Martial Development

Martial arts for personal development

Four Paradoxes of Standing Meditation

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Wang Xiangzhai
Wang Xiangzhai practices standing meditation

In 1939, Wang Xiangzhai issued a public challenge through a Beijing newspaper. His objective: to test and prove the new martial arts training system of Yiquan, a system that placed standing meditation (zhan zhuang) at its core.

Expert fighters from across China, Japan and even Europe traveled to answer Wang’s challenge. None could beat him or his senior students. His standing meditation training produced superior results in a shorter time period, when compared to methods used in boxing, Judo, and other styles of Kung Fu.

Considering the proven value of standing meditation, surprisingly few people undertake the practice today. Why is this? As Wang himself noted, the exercise is plagued by logical contradictions. Understandably, but unfortunately, martial artists reject the exercise because it cannot possibly work.

Sincere students, who are willing to suspend their disbelief for a few hours of introductory practice, will encounter and resolve these four paradoxes.

Standing still is good exercise. Wang Xiangzhai explained the unique health benefits of standing meditation in his essay, The Gain From Practicing Martial Art:

Appropriate exercises can positively affect every cell and every organ in the human body, improve the functioning of respiratory and vascular systems, and also improve metabolism. In other words, they activate the whole human organism.

In typical forms of exercise, before the body is tired, there are already problems with breathing and the heart is overburdened. So the exercise must be halted prematurely in order to let one’s heart rest, to catch one’s breath and return to a normal state.

Chinese combat science uses the opposite method. This is exercise of the muscular and vascular systems, exercise for all cells of the body. The principle is to stimulate every organ at the same time. Even if during exercise your muscles become tired, your pulse stays in the normal range, and breathing is natural. After the exercise, you feel that your breath is freer and more comfortable than before.

Because there are no complex sets of movements, the nervous system is not greatly stressed; you eliminate internal tension, achieving mental calm. This is one of the elements that make combat science different from typical forms of exercise.

Holding your arms up is relaxing. Many variations of standing meditation require that the arms be held up, as if holding a ball, for fifteen minutes or more. At first, such postures are unpleasant, and cause tension and soreness in the shoulders. However, the posture itself is not the problem, it only exposes the problem: an unhealthy lifestyle, so deficient in exercise that even your own arms seem oppressively heavy.

After a few weeks of regular practice, the soreness will give way to more pleasant sensations. You will be able to raise your arms up with no discernable effort, and your entire body will become warm. Your joints will feel well-lubricated; stiffness or arthritic conditions will be relieved.

Time flies when you’re doing nothing. A lack of upper-body strength is not the only obstacle to successful practice. After the soreness disappears, a succession of images will parade through your mind. Endlessly replaying the events of the past, and predicting those of the future, you should begin to recognize that you are addicted to distraction.

Starving the beast will weaken it. If you can disregard these distractions from within, do so; otherwise, remove them from your practice environment. Shut the windows and the doors. When your mind finally stops, your perception of time will change; instead of watching the clock, you’ll wish you had more time to spend in this calm and quiet state.

Static posture training promotes fluid and coordinated movement. The prevalence of these mental and physical discomforts illustrates that, although everyone can stand still, few people do it well.

Only after resolving these issues within yourself, will you discover how deeply they affect your performance. As you would expect, your balance will improve; you may be surprised to find that standing meditation also increases your sensitivity, explosive speed and power.

In his later years, Wang Xiangzhai nicknamed himself “Old Man of Contradictions”. Martial artists today cannot hope to match his great accomplishment, unless they are willing to stand first, and ask questions later.

Categories: Aikido · Health and Fitness · Meditation · Qigong · Tai Chi · Wing Chun

68 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rick Matz // Aug 8, 2007

    One of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent years has been to take up the standing practice. When I’ve been practicing regularly, I find that my mind is more clear, my body is relaxed, my reaction time is increased, I sleep better, and I just function better in every possible way.

  • 2 faik // Aug 12, 2007

    Only standing in Zhan Zhuang will not make you faster or better in relaxation. First you have to find out whatever you are “relaxed” or not when you stand in that posititon. How do you verify that?

  • 3 Chris // Aug 13, 2007

    I presume you are referring to shi li, moca bu, fa li, tui shou, and other Yiquan exercises. No doubt those are beneficial, but it would be wrong to say that speed and relaxation cannot be cultivated without them.

    We do not need to consult with others to know whether we are relaxed or not; the answer is always the same: not quite enough. Correctness of posture is a different matter.

