Monday, December 26, 2011

What Is The Kua?

What is the kua? Words used in martial arts can have their own meanings, even more so in foreign languages like Chinese, and so is it with the word kua. Depending on the martial art you’ll hear people talk about opening the kua or closing the kua. You may hear different arts say things like hide the kua or wrap the kua as in some Xingyi or Bagua practices. In Wujifa we also address this area called the kua. In Wujifa we sometimes call this area the inguinal crease which isn’t exactly correct either but it is a good place to start for a beginner.

In Wujifa I personally think of the kua as the functioning of the pelvis, leg and hip capsule and the expression is seen through the hip, pelvis and connective tissues. In Wujifa the Kua is defined by the specialized way its used. I always find it interesting seeing how the hip capsule twines together the hip, the pelvis and femur head to form this important joint of the body for function and movement.

In many arts, the concept of kua is thought of as extending much further than simply the fold of the inguinal creases where the legs meet the body, although they may also start beginners with a simple understanding of this folding area between the leg and pelvis. 

Many martial arts actually think of the kua as extending way past the inguinal crease folds down to pelvic floor and also all the way around up to the outer areas around the greater trochanter. The concept of "Kua" and how it is used is a very deep subject and it's use defines the flavor of an art form. 

What is the Kua? As you may have guessed, simply said it is an area affected by pelvis, hip and leg movements. This area is one of many keys to understanding the flavor of a martial art and it‘s more than simply how to move our hip or leg. This is also one of the common areas where people develop certain bad habits of use and it’s not always easy for people to change their habits. This is why various martial arts address its importance. Understanding tthis area is so very important to the depth and breadth of their respective practices.

If you’re looking for more detailed information on how to train and practice the we might suggest reading “Keys for Developing theInguinal Crease, aka Kua, with Wujifa Side to Side Practice” and "Basic Tips for Zhan Zhuang and the Pelvis". These articles have a lot of helpful information for ways to understand, train and practice. Remember understanding is not the information you know… Understanding is only as deep as your practice has become.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Zhan Zhuang and Sex in Wujifa

From time to time the subject of sex, Zhan Zhuang, and Wujifa is a topic that shows up and to be honest there is no one answer to this question. The real question is one that you must ask yourself. As you know we have addressed purpose, as in ‘What is your purpose for training?’, a number of times before. Understanding your purpose and the principles of Wujifa should be enough to help guide you to the answers about this topic but we will address it in more detail.

Most Wujifa practitioners practice their Zhan Zhuang training for an hour at a time at least once or twice a day. This does not include other Wujifa practices, only the standing or Zhan Zhuang practice(s). We will use this as a starting point for answering some “basic” questions about sex and Zhan Zhuang.

Becoming aroused while practicing

When we relax, the parasympathetic nervous system (the following is an oversimplification) we could say it kicks in to play. The parasympathetic nervous system  is involved in the functions of salivation, lacrimation (tears), urination, digestion, defecation, and sexual arousal just to name a few of the systems involved. As you can tell many of these are also common so called qigong side effects.

When becoming aroused in your Zhan Zhuang practice the best answer for most people is to just recognize this as a sign of the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system and a good sign of health. Think to yourself, ‘Nice, a sign post of health’ and don’t get distracted from your purpose and training. Getting sexually stimulated while practicing isn’t abnormal and as we say in Wujifa, it is just one of many sign posts along different paths. If you are driving somewhere and you see a sign on the road saying 100 miles to where you are driving, you don’t stop at the sign, you keep driving. The same is true with signs that show up in practice.

Now that we have talked about sexual arousal the next question is often about how often can one have sex. This is a very good question and one we should take a look at.

Is having sex a good or bad thing when training?

First lets start by asking the question of purpose. If you understand your purpose and the principles then these kinds of questions become much clearer to the practitioner. If they are unclear to you from the level of basic common sense then you might want to simplify your purpose and goals or understand why you are making something so complicated.

Many qigong Masters and teachers suggest waiting a moon cycle (28 days) or at least two weeks (14 days) before engaging in sexual activity.  Many of these schools of thought lean toward the right and see celibacy as a key to training. I’ve heard other teachers which suggest you wait 24 hours before engaging in sexual activity after Zhan Zhuang practices. Now if you practice every day or twice a day you are basically again choosing the path of the monk. Again if you choose to follow this kind of advise, simply understand how it aligns with your purpose and the principles of your training.

I’ve heard it said that girlfriends can be the biggest problem for those learning Gongfu. That a person will spend many years training and then meet a girl and forget about their practice. I believe some of the reasons behind limiting sexual activity  given to students without functional explanations is aimed at solving this problem of losing students to relationships. It may be true that rules like this can help cage a student, then again if a person gets so easily distracted then they most likely will get distracted by other things over time and they may not really be cutout for deeper practices.

Personally I have found a good loving and supportive relationship can make your Gongfu training easier and better. Although finding a good woman is the key. If you take the time, allowing good people into your life and you will find them supportive and helpful to your Gongfu goals.

So when can I engage in sexual activity?

You understand your purpose and the principles of your personal practice. You have found a good girl and want to engage in sexual activity. Leaving all the cultural and morality issues aside for a moment as these could also be addressed under purpose and principles. When can you engage in sexual activity after practicing Zhan Zhuang. There are other high level practitioners that have expressed the fact that they are not monks and enjoy sex with their wife and they have shared a couple different opinions. One is to wait 4 or so hours before or after training, eat and relax and go about a normal day and then sex is fine. They explain that this is enough time for your body to rebalance. 

