T.G.I.F.(SOON BE THE WEEKEND).
The thing about Zhan Zhuang it is so basic it was over looked for years.We do ZZ before we start the taiji lesson.
A lot of people do it (chinese) and they think nothing of it, as its just for health.A lot who teach it make it too mystical.Good teachers are usually martial artists who know its value for body, mind and spirit.So a lot of people who have the ability to teach it or pass it on,dont know that other people would like to get in on it.
With regard to Taiji principles, I found that when I took up Iaido, all the principles were in that as well. My teacher said I was a natural for iai until he found out that I had done Taiji for some years, that explains a lot he said,the basics of both are the same.
I have also been invited to teach Taiji principles to Karate schools in my area. Progressive karate teachers have found they can make their students better and faster if they learn to release and relax.
This also means that I start them off on ZZ. The senior students / dan grades etc., pick it up very quickly, and all acknowledge even on the day, they can work out the advantages and possibilities.
Fortunately, most I have been involved with have had open minds, and not dismissed it out of hand.
Regarding your comment on Yi.Awareness etc. you are correct, continuity is all important especially in Taiji forms.
Regarding tension, if you have the slightest tension, then you are not physically relaxed.If you are not relaxed you cannot operate efficiently.
The object of ZZ & taiji is to learn to totally relax.
A relaxed person is a better fighter than one who is tense.(not that fighting is the be all and end all of everything), lose your temper - lose the fight, but if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then maybe you dont understand the situation !
With regard to sensations.
I dont think you should not try to feel anything. Chi to me is purely physical. We all have it, its as real as breathing, and to me is matter.Its that until you turn on, and tune in, you dont appreciate it. Millions can live with it, they dont know they have it, and it makes no difference to their lives. But they still have it.
I agree with you, dont tell other people what you feel, they might have a different feeling and think they are wrong.
Examples: We have one senior student who can generate more Chi than you can shake a stick at. But he cannot feel anything, or any sensations. Walk past him when he's in top gear, and you can feel it, but he cant. Well thats Ok, he's learnt to live with that, but knows he got it.
Another student reads alot, all this mystic stuff fom South america . guru's etc. He cant tune in because he has his wrong head on. hes looking for something that does not exsist.Until he gets rid of that clutter from his mind he wont feel anything worthwile.
Some students feel heat in their hands / arms etc. Some dont feel heat, but feel as if two magnets are repelling each other.
Its all the same, but a lot of factors alter the perception.
But once you know you can fine tune it, and move it you build on that.
So if you were going to hit someone ( sorry for violence again) thenyou dont just use body, Chi is where the mind is, in this case your hand, so mind and body together to achieve more power.
As you say a good teacher can sort out the chaff from the wheat. But we dont all feel the same, but the end result should be the same.
ZZ should be making you into "the radio".You should tune into the station. This could mean you alter your balance slightly, raise or lower arms an inch. Move weight slightly more to the heels.Bend knees slightly more etc etc.
In China, ZZ was all a lot of people needed.Stand still and be fit.Not many people in China even believed that.So you put it in the middle of a dozen other ChiGung exercises, and hey presto you could sell it.
If out of every art I did, I could only pick one, it would be ZZ, the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination.
Just do it for physical, and believe it or not, after 100 hours training standing still, you are guaranteed to see a physical improvement in your body.