Monday, April 16, 2012

Ph.D. Level Gong-Fu: Journal Notes #87

Notes from my February 2011 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.)

* We worked with different levels of abdominal breathing: Front (typical), Back, Sides, each individually and then front and back together, and then front, back and sides together. Synchronizing all three felt very expansive on the inhale. However, I'm using too much muscle. I'm trying to force the expansion. I need to work more on relaxing muscle and allowing the breathing to create the expansion.

* I'm convinced now, more than ever, that a written description of a kinesthetic feeling that I'm feeling could be misleading to those who have not experienced the feeling I'm trying to describe.

* Here's an exercise to help open the pelvic floor. Keep back straight. Feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Toes pointed out no more than 45 degree. Knees over toes. Make a big open space between legs. Start with elbows straight. Butt drops in line perpendicular to floor. Bend elbows as drop. Don't pull back with hands. Hold on only as a guide. Feel stretch throughout back. Feeling of opening is more subtle than the muscular forcing feeling opening. Tip: Don't try to get a feeling. Notice the muscular feeling. Notice something else besides the muscular feeling. Simply notice what is there.

* We talked about how the muscles can be engaged differently, for example, when doing a push or ward-off, and this is the result of practicing in changing the body.

* In Wujifa stance, the forearm bones should be over each other. In my case, when I get my ulna and radius bones "stacked" over each other, then my hands twist inward. An example of structural patterning. I could work on stretching the tendons in my forearms and wrist and hand.

* Question to myself. Why don't I seriously take all the stuff I've written in my journal and put it all into my practice? I've got a ton of great training tips and I practice only the tip of the iceberg.

* Wujifa is Ph.D. level gong-fu. It's not Tai-chi 101. Beginning martial arts classes are largely about imitating what the teacher is doing whether it's forms, techniques or applications. At this level, you must be more independent in your approach. You should be noticing what's going on internally with your structure, balance, relax, and experimenting to discover more connection. Experiment, notice, verify. Experiment, notice, verify.

* I've been practicing the breathing exercises and squats for two weeks and I'm noticing a new level of movement through my lower back.

* Even though my questions have shifted from data to more feeling, they are still at the level of "Just tell me what I need to do. Fix me".

* I saw an orthotics therapist who diagnosed me as having a slightly deformed foot. Hence the reason for my knee pain and inability to do a full squat. He prescribed orthotic inserts. What was interesting is that after five minutes of adjusting my structure in class, I gained another 12" of squat depth. Lesson learned: Experiment with various foot structures. Find one where squatting is easier and deeper. Then experiment more. This is my gong-fu. Figure out how to change the body.

* I discovered while practicing the Yan Gaofei arm circle exercises that I can't feel the twining feeling in my forearm. I can feel when I pinch, scratch and rub my forearms, but I can't feel my muscles and fascia moving and twining under the skin. Argh! So frustrating!
(Exposing another pattern. I could have been overjoyed to discover an area where I was numb, an opportunity to develop more feeling and connection, but instead, I felt frustrated and angry upon discovering this area of numbness. Interesting...)

* Question: What chunk size should I adjust to in noticing what and where to make corrections during my zhan zhuang stance practice?
Answer: Use the 80/20 rule. Which adjustment will yield the biggest result? Calibrate to where and how relax creates the most feeling of connection. This method also influences the overall level of psychology. Don't focus on a problem, of not doing it good enough or not right. If you're always noticing something to adjust, this can foster "stance dance" and analysis paralysis.

One method is to scan your body for proper 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 structure and then be with that structure for 3 breaths. On the next breath, scan and adjust with 1 breath. Repeat. Slowly increase to a 5 breath cycles, then 10 breath cycles, etc. Work your way up to a 100 breath cycle.

Let go of looking for something to fix. Simply "be" with your experience of standing. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking you have to do more to get more.

Remember Steven Covey's "Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern". You may be concerned about "X" in stance but can only influence "Y" right now. Using the breath cycles can also help you to calm down and relax.

If you can do one thing well, master just that one thing. For example, getting the feet truly parallel might be like getting your first belt in karate.

Become aware of your pattern in noticing and making adjustments to your pattern of noticing.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Body Mind Sticky Spots: Journal Notes #86
Next article in this series: - Noticing the Emotional Wall: Journal Notes #88

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

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I would probably try this stuff and for sure there would be a great result on my body. Thank you for sharing.