Monday, May 14, 2012

Zhan Zhuang Craftsman: Journal Notes #91

Notes from my June 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.)

* Question: What would it take for me to take my practice to the next level?
Answer: One reason you're not taking your practice to the next level is that you are missing the "art" perspective. You can't see past being a craftsman and so you are stuck working at a craftsman stage.

* Question: What is the "art" in martial art? What is the "artist" in martial artist?
Answer: There are many definitions of art and artist. How about: What looks like "art" is created by somebody who applied various technical elements with craftsmanship to express a personal idea or meaning...

* Question: How can you tell who is a real zen master and who is not?
Answer: By how they live their life.One feels emotional expression when engaging a real zen master and the other disengages emotionally and responds robotically.

* Question: If the microcosmic orbit is suppose to be internal, why do some people teach it as external movements?
Answer: Some teachers start with the external physical movement first because students' muscles are too tight. Students have to learn how to relax first. The external physical part is not the truth.

* Question: I know I've asked this before, what should I be noticing in my practice now?
Answer: Noticing 'what is moving' is what you want to grow. Noticing 'what is stuck' is useful but can get you stuck if you stay focused on noticing what is stuck. Not being able to notice what is stuck will also keep you stuck

* Some people gravitate to the rush of intensity and miss the subtlety. Developing internal connectedness occurs in the subtlety. And the subtle can be intense once you delve into it and sometimes in a different way.

* We practiced a Wujifa movement exercise designed to begin developing connected fa-jing. In my practice:
  • I tend to hunch. Need to stay upright.
  • I tend to lock my hips and my arms are too disconnected.
  • I need to work on keeping the arms closer to the body and work the hips more.
  • I need to work on timing: dropping the butt down and back and extending the hands and bounce out only a millisecond. Extension comes from the bounce.
* We experimented with using a kind of 'sumo wrestler stomp' exercise as a way to help beginners practice getting movement in the kua. The wrong way to imitate the 'sumo wrestler stomp' is to lock the hip joint and pivot on ankle.The correct way is to pivot on the hip joint.
(If you want to try this, it's best to watch yourself in a mirror because you will likely think you are doing it right when in fact may be doing it wrong. If you are in fact pivoting on your ankle, it can be tricky and awkward to learn how to pivot on the hip joint to start to get some movement in the kua.)

* Many zhan zhuang postures look the same on the outside to the untrained eye. However, it's what is happening (or not happening) inside that distinguishes one from the the other.Usually beginners can't distinguish one zhan zhuang practice from the other and hence are unfortunately easily fooled.

* Stance practice is like maintaining your house or car. There's always something to do. I had previously thought of house or car work as a "one time, done, next" experience and stance as an on going no end in sight, no satisfaction of a "job well done". But how many times have I cleaned the kitchen sink? Changed the car's motor oil? Is there an end in sight really? No.I feel the satisfaction of looking at a clean kitchen sink, but then it gets messy again. Life is Stance is Life... Maybe if I change my frame of reference to, having stood today is a job well done... The craftsman frame of mind....

* See the website Quantified Self: Guide to Self Tracking Tools regarding tracking/journaling to discover patterns. Even if you don't buy one of these apps, you get more ideas about how to track and journal your zhan zhuang practice and internal strength development.

* We talked about how much dedication and effort is involved in developing internal strength.
The first question to the new student is always, "What do you want?"
The student's answer is always something like: "I want internal strength, super powers, etc..."
The response is, "Well, here's what you have to do: A, B, C,...
To which the student responds, "Oh, but I don't want to do all that!"

* Change the body to change the mind.

* I had a HUGE breakthrough in class! I hit the same spot as I did three years ago but more on my own, more my noticing, more my feeling. Fewer instructor-made postural adjustments. Nature of adjustments is mainly "OK. Where are you now?" Adjustments are a method to help the practitioner notice feeling and connection.

Question: In practice, I can only hold a full body attention for 30 minutes and then I quit. Should I continue with a different plan?
Answer: Play on the edge. Notice where you're feeling on the edge of what you are noticing. Notice why you can't maintain your attention, why you can't continue noticing. Notice that. What insights does this yield?

* Noticing what's at the edge where I would quit. I'm afraid to go further. How much further can I push this? Too much feeling. Pushing the edge. How to get through wanting to quit...
(My wanting to quit is a recurring theme in my zhan zhuang practice which arises when I hit a new level of feeling, a new level of connectedness/internal strength. It is truly a contradiction. I say I want it, yet as I break through to new levels, I pull back from it. It's my wanting it and seeing it now within reach that keeps me hanging in there and so I keep coming back to it. Never give up.)

* Last class of month. I'm burned out from all the daily-life work. Tired. Not "with it". So I had no questions and took no notes in class today.
(Over the years, there are times like this when I really don't feel like going to class, like when I haven't practiced and have nothing to brag or ask about or when I just don't have the mood or energy to work on getting me to open and feel more connectedness. The more often I experience this, the more clear I become of where I'm stuck and why.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Zhan Zhuang and Quality Control: Journal Notes #90
Next article in this series: - Intention, Process, Results: Journal Notes #92

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

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