Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
One of the first things any student learns when they walk on the floor is how to stand. It is the basis of all Martial Arts and probably one of the most important lessons a student will ever learn.
And it is one of the aspects of training that is most overlooked by beginning students.
When we refer to stance, we're talking about a few concepts:
- where the feet are positioned
- how far apart are your legs
- what is the weight distribution between your two sides
Since becoming a mother, I often equate training to how a child learns. A baby must learn to first crawl -- one of our most stable positions -- before they can walk and eventually learn to jump -- our least stable position. Without this foundation and progress, a child would never be able to move.
As a Martial Arts student, stance defines your balance and root. Too often in classes, students first focus on the hands. What is that technique the teacher is doing? Did he or she just punch with the fist down or up? What needs to be focused on instead is what are the instructor's feet doing?
In principle, even if a technique (a punch or strike) is delivered wrong, if the stance is solid it will be very difficult for an opponent to dislodge and gain advantage. Once an opponent is off balance, it is easy to take that person to the ground, toss them around, and have control of the situation.
Square Horse Stance
One of the first stances learned by Kung Fu students is the square horse stance. The reference comes from the position one would have if riding a horse.
While looking at the stance, it is not something that would be apparently evident in combat. It is the foundation of many stances the student will learn and the most stable available to them.
A proper square horse stance begins with the feet slightly more than shoulder distance apart. The feet are pointing forward. The knees will be bent forward only until the point where knees do not extend beyond the toes. Weight should be distributed evenly between the two legs. The back will be nice and straight without the posterior protruding. In the optimal situation, a pole or staff can be laid across the lap of person and it will remain resting there. The hands should be rested in either a chambered position or prayer position in front.
The square horse stance is practiced through duration of time held. The higher the student, the longer they should be able to hold this position without fidgeting or movement. Through this training, the student gains strength in the leg muscles and learns how to properly root themselves.
In many ways, the exercise is very similar to wall squats without a wall for support. This type of stance work is very good even for people who do not practice Martial Arts but are looking for more challenge from their squats.