Other advanced Wujifa practitioners have simply said it’s a good idea to wait an hour after or before engaging in sexual activity. They explain an hour is enough time to return to normal status, and that they would wait an hour or so after eating a big meal or after work as it just gives some space. I also know of some practitioners who practice and have sex when they feel like it after training. They have some martial skill and they say they don’t have sex every time after practicing Zhan Zhuang but if their girl is ready and the time feels right they haven’t had any problems.

So you can see there are many different answers to these questions. Are you engaged in Zuo Dao or tantric practices and the practice of Zhan Zhuang? Are you like some boxers and refraining from sexual activity until after the big fight? Are you doing a special qigong practice like Yijin Jing  (Muscle/tendon Changing) and also practicing Wujifa Zhan Zhuang? If you understand your practice and you know the principles of your practice then you already know the answer. If you don’t know you are most likely playing with an advanced practice and you should seek some personal guidance and ask your senior school brothers or teacher. 

If you just are beginning a Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice and you simply like doing the Zhan Zhuang practice, maybe just give yourself an hour before spilling your qi as they say.  New lovers tend not to take much real advice anyway, they’re hopelessly in love don‘t you know. So some of this advice may be a mute subject, just use your common sense that's always best.

So, I hope this sheds a little light on the question of sexual engagement and Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practices. Remember in Wujifa the simple and deep practices are the real key to success. Don’t complicate your practice. You are where you are and that’s where you start. It may take work but it should also make sense. If it doesn’t your doing something wrong or you need to ask more questions before training mindlessly and losing your way.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Filial Piety In Our Gongfu

Filial Piety In Our Gongfu (Xiào 孝)

The Confucian classic Xiào 孝 Jing (Filial Piety) aims at building the foundations stones of how one should set up an honorable and functional society. In Wujifa we believe we should always take a closer look at the principles and so let’s take a look at this concept here. Filial piety means to honor and be good to your parents, to take care of your parents, to conduct yourself both publicly and privately in respect to the good name of one’s parent’s, ancestors, those who came before you.

"Now xiao is the principle of Heaven, the righteousness of Earth, and the (proper) conduct of people. The principle of Heaven and Earth - people's affairs should follow that principle. We should study Heaven's brilliance and take advantage of Earth's bounties in order to bring harmony to the world; that way the teaching is not stern and yet it is successful, the governing is not severe and yet good order reigns."

Do you practice filial piety in your gongfu practice?
In Chinese culture Filial Piety or Xiào 孝 is considered to be the first virtue and a primary virtue. In our Wujifa Gongfu practice we say “The method is not the truth, once you get the feeling get rid of the methods.” Wujifa is a principle based practice so simply to follow the methods of honoring your parents, or your University, or your Gongfu Master when the principles are not expressed in your heart and your practices is then simply just a form of make believe.

In Wujifa our ancestors, our parents, are our foundational “principles” of practice. In Wujifa we say “you are where you are and that’s where you start” and so we start with our body, our mind, and our spirit in how we practice and train. The first and basic foundational principle in Wujifa is that of developing connection(s). We develop this in our basic practices Zhan Zhuang and side to side for an example. We pay close attention to our alignment and structure which is the first of the three points in the Wujifa triangle of Balance, Structure and Relax.

The way you engage in your Gongfu practice is though Xiào 孝 or Filial Piety to the principles. In Wujifa we seek that of the principle of connection(s). Every great Gongfu practitioner has had filial piety for his training in his heart. If he can not train his Gongfu with Xiào 孝 or Filial Piety then what does it matter the name of his style of practice? If one does not train with passion in his heart to adhere and refine the principles of his practice what does it matter who his master’s name is?

Respect for the principles of our Gongfu are fundamental and starts within ones heart. Each person must truly look deeply into his heart first and examine him or herself and then take responsibility for bringing the principles of their training into reality through their practice.

It is only “Make Believe” to say you honor your style, or your teacher, or you school of practice and not put in the time it takes to eat the bitter of personal examination and bring about real transformation of yourself though your training. This is real honor, this is real filial piety, this is the real meaning of Xiào 孝. In our Wujifa practice this is what we mean by Xiào 孝 or filial piety.

Personally I have made mistakes and have fallen short in my training many times over the years. I have overlook principles and cut short my training when I knew I should have. I have fallen asleep by simply following the Wujifa methods without holding dear our principles of our practice in my heart and within my mind. I share these things here as my hope is each of you may also look deeply into your actions and see where you may have fallen short and where you can make real improvements in your practice. Please take the time to make your practices functional and real.

Willingness to admit and even more important make the corrections to one's mind and heart to truly keep to the principles and filial piety in respect to these principles in all of our gongfu practices.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Be Like Water?

Be like water? I’m sure many of you have heard the saying “Be like water” made famous by Bruce Lee. I’m here to tell you that using ambiguous statements such as “Be like water” can be very misleading and maybe not even be all that helpful.

Wujifa we say "Be like Li Bing"
Think about it for a moment… what does “Be like water” really mean? It’s like someone talking about achieving enlightenment, “Be like water,” most people misunderstand “Being” twisting the meaning ambiguously into something very different… fitting what they want into it’s meaning or bottling it up and selling their bottled flavored waters as some kind of method of special skill.

When I think of special skills I think of people like Li Bing. Be like water… this is why I say “Be like Li Bing!” If you have a few moments take the time to understand the practical application of Li Bing’s Dujiang Weir. Go ahead and google Li Bing and his Dujiang Weir if you will, you’ll find it interesting to say the least. 

