Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chinese Martial Arts History

An internet search for "Chinese Military History" tends to yield a completely different result set from a search for "Chinese Martial Arts History" and yet these two histories are inextricably linked.

For a primer on how "martial" diverged from "military" and for a perspective on separating Chinese martial arts fact from fiction, you might want to read a couple easily accessible books by Brian L. Kennedy and Elizabeth Nai-Jia Guo:

Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals: A Historical Survey (2005)
Jingwu: The School That Transformed Kung Fu (2010)
What I got out of reading these books together was how and when the military martial arts crossed-over from being a closed-door, skilled and paid trade of the military, village militias, and security guards into an open-door form of exercise for strengthening the general population.

Basically, it seems the crossover from martial arts for fighting to martial arts for exercise occurred during the Republican era (1911-1949) with the influential writings of Sun Lu-tang (1860-1933) and the original Jingwu Athletic Association (1909-1924).

At that time the military/martial arts, using traditional military hardware; swords, sabers, spears, etc., was on the precipice of extinction due to a negative populace view and the advent of firearms. The martial arts survived largely due to emerging associations like Jingwu which made martial arts accessible to the general public as a form of exercise to strengthen the nation; a strong body and strong mind would strengthen the country.

The historical Chinese military fighting arts were not dissimilar to our current U.S. Army or Marine Corps fighting arts in that there was and is an underlying cosmology and cultural worldview. However, it is doubtful, as these authors infer, that a modern soldier would orient or speak of his close-quarter combat training and sidearms use in cosmological terms. So too throughout the history of Chinese military martial arts. However, during the Republican era, all this changed. Referring now to Sun Lu-tang mentioned above:
"Sun's books modeled, for better or worse, the way the modern world sees the three internal martial arts of China. When a modern practitioner of Taiji speaks of the art as being "good for his health and a way to align his energy with the energy of the Tao", he is parroting Sun Lu Tang. Or when Bagua practitioners walk the Bagua circle and talk of how "Bagua forms are physical embodiments of the I-Ching," their ideas derive largely from Sun Lu Tang. Or when modern day practitioners of Xingyi opine that "the five forms of Xingyi interact like the five basic elements in Taoist cosmology," they too owe their thinking to the foundations established by Sun Lu Tang." (pg 182. Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals)
And so 100 years later, what we now call Chinese martial arts are an odd combination of these two influences: open door, exercise oriented, cosmologically intertwined, remnants of military/militia close quarter combat drills (minus the associated weaponry).

Other perspectives I enjoyed in this book are:
  1. The authors outright reject the popular myths and market hype that have been more recently created and passed off as historical fact - as they call it, "pulp journalism".
  2. The authors discuss how some masters' systems or styles will never be known because they either left no written legacy (training manual) or their manuals were destroyed, and conversely, how some more recent "masters" may have received undo fame because they were much written about and received by a naive public.
Call me a guy who's been around the barn a few times, but I now find that the extra-ordinary achievements of ordinary, mundane people practicing ordinary, mundane practices are more inspiring than any fanciful Taoist Immortal or cosmologically spiced up "special" practice.

The "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" book does not include actual translations of old training manuals. However, the authors included a chapter on Liu Kang Yi, a Taiwanese collector who publishes reprints of these old martial arts training manuals. I believe you can also find these reprinted training manuals at Plum Publishing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Building Internal Community: Journal Notes #71

Notes from my October 2009 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: Why do you say there is no goal in training the building of connection?
Answer: It means that there is no end point. There is always further refinement. Consider the P.I.D. loop. It continually adjusts. If anything, the goal is to continually adjust to approach the median.

(In industrial control systems, a proportional-integral-derivative controller provides automatic correction toward a desired setpoint, for example, a cruise control on an automobile; accelerates going uphill and decelerates going down hill, continually adjusting to maintain the desired speed.
graph of PID loop
I remember my instructor drawing a picture like the above in class and explaining something like the following... Let's say the blue line represents "the goal" of training - a deep and full feeling of relaxed connection. And I am the red line.

I begin
(at point 1,0) by practicing a method of Wujifa zhan zhuang alignment. Like many beginners, I can't even feel into my own body. So while the goal is to feel connection, in my practice I get stuck on the method and I don't recognize any kind of feeling - I'm just practicing the method. So I overshoot the blue line which was my "goal" - noticing "the feeling".

My instructor, who is the P.I.D. controller in this example, notices that if I continue the path I'm on, this won't lead me to "the feeling" and so corrects the course of my practice.

