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...


  1. Beautiful Post, Rick... there's so much great information in here. Wujifa's methods have been really helpful for me, especially the way in which relax, structure, and connection work together. This link is to a post of my own where I go into how our school's methods, like the ones you talk about here, have helped me get some really cool insights.

  2. Terrific post. Lots of good information here.

  3. Thanks for the great post!

    Simple. Straightforward. Detailed.

    Keep them coming!

    Twenty Twenty

  4. In addition to tailbone tucking, I've seen a number of people tighten their pelvic girdle to open/strengthen the low back and the pelvic floor. While you may be able to achieve a similar strengthening/loosening in the low back/glute area, it seems counterintuitive to correct tension using tension. Relaxing and allowing the pelvis and glutes to open creates a much longer lasting, healthy structure, with the added bonus of promoting relaxation and strength in the body. I can think of a few key exercises we covered to achieve this, in addition to side to side and stance, but I'm sure they'll be covered once more groundwork is laid. Love reading the posts here!

  5. Cheers Rick ...

    Love the article ...

    I really enjoy, coming home to fundamentals and this post has some great, easy, simple insights to play with ...

    Thanks again ...


  6. When I started Taiji, I was taught to tuck. After a long while, tucking became my structural habit. Now I am unlearning tuck and working on allowing relax.

    There is a distinct difference not only in the physical feel of tuck and relax but also in the intention (a more subtle, yet obvious feeling once you feel it, feeling) whereas tuck drives the tailbone forward, relax drives the tailbone straight down, which is what the tuck-people are aiming for, but missing the bullseye.

    I wish all students and teachers could read this article and know this distinction KINESTHETICALLY! This alone would immensely help the internal arts practitioners.


  7. These are some key guiding principles

    I plan on reading and rereading many of these posts

    thanks for sharing this Rick

  8. Hey Dude, In commenting on another of our schoolmates posts, (
    I put up one of the fundamental sayings of the School of Cultivation and Practice (Wujifa) Maybe soon, you could put up an article about these helpful foundational sayings?

  9. GREAT IDEA...

    Yes, I have a number of posts in the wings lined up... although choosing to post, with the feeling... is another story, than simply posting facts and/or details... in saying that I will admit that writing may not be my strongest suits... and find myself re-writing and re-writing these... what can I say... it may be one of may bad habits... LOL

    Foundational saying... OK... nice... I will put some of these up VERY SOON...

  10. Personal adjustments have helped me a lot. Sometimes that occasional nudge in the right direction helps me see how stubborn i can be with my tensions, heh.

  11. I know what you mean Trevor... I am so thankful for the gentle nudgings I recieved and recieve... sometimes nudgings show up simply in ways I didn't notice before. Gongfu I believe is about noticing and putting what is noticed into practice... have you ever seen the geese on Wilcox lake... wonderful, simply wonderful!

  12. Been revisiting these concepts a lot lately...

    Is it possible to force a tuck but then gradually learn to relax? It seems that tucking makes the weight in the legs much more apparent despite the eventual drawbacks...I've noticed this in side to side as well as I have problems keeping the inguinal creases in while sinking the lower back...

    Perhaps I need a refresher on how to widen the hips, femur heads out and relax the lower back!

  13. you know the importance to know the location of each one of the body bones, specially in martial arts, you have to know exactly the point in where you must to hit and avoid to hit.