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Friday, April 15, 2011

Zhang Zhuang (Sphere) Structure

Notes from Warriors of Stillness by Jan Diepersloot

The basic sphere is made by holding the arms in front of the chest in a circle somewhere between shoulder height and solar plexus height. Any higher will cause the qi to rise, any lower will destroy the connection of the circle with the center. Other salient points regarding its structure are the following: 

   First: relax the shoulders by keeping them low, so that the centerline can carry the sphere. Tense, hunched up shoulders can't distribute the weight of the sphere to the centerline and causes the qi to rise, thus disintegrating the sphere and centerline (body). 
   Second: relax, hollow the chest and round the back to provide a "cushion of space" in front of you. Thus, if you are hit you will not be hurt because there is nothing there. Failure to do this (i.e., if the chest is tense and sticks out with the shoulder blades pulled back) breaks the integrity of the sphere which allows the opponent to control your centerline and strike your body.
  Third: you must cultivate the intimate connection between the mingmen in the lower back and the sphere. Filling the mingmen, i.e., straightening the lumbar spine by pushing it out to the back activates the sphere. The mingmen acts as both trigger and pump which fills the ball with air pressure to discharge energy and repel the opponent. 
  
The sphere is more a feeling than a geometric construction. Therefore it can take on innumerable shapes or manifestations without losing its essential characteristics. Variations include the height of the hands and variations in turning of the forearms and palms. A sphere exists in three dimensions, while a circle exists in only two dimensions. Actually, a sphere may be thought of as an infinity of simultaneous omnidirectional circles around a common center. The sphere our bodies make reflect how we relate to gravity: it consists of two main circles, vertical and horizontal. An infinite vertical circle is the most fundamental, then the horizontal, and then the diagonal combinations.