I then change my practice but I get attached to the new method and without feeling, I overshoot the blue line. My instructor notices my error and guides me back
again to the feeling that the method is intended to elicit.

If you've been following my zhan zhuang training journal notes, most of my practice to this point can be summarized as I did above: I'm shown the feeling but I get stuck on practicing the method instead of practicing to find the feeling.

After nearly ten years of this level and kind of stance corrections,
I began to learn how I was getting stuck on methods. As you'll continue reading in this post, I'm beginning to feel.

The P.I.D model not only applies to the path I've walked so far - being reminded that "the method is not the truth" - but also to those like my instructor, who already feel relaxed fascial connection. Feeling "the feeling" is not the endpoint, but the beginning point to then refine, deepen, and strengthen "the feeling".

Continually refining the path that has no goal... there is always more refining...

* Question: Will the burning in my thighs go away in time?
Answer: Yes and No. Yes, it will go away if you stay where you are. No, it won't go away if you continue to relax at deeper levels and continue dropping more weight into your legs.

* Question: How can I learn how to learn this zhan zhuan exercise?
Answer: You can be one guy standing in a soup line waiting for a handout or you can be part of a community that works together.

There are different levels of understanding "community". On a macro level, you can build community/connections outside - a social network. On a micro level, you can build community/connections inside - a feeling/fascial network.

* Question: What's going on with my back?
Answer: Well, what do you notice about your back?

Me: I can feel the lower and upper parts but not the middle part in-between. It feels like the whole back is not connected.

Instructor: Why is that? How do you notice your back?

Me: What do you mean?

Instructor: Noticing adds energy. You focus your attention on what you notice. Noticing builds neural pathways in the brain. Build community. Ask it.

Me: Back! How does the lower part feel? (Back's answer: Feels widening horizontally.)

Me: Back! How does the upper part feel? (Back's answer: Feel stretching vertically.)

Me: The feelings are not the same! What's up with that?

Instructor: Introduce the two. Build your internal community.

(I was noticing different feelings in my back but I had the concept that "the feeling" should be the same throughout and so I was confused by what I was noticing. I didn't appreciate that I was now able to notice different feelings; that I might notice many different feelings depending on the part of the body I can notice...)

* Notice differently! Always noticing in the same way will always give you the same result and this will keep you stuck.
(This is a great example of a P.I.D. loop instruction. The way you've been noticing got you "x" results but if you continue that way, you'll miss the mark. Modifying how you notice will give you more insights.)

* Question: How do I notice differently?
Answer: Use the analogy of colored glasses. What do you notice looking through blue glasses? What do you notice looking through green and then yellow glasses? You still see the same table but differently. How can you change the lens through which you notice your own internal kinesthetic feelings? You have to figure this out for yourself.

* Question: How can I build connections internally? Like with my back, I can feel upper and lower separately but not as one single unit.
Answer: Notice your emotional state, the tone of your voice - frustrated, not curious. This is a different way to notice. So now you notice a couple kinesthetic feelings and you notice an attitudinal feeling. How cool is that?

Me: Not cool at all! It doesn't help.

Instructor: Think about the giant redwood trees in California. A redwood tree does not have an individual, deep taproot. Rather, redwoods have shallow surface roots that intertwine with other redwoods and together the roots form a web of support, a community.

* Question: What then should I notice or focus on?
Answer: For you, don't focus on all the little details because you get lost there. For now, focus more on general concepts, the bigger picture. Sometimes focusing more broadly resolves the details. After you get the general idea of how feeling connection works, then you can chunk back down to details and apply the same method to build more connection.

* This is how you learn on your own.

* Oct 26 personal training note: During stance practice today I felt my sides "drop". I suppose anatomically, I felt my oblique muscles relax and let go. Very interesting feeling! This was accompanied by a feeling of my elbows dropping and my thigh muscles relaxing which felt kind of like the muscle sliding down toward the knee and the knee sliding forward.

* Oct 30 personal training note: During stance practice today I had a feeling of my shoulders "letting go" or expanding which was followed by a feeling of my elbows pushing out which was weird because when I looked at my elbows, they hadn't moved from my side and my fingers felt like they were naturally extending, even though I wasn't intentionally extending them. It was just feeling that way. That's weird. When one part "moved", other parts "moved".

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: How Do You Know: Journal Notes #70
Next article in this series: - The Middle Path: Journal Notes #72

Monday, December 19, 2011

How Do You Know: Journal Notes #70

Notes from my August-September 2009 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.)

