IT IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF CHI (QI) TO FLOW TO WHERE IT IS NEEDED MOST
Recently, I received a shoulder injury while training with friends who accidentally used just a little too much force. Initially even letting my left arm dangle from the shoulder caused considerable pain. The funny thing was that despite the injury I decided to start daily practice of the Horse and Santi stances, wearing a sling for support, to help relax and take my mind off the pain.
Instead of forcing myself to get into a low stance and turn it into an endurance contest (like I used to do), all I was concerned about was relaxing and keeping my hips tucked under and the spine as comfortably upright as possible. As the posture gets more comfortable, I let the posture naturally lower a little.
As soon as the posture starts to get unbearable, I continue for another two or three breaths before getting up from the stance. Then I relax and think of nothing while standing upright with my feet together. Immediately, I feel more lucid and “whole” after standing practice than before, which allows me to better cope with the shoulder pain.
In three weeks, I was no longer bothered by the cold spell that Melbourne was having. I have more energy than before and my “circle walking” improved. My knee pain disappeared and climbing stairs ceased to be a source of annoyance.
I can now comfortably stand in Horse Stance for about two minutes, and about three and a half minutes in Santi each side. While this is a far cry from the one hour Horse Stance or Santi, I am grateful that standing practice is now a source of joy and energy rather than trial and pain. Thank you very much.
— Leong, Australia
What you have described is a good approach to zhan zhuang or stance training. Your description of relaxing and letting go instead of turning the stance training into an endurance contest will be helpful advice to other people. Tensing themselves to endure staying at the stance for longer periods is a very common mistake many people make, and it is harmful.
I am going to give you an advice which you may find to be most wonderful. After you have completed the stances, bring your feet together, drop your hands, think of nothing, remain still and enjoy the stillness. After some time (which refers both to after some days or weeks of training, as well as to after some seconds or minutes of remaining still), you will feel chi flowing inside your body. This is a manifestation of the principle “extreme stillness generates movement”.
Let go and enjoy the chi flow. Your body may sway slightly, and as you progress the movement may become vigorous and sometimes comical. But as you are practicing without a master's supervision, it is advisable not to let your movement become too vigorous. This can be done quite easily. As your movement becomes fast, just gently tell yourself (i.e. your chi flow and your physical movement) to slow down. You will be pleasantly surprise that you are exercising your innate ability of mind over energy and matter.
What I have just described was a secret kept by masters in the past for their selected disciples. But I am glad to share it with you and others who read this question-answer series. Because the standard of kungfu has been debased to such a ridiculous level today, many people understandably think that what past masters recorded in kungfu classics were just myths. But if you have a chance to practice genuine traditional kungfu, you will discover to your delight that all the masters have said are true.
The gentle sway is poetically known as “yew foong pai lau”, or “flowing breeze and swaying willows”. As the movement becomes more vigorous, it is known as “lau sheui harng wan”, or “flowing water and floating clouds”. The pronunciation is in Cantonese, the Chinese dialect in which I learned the skills and the terms. In the past, “flowing breeze and swaying willows” was practiced by advanced Shaolin exponents, and “flowing water and floating clouds” by advanced Taijiquan practitioners.
Your energy flow is an ingredient as well as a manifestation of internal force. It indicates you have successfully developed internal force in your stance training. The most important functions of internal force are not to withstand punches and kicks and to break somebody's bones, but to maintain life and then to enhance life. This is in accordance with the kungfu tenet that “before one talks about combat, he should first of all be healthy and fit”.
Maintaining life includes overcoming illness and pain. Hence, the energy flow you have generated from your stance training will naturally — that is, without any conscious effort on your part — flow to your injured shoulder and knee to clear the injuries. If the energy does not flow to your injured shoulder or knee (yet), it means there are other injuries or illnesses in your body which you yourself may not be aware of, but which demand more urgent attention.
It is a wonderful characteristic of chi flow that chi will flow to the most urgent spot first, then the next, and so on. It is this reason — or secret — that enables me to help many people overcome so-called incurable diseases. Conventional doctors cannot cure diseases like asthma, diabetes, chronic pain, depression and anxiety because they do not really know where exactly the problem spots are.
I, too, do not know where my students' problem spots are. But chi knows. As long as I can help my students generate their chi flow — and this I can do very effectively — and as long as the students continue their practice regularly and persistently enough for chi to reach their problem spots — unfortunately many people don't do this because, for some odd reasons, they value laziness more than their health — overcoming illness, any illness, is a matter of course, unless the illness has degenerated beyond a threshold.
As chi works on your injuries, you may feel some pain. This pain, which we call “good pain”, is different from the pain due to the injuries, which we call “bad pain”. It is difficult to describe the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain”, but you can usually tell the difference from direct experience, just as you can tell the sour taste of the orange you are eating is due to its goodness or its rottenness. When your injuries are cleared, both the “good pain” and the “bad pain” will disappear.
After ensuring that life goes on smoothly (which of course includes being pain and illness free), the internal force from your training will enhance your life. This is manifested in countless ways, including feeling wholesome and being able to cope with Melbourne's “four seasons in a day”. If you examine yourself, you will find yourself more cheerful and relaxed than before.
Thirdly, your internal force will enable you to do better anything you do. For example, you can do better in both your doctorate thesis and your martial art training. Indeed, this is a main reason why we in Shaolin Wahnam are dedicated to our training. As my disciple, Dan from England, once said, “Training an hour a day just to become a good fighter, is a poor use of time.” We train daily because it enriches our life here and now.
The above is taken from Question 4 of January 2003 Part 2 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
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