First Practice Standing

Wèi xí dǎ, xiān liàn zhuāng.

Wèi xí dǎ, xiān liàn zhuāng.

 Before studying how to fight, first practice standing.

In this first blog post on shenfasociety.com, I’m starting a series of posts on Kung Fu Sayings.  This will be a category of posts that you can reference on our site. Other categories will follow, but I thought it would be fun to start with this.

So for the first blog post on a site dedicated to traditional body training methods, I can’t really imagine a more fitting phrase/perspective to introduce:

Before studying how to fight, first practice standing.

What is more iconic of the kung fu practitioner than the image of a monk standing motionless in horse stance?  Maybe there is incense burning in the darkened stone hall, or maybe he’s outside on the crags of Songshan?  Or if you’re more inclined to other imagery, you can imagine a Daoist standing in the forest or in a courtyard looking out from Mt. Wudang in zhanzhuang.

Regardless of the imagery that inspires us, Chinese martial arts begin with standing. Why?

Chinese martial arts begin with the premise that in order to learn how to fight at a high level of competency, one first has to train the body to work at optimum capacity and efficiency in order to deliver the techniques of the system in question.

Yeah, but why start with standing?

Because, if you look at the previous statement, Chinese martial arts are trying to do two important things for a fighter: 1) make him capable of creating a lot of power in his techniques, and 2) make him efficient in doing so, which will allow a fighter to last a lot longer in combat.  Standing teaches the proper alignment of the body’s supportive frame.  This frees up the muscles to be able to relax (since they’re not holding the body up as much).  Once they’re relaxed, they can move faster and with greater range of motion than when they’re tensed and occupied with basic support functions.  You can control your tension and relaxation, rather than having those states be unconscious.  Once you have proper alignment of the body’s frame and the accompanying conscious control over muscular tension, it becomes much easier to generate powerful and focused strikes.  In addition, it takes less energy and taxes the muscles less to produce these strikes when the alignment is correct – thus making the movements more efficient and giving the fighter greater endurance time.

All this comes from standing?  No, there are many other supplemental exercises to get to the end result (like how to extend the various parts of the body into strikes and where and when and at what distance to execute those strikes), but they all depend on the proper alignment and control that come from spending long periods of time standing in correct postural alignments.  So first practice standing!

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