Sunday, April 3, 2016

How You Stand is How You Move

I had an interesting insight at the last Wujifa class I attended and I'd like to share this as a quick little post.

One of the new guys was engaging our instructor in a conversation about a problem he was experiencing during stance practice. Somehow the conversation turned to mentioning his Tai-chi Chuan practice and he said something like, "You've never seen my form." and I chimed in, saying "Well, I know how your form will look just by looking at how you're standing."

Of course, he couldn't believe his ears. And rightly so. How could I possibly know? Here's how....

When I see him standing in zhan zhuang, I see shoulders rolled slightly forward due to contraction in the chest. The chronic contraction in the chest (besides restricting his breathing) keeps the chest "relaxed". When he raises his arms (to hold the ball), I see an increase tension in the chest (to keep the chest down) to counter the raising of the arms which is performed with an elevated amount of contraction in the back to counter the tension in the chest. You get the idea? Movement is pretty segmented and there is a lot of tension and counter tension.

So by observing his holding patterns, that is, how he was holding himself in stance, I deduced that he most likely would move with the same characteristic physical pattern that he demonstrates when standing and raising his arms for zhan zhuang.

What I was saying was not that I could know what choreographed routine he did just by looking at him, but rather I knew the quality of its execution would be performed with the same bodily holding patterns as demonstrated in stance.

So, how can you apply this to your practice?

Your body doing any martial art form is equivalently your body standing still and vice-versa. The holding patterns don't miraculously dissolve or disappear when you start moving, if anything they become more hidden from you because you're focusing on some aspect or other of your form or whatever.

One way to discover these patterns is to not move at all (some form of stance practice) or to do simple repetitive movements that are designed to bring attention to and help release a targeted holding pattern.

Rest assured that anyone who has relaxed more than you is able to see your body's holding patterning simply by looking at you standing there. You don't need to demonstrate your form to show what you can do. It's not the what that matters, it's the how.

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