Monday, May 21, 2012

Faux Feeling, True Feeling: Journal Notes #93

Notes from my August 2011 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: How can I apply the Quality Control principle to zhan zhuang stance practice?
Answer: You keep losing sight of the end goal by getting bogged down in the details of the method. Stand and relax is the process. The goal is to get the coin sized burn in the center of you quadricep muscles and feel internal connectedness. Your goal at this time is to feel and develop connection. Just work on that.

* Note: I was carrying the weight in my outer quadriceps. I've somehow moved that to the inner quad which left the outer quad softer in comparison.
(There is something to learn in which muscles should be activating or "firing" and which should be more relaxed to get the weight to sink and to get good alignment. Working on the musculature is a method that helps to both set up the body for and develop sensitivity to feeling fascial connection.)

* My verbal response ("That's weird") to new kinesthetic feelings is my way to judge and dismiss anomalies to my habitual state of feeling. The Quality Assurance way is to explore anomalies.
(Notice in your own practice how you respond to new kinesthetic feelings. Your response may either inhibit further growth or may foster further growth just as I have learned here.)

* When I come to class, I am "asleep", not present, pre-occupied, on auto-pilot, in a kind of zombie mode. This is the pattern I tend to run in daily life. Not very "in the moment". Not really "present". I think these are the fruits of my shutting down emotionally because I haven't learned a strategy to express myself without "getting in trouble" or without offending others. So rather than live authentically and piss-off some people, I choose to shut down and make nice. But this behavior directly contradicts the goals of my Wujifa zhan zhuang practice. How can I stay in the awake place I get to during class?

* My gong-fu practice should be to state my concerns everyday in the same way I tolerate others expressing their concerns to me.

* The biggest step is taking the first step.

* Question: Is the "push-up from heels" feeling a feeling of whole-body tumescence? (We were talking about how the feeling of "peng" is like the turgid feeling of tumescence.)
Answer: No. It's not caused by pushing. We then worked for 20 minutes on my zhan zhuang stance. Yes, pushing up from the heels does create a "peng" feeling. Then he had me shift onto one leg and asked me to create the same push-up feeling in the empty leg which I did but by using a different method, without pushing up, but more kind of like a mind-fullness filling the leg. So now the instruction is, when standing, don't push-up. Push up is a method.Simply stand with that feeling. Remember, the method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method. But even the feeling of peng/tumescence is not the true feeling or goal either. Peng/tumescence is the finger pointing to the moon. Somewhere in the feeling of peng/tumescence you must discover the feeling of connectedness.
The point is that what is true at the current  level of feeling and understanding is faux at the next layer.

* Now I see a pattern to developing feeling - Practice methods to develop feelings. Practice feeling at whatever level I'm at to refine my ability to feel. Refining my ability to feel prepares me to feel at the next level.
(It's not a matter of "getting in touch with yourself" or developing "inner awareness". I've learned that these and similar phrases are too vague and ambiguous. The practice really is about developing a specific kinesthetic sensitivity.)

* Methods can yield a feeling. I relied on methods. Any feeling is not the end of the road. The puzzle is, how is the feeling achieved? For example, tense muscles can yield a feeling of connectedness but tension is not relaxed and so at this level, tension creates a faux-feeling of connectedness.
(There have been many times when I've gone to class and proudly demonstrated a new found feeling of connection only to be told I'm using too much muscle and that I need to relax more. These moments are both discouraging and at the same time I am grateful for pointing out to me how I'm heading down the wrong path.)

* Question: I've noticed there is no strength in the outer metatarsals of my right foot when I stand on my right leg. How can I strengthen the outside muscles of my foot to help keep me stable so I don't wobble?
Answer: The problem is not in your foot. The problem is that you are not yet able to notice your own muscular patterning. When you notice your foot rolling, I see your right knee turning out and your back is over tightening. You back is compensating for a weaker core. Work on strengthening your core first then you can relax and get your femur head to roll forward more which will help keep you knee in alignment and your foot will no longer be an issue to you.

