Frequently Asked Questions (Part 1)
1. What kind of exercise is Zhanzhuang?
Zhanzhuang is a special exercise of “motionless” movement, which is, a relatively static movement of the body. In physics, the faster/more advanced a movement, the less visible it is. Just like running wheels of a car, it might look like they are not moving, but in reality, they spin at an extremely high speed.
Muscle movements in the Zhanzhuang exercise comes from the inducing of Yi (mental intents), which is practically invisible. The understanding of Zhanzhuang will be improved with continuous learning, combined with philosophical thinking. Zhanzhuangers can enter Tao with their Zhanzhuang skill.
2. How do Yi/intents generally work in Zhanzhuang?
The Yi of Zhanzhuang are mainly divided into partial Yi and overall Yi. First of all, we must maintain the proper structures of the Zhanzhuang stances. The partial Yi is to adjust a certain part of the body, the overall Yi is to command the whole body: the two must be just right (which takes a lot of practice, of course).
3. Is Zhanzhuang the same in every Chinese martial art?
No. Zhanzhuang in different martial arts are very different. In fact, nearly every martial art style used to have Zhanzhuang. Zhanzhuang was later faded out of sight due to the proliferation of forms. At present, only a few martial arts emphasize Zhanzhuang, and the methods are very different.
4. How is Zhanzhuang different from standing?
Zhanzhuang is not ordinary standing. Zhanzhuang is not standing with special postures. The ancients said that standing with no flexibility for a long time will hurt the bones; standing with dead postures will harm the body. It can be said that Zhanzhuangers practice Quan (Chinese word for martial arts) in extremely small movements.
All the joints are bent or curved; muscles contract rhythmically: to maintain the balance of standing. Zhanzhuang is a combination of mental imagining and physical practicing which includes dynamic and static moving, tightening and loosening the body, rest and exercise, etc.
The body does not lack oxygen, the heart does not have extra pressure, the joints do not wear out. Zhanzhuang can calm the central nervous system, strengthen blood circulation and promote the body’s metabolism.
5. Should eyes be closed or open?
Beginners should not close their eyes during Zhanzhuang, because the exercise usually produces a variety of different physical reactions in the beginning. It is easy for beginners to focus their thoughts on uncomfortable parts of the body when their eyes are closed. After the body has passed the certain period of physiological changes, one can practice with eyes closed.
6. How much should the knees be bent?
The greater the bending of knees, the greater the amount of exercise. It is not easy for beginners to persist if bending their knees too much. Also, the knees might be damaged that way, before a beginner practices enough. One rule is when the knees are bent, the knees should not bend past the tips of the toes.
7. Which age group is Zhanzhuang best for?
Zhanzhuang is suitable for people of all ages to practice. Kids less than 10 years old or seniors more than 80 years old are all okay to practice Zhanzhuang. So Zhanzhuang is not restricted by age, gender, health condition, or place of training. One can practice Zhanzhuang nearly anytime, anywhere.
8. How many stances should one learn for health purposes?
There are many stances–we don’t need to learn every single one. The parallel-step stances that I’m teaching are enough for health preservation and improvement. One must understand the Expanding and Embracing stance is the fundamental stance, which can be transformed to all other stances. Different stances have their own focus on different training points, but the principles are nearly the same.
9. Why can Zhanzhuang cure all diseases?
This is a huge topic. To put it simply, the metabolism of the human body mainly relies on blood circulation to provide and distribute nutrients and oxygen and remove waste products from all parts of the body. Zhanzhuang can calm the central nervous system, promote blood circulation, and strengthen metabolism.
A strong circulatory system is conducive to the health of the internal organs. In essence, the circulatory system is the foundation and main guarantee for health. Zhanzhuang improves the circulatory system, which is the main reason it can cure diseases, especially chronic diseases.
10. Do we no longer need to Zhanzhuang after we are recovered?
Zhanzhuang cures diseases we might have; Zhanzhuang enhances the body if one has no diseases. After the body recovers through Zhanzhuang, it seems that one may not need to stand any longer, but the body function will decline, and bad things will reappear after completely stopping the exercise. It is best if one can integrate Zhanzhuang into life, in other words, stand and be healthy as long as one lives.
11. What does it mean that Zhanzhuang is the foundation of Quan/martial arts?
A person who practices Quan first needs to be in good health. Only when the body is strong can one learn to defend oneself through combat. Zhanzhuang can transform one’s physiology and give full play to the human body, which is needed for practicing Quan. Yiquan says: one must start from Zhanzhuang to pursue the essence of Quan.
