After playing around for about a year, I still have a lot of work to relax more, but I can get to my current state of relaxation pretty much instantly. I can also have imagery of, for example, holding balloons between my arms, or images like that, ok. It takes less concentration to do, and the images are starting to not be as necessary. I’d call this “level 0” of zhan zhuang. It is pretty difficult but seems to be only a prerequisite to do anything really useful. Just a preliminary training.

Unfortunately, I have not been practicing what yiquan calls “almost movement”, which I see as “level 1”. I’m going to see if I can work on it this year. In the meantime I tried to do a little heavy reading on subthreshold excitation. I can’t quite follow the theory from the scientists but basically research seems to say:

1. initial strength gains seem more related to neural mechanisms than muscle mechanisms
2. imagery helps with this and can produce gains from the mind alone.

Still, I don’t think the scientists are studying these mechanisms in the context of a sudden movement. I think what the yiquan training is after is a faster mind/body connection to time a sudden movement right while otherwise staying maximally relaxed. Maximum mind and body composure. Minimal mind and body effort. Stillness in motion. Economy of motion. What have you. Last time I spent a lot of time on my “level 0” standing, anecdotally, my reflexes and coordination did seem to improve, very counter-intuitively. The problem is, the mind/body exercise is very difficult from a concentration / focus point of view. It’s much easier for me to mindlessly go for a run or something but that doesn’t give me this kind of effect. But if my level 1 progresses as my level 0 has, the need for concentration should drop. I hope I can make some faster progress with it. Really slacked off with level 0 previously.