Friday, January 27, 2012

Finding chi-paths in advanced zhan zhuang

In this post I shall discuss an advanced concept in zhan zhuang. Therefore an "experiential" understanding of the subject matter presupposes a sound foundation in doing zhan zhuang.

YiQuan (I-style or DaChengQuan) practitioners have often been laughed at: do this stance for an hour and do another stance for an hour. Those who laugh certainly don't understand the concept of finding chi-paths as discussed here. The traditional way of teaching zhan zhuang by grandmaster Wang XianZhai (王薌齋) had always been an insistence on a firm foundation in zhan zhuang before even trying any movement. Wang's philosophy is that a practitioner needs to be trained into "ready for fight" (i.e. some sort of "fighting machine") before he should learn the techniques, which according to Wang, should come naturally.

In foundation zhan zhuang, a practitioner is required, among other things, to do "points stretched and body relax" (點緊身松). As my previous "zhan zhuang 101" explained, only in this way chi will flow within the relaxed body. The concept of Song (松) is actually more complex than simple relaxation. But for novice practitioner, the concept as understood to be relaxed will be just fine. Not so in advanced zhan zhuang.

In foundation zhan zhuang, a teacher is required to correct any postural "defects" of the practitioner. Here, a good teacher will guide, step by step, a student to progress along the BEST path as per each student's particular situation rather than insisting on a "standard form" for every student. As a diversion, this is very important and a dividing line between a good teacher and a better teacher.

How about in advanced zhan zhuang? First, for a more focused discussion, I would like to disregard the various stances that aim at training a practitioner in different aspects. I shall only focus on the common requirement here for advanced zhan zhuang.

The key to advanced zhan zhaung is still Song (松), with a concept richer than simple relaxation. What then is required? With a good foundation practice, a practitioner can gradually feel chi sluggishly moving along his muscles groups. With focused attention, and most importantly with a mindful attention to being "Song", a practitioner is to gently guide his chi to flow along muscle groups and joining them together in the process. An important hindrance to such chi flow is one's internal blockages, in particular at one's ball-and-socket joints. With focused mindfulness, chi is guided to flow pass the blockages, seeking the point of smooth resistance, managing towards the best aligned positions, opening and strengthening the joints at the same time. Without being "Song", all these cannot be achieved!

In tai-chi lingo, the above is called "knowing oneself" (知己) under the broad concept of "listening to jing" (聼勁).

In going through available literature, I can only find a Chinese book by a prominent student of Grandmaster Wang, master Yu YongNian (于永年: 大成拳站樁與求物)discussed the subject in some depth.

Next time when you see guys standing motionless for one hour per stance, don't laugh too early: they may be practicing something quite advanced (or may be not, if they don't understand the logic behind...:):)

PS: the mass publishing industry in China is quite interesting: books are seldom reprinted. Instead, the author will write a new but similar book. Yu's 大成拳站樁與求物 (DaChengQuan: zhan zhuang and seeking the THING) was not reprinted. Instead the old master took some new pictures (the previous one was in line drawings) and give the book a new name under a new publisher. The new book is called:大成拳——站桩与道德经 (DaChengQuan: zhan zhuang and Tao Te Ching)!
The new book
The old book

4 comments:

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