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Starting immemorial times until now, physical training for healing has always been separated in two major schools: "moving" and "non-moving". Which is better? This is a long controversial subject which has been involving numbers of specialists and experts, since the earliest times of healing through physical training.

Among martial artists, there are some who advocate "non-moving in moving", but adepts of Qigong prefer rather the concept of "moving in non-moving". But after all what is "non-moving in moving", what is "moving in non-moving"?

Is there any standard which can define "moving" and "non-moving"? How can you check that, with appropriate training, you've reached "non-moving in moving" or "moving in non-moving"? Now we will discuss about Zhang zhuang as the most representative method of physical training for healing belonging to the "moving in non-moving" group, in comparison for other methods of "non-moving in moving", we will present a general classification of physical training and then we will go into more detailed analysis.

II.4.1 Defining some standards concerning "moving" and "non-moving"

The appellation of "sport" is an abbreviation for "moving" physical training and stillness the abbreviation for "non-moving" physical training.

The concept of sport/stillness is relative and should be never consider as absolute.

Another important remark is the limitation of our sensory apparatus. Philosophers have been studying the problem of how we can know the world for thousands of years. Our method of knowing about the world is primarily and perhaps exclusively through out sensory apparatus. The senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell all provide us with information as to what there is in the world. This information, widely called sensations, lets us know the color and shape of things, any sound they may make, how hard or soft things are and what they taste or smell like. They allow us to be aware of certain qualities of the things in the world. There appears to be no way in which we can find out about the world external to ourselves, other than through our sensory apparatus.

Various disciplines of science such as Physics, Astronomy, Biology, etc.. .have demonstrated the unreliability of our sensory apparatus.

Fact 1: Matter is mainly emptiness - Modern physics proved that matter is made of atoms and each of them is composed of a nucleus surrounded by electrons: in between just emptiness.

Fact 2: Light's speed - Without scientific experiments, we will consider light as instantaneous, but although light is traveling with a very high speed, it has been demonstrated that this speed has a limit.

Fact 3: Earth movement - As any human being, we live on the planet Earth without feeling it moving, but we all know that it is continuously moving, day and night, in a perpetual self-rotation around the Sun.

Fact 4: Plants growth - Early scientists classified organisms as Animal or Plant. Let's take this large group of Plants: although plants do not have motor ability as animals, it doesn't restrict the internal activities of their cells. They are constantly expressing this state of "non-moving" internal development: growing and strengthening.

Now it becomes self evident that our own sensorial organs are limiting us in the perception of our surrounding universe and ourselves.

Man is member of the Mammal group of animals. As all animals, he can use his four limbs to move and during this activity, involving physical exertion and skills, is governed by a set of rules or customs, this is a simplistic definition of Sports.

In basic classification of sports, are only considered the types of figures, corresponding rules, displacement. but all these parameters are useful to describe the external aspect of the practitioner but nothing about the internal aspect of his body.

Therefore it should be a higher level of classification of physical training where we can integrate the internal and external aspects.

Let's first start with four basic points.

a) The external aspect of moving and non-moving

When the human body is moving (from a place to another) or his limbs are changing postures such as, hand and foot bending and/or stretching, walking, running, jumping, getting up, bowing, rotating, shifting position, climbing etc. actions, all movements generated in these sports are characterized by the forms they produced, they are subjects to be "random movements". Random movement is the combination of excitation form cerebral cortex and contraction/relaxation of skeleton muscles. When the movements of the four limbs are daily happening, level of excitation in cerebral cortex decrease and the same time muscles are requesting progressively the minimum power to achieve this daily task (such as normal walking for example), while the rest of the body is relatively calm.

This gives you an idea how relative the concept of moving and non-moving is even for a common example of the four limbs of a human body in daily situation.

b) The physiologic aspect of moving and non-moving

In human body physiologic functions are uninterruptedly working day and night to maintain life, to promote blood circulation, general metabolism, digestive and execrative functions, respiration, etc... These internal processes, although not observable with our eyes all are rigorously organized to optimize their tasks.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) regulates a number of involuntary physiologic functions through the production of substances called neurochemical transmitters.

