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Martial Arts Coalition

Stone River Kung Fu
Charlotte, North Carolina
United States

Basic Stances drills are some of the most misunderstood training programs on the earth. They seem to be taught as some sort of magical posture that requires no explanation. Like holding the hands up will explain the universe or something. That is not the idea.
I will explain. Stances are the foundation of an art. While many styles and teachers argue that stances are not necessary, not one of them has produced a student who could tie his own shoes. While that statement is a little extreme I will stand by it. In my research I have found these shining examples of no stance work and have found them to have trained other styles. Often many other styles, extensively and to mastery, long before meeting this person who doesn't teach stances. The student who doesn't know a stance is simply a walking bruise.
Back to stances... The stance is the foundation of an art. Often one stance is that foundation with all other stances being based on the muscle development, power generation, and angles of attack provided by that single stance. Every art has one stance at the beginning, multiple stances in the middle, and one stance at the end. The stance at the end is the one stance which allows all the skills developed to be used with equal power. Sometimes the beginning stance and the end stance are the same but it can also be a transitional posture with stances being held for as little time as possible.
- Physics - The stance is necessary to develop the muscles and tendons. While exercises perform a similar function, the fact is that you will be hitting things. The muscles have to be able to support the tremendous tension and power generation without rupture, the tendons have to keep from snapping, and the bones have to keep from crushing.
An example in my life was a Karate student who had an endless list of names of his masters and how many black belts he had. We were doing a drill involving an over head chop by one partner and a block, redirection, and evasion by the other. While I was doing the overhead chop, the little weenie tried to do a nerve strike on me. He failed but still, karate compresses the nerve against the bone and if done right could rupture the nerve and cripple the opponent. I was a little pissed at his attempt. Anyway since I had pretty good arm conditioning I started to hit a little harder figuring that the extra shock would mess up his aim and keep me safe. While doing this I noticed that his bow stance had the back knee bent and his foot was rolling a little bit. I began to aim the strike toward his back leg and it took three of his high blocks for his knee to strain and he had to sit out the class.

Back to the stances. The basic stance work is supposed to place the body into a posture where the muscles, tendons, and bones work together efficiently. While balance is a skill which is trained in every stance, the ability to absorb shock from a specific direction is dependent on the stance. Block punch drills are supposed to teach proper stance position. You are in a static posture where you punch and block without seeming to get anywhere. The point is to receive the shock and have it travel to the earth and punch from the stance with power. Physics lesson one - if the shock doesn't go to the earth then one of two things may happen. You fall over of you get injured at whatever joint the power stops at. Beginners can have both happen. Physics lesson two - If the power doesn't come from the stance (and therefore the earth) then one of two things will happen, the punch will have no power or one of the feet will slide causing the power to basically go out the foot rather than into your target. Physics reference one - every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the feet push back in order for the hand to move foreward. Physics reference two - the opponent moves or you do, pick one.
The stance is you base, it focuses your power in a rather specific direction and it builds the muscles that will allow you to do more.

- fighting -
The stance dictates attacks, it presents a target to the opponent and allows you to predict the opponents next move. The joke about kicking the bow stance in the front leg is only funny if your opponent has a week shin. the bow stance focuses power foreward and allows for charging or running attacks. You kick the shin and he charges foreward while your leg is in the air. Who is laughing now? I can kick a tree with my shin and hear the leaves shake, an axe kick to the shin will not even draw my attention. I can effectively ignore it as an attack and only pay attention to what is now open. Anything other than an attack to my closed side is just another mistake by my opponent and I don't even have to step to attack.

I will not go into any energetic qualities since those tend to be a combination of stances, favored tactics, stepping patterns, kung skills, and any healing training. This makes the energetic qualities style specific and the "only with a qualified instructor" reference implies the training involves this level of information.


Bullsnake's Martial Arts Training Hall: where you began
Bullsnake's Ho Mei Pai Page: Ho Mei Pai
18 Classes of Weapons: weapons of Ho Mei Pai
Bullsnake's page of Kungs: meditations, chi, kungs , breathing, yadayadayada

This page has been visited times. This page was last updated July 19, 2003