Zhan Zhuang (Post Standing)

Although it may be a somewhat imperfect description, a taiji teacher of some reputation has described the process of “post standing” (zhan zhuang) as precipitating “song jin” (releasing, relaxing, letting go) one drop at a time. Of course there is a balance to all things, but he opined if you stand only a little, you only get a few drops of song jin; if you stand a lot, the accumulation builds up. A somewhat quantitative, but still useful analogy.

Contrarewise, a senior student of my teacher has said that while he cannot gainsay that analogy, there is probably more benefit to pursuing song jin while doing the form.

I think both comments are correct, except that without having some degree of mastery, seeking song jin as integral to the form adds a degree of difficulty to an already difficult task. On many occasions Shifu has told me that after you understand “it”, it is not so imporant to take this principle, or that principle quite so literally. The operative word here is perhaps “after” , and in so many things we are best described as “before” – or at least “struggling with”. Also, some rather substantial mention of the benfits of standing are given by Lu Shengli in his book “The Combat Techniques of Taiji, Xing Yi, Ba Gua“.

All that having been said, I am finding a dedicated practice of zhuang gong, outside of the form, to be very salutory. I agree that it is easier to achieve song jin when there are fewer variables (like working with a partner) involved, but still, one has to begin somewhere. And while in my personal practice I attempt somewhat more extended times per the adivce of the above-mentioned teacher, given the demographics of my class we generally limit ourselves to four to five mintues. I believe even in such small doses post standing can be very beneficial.

And, in direct proporton to the amount of time one spends standing, one comes also to understand the very apt Chinese colloquialism “to eat bitter”. Not only does one’s body scream and burn, but there is the added frustration that you have the ability to end the torment instantly if you so choose. Being able to stick with the practice, and to override your body’s “natural” objections is part of the task.

But I am finding my 70 year old legs becoming very noticibly stronger. My posture is improving, and I find that when practicing the form I can achieve complete separation of weight much more smoothly and easily. And I also find that when I do demonstrate in class I am less diverted by attempting to “achieve some result” and can just let go, release, and relax. Maybe not buckets song jin just yet, but surely a few drops here and there.
So, for the present I am convinced of the benefits of such a practice and it will remain a part of both my private and my class practice.