Among the body's involuntary physiologic functions, you have for example heart rate, blood pressure or temperature.

Human being at rest, meaning without any external stimulation, has his own physiologic contractions of involuntary muscles.

Normal resting heart rate

Many factors affect normal heart rate, including your age, activity level, and the time of day. The chart below shows the normal range of a resting heart rate (pulse rate after resting 10 minutes) in beats per minute, according to age. In general, the lower your resting heart rate, the more efficient your heart is and the healthier you are.

Resting heart rate

Age or fitness level

Beats per minute (bpm)

Babies to age 1:


Children ages 1 to 10:


Children age 10+ and adults:


Well-conditioned athletes:


Normal resting respiration rate

The respiration rate is the rate at which a person breathes. It increases with fever and some illnesses. The best time to count the respiration rate is when a person is resting, perhaps after you take the person's pulse while your fingers are still on the person's wrist. The person's breathing is likely to change if he or she knows you are counting it.

Resting respiration rate


Breaths per minute (bpm)

Babies to age 1:


Children ages 1 to 6:


Children age 7+ and adults:


Normal resting temperature

The normal temperature varies by person, age, time of day, and where on the body the temperature was taken. The average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C).

Your body temperature is usually highest in the evening. It can be raised by physical activity, strong emotion, eating, heavy clothing, medications, high room temperature, and high humidity.

Daily temperature variations


Temperature degree

Babies up to six months:


Six months to 2 years:


Children age 6




Woman in menstrual cycle


Resting metabolic expenditure rate

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) refers to the amount of calories required to maintain bodily functions. Resting metabolic rate accounts for 60-75% of the calories individuals' burn. RMR is the sum of all metabolic processes that maintain normal body functions. A typical RMR for males is 1500-1800 calories a day and 1300-1600 for females. There are many factors that influence resting metabolic rate. Body weight is the most obvious one. A person with more body weight will have a higher RMR than a smaller one because their body needs more energy to support and sustain the extra weight.

This is show that even without any external stimulation such as Copyright© 2006. China Martial Arts Ltd. All rights reserved. Page 59

sound, light and being in a very quiet environment, human body does not reach an absolute stillness as his involuntary physiologic functions continue. After physical effort or during sleeping, there is still a minimum quantity of energy burnt inside your body: the resting metabolic rate.

Now once the body passing from a resting state to state which requires movements, displacement. involving physical effort, as a result pulse and respiration rate are increasing: we are in the moving state.

c) Cerebral cortex during moving/non-moving states

The cerebral cortex is the biggest part of the brain. This large and complicated neural circuit is involved in most of the brain's highest functions, such as memory, language and sight.

The cerebral cortex contains two types of nerve cells excitatory or inhibitory. Each neuron, a nerve cell in the brain communicates with other neurons through chemical connections that fire off a tiny bit of chemical that either inhibits or excites the next neuron. These connections between neurons are called synapses.

Within each type of excitatory or inhibitory cell, circuitry keeps neurons interconnected and communicating to keep overall brain activity in balance.

We can define two extreme situations. Too much excitation and too little inhibition, for example, may lead to seizures (type of focal epilepsy). The opposite may lead to a loss of consciousness, coma or death.

Now back to the moving/non-moving state, I define moving state: when, in physical exertion, excitation of cerebral cortex involves higher mental functions such as hearing, vision. In the opposite, if during physical exertion, these higher mental functions are not required, where the brain is not monitoring how to settle one movement to another, I call it "non-moving state".

d) Moving/non-moving integration

There are two ways to integrate moving and non-moving physical Copyright© 2006. China Martial Arts Ltd. All rights reserved. Page 60


♦ Anterior/posterior method,

♦ Simultaneous method.

Anterior/posterior method

In this method you are first practicing the "moving" techniques then the "non-moving" techniques or inversely by starting with "non-moving" and later change to "moving". To put it simple, you are alternating one category of physical training with the other.

Simultaneous method

In this method you are combining moving and non-moving in the same time.