* The "Seeing Test". I was talking about how I can see more of people's muscular patterns. My instructor then stood and tensed different parts of his body and asked my to identify where he was tensing. I was able to identify a couple easy ones but as he reduced tension levels and changed patterns, then I lost it.


Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Intention, Process, Results: Journal Notes #92
Next article in this series: - What I Never Understood: Journal Notes #94

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Intention, Process, Results: Journal Notes #92

Notes from my July 2011 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: It's hard for me to believe that no one else is teaching this level of detail. What's the difference between the average "internal martial arts" teaching and Wujifa teaching?
Answer: Many teachers teach a method and don't teach the feeling. (Maybe they don't know the feeling?) So what is missing in most teachings is how to teach the feeling. Wujifa focuses on teaching the feeling and uses a wide variety of methods to do this. Some of these methods are created spontaneously in the moment to help a student get the feeling. Others are worked out in great detail before being demonstrated and shared with students and then refined over time. Methods are useful to get you to notice the feeling. Advanced practitioners will leave the methods behind and focus on practicing refining the feeling.


* People get bored with a simple, repetitive practice but if they don't get the details that are learned and mastered in the simple, repetitive practices and if they try to move on to more advanced practices too quickly, then either they don't get the results they desire or they hurt themselves.

* Question: How am I doing with the theraband stretching exercise? (I demonstrated.)
Answer: Still too much muscle.

* Question: Do you think I'd make better progress if I were more a "natural" at sports?
Answer: Someone who is a "natural" cannot be said to have good gong-fu. When the idiot "gets it", he's ten times the master of "the natural". "Naturals" generally don't have the patience to work at developing a deep level of understanding.Once the idiot "gets it", then he knows what was involved to "get it" and in learning and struggling with the process, he knows how to improve beyond "the natural's" natural ability. "Naturals" tend to get stuck at the level of their natural ability.


* Question: How about keeping up on my weight lifting exercises while practicing Wujifa?
Answer: Weight lifting builds muscle through repetitive contractions. Working and focusing on contracting impedes feeling connectedness through relaxing and expanding. If you are going to do both, then be sure to keep your Wujifa practice separate from weight lifting.


* A Quality Control Approach to Training Zhan Zhuang: (What do you want? What are you doing? What results are you getting?) - (Intention- Process - Results)

People can get stuck on what they are doing.

People may be clear on the process but other intentions can feed into the process.

Results - Verify if the results feed the originally stated intention. If the results are interesting but don't support the stated intention, then you need to compare the results to the intention to see if there are hidden intentions.


* Question: One more time, what is the meaning of, "When one part moves then all parts move."?
Answer: Each part moves a little in relation to the movement of another part. This does not mean that the whole is a frozen block and one part of the block moves when another part of the block moves. It also does not mean that the parts move independently like the points on a whip or limp noodle. Rather, think of the connected elasticity of a tensegrity model. "When one part moves then all parts move". When pressure it applied at one point, then all the other points adjust accordingly maintaining the structure.

(Each time I ask this question, I get a clearer insight into what it means and how this meaning "plays out" in my body.
While some may say that moving like a whip (energy generated from the feet, directed by the waist, expressed in the fingers) is connectedness, I now think the whip analogy of connectedness is a misleading concept because a whip is essentially a limp noodle and inherently lacks the structure to stand up and conduct groundpath.)


