* Question: What's a beginner's way to practice shi-li?
Answer: Play with a light springy material and light "thera-band" to get the feeling of lightly compressing/closing and stretching/opening, respectively. However, don't practice with these because doing so would take you down the wrong path of developing muscle. Rather, use these briefly to experience the feeling and then practice re-creating that feeling internally. Keep it light.
* The stretch and compress of shi-li is not done in the isometric sense but in a relaxed way with intention. Think of and feel the feeling of opening and closing with connection.
* Question: I'm concerned that I'm not progressing fast enough. Can shi-li help me build internal strength faster than just stance?
Answer (from Dan): I made the most progress when I was standing two hours a day. No shi-li. No side-to-side. Just stance.
(Here's a quick story about Dan who posts on Dan's Wujifa. Dan started with the school and practicing stance during my three years away. When I returned, I was impressed and inspired by his accomplishment which "sealed the deal" for me that it is stance, not forms, that develop internal strength. (I recall hearing he also spent a lot of time at class. The two hours a day was his personal stance practice time.) Seeing his accomplishment, I committed myself to practicing stance.* Question: Can Rolfing massage dis-armor a person?
At this time in 2006, I too had now been practicing three years and was not "getting it". Why not? As I later discovered, I was looking for the answer where I wanted to find the answer and not where it was plainly and simply "hiding".)
Answer: Rolfing is only a form of massage therapy. There is no psychoanalytical counseling component. To the degree that armoring is a block to free flowing energy and Rolfing unsticks fascial adhesions, it might help but the emotional pattern of armoring is not affected.
(And I have heard arguments on both sides of the question: Can fascial adhesions form in the same pattern again if you don't address the underlying emotional armoring pattern? Some say, "Yes", and some say, "No".)* Mike, your questions indicate that you are still looking for an answer in rules. The answer lies in feeling.
* How do you feel on one nice day? How do you feel after fourteen nice days in a row? Feeling changes. It's dynamic, pliable. As you practice, your body will change. Your ability to feel will change. Your feeling will change. Always changing. No rules.
("The method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." For years I struggled with thinking of "the feeling" as a single, definitive, quantifiable feeling that I had to achieve and that this feeling was the holy grail of internal strength.* The universe moves in patterns and cycles. So too do people. Where these patterns are repeated is called habit. To break these habits is called growth. Here's an example. One cycle or pattern takes place is in eye movement. One method to break this pattern is to look up and to the right for two minutes. Then look up and to the left for two minutes. Do this every hour or so. Pay attention and notice the resultant affect.
I was disappointed and frustrated hearing that "the feeling" changes! This concept did not fit in my neat and tidy box of data categories... which is a large part of why it took me more than three years to begin "getting it".)
* Sometimes practice playfully. Kids play and learn through playing. Be child-like and play sometimes.
(Playfulness is a huge part of Wujifa training. When I'd get too serious in class, then the jester would show up inspiring silliness or dance thus breaking-up the "trying" which created a letting go of trying which allowed a space for a more natural "me" to show up and in that space, growth happened. I've learned that sometimes trying or concentrating too hard is counterproductive.)* Practicing the 10,000 things is shallow unless you find the common element, the underlying principle that unites them all. Most people can't do this, therefore, it's better to do only one thing very deeply then through depth, you will see how the 10,000 things are the same.
* Here's an example of a principle and 10,000 techniques. You've heard that eight out of ten fights end in grappling, clinching and going to the ground. To be on top you need to win the balance. Stand up now. Draw a line between your feet. The line perpendicular to the line connecting your feet is your weak gate. Every off-balancing throwing technique is based on exploiting this principle.
* Chinese will show a technique but not explain the purpose of the technique's application. If you understand the purpose, then you will know how and when to apply the technique. Just knowing techniques is not worth much.
* The simple Chen Xiaowang "Hip Circle Warm-up" exercise is the secret to advanced level practice. However, he doesn't tell you this. And most people copying this movement don't do it right (sinking, opening and closing the kua). The best place to hide something is where everyone can see it because most do not understand what they're looking at.
(In Wujifa we do what is called the "advanced side-to-side" which is based on Chen Xiaowang's "Hip Circle Warm-ups". In this exercise, we get into the details that are not explicitly covered in public classes.)Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Ten Year Practice: Journal Notes #37
Next article in this series: Let Go. Got it? Ahhhhh: Journal Notes #39
Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.