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Articles > Zhan-Zhuang: Standing for Rooting

Sun Anguang,Peaceful Light
5 Oct 2007

The following article will be published by Inside Kung-Fu Maganize in the Issue of Feb. 2008, Vol.36 No.1


The traditional way of martial training in China always emphasizes Zhan-Zhuang as preliminary and primary. As a beginner, you may be required to practice nothing but Zhan-Zhuang for the first one or two years. This seemingly boring and torturing training is generally believed to lay solid foundation for guaranteed future accomplishment in martial art. A Sifu also uses Zhan-Zhuang to test his potential disciple’s commitment and endurance, which are regarded as virtues and traits of a true martial artist.


There are some old sayings in Chinese martial society that show the importance of Zhan-Zhuang, “Before learning boxing, do three-year Zhan-Zhuang first”, “Standing like a pine tree”, “Head suspended high to touch heaven, feet rooted down deep into the earth”, and “Without rooting, there is no foundation for Kung-Fu”.


Zhan-Zhuang, literally, stands like a pole. Zhan means standing. Zhuang is a pole. The purpose of this training is incontrovertibly to achieve rooting skill. So here comes the question, “what is rooting?”


Root is the underground portion of a plant. Rooting here refers to the strong ground connection and the martial ability to keep central equilibrium amidst no-matter-what incoming force. Real rooting does not sacrifice the mobility and agility with low postures or standing still.


Since Zhan-Zhuang is to stand for rooting, the focus in training should always be on how to stand in order to build up stable rooting. Here come two topic questions of this article: How to stand? And what techniques do we use in our training?


To the first general question, the answer is that we are going to learn two standing modalities, one is to stand like a tree (see pic.1) and the other is to stand like a sculpture (see pic.2).


To the second detailed question, the specific technique we use in our Zhan-Zhuang training is called SEVR, which stands for Suggested Expected Visualized Relaxation. We are going to learn how to apply this technique into our standing for rooting.


Let’s come to the first standing modality, Standing Like A Tree. You use the technique of visualization or imagery by picturing a big tree in front of you and you embrace the trunk with your arms. The tree is big and strong with its roots going down wide and deep. You feel and become more and more aware of that, by standing holding the tree, you are gradually becoming part of the tree. Your top (waist up) will become lighter and lighter and your bottom (waist under) will become heavier and heavier. You truly believe and feel that with this standing you will finally develop the strong rooting and that nobody can move you unless together with the big tree.


The second Zhan-Zhuang modality is Standing Like a Sculpture. Here you also use the vivid imagination. First, you look down and in your mind draw a circle in front of you on the ground. Look at it, form a clear picture in your mind and remember it. Then you step into the circle and make whatever poses, holding Pipa or holding a big ball in front of Dantian posture (see pics.3-4). The key here is to visualize yourself becoming connected with the earth underneath you. You see yourself being like a sculpture and the circular piece of the ground serves as your base. You and the circular piece of the earth under your feet have become one unit. You establish solid connection with the ground in your mind. With practice, the feeling and awareness of solid grounding and rooting will become more and more physical and real.


The key word in the SEVR (Suggested Expected Visualized Relaxation) is relaxation. Relaxing the whole body is the crucial way to obtain desired rooting. Five big bones have to be relaxed thoroughly. They are the spine, two shoulder joints and two hipbone joints. Use guided imagery to suspend your spine and open the other four big joints so that there are no compression between the discs and no tightening of shoulders and hipbones. To check and feel each part of your body getting relaxed.  The crucial part is kua, the hipbones. Once your hips are finally opened and relaxed, the gravity center will be lowered dramatically and your Dantian Qi will sink down to your feet to connect with the energy of the earth. (In next issue we are going to discuss the specific techniques on how to open and relax the five big bones)


The self-suggestion, which is the word with faith and expectation, is also important in the training. God never did anything without saying it first. Jesus promised us, “You can have what you say.” When you stand for rooting, say to yourself verbally (in low voice as long as you can hear), “I’m relaxing my spine (pause to check and feel). My spine is relaxed. I’m relaxing my shoulders (Pause). My shoulders are relaxed. I’m relaxing my hips (Pause). My hips are relaxed. I feel my whole body relaxed, thoroughly and completely relaxed. I feel my Qi is sinking down (Pause). I feel my gravity is lowered. I feel my rooting (Pause). I felt it. Now, I am rooted, deeply and firmly rooted.”


Finally, let’s have a few more words about the expectation of rooting. You have to have faith in your standing for rooting. To gain rooting, you have to expect it happens and believe it will happen. You deliberately visualize and feel the happening even before you have actually achieved it. Remember, reality is the conception of mind.


In summary, Zhan-Zhuang is Standing Meditation. Meditation is self-hypnosis with focused awareness and guided imagery. In our standing for rooting training, mental faculty plays the big role. The techniques used here are visualization, concentration (focused awareness), expectation and affirmative self-suggestion. They are all mind activities. It is the mind that connects our body and earth into one.


The above discussed SEVR Technique works. As personal experience, I didn’t believe it at first until I tried and achieved firm rooting myself. Give yourself a try and then share your wonderful testimonial with your fellow practitioners.




How to get started?

  1. Find a quiet place without being intruded or interrupted; the open area with fresh air is ideal.
  2. Wear loose clothes.
  3. Take three deep breathing before making the pose.
  4. Stand high and upright with eyes half closed, chin tuck in and crown of the head suspended from above.
  5. Seven minutes is minimum for each standing. With practice, increase each standing time. The longer standing time, the more enhanced the sensation and awareness, and the better result.
  6. You can do it any time of the day.

 What mistakes to avoid?

  1. Do not stand collapsed and limped. (It will cause neck and back pain)
  2. Do not stand with low posture. (It will damage your knees)
  3. Do not just stand with your physical body. (The doorman standing all day in front of the hotel can hardly expect to achieve martial rooting). You must have your mind get deeply involved in the training 

Sun Anguang