* The various feelings I've been experiencing in stance class like, connection and presence, are so unique and so different that I can't find any other data terminology to compare them to.
(This drove me crazy when I first started feeling these feelings. Now I've come to accept the uniqueness of this exercise. It's OK that there are no words.)

* Are you motivated by carrots or sticks? If I'm holding the stick, then I can't relax and respond because I'm holding the stick. Noticing the stick leads to a dead end. Noticing the opportunity when getting hit by the stick leads to....

* Finish all statements about your zhan zhuang experiences with "That's weird." Why do this? Because a statement/explanation is produced by the ego and reinforces identification with the thought. When you say "that's weird", you question the basis of the thought and this creates an opportunity to explore other avenues.
(There's a place for being definite and for being not definite. I've learned that there's a difference between getting clear on feeling and getting clear on the concept of or "the talk" about feeling... That's weird.

Notice the shift?)

* I'm still too focused on "doing it right". I'm still too stiff when I practice stance. I follow the rules too rigidly: notice, relax, balance, structure. A good medicine for me now is to do silly, uncoordinated, goofy dancing to loosen my grip on "doing it right". When I goofy-dance, I "feel" silly and embarrassed but my body responds by naturally relaxing. Goofy-dancing loosens my mind's grip on my body and my whole system relaxes naturally without all the effort I normally apply.
(As I mentioned in previous posts, I discovered I cannot compartmentalize zhan zhuang practice from daily life. Whatever attitudes I demonstrate in daily life will naturally appear in my zhan zhuang practice. "Relax" and "let go" cannot be a kinesthetic phenomena isolated to zhan zhuang practice. "Goofy dancing" is a method to help put me in a "relax and let go" frame of mind-body.)

* When you notice a pattern, then you have an opportunity to break that pattern and try something different.
(If you dare.... )

* Question: In stance class, you always look me in the eye and ask where am I. And then I learned about my pictures. Bringing this to my attention, I'm now noticing differences in peoples' eyes. What's up with this?
Answer: The level of intensity emanating from the eyes directly corresponds to the amount of relax and expanding-ness in the body. The two cannot be separated. Relax is about expanding. Expanding is not pushing outward. "Pushing" implies using force. Relax and allow expanding.

* How do you know?
(This is a great question often heard in Wujifa class!

Another great Wujifa statement is "Show me." This typically follows the response to the "How do you know?" question. Here's a sample dialogue from a typical Wujifa class:
"I feel Qi flowing." How do you know? "Because x,y,z." Show me.

"I feel grounded." How do you know? Because x,y,z." Show me.

The "How do you know?" and the "Show me." I think really contribute to keeping internal skill development functional and demonstrable.

How do you know?)

* Be specific on the edge of what you can influence. Playing on the edge of your circle of influence will expand what you can influence.

* You can conceptualize and visualize 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 and imagine connection but if you don't practice kinesthetically feeling connection through 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4, then you won't get it.

* The method is not about noticing "x" and doing nothing about it. Don't just notice stuff. Rather, notice "x" and then use 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 to further refine "x" and in turn, then further refine your practicing 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4.
(The 1,2,3,4 - 1,2,3,4 mentioned above refer to the Wujifa Zhan Zhuang alignment.)

* Question: In the last class you set me up and I felt a deep, lower belly relax. Over the past two weeks of practice, I lost that feeling, or have been unable to notice the same feeling again. How do I get back to that feeling again?
Answer: Whatever feeling you are noticing now in response to the method employed to help elicit that feeling is "the feeling". Think of "the feeling" as a point. As you refine and feel more and deeper, you can then look back at the various feelings you noticed. This is why it is good to keep a journal. When you look back, you notice that each feeling-point became a pointer to the next feeling. You notice the points line up to point to something. That "something" is the direction of progress.

For example, when you walk up a flight of steps, you use the same method to get from one step to the next step. With each step you notice that the view changes. You don't try to recreate the view from the previous step on the new step.

Similarly, with each "step" in stance practice, you notice changes in what you can feel. As you become more sensitive to a greater variety and depth of feeling, then what you are able to notice in yourself and others also changes. Your capability to notice and feel will change and deepen with practice over time.

(In Wujifa practice we are developing our ability to feel the internal kinesthetic sense of fascial connectedness. When I began this practice, I did not feel connection. In fact, I did not feel much of anything! Simply developing the ability to feel was not simple. Over time with practice, the feeling skill is honed and more areas of the body open to feeling. Slowly, glimpses of the connected feeling are emerging for me.)

