Zhan Zhuang : The secret method of YaoZongXun and WangYuFang
YiQuan Interview by RICCARDO DEGNI
Davide: Well guys, now we’re going to ask one important question that many people in Western community have not understood yet.
Many people believe that YiQuan lacks of a practical method for fighting (both attack and defense), so in YiQuan the practitioner simply hits as he wants.
Master: In YiQuan there is the fighting technique. It is an error to think that there’s no technique. For example, there are pi, beng, zuan, pao, heng, zai chui, they all are techniques (or ways of action).
But YiQuan doesn’t bind you with schemes. The YiQuan technique do not come from TaoLu (form), do not come from schematic movements or sequences , it does not force you to use prearranged movements.
But it doesn’t mean that in YiQuan you hit as you want or randomly.
Davide: Another question. I would like to ask the Master: if I am doing the YiQuan movements, am I doing YiQuan?
Master: “Externally” we could say that you’re doing YiQuan. But if you just imitate and copy that movement, it doesn’t mean that you are really doing that movement (that is, you correctly understood the principle and meaning). Just copying the external movement doesn’t allow you to comprehend what is really going on inside the “creative” mind.
In YiQuan, through YiNian, you gain the skill to discover and express yourself: your heart, your character, your “Being”. Isn’t it? If you just imitate and copy the external movement, you’ll never understand.
It is the Yi that does create the formless martial art, through YiNian, it’s very important to master it, because it is the Yi that creates the “form of the formless”.
The external is the representation of YOUR internal. The martial aspect and the type of movements that you use to move in the external space, is created by your thought, the invisible YiNian becomes visible through your action.
What does it mean? YiNian manifests through the movement that creates action, so the more free the mind is, the more we can adapt and shape ourselves with the external forces.
If your brain is empty, even if you imitate the external movements in a perfect way, you’re doing wrong.
In YiQuan the external movement represents who we are internally. It is the thought that takes “shape”.
If you are internally empty, even if you perform a perfect external movement, you’re doing wrong.
You must seek the movement of Being, and from your movements, you can understand how and who you are. The external action represents your internal thought.
Davide: Is YiQuan related to the concept of Qi of the Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Master: One of my Masters (Yao Zong Xun) used to say: “the whole body must become a DanTian (through the creation of ZhentiLi)”. The great Master Wang Xiang Zhai used to teach that DanTian is not defined as a single point (near the navel) as many could say, instead, it is an area, an area to awake and protect. It is the zone indicated as the center of gravity of our body, the zone that brings vital energy to us when we’re still in our mother’s womb, here we begin to “feed” ourselves, and we must be able to protect and cultivate this zone even when we’re “adults”. In Kung Fu, this center of gravity area is of fundamental importance.
But, what do we mean with “center”? To unify the left with the right, the front with the back, above with below.
In the area between navel and ming men, here we create condensation and we “awake” this fundamental zone called DanTian.
If properly condensed, this area becomes an “engine”, an energetic center that produces strength and vitality for the whole body and the whole Being.
When this zone will be compressed and will start to produce energy, it will be YiNian to direct and control this energy.
YiNian controls Qi, Qi (energy) must flow through the whole body and must NOT stagnate in DanTian.
The energy produced by DanTian must flow through the whole body.
When QI flows freely without blockages, the channels that form the Microcosmic Orbit (Zhoutian) will open naturally.
But you don’t have to put focus on how the Orbit circulates, you just have to open the channels and move the Qi from DanTian in a natural fashion (thanks to YiNian) and the Orbit will work properly.
Davide: So don’t we have to control it with the rational mind the Qi flowing in the channels?
Master: Of course not! Everything must happen naturally, with the right practice, and the rational mind must not handle the flow of Qi. YiNian is not that type of mind that controls and handles.
I will give you an example: take a bowl and full it with water. Now take a finger, put it at the centre of the bowl. Very slowly, we start to move our finger in a circular fashion. Very slowly, otherwise the water will fall outside the bowl. All the water will naturally move inside the bowl reaching the edges. Everything will move if you start from the center.
You need to work on the inside to move every other part naturally, so your body, like a coil, will automatically feed itself through YiNian.
You can’t do it instantly. It requires practice. Like a baby that grows and becomes an adult, it happens naturally, without forcing it.
From elementary schools you go to the University, going step by step. You need a starting engine and then all you need to do will be learning how to move all this energy created by DanTian through the whole body in a natural way.
Davide: is Kung Fu the primary goal of YiQuan?
Master: No, the most important goal is the health, the well-being. Kung Fu is secondary.
Davide: What does it mean “to relax” in the Chinese Martial Arts?
Master: This is a fundamental question. In Internal Martial Arts, FangSong is the quality that makes the difference. It is the most important quality. The ability to enter in FangSong makes the difference between the fake YiQuan and the real YiQuan. The FangSong ability makes the practitioner’s Kung Fu fake or real.
