In martial arts literature, we can many references to ZZ. I selected some which described more specifically the relation between ZZ and martial arts: here is a chapter included in the written training materials released by the China National WUSHU Committee in 1961:
"Basic training in Ancient Times focuses first on flexibility and power of legs, waist and arms while in the same time adjusting breathing for internal organs through leg technique, waist technique, arm technique and also post technique, etc...
From all these major techniques, post technique has its unique training properties in martial arts. With this stillness standing method you can practice and cultivate breathing, increase your power, reshape and homogenize your movements. Zhuang means "post" this requests you to observe stillness and stability as a "post", within this practice of non-moving and internal breathing, your strength will increase, you are "seeking moving inside non-moving"; another aspect is that through ZZ method you are remobilizing your breath and increasing strength: lower limbs can maintain stability as a post, in Shaolin boxing about secret techniques it said: 'if you become proficient horse standing (Ma bu standing), then Qi penetrates Dantian, you become vigorous as an immortal'. Whatever boxing styles or schools, all practitioners should first master it (post standing)'"
But we can find two main categories of post methods:
- The first one is "seeking moving in non-moving", this method is targeting stillness by facilitating whole body Qi and blood to circulate easily and smooth. Reaching stillness is the principal condition: you must get rid of all random thoughts, keep body erect, chest comfortable, belly relaxed, whole body relaxed, breathing steady, reaching gradually emptiness and stillness.
It is only in stillness that Qi can transmute from clear into balanced, then from balanced into harmonious, then from harmonious into smooth, then smooth into very fluid (blood as well). The Hunyuan or "All-round post" belongs to this category of post where we are "seeking moving in non-moving".
- There another category of post methods: based on the principle "seeking non-moving in moving".
In this category, methods focus on Qi stimulation, allowing Qi in strained condition to maintain imperturbation and steadiness, storing in your spirit all its unstained character, merging with power and spirit.
All these methods are based on dynamic exercises.
Here dynamic exercises are involving the whole body into physical exercise and are "sticking out" the chest of their practitioners.
In these conditions, Qi is easily ascending and effusive but also hardly descending and returning to Dantian area: this makes stillness not easy to achieve.
It is only after long years of practice that you can control the impetuosity of Qi, reaching stillness and supplying sufficient oxygen to internal organs during dynamic exercises. "Four planenesses" post is one of those.
When practicing this you should concentrate on planeness at the top of head, shoulder, leg and in the heart (mind).
In a book of Cai Wangzhi, written during the Jiaqing reign of the Ming Dynasty (1522-1566), it is said:
"When top of head is flat then head is erect, when shoulder is flat then body erect, when leg is flat then force is positive, when heart is peaceful then Qi pure.
It is only with the achievement of Four Planenesses and Four Rightnesses that you can merge Internal with External and also have Strength, Qi, Spirit and Power all being merged together. "
"Secrets of Huaquan boxing" - Cai Wangzhi
ZZ has not only the advantage to train and build up your body, but it has also the important property to suppress the rigid form of power. Let's take for example Horse stance, Climbing Mountain Stance, Empty Stance, etc. all can be used as posts techniques to achieve a supreme expression of power.
The type of post should be selected according to the specificities of each martial art style.
The basis of Chinese martial arts have greatly influenced also other Chinese arts such as Opera or Acrobatics, each discipline having developed their own specialty from this same and common basis, considering it as the unavoidable barrier to entry and the ultimate way to achieve mastery.
What are the benefits of consolidating basic techniques training?
- First, you can improve very rapidly your physical condition,
- Second, with very good basic techniques you can easily grasp application movement, as movements are direct extensions of stances,
- Third, solid basic techniques are the necessary foundations for top level techniques,
- Fourth, they can avoid you from getting harmed or injured during training.
- Fifth, they can prolong the duration of practice. Through accurate and regular basic techniques training, practitioners can still continue to practice even in advanced age.
- Sixth, basic techniques training can enhance the quality of your movements, improving every joint's elasticity and every muscle's control. As a result, your movements are more harmonious, presenting their own beauty and in a word your body reaches a state of "highly adaptative while being in perfect control".
No matter how good and how much the basic techniques you have selected. You should not expect real result without sufficient time of practice. Ancient martial arts experts described the ideal training as: diligent, hard, continuously stressing on "practicing the three ten-day periods of the cold winter, and three ten-day periods of the hot summer", in a word practice all the year long.
In our time practitioners should also continue to learn from these empirical methods and carry forward this traditional spirit in martial arts.
Selected from «Beijing Physical Education }> published in 1982 -«Shaolin, top martial art of past Dynasties} - First edition:
"As we continued our visit: Hall of Abbot, Hall of Damo. On the uppermost level of Shaolin Temple sits the One Thousand Buddhas Pavilion. From the outside, it seems a quite ordinary hall of weathered gray planks and stone, but inside 48 indentations in the stonework of the floor immediately grab the attention. Careful examination reveals they are set in pairs and positioned in straight rows, each depression approximating the size and shape of a human foot. In fact, decades of stamping feet of practicing monks eroded the stone slabs.
A 70 years old master said: "During the past Chinese dynasties monks used to practice post standing but later this practice was forgotten. You should take this as an important indication. " Someone asked: 'What is the meaning of post standing?" The old master answered: "Post standing is a fundamental exercise" and added while demonstrating: "both legs and shoulders should be straight, Qi moving into Dantian, ten toes like grasping ground, up to reach the ability, from this fundamental boxing training, to walk as Taishan Mountain." Another asked: "How long do we need to practice post standing?"
The old master answered: "This fundamental exercise should be practiced at least three years before one can assume the right posture.
These depressions indicate us how Shaolin monks built up their supreme techniques.
Another student excited after listening to these references, prayed the old master to continue to present this forgotten technique, arguing that every member of his audience was listening to him with this common great interest. The old master added three points in his discourse: - First: that ZZ has always been an essential exercise in Shaolin Boxing and commented: "If you want to reach a significant level in Boxing and walk as steady as Taishan Mountain you should first practice post standing."
- Second: he confirmed more generally that ZZ constitutes the fundamental exercise of all Chinese martial arts.
- Third: in the sentence "This fundamental exercise should be practiced at least three years before one can assume the right posture. " It indicates that most people can hardly imagine the importance of post standing even if it is backed by a very powerful philosophical principle which should convinced anyone to consider it very seriously."
The benefits that anyone can gained in practicing of post standing should invite anyone to research on it and when it is possible even to use the most updated scientific apparatus to carry on scientific experiment and research. This will deepen the knowledge of a growing community very concerned by its physiological characteristic while perpetuating the precious cultural inheritance of Chinese martial arts and contributing directly to health and longevity but also successful development of mankind.
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