Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
One of the most common stances in Chinese Martial Arts is the bow stance.
The name “bow” stance is a rough translation from the Chinese gong bu. Literally the name refers to a stance which archers use to use when preparing to shoot.
A bow stance is with the feet apart. The front leg has the foot pointing forward and the leg bent. Generally the knee does not extend beyond the front toe. The back leg should be straight with the back foot at a forty-five degree angle for bracing. The body should be in alignment with the back leg, forming a straight line for the energies of the chakras to channel. The body itself should be squared and pointed forward, not off to the open side.
The legs should roughly be about shoulder distance apart. If drawn back to the body, the leading leg should fall roughly within the middle of the back foot. This distance is important to develop stability in the stance.
Within each discipline and system, there are slight differences in how to execute a good bow stance. Most of these differences can be accounted to variations in technique, application, and situation. Even within a single system, there can be several versions of a bow stance used depending upon the form and technique.
One of the more common variations is the long and short bow stance. As the name implies, the difference lies in how far apart the feet are from one another. Long bow stances extends the lead foot much further out. The longer stance allows for the body to go lower, thus lowering the center of gravity and increasing stability and strength. To execute a good long bow stance, one must work on stretching and start with a larger than normal step forward.
The shorter stance is much closer, only about half the distance or less of the long bow. While this stance loses a bit of stability, it gains in maneuverability: shorter steps equals less time to get into position. Shorter stances allows for close range work, where ever step and placement of the foot is critical to gaining the advantage.
Properly executed, the bow stance acts as a transference of energy to the ground. A force applied directly to the front has its energy transferred through the body, into the back leg, and into the ground beneath. Essentially, pushing a person in this stance from the front is like trying to push against the earth itself. In TaiChi, this stance is often used in demonstrations where multiple people try to push the practioner down by pressing on their arms. In one demonstration I witnessed a small, older gentlemen was able to withstand 4-5 larger men pressing against him while he was in a good bow stance.
While strong for attacks in a direction line with the body, this stance lacks the same stability when attacked from the side. Thus, to avoid ever exposing that weakness, a practioner executing a bow stance will pivot as necessary to keep the stance forward facing of the opponent.