  • 4 faik // Aug 14, 2007

    Chris says: “We do not need to consult with others to know whether we are relaxed or not; the answer is always the same: not quite enough.”

    Well, Chris if you are not quite enough relaxed, then you have to work on that, or maybe you are not relaxed at all.

    Each and one who talks about relaxation is saying that is very “easy” to learn to relax your muscles with some “postures” or “positions”, but nobody ever objectively explains how that relaxation should “feel” into your arms, legs, shoulders or the whole body

  • 5 Chris // Aug 14, 2007

    Well, Chris if you are not quite enough relaxed, then you have to work on that, or maybe you are not relaxed at all.

    Have you attained perfect relaxation? If so, then you have definitely surpassed both Wang Xiangzhai and myself.

    Nobody ever objectively explains how that relaxation should “feel” into your arms, legs, shoulders or the whole body.

    The Blind Men and the Elephant
    by John Godfrey Saxe

    It was six men of Indostan
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
    (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind

    The First approached the Elephant,
    And happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
    At once began to bawl:
    “God bless me! but the Elephant
    Is very like a wall!”

    The Second, feeling of the tusk,
    Cried, “Ho! what have we here
    So very round and smooth and sharp?
    To me ’tis mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
    Is very like a spear!”

    The Third approached the animal,
    And happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
    Thus boldly up and spake:
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a snake!”

    The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
    And felt about the knee.
    “What most this wondrous beast is like
    Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
    “ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
    Is very like a tree!”

    The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
    Said: “E’en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most;
    Deny the fact who can
    This marvel of an Elephant
    Is very like a fan!”

    The Sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Than, seizing on the swinging tail
    That fell within his scope,
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a rope!”

    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

    So oft in theologic wars,
    The disputants, I ween,
    Rail on in utter ignorance
    Of what each other mean,
    And prate about an Elephant
    Not one of them has seen!

  • 6 Buddy // Aug 15, 2007

    Hi Chris,
    I got here from Steve Pavlina’s site. I know Rick Matz from Empty Flower. Nice post.

  • 7 faik // Aug 15, 2007

    Chris, I’ve never said that I surpassed anyone or attained perfect relaxation. Relaxation is matter of correct practice (which means objectively verifying the state of relaxation). Only after that you can say that you have mastered relaxation and can deepen it in every “posture” or “position”. But who knows, maybe you have already found out that after “correct posture standing”.

    Mr. Wang Xiangzhai’s articles are not dogma which you must follow strictly. You have to find your own way of thinking. If you just follow blindly without asking the question WHY, then you’ll never gain anything. There is a saying for that. “Follow like a sheep.”

  • 8 Chris // Aug 15, 2007

    This article is focused on the question, “WHY do so few people practice standing meditation?” See paragraph 3.

    Have you seen the elephant? Provide your objective description and criteria for verification.

  • 9 Buddy // Aug 16, 2007

    When I first began learning xingyi from Kumar Frantzis, for the first year ALL we did was santi and piquan. Each posture of piquan was held for nine breaths. The more relaxed we got the longer our breaths became…and the more miserable we were. Of course after twenty minutes or so it became sublime. Hard burning but it was a fruitful fire.

  • 10 faik // Aug 16, 2007

    Ok Chriss. This is my objective description of relaxation. Its all written here:

    http://martialartscience.blogspot.com/2007/05/mystification-of-martial-art-called.html

  • 11 ginkgo // Aug 16, 2007

    Interesting article. I used to be heavily into martial arts and never heard of that. Does that guy do other training for fighting or is that his only training?

    Jet Li says that Americans do not train hard. He would have to put his leg against the wall and keep it there for 3 hours. That was the whole lesson.

  • 12 Chris // Aug 16, 2007

    ginkgo,
    Standing meditation is only one part of I-Chuan training (maybe the most important part).

    faik,
    Here is a common definition of objectivity: “judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.” I was surprised to see that none of the tests on your page meet this standard. Adding a table or even a second person to the equation can be helpful, but helpful does not equal objective.

    I asked if you have seen the elephant. This is, at best, fondling the elephant.

  • 13 Faik Bilalovic // Aug 17, 2007

    Well, if your elephant is a “standing in postures” then you are quite away from the objectivity or the properness of your method. We can take this to another level where you could examine objectivness of boths method with EMG in the lab. I’m sure that then you’ll probably “feel” the difference.