* Question: You mentioned turning feeling into a method. How can feeling turn into a method?
Answer: The feeling can become a method if you keep going back to recreating and practicing that same feeling. If you stay stuck on whatever feeling you are noticing and feeling now, then you will not progress.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Developing Presence: Journal Notes #69
Next article in this series: - Building Internal Community: Journal Notes #71

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Insights on Old Zhan Zhuang Video

Occasionally I like to re-watch old movies and videos. I'm often surprised with new insights. I recently re-watched Erle Montaigue's Advanced Qiqong Volume 2 (MTG 175) and discovered that I now understand what he was saying about zhan zhuang entirely differently than I did when I first watched it about ten years ago.

Advanced Qiqong Volume 2 discusses Three Circle Qi Gong or what looks like Zhan Zhuang. Here is a short clip:

This time around, I noticed that:

Relaxing Feels Like

He speaks of the feeling of relaxing/dropping as "feeling like" a chain dropping in a tube. Ten years ago, I tried imagining this image happening in my body to force the "like" feeling but I couldn't make it happen. Today, I relax into my legs and I understand that, yes, relaxing with Wujifa zhan zhuang structure could be described as feeling like a chain dropping in a tube. Lesson learned: Trying to force someone else' "feels like" feeling will not result in the feeling they say it "feels like". Practicing relaxing results in a feeling that may be described as...

Zhan Zhuang Isn't Boring

He mentions that if you're bored with Zhan Zhuang, then you're not doing it correctly. Ten years ago, I didn't understand zhan zhuang and found it boring! I only wanted to practice push-hands and light sparring to maintain my skill level. Today, with a calmer mind and more body focus and presence, and a kind of re-direction of purpose, I've discovered that zhan zhuang is definitely not boring! Difficult and challenging, yes, but not boring. Lesson learned: Getting clear on my purpose and finding the appropriate training method makes a huge difference.

Super Qi Powers

He mentions that people give up because they're looking for all the wrong things. Ten years ago, I was looking to develop super Qi powers through stance. Today, I'm finding more by not looking for anything in particular but by simply noticing what's there. Lesson learned: I gain more when I practice the ordinary until it becomes extra-ordinary than practicing some special, advanced Qi-gong that my body is not yet ready to enjoy the benefits of. (See: Ordinary and Extra Ordinary: A Secret of Wujifa Training.)

Activate Acupuncture Points

He talks about feeling the acupuncture points activating. Ten years ago, I wondered how he felt individual acupuncture points "activate" (What does an inactive acupuncture point feel like in comparison?) and I imagined activating my acupuncture points. Today, I still can't feel specific acupuncture points and I really don't care. I feel what I feel and I notice what I notice. I am where I am and that's where I start. Lesson learned: Words are too ambiguous. Show me the feeling in my body that you are talking about. Give me a simple exercise designed for my level to help me change and grow.

Relax and Widen Pelvis

He talks about feeling the pelvis relaxing and the lower back widening. Ten years ago, I could feel this and thought I knew exactly what he meant. Today, I feel sooooo much more and I wonder how much further this can go. Lesson learned: There is no end to feeling, understanding and being aware. The only goal is the point I achieve when I quit training.

Tension Held in Chest

He talks about tension and holding up. Ten years ago, I was so full of tension and holding and I didn't have an experience of drop and let go to compare to tension and holding up. I had only a conceptual understanding and no body-experience understanding. Today, having experienced the feeling of dropping into my legs and what it took to get there. I understand much more about tension and holding up. Lesson learned: It takes a lot of correct practice to get to the point of body-understanding. Reading or hearing "x" and literally thinking "I understand" is the wrong path. Practice, demonstrate, validate.

Forcefully "Allowing"

He talks about letting happen what will naturally happen and don't try to imitate or force the shaking. Ten years ago, I very well may have forcefully "allowed" the shaking because that is what's "suppose" to happen. Today, I have experienced how the shaking arises and diminishes naturally and I notice spots where I tend to block it and when I relax more then... Lesson learned: This is coming around to teach me again. In my recent Wujifa class I tried forcing the feeling of fascial connection. Of course, I was justly reprimanded. Too much muscle! Relax more. There! That's it!

