way to notice breaks in fascial connections and pathways. Sometimes people will believe they have them so getting good verification of proper movement is necessary when you start out on this path. Although if you can discover some of these while standing you can simply stop moving and double check to see if the connections you’ve discovered in standing are still there. As I said before, there are a number of pathways in the body, so different movement may take some time to understand.
B. Continuing to understand the feeling which is different than understanding the method of movement:
1. Method can be looked at like a medicine, although the drug is not the answer. There is a feeling that one is seeking to understand and explore and in Wujifa we believe this is how progress is made. Understanding the feeling of movement while maintaining fascial connections is one of these.
2. Development of neural pathways is also key. There can be many many pathways that one can explore here as well. There can be the intention of movement. There can be the intention of what the movement is for or what the movement is doing. Either way, noticing the feel of how the body moves brings awareness. I’m not sure how many will understand what I said here. Attention is different than intention. “Noticing” the feelings while practicing is what I’m getting at. This is a very deep subject and as one understands attention and intention even more neural connections can be developed and explored.
C. Learning to maintain the weight being sunk down and moving while maintaining facial connections:
1. Learning to move while keeping the weight in the legs is key here. When you move, the same principle applies here. I’ve seen people who have gotten the feeling of sinking the weight have a hard time at first just doing a few movements. As you develop, this will get easier. At the same time, don’t short change yourself when you train.
2. Remember the neural pathways; what you do to compensate also builds different pathways in the mind and neural connections to the body than when you choose to practice correctly. Always seek the opportunity to grow and develop as you practice. Yes, there is always opportunity and that is what you should seek. Notice when you choose to compensate and when you choose to explore more. This should give you insights to where there can be some nice opportunities for future growth.
D. Developing how intention and feeling connect with movement and furthering the development of neural connection in the mind and body.
1. Opportunity is in the noticing. Noticing the feelings and connections while moving is so very important as we have said before. Paying “attention” by noticing is a big key here.
2. Intention,” what are you doing and why…” There are many levels of engaging this depending on what and where you are and your skill level. Make sure you are clear on what the intention is while moving and paying attention to the fascial connections and the feeling. Remember, what you do is what you are building in and that is one reason the Chinese call this kind of deep training gongfu even if your gongfu is making tea.
Also check out: Basic Tips for Zhan Zhuang and the pelvis
Also check out: The Concept of "Sit Down" in Wujifa Standing...