Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Yet More Tension

In my previous post, I described starting Zhan Zhuang training after a session with Sifu Amin Wu and mentioned that one part of the training included doing leg lifts.

In that post, I didn't describe the leg lifts but they aren't complicated. You start the movement in an open stance, slowly shift the weight to one leg, then raise the other (empty) leg up to about hip level, making sure to keep the knee aligned with toes on the supporting (full) leg and to keep the hips level. You hold the leg up for about 20 seconds before slowly putting the foot down and doing the same movement on the other side.

Lifting the leg is basically the same move as 'Golden cock stands on one leg' and holding the leg up for 20 seconds trains the thigh muscle - as your strength, balance, and flexibility improve you can lift the leg higher and hold it for longer (eventually turning it into a kick but that's beyond what I'm training at this point).

After watching me go through the movements a few times, Sifu Wu mentioned that I was holding a lot of tension in my knee and lower leg and said that I should just relax the knee and let the lower leg hang. Once she pointed it out, I noticed as I lifted my leg that 1. the angle of the knee barely changed, causing tension in the knee and 2. I was forcibly pointing my toes downward, causing tension in the lower leg.

Looking back, I recall that when I was first learning the Slow Form, I started forcibly pointing my foot down in 'Golden cock stands on one leg' because I saw that the advanced people had their toes pointed down and, while it felt tight for me, I figured that once I gained enough flexibility that everything would become loose.

Training the leg lifts while concentrating on keeping the knee and foot relaxed pointed out how much tension I was actually carrying in the knee/lower leg. Bringing this refinement back into the Slow Form, I found that the tension not only occurred in 'Golden cock stands on one leg' but in any move where I had to lift a leg, including any stepping (whether it be a side step as in 'Circle hands like clouds',  a forward step as in 'Brush thighs and press forth palms', or a backwards step as in 'Step back and repulse monkey') so this refinement has applied to (and improved) practically everything in the Slow Form.

So, mind the tension.