Learning to Stand in Trinity Posture
San Ti Shi, or the Three Body Posture, combines the lessons of Wuji Standing Meditation and Universal Post and integrates martial intent. In this posture, we divide the body into three sections that are further divided into three more sections. The primary division is the head, the hands, and the feet. We divide the head section into the head, the spine, and the waist. The hand section is divided into the hands, the elbows, and the shoulders. And finally, we divide the feet section into the feet, the knees, and the hips.
In the diagram, notice how each of the primary sections is linked through the shoulders and hips.
Anatomy of the Trinity Posture
All martial arts have a Trinity Posture. The basics are always the same: one leg back with more weight on it and the front leg ready to move into another position. One hand back and on-guard from incoming attacks while the other stretches forward to feel out the opponent.
Teachers of the Xingyiquan martial art often ask their students to stand in Trinity Posture for hours before they practice any movements. Some schools don’t even discuss the form. The teachers just let you stand around until you figure it out.
Since proper breathing is essential to Trinity Posture practice, study the Deep Breathing lesson with your Trinity Posture practice. Proper breathing is long, silent, and deep.
The Trinity Posture is best understood through the Six Harmonies
- The hands harmonize with the feet.
- The shoulders harmonize with the hips.
- The elbows harmonize with the knees.
- The heart harmonizes with the intent.
- The intent harmonizes with the breath.
- The breath harmonizes with the power.
These harmonies are the cornerstone of Xingyiquan practice, and they reveal the secret training of the internal martial artist.
THE EXTERNAL HARMONIES
As you learned in the Wuji Posture lesson, the human body is bi-lateral and level in both the horizontal and vertical planes, except for those cases where some trauma has injured the body. The easiest way to see this is to look at the major joints that form most of our structure and provide the means for locomotion, both horizontally and vertically.
When standing or walking, take a few minutes to find this functional alignment in your posture before you begin practice. Notice how the entire body is a unified machine. Your toes are not separate from your shoulders, but connected in a long and continuous webbing of muscles, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels.
The hands harmonize with the feet
Any movement of the foot must accompany a movement of the hand. The slightest step or push is generated from the feet, transmitted through the legs into the torso and through the shoulders to be expressed in the hands.
The shoulders harmonize with the hips
Aligning shoulder movement with hip movement turns the torso slightly from the line of attack. This subtle turn can be the difference between life and death in a fight. It also unifies the power of the legs with the arms.
The elbows harmonize with the knees
This harmony is more about protecting the body than functional alignment. The elbows are often the torso’s only defense from a strike. In the martial art of Xingyiquan, this statement emphasizes this function:
“The elbows do not leave the ribs, the hands do not leave the heart.”
Harmonizing the elbows with the knees means you will not overextend the arms and legs. It also implies that the elbows must drop, or sink, downward despite the position of the hands.
Do not assume that the external harmonies mean that the right side of the body moves or functions in unison, and then the left side. The left foot and right hand can act in harmony. The natural walking, or gait, pattern of the left leg and foot extending forward while the right arm and hand pulls back illustrates this.
This unity of body, however, cannot be accomplished with physical action alone. It requires attention and intention. The internal trinity is the recipe for focusing on unification.
THE INTERNAL HARMONIES
The heart harmonizes with the intent
A student of meditation will understand that there is more than one mind in the human body. Some meditation schools describe three minds, the gut, the heart and the one in the head. Others have two; the heart and the one in the head (the emotional and the rational). The heart-mind is where your anger, fear, joy, and sorrow come from. This is the mind in your chest and gut. The rational-mind is where logic, thinking, mathematics, and language come from. This is the mind in your head. The heart harmonizing with the intent means that the emotional mind and the rational mind act together.
The idea that you would not engage in practice without first harmonizing the emotional and rational minds recalls the Buddhist Eight-fold Path and the Daoist concept of Wu Wei.
Before you engage in a fight, or martial training, you need to consider what your intentions are. Do you really mean to hurt someone? Is fighting the right action? If engaging in combat is the right response, then you need to be of one mind about the decision. There are legends of martial art master’s hair standing on end and eyes focusing such violence that their challengers surrendered. If there is any doubt between the rational mind and the heart mind, then fighting is not the answer. Back down, apologize, and walk away.
The intent harmonizes with the breath
When you are of one mind, engage it in your practice with your breath. One breath in, one breath out, completes one cycle. Breathing in will coordinate with opening movements, defending and expanding. Breathing out will coordinate with closing movements, attacking and sealing up. We do not execute any movement without the breath.
The breath harmonizes with the power.
As you breathe in, the power collects; as you breathe out, the power expresses. No movement happens without the breath; it is the engine of your practice.
Understanding the Six Harmonies is the purpose of practice. Practice will create experiences that bring further understanding. Understanding will inspire additional questions that can only be answered with more practice.
STANDING IN TRINITY POSTURE
Assume the Universal Post left facing posture, with the left foot empty and the right foot holding your weight. Bend the right knee down so you can reach forward with the heel of your left foot and place it where your toes were in the Universal Post.
Lower the right hand so it fits under the rib cage on your right side. The thumb can be as far forward as the belly button, or as far back as the kidney. The left hand remains in place, but the palm turns to face away from you, as if you are pushing against something.
Now that you are in the posture, breathe deeply and focus your gaze between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand (this is called the tiger’s mouth). As you breathe in, imagine that an object in the distance is being pulled toward you. When you breathe out, imagine that the object is being pushed away.
Count the breaths and check your posture every 15 breaths. Ensure that you have not slumped down, that your hands are in the correct position, that your chin is tucked in, the back of the head is raised, and that you have not leaned to the left or right.
After three to five minutes in the left facing Trinity Posture, re-center to the Wuji Posture and then stand in the right facing Trinity Posture for three to five minutes.