*  We were talking about data and I was shown how I use data in three different ways:
  1. Historical data. Data that corroborates my story; supporting evidence for my excuses.
  2. Mystical data. Data that explains what "God wants me to do".
  3. Functional data. Data that I use to function in daily life. For example, if I want ice for drinks, I know that water turns to ice at 0 degrees centigrade so I need to put water in the freezer.
and then I was asked:
  1. What kind of data are you collecting?
  2. Where do you put your data?
  3. What are you doing with your data?
(Remember the TV character "Spock" in the original "Star Trek" series? His rationality ruled his heart. Well, my rather Spockian approach to life was a major roadblock to feeling. An armor against feeling. A way to distance myself from feeling. Hence, why my notes repeatedly come back to this topic. Data is also a strength not to be discarded but rather employed to advance my own Wujifa practice. I still need to work on bringing data and feeling, head and heart, into Balance.)  
Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Zhan Zhuang Craftsman: Journal Notes #91
Next article in this series: - Faux Feeling, True Feeling: Journal Notes #93

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zhan Zhuang Craftsman: Journal Notes #91

Notes from my June 2011 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: What would it take for me to take my practice to the next level?
Answer: One reason you're not taking your practice to the next level is that you are missing the "art" perspective. You can't see past being a craftsman and so you are stuck working at a craftsman stage.

* Question: What is the "art" in martial art? What is the "artist" in martial artist?
Answer: There are many definitions of art and artist. How about: What looks like "art" is created by somebody who applied various technical elements with craftsmanship to express a personal idea or meaning...

* Question: How can you tell who is a real zen master and who is not?
Answer: By how they live their life.One feels emotional expression when engaging a real zen master and the other disengages emotionally and responds robotically.

* Question: If the microcosmic orbit is suppose to be internal, why do some people teach it as external movements?
Answer: Some teachers start with the external physical movement first because students' muscles are too tight. Students have to learn how to relax first. The external physical part is not the truth.

* Question: I know I've asked this before, what should I be noticing in my practice now?
Answer: Noticing 'what is moving' is what you want to grow. Noticing 'what is stuck' is useful but can get you stuck if you stay focused on noticing what is stuck. Not being able to notice what is stuck will also keep you stuck

* Some people gravitate to the rush of intensity and miss the subtlety. Developing internal connectedness occurs in the subtlety. And the subtle can be intense once you delve into it and sometimes in a different way.

* We practiced a Wujifa movement exercise designed to begin developing connected fa-jing. In my practice:
  • I tend to hunch. Need to stay upright.
  • I tend to lock my hips and my arms are too disconnected.
  • I need to work on keeping the arms closer to the body and work the hips more.
  • I need to work on timing: dropping the butt down and back and extending the hands and bounce out only a millisecond. Extension comes from the bounce.
* We experimented with using a kind of 'sumo wrestler stomp' exercise as a way to help beginners practice getting movement in the kua. The wrong way to imitate the 'sumo wrestler stomp' is to lock the hip joint and pivot on ankle.The correct way is to pivot on the hip joint.
(If you want to try this, it's best to watch yourself in a mirror because you will likely think you are doing it right when in fact may be doing it wrong. If you are in fact pivoting on your ankle, it can be tricky and awkward to learn how to pivot on the hip joint to start to get some movement in the kua.)

* Many zhan zhuang postures look the same on the outside to the untrained eye. However, it's what is happening (or not happening) inside that distinguishes one from the the other.Usually beginners can't distinguish one zhan zhuang practice from the other and hence are unfortunately easily fooled.

* Stance practice is like maintaining your house or car. There's always something to do. I had previously thought of house or car work as a "one time, done, next" experience and stance as an on going no end in sight, no satisfaction of a "job well done". But how many times have I cleaned the kitchen sink? Changed the car's motor oil? Is there an end in sight really? No.I feel the satisfaction of looking at a clean kitchen sink, but then it gets messy again. Life is Stance is Life... Maybe if I change my frame of reference to, having stood today is a job well done... The craftsman frame of mind....

* See the website Quantified Self: Guide to Self Tracking Tools regarding tracking/journaling to discover patterns. Even if you don't buy one of these apps, you get more ideas about how to track and journal your zhan zhuang practice and internal strength development.


* We talked about how much dedication and effort is involved in developing internal strength.
The first question to the new student is always, "What do you want?"
The student's answer is always something like: "I want internal strength, super powers, etc..."
The response is, "Well, here's what you have to do: A, B, C,...
To which the student responds, "Oh, but I don't want to do all that!"


