Monday, January 16, 2012

Where Is Your Focus?: Journal Notes #74

Notes from my January 2010 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: What's the difference between Victor's method (practicing horse stance) and Wujifa?
Answer: He uses the knee more as a hip joint to help people make progress in stance. In Wujifa, we practice in a higher stance as it's easier for beginners and at an advanced level, requires people to understand how to use the hip joint correctly and not the knees. Neither way is good nor bad. They're just different approaches.

People using the knee as a hip joint is a common place where people get stuck because the hip and lower back do not have enough mobility.

(Here my question is referring to a previous class which you can listen to excerpts at: Victor Chao Internal Martial Arts Training: Journal Notes # 73.)

* Question: So should I be practicing yoga to loosen my hips?
Answer: Not necessarily. Most yoga people stretch around their armor. Also being flexible or hyper mobile is not necessarily functional either. Stretched and flaccid is also a form of armor.

(I found this analogy to be helpful. Think of a meter long length of chain. If you hold both ends and twist in opposite directions, notice the effect. Now "freeze" a few links in a couple different spots, for example, about 1/3 of the way in from each end. Then again hold the chain at both ends and twist. Notice the "frozen" section does not move. If you don't "unfreeze" your sticky spot, you'll likely force the moveable part to stretch even more to compensate for the "frozen" part.)

* Question: More recently when you adjust my stance it feels like I'm not using any muscle when I'm being pushed on. Is this what they mean by using Qi?
Answer: Of course you have to use muscle, however, the question is, "Where is your focus?" Is your focus on the contracting side or on the expanding side? Focus on expanding. Even if a stance position or movement appears contracting, it can still be expanding.

(I might add that part of the effect of the adjustment is a resetting of my focus on the expanding-ness feeling of the structural adjustment. Adjustments may have a greater effect than simply moving a body part in space.)

* Question: How should I think about yin-yang and fulcrum?
Answer: Yin-yang is a frame. The fulcrum is a frame.

(From my understanding, a "frame" is a kind of point of view or perspective, a way to understand, a what to focus on. For example, it's like seeing the world through yellow glasses or through blue glasses.)

* Question: I notice in stance recently that I my abdomen vibrates or "buzzes", like there is a feeling of a continuous inhaling. What's next?
Answer: It's OK to stay with that for a while. Continue to make adjustments in your kua. Kua in, chest out, no hunching.

Notice the feeling of the adjustment and how the adjustment changes or enhances the original feeling. (Instructor adjusts my stance.) How does that feel?

Me: Now my legs are vibrating stronger than the abdominal vibration. I lost the feeling of the abdomen vibrating. My sensitivity/awareness couldn't distinguish the two. Abdomen drowned out by legs.

* Note: I've progressed to where I can get into feeling and then yet, still make mechanical adjustments and keep my focus on feeling.

* Question: How much inhale/expanding whole body feeling should I practice? It feels like I can turn this feeling off and go dead post or I can ramp it up to as much as I can. Where to play?
Answer: Not at 100%. Play at about 50%.

(This is not referring to breathing but to intention that gave me a feeling like... )

* Note: In one class stance training session, I reached a point where my T-shirt was soaked and dripping on the floor and I had no attention left to stay present. I was starting to drift out. We can have some pretty intense zhan zhuang training sessions.
(As I wrote in my Why My Peng-Jing Is Still Weak, I can "step up" my game when training in class but I don't push myself to the same level when I train alone at home. From class, I learn what it means to really train zhan zhuang and I learn at what level I'm capable of training zhan zhuang and yet... )

* Question: Why teach with questions?
Answer: Questions reveal where you are in your training. The Question and Answer approach is a method to tailor training to you. Having to formulate questions about your practice also helps you develop a particular mindset. You begin to think in questions; become inquisitive. Having formed a question, the answer may come to you when you least expect it. This is the doorway to teaching yourself; how you can teach you.

* Question: Are some questions better than others?
Answer: The data/thinking questions are not related to personal feeling. These give you knowledge but don't help with experience. Mechanical questions about feeling are a step in the right direction. Aim for feeling questions about feeling.

* Question: What are blind spots related to zhan zhuang practice?
Answer: Blind spots are the areas in ourselves where we get stuck but can't see this in ourselves. You're holding patterns are too close to you - have become part of who you are. Hence why school brothers who are ahead of us are so important to help guide and point out what we can't see in ourselves.

* The movie, "The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi" has a line like: "Even with my eyes wide open I can't see a thing".

* Note: I discovered that I've given myself a "frozen shoulder" most likely from my habit of sitting at work, propping my left elbow on my desk and propping my head on my left hand. I see this as an awful turn of events, a setback and my instructor sees this as an opportunity for me to learn something about my body as I work to "unfreeze" it.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Victor Chao Internal Martial Arts Training: Journal Notes #73
Next article in this series: - Sitting Back and Down: Journal Notes #75

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

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