The original Zhan Zhuang were developed for health benefits and used by Daoist’s, martial artists employed this form of training and combined the Zhan Zhuang with internal body mechanics to create and develop the fighting arts further. Internal schools of martial arts use this training to strengthen the student’s body and to promote a rooted posture and a flow of intrinsic energy.
The word Zhan Zhuang is the modern term; it was coined by Wang Xiangzhai. Wang, a student of Xing Yi Quan, created a method of Kung Fu-based entirely upon Zhan Zhuang, known as Yiquan, “Intent Fist.” Yiquan’s method of study is Zhan Zhuang plus movements that continue the feeling of the Standing Post in action.
The most common Zhan Zhuang method is known as Hún Yuán (浑圆, “Completely Round,” “Round Smoothness”) or Chēng Bào (撑抱, “Tree Hugging” stance). This posture is entirely Daoist in its origins, has many variations, and is the main training posture in all branches of Yiquan. This practice has recently also become common practice in Tai Chi and Qigong schools. In Xing Yi Quan, the practice of Sān Tǐ Shì (三體勢 / 三体势, Heaven, Earth, and Man) has been a root practice for centuries.
Those unfamiliar with Zhan Zhuang can experience severe muscle fatigue and subsequent trembling at first. Later, once sufficient stamina and strength have been developed, the practitioner can use Zhan Zhuang to work on developing the sensation of “opposing forces,” as well as one’s central equilibrium and sensitivity to specific areas of tension in the body.
Zhan Zhuang has a strong connection with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some schools use the practice as a way of removing blockages in Chi flow, believing Zhan Zhuang, when correctly practiced, has a normalizing effect on the body; they claim any habitual tension or tissue shortening (or lengthening) is normalized by the practice, and the body regains its natural ability to function optimally. It is claimed that a normalized body will be less prone to muscular-skeletal medical conditions, and it is also believed that Zhan Zhuang, when practiced for developing relaxed postures, will lead to a beneficial calming effect. The Dan Tian is also involved in the practice of Zhan Zhuang.
The amount of time spent practicing Zhan Zhuang varies between styles and schools; one may spend anywhere from two minutes to two hours standing in one posture.
Many styles, especially the internal styles, combine Post Standing with Qigong training and other coordinated-body methods to develop whole-body coordination for martial purposes. The martial practice is thought to strengthen the body’s central nervous system and develop the coordination required for effective martial performance. In Yiquan, a clear distinction is made between health postures and martially oriented postures.