Behind the Zhan Zhuang Training
The Tai Chi Chuan Classics say, "Tai Chi came from Wu Chi, the
mother of Yin and Yang." This highlights the important relationship between Tai
Chi Chuan and Wu Chi and yet today's Tai Chi Chuan practitioners do not
concentrate and talk about this Wu Chi. In the past, Tai Chi Chuan students
generally had a complete physical and spiritual training by working on the Wu
Chi Posture or static component and Tai Chi Chuan or the dynamic component.
The Tai Chi Chuan Classics say, "Wu Chi gives birth to Tai Chi. Tai Chi gives
birth to Two Elements. Two Elements gives birth to Four Phenomena and Four
Phenomena gives birth to Pa Kua." Wu Chi refers to the state before the universe
was formed; it is the world that has no shape and mass and it is infinite or
void. Tai Chi refers to the time the universe was about to be formed. Therefore,
Tai Chi refers to initiation. Two Elements refers to Yin and Yang Components.
Four Phenomena refers to Metal, Wood, Water, and Fire or Four Seasons as Spring,
Summer, Fall and Winter. Pa Kua refers to Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Wind, Water,
Fire, Mountain and Lake.
In Tai Chi Chuan training, Wu Chi refers to the condition when the body and
spirit are not divided into Yin and Yang Components. In other words, the body is
tranquil and is not affected by any contact with the outside world. The whole
body, physical as well as spiritual, is united into oneness. When we talk about
Wu Chi training, we are talking about the ability to remove all the body's
tensions and other emotions guided by intent so that the practitioner can return
to the stable and natural stage that is full of potential and innate ability.
1. Wu Chi Posture
To form a Wu Chi Posture, one begins with the
feet parallel to the shoulders and the knees bent. The two arms on the side of
the body are suspended without any tension. The fingers are relaxed and pointing
forward. The two elbows are slightly bent. Therefore, the palms have a sense of
pushing down and the arms are warding off outward. The head is upright. The lips
and teeth are close together. The tongue touches the roof of the hard palate.
The eyes are looking forward.
In order for the whole body to relax, all the joints
must be loose and the bones stacked lightly. This is especially true with the
spinal column: One should not apply strength to make it straight. It should be
natural and not rely on muscle contraction or tension for balance. One can
picture the body's skeleton as a cloth hanger, with the skin, muscle, tendon and
ligament as cloth. Placing clothes evenly on the hanger will provide proper
balance. Correct body alignment and weight distribution on the feet will provide
the same result.
To have a relaxed body, the key is to remove tension from the chest. The
tension on the chest is generally the result of a pull by the abdominal and the
shoulders. Therefore, to remove the tension in the chest, one should remove the
tension in the abdomen and shoulders so that all the internal organs are hanging
down in a natural position.
The head should be upright. When it is leaning either to the left or right
side, it is easy to correct. When it is leaning backward, it is not. When the
head is leaning backward, it can cause the body imbalance, the jawbone will tilt
upward and expose the throat and this can cause the throat to dry. All these can
cause tension on the neck.
Protruding the buttocks are another cause of tension in the body. The
buttocks should be relaxed so that they will tuck under or downward naturally.
If the buttocks are sticking out, extra muscles are required to work on the hip
and waist areas because the chest will go forward to maintain this new balance.
This will cause the chest to be tense again.
When the buttocks are tucked under, the skeleton assumes correct alignment
and it becomes stable. It no longer needs additional work from the muscles and
ligaments for balance. The muscles, ligaments and joints will loosely fit
together to form a relaxing and comfortable posture.
The only part that has tension in the Wu Chi Posture is the wrist. The wrist
has to bend so that the fingers will be pointing forward. This serves two
- When the body is relaxed, falling asleep is easy. The
tension on the wrist will provided a small amount of stimuli to keep the
- The tension on the wrist alerts the
practitioner physically as well as mentally. When there is tension, one can
focus and the arms have the warding off intent and the chi is there. This is why
many practitioners feel all kinds of chi sensation on the hands when they
practice this exercise even only for a few minutes. From this, one can see that
a small tension on the wrist, which does not affect the whole body's relaxation,
has so many meanings.
This is an expression of one of many concepts often observed throughout Tai
Chi Chuan training- concentrating on one thing and forgetting 1000 things so
that the body can be restored and refreshed.
In Wu Chi training, relaxation is the external
requirement and tranquility is the internal requirement. Tai Chi Chuan is
considered an internal art because it highly emphasizes the intent throughout
every movement so that every small movement has purpose and objective. In Wu Chi
training, one slowly tries to remove all unnecessary thoughts and sometimes
remove oneself from any disturbing environment or location so relaxation and
tranquility are possible. When the body is truly relaxed and tranquil, the
intent is like a second being living inside the body to monitor the body's
relaxation and tranquility beginning with the head, throat, shoulders, hands,
chest, abdomen, hip, legs, feet, internal organs and then returning upward
from the bottom to the top of the head.
