The Four Stages of Zhanzhuang Learning

The Four Stages of Zhanzhuang Learning

zhanzhuang group post standing practice meditation health exercise yiquan students

The entire learning process of Zhanzhuang can be roughly divided into 4 stages.

The first stage- Preliminary Practice Stage.

yiquan zhanzhuang senior student cheng bao stance standing practice

Since people are accustomed to physical movement, such as running, jumping, dancing, boxing or other displacement movements, but not accustomed to “motionless” movement, that is, a relatively static movement of the body, all kinds of uncomfortable feelings can be experienced when beginning Zhanzhuang. 

 The arms, shoulders, head, waist, knees, and feet are often sore, tight, and tired. Some practitioners get anxious and want to move, some get terribly upset after a few minutes of standing feels like a much longer time. A small portion of practitioners can’t tolerate Zhanzhuang and quit after trying a couple times. It is often claimed by many practitioners with illnesses that Zhanzhuang is not as convenient as taking medical treatments.

Zhanzhuang requires great persistence and patience. Generally speaking, practitioners need to go through a process of understanding Zhanzhuang, that is, from unaccustomed to habit, from ignorance to knowledge. The process of understanding is the process of practice.

The length of the process depends on the effort of the practitioner. Fear of hardship and inability to stand long is the first obstacle for beginners. But interestingly, some practitioners feel comfortable, natural, and interested since the very beginning of their practice.

yiquan zhanzhuang female student combat step stance standing practice

The second stage- Threshold-passing Stage.

yiquan zhanzhuang teenage student cheng bao stance standing practice

At this stage, practitioners gradually get used to Zhanzhuang, which is a transition from being uncomfortable to being a bit comfortable. Discomfort in the arms, shoulders, head, waist, legs, etc. is going away, while the body is becoming more natural and relaxed. Practitioners tend to have a clear mind, happy spirit, good appetite and digestion, etc. 

Also, there should be obvious feelings of warmness, swelling, and numbness in some body parts (some practitioners have fewer or gentler feelings than others; some have no such feelings). Those with weaker health should feel stronger and healthier. Those who have chronic diseases begin to have less symptoms.

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Also, practitioners have already tasted the sweetness of Zhanzhuang. They may feel like something is missing without Zhanzhuang for a day.

The third stage-Reactions of Illnesses.

yiquan zhanzhuang female student one legged stance standing practice health

When moving from the second stage to the third stage, the illnesses one had before beginning the practice often reappear suddenly. For example, the blood pressure of patients with hypertension may rise again, along with dizziness, headaches, and various discomforts. Patients with neurasthenia may feel dizzy and have headaches again–they can’t eat well, can’t sleep well, and may have severe tinnitus and vertigo. 

Eye-disease (such as keratitis, glaucoma, etc.) patients may find their eyes becoming sore, painful, itchy, astringent, watery, or even red and swollen. Patients with rhinitis may have a blocked or runny nose with itch or pain. 

Patients with dental problems may have swollen teeth due to toothache, and some may even have a swollen face. Patients with cervical spondylitis may have cervical spine pain, and their heads can’t move freely. Patients with pharyngitis may have redness, astringency, dryness, itch, and hotness in the affected area. 

Patients with bronchitis, pleurisy, or lung diseases may cough and spit, suffocate, or gasp; the affected area can be painful. Patients with coronary heart diseases may have various heart discomforts, rapid or slow heartbeat, intermittent palpitations or heart pain. 

Patients with liver disease may have liver pain and swelling. For patients with gastrointestinal disease, the affected area may be painful with a bloated belly, and abnormal stool. 

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yiquan zhanzhuang senior student cheng bao stance standing practice

For patients with arthritis, the joints may be painful, swollen, itchy. Rheumatic patients may be cold, or hot with sweats. For patients with liver diseases, nephritis, anemia, or coronary heart diseases, their legs may swell; some may have the entire body swelling. 