  • 14 Chris // Aug 18, 2007

    I get the distinct impression that you like to argue, and don’t much care what, how or why.

    I will concede: I am not as talented as you wish I had claimed to be. Nevertheless, the contents of this article are correct. On more personal or unrelated topics, I have no further comment.

  • 15 Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker // Aug 24, 2007

    Chris, thanks for sharing this standing meditation with us.

  • 16 Chris // Aug 25, 2007

    Featured in the Carnival of Healing.

  • 17 Gerg // Sep 20, 2007

    “Have you attained perfect relaxation? If so, then you have definitely surpassed both Wang Xiangzhai and myself.”

    I think ‘perfectly relaxed’ is usually called ‘dead’. So by that logic many billions have surpassed most of us (assuming most of us are still alive).

  • 18 Uli // Dec 25, 2007

    Myself practising the standing meditation or the walking meditation. Its very good to combine it together. The results are fine, supporting or better said complementing my taji quan practise. As it is known by wang xiang-zhai, it is good and very intersting to experiment with energy and movement. Standing meditation is just one more great possibility to improve the body-mind.
    The discussion between you guys, chris and faik seems a bit waste of time for me. Better you practise and enjoy to relax by experiencing it rather to ask for the perfect relaxation.
    Stay cool.

  • 19 Ramza // Jan 30, 2008

    If you are having a hard time relaxing or defining what it means to be relaxed, then you are most likely putting too much thought into it. Our natural tendency seems to be to “do something” while relaxation is really more about “not doing anything”. I think that knowing what it means to feel relaxed is innate in most people; part of the trick to doing it is to not worry about whether or not you are doing it properly.

  • 20 Chris // Jan 31, 2008

    I agree that there is no use in worrying, but there is also no use in doing it improperly!

    For example, leaning backwards is sub-optimal practice from a martial arts perspective.

  • 21 dr.k.conor foxx // Mar 15, 2008

    Discussion website, such as this, can be an opportunity for
    exchange and learning; usually, they issue only philosophy and vanity: do it ‘faithfully’ do it as ‘my teacher said’ and disfaith ‘who could believe it’. Standing exercise, zhan zhuang, is simple, is not a meditation, and subtly prompts intrinsic responses, development, and leads to motion and walking. It can be a start, the middle course, and the return to begin again. In the standing position, the body will alter itself between position and intensities, it will rock, rotate, rise, and sink on its’ own. The series of ‘other’ exercises associated with it: mo ca bu, shi li…can each be practiced and each can be concocted, but each evolves naturally from the standing…without any objective of meditation or martial use.
    This, in itself, is not profound, profound is humankinds’ surprise, nature is neither profound nor has intent. Unfortunally, development with intent of martial use is development-level limited and health-benefit limited.

  • 22 Sansue // Jan 11, 2009

    Yoga and spirituality go hand in hand. Hath yoga is a great exercise for both mind and spirit. Spiritual medicine is fantastic for the soul and mind as well as for the body. People should pay more attention to this great tool of healing. If we have many rewards in life which can be many ferris wanli dimensional to transients to our biology and in more agreement of our attention to find the truth behind the metaphysical reformation of life. This is because our attention always go towards the traditional medicine that may or may not cure the real problem.

  • 23 Tannage the taijiquan dude // Jul 6, 2009

    I think if you think you know what perfect relaxation is, you’re not perfectly relaxed.

    States of relaxation are transient, constantly changing things, because all perception is relative, states of relaxation are also relative. I might feel very relaxed today because I was very tense yesterday, but really be very tense compared to most people in the world.

    I think whether or not you feel relaxed is a moot point. the most important thing is just to do the standing practise, it’s no more complicated than that. Pondering the feelings you get during practise is useful but the full benefit you get from just doing it.

  • 24 Josh Young // Jul 7, 2009

    “the posture itself is not the problem, it only exposes the problem: an unhealthy lifestyle, so deficient in exercise that even your own arms seem oppressively heavy.”
    Amen a thousand times.

  • 25 eastpaw // Jul 21, 2009

    I like this article, Chris, but I rather feel you weren’t very fair to Faik. The testing methods described in his blog are actually possibly objective using your definition of the term: emotions and personal prejudices are not necessary components.

    Perhaps you feel that his experiments lack sufficient management of extraneous variables. However, even the best set up experiment requires human analysis. Even if we were to program a computer to conduct the experiment, take measurements, and do analysis, our personal biases could have directed our programming to some degree.

