Martial Development

Martial arts for personal development

Wuji Zhuang: The Self-Knowledge Stance

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Wuji zhuang is the weakest stance in Chinese martial arts. Standing straight and still with their arms down at their sides, the practitioner of the wuji stance is in no position to deliver an attack, or to defend against one. They are sitting ducks, utterly unable to resist force from any of the four directions. So why is wuji zhuang so esteemed among high hands, and considered an important part of training in taijiquan, yiquan, and other arts?

The practice of wuji zhuang, or standing meditation, releases the hidden power of self-knowledge. Although self-knowledge is typically described in a broad and intangible sense—desires, sensations, and mental states—it also has a concrete physical manifestation. The “body of wisdom” belonging to an experienced practitioner of wuji zhuang is surprisingly useful for self-defense and personal development.

Suffering vs. Self-Knowledge

What is the cause of human suffering? The simple, convenient and comforting answer is them: the bad people do it. A short story from the Taoist book of Liezi remarks upon our collective fondness for finger-pointing:

A man, having lost his axe, suspected his neighbour’s son of having taken it. Certain peculiarities in his gait, his countenance and his speech, marked him out as the thief. In his actions, his movements, and in fact his whole demeanour, it was plainly written that he and no other had stolen the axe.

By and by, however, while digging in a dell, the owner came across the missing implement. The next day, when he saw his neighbour’s son again, he found no trace of guilt in his movements, his actions, or his general demeanour.

When no suitable human whipping boy can be found, we might attribute our misfortunes to bad luck, destiny or evil spirits. It all serves to spare us that most unpleasant question—How did I bring this upon myself?—and the obligations of such an inquiry. Faced with the insurmountable challenge of fixing ourselves, we would prefer to change the world instead.

Change Begins at Home

Like the scale that cannot weigh itself, we are in a difficult position to evaluate ourselves objectively. While measuring other people’s actions by the results they produce, we treat ourselves with kid gloves, giving undue weight to our impeccable intentions. This tendency causes self-image to diverge from reality.

By suspending both intention and action, we see ourselves more clearly—understanding not only what we want to do, but also what we are actually doing at the moment. We can thereby recognize and resolve any discrepancies between our intentions and our actions. Self-knowledge facilitates self-correction. This is the benefit of wuji.

Physical, intellectual and emotional adjustments compelled by the long-term practice of standing meditation are even more accurate, precise and useful than the advice of a master instructor. The result is relaxation, efficiency, power and graceful movement.

Categories: Meditation · Philosophy · Tai Chi · Training Tips

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 taijiquestion // Apr 17, 2007

    Thanks for a beautiful post, MD. There’s a ton of depth in these few paragraphs. I hope to be pondering this one for awhile… and it won’t hurt my Standing Post practice any, that’s for sure! “Self-Knowledge Stance”, what a great lesson in a simple phrase.

  • 2 Galba Bright // May 12, 2007

    You’ve delivered a nice, authoritative lesson via an engaging story.

  • 3 Mind boxer // Jun 23, 2012

    When doing wuji stance, you have to use your mind! Standing just still without using your mind is static qigong.Okay it is relaxing, but you miss the point! You have to use dynamic images to stimulate nervous system, like we do in Yi Quan.

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