To apply this method you need to hold your stance in a fixed posture and fixed angle, then from this apparent immobility (muscles and mind) you are setting up your preconditions of stillness. Due to the angle effect, tendons, bones and muscles are incessantly required, increasing progressively physiologic functions. Heart rate is increasing with a same and durative rate while breathing is not in the way to reach suffocation. Holding your post will reduce your nerve system excitation especially reducing to its minimum level signals which are normally constantly activated such as for maintaining balance or monitoring your environment for security purpose: vision and hearing for example may have less signal to activate the cerebral cortex, improving your ability to reach and preserve stillness.

e) Physical training classification

Human body in lying, sitting and standing position is normally using the minimum muscular tension to maintain the posture without exerting powerful cycles of contraction/relaxation, under these conditions pulse rate keeps steady, as well as respiration rate, you are in break-even point in terms of balancing involuntary physiological functions.

You can normally reach this state relatively easily under situation of quietness.

But in daily life, at the office, or any place elsewhere, it is impossible to keep this state after a certain time. As soon as displacement of body or movements are requested from your body with more or less amount of physical effort, it will impact immediately your physiologic functions and you can verify it through your pulse or your heart rates.

We can classify then all physical training whatever their special physical requirements and/or impacts on physiologic functions into two large categories: the first one is the "moving" physical training (exertion) and the second is the non-moving Physical training (exertion). See List 2-2.

List 2-2 Physical training classification

P.T. classes




Low end phys. exercise Minimum threshold

Moving without non Higher threshold

Only non-moving

Moving and non-moving unified


moving relationship

out: moving in: non mov.

out: moving in: moving

out: non mv. in: non mv.

out: non-moving in: moving

Pulse change





Breathe change





Mental change




controlled & stimulated

Moving physical exercise

In this type of physical exercises, limbs are continuously changing posture, chaining from one to another and where movements will define the performances in this physical exercise. It requires the highest concentration of mental, mobilizing internal and external organs/sensors functions, particularly vision and hearing, while paying constantly attention to the external environment and its possible changes, how to chain with the following movement, etc.. all these inputs will contribute to increase excitation in the cerebral cortex.

Physical exercises involving movements of limbs are belonging to the same category.

They are called also "instinctive" and constitute the category of

"animal physical exercise".

Here are two kinds of "animal physical exercise":

(1) Low end physical exercises

From a normal physiologic state, human body will request some muscles to contract violently, bringing heart rate to increase too: the total amount of physical effort achieved with all muscle fibers involved gives a reference while comparing different practitioners taking account of the intensity of contraction and its duration.

So the minimum value of physical effort where the heart rate will start to increase from a relatively normal value is called "Physical exercise threshold value". It is quite evident that this value is related to the physical conditions of the practitioner. In low end physical exercises it is rather a Minimum threshold value and, while limbs or body are incessantly changing from one posture to another, this will not cause very obvious changes in physiologic functions.

For example hand slowly bending and extending, walking in a slow pace, four limbs' joints moving in a low speed, involving very small power and within a short time.. all these physical exercises will almost not affect your heart/respiration rate or even not at all: this is the reason they are called "Low end physical exercises".

Again it would be too restrictive to define physical exercises versus resting state with only the reference of changes in limbs or body postures. A more scientific way to consider this problem is to consider various physiologic functions comparatively in resting state and during physical exercises such as breathing/heart rates, metabolism, cerebral cortex excitation, etc. In other words your limbs may change postures but it may not affect your pulse rate: "low end physical exercises" cannot be considered as "physiologic exercises". This state can be defined external moving/internal non-moving, non-moving during moving, or external dynamic physical exercises.

(2) Moving physical exercises without stillness

If during physical exercises, main physiologic functions such as the pulse is suddenly increasing while another main physiologic function such as breath can't satisfy the body's requests in term of oxygen's supply, this can be defined as the inability of the body to manage and reinforce the physiologic demands: this will lead to a state of suffocation for example. And immediately after the physical exercise, it may cause for example too large expansion of the heart's right auricle, breathing irregular and accelerated, palpitation, change in the color of face, etc.

