Monday, February 20, 2012

Deeper Insights into Zhan Zhuang Foundations: Journal Notes #79

Notes from my June 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.)

* The foundation of zhan zhuang is in the feet. In today's June 6 class, my school brothers Rick, Dan, and John all worked on identifying and correcting my structural misalignment coming from my feet. They discovered my weight dropping down and out the inner side of my ankles (the medial malleolus?) rather than dropping straight down through the center of my tibia into and through my heel. I learned that I don't stand square on my feet. There are various muscular reasons for this.
(I think it was at this time that I started looking more seriously at working on my feet as a way to improve the effectiveness of my overall zhan zhuang structure. It's very interesting how small adjustments in the feet affects the connection to ground.

In Wujifa zhan zhuang, when adjusting someone's zhan zhuang structure, the feet are the first thing we look at and adjust. See Wujifa Zhan Zhuang Alignment. I've learned through experience why this is so important.

Something else I've learned since this June 2010 class is how little aware I was of the positioning of my feet. And in an art where kinesthetic awareness and feeling is of prime importance, discovering something as seemingly simple as the exact location and alignment of your feet can lead to deeper insights into the foundations of your zhan zhuang practice.)

* Question: How does my side-to-side look?
Answer: The best you've done so far. The hips are remaining more level as you shift (less muscular holding pulling your hips out of alignment) and your relaxing is showing up as more movement in and connection through the kua. Keep practicing.

* Question: It feels like fa-jing comes more from the inside muscle of the unweighted leg pulling-snapping the torso across and it's not the weighted leg pushing the torso across as I earlier understood it. Am I on the right track here?
Answer: Not really. The fascial stretch is more along the outside of the unweighted leg. You need to work at a deeper level than simply noticing fascial stretch. You need to get to where you actually build up the feeling of fascial stretch.

You want to develop the feeling in your fascia like you are pulling the string of an archer's bow as you practice the Wujifa Side-to-Side exercise. And then as if letting go of the bow-string, relax quickly. Relaxing quickly allows the stretched fascia to pull-snap the torso across. The energy stored in the stretched fascia when relaxed quickly is fa-jing.

If you try to do fa-jing with forced, mechanical, muscular movement, then you are building in bad habits and not learning what you need to learn. Continue relaxing and developing feeling fascial connection.

(Another bad habit is wanting to do more than I'm capable of. So even though my ego takes a hit, having an instructor that tells it to me like it is really helps keep me on the right track.)

* Question: I tried what you said but I didn't feel any pulling fascial stretch feeling. Why?
Answer: You don't have enough relax and feeling of fascial stretch built up yet. You're asking a question as if you were a playing with a child's toy archery set. Your draw weight is very low and you can only pull that toy bow string 1/2 millimeter.

( I love the archery metaphor as a way to describe fa-jing as "relax quickly" and as a way to gauge my developmental process. If I have no relax and no connection, then I'm not even in the archery shop. If I have a little relax and connection, I am beginning with a child's toy archery set. Again, you are where you are and that's where you start.

What's really cool about training in Wujifa over these years is that I'm getting better at seeing how fascial stretch generates fa-jing and how different people demonstrate their understanding of "fa-jing" even though I freely admit that I still don't do it right.)

* Occasionally practice the "Zhan Zhuang Dance Party". Use lighthearted, silly dancing as a method to reduce over-thinking the feel and focus more on simply feeling. Over-focused means too much analyzing. Dance with connection is a way to pull the "artist" into "martial artist". Bouncing off heal: Right 1,2; Left 3,4.
(Yes, sometimes the most valuable aspect of training is to break the over concentration on "getting it" or "doing it right" and loosen up and relax a bit which of course is the paradox of practice; finding balance between the extremes of wanting and letting go of wanting and discovering what shows up somewhere in the middle.)

* When there is muscular holding in the pelvis, it is said the crotch (裆 or 襠 ; dāng) is shaped like: "\and \!\," . Some people refer to this as "A" shaped or tent shaped crotch.

* When the muscles of the pelvis relax, it is said the crotch (裆 or 襠 ; dāng) is shaped like: "∩". Some people refer to this as a rounded or arch shaped crotch.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Methods, Feeling, Thinking: Journal Notes #78
Next article in this series: - Beginning How to Feel Connection: Journal Notes #80

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

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