In the opening sentence of Master Wang’s essay, he states: “One begins with standing and ends with standing.” Zhanzhuang (standing) helps to awaken, connect, and strengthen the mind and body. Students can greatly enhance both health and martial arts abilities using this system.
“Health stance is the basic training in I-Chuan, and it is critical for learning the fighting stance. Without the energy and good health developed by serious work in the basic health stance, it is senseless to consider fighting.” — Gregory Fong
Master Wang Xiangzhai (1887-1963), the founder of I-Chuan, was born in 1885 in Hebei province of China, near Beijing. A sickly child, Wang studied with famous hsing yi Master Guo Yun Shen and soon recovered his health. After many years of study with masters throughout China, Wang distilled their most practical elements into an art that had no “forms” or standard techniques. He worked relentlessly to develop practices that build strength, awaken the nervous system, and deliver full power. As such, his pursuit of knowledge led him to change the content of his art from a traditional Chinese approach based on meridians and “chi” to a more modern approach based on nerve, muscle and mind.
Master Yu Yong Nian, one of Wang’s senior students, was born near Beijing in February, 1920. Sent to Japan to train as a dentist, he returned to China at 21. Exhausted through working long hours at a local hospital, Yu regained his health through years of training with Wang. Yu was so impressed with his own results that he introduced standing training to his patients in the hospital, developed a teaching program for other hospitals, and later authored medical books promoting the use of zhanzhuang (standing) as an effective system to treat internal disease. His books have become popular throughout China and the West.
As its name implies, the focus is on the “I” (mind) and its connection with the body, or fist (chuan). Training teaches how to stimulate the mind-body connection to develop and issue power efficiently. I-Chuan comprises the practices of standing, test of power, walking, test of sound, health dance and push hands. Standing with a goal to build strength and correct structure is the first step. Along with standing, other practices are introduced when called for to teach use of power, improve coordination and balance movement. To make these exercises more powerful, mental images are used as resistance rather than heavy weights. This prevents injury, builds strength, and fosters sustained mental focus. The I-Chuan practitioner works on developing speed, responsiveness and quick power instead of memorizing techniques. Thus, I-Chuan is a system of great freedom and challenge.
This martial arts training will develop “listening ability,” power, awareness and strength. Key to developing and maintaining such abilities is staying healthy. I-Chuan is a wonderful system for building and maintaining energy, strength and health. Students should notice many health benefits even a few weeks into training: increased energy, better mental focus, more balanced posture and improved structural alignment.