One stance can transform into thousands of stances, thousands of stances come from the foundation of the one stance. The greatest advantage of Zhanzhuang is that it can be practiced for a lifetime and so can keep the body vigorous for a lifetime. That’s why there is an old saying: a hundred different kinds of training are less good than one type of standing. These are the traditional concepts of Chinese martial arts.
12. Why do the knees and shoulders hurt when I Zhanzhuang?
There is a basic structure requirement for Zhanzhuang. Zhanzhuang only makes sense under the right structure. For all beginners, the body has never been exercised with this correct structure. It needs a process of adaptation. This process is unavoidable. Almost everyone will experience discomfort in certain parts of the body, such as knee pain, shoulder pain, or a previous injury bothering us again.
We call this process “finding pain”, it’s actually not right if there is no pain. Speaking from Chinese medicine, these pains are caused by the blocked qi and blood in certain parts of the body. Zhanzhuang is meant to make the qi and blood more unblocked. These pains are only temporary. After a period of time, when the body’s qi and blood are completely unblocked, pains will disappear gradually.
13. Why does the body tremble when doing Zhanzhuang?
Trembling does not happen to everyone. Some practitioners experience involuntary tremors in the early stages of Zhanzhuang. One likely reason is that they don’t usually do exercises; it may be also caused by lack of physical coordination.
When this happens, there is no need to panic. Calm down and settle your body with the right mind. As long as you train repeatedly and persist for a long time, your physical fitness will be strengthened, your body will be more coordinated, and the tremor will disappear automatically.
14. Why are the feet or the hands numb?
A small number of practitioners have numbness in their feet and/or hands, mainly because their qi and blood are blocked. This is not a bad phenomenon, because the body is using Zhanzhuang to push the qi and blood through the whole body (hands and feet are farthest from the heart). Once the qi and blood can flow freely, the numbness will disappear and the body condition will be greatly improved.
15. Why do I sweat so quickly when doing Zhanzhuang?
This question may be raised by people who don’t usually sweat. A physique that usually does not sweat is generally not bad. However, proper sweating is necessary for detoxification. After all, sweat is a greater detoxification pathway for the body than urine.
The improvement of Zhanzhuang on the whole body begins with unobstructed qi and blood. Even practitioners who don’t usually sweat can sweat quickly while doing Zhanzhuang. This should be a very comfortable phenomenon, especially when you take a shower after sweating all over (it is recommended not to take a shower within 30 minutes after Zhanzhuang). You are supposed to sleep better and have more energy.
16. Why do I sweat too much while doing Zhanzhuang?
No matter how much you usually sweat in your daily life, many practitioners sweat a lot at a certain stage of Zhanzhuang learning, which can be described as “sweat like rain.” Some people worry that sweating too much is bad for their health, because Chinese medicine says “sweat is the fluid of the heart.” Regarding sweating, there are generally two types: active sweating and passive sweating. Sweating during Zhanzhuang is active, which has very limited or no side effects on the body.
If you persist with Zhanzhuang, the amount of sweating will naturally become normal after a long time. If you are in the stage of a lot of sweating, learn to deal with it reasonably. For example, if you have no physical discomfort the next day, then you don’t need to avoid sweating, just keep standing as usual.
If you experience physical weakness which affects your life and work to some extent, then your exercise volume is too much. You need to adjust. Lightening the training Yi, or reducing the amount of exercise (time of standing), should reduce your excessive sweating.
17. Why do I have a sense of Qi-emitting when doing Zhanzhuang?
Some practitioners who have studied qigong books or practiced qigong may have “a sense of Qi-emitting” in some parts of their body after doing Zhanzhuang for a period of time. The Zhanzhuang we teach does not include qigong. You will have “everything” such as great body alignment, the whole body unified as one, internal and external body balance, good physical and mental health, etc. once you can do Zhanzhuang very well.
The sense of qi is not needed whatsoever in our teaching method. We believe Zhanzhuang should not be added to the practice of Qigong. Zhanzhuang is “seeking concreteness in abstraction,” the simplest is the best. Follow our method, and you will agree with us. However, when experiencing “a sense of Qi-emitting”,
this is what you should do. Relax your mood, don’t have delusions, and continue standing. Often, that sense is caused by the floating qi and blood, in which case, your Zhanzhuang is on the wrong side. When that happens, you should immediately return to the most basic training to avoid that.
