What is the Solo Drill?


The Solo Drill is a dynamic qigong exercise incorporating the concept of Fa Jing with the applications from the individual movements of Tai Chi Chuan's Solo Form's. It is an extension of Zhan Zhuang training. The objective is to discharge power accumulated from Zhan Zhuang training by executing physical movements. The relationship between Zhan Zhuang training and the Solo Drill training is that Zhan Zhuang training is a method of accumulating power so that all the physiological organs are strong and energetic, and Solo Drill training is the method used to discharge power through some of these physiological organs. Therefore, skillful practitioners often focus on the combination of internal and external training. If one emphasizes only Zhan Zhuang training, he or she will not be able to discharge power outside the body efficiently. On the other hand, if one emphasizes only the Solo Drill training, there will not be enough power to discharge. From my years of teaching, I have seen this happen to many people whom possess power but do not know what to do with it. Therefore, Zhan Zhuang training and Solo Drill training are important components of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial arts system. The power accumulated from Zhan Zhuang training and discharged in the Solo Drill training is the same as the process of moving from a physically static to a dynamic state, or in other words "from wu chi to tai chi". Therefore, this transition is very significant and also difficult for all practitioners to accomplish. It requires a very special kind of person. From my experience, those that are successful are people who have discipline, confidence, intelligence, patience and are consistent. In addition to accumulating power, Zhan Zhuang training also improves the practitioner's physical condition. However, this fact is often ignored by many practitioners until one is engaging in the physically demanding Solo Drill training. In Zhan Zhuang training, when one feels that the body is comfortable and energetic in a particular position after few minutes, this is a sign that one is ready to engage in Solo Drill training.

In Solo Drill training, one should follow the concepts of 'slow is better than fast', and 'fluid is better than hurried' to reduced the risk of physical injury. First, one works with large and slow movements. Later, one works with small movements with speed and power. When one follows these instructions, one will be able to understand all the powers changed inside the body and performed by the body accordingly.

The training in Solo Drill is similar to Zhan Zhuang in a few important ways. 1) It is highly demanding of physical endurance and mental concentration. Therefore, one should expect to experience all sorts of discomfort and boredom at the beginning. 2) All the movements are guided by the intent, not physical force. When one is applying physical force, the muscles tense up and this inhibits flexibility and all circulation. Therefore, as long as one is applying the intent to guide the chi circulation, which is expressing outwardly in physical movement, the discomfort will be gone and the training is achievable.

In the beginning, practicing the Solo Drill's movements are but a series of simple exercises for the hands and feet. With experience, one will understand the power behind each exercise is not coming only from the hands and feet but from the whole body. This is what we call 'when the top portion moves, the lower portion follows. When the lower portion moves, the top portion leads.'

When one is practicing the Solo Drill, one should pay closer attention to the mechanics of each movement. The intent and movement should be coordinated to result in a powerful strike. The movement should be natural, comfortable, and muscles, joints, and tendons should stay relaxed. Each movement's motion should be large at the beginning to fine tune all the different components, later, the same movement should have smaller motion so that it is fast and powerful. The slower the motion, the better the control, and focus. This is the reason why Yang Cheng Fu said that first one seeks large movement and later seeks smaller movement.

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