Sunday, June 21, 2009

Basic Tips for Zhan Zhuang and the pelvis

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In Zhan Zhuang (stance practice) the pelvis and the method for correct posture is often commonly misunderstood. Stance training is one of the primary organizational skill sets in the Wujifa system. Having some basic tips for this practice can be very helpful to gaining greater understanding of this skill sets. This will be the focus of what will be shared here in this article. Also, come back, because we’ll present more in depth information in the future. But for now, enjoy these basic and helpful tips.

Basic Tips for Zhan Zhuang and the pelvis

There has been some talk recently about a couple of the posts put up on this blog. These two articles are: “Keys for developing the inguinal crease” which is about the Wujifa “Side to Side” practice and the other “Concepts of sit down in Wujifa standing." Both in standing practice(s), what some call Zhan Zhuang, and the side to side practice(s), which are basic keys for developing the connections that many martial arts seek as well as those who practice certain types of qigongs and some forms of yoga.

The first point I’d like to share is that many people carry a lot of tension in the glutes or more simply said the butt muscles. When people have a normalized patterning of tension that is carried in the glutes you will find that the femoral heads are pulled back and twisting the legs so they often stand in daily life with their toes angled slightly outward. The second pointer is also very common in so many people and that is the muscles found in the lower back area are shortened and tight. Some of these seemingly normal imbalances are found in these muscles and fascial groups: Erector spinae, Thoracolumbar fascia, Latlissimus dorsi muscle, Petlit’s, Gluteal aponeurosis, Quadratus lumborum, Psoas, just to name a few.

When one simply relaxes more deeply or as one learns to relax the muscles of the lower back and supporting muscles and relax the glutes while practicing stance training then the back can lengthen and the femoral heads of the right and left legs can be allowed to widen. This gives more room for the pelvis to adjust on the hip joints and with the opening/lengthening of the spine “allows” the tailbone or sacrum to shift and drop downward in these practices. This is VERY different than tucking.

Many people try to lengthen the back by tucking the pelvis. That may be a method used in some practices that use force and tightening as a method although I am not going to comment on those. As for others they may not understand how to relax and maintain structure without being limp and so they feel the need to create some type of tension to maintain these structures. So, they tuck the tail bone and use opposing muscles to counteract the tightness in the lower back and glutes with even more tightness and muscle. As they are simply trying to achieve an outward look of a practice with a conflicting set of tightness and contraction which will normalize and create even more rigidness.

What we aim for in the Wujifa standing practice skill set is to repattern or build in a more open responsive posture. We do this in learning to relax and adjust accordingly. Often is the case found in hip adjustments and relaxing the glutes and lower back muscles so the pelvis can shift and adjust to a more functional space for example in the standing practices.

Hopefully sharing some of this the information may be insightful to the readers here. Saying that, I would like to share a simple method for helping one allow a better structure in their practices to shift and develop as they train Zhan Zhang, Wujifa standing, other internal martial art or qigong practices as they may apply.

Stand up, and take a deep breath. Go ahead try this now. Wiggle around a bit as this can help you access the lower back and hip area. Now take another deep breath and as you exhale relax the butt muscles and lower back muscles. Allow the hip area to widen and the lower back to lengthen as you get more in touch with the tightness that has started to release. Feel how there is a more groundedness showing up and how there is less conflict between the muscles. This is a good place for the beginner to play. As one practices a deeper awareness will develop. You could look at that as a basic philosophy that some talk about in ideas such as Taoism. This is one of the basic keys in starting to understand more of what we train and call Wujifa and the standing practices and side to side skill sets.

Hopefully you’ve noticed some “basic” differences between using forceful tucking and
the practice of opening to allow shifting to take place. Simply by widening the femoral heads, relaxing the glutes, and allowing the back to lengthen you will start to notice how the posture can be guided into the more formal structure of a stance practice as utilized for example in Wujifa. This is a good place to start. The study of Wujifa stance and other practices may seem simple yet are very deep. Developing alignment and body and fascial connections and understandings are key for making good progress. We will write more on this subject in the coming weeks. Until then remember the key is in the doing. Check back often and ask questions and comment. Feel free to contact us!
Also check out: More on Zhan Zhuang and Movement

As with any exercise, make sure you are in good enough physical health before attempting this. Ask a doctor if in doubt.

Also check out: Zhan Zhuang Alignment
Also check out: Wujifa Two Feet and What Does This Mean?
Also check out: Keys for Developing the Inguinal Crease, aka Kua, with Wujifa Side to Side Practice
Also check out: The Concept of "Sit Down" in Wujifa Standing...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Keys for Developing the Inguinal Crease, aka Kua, with Wujifa Side to Side Practice

Wujifa "Side to Side" practices are a basic element to understanding the Kua (inguinal creases), and in that regard, many say elegant in their simplicity. There have been many good questions, some asking for help, and others for more information about these recent Youtube videos that we've posted.

