Sunday, June 21, 2015

Combat stance zhan zhuang and visualization

Visualization plays a pivotal role in the internal arts, including chi kung, internal martial art and meditation, the subject matter of interest in this blog. Without visualization, meditation is just passive resting while internal martial art becomes external in essence. Meditation is all about visualization and oftentimes comingled with religious or spiritual belief. It is a vast subject that I shall leave for future posts. Here, I shall only tackle physical visualization using combat (zhan zhuang) stance as illustrative example.

In chi-disciplines, one essential objective is to have a chi-filled body (and mind too, as it is about mind-body exercise). Combat stance in my definition includes all kinds of stance at combat readiness, which means including Master WangXiangZai's combat stance, tai-chi's seated and bow stance and the popular San-ti stance. Here, I shall use Master Wang's combat stance as example, because it is more structurally rounded and individually complete.

Zhan zhuang trains good structure. Combat stance, as an advanced zhan zhuang form, is more so in its structural training.  Internal martial art trains from the inside. A practitioner has to "listen" (in tai chi lingo: ting jing 聼勁) deeper and deeper into his body to activate power from the deepest part.  In addition to a meditative mind, a practitioner's "bag of tricks" includes the powerful tool of visualization. With vivid visualization of "external event/action acting upon one's body", a practitioner then digs deep inside to activate far-away muscles and tendons to direct energy to counteract such visualized "external event/action acting upon one's body". The internal feeling is chi or jing traveling from deep inside to outside contact points - made vivid through visualization of events "outside one's body". Such outside event can be situated quite far away (in deep meditation, it is from Big Dipper for certain practice!)

In order to cultivate a strong structure, chi or jing must flow out to all directions. Meaning that if force is applied to one part of the body (like when blocking a punch), the whole body will be engaged to serve the objective of neutralizing the external force (and deflecting it in the process). Good visualization needs to serve the above objective. There are many visualization methods. The following are two that I commonly use in my teaching:

1. Visualize pushing a cart downhill.
2. Visualize oneself being push or pull separately in six directions (the XYZ axis).

One last question: why use the method of internal martial art? Why don't we just pick up a Muay Thai kicking pad and ask a training partner to kick? Isn't it easier to teach and learn that way?

The benefits of training from the inside are that firstly it can be used for all levels of initial structural strength, without risk of injury, and secondly, the internal method can serve a much wider spectrum of healing and training purposes for all walks (and all phases) of life.  Having said that an internal martial art student should not mystify on the super-powerfulness of internal power (Jing). The training method of the internal art is smarter rather than more mythical. It is a mind-body exercise, and therefore it can also be called thinking (in the sense discussed above) body conditioning art. A student needs to think (engaging mind) and need to experience (engaging body) at the same time for good training results.

Good luck with your training!

Combat stance - a famous student of Master Wang

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