Yiquan Rumen

Author: Master Yao ChengRong
Translator: J. P. Lau
Translator’s Note: In English, “Yi” means mind or intent, “Quan” means fist or martial art, “Ru” means enter or cross and “Men” means door or threshold. The literal meaning of the phrase “Yiquan Rumen” is “the learning of the rudiments of Yiquan”.

A lot of Yiquan enthusiasts know that Yiquan training involves several categories including Relaxed Standing (Zhan Zhuang), Trial & Feel (Shi Li), Footwork (Jou Bu), Release of Power (Fa Li), Push Hands (Tui Shou), Sparring (San Shou) and Breath Control (Shi Sheng).
However, some are still “wandering outside looking for the door”.

What are the theory and basic principles of Yiquan?

In the mid 1920s, with Xing Yi Quan as foundation and incorporating the essence of numerous other styles into the grand synthesis, martial arts expert Master Wang XiangZhai created Yiquan (a.k.a. Da Cheng Quan).
He rejected the traditional obsessions with intricate forms of pattern and sequences of movement as training method and emphasized the simplicity of essence.
By elevating “Yi” to a central position in martial arts training, he emphasized the supreme importance of the intentional component of the mind.

Master Yao ZhongXun, designated successor of Master Wang XiangZhai, further explained that training of the mind alone is not Yiquan as is not physical practice alone.
The two must be combined.
The essence can only be cultivated by integration of the mind and body.
Visualization or mental imagery must be employed in relaxed standing (Zhan Zhuang) to direct an integrated neuromuscular coordination that results in a whole-body response.
Kinesthetic perception of the internal/external opposing force pairs (Zheng Li) and internal isometrics is developed to seek, sense, experience, cultivate, understand and master the whole-body balanced force (Hun Yuan Li).
This balanced force is always in perfect harmony, having no absolute direction but having the potential to release power explosively in any direction.
It can be cultivated by using mental imagery to direct your neuromuscular coordination practice, seeking movement in stillness and power from not using brute force.
With proper mental visualization, relaxed standing exercises integrates your mind and body into a well-coordinated springy whole-body and allows you to rediscover your innate ability for natural movement.

In any athletic event, speed and force are primary qualities.
These are controlled by your muscular relaxation/tension exchange.
Since muscular activity is controlled by the mind, Yiquan emphasizes that the proper use of relaxation (Song) and tension (Jin) must be both physical and mental.
Only a well-coordinated whole-body can enhance your capacity to react spontaneously and appropriately to any situation.

2. How to use directed mental imagery (visualization) to guide training?

Prior to Zhan Zhuang, relax mentally and physically; enter into a tranquil state with the conscious mind holding no deliberate thought.

Stand erect; feet shoulder width apart; outside edges of feet approximately parallel.

Keep your spine erect and imagine a string pulling the top of your head upwards, tuck-in the chin slightly as if holding a small balloon between it and the neck.
The head and neck should be held erect.
Relax the facial muscles; almost smile.
Direct your eyes to a distant object; imagine looking through a light fog. Lightly touch the teeth together.
Part the mouth slightly.

Allow the tongue to lie naturally; do not be concerned with it touching any particular place in the mouth.
Bend the knees slightly; visualize holding a balloon between your knees.
Imagine applying inward pressure below your knees and outward pressure above your knees.
Relax the lower back filling out the small of the back as if you are sitting on a high stool.

Lift hands up to shoulder level with your hands separated by a distance of two to three fists and about a foot from your chest.
Form a circle with your arms; hands higher than your elbows; palms facing your face.
Prop your elbows out to your sides slightly below the level of the shoulders as if holding balloons in your armpits.
Keep your fingers slightly bent and separated; imagine holding cotton balls between your fingers.
It is important to keep the shoulders down and relaxed.
Imagine holding small fragile balloons in the armpits; lowering your upper arms will crush them; lifting your upper arms will drop them.
This is the basic health posture; adjust your posture whenever necessary until you are absolutely comfortable.
Next, use directed mental imagery to guide your training to “feel for the balanced force” (Mo Jin) while maintaining this posture.