18. Why do I feel chest tightness while Zhanzhuang?
We are required to put around 60% of our body weight below the waist and 40% above the waist in the Zhanzhuang exercise. The Chinese expression for this is “insubstantial on the top, substantial on the bottom”. There may be chest tightness or stomach congestion when the body is top heavy, which is “substantial on the top, insubstantial on the bottom”. It must be corrected by appropriate Yi so that the force/energy/body weight distribution is 40% in the top and 60% in the bottom. Also, this phenomenon may be caused by individual situations, in which case it might take a long time to “fix” it.
19. Why do I yawn/spit/fart when Zhanzhuang?
When beginning Zhanzhuang, many practitioners yawn or spit, or even have some difficult-to-talk-about phenomena, such as farting, abdominal ringing, and constantly going to the bathroom. These are all normal and good phenomena, indicating that Zhanzhuang has already improved the metabolism. These things will not be so obvious after a period of time of practice.
20. Why do I feel that I have a lot of strength, and even want to beat people?
The Hun-Yuan force (unified force) cultivated by Zhanzhuang is served for both health preservation and martial arts. After practicing Zhanzhuang for a period of time, the body gradually becomes a whole, the upper and lower body are connected, and the strength is consolidated. The body strength is greatly increased without any strength training: this is the uniqueness of traditional Chinese martial arts.
In fact, the feeling of strength is because the body strength has truly increased. When practitioners have better control of the whole body and have strength that they never experienced before, some of them may have occasional imaginings of fighting or even beating, which is not surprising.
21. Why is there obvious strength in the legs after Zhanzhuang for a period of time?
Zhanzhuang’s muscle training start from the feet and legs and follow the principle of “insubstantial on the top, substantial on the bottom”. Modern people’s lower limbs exercise too little, so the muscles of the legs especially need to be trained. There are additional exercises (such as muscles-as-one) in our teaching method that can strengthen the legs gradually.
Therefore, it is very reasonable that the legs are obviously stronger after Zhanzhuang for a certain time. Healthy legs are the most practical way to maintain health: “Legs get old first when people grow old.” Your practice is on the right track if you experience the strength of the legs.
22. Why can Zhanzhuang quickly treat hemorrhoids?
“Stubborn diseases” such as hemorrhoids may only be treated surgically in Western medicine, which is accompanied by side effects and risks in the future. However, Zhanzhuang practitioners with hemorrhoids can get easier results. It’s expected that there will be an obvious effect and no more pain within 1-3 months; there is a saying “no hemorrhoids makes the body lighter.”
Hemorrhoids can be completely recovered if continuing practice. Why? Hemorrhoids are mainly caused by partial qi and blood blockage caused by prolonged sitting. The Zhanzhuang that we teach uses “muscles as one” as the foundation of training.
The elasticity of the hip/butt muscles and the circulation of blood throughout the whole body allows the anus area to exercise rationally, thereby lowering the degree of hemorrhoids and slowly healing. However, Zhanzhuang is different than an “anus-lifting” exercise. There is no need to deliberately “lift the anus” in the Zhanzhuang practice.
23. I feel dizzy when doing Zhanzhuang, what's the matter?
The dizziness is mostly caused by the rising of Qi and blood during the exercise, which is wrong and needs to be adjusted. We must pay attention to the principle: “insubstantial on the top, substantial on the bottom”. If the main focus is concentrated on the upper body, the head/neck is not lifted, and the lower body is not steady, all of these will cause your arms, shoulders, neck to become tighter and tighter, and Qi and blood on the cervical spine will not flow freely.
When you continue to practice Zhanzhuang with a sense to fight these, you will experience top heavy and dizziness. The arms will be difficult to support, and the body may feel like falling off. You must take a break and then start with basic training whenever this happens.
24. Why is Zhanzhuang effective in treating insomnia quickly?
There are many causes for insomnia. The one caused by neurasthenia is a worldwide problem. The longer the insomnia lasts, the more difficult it is to cure. It is likely that patients will suffer from it for a lifetime once they have it. Zhanzhuang has “magical effect” to heal insomnia. People with insomnia, in general, means that the part of their brain that affects sleep cannot be relaxed when needed, so it’s hard to fall asleep.
Mental training in Zhanzhuang improves the brain’s ability to control and suppress/calm the central nervous system. When the central nervous system can be rapidly, widely, deeply suppressed, one falls sleep easily, which is why Zhanzhuang cures insomnia. Zhanzhuang’s improvement in curing insomnia relies on consistent training. Insomnia can come back again when it’s gone for a period of time. The longer (months, years) we practice Zhanzhuang, the better the healing.
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