Sunday, November 1, 2009

Internal Structure: Part 1 – The Body

In high school biology class I developed a dis-integrated, system-isolated view of my body as being an upright skeleton upon which were added muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and organs all wrapped in skin. I viewed my body as a collection of parts.

In college, my view of my body changed to a confused amalgam consisting of:
  • The holistic triangle Body (Physical), Mind (Emotional/Psychological) and Spirit
  • The body as energy via the Shakras or Qi-gong energy centers
  • The Chinese Organs-Elements-Meridians system
However, none of these views contributed to my developing a kinesthetic feeling sensibility of my own corporeal reality, of life in and under my own skin which I am now discovering is critical to developing whole-body or internal strength.

When I started Wujifa classes, I learned about Wilhelm Reich’s (1897-1957) view of the body. (I quote others here as my understanding of Reich's work is amateurish at best.) This is from Wilhelm Reich - Armoring:
"Wilhelm Reich was a student of Freud's who believed that the body plays an important role in an individual's expression. Crucial to his understanding of psychology is the concept of Armoring which is basically the physical component of repression as understood by Freud."
And also this from Wilhelm Reich and His Influence
" "Body Language" -- the term is now commonplace. It wasn't always that way. With Freud and psychoanalysis everything was the mind. Reich was the first to bring the body into psychoanalysis, and to physically touch the client.

An armored person does not feel their armor as such. Reich believed that mind-body work is necessary for people to rid themselves of this armor.

BODY ARMOR AND CHARACTER ARMOR are essentially the same. Their function is trying to protect yourself against the pain of not expressing things that society says you may not express. Muscular armor is character armor expressed in body, muscular rigidity.

Armoring is the sum total of the muscular attitudes which a person develops as a defense against the breakthrough of emotions, especially anxiety, rage, sexual excitation. Character armor is the sum total of all the years of the muscular attitude that have also been incorporated in the person's character."

In addition to emotional or character induced muscular holding, fascial adhesions may develop from repetitive motion, physical habits and/or physical injury. Gil Hedley's "Fuzz Speech" uses a human cadaver to show fascial adhesions.

Esther Gokhale’s Authors@Google presentation brings up a couple interesting points for me about structure. 1. Body structures vary between cultures and through history (time 14:10 – 20:40) 2. Comparison of human spines from 1911 and today (time 30:40 – 33:40)

So how do I see all this relating to my Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice? Esther’s presentation tells me that my core body structure is a living, malleable structure. Over time, my skeletal structure can change. Gil’s presentation gives me a look inside my body. Now I know what fascial adhesions are. Victor Daniel’s article on Reich’s work points to the unity of “me” and “my body”. This Me-Body, this "I" is what shows up at class and practice. Some parts move freely. Some muscles are rigid. Some muscle bands are stuck to others. Some adjustments feel great. Some adjustments scare the hell out of me. The me-body work is my internal gong-fu.


  1. Nice... enjoyed the post and the videos!

    Wujifa Rocks

    Rick from

  2. Hello "You-body"! ;D

    In all seriousness I appreciate the links and information you've presented...Reich is something I haven't really gotten into yet but the connections to practice and daily life are apparent.

    Thanks for your open and honest posts as always!