Sunday, January 1, 2012

A key concept in YiQuan Zhan Zhuang

Grandmaster of I-style (YiQuan 意拳, DaChengQuan 大成拳) Wang XiangZhai (王芗斋) was the pioneer in popularizing zhan zhuang as a foundation workout for internal martial art (内家拳) and as an excellent workout for middle-aged and old people. According to the Master, there are two types of zhan zhuang: One is for health (or longevity 养生) and the other is for combat training, called combat zhan zhuang (技击桩). The question is what is the key concept of Master Wang's Zhan Zhuang? What makes it great? Isn't zhan zhuang one of the basic practice in all kung fu?

Doing the microcosmic circulation (小周天) is essential to Taoist meditation. Doing silk-reeling jing (缠丝劲) is essential to tai-chi. What is essential to I-style? It is "Tug-of-force" (争力) or in its advanced manifestation "Eight-side tug-of-force (八面争力)。 As the old saying goes, without a proper understanding of an essence and the ability of putting it into practice, it will all be "academic"!

Each of the three essences above present a unique way of chi-generation. The least that is talked about (or perhaps being understood too) is I-style's "Tug-of-force" (争力). Essentially it is (minimum) three point meditation in the form of a triangle, with forces pulling from each corner forming a strong structure - that can do offense or defense in combat. "Tug-of-force" can also be practiced (and actually should, in its advanced stage) of simple health zhan zhuang, like embracing-a-tree. But the feel will be more prominent when practiced in combat zhan zhuang (with full force on one leg, and the other leg acts as balancing, or a subjective feeling of a major/minor standing regime, like 70/30 or 80/20 etc).

The points selected shall, for best result, be points located at any of one's joints, except when points are located at the head (which are primarily for balancing rather than for jing/strength building). The difficulty in understanding and putting this concept into practice is that a practitioner has to choose the points by himself, depending on his general body conditions or condition at that particular moment, or his then training objective. And a prerequisite is that one must already have Activated (one's) Chi Foundation (动气基) which shall be done with normal health zhan zhuang. If one can't feel chi, Tug-of-force is academic, if one can't feel Tug-of-force, chi-combat-training is academic too!

The advanced form "Eight-side tug-of-force (八面争力) simply means forces are being balanced (through selected points being activated by chi) in all sides, three-dimensionally. Master Wang liked to use a metaphor: like a Spinning Top!

Spinning Top and Eight-side tug-of-force (八面争力)

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