Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Functionality and Wujifa

The Different Ways to Train Zhan Zhuang article says

"In Wujifa, (without going into the philosophy of the triangles) Zhan Zhuang is first practiced to discover structure, then connection. This is a very functional place to begin, as it calibrates the body and the mind to be able to work with more advanced practices.
Wujifa practice’s first focus is to get the body functional within a certain basic structure."
What does "functional" mean in the context of Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice?

I asked my Wujifa brother and I discovered that after all my years of reading and note taking in class, I had only a vague and very, method-based understanding of the principle of functionality. This is how I understood our conversation and how I now understand the principle of “functionality”.

The primary Wujifa triangle (relax, balance, structure) is a graphic representation of what it means to be functional. How can I apply the first triangle in my Zhan Zhuang practice? My body functions optimally when there are equal levels of Structure, Relax and Balance. The more I refine this first triangle in my body, the more I feel internal connectedness; what is felt by others as internal strength. This is the meaning of "get the body functional". Where one corner is more exaggerated or diminished than another (or other two), then the whole is not functional, or can be said to be dysfunctional.

A principle can be applied to various frames or contexts whereas a rule only applies to a single frame or context. The primary Wujifa triangle represents a principle and as such, may be applied in various frames or contexts.

For example, in a martial arts context, a beginning martial artist may learn techniques/rules/methods. For example, if your partner executes this technique, then counter with this technique. As the practitioner progresses, s/he may come to understand the underlying principle of the various techniques. Wujifa takes the “learn the principle first” approach so the body responds in a way that maintains functionality: structure, balance, relax.

As always, my understanding is subject to further refinement. Thankfully, there is no end to learning...


  1. Just out of curiosity, if one is to learn the principles first, what does one learn second? Just playing a bit of devil's advocate ;)

  2. Well, first a caveat, I am still working on developing basic functionality and connection. I *imagine* some possibilities may include:

    2. Learn forms and techniques. Build in basic functionality first so you don't have to unlearn disconnected, non-functional habits. Unlearning habits and shedding attachments lengthens the process.

    2. Continue deepening the basic functionality & connection and never learn forms or techniques.

    2. Explore functionality in the second and third triangle.

    2. Once you can feel internal connectedness and understand, then share... teach... contribute...

    Mike from

  3. I'm reminded of something CXW said to me when talking about Taiji (which is different than Wujifa) yet I think it apllies here.

    He said "I don't even even do it correctly" then he went on to say "isn't wonderful, we can train our whole life and still have more to discover and understand"... That's pretty close at least.

    Basicly priciples run pretty deep... and priciples by nature are different than being in the human condition.

    There is more to be said about this but that's my two cents worth.

  4. As far as I know, there is only step one -
    1. Refining one's understanding of principles

    and many ways to go along doing step one - like all those suggested by Mike. But I don't think you ever leave step one... I agree with Rick on that.