Step 1:
Visualize imaginary springs connecting your fingers from one hand to the other and connecting your wrists to your neck.
Imagine holding a lightweight fragile paper balloon between your arms and chest.
Applying too much force will crush this balloon; not enough force will result in dropping it.
Direct your primary intent to hugging (slightly more closing intent, 70% than spreading open intent, 30%).
Direct these actions with your mind-intent; do not use any brute strength.
Alternatively, you may visualize imaginary supports at your elbows; imagine transferring your weight to these supports without changing your posture.
Now, remove the imaginary supports but maintain your posture without using any unnecessary force.

Keep all joints in a state between total relaxation and tension that allows for gentle and supple movement.
It is a state with alertness and readiness for action without being physically lax, physically collapse or diminished in consciousness.

Step 2:
Visualize standing in waist deep water; imagine the water flows towards you from the front, shift your weight forward to meet the resistance.
But imagine the water immediately pushes from your back; you must immediately shift your weight backwards to meet the resistance.
Alternatively, imagine trapping an ant under each foot.
As the ants attempts to escape towards your toes, gently shift your weight forward to trap them.
Then as they attempt to escape towards your heels, gently shift your weight backwards to trap them.
Thus, you repeat this forward/backward shift to meet resistance and seek movement in stillness to cultivate whole-body force.
Always maintain perfect balance.
Use visualization to induce whole-body movement.

Step 3:
Next, use inherent opposites (Mao Dun) to cultivate opposite force pairs (Zheng Li).
Visualize holding a balloon between your knees, apply inward pressure below your knees and outward pressure above your knees.
Visualize imaginary springs connecting your fingers from one hand to the other and connecting your wrists to your neck.
As you shift your weight backwards, simultaneously pull your knees apart slightly, pull your hands backwards, outwards and upwards slightly; as you shift your weight forwards, simultaneously squeeze your knees together slightly, press your hands forward, downwards and inwards slightly.
Remember always to maintain the vertical opposing force pair between your head and your feet mildly stretching your spine.
Do this “motionless movement” with mental intent with small or no physical movement.
Use directed mental imagery to guide your whole-body neuromuscular coordination, as one part of your body moves, your whole-body must move in unison.

3. Some frequently asked questions?

How to relax in Zhan Zhuang?
Relaxation in Zhan Zhuang is not total and/or pure relaxation.
Strength/force is used to maintain your posture and to cultivate your balanced force through mental visualization induced motionless movement.
Relaxation is emphasized to avoid stiffness in using strength, to achieve a relaxation/tension state that allows for gentle and supple movement with alertness and readiness for action.
Pure relaxation leading to physical laxness and diminished consciousness is to be avoided.

How big or small should the motionless movement be?
During Zhan Zhuang, the magnitude of your body movement must be small enough for you to maintain perfect balance. Absolute stillness will induce stiffness and tenseness; big motion will disturb your balance.
Feel free to adjust your posture whenever necessary to be absolutely comfortable.
Visualization induced small whole-body motion keep your standing “alive”.

How long should I stand; is the longer the better?
There are two goals in Zhang Zhuang: improving health and cultivate the balanced force.
you turn Zhan Zhuang into an endurance practice by seeking only to lengthen your standing time, then you have missed the real meaning; you are doing “dead” standing.
You must use visualization to direct your whole-body neuromuscular coordination to seek movement in stillness, to cultivate the internal opposing force pairs and to master your balanced force.
Always practice with focused concentration and comfortable natural ease.
Breathe naturally; specifically do not pay attention to breathing; do not hold your breath.
Match your physical and mental condition to the length of your training time; do not overstress your abilities.

How do I know if I have “crossed the threshold” (Rumen)?
When you can use visualization to:

direct your neuromuscular coordination practice,

use kinesthetic perception to seek/sense the balance


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