I remember the first time I was shown the zhan zhuang posture in class. The teacher basically told us to try and relax and he would come around and adjust our postures so our back was straight. That is, the line from the tail bone to the top of the head was perpendicular to the ground.
Then a couple of years later, I began Chen training and we were told to get into the zhan zhuang posture. No sweat, I thought. I was pretty confident in my abilities as I was able to do zhan zhuang for roughly 40 mins so I must be in correct posture. Well, after the teacher saw he, he cocked his head back a bit, curled his lip and then proceeded to adjust me.
One of the first adjustments he did was poke his fingers into the area where my legs joined with my torso. This is an adjustment often seen in Chen taiji workshops and it basically causes one to “sink into the kua” while also slightly elongating the tailbone portion.
The next adjustment he did was take his palm and push it against my chest, while at the same time keeping his hand on the back of my tail bone so I would not lose the previous adjustment. At first this felt kind of strange because it felt as if my chest was collapsed and I was almost hunched over.
While he was pushing my chest and keeping my tailbone extended, I noticed upon finishing I was in a slightly forward posture. That is, the line from my tailbone to the top of my head WAS NOT perpendicular to the ground. For example, perpendicular means a 90 degree angle from the ground. Instead, I was more around an 80-85 degree angle. It felt REALLY REALLY weird.
So, in the end, it feels he made the following adjustments: (1) Sink into Kua, causing a slight backward adjustment of the hips, (2) Relax the Chest, causing a slight forward adjustment of the torso, and (3) Maintain straightness in the line from the tailbone to the top of the head.
After class, I approached the instructor and mentioned I thought we were supposed to have a straight back in zhan zhuang posture. He then asked me, “Was your back not straight? Straight does not necessarily mean 90 degree angle perpendicular to the ground.”
WHOA!! This basically changed everything I knew or thought I knew about taiji. But is this type of adjustment wrong, as noted by Martial Development: Do You Make this Zhan Zhuang Mistake? Maybe I’m not quite understanding the “wrongness”. After looking at some Yang Style Posture Pics put up by ZenMindSword, I can see this type of adjustment on the forms of Fu Shengyuan and Dong Hulin.