San Zhan practiced at an early level concentrates mostly on the external. You are learning the position of the body and how to keep true to the forms frame, posture and trigrams of strength. Learning how to flow smoothly from one movement to the next is crucial.
The internal path of San Zhan is where the form starts to reach other levels of understanding about your body.
As in all martial arts it is hard to explain how to practice properly in text or photos. The only way, truly, is to be instructed but this may help some students of a senior level to understand what to do to reach the next level.
The process of drawing up and inwards starts as two parts. One is the visualisation and the second is the internal physical core muscle and tendon tensioning.
Lets focus on the stepping forward and thrusting part of the form.
Standing with the right foot forward in a good posture, while keeping in a low stance to equate the dan tian, it is important to keep the feet relaxed so as to feel the ground.
Visualise as you begin to breathe in as if drawing up energy from the ground through the nine points of suction situated at the bottom of the feet; drawing up through both legs combining into the pelvis doubling the core strength continuing up through the core of the lower torso.
The physical part of this section should be keeping the feet relaxed, tightening the ankle tendons then tightening the knee tendons then up to the ball and socket joints of the pelvis at this point making sure the lower sacrum and back are in good alignment you should draw up from the anus. Tightening up through the centre of the lower torso the diaphragm should begin to feel like a ball tightening, the drawing up from the ground is the earthly energy and should feel like a wave rising up.
Next you must focus on the upper part of the torso, at the same time as the bottom of the body. You must focus on the visualisation of drawing in heavenly energy through the fingers as you are returning your arms to your sides. Visualise the energy running through the radius and the ulna through the humerus bones, drawing through round the shoulder sockets and down the centre of the torso meeting the dan tian.
The physical movement should be the process of drawing back the arms, tightening the tendons of wrist, elbows and the shoulders. The chest should rise as you reach full lung capacity, tightening the chest like an elastic band ready to fire. Remember all of the tightening is like a core wire tensioning, not stiff – it must flow.
The diaphragm should now be compressing from the top and the bottom creating an internal spring. This massages the internal organs and stimulates the dan tian. The earthly energy from the ground, combine with the heavenly energy from the sky compressing at the dan tian. Integrating into the humanly energy helping build your chi supply to help keep you healthy and give you an internal fire.
The above is only a brief outline to get you thinking. San Zhan looks very simple compared to some more flamboyant forms around but actually contains much more than is seen on the surface.
If you do not understand any of the above, don’t worry it just means you are not ready to learn this level of San Zhan at the moment. A deeper knowledge of San Zhan can only come with time and effort.
Head Instructor Neil Johnson