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.


  1. well said indeed. you've articulated a fundamental truth very succinctly. bravo and many thanks for your blog !
    -a taichi student in india

  2. Rick, your sharing here is direct and really easy for me to integrate. I'm inspired to dive deeper into my practice and find that extra-ordinariness.

    I want to ask a question about ordinariness of practice though. It seems there is a bit of a paradox between ordinariness we look for and the curiosity real practice requires. How do we remain curious about that which is ordinary? When I think ordinary, the word "boring" comes to mind, but I know this is not the ordinariness you are talking about. I believe we are looking for a lively ordinariness, and a curious one. Where does the novelty show up in this ordinary practice... the "I don't know yet I'm open"?