    Objectivity can therefore never be absolutely determined, and there’s a strong element of “good enough” in science. After all, statistics really are all about “good enough”, and there is little science without statistics.

    Do I believe Faik’s experiments could do with a lot more work? Certainly yes, when I put on my science cap. But, you know, the average martial artist (or sportsman or dancer or…) is not trained or interested in experimental design. For most people, Faik’s experiments are already more controlled than what they are used to. In other words, imperfect though they be, they could be of some use to some people somewhere.

  • 26 Chris // Jul 21, 2009

    In response to implications that I am a tense and dogmatic sheep who cannot understand objectivity…I think I was rather polite.

    Actually, objectivity is a difficult topic with respect to meditative disciplines–and much of what passes for conceptual simplification is actually destruction. So people who propose a “simple and scientific approach” must be held to a very high standard.

  • 27 eastpaw // Jul 22, 2009

    Ah, I see. You weren’t impolite at all, Chris, IMHO, within or without the context of the conversation.

    I still think it was unfair to write off Faik’s experiments like that though. On the other hand, Faik was grossly unfair to imply those things about you without knowing you. (If my assumptions about your relationship hold.)

    I think I’m gonna shut up now.

  • 28 Dragan Pavlovic // Aug 9, 2009

    Guys, can you help me? I have a wonderful book by Lam Kam Chuen “The way of energy”. I was training Zhan Zhuang for 5 minutes (holding the ball) 3 weeks, then 10 for another 3 week, then 15 for some short time, because I had such a pain in my arms and shoulders and I trembled so hard, that I had to short the sessions. But, as I made my sessions shorter, my ability to stand was decreased. 15, 12.5, 10, 7.5, 5 minutes,…, every session was harder and harder, they pain was so intensive.
    I was tried to imagine supporting balls under my elbows,…, and everything from the book, but nothing helped.
    DO I NEED A TEACHER? If I don’t, what is wrong in my drill?

    Any help is more than welcomed, because I find this Qi Gong style the best of all.
    Dragan

  • 29 W // Aug 10, 2009

    Dragan Pavlovic,

    My thought is that maybe your personal progress didn’t match what was suggested in the book. You have went ofr 15 minutes before you were ready. I would suggest that you start over with 5 min and take your time. You’ll know when you are ready because 5 min will become very comfortable and easy for you to do. It took me about 9 months of daily practice for me to reach an hour. Although, I had 2 years of many meditation practices that helped me a lot.

  • 30 Dragan Pavlovic // Aug 11, 2009

    W, thank you for your suggestion,
    I also have a many year of various types of meditation etc., but, on the other hand, I can say that I am very temperament and nervous person (not toward the other people, it is rather the inner restless state), so I am more than sure that I have tons of accumulated stress in my system.
    Some people from a yahoo forum say that I’d try Qi Dao system or some other, but I see Zhan Zhuahg as the the best for me. Do you think the same as they do, that I NEED A TEACHER or I can forget the whole thing? The book by Lam Kam Chuen “The way of energy” is so clear, that I can’t decide. But, they can be right, because I could have some serious energy blockades.
    Anyway, it is odd for me that when I decreased my standing from 15 to 5 minutes, it was the same. I had the first crisis after 5 minutes.
    Thanks for your help
    Dragan

  • 31 Dragan Pavlovic // Aug 11, 2009

    A minor mistake in my post. The last sentence should end up with ‘after 3 minutes’.

  • 32 Chris // Aug 11, 2009

    The simplest explanation would be that your shoulders are too weak. Maybe you should persevere, or maybe you should let them rest, or maybe you should try some different exercises to supplement zhan zhuang.

    Fong Ha teaches a system of 8 postures, 5 minutes each, for a total of 40 minutes standing. Every 5 minutes the hand position changes.

  • 33 Fredo // Aug 11, 2009

    Paradox

    Isometric exercises are static exercises. Muscles are held under contraction. There is no movement, yet muscle strength is built and one will be able to contract stronger and easier.

    Standing like the one described in this article is like an isometric for ones tendon, skeletal structure. But unlike muscles your are putting the tendons and bone into a constant state of extension against gravity. When standing you relax your muscle as much as you can, yet your tendons and bones are activated like connected coil wires. Your fingers extends, your spine extends, everything extends. In the beginning you unintentionally use muscle struggling to keep your arms up, but after a while a strange force will start to levitate them.

    So I think there is a lot of confusion when one says stand relaxed. Yes your muscles are relaxed (unenergized), but your structure is energized (not limp). You want to be energized/extended else your bones and tendons will not develop.

