Having a good stance is more than just placing your legs in the right position or ‘sinking the weight’. It’s about harnessing the power of the body’s lower section and getting it out through the hands.
Ultimately your power and stability as a martial artist are determined by the lower sections of your body. The largest muscle groups in the body converge at the hips, so train your stances and footwork to release this power through the hands.
The common thread in Wing Chun and Lung Ying is the tucked-in hip position and tightness of the lower section, whilst the hands remain loose.
Wing Chun Back Stance
With 70% weight on the back foot, this stance allows the front foot to quickly defend and attack the low areas. Under pressure from a strong opponent coming forward, the back stance must pivot, else it will collapse.
Wing Chun uses long and painful sessions of the Sil Lum Tao to train both legs simultaneously for the style’s back stance. From a static position, it strengthens the leg muscles and joints whilst the hands remain relaxed. Later, students learn to coordinate the power of the legs when training the second form, Chum Kil.
Lung Ying Forward Stance
With 70% weight on the front foot, this stance draws enormous forward forces from the back leg, both for striking power and closing the gap. Under contact pressure from a strong opponent, the back leg shifts momentarily to pivot the body and redirect the force.
Lung Ying uses Na Ma (or “pressing horse”) training, a stepping exercise that strengthens the forward stance and conditions the legs to drive power from the ground up and through the hips. Grandmaster Wu famously was only ever interested in how much time students were putting into this exercise and not any of the advanced forms. Seeing their Na Ma was how he judged kung fu ability. After completing a good session of Na Ma the legs should feel burnt out and ready for the basic Sup Luk Dun form.
Transitioning between forward and back stances
It is important to be able to move between the more defensive back stance and the aggressive front stance. Our Lung Ying program includes two partner exercises that move naturally between them:
- Single-hand Tui Sao (push hands) from Tai Chi
- Yiu Shun from Liu He Ba Fa
Testing your stance
Both Wing Chun and Lung Ying test their stances through various forms of resistance training.
Wing Chun has Chi Sao and Muk Yan Jong for training with resistance. When Chi Sao is practiced with real forward pressure and combines stepping, that back stance position can be found lacking. Some naturally move into the front stance position, for example Wong Shun Leung’s kung fu occasionally made the switch (See video).
Lung Ying has Chuk Sarm Dim plus the two partner exercises mentioned above. If your stance isn’t strong and your opponent applies real force to your arms during these exercises, balance and power will quickly disappear.
Commit the time to your stances. Endure the pain. This will build strength and stability. If you can transition into front stances, especially when at close range, power through the hip can be maximised.
Article: Written by R Zandbergs. Created from Barry Pang’s seminars.
Video: Filmed and edited by R Zandbergs
Main photo: Tui Sao practice in China (Photo by R Zandbergs, 1994)