* Change the body to change the mind.

* I had a HUGE breakthrough in class! I hit the same spot as I did three years ago but more on my own, more my noticing, more my feeling. Fewer instructor-made postural adjustments. Nature of adjustments is mainly "OK. Where are you now?" Adjustments are a method to help the practitioner notice feeling and connection.

Question: In practice, I can only hold a full body attention for 30 minutes and then I quit. Should I continue with a different plan?
Answer: Play on the edge. Notice where you're feeling on the edge of what you are noticing. Notice why you can't maintain your attention, why you can't continue noticing. Notice that. What insights does this yield?

* Noticing what's at the edge where I would quit. I'm afraid to go further. How much further can I push this? Too much feeling. Pushing the edge. How to get through wanting to quit...
(My wanting to quit is a recurring theme in my zhan zhuang practice which arises when I hit a new level of feeling, a new level of connectedness/internal strength. It is truly a contradiction. I say I want it, yet as I break through to new levels, I pull back from it. It's my wanting it and seeing it now within reach that keeps me hanging in there and so I keep coming back to it. Never give up.)

* Last class of month. I'm burned out from all the daily-life work. Tired. Not "with it". So I had no questions and took no notes in class today.
(Over the years, there are times like this when I really don't feel like going to class, like when I haven't practiced and have nothing to brag or ask about or when I just don't have the mood or energy to work on getting me to open and feel more connectedness. The more often I experience this, the more clear I become of where I'm stuck and why.)

Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Zhan Zhuang and Quality Control: Journal Notes #90
Next article in this series: - Intention, Process, Results: Journal Notes #92

Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Andreas Vesalius, Tai-chi Chuan and Wujifa

Even though Tai-chi Chuan is a physical art, many practitioners seem to get caught up in a stewpot of pseudo-Chinese Tai-chi Taoist philosophy-culture which in my opinion, has nothing to do with the kinesthetic principles of this art. Immersing oneself in "Tai-chi culture" and expecting to develop internal strength is like Galen dissecting apes to learn human anatomy.

Unfortunately, like Galen, I think many Tai-chi practitioners are not personally guided through a functional "dissection" of the corpus of the principles of internal strength. I think this may be attributed to a kind of un-examined faith in the handed-down "culture", much like the medieval faith in the correctness of Galen's anatomy. As a result, various interpretations of Tai-chi Chuan and internal strength have developed as well as various practices supporting these interpretations.
"And as everything is being thus wrongly taught in the universities and as days pass in silly questions, fewer things are placed before the spectators in all that confusion than a butcher in a market could teach a doctor. I pass over any number of schools where dissecting the structure of the human body is scarcely ever considered; so far has the ancient art of medicine fallen from its early glory many years past."
What does the renowned Renaissance physician Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) have to do with modern day Tai-chi Chuan and Wujifa? This article looks at one way to consider the parallels between the milieu of this historical European figure and the milieu of modern day Tai-chi Chuan and how, like Andreas Vesalius, Wujifa picks up the proverbial scalpel and dissects the corpus of internal strength and simply notices what is there and in so doing, develops a more functional understanding of the internal martial artist body.

If the name Andreas Vesalius is new to you, here's a quick synopsis based on longer articles that may be found at: Brittanica Academic Edition, New Catholic Encyclopedia, and Wikipedia.

First, Claudius Galenus, a.k.a., Galen, was a Greek physician for Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 AD. Because Roman religion forbade the dissection of human cadavers, Galen's understanding of human anatomy was based primarily on dissections of apes. His books on human anatomy became the authority in medical education for nearly 1500 years. (Galen's work was a huge leap forward in anatomical understanding from earlier Aristotlean models.)