Those videos show people at different levels of proficiency, from newer people, to those who have practiced Wujifa for a while now. On that note, we post the following, about this simple yet enlightening skill set and the Wujifa practice called "Side to Side."

"Keys for Developing the Inguinal Crease, aka Kua, with Wujifa Side to Side Practice"

The first question you may find yourself asking is what would be the advantage of doing a side to side practice, like in the recent Wujifa “Side to Side” short video? Because it will help you develop the crucial region of the body known as the Inguinal Crease, or kua, which is key. This area needs to move correctly during grounded full body movement. If not you could find yourself spending years trying to understand this with more complicated practices or discover that you’re not making as much progress as you’d like with so many things to focus on.

What if you never heard of… practical or useful practices, for example, like that of the Wujifa system of side to side? Could you imagine practicing for years and years or spending hours upon hours with those possibilities trying to discover more useful keys toward full body movement?

Over time, people have come up with so many different methods to working with the hips or kua, such as Yoga, massage, physical manipulation, and a multitude of qigongs and internal martial arts. It’s funny how, over the years, so many people are not developing the internal or full body movements that they were so actively working toward discovering. It’s unfortunate that some people, even after years of practicing these other methods, still seem confused about these things and the type of movement they are looking for.

YouTube link to this video: for those who have iPhones or enjoy YouTube formats.

The process of side to side allows a very specific focus to guide people in making progress towards understanding the inguinal creases which is so very helpful in deeper discoveries of full-body movement and practice.

First, it is necessary to keep the principles learned in Zhan Zhuang (Standing Practice). Keep the back aligned and maintain body structure while sliding weight from one leg to the other. When done properly, it will feel heavy just like in stance. If things seem too heavy, feel free to move to a higher position to be more comfortable. At first when one begins this kind of practice, you start simply by noticing that one inguinal crease is closing as the other opens. Then, as your skill becomes more refined, shifting to one side, you might notice the kua is closing on a 45 degree angle, yet opening or stretching vertically. At the same time, as the opposite kua is opening it is also actually closing and stretching horizontally, when looked at from a slightly deeper level. As is often the case In Wujifa, doing the exercise is necessary to understanding.

At a deeper level of complexity, there are multiple openings and closings happening at the same time, on different vectors throughout the length of each kua. In fact, through the entire length of the inguinal crease, there are any number of vectors we could notice both in opening or closing in the exact same physical crease on different planes at any point in time. One simple example was the vertical or horizontal axis. As one learns more they discover intention plays a big role throughout this simple extension of our Zhan Zhuang (or as we call it Wujifa Standing practice) and side to side.

As one first starts they may notice that one Kua or inguinal crease simply opens and closes. As another level of understanding develops, depending on which vector you look at, the Kua or inguinal crease is both open or closed as I touched on earlier.

Growth has a process and there are many levels. What was once understood as one way develops and changes. Then as you continue training or practicing this gongfu you understand more deeply how alive the movement is and that vectors in a open or closed Kua are more like a "twining" which is felt in more than just the hip area (you can see the parts of the video where the one of the practitioners is twisting his hands together during movement to illustrate this feeling).

Stand up right now. Find your grounding in Zhan Zhuang (Read: The Concept of "Sit Down" in Wujifa Standing , or check back as we will be posting many more helpful articles on these topics), and try sliding gently from side to side if you can. Just relax and notice these basic openings and closings happening in your kua (don’t push it). Over the next weeks and months of practice you can start to notice and develop more key insights to these deeper levels of understanding of development through doing this practice. Along with this understanding, the fascia of your inguinal crease will also develop as your awareness grows in making these new connections.

What if you were to make this part of your daily practice? Can you picture how you would benefit with this seemingly simple yet deep practice as you develop your kua, and move towards a more grounded full body movement? If you do the exercise, you will be able to enjoy the progress you will make in the coming weeks and months. As you continue practicing and learning, check back here. Our goal is to share hopefully useful Wujifa practices that make what might seem more complicated easier to understand. The key is in the doing. Remember to check back often and we will post more keys to internal movement and more videos. Also, ask questions and comment. Feel free to contact us!

As with any exercise, make sure you are in good enough physical health before attempting this. Ask a doctor if in doubt.

Also check out: More on Zhan Zhang and Movement
Also check out: Basic Tips for Zhan Zhang and the pelvis
Also check out: The Kua More Methods For Developing The Inguinal Crease