Stand and Breathe

He talks about just stand and breath. Let the body do what it does. Ten years ago, this was a confusing "huh?" concept. But... But... But... Today, I am discovering what this means. Lesson learned: The highest level practices when stated simply confounds the mind. Stand and relax. Can you do it? Further reading: See my earlier blog post titled: Notice Differently where I re-read The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Milman and noticed passages that related to experiences I've had since reading it the first time.

What new insights have you had on old teachings, books, videos? How has your understanding changed as your practice has evolved?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Developing Presence: Journal Notes #69

Notes from my July 2009 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.)

* Note: I didn't record a lot of questions and answers this month. Instead, I was dealing with a lot of stuff to get me to stop running from feeling deeper and to remain present with feeling deeper. So my notes are kind of, well, note-y. I hope you get an idea of the nature of what I was working on.)

* You are where you are and that's where you start.
(A lot of people don't know where they are and mistakenly want to start at a higher level than they are capable of and either skip or ignore the immediate work they need to do to get them to that higher level. I've done this either through ignorance, not knowing or not being taught what the immediate step was, or through ego, believing that I, a mere novice, could do what the old masters describe.)

* When I "zone out" or "go into trance" this means I'm not staying connected to feeling, hence, not feeling. Being present, being here, now and not "tranced-out", is an important step to feeling connection.
(Back in July 2009, I blogged an article titled: Zhan Zhuang; Breaking the Stance Trance in which I wrote about this experience as I understood it then. Now, after two more years of working on this I understand and feel more deeply.)

* The process I experienced and moved through in the July 23rd class. Breaking stance trance.

breaking stance trance
(If none of this makes sense to you or seems a bit "mystical", all I can say is that after two years of working on this, I can now notice more easily when I'm blocking or open to feeling, for example, when I'm dealing with some every-day life "situation" that I don't want to feel or when I hit a newer, deeper level of connection in zhan zhuang practice that feels completely awesome. I still tend to block the flow but opening in class and training is becoming easier and less painful. Another level of sensitivity and feeling.)

* When I feel anxiety, I notice the opportunity to ahhhhhh (exhale).

* Question: How do I figure out this presence thing?
Answer: Instead of trying to figure it out in your head, try to figure it out in your body. Then instead of trying to figure it out, simply feel.

Question to me: How hard do you have to try to figure this out? (Instructor touches my shoulder.)
Me: Not hard at all. I just feel it.
Instructor: Exactly!

* I now notice when I'm out there or in here. I am noticing opportunities to be here.

* I feel the presence feeling and connection as a very soft feeling. I can get there and here myself.

* Making movies and pictures inhibit my progress and slows me down.

* Becoming aware of feeling overloaded vs feeling overwhelmed. I feel secure with overloaded but overwhelmed with feeling still freaks me out.

* What is the opportunity? Noticing the opportunity can be pretty good medicine.

* I get stuck in my pictures... until now....

* Are you noticing out there (space)? Can you notice feeling in here (body)?

* I'm beginning to feel presence my self. I feel anxiety when I bring my pictures closer.

* Where are you? Here? What do you feel? Bring your attention into your body. What is the opportunity? To bring feeling inside.

* Pictures of You song by The Cure.
(The most amazing aspect of Wujifa class is when a song on the playlist coincides with and puts into words the mood or feeling or teaching at that moment. Wujifa class can be a magical place at times.)

Part of the lyrics:
I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
that I almost believe that they're real.
I've been living so long with my pictures of you
that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.
There was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more
than to feel you deep in my heart.
There was nothing in the world that I ever wanted more
than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you.

* We discussed the pros and cons of various zhan zhuang stances. Many stance practices allow for the body's habitual twists and chronic contractions. The difference with the Wujifa zhan zhuang stance is that it is designed to identify where the twists and chronic contractions are as the body attempts to conform to the Wujifa structure.

* Question: Dan is doing San-ti, why can't I start doing San-ti too?
Answer: After you feel connection from doing zhan zhuang, then you can move into doing san-ti.

(Again, you are where you are and that's where you start. A lot of people, like I used to be, don't know where they are and mistakenly want to practice higher level practices than they are capable of and either skip or ignore the immediate work they need to do to get to that higher level.)