"Dredge the riverbed when the water is deep and build low dykes when the water is low." - Li Bing

You see Li Bing constructed the Dujiang Weir to help the villagers and farmers living in Shu, Sichuan Province, China and shared his principles for the guidance of water “for the good of the people.” I recently watched a documentary about Li Bing and his weir and it dawned on me… “Be like water” or “Be like Li Bing” who applied his principles and used the water to both irrigate the fields and distracting the flood waters, protecting the people from disasters these waters can bring.

When the river flows in zigzags, cut a straight channel: when  the riverbed is wide and shallow, dig it deeper." - Li Bing

We need to recognize as human beings we have something very powerful that water doesn’t have and this power is in us, within our mind, our understanding, and our ability to apply function and principles to the real world.  You see, the human mind can be far more powerful than water. The human mind can also exist in a realm of possibilities and potentials, and as such it is not constrained in the way water is by habit and strict tendencies. It is this capability that can enable us, like Li Bing, to functionally harness the forces of nature... to create something new that has never been seen before and to apply it for the benefit of mankind.

Water may be able to wash over the mighty rocks with such power too wash them away. Li Bing was smart enough to understand how to apply this for the good of the people. Water may wear down even the hardest of rocks and Li Bing taught the people how they could maintain the Dujiang Weir for so many many years and making that area a cornucopia of food production.

“Be like water” Li Bing applied his principles to both allow and guide water flow. This is why I say “Be like Li Bing” and understand the concepts of principle and function, then apply your principles yourself to discovering how something can be influenced and used for the benefit of the people.

In Wujifa we aim to understand the “principle and function” of our art and then in applying ourselves to bring forth the expression of our understanding much like Li Bing shows us with his Dujiang Weir.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wujifa Zhan Zhuang: Relaxing the Belly

The area of the belly we are talking about is much lower and more specific than the bigger area many people think of as being the belly. Yes, you should relax your belly as a whole when standing and when practicing Wujifa Zhan Zhuang. Today the area I am talking about is located at and just above the pubic bone.

A straightforward and functional tip for improving your Wujifa zhan zhuang practice can be as simple as noticing and relaxing the belly. This article will address the opportunities that can be discovered in your zhan zhuang practice when you start to understand how much tension people carry in the lower abdominal or belly area. You see today’s blog posting all started the other day when working with some Wujifa beginners. These new practitioners started to notice how common it was and it is for many beginners to hold tension in the lower belly when practicing zhan zhuang.

You see the lower belly really is a very common area where people hold tension when practicing zhan zhuang and even in daily life. When people are able to relax this area, they discover that they can improve their practice by sinking more weight into their legs (which beginners sometimes experience as a burning sensation in the quads).

Stand up for a moment with your feet parallel, lined up under your hips and shoulders (More information on this see: Wujifa Zhan Zhuang Alignment). Now place your hand on your lower belly at the level of your pubic bone. Now, play with tightening the area of your lower belly underneath your hand.

Notice, how many different areas of the body are affected by this kind of tension. Now quickly relax this area as best you can and notice how much more space this creates and how this changes the feeling of the pelvic floor, hips, and thighs. Go ahead and try playing with this a few times. Also remember, relax is not limp, so try maintaining a good Wujifa structured stance.

If you took the time just now you might have notice how many other areas can be affected with tension and relaxation. The reason is there are so many different fascial interconnections that take place in the lower area of the pelvis / belly. If you want to read more about the fascial systems of the lower belly you can go to “The Muscles and Fasciae of the Abdomen - Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body - Yahoo Education”. Reading that might be fun for some people, but you really don’t need all that data to make some real progress in your zhan zhuang practice. For most people, simply playing with tightening and relaxing of the lower belly with the hand you placed over this area will give you some pretty good insights that you can apply to your Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practices.

Re-educating your body awareness takes due diligence. In the Wujifa Zhan Zhuang basic practices, relaxing the lower belly area is very important and is something many people can tend to overlook. Getting more weight to sink down into your legs is key. Troubleshooting and discovering this overlooked area of the lower belly will make all the difference in the world.

Again, the point we are making here is to remember in your standing practice is to relax the lower belly just above the pubic bone. As you do this, also remember that relaxed is not limp and strength is not tense. You can play with tightening and letting go as another “method” to give you insights on how to relax this area. After playing with this for a while, you may begin to notice how other areas of your body connect and move with this change. I want to repeat myself again and say, relax is not limp. Remember to be mindful of the Wujifa structural “methods” and to have fun.

Remember, if you’re liking what we’re sharing here, then please “+1” Wujifa in Google, re-tweet, and share our articles on FaceBook or whatever social media you belong too. Our goal is to give people real helpful information and when you share this, you are helping everyone. You can also follow us on the Wujifa Facebook page. We here at the Wujifa liangong really enjoy sharing useful information, so feel free to let your friends know about this blog and the Wujifa practices.

Also, if you have any questions or comments or insights, please feel free to share those here as well. Most of all have a wonderful day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wujifa Martial Arts Practice and New Friends

It was a warm Sunday afternoon in early August, 2011. Let me back up here a bit. Forty-Three hours earlier I received a phone call from Mike at the Internal Martial Arts Blogspot blog who asked if it was ok to bring a guest to a Sunday Wujifa class.

A couple days later on that Sunday our guests show up after hearing about our Wujifa practice they had lots of questions. A great exchange about martial arts principles and practice took place. Later we went out to dinner and continued the exchange of thoughts and we had an all around good time, of course. ;^)

The following is written by a Ph.D. student majoring in Chinese Traditional Martial Arts who was visiting the U.S. to do research for his dissertation from a well known sports university in China. Shared this with us after his recent visit to The School of Cultivation and Practice where Wujifa is trained and practiced.

This following article is shared as received. Thank goodness for Google translator, enjoy.

