Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting results...

Getting results...

What do we want out of our training? What is the underlying purpose?
"To be happy"...Yes, this is the greatest underlying motive in all of our lives...But let me chunk down for a moment.

Presumably, we do stance for various personal reasons...When I answer the "What do you want in life and in training?" question, I invariably answer "To be happy", but what does this imply in zhan zhuang (and to a larger extent, all IMA practice)? What sort of "happiness" can arise from practicing stance?

I recently read a post by Dan about Motivation...For him motivation, and by extension, happiness, has become about getting results: poise and comfort in being. And while we all have our own levels of understanding (where you are is where you are and thats where you start) and practice, I'm not so sure what this all means to me.

Certainly, when I practice stance I feel erect, dignified and to an extent comfortable (aside from the burning thighs!) and this has become my motivation to practice. But a part of me wants more...wants this to extend to movement, natural being and eventually martial prowess. Do I lack understanding of the internal process? Am I being impatient?

For now, all I know is to keep practicing...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reflection in the mirror...

Lately I've been hooked on some "medicine" in training (keeping in mind that a medicine/method should only be used to find the feeling and should not become an "addiction), that is, using a mirror to check my alignment and structure. I am gradually subtracting the amount of time I spend looking in the mirror, and I can definitely see how easy it is to get addicted to this way of cheating as opposed to actually feeling the alignment without any visual tools.

I have however, found the mirror to be very useful in that I can actually see where my alignment is off which has led to various "a ha!" moments on a purely structural level. For months (maybe even years?) I've had a problem with placing the weight of my body on the outside edges of my left foot which has thrown off my alignment (1234,1234) and led to discomfort in my left kneecap (although this is yet another problem of mine in trying to relax the lower back and belly). Visually seeing that the big toe area of my left foot was actually raising up as the weight moved to the outer left side of my foot reminds me every time in stance to correct this problem. Having actually seen the problem in the mirror, I realize the feeling of misalignment and the pain it causes, helping me to adjust when not using the mirror. The mirror has also helped me see a "twist" in my upper body/torso where my left shoulder wants to hunch forward. These are just a few more areas to work on as I continue practice...and soon I'll be off the mirror completely!

I hope everyone is having a good time training, and if you are participating in the Lenten Challenge, keep it up!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Lenten Challenge

Today begins the Lenten Challenge as discussed by Rick of Cook Ding's Kitchen:


2010 Lenten Challenge

Postby RickMatz on Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:45 am

Every year, I throw out the Lenten Challenge to my martial arts buddies. It has nothing to do with Christianity or religion. We are simply using this time as a convenient reminder to rededicate ourselves to our training. It’s kind of hard to miss either Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent, which is also Paczki Day!) or Easter Sunday (Bunnies, candy, colored eggs; that stuff). Several of us have been doing this for years now.

The challenge is this: from Ash Wednesday (Feb 17) until Easter (April 4), train every day, without fail, no excuses; even if you have to move mountains. Simple enough said, a little harder to do.

It's not as easy as it sounds; things come up. Some days, you might only be able to get a few minutes of training in; but the point is to do it everyday, no matter what.

It doesn't have to be martial arts training either. Whatever it is that you need to really rededicate yourself to: studying, practicing an instrument, walking, watching what you eat; anything - do it every day, without fail.

In the past on some forums, people have posted what they’ve done everyday. I think everyone who’s done that has become tired of writing, and the others get tired of reading it. How about you just post if you’ve had some breakthrough, or you’ve had to overcome some unusual circumstance to continue your training? Maybe just check in every once in a while to let everyone know you’re keeping at it, or to encourage everyone else to keep at it.

If you fail, we won’t hate you. If you fall off of the wagon, climb back on board. Start anew.

For those of you who insist that you really do train everyday anyway, by all means continue and be supportive of the rest of us. For the rest of us who intend to train everyday, but sometimes come up short due to life’s propensity for unraveling even the best laid plans, here is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and show your resolution.

As a gesture of solidarity with my Orthodox friends, I usually keep it up until the date Easter is marked on their calendar, but 2010 is one of the years where the two church calendars line up.

Won't you join me?"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recognizing tension?

In this post, I pose a question I have been dealing with lately when practicing stance (also in reaction to Rick at Wujifa's post here)...How does one recognize tension?

