Testing Strength

The zhan zhuang method, thanks to working with extremely simple situation, enables deeper focusing on feeling your whole body and achieving more subtle level of coordination between mind and body, than if you only use moving exercises, even if the movement is slow, like in tai chi (taijiquan). But life is not about being motionless. In this method, which because of wide use of relatively static, standing postures is called zhan zhuang, actually we are using also sitting postures, lying on bed postures and moving exercises. Keeping static posture is not the goal. These relatively static exercises are actually designed to serve the goal of improving movement.

The exercise, which will be described below, actually was already in big part explained in previous chapter. Because before you could start "seeking movement in non movement" in right way, you had to get idea what kind of movement we are talking about, where is the main direction and where are the supplementary directions of forces and how they are coordinated. Now I will just supplement that description.

This kind of practice is called shi li - testing strength. It means testing whether in movement you are able to continuously keep the feeling of strength.

When you start this exercise, your body is in vertical position and most weight is put on your heels. This is called: 3 in front, 7 in back. Knees are slightly bent. Now you are starting the movement of pushing with your whole body forward (whole body is slightly leaning forward), some standing up (as if stretching springs between head and both heels) and slight closing between legs (as if lightly compressing springs placed horizontally between your legs). Stop all those movement at the same moment, when most of weight is on balls of your feet (7 in front, 3 in back). Take care to keep the feeling of meeting resistance and overcoming it with your body all the time, at each point of the movement and in all parts of your body simultaneously. At the same time you should not lose the feeling of relax and comfort.

When you are starting the above described movement, your elbows are bent at angle of about 90 degrees. Then your body is pushing forward and your arms are straightening gradually (but not to position of being completely straight - your elbows should remain slightly bent - angle of about 150-170 degrees). Your hands should start pushing exactly at the same moment when your body starts movement. Both movements should also stop at the same moment. Of course when you are doing this movement ("pushing a wooden board, which is floating on surface of water"), you should imagine and try to feel that you are overcoming some resistance. When pushing forward, you are slightly pressing down, as if trying to move the wooden board under water, and pressing inward, as if trying to compress springs placed horizontally between your both arms.

Then from the leaning forward (front 7, back 3) position you are slowly moving back to the straight vertical position (front 3, back 7). At the same time you are slightly sitting down, as if overcoming resistance of elastic stick under your buttocks. You should also feel as if there were some springs between your both legs and as if you were stretching them.

At the same time you are pulling the board toward your body, at the same time as if trying to lift it, and stretching springs between your both arms. When body stops movement, elbows should not bend anymore. The angle at your elbows should be about 90 degrees.

You can also imagine, as if between your fingers and a tree or a wall far in front of you there were springs. When you are moving the board forward, you are compressing those springs with your fingers. When pulling the board closer to your body, imagine that you are stretching the springs and try to feel resistance created by those springs. When pulling back, the force is horizontal. But when pushing forward, your fingers start pointing slightly upward, with intention of force directed diagonally forward and upward. However your arm should not move upward. Remember about pressing down - trying to move the wooden board under surface of water.

While pulling back, fingers of both palms are starting pointing to each other. When pushing forward, they become directed forward again. When finishing the movement of pulling back, imagine as if you were embracing a balloon, which makes further backward movement impossible. You arms make a shape similar as in exercise which was described in 5th chapter, only now insides of your palms are pointing downward.

Remember that all those elements of exercise, which were described above, should be coordinated. You should be aware of the whole. You should see all of this as one thing. Practice slowly, very carefully, noticing whether at any moment, in your whole body - all its parts, you can keep the feeling of strength, being aware how it works, in which direction, where is the main direction, and where are supplementary directions. At the same time keep relax and feeling of comfort.

Breath naturally, freely and slowly. In this kind of exercises there is no need to coordinate inhaling or exhaling with direction of movement. Just let you breath flow freely, without disturbance.

If you will notice that it is very difficult for you to relax while doing this kind of exercise, concentrate rather on the more basic exercises, which put the main stress on relaxation, or while doing the moving exercise, give up trying to feel overcoming resistance, and focus on feeling relax, especially at your joints. Or try to work with extremely slight and subtle feeling of elastic resistance, as if you were playing with soap bubbles.

But remember that zhan zhuang method should not only teach you relaxing, but rather should be a way of seeking harmony, economy and efficiency of acting, dynamic balance between relax and tension, resting and effort. This is what can give you much more benefit.

Continue reading here: On Internal Arts

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