Fast forward to the European Renaissance, Andreas Vesalius himself doing dissections of human cadavers, compared what he saw to the Galenic anatomical drawings and noted many discrepancies. He concluded that Galen's human anatomy was not based on direct, hands-on dissection of human cadavers. Vesalius then published the first anatomically correct drawings of the human body in a seven volume set titled, "On the Fabric of the Human Body" in 1543 AD (in the original Latin, De Humanis Corporis Fabrica).

It is too easy in these times to practice any of the many interpretations of Tai-chi Chuan for years or even decades and in the end, be no closer to achieving what you thought you were working toward. Just like earlier medical practitioners who thought Galen was on the right path discovered 1500 years later that Vesalius, by using hands-on exploration, had a better way of describing things.
"Worse yet, the distribution of professional skills among various practitioners has gone so far that those who have set themselves goals of competency embrace one part of their art to the neglect of others that are closely related and cannot be separated from it, and they never accomplish anything notable; never attaining their proposed goal, they constantly fall short of the true construction of their art"
To summarize, Andreas Vesalius departed from tradition and by employing a different approach, revolutionized the science of anatomy. He overturned the centuries-old faith in the authority of Aristotelean/Galenic understanding of human anatomy which had been considered infallible to the point of being sacred. Andreas Vesalius later became known as the "Father of Modern Anatomy".

The National Library of Medicine summarizes the preface to Fabrica by saying Vesalius argues that true knowledge of the body can only be learned through hands-on dissection of a human body. To me, Wujifa approaches developing internal strength with the same kind of mindset that Vesalius approached anatomy; don't rely on what others say is true but rather, observe for yourself and note your findings.

Amidst this chaos and confusion over what is "real" Tai-chi Chuan and how to train to develop internal strength, a bit of independent analysis and questioning may help to be able to recognize if there is a dis-connect between your current training methods and what the Classics are trying to convey about the kinesthetic quality of internal strength.
"But this project would never have gone forward if when I was studying medicine at Paris I had not personally set my hand to Anatomy at a time when my fellow students and I had to content ourselves with a few internal parts being superficially displayed at one or two public dissections by the most ignorant barbers."
If the student of Tai-chi Chuan were able to cut through the various teachings to discern and arrive at training methods which are functionally based on the principles, even if the resultant practices do not look like Tai-chi, Ba-gua, or Xing-yi, then that student could be rewarded with being on the path to developing that which was written of in the Classics.
"and by rejecting the silly habits of the schools so demonstrate and teach, that by this anatomical method we would be deprived of nothing that comes down to us from the ancients" 
And so, I think the core admonition that Andreas Vesalius has for practitioners of the internal martial arts today is to be willing to look outside of the modern tradition of "Tai-chi culture" to discover the foundational kinesthetic skills of the physical art of Tai-chi Chuan.
"But let even these men <referring to those who denounced and criticized him> gradually soften their position out of a love of truth, and let them trust their not ineffectual eyes and powers of reason more than the writings of Galen; let them carefully write out these unexpected truths which are not cadged from other authors and not verified merely by a collection of authorities, and send them to friends hither and yon, both for their examination and finally for the knowledge of true Anatomy, exhorting them in such an earnest and friendly manner that there will be hope that this kind of Anatomy will soon be cultivated in all the academie"
To me, the common element running through both Vesalius's teaching and Wujifa's teaching is that both authors broke with the prevailing teachings and deferred instead to sharing their personal understanding gained from first-hand experience. Andreas Vesalius dissected human cadavers to acquire a first-hand experience and understanding of the fabric of the human body. Wujifa is based on first-hand experience and understanding of the fabric of internal strength. True knowledge of the body can only be learned through hands-on experience.

As Andreas Vesalius said, "medicine is the addition of things that are lacking and the removal of what is superfluous".  In my opinion, modern day Tai-chi Chuan needs medicine. Tai-chi needs to add simple, functional, physical exercises designed specifically to develop internal connectedness and it needs to remove the superfluous accoutrements which distract practitioners from achieving the true construction of their art.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Zhan Zhuang and Quality Control: Journal Notes #90

Notes from my May 2011 Zhan Zhuang Training Journal. I train with The School of Cultivation and Practice which practices Wujifa zhan zhuang. (My current reflections are added in italics.)