Wang XiangZhai made many definitions in order to better describe FangSong. In YiQuan the body must be very relaxed externally, as if the flesh was muddy, muscles and skin must be soft, muddy. Like flour mixed with water. Like the body of a newly born baby.
Yi in the Wang XiangZhai’s YiQuan means “mind force”. Yi (mind/thought) is very fast. In our space-time dimension, Yi is the fastest thing of all. The speed of light is 300.000 km/s, Yi is even faster. Look: now I go to your home, in Italy, and now I’m back here. YiNian is very fast. If you think about your wife, you connect to her, and instantly she’s in your mind. YiNian is very fast!
Muscular training, though well trained, will always have a time lapse between the command of movement (started from the brain) and the execution of movement itself (performed by the muscle).
The best among athletes reacts to an external movement with his command/movement (ordered by brain to the body) in about 0.2 seconds.
This kind of reactivity is to be considered very slow in relation to the speed of YiNian.
Being the muscle so “slow” in relation to YiNian, YiNian will slow to that speed too, if the body gets accustomed to that speed, because it does not know alternatives.
If there are any blockages and tension, movements will be even slower (Yi moves in a relaxed, free body).
So, you have to handle mechanical and muscular action through the study of FangSong (where Yi will flow in a relaxed body).
Here’s a description: when you say that in Italy “to relax” means to lay down comfortably, you’re right! But what’s the problem? When you practice ZhanZhuang you must be equally sitting and laying down, on the “chair” that Master Wang XiangZhai gave you (your YiNian)!
In ZhanZhuang you are “sitting” and “laying down” (leaning on your YiNian). Of course, you’re not forcing yourself to be straight with force going against gravity, your body is supported by YiNian.
If you feel some pain while practicing ZhanZhuang, it means that there are blockages, tensions, disharmony, and the structure has a problem. But thanks to the work on YiNian that Master Wang XiangZhai teached us, the body becomes relaxed and tensions disappear.
Now you are sitting, comfortable and relaxed. Why aren’t you tense? Why while you’re standing, do you lose these feelings? It’s about habit, heart, sensations, feeling (xintai) and by working on YiNian you can fix them and heal yourself.
If you understand FangSong, you will gain the “talisman” of Internal Martial Arts. You will understand the power of either YiQuan and the Chinese traditional culture (finding harmony and Zhenti). With FangSong you enter the realm of Internal Martial Arts. This is a very important point. If there’s no FangSong, there’s no YiQuan.
FangSong, YiNian and medical positions are 3 fundamental factors that must not be divided, you need to train them togheter, “fuse” them togheter.
The very first thing is to put attention on the medical position, that must be correct. You have to be like a statue. If you move and change position every 2 minutes you’re doing wrong, and of course there are blockages. ZhenTi have no disconnections, or sections that are “fuller” or “more empty”.
Like a tub full of water, as long as the water drops, even if the plug is detached, the water level will remain unchanged. But if you close the water, with the plug detached, all the water will go down emptying the tub.
We must not have holes that affect our structure and energy. We must become a ZhenTi (a unit) with no blockages, no disharmony, no tensions.
With FangSong we are loaded with KungFu, we are loaded with YiNIan. By doing so, the energy concentrated in the body will be able to move properly.
It’s important to keep the correct position and gaining FangSong to move the energy properly. You do not have to be tense!
FangSong, YiNian and medical position must be fuse together. If you keep the ZhanZhuang position with no FangSong and YiNian, even 5 minutes can be very tiring, and instead of finding freedom you will build a physical and mental cage around yourself.
You must work with your mind to learn FangSong, to enter the world of Internal Arts. You must understand and cultivate FangSong to move in the space as if you were “swimming” in the air. With FangSong you move as comfortable as when you sit down after a shower.
Relaxed and comfortable but full, like a fish swimming in the water without tension.
But if you try to imitate the outside movement without YiNian you will definitely have tension and blockages. You will destroy your practice throwing away all the traditional Chinese culture.
This is very important. With FangSong applied to ZhangZhuang your body becomes like lead (metal).
YiNian lies in the head. As long as it stays and works in the head, it will be “thought”. You have to bring your YiNian mind down to the body. Wang XianZhai was very concerned about the importance of bringing this kind of mind (energy) down to the body.
And the key to this mystery is: if you are tense, your mind will never go through your body. Not even in a lifetime. And it’s all your fault!
If I hold you an arm, after a while, the hold will affect your circulation by creating a blockage, the same that is created by tension. You will lose the harmony of the internal energy and the internal Unity.
The tension leads you to not enjoy your life, to get angry, to fight and to fall down. With tension you are done. You won’t be able to start a real journey. You must be free and you must have a fluid Unity to gain the power of YiQuan . Free, like a bird in the sky or a fish in the sea. You don’t have to be tense , you must not have blockages, to allow YiNian to express itself in your body.
Mind, heart and body fuse together to create the movement.