Introduction to Our 30-day Health Challenge
In the early morning, before daily life, Chinese people of all ages begin the day by performing traditional exercises in the parks and woods wherever they live. You will see some doing rhythmic stretching movements – others are training in the martial arts. A common sight is Tai Chi Chuan, the exquisite slow exercise, one of the soft martial arts, that develops and relaxes the whole body. But as you look more closely you may come across an even more remarkable sight. Among all these moving forms, here and there you will see some figures that rivet your attention. They are like the trees themselves. They are fully alive, but they are utterly still. Although there is no obvious movement, they are deeply engaged in one of the most demanding and powerful forms of exercise ever developed. They are so utterly focused on deep, internal growth that it literally requires learning to stand like a tree. It is known in Chinese as Zhang Zhuang (Jan Jong), “standing like a tree”. This is the cultivation system, which is being introduced here.
Although Zhang Zhuang Chi Kung has a history dating back several thousand years, it was highly prized for both its extreme effectiveness and simplicity. As a result, this internal cultivation technique was retained as secret knowledge within internal martial arts lineages and was only passed on through oral tradition from master to student. In the “ Neijing Yellow Emperor Classic – Suwen book” it is said that sages in ancient times, were guiding and supporting Heaven and Earth, maintaining yin and yang, breathing deeply, preserving themselves, all muscles as one, beyond life-span defined by Heaven and Earth”. During thousands years of existence and development, this method has been already considered as an internal adjustment suitable to improve, body temperature, cure diseases, prevent diseases, strengthening physical condition, preserving health, prolonging life, in a word a healing way and the basis of gongfu (martial art aptitude) preserved secretly along generation and generation.
The system of standing practice presented here must be credited to Grand Master Wang Xiangzhai who began teaching it publicly around 1929. Master Wang learned Zhang Zhuang from The Great XingYiQuan Master Guo Yunshen who would make him stand in static posture by his bedside all night. One of Master Wang’s original students (Yu Yong Nian) was very interested in the health benefits of this Chi Kung method and continued to promote and study its amazing healing effects. Master Lam Kam Chuen learned Zhang Zhuang from Master Yu Yong Nian. This brief history is to preserve the lineage of teaching as best we can so that you have an understanding of its origins.
Like a tree with its deep roots, powerful trunk and great spreading branches reaching into the sky, you will appear to remain unmoving. In reality you will be growing from within. Previously shrouded in strict secrecy, this health system is now attracting considerable international attention and scientific examination. The results are unmistakable: strengthened immunity; successful treatment of chronic illness; high levels of daily energy and the natural regeneration of the central nervous system.
This system of energy exercises takes most people completely by surprise, because although it is most definitely an energetic system of exercise, it involves virtually no movement! Unlike almost all other exercise methods, which consume energy, this actually generates energy. How is this possible? The answer lies in the nature of energy in the human body: how it is produced, and how it moves within the body. Even more amazing is that you can watch T.V, listen to music or even talk with people as you do the exercise.
Your natural energy
Our bodies are filled with bioelectric energy, but it’s often blocked within us. We are born bursting with life force, yet we grow old depleted of vitality. Chi Kung is a unique exercise that can reverse this process of decay. It builds up and releases an extraordinary flow of natural energy that is dormant inside us and raises the body and mind to remarkably high levels of health and fitness. The energy in our bodies is like the constant rhythm of our lungs and the ceaseless circulation of our blood. Thousands of chemical reactions are taking place at any one moment and countless electrical impulses are passing through every part of the system. Not only that, but we are all part of the entire flow of energy around us. The intricate networks of energy in your body form part of the energy of the natural world. You are a microcosmic field of the grand electromagnetic energy of the entire universe.
Cultivating internal strength
The secret art of internal strength is to rediscover and release the powerful energy that is dormant or obstructed within you. Complete relaxation is one part of the process; the other is the development of mental and physical capacities that have remained untapped since your birth. It is common knowledge that we use only a tiny percentage of our brain. It is also true that we train only a percentage of our physical capacity. Most forms of exercise — running, swimming, weight training, team sports, and aerobics classes — concentrate on developing our physical strength and coordination. Most develop key muscle groups and have a powerful effect on the lungs, heart, and cardiovascular system. But there is a limit to the extent and benefit of such exercise. Long before your muscles are worked to their full capacity, the demand on your heart and particularly on your lungs is so intense that sooner or later you become fatigued and must stop. The result is not only temporary exhaustion, but also limited development of your muscle power.
In terms of regeneration within the body, sports promote the consumption of energy to accelerate this process through triggering the movement of muscles and transforming chemical energy (Adenosine triphosphate or ATP) into mechanical energy. Therefore, it requires extra nutrition and sleep to recover from the expended energy. In other words, traditional sports and exercise are designed to amplify the quantity of life energy that comes into and flows out of the body during the physical performance. In contrast, Qigong training focuses on accumulating energy from the atmosphere while also significantly reducing the body’s consumption of energy, slowing down the process or need for regeneration. It regulates the order of internal life activity and reorganizes the biological structure, therefore significantly increasing your life force or “Chi” and vitality.
The Chi kung exercises outlined here will enable you to exert the full capacity of your muscle networks over long periods without exhausting your lungs or cardiovascular system. In fact, your breathing will become even deeper and slower, generating a generous supply of oxygen to your heart. At the same time, your pulse rate will rise slightly, enabling your heart to carry these high volumes of oxygen to your muscles and internal organs. Even though you will be exercising yourself as never before, you will not be left gasping for air. You will be able to exercise without fighting against yourself. Very few other forms of exercise stimulate, cleanse, and massage all the body’s internal systems in this way.