Kung Fu Stances and why we use them.
Usually, we find ourselves getting questions around the usual negative or positive comments regarding Kung fu and traditional Kung Fu in particular.
So today we are going to talk about probably one of the most maligned and misunderstood areas of traditional kung fu, which is the stances that we use when executing our movements and our self-defence techniques.
What we are going to do is show you and tell you why we use the stances firstly, then I am going to also show you why I think they are superior in building a martial artist, and thirdly I am going to tell you why if you are a kung fu student that you should be using your stance like you are using them in your forms as well. So if you are not then hopefully we will give you a little bit of information today which will send you down the path of using all of that time and effort that you put into developing your stance and structure into good self defence capabilities.
So we are talking about stances, we will start by looking at Why we use the traditional stances in our kung fu.
We will demonstrate a traditional Jow Gar horse stance to illustrate when we execute our kung fu and practice our forms we use various positions called guards. If you would like to learn more about guards then please watch the Sifu Says video on guards.
Leading into our guards and using our hand techniques we need to form the foundation. So in Kung Fu We are predominately focused on Self Defence, that’s what kung fu is, it is a martial art. In able to effect good hand techniques and well grounded kung fu and self defence, we need to start with a strong foundation; it’s that simple.
The reason we would execute a horse stance like this is because it teaches grounding, and when we have our structure in this manner we can be pushed from the side, and the front we have all of the correct structure and we are able to withstand force being directed at us. If we break this structure at all; it’s about how we deliver force and receive force, that is what martial arts is about. Martial arts is about either giving force or receiving force. If we break our structure, if this horse stance is weak in anyway the horse stance will break. None of the force that is being directed into the body can be redirected into the ground. So we are talking about where the force will go.
Why is this important?
There is an old saying “that all fights end up on the ground”. Well, they do if you fall over.
Our goal in kung fu, firstly, is not to fall over, simple. We also have all of the weapons of our martial art, it is a war art. The art of Jow Gar Kung Fu in Sydney is based on weapons and being able to use them. We are not only focused on empty hand self defence but also building the correct foundation to be able to use weapons effectively.
In modern times we are more focused on the empty hand self defence, and how we can use our stances to safeguard ourselves. So let’s have a look at a basic horse stance and how it may help us in a self defence situation.
We will pretend that Aron is a lady and is walking down the street and some nasty mugger tries to grab her from behind.
I see many schools practicing various techniques to get out of headlocks bear hugs etc; Striking the groin, the eyes, or stomping on the foot. The problem is that none of this can be executed effectively unless the person being attacked is able to ground themselves and get a stable base from which to execute the technique.
So how might a horse stance help in this situation?
Learning the horse stance teaches a student how to embody the principles of grounding and stability in an instant when they are required.
With self defence the most important thing is being able to execute the techniques that you have been taught, if you can’t execute them in a real situation then it’s not self defence it’s playtime. A common thing I hear from students is “I do not know if I would be able to do this”. It is true that you will not be able to do the technique if you are unable to ground yourself. But if you practice your stance enough so that you are able to ground yourself in the blink of an eye, then it gives you a chance to execute your technique, it is a much higher art and better self defence.
What we are trying to establish is why we use the stances. Number 1 is to create a stable base from which to use our self defence techniques. No self defence technique or standing self defence technique will work while you are lying on the ground.
We have the bow stance next. We are going to use this as a demonstration. See the structure of the bow stance, you will notice that Aron’s back is in a line here so that any force that come from the front. Say it is his punch, he is delivering maximum force from the ground. If you want to be able to hit someone hard then you need to be able to hit with your entire body weight. For Aron to deliver his entire body weight, through his punch his entire body weight needs to be connected to the ground and you cannot do that with the heel off the ground or front foot of the ground in a boxing style.
Now his force is being directed 100% in to the ground. This force now is being directed 100% in to my hand. If I push and i exert force onto Aron then he can direct that force down into the back heel. If he was to lift his shoulder even slightly, and I am doing that with one hand. So boxers all of the people get the shoulders up and punch from here….you might be able to punch hard, granted, but you are not delivering potential in that punch. Why? Because you arm is disconnected from your structure…Simple. If you want to distribute all of the power you have into a punch your shoulder needs to be down and you need to deliver it from the ground. From here you see that breaks and gone. Put the shoulder back down and he can direct that force into the ground. Now if he was to lean back slightly breaking the structure in the lower back, here again one push with my hand and he is gone. So he connects that structure again, and I can’t do it. The other way we can break this structure is to open the hip. You see people stand with an open hip like this and try to deliver techniques. We have already been through this in the Bow Stance tutorial, so please check that out for more information.
As soo as the hip is open, again hist structure breaks down and he cannot direct the force into the ground. So he locks both hips, his pelvis is in a direct line, if I was to put a stick along his gut then it would touch it evenly. Now the force, again, can be directed down into the back heel.
So again why is this important in a self defence situation?
So for our students we have just as many female students as we do male students, one of their concerns is “ok what if I meet an opponent who is stronger than me?” well then your technique needs to be very very good, and your technique starts with a good stance.
When we are in a self defence situation we are not always going to be caught in a guard like that. We will not be caught in a position where we are in a horse stance, we will to be in a position where we are standing in a bow stance, that is not why we do these stances. The reason why we do these stances and we practice them like this 100% of the time is so we can embody the principles of the stance at any moment in time.