    When doing tai chi you are activiating your tendons and bones as you inhales, creating extending motions. Exhale and the tendons relax allow the chi to move back down into the earth.

    It does take time , discipline, correctness and patience, which is why not too many people get results. All the teachers I have had, say to do it everyday even if its just a litte bit. It wasn’t until I did it at least 5 times a week did I start getting results, and after one does it becomes easier. Its amazing something that seems static produces fluid powerful motion.

  • 34 Dragan Pavlovic // Aug 12, 2009

    Hello for Chris and W,
    I think that I know the reason for my failure. The book says: your thumbs shouldn’t be higher than your shoulders. Your shoulders should be SLIGHTLY under the level of your shoulders. My elbows were a bit more lower, so I had the lower center of gravity of my arms, and I was able to ‘embrace the balloon’ for 5 minutes without any problems, then to have the first crisis at the 8th minute and the last two minutes (to 10) I used to endure by focusing on my breathing.
    But, when I lifted my elbows a bit higher, I wasn’t able to perform the drill even 5 minutes without big problems. As W says, it seems that I must start over, that 5 minutes must be my target.
    Chris, I couldn’t find any free Fong Ha book, and I don’t need an another paper book, my bookshelf will collapse, I am full of unnecessary ‘knowledge’.
    Be well, my friends
    Dragan

  • 35 Scott // Aug 12, 2009

    For heavens sake, get a teacher! A good teacher could tell you in 20 seconds what you are doing wrong.
    All the books have to be conservative so that they don’t get sued, because they have no way of really knowing that a reader will understand correctly.
    The actual practice is one hour long, don’t skimp, don’t equivocate. If nothing else, be resolute!
    If you can dance for an hour, you have enough strength to do an hour of Zhan Zhuang. If you you don’t have the energy to dance for an hour, forget standing meditation, you need to shake your booty first!

  • 36 eastpaw // Aug 16, 2009

    Fredo,

    Great post there, man.

  • 37 W // Aug 22, 2009

    Dragan Pavlovic,

    Sorry for such a late reply.
    In relation to needing a teacher or not:
    For best results, and quickest, having a teacher is extremely useful. And of course for any high level accomplishments a teach is a must.
    Yet for now doing what your doing will be extremely useful for when you do get a teacher. “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Your just getting ready. My master said, “I found that it was in my solo practice at home that I made the most progress.” I finding that to be true for me as well.

    About your elbow:
    I’m glad you made that discover! Very impressive, to notice that. But were u saying that your elbows were to high? I had a little trouble understanding that.

    If you ever want anymore help just let me know.

  • 38 Dragan Pavlovic // Aug 22, 2009

    Hello W,
    The elbows: my elbows were a bit lower than it is said in the book (to be slightly under the level of the shoulders). It is easier to ‘hold the ball’ when your elbows are at the lower position, even for 3 inches. When I lifted them in the proper position (I believe that is the proper one), I experienced a big problem to maintain the position more than 5 minutes and I should be able to stand even for 15, because I practice for more than 2 months. That is it.
    Be well,
    Dragan

  • 39 bewildered bagua // Apr 9, 2010

    Fredo’s post (#33) was great! It’s what my teachers in China were trying to say, but what the translaters couldn’t :)

    You said
    ” Its amazing something that seems static produces fluid powerful motion”

    I couldn’t help thinking of the tao, of the complimentary opposites, both creating and destroying each other in equal measure. It all fits in rather snugly with the internal arts, even when unlooked for :)

  • 40 Randy M. // May 26, 2010

    I highly recommend reading Bruce Frantzis’ book, Opening the Energy Gates, which describes the alignments and the utilization of the dissolving meditation to help you get through energetic blockages. A workshop is also helpful. I also have Lam Kam Chuen’s book, the Way of Energy, which I also have found useful.

    One of the things to do in all neigong practice is not overdo it. Do not force yourself to stand for 15 minutes if you have not had prior training for shorter periods. Frantzis talks of the 70% rule, don’t go beyond 70% of your ability, because over time your ability will increase naturally.

