Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stance Training

Mike at Internal Gong Fu has an excellent post on stance training for internal martial arts. An excerpt is below. The whole post may be read here.

Internal Gong Fu Stance Training

Over the years I've looked at various stance training qi gongs to aid my internal gong fu. What I've learned is that stance training can be a method to develop internal strength but stance training in and of itself will not automatically develop internal strength.

What is stance? Any standing posture can be a "stance". Standing in line at the supermarket or standing and waiting for the bus is a "stance". Similarly any martial art "stance" can be performed like and yield the same results as standing in line at the supermarket or standing and waiting for the bus.

Therefore, I don't think there is any magical something inherent in any particular stance posture that through repeated performance will develop internal strength. Which is not to say that certain results cannot be realized through continuous and repeated practice of a stance. What I want to focus on here is using a stance as a tool to develop the feeling of whole body connectedness, what is felt as "internal strength".

There are numerous variables that determine the results of any stance training program. Among these are:
  1. My purpose
  2. My personal characteristics including ability to learn, commitment, etc...
  3. The teacher's level of whole-body connectedness; internal strength
  4. The teacher's ability to adjust my posture to elicit the feeling of connectedness in my body
Standing in any stance with a particular purpose and focus becomes "stance training" and this can be hard work [gong fu]. Depending on your purpose and desired result, it can take more time to notice substantial, demonstrable results than, say, mechanically reproducing forms, techniques, and applications.

When I first started Tai chi, I started with forms, not stance. I assumed there was a magical something inherent in the form that through shear repetition would develop internal strength in me. Stance training was not part of the curriculum. Outside of class and on my own I practiced a low Horse Stance for the purpose of strengthening my legs. Still, no internal strength.

Years later when I realized that I didn’t develop internal strength through forms, I thought maybe I could develop it through stance training and so I began practicing zhan zhuang. (This also could have turned out to be a wrong assumption had I not found the right teacher.)

Early in my zhan zhuang training, I also took classes from Gary Torres. I learned and trained a variety of stances: Tiger Stance, Horse Stance, Half-Horse or “L” Stance, Bow and Arrow Stance, Lotus Stance, Rooster Stance, Empty Stance, Short Empty Stance, Tai-chi Stance. Note: This is the breadth of my stance training experience.

The depth of my stance training has occurred in practicing Wujifa Zhan Zhuang for several years with The School of Cultivation and Practice. I think I am now beginning to feel and understand the process of developing internal strength through the use of stance.

I like browsing the martial arts section of the local bookstore looking for others' experience with stance training. The martial art books tend to mechanically describe postures. The chi kung books seem to go into more depth using, imagery, chi and meridian language, and references to Taoist philosophy but that "depth" is often an illusion.

I personally have not yet found any published authors that describe in depth their experience with using stance training as a method to develop whole-body connectedness, internal strength and are written in plain English.

I did however find a few articles on the internet that I think provide a good summary of a general "why" and "how" of stance training and are generally written in "plain English". If this is your first time reading about stance training, please visit these sites and read the entire article. Below are some excerpts from these articles.

1 comment:

walt said...

Re: "...authors that describe in depth their experience with using stance training as a method to develop whole-body connectedness..."

You might find useful data about "a method to develop whole-body connectedness" that is directly applicable to developing internal strength -- in plain English -- by looking at the Alexander Technique. It is an educational method, applicable to, well, everything.

It has in-formed my standing practice more than anything else I've tried, which over the years more or less tracked Mike's experiences.

Lots of books about AT out there, many of them not-so-good. Missy Vineyard's is quite good; also Barbara Conable's. For precise descriptions, try Theodore Dimon's The Body in Motion, due out in about ten days; also The Body of Life by Thomas Hanna. All loaded with words in plain English very useful to the study of body-connectedness.