When you detect that a certain area of the body is not correct and relaxed,
make correction immediately. Bad habits die hard. Many bad habits still occur
after several corrections. Therefore, one must repeat this process of checking
over and over until the body becomes relaxed, tranquil and natural.
The better one can concentrate, the better one can remove the stress from the
external environment and the easier one can enter a tranquil condition. When one
is able to concentrate, the body is relaxed, the intent is able to check
everywhere inside the body for any internal conflict. All components exist
independent inside the body without any interference, pressure and tension so
that one will feel very comfortable.
What is Wu Chi training? It is the training to develop the skill to apply the
intent to monitor the body and the ability to calm certain organs so that when
focusing or concentrating, there will be a biological response. After this kind
of training, the functions of all involuntary organs will be better and the
functions of the voluntary organs will be improved as well. Therefore, when one
has Wu Chi skill, the body can quickly be restored in a short time, the feet are
mobile and the body is nimble and energetic.
In order to have intent as a guide, one must have high spirit. High spirit is
the result of concentration. Some people conclude that high spirit relates to
body tension based on whether one does physical work. According to them, when
one is resting or inactive, the spirit is low and the body is tired. But there
is a basic difference between high spirit and tension. When one has tension, it
is the result of external influence that is natural, unconscious response and
can not be controlled. When this influence happens, the nervous system also has
tension and feels the pressure and expresses it externally as physical tension.
High spirit on the other hand is a man made excitement. It can be controlled.
This is often expressed as a form of confidence, courage and endurance. It can
make the tense body relax, restore and refresh itself or it can tense up the
body to do physical work. Therefore, high spirit and tension appear together due
to work relationship. Low spirit and internal concentration are not the same.
Low spirit refers to the brain being tired that causes the function to
deteriorate. When one works with low spirit, it is not a normal life,
unnecessary tension will accumulate to harm the body.
4. Unification of chi and intent
In Wu Chi training, the primary
duty of intent is to monitor the body internally to have the body relaxed and
tranquil; the secondary duty is to regulate the breathing so that it can be
deep, slow, soft and even. When breathing is rhythmic, the intent applies the
same speed to patrol the body from top to bottom and bottom to top, a continuous
process. This exercise is called the unification of chi and intent among the
stationary qigong exercises. As described above, when the intent monitors the
body, it is able to tell the condition of certain areas or have biological
responses from these areas. This kind of sensation or response will become more
obvious when the practitioner has more experience.
When the physical and spiritual body achieves all the
requirements, it enters the Wu Chi condition. When one can get there at any time
of the day, this means one has the Wu Chi skill. The more one is able to relax,
the better one can concentrate internally and the application and benefits are
wider spread. From a physiological perspective, Wu Chi is the best technique for
restoration. From a spiritual perspective, it is alert and has high spirit and
concentration. From a dynamic perspective, it is tranquil and internally
comfortable. From the physical perspective, it is full with energy and is alive.
Therefore, in a Wu Chi condition, the whole body, physical as well as spiritual,
is in a very beneficial restoration process and it is alert. It emphasizes
oneness, and so some people defined Wu Chi as before the separation of Yin and
Yang, but the carrier of Yin and Yang.
Wu Chi training contributes a lot to improving health. It serves a very
special function for the nervous system by balancing the excitation and
inhibition of the brain. Today, we know that emotions play a very important role
in one's health. Muscle contraction, blood circulation, the function of the
internal organs and the endocrine system change according to change in emotion
Bad emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, worry can cause tension and
pressure on the nervous system. When the nervous system is over stimulated, the
organs will affect one's health. There are many symptoms such as muscle pain,
ulcer, headache, that are affected by long term unstable emotions. Therefore,
negative emotions injure one's health and positive emotion improves one's
health. Although a positive emotion such as happiness can improve one's health,
one can not be in this condition constantly and there is reason to be happy so
positive emotions require an external stimulus. A better technique than positive
emotion is to have a Wu Chi condition, it can neutralize the bad emotions that
affect the body. Therefore, Wu Chi condition is the best method to maintain good
Although Tai Chi Chuan training does not recommend any extreme emotion, it is
difficult not to encounter any in life; when it occurs, one will apply the Wu
Chi condition to neutralize it so that the body will be relaxed, peaceful and
tranquil. This process does not require any external support. It depends only on
the intent. Besides improving one's health, Wu Chi condition also improves the
nervous system's sensitivity so that there is better communication and
coordination between the brain and the physical body. Therefore, Wu Chi is a
good maintenance exercise for the physical body as well as spiritual body.
In Wu Chi condition, the body is relaxed and there is no tension or
stiffness. It is very comfortable and natural. When one has the Wu Chi skill,
one falls asleep quickly, performs at peak condition, focuses and concentrates
Since Wu Chi condition provides so many functions and benefits, one should
practice this exercise often so that more benefit will be attained. Wu Chi
exercise can be done when one is in a situation such as waiting, sitting in an
airplane, riding in the car, laying down to sleep and before getting up. It can
be practiced anytime when the practitioner needs to.
Article By Vincent Chu