Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Force, Balance, Limp

In my last Wujifa class I demonstrated how, using my intention, I was able to create a feeling of sinking and raising, a “stretch” from pelvis to head. My instructor pointed out that I was forcing creating the feeling. I thought I found the feeling through relax so I asked, “Is it possible to force ’Relax’?”

To get the kinesthetic I was feeling, he pointed out that I was tightening my lower abdomen, tightening my solar plexus and tightening my neck. Using force to "relax" does not result in relax.

We looked at the Primary Wujifa Triangle (Relax, Balance, Structure) and analyzed what I was actually doing in relation to this triangle.

When I started learning Tai-chi my instructors said to ‘relax’. Knowing only force, the only way I knew ‘relax’ was the opposite of force, namely, lack-of-force, or Limp. Sometimes I was too limp. Sometimes I was too force. So my Tai-chi sought and found a balance between Force and Limp. And I stayed stuck on this Force-Limp, Yang-Yin plane for many years. My former teachers either didn’t know the non-limp feeling of relax or they couldn’t explain or teach what they could feel, or I wasn’t ready or able to feel to that level.

When I started Wujifa, I heard, “Relax is not limp.” And working from my existing paradigm, I couldn’t conceptually understand what this meant and I certainly could not kinesthetically feel the difference.

The figure below (from my class notes) shows the Primary Wujifa Triangle in the center. The dashed triangles show the relation of Limp and Force to each other and to the elements of the Wujifa Triangle. Force is opposite relax. Limp is opposite structure. Force is opposite limp.

force, balance, limp

Back to the story, my instructor then asked me to once again demonstrate the sinking and raising, connected “stretch” feeling I was doing (with force). Then he told me to relax that forced feeling 75%. How does that feel? Next, he had me shake it out and then get into the Zhan Zhuang structure again, but this time take a deep breath and exhale with an audible “Aaaahhhhhh”. (The tone and pitch of the voice convey emotional meaning and getting the desired feeling requires a common and ordinary yet particular ‘ahh’ sound which I don’t know how to explain in words.) The resultant feeling was a sinking and raising, connected “stretch” feeling yet much more subtle than what I was forcing.

I noticed that both approaches yielded the same yet different feeling. Sourcing from force or from relax to feel that feeling each carry their own residual, body memory energy. (???) (Not to sound woo woo but I don’t know how else to explain it.) But this is what feels different about arriving at the "same" feeling through different approaches.

What I learned is that “Relax” has a certain aliveness to it (??? for lack of better words) which doesn't originate from force or limp and that “Limp” (what I used to call relax) does not have that feeling of aliveness. Truly, relax is not limp!

Through feeling and understanding how I was forcing a feeling, I learned more about what ‘relax’ means.


  1. Medicine AKA Methods suggest... Like the old zen bit about the finger pointing toward the moon... Then understanding it has nothing to do with the finger.

    There are connections that can be made with certian methods... Yet running match to the finger or even the moon can, like a drug, or method, be very misleading.

    What... are you doing? Why... are you doing? Understanding the difference and making new connections... Seem esoteric or even woowoo... Getting practical and validating the reality of the understand... Rock-n-Roll!

    Rick from

    Rick from

  2. Mike,

    I haven’t seen this mentioned much but the state of one’s pelvic floor can have a big effect on the posture in Zhan Zhuang. The rectus series is a continuous chain of muscles that connect the coccyx to the jaw and the rectus abdominis is part of this chain. Tense the pelvic floor and the rectus addominus muscles also tense, or alternatively tense the rectus abdominus and the coccyx moves forward. Move the jaw forward, the coccyx moves forward and the pelvis tilts back. Likewise by moving the jaw backwards, the coccyx moves back and the pelvis tilts forward. So through the rectus series, tension can travel from the pelvic floor to the jaw. A toned and flexible pelvic floor provides a stable platform for reduced tensions throughout the body.

    To tone and strengthen the pelvic floor, there are some exercises one can do. A good way of doing this is full squats (with feet parallel) done as slowly as you can like in some of the Qigong or Daoyin exercises. The pelvic floor widens when going down then tightens when coming up. Another way of stretching the pelvic floor is to the frog stretch. To do this, lie on your back, put the soles of your feet together and pull your feet (still together) towards your groin, and then let the knees drop sideways to the floor.

    Most of the above are discussed and put forward by Ivan Franklin in his book “Pelvic Power”. See my tweet on it: The book has other exercises that help with the pelvic floor.