* Question: How do you stay motivated to continue practicing zhan zhuang? Doesn't it get boring after a while?
Answer: If you're avoiding something in daily life, this shows up in stance. Your patterns in daily life, show up in stance practice. You can work out daily life issues in zhan zhuang practice.

* You can't just come to class and learn how to wave your hands around. You're not doing gongfu until you put your own mind into it. Learning something is not the same as practicing. And practicing what you were taught is not the same as practicing what you learn with intention.

* Most people can easily state their "I don't likes" or "I don't wants" (what they want to get away from) but have trouble coming up with stating their "I likes" and "I wants" (what they want to move toward) which is putting a stake in the ground and stating what they stand for.
 (My "toward" and "away" attitudes show up in zhan zhuang stance practice in statements such as, "I want to feel more connection." and "I'm frustrated that it's taking me so long.")

* My instructor spent a good deal of time breaking down each individual movement of the first Chen Silk Reeling form; a kind of feeling analysis of the fascial stretch movement. This kind of "inch by inch" movement description was so completely awesome to witness. I've never seen this level of detailed explanation at any silk reeling seminar or anywhere online.
(The notes from this lesson are too extensive to include here. I may post these in a separate article.)

* I had another break-through "A-ha" moment today. I was able to distinguish the difference between resisting vs. not being able to move due to being so bound up. Recognizing this distinction in myself is another good step. "I'm not resisting. I'm just too bound up to move and feel."
(Often my instructor adjusts my posture or insists my body should move a certain way and I'd forcefully state, "I can't. My body doesn't move that way!" And then after a few more minutes of work, my body is then moving or hitting that posture.
Now, after having recognized this in myself and subsequently encountering this initial "knee-jerk" attitude of resistance again and again, I'm now more inclined to acknowledge that I could do something but I'm too bound up to do it now and accept the help I need. Which is not to say that I still don't have areas where I resist because I do. I'm more aware of it now.)

* I need to practice stance more on the edge of discomfort on one leg. Hold side-to-side on one side. Relax the lower belly. Relax the lower back. Relax the outside of the thighs. Shift slightly forward and back and get a good sense of the back opening and widening.

* Question: How do you know if your zhan zhuang practice is "stuck in a rut"? How do you get out of it?
Answer: A "rut" may not be a bad thing. What you are mentally defining as a "rut" may in fact be the body processing gains made and preparing for the next big change. Sometimes there may be small changes happening that you are not noticing so in fact, there's no "rut" at all. To "get out a rut" simply change the focus of your practice.

* Question: What's the goal in behind the saying that "Relaxed is not limp"?
Answer: The point of relaxing is not about relaxing the muscles though this is a by-product. The point is to stretch the fascial sheet. Consider the analogy of a bed sheet as being your fascial sheet. If you pinch up a section, this represents tight muscles. How can you open and stretch that pinched up section? Relax the muscles to feel something else besides relaxed muscles.

(Unlike some Tai-chi styles where "relax" and "yield" are synonymous with collapsing and becoming like a wet noodle, here, you see, relax has a different purpose.)

* Question: What's a functional approach to relaxing?
Answer: The muscles that are chronically tight went numb to your feeling them years ago and so of course you won't feel them today. So, focus on what you can feel and as you get to the finer details, then you can hone in on where you can't feel.
Let's say you can feel around an area but not into that area. The "in that area" is what's numb. Where the feeling gets fuzzy is a clue pointing to where the tightness is. Notice where you can feel. Collect the data. What does the data point to? Where can't you feel? That's the area you  need to work on relaxing. This is a very functional approach to relaxing.