All these consequences can be qualified as "moving without stillness". In this case due to the large demand of physical effort requested, internal physiologic functions are immediately reacting but this time in quite unstabilized way: Acceleration of breathing/heart rate, brain signal overstimulated.

Now it becomes evident that in this type of physical efforts the modification of physiological changes is less stabilized and controlled with the increase of physical effort.

This class refers to physical exercises requesting fast movements with limbs, violent changes in the body but also Biequi (holding breath).

(3) Main physiologic changes in moving physical exercises

During muscle contraction, heart rate has a more balanced increase if the quantity of oxygen intake from breathing is higher that than the quantity consumed. If there is in the contrary a lack in oxygen supply, it will trigger the physiologic oxygen shortage metabolism function: irregular breathing and inhibition of muscles contraction process. Muscles contraction/relaxation process cannot continue as well as in normal state anymore, as the lack of oxygen and the surplus of carbon dioxide is not more and more obvious. We can conclude that moving physical exercises are involving the normal power development during the exercise and in this way you cannot really avoid the final state of suffocation intervening when reaching its high threshold point. From the increase speed of your movements, the amount of power involved in each movement, the duration of your physical effort, your oxygen consumption will also increase so that you reach faster the suffocation state.

Moving physical exercises bring a complete change in the physiologic functions especially due to the lack of oxygen once reaching suffocation; they are mainly concentrated on the skeleton muscles performance to the detriment of respiration system.

For example a 100 meter sprinter after only about 10-second race, reaches around 80%-90% oxygen debt. This oxygen debt requires a certain resting time to the athlete to recover completely: around 30 to 40 minutes.

After a intensive physical effort, young and strong athletes can bear acceleration of heart rate up to 200 bpm.

But in the case of older and/or weaker people, such oxygen debt/heart rate acceleration are no more bearable as it was for an athlete.

This is the reason why conventional medicine does not advise patients to take much physical training but rather much rest and sometimes even no physical exercise at all. But we started to understand that there is another group of physical exercises which doe not represent the same disadvantages regarding physiologic functions change.

Non-moving physical exercise

In non-moving physical exercise, we are in a complete opposite situation with moving one.

There is no apparent movement from the limbs while they are holding their posture with the fixed bending angles. During this time first we don't need to focus our attention to sensorial organs such as vision or hearing to follow environment changes, we don't need also to think and prepare the next posture to be linked with. that means reduction of signals in your cerebral cortex, simplification of the analysis and integration process in it, therefore you mental internal monitoring is much improved. In the same time as limbs are not moving, you are not approaching the state of suffocation nor having oxygen debt. We have in non-moving physical exercise the double balanced effect of strengthening the body (muscles) while improving physiologic functions.

This is similar to "a tree standing, unmoving but growing and Copyright© 2006. China Martial Arts Ltd. All rights reserved. Page 65

developing continuously". For this reason it can be called "vegetal physical exercises".

Here are the two sub categories of "vegetal physical exercises":

(1) Non-moving exercise without physical exertion

In practicing this exercise your main physiologic functions should be reducing compared with the situation before practicing the exercise.

Let's say you, before starting your training you have 74 bpm heart rate and 19 bpm respiration rate, then after training your heart rate will drop down to 69 bpm and respiration rate to 10 bpm.

But here again physiologic functions changes may vary from one person to another.

Non-moving exercise without physical exertion does not mean absolutely no physical exertion. The tranquility state is achieved through deep relaxation of four limbs' muscles, trying your best to relax in other parts of the body. As the amount of power developed is much reduced, physiologic functions are not running away as in pure physical exertion, they are rather calming down, reaching a level lower than when you started the training. It is a state of external and internal stillness. This kind of exercise may achieve after a certain time of practice, a better control of signal excitation in cerebral cortex and even able to cure some chronic diseases in some cases. But often later after a certain time, the body will present less signs of improvement as this method cannot adjust the level of physical effort (and especially influence the physiologic functions): curative effects and general physical condition improvement will progressively disappear. For example, some exercises may present very obvious effects almost as you start practicing them up to 3-6 months then the effects are progressively fading .