本人练习武术套路已有二十余年,对于武术哲学理论也是烂熟于心,却从没有在身上体验过,诸如在太极拳的习练中,何为无极、何为太极、何为阴阳之类,怎么做可以体会到这一点却不得而知。经Rick 大师指点,我明白,所谓的哲理内涵,是体现在身体上的一种链接关系,人体不同结构将会影响其功能作用,我在练习过程中只是注重外形的优美与否,是否实用,却没有注意到如何将身体的内外以及身体本身的链接关系做好。回想起来,以前练习的各种套路,都是这种问题,总结起来,是因为没有找到正确的练习方式,更没有将身体与技能之间建立某种联系。

Monday, August 22, 2011

Common Success Traits for Wujifa Practitioners

There are a few common traits found in people who successfully make gains in the practices of Wujifa, internal martial arts and life in general. I remember I was once on a construction project team that met weekly and someone said these meetings are boring and are not needed. Quickly the project manager smiled and said, “If these meetings are boring that’s a good sign. We are doing something right.” I personally find project management and process an interesting subject although I can understand why some would find it a bit dull. The same tricks can really make the difference in your training and practice.

I hope some of you will find it interesting and employ in your practices some of these common traits of people who are continually making successful gains with their skill sets. It’s funny the similarities in the project management field and the ways people work toward their goals. There are people whose jobs run fairly smooth because they methodically track and troubleshoot (which costs more in investment of time) and those who never seem to have their projects under control and are racing around at the last minute to put out yet another fire. Hopefully you will you take the time to find what works best for your personal progress.

Education - Educate Yourself

What does it mean to have gotten a real education? Taking action and seeing for yourself this is what getting a real education is all about. You must do something, noticing what the results are, and compare this to what results you had as your goal. As you can see a real education is very different than information. 

Many people collect data and can tell you a lot about something that they have never personally done. Knowing means “what you can actually do” not the data you can spew forth. Being able to do something is call educating yourself. Make sure to check your results against your personal goals. I have seen many a person get sidetracked into an education that they really didn’t want to learn about. 

The example of the person knowing the movements to yet another Taiji sword form is nothing but a lot of data if what you wanted to learn is how to develop internal strength. A sword form may help and then again it may not depending on the results you are seeking. Then again, the question becomes, “Why you are learning yet another movement or form?” 

Being clear on what you’re doing and why is one of the best ways of educating yourself and getting everything an education can offer.

Another good point I’d like to share about education is to really aim at getting the “more” correct feeling of what you are doing. Getting the feeling of what you’re doing is a better type of education and will help guide your practice and actions much more clearly. 

As an example, I remember asking questions to various masters and teachers I have worked with over the years like, “What is peng?“ or “What is wuji?“ and “What is sinking the qi?“ and when the teacher started talking about it I would politely stop and ask, “Can you show me how to get it in my body?” 

As you can see I wasn’t that interested in the words and actually, their words were often very different from how I might explain it so getting the feeling is a more direct education and helped me to be able to do it better myself afterwards. 

Ask them to show you how it’s done in your body. Keep questions simple and direct, action and kinesthetically oriented. This will really help you make progress. Sometimes a teacher’s linage is such that they share stories and data. If that is the case, then take responsibility to bring that back to practical and functional practices to help you get to your goal and a real education.

Focus on the Fundamentals

Most every high level master or practitioner I have met all have one thing in common and that is, practicing the basics. The basics are seemingly simple fundamental skill sets that carryover to everything else they do.

In internal martial arts, some call the basic skill set internal strength or internal movement. How do they develop these in different arts? An example of basics in Chen Style Taiji practice might be silk reeling. Bagua’s “Tain Gan” could be another example of primary drills. Xingyi and Santi is another basic you’ll see high level practitioners engaging in their whole life.

Why do highly skilled practitioners practice fundamental exercises? You get the biggest bang for your buck there. So many people can’t wait to learn something new when they haven’t taken the time to really understand the basics of their art. It’s also sad to say that many teachers may have caved in to that or may have forgotten the importance of the basics because selling forms makes them more money. Be responsible and return to the basics and focus on the fundamentals.


Finding a good training partner or partners can be even harder than finding a good wife as I have written about before. Finding people who are testing and educating themselves in what they are doing is a priceless part of really making progress. Having senior school brothers and sisters and access to high level practitioners who can help you notice what you may not notice is also huge. Being in a supportive environment that encourages and fosters real growth with those who take the time to help is important. Even if those who are helping are clumsy and just starting, their honest insights are what we’re looking for. If you don’t have a good community, then build one. It really helps to have at least a small support group of one or two people who can keep you honest and kick you in the butt when needed.

Do It Correctly - Don’t Just Do It (Even If You’re Doing It Wrong)

This is a big one, “Doing it correctly.” So many people seem to zone out after awhile and they just go through the motions of training. They have a routine down and then they shut their mind off. This is a big mistake. Stay awake and aim at doing it correctly. You may never do it perfectly but your focus is to do it correctly. Don’t over think it and don’t zone out. The point is to just stay focused. So even if you are doing something incorrectly, if you are learning, then you are doing it correctly. And that’s the key.

Remember as you repeatedly do something, in the process you develop neuro-pathways in the brain. Having a sharp mind is so very important. Really paying attention and staying focused and awake can help you develop those neuro-pathways. 

Over time this keen focus will become second nature and this is one of the common practices you’ll find in many high level practitioners. Aiming at doing it correctly keeps you open to the many opportunities for improvement. Yes you can over focus so that isn’t doing it correctly either. Simply aim to do it correctly. When you choose to practice it’s pretty simple. Doing it correctly is about paying attention without over-thinking. Remember the saying, “Analysis paralysis”. But if you zone-out, you are not exercising your mind either.

