Lesson 1 – The stances of Kung Fu

The different stances of Kung Fu

In this chapter, we are going to discuss the fundamentals of standing, mobility and balance: let’s start with the stances.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

Regarding the basic stances, we could say that in the various styles of Kung Fu:

  • They are very similar (in most cases)
  • The differences die mainly in some postural details (not necessarily secondary)

In any case, if we talk about serious martial performance, the postural variations are not to be identified in terms of “right” or “wrong” but rather as:

  • Different approaches – Some schools / masters can be more focused on wellness, other on combat, on sports performance, etc.
  • Different heights – Lower positions are suitable for younger / flexible / experienced practitioners, higher ones for beginners / older practitioners
  • Different frames – A stance, a form or a sequence that is taught more in relation to practical combat (instead of training or wellness) uses smaller and more direct movements
  • Different strategic choices – Small variations can be due to the type of training, tactical choices, master’s intuitions, etc.

Even within the same style (Tai Chi, White Crane, etc.), there are endless micro variations from school to school, master to master (even among the singles monks of the Shaolin temple) and technically they are all correct.

A note by Master Kongling – A warrior is not interested in authenticity / historical issues, he has to search for effectiveness: he doesn’t want to do something because it has always been like this, he wants to do something because he has personally tested its effectiveness (read The various points of view on martial arts). For a serious practitioner, the discriminant should be the understanding of the meaning of the positions and therefore the affinity that he finds with his own purposes (personal defense, well-being, choreography, etc.).

What are the Kung Fu fighting stances for?

Since the dawn of the Shaolin temple, at the base of forms and fighting techniques of Kung Fu lied a solid basic structure founded on:

  • Precise and specific body positioning – Studied to resist the opposing action, to have a tactical advantage and to express the defensive / attacking action without dispersion of energy (and / or with the lowest possible)
  • Standing stamina – The practitioner (initially annoyed and fatigued from assuming apparently “uncomfortable” positions) arrives through training to fortify his body (read Standing stamina: what is and its development) and to understand how to arrange it in combat in the most beneficial manner possible (economy of effort, effectiveness, etc.)

The risk of a superficial preparation

During the fight, without proper addressing and conditioning, the body of a fighter risks losing a great amount of:

  • Time
  • Space
  • Energy
  • Effectiveness

A note by Master Kongling – Master Pedro Rodriguez once said: “it’s ended the time for secrets in Kung Fu”, each practitioner must know what he is doing. To take advantage of the study of Kung Fu in combat, it is necessary to profoundly understand its meaning, key points, causes and effects. During a battle, each position should be adapted to your needs. Without reasoning on what you study, you reduce a flow that is born for combat to a senseless circle with no intention or meaning (and against any kind of opponent, this means to be defeated and severely beaten).

The goal of Kung Fu stances

Despite their elegance, the basic stances of Kung Fu do not have artistic purposes, they are made to:

  • Discipline the disposition of the limbs
  • Condition the body (and the mind collaterally)
  • Inspire the free flow of the practitioner in combat

A note by Master Kongling – Form is not substance. Kung Fu is not a set of coded movements, techniques and positions to be applied as always-winning formulas in combat: this doesn’t work; those who think this, are light years away from the vision of the Founders (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons). Every practitioner has strengths and weaknesses, limits and specific talents, the form can help to try to fill all the natural mistakes and gaps you have but it is not the goal. We must not confuse the chisel with the sculpture. In purely martial terms it is entirely wrong, in the name of an “untouchable tradition”, to cancel the specific abilities of the practitioner: every human being is different in body and mind, if we continue to repeat what has been done in the past, without altering anything, the final result will be nothing but an increasingly faded copy of what was once pure creativity. Experimentation and errors (following a serious path) are the basis of evolution (read Measure ourselves with errors).

In the next lesson of this chapter, you will see the primary and most important fighting stances.

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What are the most important Kung Fu stances in your opinion?

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Author: Master Kongling

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