Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting Up and Down: Journal Notes #45

Notes from my March 2007 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

*Question: I think I've got a better feeling of sink and push-up. Am I doing it right? Please verify.
Answer: Yes. Better. Continue 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4 and practice noticing all together at the same time instead of individually as you have been doing. Get the up-and-down feeling and keep that feeling as you sink further and adjust.

* Question: When I practice side-to-side, I noticed I can get the push up feeling even from the empty leg. What's the best way to practice? Should I be pushing up only from the weighted leg or also from the empty leg? Should the Yin leg really be empty of everything?
Answer: For where you are now, practice the up-and-down feeling on the weighted leg and practice the push-up on the empty leg. Using the Yin-Yang concept is a useful distinction for you at this level. But functionally, when you maintain push-up from both feet regardless of which has the weight, then you really are no longer playing Yin and Yang. When you are no longer Yin-Yang, then you are Wuji.

* Question: I haven't seen (on-line) any other zhan zhuang teachers talk about structure like you do. What's the reason for the Wujifa 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4?
Answer: The reason for 1,2,3,4 is to maximize a natural relaxing. For example, if the heels are wider than the shoulders, then the inner thigh muscles tighten, the gluteal muscles tighten and the femur heads roll back. To a beginner, there is so much chronic tension that this tightening is largely imperceptible but there nonetheless. Only with practiced relaxing can you begin to notice these more subtle differences.

Learning to stand in a zhan zhuang position using 1,2,3,4 ; 1,2,3,4 can show us how and where we are holding. The more you relax and let go in yourself, the more you can see holding and letting go in others.
(This note came out of a self-demonstration. I remember being told to stand with my feet a little wider than shoulder width and while in this posture, it was pointed out to me which muscles were engaged in this structure and how those same muscles relaxed in the 1,2,3,4 structure. Very interesting!)

* Question: What do you mean that Tai-chi has only two movements: Expand and Contract?
Answer: Seek elongation in all movement. Most people who come to practice Tai-chi are chronically contracted. Rather than learning forms in their contracted state, their first practice should focus on learning relax, expand, elongate. After you learn relax, expand, elongate, then you will understand contract. Then you will experience for yourself that Tai-chi moves are variations of these two kinesthetic feelings.

Question: How can I practice walking with opening and closing the kua in my daily life?
Answer: Don't jump ahead to what you're not ready for. Stick to exploring one thing very deeply then you will discover the answer to the question you are asking.
(See? I was just getting a feel for the up-and-down and I wanted to go do something else. A big part of training for me is keeping me focused on where I'm at.)

* Question: So, I've learned I could never have gotten any of this from reading books and watching video tutorials. So what's the use of books and videos if I really can't learn this from books and videos?
Answer: Those who do not know will try to learn from someone else' notes. Once you know, then you learn from yourself, refine yourself. After you are learning from yourself, then when you read someone else' notes, you will know who is authentically describing the feeling and who is just mouthing words to fool those who do not know.

* At the Wujifa school there is a little battery operated Yoda who sometimes wakes up and provides words of wisdom. Today's Yoda quote was: "Do or Do Not. There is no try."
From the 1977 Star Wars scene where Yoda is training Luke in using the Force:

Luke: We'll never get it out now.
Yoda: So certain are you. Always with you, it cannot be done. Do you nothing that I say?
Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: Alright, I'll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.
(There's a couple gems in this little scene.

I've come to learn that "try" is an excuse to allow for and may even set up the opportunity for failure. "I tried to stand for an hour but I just couldn't - it was too hard. But I tried."

I can now feel that there is a difference in the underlying intention of try vs. do. "I'm going to try to stand an hour." vs. "I'm going to stand an hour." The more I practice, the more clear intention becomes to me.

What I've learned about unlearning... This can refer to undoing habits or patterns of thinking and moving. The biggest obstacle to my learning internal strength through the Wujifa system has been all the other stuff I previously learned. I had to do a lot of "unlearning". Sometimes, I learn what I unlearned but it's not what I learned - kind of the same words, but a totally different understanding.)

* Question: What does a good training program look like?
Answer: At this point in your practice, Mike, your standard training should be:
  • One hour stance in the morning.
  • One hour stance in the evening.
  • One hour side-to-side and silk reeling.
(As I write the post, I'm feeling like I'm the worst student at the Wujifa school. If I really, really followed the training regimen laid out four years ago, I could be so much further along than I am!

As I've probably mentioned before, my pattern, which is not uncommon, is to pull back after I breakthrough to even more feeling. I take two steps forward and one step back. At some point though, I will need to grow past even this pattern.)

* Question: I've noticed how speech patterns can be kind of "locked-in" like a chronic muscular tension. How do you change a speech pattern?
Answer: Most people are stuck in one pattern. It can be difficult to notice your own speech patterns and replace them with other patterns. Anything can be framed any way. To begin playing with this, use a coin toss to frame any event as positive or negative.

* Establish a strong intention of what you want. Pick one thing. Keep a notebook. Don't get distracted.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Match and Mismatch: Journal Notes #44
Next article in this series: Shifts Happen: Journal Notes #46

Make sure to visit and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.


  1. Wujifa is such a wonderful practice! Your notes in this post from your studies detail your practice in a very direct functional way. I'll bet many could gain a lot from really reading what you are sharing.

    So many people believe change will manifest it's self "magically" by mindlessly repeating the same old patterns they were never that clear about in the first place. Asking question, get clear, and do it... What great advice.

    You are also right, some steps are so clear and laid out for people and instead of doing what it take they'll run, hide, or stop. Wanting so much to do the simplest thing... Even if hard at first... and instead find themselves afraid to test it out.

    I think people would rather be afraid than take the steps, take the time, simply decide, and then do it. Their "story" in their head is more important than really exploring life and living it.

    Thank you for sharing so much of you... Inspiring for those touched by your words... Doing it... Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Mike,

    Thank you for documenting all of this for me! You are my best training partner!

  3. I just talked with Rick who said, yeah, imagine where you'd be if you stuck with that practice regimen.

    And I said, "I can only imagine."

    Now, to most people, this is a typical somewhat meaningless response. But to the discerning ear, it represents my story:

    All I allow myself to do is imagine possible results, possible futures. I don't take the decisive steps needed to... I can only imagine.

    I mentioned how speech patterns reflect how people are "locked in", like having a chronically tight muscle... Here's an example.

    How can I change this pattern?

    Noticing is the first step.

    The next step is...

  4. Curious ?????

    What... is... the next step