So we were looking at the bow stance and how being able to embody the bow stance is going to assist us in being able to deliver and withstand force.
So if we start with the high one.
Ken is in a self defence situation he is smaller than the other guy. The attacker moves in and pushes Ken, and obviously keeping your grounding and being able move into a position of greater stability requires practice. Being able to embody the bow stance as Aron moves in, in a higher more aggressive modern stance Ken moves into his bow stance and he is able to get more grounded and stop from being pushed backwards. So from this position Ken could affect better self defence, it goes with out saying.
We just simply have Ken put his hands up now, So Aron comes in again. So quite simple technique, and Ken is in a superior position because of the bow stance that we have in kung fu and because of that bow stance and being able to absorb and then project his body weight from the bow stance he is able to execute good self defence and defeat someone who is potentially bigger and stronger than he is. And as another kind of reference I guess you could do it even while kneeling on the ground, so lets try that. So as Ken is Kneeling on the ground as Aron come in to push him back wards he can move up and push into that position. So even if Ken was to stay on the ground he can embody that position and the feeling that is required to be able to direct the energy into the ground.
Now if you only train this stance, what do you have? This stance, thats it. Period. So through training the traditional stances first is creating the base for effective self defence the second thing that we want to be able to do from this position is teach movement patterns. Now a movement pattern is teaching the absolute beginner who has very little, or no, co ordination, martial arts experience or self defence experience how to move. Starting them at the beginning and progressing them through so they can become and accomplished martial artist; and able to defend themselves in given situations. And we train that by teaching them movement patterns, and that’s what the stances do. That is because when we use the stances we move in a certain pattern to train the body how to move.
Now for the experienced martial artists, this may not seem important. For those who are super coordinated out there, the Bruce Lees of the world this may not seem important. But for those mere mortals who are not the top 10% of the most coordinated people, everyone has the right to learn effective self defence, and through our stances and traditional kung fu we are able to teach the average Jane and Average Joe how to move perfectly well to be able to defend themselves. Not only that, but they can be come awesome martial artists in their own right as they go.
The other thing about movement is that when I stand in a particular stance all the time and all my techniques come from that way. What happens when i get attacked form any other redirection?
I need to be able to learn how to react, and covering up and then trying to move through a situation where i am not accustomed to, because I simply haven’t trained it. And most modern martial arts train predominately front fighting, and in a self defence situation that is probably going to happen maybe 20% of the time I don’t know what the actual percentage would be. But you can imaging that the sucker punch is going to happen to guys in a pub or a street fight, but a lot of our members are going to get attacked form the side or behind if they do at all. Because we are teaching them not to put themselves in stupid places to start with.
But, The most important thing here is the movement pattern big and being able to turn from one direction to another.
The guys have already showed you the applications to our first form in another video, so we will go straight into it here.
Say Aron and I are standing here talking and for some reason this guy here doesn’t like me anymore. I turn and catch him out of the corner of my eye, how do I move int this situation? I am not in one of my kung fu stance but as I turn I can use the cat stance to move and turn in the direction of the attack and still maintain the integrity of my grounding and the integrity of my technique so i can run or use some defensive and offensive techniques. I am one way this way, if I was just used to front fighting, I would probably cover up and then get totaled from the second, third, fourth follow up.
Again, multiple attacker scenarios are something in Jow Gar is trained in all of our forms from the third level, well actually from the first level. But predominately from the third level and upwards. So, a high emphasis is placed in our system from the traditional stances of being able to move in any direction at any given time and react to any situation which comes up.
I may be fully turned the other way and have an awareness of someone coming up behind me, and agin being able to turn and execute my techniques. I might be then attacked from he other direction (as my friend decides he doesn’t like me either) and I might need to turn this way. So all of my Kung Fu is training me to be able to react to all of these different situations. But if you only train one stance, in one direction; when your self defence scenario move outside of that, what do you have? I will let you answer that question.
So I guess to summarise the whole thing, I will go through each of the points I have made. One is that we use these stances to enable us to learn great movements patterns to enable us to effect self defence in multiple directions against multiple opponents, or individual attackers. We use the stances to enable us to use technique to overcome a situation where w may find ourselves being taken off balance or off guard. So starting from the ground up we are building a solid foundation, and then putting our movement capabilities on top of that solid foundation. The last point I would like to make is…Building a superior martial artist. A martial art is an art form and the greater your knowledge in an art form the greater the martial artist. So if your practicing martial arts and you are limiting yourself to a particular guard and a particular stance you re robing yourself of the opportunity to experience and explore more in your self defence. And if you re learning traditional kung fu and your doing a large amount of your time practicing forms and practicing your stances, the I would explore you to try and work out how to use your stances in your sparring and in your self defence so your embodying the principles of your art all the time. So whether your doing a southern kung fu a northern kung fu you have all of the historical benefits of your kung fu in the grounding and the stances all you need to do is be able to draw that out of your training, and hopefully through some of the videos you see through us we can enable you to do that. So if you have any more questions or you want to look at how to do some of the basics stances we have in our system we have an online portal where you can learn Kung Fu in Sydney.