Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Do Stance, Just Stand: Journal Notes #54

Notes from my April 2008 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: How does stance relate to everyday life?
Answer: Mr. 20/20 says, "Play where it doesn't matter." Stance work is playing where it doesn't matter. The result shows up in everyday life as a natural powerful you.

* Question: Stance work for developing internal strength seems to be more than simply developing a physical skill. What's really going on here?
Answer: What we do here is analogous to sword making. Take crappy old slag, put it in the fire, pound on it, refine it, repeat over and over beating out the impurities.

(The crappy old slag is me, the beginner. The fire is zhan zhuang and other specific exercises. The pounding is the structural adjustments and the daily training. The impurities are the muscular tensions, blockages, sticky points, habitual patterns. It is this process of repeating the same simple activities over and over that refines the crappy old slag into a fine sword.)

* Question: I'm seeing so much more in stance now. How to keep track of it all?
Answer: Look at an aquarium. What do you see? Americans see components: fish, seaweed, rocks. Chinese see a piece of the ocean. They see an extract, a representation. Shift your focus off the components to the whole.

(I'm learning just how ingrained my component view really is! Even though I've experienced 'the feeling' both through adjustments and "on my own" with coaching, I am reluctantly working on developing 'the feeling'. Why do I say "reluctantly" when that's what I've said I want? Read on... )

* Question: I've been practicing stance a really long time. Maybe I'm a slow learner? How long should it take?
Answer: You want to hold onto your patterns. We talked about this years ago. You're holding yourself back. If you were more open to change, it takes a couple years to develop the sense of feel.

* Question: I'm finding I get tired in stance. I'm noticing now there's so much more tension. What's going on?
Answer: The energy you devote to critical thinking is draining you. Yes, as you feel more, you will notice more, but you do not have to think more. Relax the thinking. Focus on balance and relax and relax all of you while maintaining structure.

* Question: So then, what's the right way to do stance?
Answer: Don't do stance and all its rules, just stand.

* Note: We had a long discussion about Allowing vs. Controlling. For example:
D: If I open my hand, I'm controlling that.
R: Yes, but if you are reaching for a glass of water, you allow your hand to open. It's a matter of intention.

(Unfortunately, this is the only note I have on this discussion. For me, the whole concept of "letting go" and "allowing" contradicted my concepts about learning and making progress which centered on "grasping" and "controlling".

I've learned that the intention to feel connectedness is
like reaching for the glass of water. The feeling of connectedness is not something that can be learned and acquired through the normal means of learning, but rather is something that shows up when I learn how to allow myself to let go and notice and feel. The intention of Intention.)

* Question: When I do side-to-side, am I pushing from the weighted leg or pulling from the empty leg to shift the weight?
Answer: Neither. Your focus is wrong. You're using force. Remember, when doing side to side, turn on the hip and ankle. Keep the knee neutral. Demonstration:
  1. The intention on closing the kua will pull you from full side to empty side.
  2. The intention on opening the kua will push from full side to empty side.
(To read this probably makes no logical sense. But when you see how this is done, then it is completely clear. The "seeing" of course is the caveat - you must have relaxed your own body enough to have developed the "vision" to see tension and holding in others. Learning how to power the shifting from the kua is completely different from "muscularly" forcing the shift as many people do.

I still can't do it right but at least now I know how I'm doing it wrong.)

* Question: So it looks like moving from the kua involves more than simply creating an inguinal crease by whatever means?
Answer: In Wujifa, the inguinal crease extends much further than is typically thought of. In Wujifa, the kua extends from around the perineum to the area a little beyond between the top outside ridge of the pelvic iliac crest and the greater trochanter.

After the beginner starts to get some awareness and movement in that area, she/he will notice the kua as what is normally thought of as the inguinal crease. As the person progress, she/he will notice the feeling of the fold go much deeper and longer. An intermediate person will notice that vertical and horizontal movements can occur independently when opening or closing each kua. A more advanced person will notice a twining or spiraling effect through multiple fascial connections throughout the hip joint and then it is no longer thought of in terms of a "crease" or "kua" folding. The idea of "kua" is there as a method to help people develop internal connection and can be let go of once that is understood.

* Question: I had a strong emotional feeling arise which I blocked from expressing. I felt it come up from the belly and went to my voice but I held back verbally expressing this feeling. I then felt it move to head where I ran an internal dialogue and then it moved into my shoulders as stress.
Answer: This is probably one of your patterns you are just now noticing. Here's some ways to work with this. (We then worked on this but too much happened that I couldn't remember it all to write it down.)

* Question: What is silk reeling?
Answer: Silk reeling is the feeling of fascia moving.

(Silk reeling is not the popularized pattern drills called "silk reeling". My understanding is that silk reeling exercises are meant to be simple patterns that when performed correctly, can help develop the feeling of connectedness, which initially shows up as a feeling of "twining".

I've found that the popularized "Silk Reeling" exercises are too complicated to be of any functional utility. They are too much like extracts of the Tai Chi form. By having an exercise that looks like Tai Chi, my tendency was to play silk reeling like I played my Tai Chi forms. And I completely missed the purpose of the exercise!

As one who has attended silk reeling seminars, and with the hindsight I now have, I think seminars that focus on doling out multiple silk reeling forms do not benefit the beginner.

Wujifa has other, even less complicated exercises that in my opinion, helps the beginner focus the mind better on the purpose of the exercise.

A more logical progression for someone wanting to develop internal strength might be to start with Wujifa exercises to first get a feel for the feeling of connectedness and then work on maintaining that feeling as you shift into something like the popularized silk reeling exercises.)

* Note: The Bagua Golden Chicken exercise. Focus on feeling the twining under under the skin as you do this.

* Note: When testing your internal strength, if you feel strong muscularly then you are doing it wrong, not using internal strength. So one key when practicing is to look for areas where you feel you are relying on muscle and relax that. Relaxing will build better connection. A good training partner is indispensable for developing internal connectedness.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Contradictions: Journal Notes #53
Next article in this series: Backlash: Journal Notes #55

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

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