What is Zhan Zhuang?
Zhan Zhuang (pronounced ‘jan jong’) is a broad term used to describe the practice of holding one or more static postures for a length of time – anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours. The term ‘Zhan Zhuang’ translates as something like ‘Standing Post’ or ‘Standing Stake’, possibly indicating the similarity of a person standing motionless to a post driven into the ground. Some argue that the name is used because historically practitioners would actually stand on top of wooden stakes. We in the west call it ‘Standing Practice’, ‘Posture Holding’ or Stance Keeping’ interchangeably.
Why do Zhan Zhuang?
Standing exercises have been shown to benefit many physical, mental and emotional aspects of the practitioner. Among these are: Posture; Relaxation; Bone density; Muscle, tendon and ligament strength; Circulation; Breathing; Organ function; Immune system function; Nervous system function; Mental focus; Awareness and calmness. The exercises also increase the energy level of the practitioner, making them more positive in outlook and better able to cope with stress. In addition, the process of letting go of physical rigidity can be accompanied by the release of stored negative emotions.
For martial arts pursuits, standing exercises are the first step to understanding how to use body structure to best effect, and how to recruit as much of the body as possible into each individual movement, thereby increasing the potential for generating larger and larger amounts of force as more and more of the body is connected into one unified whole.