The San Zhan pattern gives you, the practitioner, a frame to work from. If you do not train the way the frame dictates, then you will not get out of the pattern its secrets.
As an instructor it is so easy to see who has put the time and effort into practicing. After all, even if you are not sure if you are doing it correctly, you have a platform from which to make changes and if you don’t practice, then all you have is the beginning again.
San Zhan should feel like steel flexible wire tensioning on the inside and soft cotton on the outside. As a beginner it is quite often the opposite, most people are tense on the outside and have no core strength on the inside.
Again, the beginner will find it very hard to be aware of everything that his or her body is doing. As time moves on your focus will become very intense and your body awareness far more attuned.
To start you can adjust your focus. Start by holding the head high as if you have a cord holding the crown of your head high, tucking the chin into the chest and straightening the upper posture. The sacrum should feel heavy, sinking your stance tucking the tailbone under to keep the lower spine straight. As you progress you can then focus on more areas of the body.
When you are stepping your mind is set on getting your footwork correct. Then you can focus on the arms – thrusting out and returning to the correct position. Thus moving your focus up, down, forwards and backwards. Eventually your focus will become like a ball around you stretching in all directions, hence the term for three wars; Mind, Body and Breath.
Remember the legs carry you! Do not fall forwards or backwards. Good posture makes you use your legs and enable you to change direction quickly, with out giving away any signs to your opponent. For all of the above, you will need a good instructor to keep you on the correct path but most of all, work your basics.
Already you can see there is far more to San Zhan than meets the eye, just from what I have written in this article.
Remember you will only get out of San Zhan what you put into it, so go and practice.
Head Instructor Neil Johnson