Monday, September 12, 2011

Teaching Internal Strength: Journal Notes #56

Notes from my June 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.)

* The trick to teaching a functional connectedness is to get the student to feel, to embody, to be wholly present feeling in the body. To this end, Wujifa is inspired by bio-energetic exercises that recalibrate the focus of attention out of the head and into the body.

* The mistake many "soft" martial arts instructors teach is that the internal styles don't use muscle. Of course you use muscle or you couldn't stand or move. The point however is one of focus. Don't focus on the mechanical muscle movement of forms, techniques or applications. Don't focus on the feeling of a properly executed technique or application. Rather, focus on the feeling of your own kinesthetic connectedness while remaining present in your body. Don't fractionate, disassociate, split-off, space-out or go mystical.

* Some teachers teach the method of alternating tightening and relaxing the muscles to develop a sense of kinesthetic feeling. The problem with this method is that people get stuck in feeling tension and can't make the shift to feeling when relaxed.
(Wujifa training focuses of feeling connectedness when relaxed. For me, this has been difficult but the result is immediate without the transitional trap.)

* Teachers tend to teach the path they took, the way they learned. However, the path a person takes and subsequently teaches is not the right path for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all path or training method. A teacher must be free and clear of tensions enough to be able to see each student's structure and then teach according to what the student presents. The way each student's body unwinds and the individual methods employed to aid that unwinding becomes that student's path and the teaching method for that individual student.
(From my experience, the Wujifa method of teaching reaches a level of personal involvement I have not experienced with other internal martial arts teachers. It's as if perceiving and responding to a student's unique physical and attitudinal patterns is the level at which functional suggestions can arise for individually tailored methods of training.

I think that many teachers haven't done enough work on themselves to really free their bodies of chronic tensional patterns and so they can't see the deeper tensional patterns in their students to be able to help their students notice to relax their tensional patterns.

While teachers who "learn one, do one, teach one" may be able to transmit gross muscle movements, I don't think that teachers who rely on this method are capable of helping students relax and develop feeling connectedness at deeper muscular levels.

I think this provides another perspective on the old question: How do you find a good internal strength teacher?)

* The only secret is what the student hasn't yet noticed in his/her own body. A teacher can only point out what the student isn't noticing. And so, a teacher has no secrets to reveal but is more a revealer of secrets.

* You may understand this intellectually but you don't "get it" until you feel it in your body.

* Focus on building the foundation (stance) and the rest of the building builds itself.

* The lessons seem contradictory to the thinking mind. After you feel it, then the contradictions resolve themselves in clarity and you realize that the contradiction was the best way to describe the feeling.

* People collect books to show others what they know. Those that know can read and see if the author knows what s/he professes knowing. The unknowing student reads with the hope of learning something... which they won't. The feeling cannot be learned by reading about it.

* Question: What does Chen Xiao-wang mean when he says, "When one part moves, all parts move."?
Answer: Another way to think about this is, when one part doesn't move, then some other part isn't moving either. You've got to get your body open and free of tensions to experience the feeling he describes.

* Did some bio-exercises in class today. One exercise had me laying on my back over a specially padded stool and stretching my arms over my head. I felt the front of chest opening and after that let go some, I felt the muscles on the inside, anterior of my spine stretching. I did this and some other exercises and seemed to be doing fine but then I "hit a wall". I just wouldn't allow myself to relax and open more. I think it's good that I'm noticing more at a feeling level. I'm not self-identifying with the tension, the rigidity even though that rigidity still took control of "me" in the end. I believe this is part of the process of opening, of letting go. Appreciate this. I want the joyful feeling of opening and I'm also afraid to completely let go of the rigidity me.

(For me, feeling comfortable and relaxing and feeling fear and holding on repeats over and over as each layer is peeled away; using the onion skin analogy. It's a personal process and many personality variables come into play.

If this really is a process and everyone on "the path" is engaging this process, then I think even accomplished internal masters must have their sticky points but because they are comparatively more relaxed and open than their students, their students don't notice where and what these are unless the teacher is open and honest about what she/he is working on.)

* Question: How does my side-to-side look?
Answer: You've still using "medicine" from an earlier time. You're focusing on stretching and opening the back. Your back is open enough now so stop using that medicine. Now, focus on the kua. You're learning to get the feeling of stretch on closing. Don't lean. Keep the top light, delicate, feel deeply into the kua. Feel the belly and leg come together. Focus on that feeling. Also, you still tend to stick the head forward. And when you pull the head back, the shoulders pull forward. Move the head and shoulders back in one move.

* Question: I've been enjoying standing the last two weeks. I've been feeling a vibrating in my torso various times, for example, as I fall asleep, upon waking, and occasionally throughout the day. How do I extend that vibrating into my arms and legs?
Answer: Notice that your question comes from a very different place than all your previous questions. You've made great progress in opening in the last few months.

Me: Yeah, I can feel but it took me so long.

Answer: Everyone is different. It's just how your body is unwinding. Like a knotted up wad of string. You work a long time on one knot and then suddenly the whole bunch of knots come undone.

Vibrating is good. This is the fruit. The Chinese would say the Qi is sinking into the dan tian. The body is coming alive.

Me: So is this what is meant by "vibrant health"?
Answer: All bodies vibrate. People usually don't feel it because of all their armoring.

Me: So how do I nurture this vibrating feeling?

Answer: Notice and be congruent with your bigger schema.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Backlash: Journal Notes #55
Next article in this series: Stance Is Life and Life Is Stance: Journal Notes #57

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

1 comment:

  1. Notice and be congruent with your bigger schema. Simply being, congruent... natually conguernt... When a dog sees something he likes... What does he do? When one is congruent one is noticing his true nature? Look out your windows what do you see? Why do they say the eyes are the windows of the soul? I agree people think to much... :)