Thursday, March 12, 2015

The importance of muscle memory in zhan zhuang

Initially zhan zhuang is just standing there. In the intermediate stage, it is not just standing there. Other things have to be learned and then the be incorporated back to the basic zhan zhuang stand. The other things to be learned include things like tai chi movements of the standard forms or nei-gong forms (like the Wu-style 24 styles tai chi nei-gong that I am more familiarized with), all intending to tune up our body to experientially understand important concepts through the process of training. Muscle memory is one of these important concepts.

The concept of muscle memory in the internal arts is not the same as a concept of the same name as used in sports in which like once a person has learned how to ride a bicycle, his muscles will never forget the experience. Muscle memory in zhan zhuang (and chi-kung in general) refers to memory of minute muscular movements in different directions in a 3D environment. The basic concept is easy to understand: Using XYZ axis as example, all minute movements. You do +d along x-axis, back to zero, do -d along x-axis, back to zero. Follow by Y-axis and then Z-axis. Do it a few times minutely and slowly and then stay back at zhan zhuang stance and you can feel the result of a noticeable surge in chi energy. With meditative minute (or nano) movements, your muscles will memorize chi movement in each direction. When you move back to a stationery zhan zhuang, chi will flow in all directions at the same time because of such memory, and internally you can feel a massive surge of chi energy.

This is an advanced concept with some prior training in standard zhan zhuang or other internal disciplines as prerequisite for understanding (when I say understanding it always mean experiential understanding together with rational understanding). It can best be practised using combat stance. The above is also the essence of master Wang Xiangzai's six directions tug-of-force (六面争力). Intelligent advanced students can realize immediately that it should better be 3D spherical rather than three 2D planes. In addition, the particular conditions of the internal body structure of a student will also affect how this concept can best be executed, and hence affecting the effectiveness of the training process. Needless to say, further explanations will go beyond the coverage of a simple article. Moreover it will be quite unnecessary for an intelligent advanced student who can infer adequately from the above explanations, though at the same time, no matter how detail I might try to explain, it will be quite incomprehensible to a beginning student lacking the foundation internal sensation which needs to be cultivated with practice first.

Combat stance of a master - a famous student of grandmaster Wang

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