Calligraphy by Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai, described in the Introduction to Part One.
Inwardly alert, open, calm. Outwardly upright, extended, filled with spirit. This is the foundation of stillness. Add the hard and the soft, the powerful and the relaxed, Motion and stillness, contraction and extension: In the instant these converge, there is power.
The original calligraphy of this poem is reproduced on page 16. The poem is the work ofGrand Master Wang Xiang Zhai and takes its place at the very outset of this book because in its few lines are condensed the heart of his instructions to his disciples.
In Part One you are introduced to the standing postures that Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai taught to his students. They learned the positions after becoming grounded in the foundation postures presented in the Introduction (pages 11-15). Becoming well grounded is the first step in practicing this art.
As you practice standing in the postures of Zhan Zhuang you begin to experience for yourselfthe qualities described by Grand Master Wang in his poetry. Your mind becomes more alert. You open up to whatever you experience and your nervous system becomes calm. Your spine is upright, with your body naturally extended from the soles of your feet up to the top of your head. You are highly energized. When you have accomplished the foundation practice, you can then train in the four polarities: "the hard and the soft, the powerful and the relaxed, motion and stillness, contraction and extension." Once you have learned to master these, you reach full strength in body and mind.
Part One teaches you three new warm-up exercises to do before the six advanced standing practices that begin on page 28. The aim of these warm-ups is to relax your major joints, release the tension from your vital organs and open your energy pathways. Always begin with these warm-ups.
To get the maximum benefit from this art, try practicing regularly daily if possible. To begin with, you might do only ten minutes a day. Gradually, as your practice deepens and you begin to feel its impressive benefits, you will naturally devote more time to your training. Morning practice before breakfast is best; before dinner or bedtime is fine, but never immediately after meals. Try practicing outdoors in the fresh air; if indoors, then open a window. Wear loose, comfortable clothing You may sweat as your energy expels impurities through your pores. Be sure to rub yourself down after training to clean the residue off your skin.
The essence of this practice and the deep source of its power is the internal relaxation emphasized by Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai. You should regard the relaxation process described in Part One as the inner work that you need to accomplish in all the postures and movements throughout this book.
As your practice develops try gradually going lower as explained on pages 32-33.
On Guard Flick through the following pages with your thumb ( ending at page 41) to see Master Lam turn to the side and adopt the On Guard position (pages 36-37). 1
Opening the Inner Gate
This exercise, Opening the Inner Gate, takes its name from the vital acupuncture point in the center of the lower back. This is one of the most important "Gates of Life" in the human energy structure. The exercise stimulates the Chi throughout your body, releases tension in your hips, torso and shoulders, and massages your internal organs.
Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Twist your hips to the left, shifting your weight to your left foot and raising your right heel. Do this with enough impetus that your arms swing naturally around with the movement. Your right hand continues the swing up across your chest to slap your left shoulder. Your left hand swings behind your back so that the back of your wrist knocks against the center of your lower back.
Reverse the complete movement to the opposite side. Start gradually until you feel comfortable with the full action. Then develop a continuous motion from side to side, averaging one knock a second. Your shoulders are relaxed. Breathe naturally.
Once you are comfortable with the movements and are able to maintain a completely loose swing, you can take the exercise to the next level. When you shift your weight from side to side, do so with a small bend of the knees. You can develop this into a gentle bouncing on the spot, synchronized with the movement from side to side. Try adding a further bounce as you knock at the gate of life.
Start with 10 complete swings to each side. When you feel comfortable with the movement, you can increase to 30. 2
This exercise releases tension in your shoulders and the upper muscles of your torso. The posture strengthens your Tan Tien and develops power throughout your legs. As your arms rotate like the blades of a propeller, the motion boosts your circulation and extends your Chi from your torso through to your hands.
To get into the correct posture, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Turn your right foot outwards so it points 45 degrees away from the central line of your body. Take a long step forwards with your left foot, so that your stance is as low as you can manage. Gradually increase the depth of your stance as you practice. Your goal is to have the thigh of your forward leg parallel to the ground. Your rear leg is straight, with your foot flat on the floor.
Place your left hand on the top of your thigh where it meets the hip. Make a loose fist with your right hand and swing your arm forwards and around in a full circle. Start with a moderate rate and gradually increase until your arm is rotating as rapidly as possible. Breathe naturally.
To begin with, go only as low as you can manage. Gradually increase the depth of your stance as you practice. Start with 10 circles using each arm. You can gradually increase to 30. Repeat on the opposite side with your right leg forwards and swinging your left arm.
In this exercise you march or run on the spot, with your knees lifted high. It is an instant wake-up call to your cardiovascular system, speeding your circulation and stimulating your breathing. It also promotes your digestion.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Position your hands in front of your body so that your fingertips are at least 30 cm (1 ft) away from you. Your hands should be level with your solar plexus (the half way point of your torso), with palms face down.
First level (not shown) Raise your left leg until your knee touches your left hand. Lower your leg and then raise the other to the same height, touching your right palm. Repeat, gradually increasing your speed. Then lift your legs with sufficient power to make a slapping sound as they hit your stationary palms. Breathe naturally.
To begin with, do only as many of the knees-up movements as you can. Start with raising each leg 10 times. If you are able, you can gradually increase the number up to 30.
Second level You can increase the power of this exercise by making the same movement while running on the spot, as shown in the drawings.
This standing position is known as the position of primal energy. It is the bedrock of Da Cheng Chuan. The Chinese term, Wu Chi, describes the full power of the human being and of the entire universe.
Whatever level of training or personal accomplishment you have reached, your practice should always begin with Wu Chi. This ensures that you are properly aligned, inwardly relaxed and connected to the great sources of power known in Chinese as Heaven and Earth.
As described in Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai's poem in the Introduction to this pad of the book, there is an inner and an outer aspect to this practice. Ensure you are standing in the correct posture and remain completely still. Then work carefully through your body to release any accumulated tension in your muscles. You can guide yourself through this progressive relaxation using the outline on the facing page.
As your practice deepens, you develop greater sensitivity and awareness. You are open to the natural environment and to the constant play of energy around you. In this very old photo of Grand Master Wang, you can see the joyful quality of his practice. You begin to feel the immensity of the earth under foot and the limitless cosmos above. Sometimes, as you stand in Wu Chi, the spontaneous flow of your Chi slowly causes your arms to rise, as if a large balloon was being inflated under them - you can see this happening to Grand Master Wang.
Your head is lightly suspended, as if by a golden cord. Look gently forwards, relaxing your eyes.
Relax your jaw, neck and shoulders.
Imagine water pouring down you, dissolving all your stiffness.
Your arms curve gracefully away from your body.
Gently open your fingers; let them point loosely downwards.
As you relax inwardly, your breathing naturally deepens.
The muscles of your knees naturally unlock; you sink a little, as if about to sit.
Your feet take the full weight of your body, like the base of a great pyramid.
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