  • 41 dr.k.conor // May 28, 2010

    The original ‘spark’ for this subject, that Wang Xiang-zhai issued a public challenge is factually true; what follows is partially true, and the counter reactions following that are misleading or completely untrue. The standing exercise is not a meditation, it is not immobile (physilological movement is displayed externally and internally there is a continual juxtaposition of effects). It is unfortunate that some make reference to their personal idols’. Absent also is that Msr. Wang was ‘in process’ to evolve his practice to jian wu…a even more simple ‘dancing’ inspired health. I will credit Msr. Wang with this insight, but he also had experience with Ziren-men the ‘natural’ boxing and with ‘water’ style boxing. An insightful teacher is useful, but the tutoring of the exercise is to allow your self to teach you.

  • 42 Chris // May 28, 2010

    Wang Xiangzhai did not invent zhanzhuang, does not own it, and was not its foremost practitioner. I regret implying otherwise.

    Anyone can verify the points of contradiction with a few dozen hours’ time–provided they do not allow a narrow obsession with shadowboxing to warp their practice.

  • 43 kevin // Jun 21, 2010

    especially liked the comment about being “addicted to distractions”. so true. sometimes wonder whether the pure arts are doomed to a slow death since it seems fewer and fewer people are willing to sacrifice time and pleasure to attain real achievement.

  • 44 Dragan Pavlovic // Jun 21, 2010

    Hello my friends,
    Many of you tried to help me when I was trying to do Zhan Zhuang. All my life, I am the man of the East. But, it seems that we, westerners are orphans. Jesus. Who? A man from a desert? Camels? Jews? Is it really our culture? The whole Europe worshiped trees and many gods. Christianity has a lot of ‘pagan’ elements. We eat the ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ of Jesus? So pagan. The West has no religion, mysticism, we just played with alchemy.
    The East. So closed. Energetic meridians? We can learn it, but we can’t feel it. It is obvious that the East won’t share the knowledge. They can make a surgery on the open heart with only 1 needle in the body.People from the West use dozens of them. Chakra system is a bit closer to us, they reflect glands in body. But even them can’t be accepted by our archetypal mind on some deeper level. I am a Reiki master. The founder of that system of healing (Usui) died in 1926. We know about him and his real practice as he died before Christ. I’ve read about some Christian monks, who wanted to make a fusion of the West and East. They failed. We see the world totally differently. That is, we are totally materialistic and they are totally closed to us. And, even they lost the spark of the deepest teachings. How I know it? They are more and more complex, and the real thing is to be simple.
    Maybe the only universal thing is Zen. When we hear some mondo (question-answer stories), we can have that inner smile, all people in the world. But, who can follow that path? I am almost expert for Hinduism, Ramana Maharishi is in my heart, but I can’t follow him. I tried yoga, and I dislocated my knee after years of lotus position. We can feel the truth of the East, but as we can’t sit on the floor as they can, we can’t live like them.
    Even my admiration to martial arts is not as it used to be. I am 4 degree of Wing Chun kung fu. Great thing. But, go to youtube.com and see ‘systema’, the Russian martial art. Yes, it sounds funny. But it is the final word. They made a fusion of breathing, using weapons of all kinds, simplicity, that all Chinese styles are nothing but a big joke. Even Israel Krav Maga is ridiculous, though FBI uses this ‘martial art’, a set of rigid and unified moves. Systema is like a wave, like walking in the street, so alive, which can heal or kill in a second.
    Maybe in that kind of fusions we can ‘save’ our ‘souls’. Yes, Tai Chi is wonderful. Chi kung? Perfect. But who can really follow it? And why? One of people in this blog said that two brothers stand in the snow, his daily routine stops when the snow is melted around them, something like that. In a very hard posture. What is the use of that?
    The goal of all disciplines is to calm our mind. Maybe 90% of disciplines we use are energetic, like Reiki, Tai Chi…, and only as a side effect, we get the calm mind. Why shouldn’t we find the way to calm it right now? How? I don’t know. I know 100 kind of meditation, but, as one branch of Zen says, ‘do you want to be the sitting Buddha’ or ‘how do you thing to reach samadhi by practicing samadhi’? We are all lost sheep. In area of religion, life,…, maybe systema is a only one exception that we, the West, can have something really ours to be really practical, efficient and even spiritual. The West lost his path, and the same is with the East. How many real masters we all have? Few. I very sorry about that. Don’t try to attack me, I am in your flock, but…, I can’t see the point. So many systems, versions,…, it is normal, we are not the same person, but I can’t see any depth in it, just the way to be famous. An hour ago, I saw a video with some western ‘yogi’. Yes, he can lift his leg and do many things. But his goal is to preserve his body?! We are just playing, we are ridiculous. What is the use of that kind of yoga? This purpose was to prolong the life, and improve health, so we can have enough time to reach some more important things. To reach the Self. Ego-less state.
    I’m sorry because of so long post and my jumping from one topic to another is not so random as you could think. Religion and way of life are related to love and devotion to the eastern disciplines. I’ve spend more than 20 years of my life in chasing the East, and I am about to find myself when I gave up of all tricks, rules, everything, just freedom.
    Be blessed.