Track and Journal

When you become aware of something, it’s easier to adjust, manage and gain insights about it. This is the secret to journaling. Many people say, “I don’t need to do that. I can keep it in my head.” The truth is that it’s not that easy when you are trying to learn something new. There are many nuances and details that get forgotten over time. 

When I think about people who become highly successful or highly skilled, I think of people that kept notebooks of their thoughts and ideas and progress in learning. Many people don’t want to take the time to really journal and track what they do because it’s easier to live in the illusion of training rather than training to make real progress. But if you’re really honest about becoming successful, keep a notebook. Log and track. 

There’s a saying, “What is measured, gets managed.” I have found this to be true. Simply notice. In Wujifa we say that noticing changes everything. You start to adjust and change. Anything that helps you notice and change will bring you more on your path.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To Develop Repeatable Wujifa Strategies

One of the fundamental means for developing a real and successful practice in the art of Wujifa is to develop the ability to evolve different strategies that are reproducible and repeatable as well as training methods that are functional across many different skill-sets or platforms.

Now the questions the Wujifa practitioner, or any martial artist, needs to ask is; what are these different strategies which are most functional at ones’ current level and how can they be developed and/or improved over time?

After answering that, you may be asking yourself ‘What are the first steps the Wujifa practitioner should take on their path?’ The very first step is to define, define, define. Understanding “what” it is you are doing and “why” you are doing it. 

Understanding the “what” and “why” are really helpful in getting clear on what you need to do and why you are doing a practice.

Next you will want to identify and manage the capabilities you will need to execute and develop in working toward your goals in your practice. Investing in a training journal, setting up times and places you will train, as well as the training methods you will start with are good examples of some of these goals.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. C.S. Lewis

Make sure you test and evaluate your strategies, development process, and execution, as these steps create possibilities for tweaks that can often create insights for establishing improvements that are essential for real success.

Be organized. Have some simple organizational structures in place. Having a sense of how to organize your practice can be key. If you take the time to understand the processes involved, the clearer the bigger picture and processes can be defined now and in the future. Take some time to develop your map for improvement. Include the processes and procedures that will ensure the implementation of these become a way of life. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, at the same time you’ll need enough to nourish your progress toward your ultimate goal.

There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth. Maya Angelou

How do you know? Information, data, and metrics are useful in providing general estimates to guide strategic decision-making and performance measurements. So another important point is the establishment of goals and milestones. It grounds future assessments of the effectiveness of methods and strategies established and where you may be missing something important in the process you have set up for yourself.

Remember your rules are simply methods. Review them and see if your practice has matured enough, or that you have the ability to know when to change the rules to maintain strategic advantages in your Wujifa training practices.

Peter Drucker said, “Success always makes obsolete the very behavior that achieved it. It always creates new realities.”

A big key to progress is the understanding of the process. In the beginning, processes may not be comprehensively defined or understood which is fine. As one matures in their practices then strategies can further be developed, defined, and refined. Remember asking questions are a great way to do this. Make sure you write down questions in your journal and review them. Visiting past questions can reveal patterns and opportunities as much as your current question(s) may.

Peter Drucker also said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Take responsibility for your progress and learn to navigate change so you can be successful on your developmental journey. Knowing where you want to go is important. Even more important is the understanding of where you are, even more so when setting out on your journey.

As we say in Wujifa “You are where you are and that’s where you start.” Be practical and take the time to assess where you are and what your current goals are. Common sense isn’t always common practice. Taking a little time can make all the difference between failure and being on the path to success, even before the planned changes have begun to take hold.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Curiosity and the ordinary

The question came up about how one stays curious while they study the ordinary in Wujifa. As we have said before there are many different keys one can use that can help them understand the practice of Wujifa. Curiosity and the ordinary are two of the keys we can use to explore the practices and to aid one in making progress within the Wujifa practices. First of all, thank you Dan for asking this question in the comments to the post ‘Ordinary and Extra-ordinary’. Second, are you curious about what the answer might be to this question? Good, let’s see what we can find here.

Heraclitus the Greek philosopher said, “From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, out of oneness come all the many particulars.” In Wujifa we seek to understand the connections that lead to oneness and the more connected we become the more ability we have to engage with many different situations. You could say the singularity is what everything has in common. Then again, this whole concept could be just a little too much on the ‘woo-woo’ side of the fence.

Let’s clarify a few things first. The first is the question of what is one willing to do to create change? How much faith and will power does one have? Many people who talk about wanting change, if they are really honest with themselves, may only wish for change and aren’t willing to do the work that is involved to engage change.

Another common problem that many people have is they believe they can’t do it, so their truth is they don’t do it or only half heartedly try. They believe in their limitations. There is another set of people who believe it may be possible, and then it seems they find every way possible to distract themselves from doing the real work. They believe "it’s not their fault". Another type of person simply makes up stories about how they just need to put the time in. They believe simply practicing a specific type of Zhan Zhuang or practicing some special secret tai chi form or qigong for 10 or more years they will automatically get it only to be disappointed. These people overlooked critical benchmarks, tests, or verified results and applied analytical thinking to their theories. Many may have even worked very hard toward achieving their goals. Missing the opportunities to adjust and correct themselves by simply missing practical and verifiable benchmarks they could have applied along the way.

