“Stillness is the master of motion” Wang Xiang Zhai – Founder, Great Achievement Boxing
I recently coached a golf professional who had been suffering from acute over-analysis of his putting technique. This was made all the more unbearable when he was practising one day, as he looked up to see a young girl of about 12 years old, putting effortlessly and sinking the ball into the cup every time. Upon asking her what she was thinking about, the girl replied, “just getting the ball into the hole!”
This brought to mind a situation that occurred within the world of kung-fu, in Beijing in the 1940’s. By the way, the term kung-fu can be translated as hard work or more precisely, the time and energy spent mastering a craft or skill, so yes, golf is a form of kung-fu!
Wang Xiang Zhai, founder of a revolutionary style of kung fu called Great Achievement Boxing or Mind Boxing (I Ch’uan) felt that most kung-fu practitioners were putting the cart before the horse, in that they were obsessed with outward forms and patterns of movement and spent very little time developing awareness and thus lost the ability to react spontaneously to a given situation.
Wang Xiang Zhai did away with the traditional repetitions of kung-fu patterns (katas) and took a journey into the heart of stillness, basically standing still for hours at a time learning to prepare his mind to lead physical movement through the power of intent (idea, energy, action).
Standing meditation trains the awareness and allows the mind and intention to develop and the body to rediscover its innate ability for natural movement. As you know from your own golf swing, any conscious movement is produced / preceded by intention and the greatest shots you’ve ever hit come when intention and action are one and the same (united by awareness of breathing).
Wang Xiang Zhai’s methods became extremely controversial and were perceived by many as an insult to their traditions, a situation not altogether helped when he placed an advert in the newspaper inviting all martial artists to meet with him for discussions and/or competition. Numerous practitioners accepted the challenge and many, many subsequent encounters and bruised egos later, Wang Xiang Zhai’s methods were named Dachengquan which means Great Achievement Boxing.
His techniques are still taught to this day and indeed, at the first T’ai Chi lesson I attended in 1987, we had to stand still for 20 minutes as part of the warm-up before training!
Golf as kung-fu
Try bringing this kung-fu training into your golf, a sport where every shot starts from a point of stillness and demands explosive and spontaneous yet controlled movement, and you will feel more relaxed, energized and committed to the shot each time you setup to the ball.
In a previous post (‘Building a Solid Place to Swing From’) we looked at several different standing postures with the emphasis on maintaining awareness of breathing and the centre-point (navel area). Let’s review the training and go a bit deeper.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width wide
- Unlock your knees and sink your weight into the front part of your heels
- Gently draw in your navel and allow your tailbone to unfurl
- Empty your chest and relax your shoulders
- Hold your hands at eye level, as if you are holding onto a balloon
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and elbows pointing downwards
- Keep your chin ticked under and hold your head upright, imagining the crown of your head is suspended by a thread
- Gaze one mile into the distance (or as far as possible) and quietly focus on your breathing
- Stand still for 10 minutes, repeating 3 times per week
What to expect
As an awareness exercise standing practice is first and foremost a method of preparing the body’s three springs – foundational (legs), torso (centre-line) and sphere (arms) – for unified action directed by the mind.
In other words, as you stand you learn to relax and become more aware of your body and this in turn allows for greater freedom of movement, as the upper body becomes more relaxed, supported and under the influence/direction of the legs and feet.
Persistent training will yield greater stability in your shot-making or as one golf shoe manufacturer puts it, one less moving part to your swing!
Although this blog is written for golfers, Standing Practice is great training for other sports where balance and spontaneous motion are required, such as snowboarding, skiing etc. Also it’s a great way to train your legs!