  • 45 ninjutsu training // Aug 6, 2010

    This is all very interesting. I tried Falun Gung and had a lot of trouble holding my shoulders up. I looked through the posts to find suggestions to strengthen my neck and shoulders but didn’t see anything specific (sorry if I missed any). Could you suggest 4 or 5 exercises I could do to strengthen my neck and shoulders?

  • 46 kevin bryant // Aug 6, 2010

    the point of standing is not to build stronger back and neck muscles although that me be a by-product. the main point of standing is to open the meridiens of the macrocosmic orbit. although one will develop some degree of muscular strength, the most important strength is meant to come from generous chi flow through the orbit. strength therefore comes first from relaxation and proper posture then simply letting time and attention do their work – over many years for most people. don’t look for short cuts.

  • 47 dr.k.conor // Aug 7, 2010

    Some of the development history, principles, and goals of
    Zhan Zhuang, standing post are being missed in this blog.
    Wang Xiang-zhai wanted a simplified but complete exercise,
    adaptable, and influencing the ‘entire’ physical and mental aspects. There is no specific attention to ‘neck and shoulders’
    nor is there specific attention to ‘concepts’ or ‘TCM’ or ‘chi or
    jing’. The whole is developed by a whole-envolvement with a
    complete blending without separation. Most MA people tend
    to want to ‘adapt’ it to specifics: reiki, ninjitsu, yoga. This then is no longer Wang’s Zhan zhuang.

  • 48 Anna Houck // Sep 14, 2010

    I also want to know if Is it always necessary to close my eyes while meditating? Thanks! (-:

  • 49 chris // Sep 14, 2010

    No it is not, for zhan zhuang or otherwise. Not all meditation methods are equal–but there is a famous story about Bodhidharma cutting off his eyelids, so that he would never fall asleep when he was supposed to be practicing.

  • 50 Pentti Juvonen // Dec 9, 2010

    Yi Quan really works.I have been doing zhan zhuang 8 years. I used to practise karate many years.They did not tell anything about qi or relaxation. That was waste of money and time.Relaxation is way to understanding.I stand EVERY day 2hours.

  • 51 Yadi Supreme // Dec 12, 2010

    I believe that no one can understand the benefits of Zhan Zhuang having not practiced for 100 hours minimum.
    The first two weeks you will think you’ve got it…
    The next day, you will find asymmetry or pain.
    The next month you think you’ve got it…
    The next day you fight to hold it not knowing why.
    I strongly suggest to people to physically do the work and find out for yourself what the benefit is.
    There are many.

  • 52 kevin bryant // Dec 13, 2010

    even one hours is but a drop in the bucket. perhaps some real inkling after 1,000 hours…

  • 53 Yadi Supreme // Dec 14, 2010

    I’m not theorizing.
    Do the standing and find out.

  • 54 Viet // Sep 6, 2011

    Someone here said that, “perfect relaxation is dead.” But dead people are still after a short period…until they disintegrate. So by this logic, then one could say, “perfect relaxation is rigamortis.”

  • 55 Mind boxer // Oct 11, 2012

    Important thing in Zhan Zuang is, that you do it every day. Some people only practice every second day or twice a week. If you have difficulties to hold position for longer times, start doing it 5 minutes for example. After four weeks stand 10 minutes and so on. First position is called Ti Cha, then comes Zhang Bao. Then comes Shi Li and Mocabu.

  • 56 carol // Nov 2, 2012

    Is it true that the purpose of all this meditation is obtaining a calm mind? I doubt that since my cat and dog are very calm and show no signs of being qi masters.
    Say that you were like a house cat sunning itself in the back yard, completely free of worries and issues, humor me here, what then would be the quickest way to acquire understanding of and mastery of qi?