Questioning, testing, being open to the possibilities yet remaining grounded in where they are in the moment; this we could call being functionally curious. The functionally curious are testing and verifying and exploring the possibilities. This is the real key. Most people are curious for a moment and then close their eyes and fall asleep following without thinking. Remember the kind of curious I’m talking about is more like an explorer or a scientist. The kind of explorers who have “passion” and the kind of scientists who are willing to “test” it out and look for the facts and not simply believing in fairy tales and stories told by others. The kind of curiosity that drives people forward to do the “work” with the satisfaction of finding out for themselves

Aristotle said “Bring your desires down to your present means. Increase them only when your means permit.” In Wujifa we say “You are where you are and that’s where you start.”

Maybe I side-tracked a bit from Dan’s question; although hopefully there are some insights above that may be helpful. Here is the bottom line; people become “bored” when they aren’t being congruent.

People give up, quit, make up stories, become distracted when they are afraid to look, really look, at where the incongruence lies. They hide in their stories, emotions, their understandings and beliefs. The ordinary isn’t really all that ordinary when you stay open and awake, testing and exploring. The ordinary is something that only seems common when one falls into a trance. While practicing the basic and the ordinary there are many thing to be noticed along the way.

I’ll end here with a quote from Heraclitus the Greek philosopher also said something like “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Notice the river and the man for what they are these are the secrets to the common and ordinary.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ordinary and Extra Ordinary: A Secret of Wujifa Training

One of the biggest secrets to successful Wujifa training is this concept of ordinary and extra ordinary. To really understand what’s meant by this, one needs to look deeper into the meaning and spirit behind these concepts. There is more to this than simply getting back to the basics, although that is the bottom line.

Let’s consider for a second the magic of it all. Often you will find people amazed by someone performing an extraordinary feat, hypnotized in a way by the skill or to see the real magic taking place right in front of their very eyes. Yet, knowing the “real” trick to the magic "trick" can change the way you start to view the whole show.

Magic is often just a set of simple procedures, evolved from a state of clumsiness and overlooked details to a state of refinement where the finer details are easily unnoticed by most viewers. Slight of hand, for example, may require hours of  simply flipping a coin from finger to finger and back,  to gain basic dexterity skills. The second step is to plan what you are going to do with the skills (intention) once you start developing them. The same idea is true in gongfu and qigong practices.

What are some of these basic skills found in a Wujifa practice you ask? One of the most fundamental is the concept of “connection” and at a basic level this means working with the body and connective tissues. In Wujifa we believe concepts like "connections" are best explored in the most basic ways over time.  

There are many sayings in the practice of Wujifa to help guide us. One of my favorite Wujifa sayings is “Practice the ordinary until it becomes extra ordinary.” This, in reality, is one of the biggest secrets for successful practice of Wujifa or any art, martial or otherwise.

Let’s take a closer look at a “Seemingly” simple practice like Zhan Zhuang for example. The most basic learning in our Zhan Zhuang practice(s) is to simply stand and relax (AKA functional alignment) and discovering what that really means at the deepest possible level. Another example is the “Side to Side” practices or skill sets. In the most basic “Side to Side” exercises, the key is to discover how the hip joints or Kua can move in concert with those connections. A simple intention of shifting to the right and left “Side to Side” while maintaining good structure and connections is all that’s needed to “start” building new neuro-pathways in the body and the mind. Adhere to basic guidelines found in the Wujifa triangle; Structure, Balance, Relax and you're well on your way.

The fact of the matter is that way to many people end up skipping or glossing over their personal art’s fundamental practices. All to often you find people spending way too many hours learning some complicated and fancy stylistic form(s) or some other seemingly-high-level “Tom Foolery,” when the reality is, the footing or foundation of their home (structure) is built on sand. One will never get to a very high level if you’re foundational skills are weak.

Practice the ordinary and develop the extra-ordinary as a result. Practice the simple things and master those first. Develop fundamental skills before rushing off to learn some seemingly fancy new skill sets. Return to the most basic aspects of your art and spent time there.

As I write this, I notice the once-white wax wood poles I use while practicing one of the Wujifa skill sets, they are dirty from use and the oils from my hands that have stained them. Seemingly ordinary poles stained and dirty, yet they are a sign of the magic that only repeated practice can impart.

The seemingly ordinary tasks are where the extraordinary skills blossom. Remember the Daoist saying, “Hide universe in universe.” In my experience much of the magic and many of the secrets are placed where they remain un-noticed and are often overlooked.  Practice your gongfu and qigong(s) by putting the time into the most fundamental aspects of your practice, you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Five Common Bad Zhan Zhuang Structural Habits

There are many different structural habits a practitioner can build into their Zhan Zhuang practice. A practitioner can often practice alone for years without noticing or worse yet never take the time to validate that they are practicing Zhan Zhuang skill sets correctly. Here are five common bad habits often overlooked by practitioners in their Zhan Zhuang training.

1. Collapsing / Hunching over - The structural problem of hunching is so very common and this habit can take a long time to correct so it’s at the top of the list. I have seen people really make amazing changes in their body over time to the point that they don’t even look like the same person. I’ve heard people say they can breathe better when they lose their hunch. I will say they look much younger and alive after they spent the time to correct this. So, what causes this problem? This problem is often caused by a daily life of working over a keyboard, planting rice, or by keeping your eyes down and not looking into the eyes of the king depending where you live and life style. Being aware and adjusting your posture really helps with bringing about long term change. Like any habit that took years to develop, it may also take a long time to change. Make it one of the things you check often.

2. Ankle alignment - Ankle alignment is so overlooked and is a root cause to many other problems. When people overlook ankle alignment in Zhan Zhuang and Wujifa practices, they end up making a number of other structural adjustments to their posture and that‘s why it’s second on the list of bad habits. There are many causes of poor ankle alignment such as wearing poor fitting shoes over many years to inactivity so that the resulting connective tissues in the foot and ankle become more and more distorted. Many times knee pain is caused by poor ankle alignment and trying to correct it with the hip creates a torque in the knee area as people try to re-align themselves. The best practice is to start with the feet and align them as best as possible (which again can take years, again, if ever). There are some tricks that some people have used. See Wujifa Zhan Zhuang Practice: Tight Calves and Ankles. Also seeing a qualified teacher who understands these things can really help as well.

