I have to admit that I’ve spent many years standing around just… standing around. Standing practice entered my life in the late Sixties. I experimented from that point on with sessions of continued standing and then modifications. You should know that there was not a lot of information in English on the subject and it was generally agreed that the practice took care of itself, it educated you as you went on.

scan_standing6What does standing do? I am not here to convince you of its esoteric qualities. There are many levels of this from the sublime to the silly.

My own opinion is a bit different from the standard explanation. The name of this article is no accident.. It means more than it seems. It refers to my belief that, unless you are a monk, the static form of standing—especially with an emphasis on no movement-no thought—is inappropriate. I am not talking about health maintenance, rather martial students and especially those with youthful strength and/or long time experience.

scan_standing3The idea of standing as it relates to “internal arts” is a place where the inside and outside meet. A group of postures that move little or nothing, but are poised in such a way as to engender a feeling of dynamic equilibrium.

This is martial standing, not religious or medical standing. If you are trying to quiet yourselves and cure some ailment or seek the infinite, you should be practicing differently. As far as martial skill-building I firmly believe that the approach should be customized. In my view, the practitioner should continually weigh and balance the internal and external environments not settle into them like a comfy couch.

scan_standing2I’m offering three experiments. I am going to suggest a type of tension that comes from balancing two almost contradictory ideas in each experiment. I think you will find that the “internal” and “external” have to set up quite a dialog to keep things straight.

The First Edge: Outward
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold up your hands about heart level, palms inward or outward. Relax and slightly adjust until you feel “solid.” When you are ready, form some specific movement in your mind. It can be something small like  your hands exploding forward a few inches or suddenly lifting. The idea is to prep yourself  ready to explode in earnest. Hold that pose and that thought for as long as possible. After a few minutes just drop the pose or go ahead and explode just for the satisfaction … it doesn’t matter, you’ve already done the core of the practice.

scan_standing7_tcComment: This is the “quick draw” of standing training indefinitely prolonged. It is a practice that can be done over and over to deepen your understanding of “initial impulse.” In my examples this is a version of Yang—outward going—practice.

The Second Edge: Inward
Many people have experienced this in one way or another. You pick a stance (it could even be the one from the previous exercise), settle down, then gently and gradually consolidate that stance by connecting, sinking and aligning. This is like sifting through soil and then breaking up all the clods you find. Relax and adjust your way until the stance feels just right and jives with all technical considerations.

Comment: This is correction through stillness. It is the second level of standing practice and corresponds to inward concentration. The trick is to look for relaxed support from your skeleton and tendons instead of holding yourself up with muscle power. Relax but don’t just melt like the wicked witch of the west. Relax INTO your strength.

scan_standing4The Third Edge: Balance
Now you have to balance two seemingly opposing goals. It will be this balancing act which places you squarely on the border between outside and inside, otherwise known as the edge of the blade. In essence you will do exercise  (#2 settling) until a complementary force spontaneously arises and you feel a definitive outward pressure (#1 exploding). When these two perceptions balance (this may take some time), gently move—drift would be a better word—to another spot and continue the balance act. Do this over and over.  Balance, build, drift, balance, build, drift.

Comment: Don’t worry if you are “good” or “bad” at this. You probably aren’t as good as you might think (“I feel everything.”) or as bad (“I can’t feel anything.”) Give it time. Don’t worry if you don’t seem to get it at first. The effort to move your attention inward is, in itself, the first goal of the practitioner. Just trying this [laces you in an ancient lineage and, currently, a very small group of colleagues.

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