Monday, December 30, 2013

Wujifa Mini Breathing Squats: Journal Notes #116

Notes from my October and November 2013 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang.

* Question: I've been practicing the combined mini-squats with theraband stretching. I can feel the bottom fill and the top fill and stretch but I'm having a problem connecting the top and bottom.
Instructor: What are you focusing on?

Me: The problem. (notice the way I phrased my "question").

Instructor: Focus on what you can do and grow that.

Me: I can feel the bottom and top.

Instructor: Now focus on coordinating the bottom and top. Focus on coordinating the top with the squat. For you now, you've got to remove structural artifacts causing deviation. Lock and point the elbows down. Turn the palms down while maintaining a slight stretch in the theraband. Now breath.

Instructor: How does that look?

Comment from school brother: "It looks like how Shi-li should look when it's done correctly."

Me: I can definitely feel the breath driving the stretch of the theraband. The stretch is not being driven by arm or shoulder muscle movement.

* I need to focus on details but if I focus on details I can miss the key driver. It's tricky to figure out where to focus.

* Simple warm-up exercises can also reveal great depth when done properly over time. The Wujifa neck and hip circle warm-up exercises are designed to help you notice and feel fascial stretch and connection.

* Regarding our Wujifa neck circle warm-up exercises... The reason for maintaining the nose forward while circling the head is to notice where fascial adhesions or muscle tensions attempt to pull your nose away from its forward position. When done correctly, you should feel the fascial stretch work its way around your head, neck, and upper torso as you rotate your head. Work to remove deviations and eliminate variables in movement.

* Regarding our Wujifa hip circles warm-up exercises... This needs to be done in the same precise, controlled manner as the neck circles. If your hip circles look like a hoola-hoop movement, then you are doing the exercise with breaks and this makes it more difficult to feel fascial stretch.

* When circling the hips around one (weighted) foot, the stretch goes through the center of the weighted foot, not across to the other foot. The stretch goes through the body from the dan-tian to ming-men. In the beginning it is difficult to feel this stretch going through the body. In the beginning it is best to identify and resolve structural deviations.


* Question: In Tai-chi they say, "Rooted in the legs and directed by the waist." To me, the waist (a.k.a dan-tian area) is the spine L1-L5 which is the driver of the movement. Right?
Answer: Movement driven by the spine is not internal movement. (Here he demonstrates a side-to-side movement.) Look at the front in relation to the back. (The abdomen moves a lot in relation to the spine which hardly turns at all.) The abdomen is the driver, not the spine. The spine only turns a little relative to and because of the more powerful abdominal movement. This is not to say that the waist doesn't move, because it does. Because your focus is misdirected, it is better to say that the spine is not useful for you to consider as a driver in the manner you are considering it now.

* Remember, if you try to see movement done in "X" paradigm through the perspective of "Z" paradigm, then you'll never see "X" paradigm movement. You've got to throw out your "Z" paradigm frame of reference.

* More about mini-squats practice. In the beginning, simply coordinate breathing with movement. From standing, breathe out and squat a little. Breathe in and rise up a little. Practice breathing deeply into the lower abdomen and pelvic floor. Feel the intra-abdominal pressure pushing out the lower belly (especially the point just above the pubic bone) and pushing down the relaxed pelvic floor muscles. Notice abdominal breathing in and out. Spine doesn't move much.

* The Wujifa mini- breathing squats train horizontal kua movement and the Wujifa side-to-side exercise trains vertical kua movement. Once you can independently demonstrate horizontal kua movement and vertical kua movement, then you have the two directions and can begin combining.

* We practiced a little strength-testing - pushing to test ground path. I'm using/engaging too much muscle. Why? So I don't "lose". What I learned is that I should only practice to the limits of what I can do correctly. If I exceed my correct limits by falling back on bad habits and tricks, then I'm impeding my own progress.

* While practicing mini- breathing squats, I notice that if I let the pelvic floor extend down and the lower abdomen fill out, then not so much pressure goes up. If I expand the lower end maybe half way and hold that there, then more pressure goes up to the chest and shoulders. This is the first time I've felt this so obviously.

* Remember to use the breath as a means to develop intra-abdominal pressure to help you feel lower into the abdomen. Breathing is a method. A goal for you now is to use breath and pressure to help you develop your feeling in your kua.


Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Questions About Dan-Tian Rotation: Journal Notes #115
Next article in this series: Trying vs. Trying Too Hard: Journal Notes #117

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

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