Although this concern a method used in the classical Chinese martial art of Xingyiquan the following methods can be applied to any martial system or health program.
Xingyiquan / Hsing I Ch’uan (形意 拳) which means shape of intention boxing appears to many to be powerful but not internal. To judge this art from a single vision is a grave mistake. The Li family developed their method for both health and martial skill based on the theory of Wuxing (五行) five qualities concept from Chinese medicine in which the principles of hard and soft, light and dark are divided into five concepts that are respectively, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. These translate into five states of action or fists / Quan (拳) that make up the core principles of Li family Xingyiquan. Therefore the Li family Xingyiquan is both powerful martial art and healing exercise based on traditional Chinese medicine.
Finding Stillness for Power and Health
The classic literature of Xingyiquan says, “Stillness is the substance and motion is to put it to use. The motion within stillness is the real motion, while the stillness within motion is the real stillness.” The primary goal of standing still in the Xingyiquan posture known as Santishi is said to be for seeking motion is stillness. A literal translation of Santishi (三體 式) is three position form or pattern. The term refers to the head from shoulder to crown as (Heaven), the torso from shoulder to the lower pelvis as (Man) and from pelvis to soles of the feet as (Earth). In reality earth means to ground the body with a proper stance sinking from the pelvis down. Man means to use the imagination to create expansion in eight directions. Heaven means using the mind to open the deeper states of relaxation and lift the spine up.
It is said by internal art masters that by either sitting quietly (Jingzuo 靜坐) or standing quietly (Jing Zhan Zhuang 靜 站 樁) with patience and time (Gongfu 功夫) we begin to discover our true nature or attitude (Xing 性) and only when we have learned about our nature can we begin to develop a quiet mind that is necessary for internal training. It sounds confusing but the idea comes from the belief that motion or activity and stillness or inactivity are closely related to each other but exactly what does that mean.
It is in this type of Xingyiquan basic training that we begin to develop that part of our mind called intention (Yi意). Intention is the root of developing what the Chinese call true internal power (Neineng 內能) for it is through intention that we discover motion within stillness and later stillness within motion. One Xingyiquan master put it this way. “Without developing Yi there can be no understanding of whole body energy (Zhengti-jin整體勁). Therefore without conquering ones restless nature through learning to remain still, the true Yi cannot be found. Only when Yi is understood can ones techniques reach true Gongfu.” When examining early and more modern texts on the Chinese internal arts one will encounter a bewildering plethora of confusing terms like Qi, and Jin and many other terms that are only vaguely defines. Let’s sweep away the confusion and see what all of this really means.
Sitting and standing to find stillness means to quiet the restless mind so that with fewer distractions one can sense subtle changes inside and outside the body. At The Gompa we like to start with Quiet Sitting first and the move to standing as we have found the transition and release of unintentional tension is easier to understand by this method. These changes come about as a result of using one’s mind or intention (Yi) first to assume a specific posture that is structurally sound and then to let go of unnecessary muscular tension in all parts of the body while holding that posture. For beginners we assume the void stance (Wuji-bu無極) with feet about 10” apart pointed forward knees unlocked and arms hanging gently at the sides. This process is called “finding release” (Song松) so one uses the mind to let go of all unnecessary tension and in this way the next level become easier.
In the next level we use the same posture in which we have found song and now we begin to use the mind to create new feelings. For example in Santishi we imagine the body from the center point of the lower abdomen (Jing-guo Dantian 精鍋 丹田 ) down to the feet as being heavy and sinking into the earth like a tree rooting into the ground. This begins the process of rooting (Chen 沉) which means to sink ones weight down to feel heavy. This feeling is from the top of the pelvis or center point down and is called the power of earth energy.
Next one applies the Yi to attain a feeling of lifting and sinking to the center portion (torso) of the body. The sensation is similar to a helium filled balloon (shoulders) pulling on a string (spine) while a weight (pelvis) sinks down. This ensures a correct torso alignment for balance and the issuance of force from the arms. This area is called the power of man.
Next we adjust the head from the shoulder neck area to the top of the fontanel of the skull with the same feeling of Balloon, string and weight to correctly align the head. This is called the power of Heaven. The entire methods discussed above are trained first in the void stance (not shown) before moving into the next stage.
After achieving the above levels one can then assume a postural position with the arms (as shown in the photo). In this case it is the core positioning of all Xingyiquan which in the combat method is called splitting posture (Pi Quan劈拳) here the term Quan that means fist or boxing in Chinese is used even though the forward hand position is an open palm facing slantingly upward. At this level we begin to engage the Yi for the purpose of feeling correct structural alignments between the forward palm and the rear leg.
One imagines receiving a heavy weight into the palm as if pushing on some very large object and feeling the imaginary sensations of the heavy force pushing down while we in turn push back and slightly downward with our pushing sensation rising out of the leg through the torso, arm and into the palm. All of this is done while remaining in release / song without tensing any muscles. In time one can develop a true feeling of the connection from the ground to the palm as if there were a real force present. This is what is meant by finding motion in stillness.
Affect of Santishi on the Internal Organs
The Stomach – Digestion improves.
The Blood – Blood pressure goes down or normalizes.
The Intestines – Elimination is improved.
The Kidneys – Filtration and elimination of toxins is improved.
The Bladder – Increased function and elimination.
The Liver – Increases ability to convert food to energy.
Sense Organs Improved by Santishi Posture
The Eyes – The vision improves with practice
The Skin – The tactile sensations improve with practice
The Tongue – The sense of taste is increased
The nerves – increases synaptic firing potential to increase speed in martial artThis type of practice has been found through research to stimulate neuromuscular capability, strengthen the muscles involved and also increase the potential for moving from any one position to the one being trained at a very high rate of speed. In the Li family system this stage is called intention, attitude skill (Yixingong意心功) and is the heart of all Li family internal arts.
Time of Day to Train Santishi
Number of Repetitions for Santishi Training
Work up to ten minutes on each side.For more information on training these concepts for any system please contact us at The Gompa.