Question: What's the meaning of "There is no end to feeling?"
Answer: It means, don't stop feeling "X". Feel deeper But feel where deeper? Follow the 80/20 rule. Which area gives you the biggest result with the least depth? Feel there. Feeling deeper for the sake of feeling deeper leads to diminishing returns. This brings up the question, "How do you know?" Sometimes a small adjustment results in a big change. Look for where you can get the biggest payoff for your practice. Read books by William Deming on Quality Control. Apply the principles of quality control to your zhan zhuang practice.

* Peter Drucker once said, "What gets measured, gets managed." This is a HUGE part of internal gong-fu. Also, Deming said "You can expect what you inspect." So, get clear on what you are measuring. This is true for any physical art be it yoga, gymnastics, track and field, etc...but you've got to take this to the next level when applying it to an internal gong-fu practice like Wujifa.

* Question: What's a good way for me to begin teaching Wujifa zhan zhuang?
Answer: For beginners, first look at getting the skeletal structure in the right position. There are too many muscles and layers for a beginner to focus on muscles. Focus on bone position, on skeletal structure. This will address muscles "under the radar". You are where you are...
 

* Question: What's wrong with calling this practice a discipline?
Answer: People get results with discipline and so they think that discipline is the Way. People put too much focus on wanting to satisfy the external rules of discipline and not enough focus on trusting themselves.They feed the discipline monster and let the play wither. Feed the play feeling.
(I still tend to keep the discipline and the play separate from each other though occasionally I bring the two together. I tend to resist the play because I still don't trust that I'm "playing" the "right way" to get the results I want. When I hit it in class though, I can feel the shift and the difference in the results obtained from discipline and play.)

* I was doing a little point-to-point push hands with my instructor and he discovered that I can hit proper alignment when I don't try to get into proper alignment. What's interesting is that I found that I can keep peng/alignment when I wiggle around. In the wiggling I found peng/alignment and delivered a good connected push. So I can do it. I just haven't named that feeling for myself yet to know for myself how to go straight to that feeling.

* These are always good questions: What do you practice for? What do you want?

* Without intention guiding us, we become addicts. Action based on impulse vs action based on intention. See the movie "Fearless". Notice three stages the main character goes through: 1. Action based on impulse, 2. Reconsideration  3. Action based on intention.

* You've got to learn on your own how to isolate the feeling of muscle activating vs. the feeling of fascial stretch. Only you can develop your mind process. When you notice your own kinesthetic data and processing then you are approaching doing real gong-fu.

* Periodically, remember to go back and notice what's happening in your feet. Where in your foot is your weight falling? Your foot is your bio-feedback tool. Go through a few gross external motor movements. Bend knees forward and back. Swivel your hips. Lift an arm to the side. How does each of these affect the weight in your feet? Then go through a few more subtle, more internal movements like sit back and down. How does this affect the weight in your feet?

* Question: How can theraband be used to develop the feeling of fascial connection?
Answer: Begin with using the lightest theraband that presents the minimal tension so you use the minimal amount of muscle. Keep it really, really light. The goal is to help notice the feeling of fascial stretch. Eventually you will drop the theraband and focus on the feeling. The feeling you're looking for is like stretching the theraband but very slight. Practice and move teaches you.

(In fact, it took me almost a year of trying this and continually being told I was using too much muscle before being given a little, light rubberband to use. Even with a small rubberband, I wanted to muscle this as well - so ingrained is the habit of using muscle instead of feeling for and using fascial stretch! Again, you are where you are...
That said, I got closer to what I was suppose to be feeling when I finally got a level of rubberband tension that was suitable for my level, meaning where the rubberband tension was so minimal that barely any muscle needed to be used. More on this practice later.
Please keep this in mind as you watch this Wujifa video. Working with even a light theraband is a higher level practice if you haven't done this before.)
Wujifa Basics: Connection Stretching and Refinement


Further reading:
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Setting Your Intention: Journal Notes #89
Next article in this series: - Zhan Zhuang Craftsmen: Journal Notes #91

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