* I'm beginning to notice there is a difference in the feeling between following the rules of stance (1,2,3,4-1,2,3,4) and standing in a way that feels right.
(This last line was actually the last entry for July 2009. How interesting that I noted this AFTER I went through the above noted classes and got more connected in my body...)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Wujifa Kua Movement: Journal Notes #68
Next article in this series: - How Do You Know: Journal Notes #70

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wujifa Kua Movement: Journal Notes #68

Notes from my June 2009 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: Why practice side-to-side?
Answer: The Wujifa side-to-side exercise is a foundation movement that is found in silk reeling, Tai-chi, Yi-chuan, etc... It is the transition exercise from stance to moving. It teaches you how to develop your kua.

(If you haven't seen the Wujifa side-to-side, watch it now. This is one of those deceptively "simple" exercises that reveals its depth the more you practice it.)

* Question: Can practicing side-to-side help me develop fa-jing?
Answer: Fa-jing comes from adding power to side-to-side. Once you get the feeling of the shifting being driven by the kua opening and closing, then you can add power behind it. Lead with feeling. Relax quickly. Let the power follow the feeling.

(From my experience, in beginners, the kua opening and closing is driven by the muscular power of the legs pushing or pulling. Trying to do fa-jing at this stage is completely wrong because it builds in bad habits that you'll only have to unlearn later if you want to get the real thing.

It takes a lot of practice just to get to the point where:

  1. you begin to demonstrate proper Wujifa zhan zhuang alignment
  2. you learn the feeling of how to sit down while standing in zhan zhuang
  3. you learn how to open the lower back and round the dang (圆裆)
  4. you begin to feel what you can identify as an opening and closing feeling between the leg and lower abdomen using leg driven muscle power,
  5. you begin to feel some of the fascial stretch in the inguinal crease (kua) as it opens and closes from leg driven muscle power,
  6. I'm not there yet. I'm still working on #5.
Some have said the fa-jing shake is like sneezing. To try to imitate a sneeze and call this fa-jing is also completely wrong. I just sneezed and the sneeze was not driven from my kua.

Fai-jing is driven from the kua. You develop fa-jing by practicing the advanced form of side-to-side. Trying to do it with muscle will take you down the wrong path. There's a reason fa-jing is a high level skill...)

* Question: How should I work on developing my kua?
Answer: Many people aren't able to demonstrate the full range of movement of the kua. The kua can open and close vertically and horizontally and all degrees and percentages of degrees in-between.

Beginners need to first work on developing the basic feeling in the vertical and horizontal movements. For example beginning side-to-side is nearly 100% horizontal opening and closing and 0% vertical opening and closing.

(I've seen demonstrations on how various percentages of horizontal and vertical opening and closing result in the body being moved different ways. Quite amazing!

The pelvis/hip area is a very complex area to relax and feel into and learn how to control. I watch Youtube videos of "masters" who have less kua movement than me. Why they call themselves masters is beyond me.)

detail of kua movement

* Question: Can I continue to punch on my heavy bag while learning side-to-side?
Answer: Developing the kua with side-to-side is building a new body movement. To develop the kua, you must discontinue all other forms of training. You can't build in a new kinesthetic pattern when you continue to reinforce old existing patterns of movement.

(This was one of the difficulties for me. Besides being a good workout, slugging the punching bag was an ego-gratifier. To step away from heavy bag to practicing shifting side-to-side meant I had to change my exercise and training regimen.)

* Question: I can't feel the stretch up through the front. How do I get that?
Answer: Feeling the stretch/connection up and down the back is the first level. You need to get this first. Feeling the stretch/connection up and down the abdomen is the next level. You're not there yet. Focus on maintaining the feeling of connection as you shift side-to-side.

* Question: We were talking about my predilection to use polarity, that is, to view life, including my Wujifa practice, in yin-yang terms like good-bad, this-that. What's wrong with polarity?
Answer: Most people who run polarity tend to get stuck in their own polarity and this tends to hold them back from making progress.

A functional way to use polarity can help you make progress. Hold onto "this" as a method to explore the feeling of "that". Once you feel and understand "that", then let go of "this" which pointed you to "that". Now, the old "that" becomes the new "this". This and that become the wrungs on a ladder.

Note: I cannot see the path ahead. I cannot see the goal or objective. I may say my goal is to develop "internal strength" but I won't know the steps I need to take until I encounter what I need to do. Therefore, all I can ever see is a possible next step. (If I can see that at all!) And I can't know if that is really the actual next step until after I have a result. When I look back, then I will see my path that lead to my goal. I will see the methods that allowed my advances. I will see the steps I took. No two practitioners engage the same methods in exactly the same way.

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Feeling and Data: Journal Notes #67
Next article in this series: - Developing Presence: Journal Notes #69