The purpose of this article is to distinguish the similarities and differences regarding the practice of two training methods in tai chi: Wuij and Zhan Zhuang. (See articles Wuji: Art of Stillness – 1 and Wuji: Art of Stillness – 2)
Wuji is the stillness before and after taiji movement. When one practices wuji their only concern is stillness of body and mind. Adding anything extra would no longer be wuji.
Wuji is not a breathing exercise, yet when one practices intently, their breathing will become more calm, relaxed, quiet, and efficient.
Wuji is not a posture exercise, yet when one practices, their posture will naturally improve through the process of relaxation in line with gravity.
Wuji is not a qi (vital energy) circulation exercise, yet when one practices, the blood and qi circulation will improve and become more efficient, again, through the improvement in posture and relaxation that naturally takes place during practice.
Wuji is not a mental exercise, yet when absorbed in practice, the mind becomes quiet, still and calm.
Wuji is a DO NOTHING exercise. Just stand. That is all. Any benefits that result are purely from this. In other words, do not focus on these effects.
Zhan Zhuang is a training method which involves holding specific postures and focusing one’s Yi (intention/will) to accomplish specific things.
For example, one common zhan zhuang posture involves standing with feet parallel at shoulder width, and arms propped up in front of the chest as if holding a large ball or encircling a tree. While holding this posture, one imagines/visualizes specific movements, BUT WITHOUT PHYSICALLY MOVING.
The first imagined/visualized movement is that of standing in the ocean waves, facing them directly. As a wave hits the front of your body, you imagine leaning forward into it with your whole body. As the wave recedes, you imagine leaning back into it with your whole body. The most important key here is that THE WHOLE BODY IS MOVING AS ONE PIECE.
There are many other imagined/visualized movements in this zhan zhuang posture, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Although wuji and zhan zhuang are separate and distinct training methods, they certainly enhance each other, as they do all martial art training methods, regardless if they are considered internal or external systems.
I hope the reader will be inspired to add these practices to their current training program. Stillness training is valuable in so many ways, and will surely enhance every physical training, whether martial arts or any fitness program!