3. Holding in the lower back and pelvis - Both the lower back and pelvis are included together here as they are rarely seen alone. When holding is found in only one of these two areas, a common response for example to relaxing the pelvis will be to tighten the lower back or vice versa, relaxing the lower back and tightening the pelvic area. Relaxing both are key for better Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practice. One of the big problems is people often store a lot of tension in the lower back and pelvis when they push themselves to hard. Simply taking a break and noticing and stretching throughout the day helps. Over at Internal Gong Fu Blogspot there is a long post about relaxing different areas of the pelvis (See: Relaxing the Pelvic Floor for Tai Chi and Zhan Zhuang). Taking a deep breath and exhale while relaxing those areas while practicing your Zhan Zhuang can help too. I’ll repeat, a simple stretch can aid in making progress and there are a lot of good YouTube videos you can look up (see comment area for suggestions). When practicing Zhan Zhuang, notice the habits of "tightening" and let yourself relax. It will take time to change a habit but it can be achieved pretty quickly (weeks or months) if you take the time and stay with it.

4. Knee Torque - Knee torque was talked about with the ankle alignment above, but there are more causes and knee torque deserves to be number four on this list because it is so common. While practicing Zhan Zhuang people often "lock" themselves into place (See: Is Your Stance Like a Dead Post) to take the weight out of their legs or to make it more tolerable by slightly torque-ing the knees in or out. The answer is to "slowly" build up to standing longer periods of time and change this habit of torque-ing the knee. Also over time the I.T. bands can be shortened and this can cause problems with the knees as well. Hip and lower back alignment as well as ankle alignment are common problems that contribute to knee torque in Zhan Zhuang practices. This is another case where a qualified instructor can really help you notice and make the changes you need to make with changing the habit of knee torque.

5. Chest/upper back and shoulder tension – Chest and shoulder tension are so common that for many it is the number one bad habit of people who practice Zhan Zhuang. You may be asking yourself why chest and shoulder tension/tightness is listed as number five on this list? This issue is listed as number five because many people who train Zhan Zhuang practices know they have this issue. If you visit or train with any high level masters or go to high-quality seminars you will see kind of adjustment being shared over and over again. It is the kind of habit that people change and keep picking back up and so it takes diligent practice to change this habit. If the muscles are chronically tense you may need to stretch often and get some bodywork like Rolfing to help speed you along the way. Most people simply need to pay attention and correct the situation and develop new habits.

I know of some instructors that will adjust the arms to a higher level for tense shoulders. This will cause the shoulder muscles to feel like they are on fire. Please don’t do this at home because you want to wait until the shoulder muscles give up, drop and relax and most people will give up way before that and develop more tightening in the shoulder muscles. A better way is to let the arms drop a little lower so the shoulders don’t have to work so hard to try to support the arms until you can understand what connection is, what relaxed is. Remember in Wujifa we say "Relaxed is not limp" and it may take some people awhile to understand what that means.

Another suggestion for the chest is to breathe deeply and exhale and simply "let the chest fall". Both this and the suggestion above don’t create a long term change directly. Only really paying attention and changing your habits over time will do that. What these two suggestions will do is give you some awareness of what a more relaxed chest and shoulders feel like.

Five Common Bad Zhan Zhuang Structural Habits - Conclusions - 

I hope this was helpful and a reminder to pay close attention to correcting any bad Zhan Zhuang habits you may have. One more quick suggestion that people sometimes find helpful, and please don’t make it a habit, is to tighten a tense area and then relax it quickly. This will also bring some awareness to the possibilities of structural change. Also, remember one of the best pieces of advice I can share, that is see a qualified instructor for assistance and verification. Many of these types of corrections can only really be made in person and hands on.

There are many more bad Zhan Zhuang habits we could add to a list like this such as: zoning out, practicing dead post, letting the mind wander, check the clock every couple minutes, and the worst of the bad habits that didn’t make the Zhan Zhuang bad habits list is not practicing at all! Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions or if I missed any other bad habits you’d like to see included in this or future list. Have a great day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Martial Arts Dilemma in solving the Compliance Tensor in Structure and Movement

The idea of solving the compliance tensor equations in connection with mechanical movement, much less solving the expression in real time movements in the internal martial arts, could be very difficult if not almost impossible. Right now you might be asking yourself why would anyone even waste their time trying to explore the complexities of Hooke’s Law of Elasticity with encountering strain and stress (F = -kx) as it relates to Wujifa, Internal Martial Arts, Taiji, or any martial art for that matter? What does this idea of “strain being directly proportional to stress” have to do with getting good at Gongfu? (For a detailed explanation of Hooke’s Law and Compliance Tensor, see the Wikipedia entry.)

Personally I believe that every serious practitioner spends much of their time working and training to kinesthetically solve or resolve issues with the answer to this equation as set forth by the tolerances of the principles of their art form to the compliance tensor equation in real time.

Solving the compliance tensor equations in real time requires you to leave the present moment and this is exactly my point. Yin and Yang, Five Element Theory, so on and so forth are simply gross ambiguities that may only make sense when applied to a very “specific equation” relative to a snap shot in time, I say that because the reality is constantly changing as you move and train.

