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Friday, August 19, 2011

Chen Style Zhan Zhuang Tutorial (Qi Magazine)

Chen Style Zhan Zhuang
By Michael Tse

Zhan Zhuang is a very popular form of exercise. For some years now there have been a wide variety of books and videos available, and there has even been a TV series on the subject. 

A very common type of Qigong trianing is 'Standing like a tree', standing still, with your arms out as if you are holding a ball, with your eyes closed. Did you know that this standing training comes from Taijiquan? this type of training we all Zhan Zhuang and there are other styles that have similar training exercises. 'Zhan' means standing and 'Zhuang' means pole. Altogether it means 'standing like a pole'. These exercises help you to gather a lot of Qi, strengthen your muscles and bones, and make you healthy.

Orginially, taijiquan came from Chen Village, and to the Chen style, Zhan Zhuang is very important, especially if you want your taijiquan to be good since it helps you develop a stance and strong legs. Here is the Chen style Zhan Zhuang which follows the teaching of Master Chen Xiao Wang.

1) Stand still with your feet together and your head upright, as if you are listening to a sound coming from behind you. Your baihui point, huiyin point and yongquan points should be in line and your Qi will start to sink to your Dantien. Slightly bend your knees. This will help your Qi sink more and stop your body from moving. (Fig 1 & 2)

2. Start to bend your knees more, but keep your knees, shoulders, hips, back and ankles in a straight line. The shoulders and hips are connected together and your arms and ankles are connected together. More Qi will sink to the Dantien because the knees bend more. Your center of gravity also moves to your Dantien and this makes the upper body feel lighter and allows the Qi to flow more easily. 

Now shift all your weight onto your right leg and lift up your left foot. Try to keep your balance and do not allow yourself to fall over. (Fig 3)

Slowly move your left foot out to the side until your feet are shoulder width apart (Fig 4) and then shift your weight over until your weight is even on both feet. You should now feel more steady. Do not forget to keep your head up (as if you are listening to something behind you), arms and body straight. Your knees should still be bent, but do not let them go past your toes. Everything should be still and relaxed, let the Qi sink to the Dantien and stand still 'like a mountain'. (Fig 5)

3. Now you can start to slowly raise up your arms, as if you are holding something between your hands. Move slowly until your arms are at a comfortable height. Some people like them high and some like them lower. How high or low you go depends on how strong you are, and this is actually the same with the stance, but in the beginning it is better to use a hight stance and just have your hands in a comfortable positoin. (Fig 6, 7, 8)

While you are standing, you can slightly adjust your posture if you find any part of your body is tense or uncomfortable. This will help you stand for a long time so you can store a lot of Qi and let the power of the Qi develop. To begin with, your teacher will help to adjust your posture until it is right. Afterwards, you will find that heat passes through your body and this means that all the blockages are clear. 

How long you can manage depends on your standard and you will find the longer you stand, the longer you like to do the exercise.  At the end, when you feel you want to stop, slowly drop your hands down to  your sides and close your legs until you are standing in the original position. The longer you stand, the more clear you will feel, sometimes you will almost forget yourself. When you try to forget everything and relax, the Qi inside your body will flow very strongly, passing all around the body, making you feel good and relaxed. 

Gradually build up the time you can stand, from about fifteen minutes to one hour. Zhan Zhaung is a very important part of taijiquan. If you practice regularly it can help to make you strong and healthy.

Qi Magazine - Issue 27 (1996)