Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lifting the Hip Considered Harmful

In my last few posts, I've been describing the Zhan Zhuang training that I've incorporated into my training regime with the help of Sifu Wu. She has continued to help me refine my training and I am now incorporating some additional movements and different postures.

One new wrinkle Sifu Wu recently gave me with the leg lifts (described in my last post) was, after lifting the unweighted leg, to extend the weighted leg until it's almost straight - still keeping the hips even. Once you've held this position for a while, you bend the weighted leg to get back to it's original position and then (and only then), you lower the unweighted leg. I do this twice on one leg then shift to the other.

Doing this variation clearly showed another problem with my leg lifts. As I lift the leg, the associated hip has a tendency to come up too, which makes the hips uneven - this is bad. In order to stay balanced, you need to keep that hip down. The issue becomes particularly evident when extending the weighted leg - the other hip really wants to come up (even though it's not helping at all).

I discussed my problem with Sifu Wu and she had a couple of helpful insights.
  1. You need to feel that the leg is being lifted by the lower portion of the thigh, towards the knee.
  2. As the knee goes up, you need to actively push the hip down.
  3. To make this all work, the supporting leg needs to keep its structure as well i.e. the foot and knee have to retain their structure - there is a tendency to collapse the knee which lets the outer edge of the foot come away from the ground.
  4. As your leg strength improves, that will help improve the form (i.e. keep practicing).
Doing my best to follow Sifu Wu's advice, my leg lifts have gradually improved over time and, with effort, I am able to keep my hips a lot more even.

Once again, as I was doing the Slow form, I started noticing places where my unweighted hip was popping up (all the usual suspects, particularly any stepping or kicking). As my leg lifts have improved, I've worked these changes into the form, which has improved the form while simultaneously making it even more challenging.