  • 57 Alan Taylor // Sep 15, 2013

    Dragan Pavlovic. Am responding to your last comment, and don’t know if this will reach you, anyway. My reply needs to communicate a lot in the most general of terms, and without justifications and details. You may not need them, anyway.
    Within the field of Infinity, creation-points are created, out of the stuff of Infinity. Our Universe is one such creation-point. There really are not cut-and-dry divisions between them all, but everything I say has to be put in very simplistic terms with the space I have.
    Our goal is to return to that Infinity. That Infinity is actually a field of great pleasure, goodness, love, compassion, all good things. Beyond words. Creation-points are created with the intent to expand and intensify that great field, and has to be temporary. If we see that field as Infinite Consciousness, then it is a balancing act of suppressing that Infinite Consciousness temporarily, so that more can be created from that in the long-run. But not going so far that it can’t find its way back out.
    Sometimes the consciousness within these creation-points goes too far, gets lost, can’t find there way home. We are riding that line as humans, right now.
    I said that this field is like a very nice emotion, but because we are so far from it, we have almost lost it, so that now Infinity is only perceived by us as a field of “nothingness”. That is because we are seeing such a small portion of it.
    Say your computer keyboard, as a whole, is the field of Infinity. Your keyboard has many divisions, characteristics. Now take one tiny point anywhere on your keyboard. If it is small enough, that small space becomes homogenous.
    We are within that point, and when we see the keyboard as it really is, we are only seeing a Nothingness. All the characteristics we perceive within that point, are vastly downgraded versions (illusions) of the keyboard as a whole. However, if we were able to expand our field of view to encompass more of the keyboard, the Nothingness would gradually begin turning into a Something, like joy, or all-good-things. That is why the road to nirvana begins very impersonally, but turns into bliss if we persist with it.
    Our real goal is ascension back to that Infinity, literally. To say a human can be free, is like saying a prisoner can be free. The more one realizes that “void”, the less-dense becomes the physical part of ourselves. Until eventually the human being literally expands, and all that concentrated energy takes a much wider space as Infinite Energy exclusively. At the moment, we have so many illusions/layers/dimensions/densities heaped on top of our original Infinite Consciousness, that we truly are an absolute mess.
    The only way is to realize that Nothingness, that Still-Point, that Zero-Point, that Pure Consciousness. The body must be as still as possible. The ideal posture may be standing. I don’t think it is lotus. I am still in the early stages of this process myself. But if it is standing, then it is standing in the most natural and simple position, hands by the side, legs hip-width apart, doing absolutely nothing else but realizing that still-point. That must be the only intention. If one did that enough, one would gain immortality, and would ascend. But one would have to work up to the stage where one was able to stand all hours of the day. So here we are talking about something no human has yet accomplished, and is a god-like feat. And it requires giving up all attachments to this creation. But any amount is helpful, and creates healing and joy.
    But as I said, a human immortal is not possible. By human, I mean the physical human.
    The best posture will be the most simple one, the one that gives the best alignment, and one that Westerners can do. Is is fated to be that way. I am just beginning my standing practice, so just telling where my understanding is so far. So you asked what the point of these practices are. This is very extreme and hard for most to bear, as it involves excepting that so much of ourselves and our world is transitory. But this is also a process that humanity will grow into through many lives, and through time. But it is possible to go all the way, now, if one devoted oneself exclusively to that Infinity (Nothingness) to the exclusion of everything else. Not an easy thing, but as I said, any amount is helpful, and we just do the best we can with where we are presently at. One step at a time. Good Luck.

  • 58 Alan Taylor // Sep 16, 2013

    Carol, that is a fair thing to say and wonder. It is said that the purpose of meditation is a calm mind, however that is really more of a side-effect or requirement for another purpose, where the real purpose is basically to feel good. To feel great. Feel an intense tangible pleasure, like an orgasm that never subsides, or the best drug that is not bad for you and lasts always. We need a calm mind in order to experience a permanent, eternal pleasure. If you read my previous post, you can see why meditation begins like a piece of cardboard, and in time turns into fruit.
    So with cats and dogs, they are already closer to source than we are. The evolution of natural selection actually takes us away from the source, and that which is less evolved, is paradoxically closer to source. We are going down a slippery slop at present.
    So cats already have a naturally calmer mind, and are thus qi masters much more than us, without even trying. It is just a part of them. So much so, that they don’t even have to know that they are or that they are not. And a tree is more of a master than the cat. There are other more minor complications to this, but space is short. But this is true in the most primary way. It is not how present society thinks and values at all, and is hard to accept for many. All we really want and need is to feel good. The good we feel as humans is a poor shadow of the potential. Laughable. We don’t need more and more sensory stimuli to to be able to feel good. We have to go backwards with that. It is not like being dead, but alive. Again, mainstream society has a madness that sees it the other way around.

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