Patients with sequelae of trauma may have various reactions, such as prickly sensations, itching, pain, swelling, and so on. Some people, especially the elderly, may experience swelling of the legs after practicing for a long period of time.

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The above are just examples of reactions of chronic diseases. In fact, the same diseases may have different reactions. In short, where there is a disease, there will be a reaction. Even if there is disease somewhere in the body that hasn’t been found/diagnosed before, as long as this stage is reached, there can be various abnormal reactions. All of these are caused by the health effect of Zhanzhuang.

Meaning: When the meridians of the body are unblocked, qi and blood flows freely, there is no pain or discomfort; once there is pain or discomfort, it means that the meridians are blocked and the qi and blood are not flowing freely.

Practices have proved that only after the third stage can diseases be gradually eliminated. This stage is the most difficult stage of Zhanzhuang. Doubts about Zhanzhuang often occur when experiencing the reactive symptoms of chronic diseases. Some practitioners may even have a fear of this exercise. Those who don’t understand why this is happening are more likely to give up.

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The fourth stage – The Comfortable Stage.

yiquan zhanzhuang senior student cheng bao stance standing practice

At this stage, some illnesses have basically disappeared, and some are transforming for the better. Practice has become a habit, a daily “ritual,” a “necessity” in life. Zhanzhuang becomes amusing. Some practitioners experience an unusual happiness, feeling airy, or reaching a state where there is both “there is me” and “there is no me” (a Chinese expression- 有我和无我). 

Some feel as if the hairs on their body are standing up, and the wind is passing through their pores. Some feel warm, swelling, and numb at the same time (some feel only one or two of them). Some have a sense of “Hun Yuan” (浑圆-roundness). 

Some feel Qi emitting from some parts of their body. Some feel attraction and repulsion between their hands. Zhanzhuang is a happy time at this stage. It will be unwelcome when someone speaks or interrupts in any way.


The four stages are gradually developed and have their internal connections and changes. The various stages of Zhanzhuang are caused by a practitioner’s thoughts, emotions, and physical condition, so it varies from person to person. 

Not all practitioners have to go through the four stages. Some are in good health and only go through stages one, two, and four; some go through stages one, three, and four; some go through stages two and four, and so on. 

Since the practitioners are different in age, body, condition, course of disease, and degree of hard work, the length of time at each stage is different. 

yiquan zhanzhuang demonstration standing practice meditation health exercise
yiquan zhanzhuang group student standing practice meditation health exercise

The fourth stage will continue as a practitioner continues the exercise. In the continuing process, due to various subjective and objective reasons, unpleasant abnormal reactions may occur again, and the disease that was eradicated may reappear. 

The entire process of Zhanzhuang learning lies in the contradiction and equilibrium of imbalance and balance in the body. Balance may easily become imbalance over and over again until one’s Zhanzhuang Gong (a Chinese word for “effort”, known as in “Gongfu/Kungfu”) has reached the advanced level which roughly takes 2-5 years if studying with a qualified instructor.

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The process of human life has its own regularity, which reflects the periodicity of human physical, mental, and emotional states. Some researchers call this periodic law the rhythm of life. In the high period of the life rhythm, a person’s physical strength is strong, the spirit is high, and the mood is good. 

In the low period of life rhythm, a person’s physical strength is poor, the spirit is low, and the mood is bad. When the third stage of Zhanzhuang is coincidentally in the low period of one’s life rhythm, one may experience stronger uncomfortable reactions described above. One must not be afraid; this is an inevitable effect of Zhanzhuang. One can still keep practicing, or practice less, or pause for a few days. It’s also been seen that practicing more can help one overcome the difficulties.