(2) Non-moving/moving with physical exertion

Non-moving with moving physical exertion can be called "stillness in moving" or "moving in tranquility", in any case the involuntary physiologic functions should be: constant increase of pulse rate, steady breathing and mental control/monitoring.

These three functions being intimately related and cannot be considered separately.

Here physical exertion is related to the contraction of skeleton muscles which effects are the increase of involuntary physiologic functions such as heart rate acceleration. In case there is not heart rate increase we cannot consider this exercise as physiologically "moving".

Non-moving is the way to keep a steady breathing and cerebral cortex in tranquility state. These aspects cannot also be considered separately.

Nota: Moving exercises without reaching tranquility state (pulse increase but still irregular breathing, brain overstimulated) or no moving exercise without reaching physical exertion ( smooth breathing, mental monitoring but not pulse increase), both cases cannot be considered as non-moving/moving with physical exertion exercise.

How can you reach "moving in tranquility"?

First you need to reduce or evade completely from external stimulation brought by your sensorial organs.

For example your vision is no more observing environment changes and for this you need to stay in the same place.

Now we need to increase heart rate to induce physiologic changes but instead of choosing the normal physical exertion

(moving exercise with higher power, faster speed but leading to suffocation and overstimulation of cerebral cortex) you choose the non-moving exercise.

Your shoulders, back, chest, etc. remain relaxed, respiration is increased progressively without precipitation, so that you avoid any situation of suffocation/oxygen debt. Zhan zhuang is precisely this non-moving exercise. In ZZ you don't need to worry about your environment or think about your next move.

So your brain can reach deeper stillness or at least better internal monitoring.

We should also precise that during non-moving exercise, it is important to keep physiologic functions still in activation otherwise you are coming back to a situation of complete rest or even sleeping.

Until now we presented ZZ as an efficient physical treatment Copyright© 2006. China Martial Arts Ltd. All rights reserved. Page 67

for patients, helping them to get rapidly more control in the nerve excitation process. But this is not its unique advantage, the other one concern athletic sports where it helps to reach highest level of brain excitation during athletic performance. This mental ability is currently trained in ZZ through "mental activity" during contraction/relaxation cycles. So we can say that non-moving physical exercise can induce two situations in complete opposition, one is more conservative restraining and controlling nerve signal and the other bringing it to its higher level.

This last advantage of ZZ makes the complete difference with other physical exercises without mentioning others sports.

3) Major physiologic changes in non-moving physical exercise

Physiologic changes appearing during non-moving exercises are differing completely with moving ones. During the non-moving exercise, although heart rate is growing up, the increase is steady and can be maintained even during a certain time, but also very important fact is that the respiration rate is never irregular so that suffocation/oxygen debt is avoid, no surplus of carbon dioxide, in a word all internal metabolism is running harmoniously well and adapting hand in hand with the physical effort. How come the body can reach this high level of compensation in front of growing physical demands? We explain it as the harmony in the mental and the Qi.

Breathing enhancement

With practice, practitioner of ZZ will not feel any premise of suffocation/oxygen debt rather a surplus of oxygen. His breathing will be deeper and slower. ZZ can be considered as promoting oxygenation metabolism (in opposition with suffocation/oxygen debt process generated by moving exercises).

Non-moving exercise requires immobility from limbs: no bending, extension or displacement from them, then all is in the internal contraction of muscle fibers.

Thigh muscles

The thigh has three sets of strong muscles: the hamstring muscles in the back, the quadriceps muscles in the front, and the adductor muscles on the inside. The quadriceps and hamstring muscle sets work together to straighten (extend) and bend (flex) the leg. The adductor muscles pull the legs together.

By maintaining the muscle at a specific length by using an isometric exercise, the muscles will develop a fast twitch response.

This means, first, that the nerves and muscles develop the memory to accelerate instantly to the contraction point of the isometric exercise, and secondly, the fast twitch muscle fibers are conditioned to maximize the speed of the muscle contraction.

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