Yes we can apply a Qin-na technique to a joint and watch it dislocate that joint in real time and say here is your real time answer to the compliance tensor for that joint of that person with that movement. At the same time as a practitioner, how do you notice, develop, refine, and train to make real and reproducible results at the highest level?

The method is not the truth once you get the feeling get rid of the method. At the same time I believe the same mindset, the close attention to details “as if” one were methodically solving the compliance tensor equation could be a good model or method. I would say go read about compliance tensor and Hooke’s Law and see if this doesn’t give you some idea of what the ambiguity of Qi flowing might really mean. Look at the vectors of force and how eccentric muscle movement and connective tissues spring to life. Look into the ways stress and strain can be directed and redirected to distort or load a system. Look back to your practice and see if the compliance tensor equation gives you any depth to how and why you train.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gongfu Practice: Role, Design, and Value

The value of one’s practice or, importance it seems to merit can vary tremendously. What is important to one person can be vastly different to another. Now here is the catch, often times the value of a practice cannot be fully understood until much later, and only then, when viewed from another space and time in comparison.

The equation of “Benefits - Costs = Value” is such a personally subjective concept, can it even be rationally understood at any given moment? Then imagine trying to understand the viewpoints of the multitude of long and short term moments all coming together as if they were facets of some larger design. Pictures of glimmering gems. Gems that could have been, simply pieces of glass shining in the afternoon sun. So, what does any of that really mean when it comes down to your gongfu practice?

In Wujifa the seemingly ordinary is often practiced for long periods of time. “Refining the ordinary until they become extra-ordinary” is a common saying. Depth is discovered both in a moment and over time.

“One’s heart is like one’s energy, they cannot be measured directly, only viewed through their actions to which they abide.”

Value is like beauty, and so it is with Wujifa and gongfu. Watching someone practicing Zhan Zhuang can be like watching a concrete pylons in the hot dessert sun in some forgotten parking structure of what pretended to be a life once upon a time. Watching someone first hand experiencing the gongfu of zhan zhuang can also be as if in the presence and majesty of a might redwood connecting, reaching forth, as one discovers it’s place between earth and sky.  How can it be that both can share such a different experience? How can something as simple as standing around have such different processes? How does one place valve on one process or discard another?

“A rut serves its purpose when one finds himself ankle deep in the mud.”

A Buddhist friend tells me “leave them alone, its fine as it is…” The meaning being that there is a lesson to be taught in what there is to experience. Take away the experience and the perfect lesson may also be lost. Understand that your quest may take you years to uncover, and the pointlessness only understood once you wash the mud off of your feet.

It seems there may be an unseen role, design, and value in what is happening that may not always be readily understood outside the moment. Understanding is a process of doing, and experiencing. Knowledge is not mere data, or methods gathered. Yes, methods and data can “artfully” point a direction. In direction there are some seemingly meaningful equations, in which the value is often simply a formulation of subjective understandings at that given moment in time. Growth is full of transformations.

What do you stand for?

You may have heard these questions before around these parts “What do you stand for?”  The answer may honestly be that you don’t know. As you go through life you get to experience life and how you open and connect with life or, how you disconnect and remove yourself from engaging with it.

The question of “How do you know?” is one worth discovering and exploring. Which leads to the question of, “Where to start?” In Wujifa we say “You are where you are and that’s where you start.” So simply stop for a second, notice and discover where you are standing, "your stance in life" right now. Gongfu is noticing this over time and revealing a simple meaning in the role, design, and value you bring to this exploration.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What do you stand for?

What do you stand for? This is such a simple question and yet this simple question is one of many that can uncover the principles and beliefs held at ones very core.  When one sincerely explores this question not in word but in action and in the doing then both conscious and unconscious answers can be revealed if you keep an open mind to the question. What do you stand for?

What do you stand for? Some may say to develop, explore, and notice mental and physical connection or even to help develop internal strength of some kind.  What is the presupposition that these practitioners stand upon? What else do they notice? What else are they putting time and energy into? What happens when people start asking these kind of questions? What do you stand for?

What do you stand for? Some say to simply stand and others say they find it simply enjoyable. There are so many types of drugs in the world. There are many types of medicine and even placebo effects. There are also so many forms of nutrition, nourishment, and sustenance. Without awareness a drug, a medicine, even nourishing foods can lead one to a place where it is insensible. What do you stand for?

What do you stand for? Is it to solve some sort of puzzle or to stand on your principles? Is it to be part of a practice that you believe will make you better in some way? Is it to be part of some group or organization? Is it because you were told too or simply standing alone on faith? Are your reason coming from somewhere deep inside or motivated by some external forces? What do you stand for?

What do you stand for? Does it change as time passes? Does it grow, develop and evolve over time? Does the answer reveal different faces and answers? Is what your stand for some kind of reflection, a mirror, a manifestation of something more? Do why, what, where, and when, like reason, form, place, and time simply present an opportunity to practice learning how to observe? Are there different chunk sizes that are most useful like bricks are useful in building a wall, or how walls are useful in building a home? Does chunk size have anything to with the Wujifa saying “You are where you are and that’s where you start!”?

What do you stand for can be, fundamentally very personal or even superficial, yet the question can still be asked and explored. Many would say that this one question can be so very helpful to making progress and at another time a waste of valuable time.  You are where you are and that’s where you start.

As for an answer to this question simply remember if the answer is at hand what is there to worry? If there is no answer, worrying isn’t going to help. The question “What do you stand for?” is simply a question. Ovation or disdain or ignore it all together.  As the heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali said “The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”  And as the erotic writer Anaïs Nin said “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” Just simply remember “You are where you are and that’s where you start.

No creature is fully itself till it is, like the dandelion, opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos. ~D.H. Lawrence