Characteristics of  


  is a special exercise. It’s aerobic, very gentle, and doesn’t require much movement. No warm-ups before the exercise or ending routines are required. What you need is just a place (either indoor or outdoor) with good air circulation.   has a large number of postures (stances are the technical term), but there is only one basic posture which can be transformed into all other postures. So, when you master the one posture, it’s only a matter of time to master all of them. From this perspective,   is not a complex skill to learn.


The  training time of   can be adjusted by oneself. In general, practitioners start from 5 minutes and increase progressively up to one hour. However, a 5-min   has health benefits, too. So   is quite accessible since no minimum “dose” of time is required. In fact, men, women, seniors, juniors, the weak or strong, all can practice   according to their own situation at their preferred time and place.


There are usually four stages of the   learning process and there are various reactions during beginning stages of  .


Healing aspect of  

In general,   can correct and build a stronger body. With   postures, young men with hunchbacks can be corrected. Dysfunctional feet, knees, or legs can be fixed to a great extent. The middle-aged suffering from back/shoulder/neck/muscle pain, hemorrhoids, insomnia, bad digestion, etc., can expect to get rid of those with consistent practice of   over time.


  is the best option for the weak or elderly as   can gradually and constantly enhance their immune system – the human body’s own defense mechanisms. According to Dr. Yu’s clinical experimentation and tests, many kinds of chronic diseases such as chronic tracheitis, chronic gastroenteritis, chronic hepatitis, cardiopathy, high blood pressure(hypertension), neurasthenic, chronic rheumatoid arthritis and similar rheumatoid arthritis, adipoma, goiter, etc., may obtain unbelievable beneficial effects after   practice.


We only listed some of the health applications of  . There are more. Every day practitioners are discovering new benefits of this amazing exercise.



Why can   cure diseases?


  is not only standing still. It is not only meditation, either. The system of   training is a combination of physical and mental aspects. The physical and mental activities are not separate from each other in this exercise. Hence, both the physiological and psychological functions of the body are cumulatively strengthened. Why   heals is a huge topic. Dr. Yu had written many books about it. In this article, we are going to focus on how   is able to nourish the blood. We will talk more in our blog posts.


During  , the body is held relatively unchanged in correct structures and there is constant contraction and loosening between muscles and bones. This will mobilize blood vessels, which promotes blood circulation. Dr. Yu listed the following figures in the book of “  and Search of Wu” (Yu Yongnian, 2005, Shanxi Science and Technology Press).


After one hour of   the composition of the blood may sensibly change:

  1. up to 1520 000 additional erythrocytes (red blood cells) per cm3 of blood,
  2. up to 3650 additional hem leukocytes (white blood cells) per cm3 of blood,
  3. up to 3.2 gram of additional hemoglobin per cm3 of blood.


Red blood cells are able to carry oxygen so efficiently because of the hemoglobin they contain. Increase of hemoglobin can directly impact the quantity of oxygen. With this additional amount of oxygen brought to the organ systems, one will be in a special state of relaxation and wellbeing.  This is why   has particularly good results in treating neurasthenia, arthritis, angina, cirrhosis, cardiovascular diseases, etc.





Recommended for special people

The most important characteristic of   as a healing method is that there is no side-effect. From the medicine point of view, there are not so many optional exercises for people who are too weak to sit or stand and people with special diseases i.e., cardiovascular diseases.   is the best option for those people. There are lying-down postures, supported postures, sitting postures, standing postures, practitioners can choose appropriate postures and control the physical effort precisely by the time of practicing.

To conclude, with thousands of years of development and the support of Yiquan martial artists and medical professionals in the last 100 years,   has brought together the essence of Chinese well-being philosophies and western sciences as a mature, thorough and complete method of health maintenance and improvement. If you want to know more about   as a healing method, reading Dr. Yu’s books is a good start. Here are three recommendations:

< Zhan Zhuang and The Search of Wu > (Chinese, English versions)

<Zhan Zhuang: The Art of Nourishing Life> (Chinese, English, French versions)

< Zhan Zhuang and Dao De Jing> (Chinese version)


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