In Rick's blog post on the so-called "Post Turtle", it is mentioned that our friend the poor turtle cannot get down, did not get on top of the post by its own will, and can only see in the direction it has been turned. A part of me wants to believe that the turtle may always be set back down on the ground in the future (or at least set in the right direction) by a kind soul, or in the case of the student, a teacher who has already mapped the ground before him.

In very much the same way, I have a tendency to see only in the direction that I have been placed...relying too much on corrections from an instructor (medicines to find the feeling) and not thinking enough on my own...

As I write this post, I realize that we are all aiming to get certain "feelings" in the it were, that act as a GPS towards internal strength. The teacher shows the student the right feeling through various tools (1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4!) and adjustments and must receive further refinements again and again towards the right path in order to progress...Given the right tools, the student can work with whats given and play with different adjustments until that feeling is found again...what makes it stronger and what makes it weaker...

I am always amazed when my teacher tells me to release tension in certain areas that I hadn't even realized were tense...The belly, the lower back, the outside of legs, etc.! I originally intended to write this post wondering how to recognize tension in the body...But I might have stumbled upon the answer already: Playing around (ie: what can I release tension from all over the body?) until I find that burn in the legs and connection in the back (all the while holding true to the tools I have already learned...1234, 1234)!

Funny how things work out...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Zhan Zhuang lately...

A large part of Wujifa training is comprised of Zhan Zhuang, or simply, "Stance" training. Stance is a useful practice for one to develop all the connections that make up so called "internal strength". There are many facets to what is seemingly a simple practice and you can read more information (really brilliantly laid out stuff actually) on the Wujifa blog here

The other day while getting stance corrections and, having asked about what exactly that "connection" feel is (fascial stretch, particularly in the back in my own experience; although this is only one small part of it), I assumed my stance as usual. After a few adjustments (arms parallel, shoulders moving rolling back, etc.) on my usual problem spots, I began to really feel a distinct stretchy type of feeling in the center of my back. Voila! This was the beginnings of the so called fascial stretch. And while I don't even pretend to begin to understand where this all leads, I can now recognize the feeling, and make all the adjustments on my own (or so one would hope) to find this same feeling. What can I do to make the feeling stronger? How can I play around with this feeling, and what makes it go away?
Rick, from the Wujifa blog, told me to look in the mirror sideways to see what was going on. "Slide your knees forward, and then sink! Sliding the knees forward allows room to sit"...and while I realize that my own written description might not make sense, this simple demonstration made me understand so much in learning how to get the stretch in the lower back. And at the same time, this "Slide the knees forward and sit" has been drilled into me over and over...why had I missed it so many times before? In the end, despite being shown the door countless times, I just wasn't ready to walk through the door...

So, I encourage all of us to keep playing around...even if we aren't ready for certain things, if you play around enough (and keep jumping back on the horse...thanks for that Dan!), you'll walk through that door eventually!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm still alive!

Just wanted to say Happy (belated) New Year to all, and hope you've all been well over the past few weeks!

Training has been full of its ups and downs for me as of late...ranging from full out one hour stance every day to a few spots of not practicing at all, I have not been as consistent as one would hope. As I continue into this new year, I look towards the future knowing that I am slowly (but surely) progressing to something better and hope that we can all continue to positively influence each other in many ways.

Thanks for everything and Happy 2010!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The unfortunate practice of neglect...

Without even realizing it, I've reached almost a whole month since my last post. It's interesting how the unfortunate "practice" of neglect/non-practice can become a habit gaining ground more and more despite ones efforts otherwise. In this case it's true, "The devil is diligent, and so must we be"(that was a paraphrase...) and as I work towards specific goals (one hour stance! or in this case, blogging) I've found that as soon as I let laziness or excuses in, they crowd out my better judgement. Poor judgement leads to poor habits and as we've all more than likely experienced, a decline in practice only hurts us...

Recently, I've asked myself, why do I practice? What do I hope to achieve through one hour stance (at least) twice a day? I told myself that it was to develop connections, to utilize proper "internal" mechanics, but ultimately, I think I practice because it makes me happy. I practice because when I don't practice, my body just feels off. Whether this is just a result of built in habit or not, this is where I am now, and this is how I feel.

And while I haven't gotten to that magic one hour, I intend to kick up my practice a notch, because in the end, we aren't practicing for anyone else, but ourselves...