How to learn the 5 basic Kung Fu stances
After understanding what stances are and what is their meaning in the context of Kung Fu (read Lesson 9.1), let’s see the main ones (inherent to our style).
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).
The 5 core stances of Kung Fu
- Ma Bu (horse stance) – Similar to the position of who rides, it is the most famous and important of all the Kung Fu stances (read The correct position of the rider (ma bu))
- Gong Bu (bow-arrow stance) – A stable position to push, punch, resist and more (read The correct position of the bow / arrow (gong bu))
- Xu Bu (cat stance) – Front leg empty, ready to kick (read The correct cat stance (xu bu))
- Pu bu (crouch stance) – Down to the ground but ready to act ([to be added])
- Zuo Bu (crossed leg stance) – This stance can be used to exploit the spiral force ([to be added])
A note by Master Kongling – In terms of training, all the other Kung Fu stances can be related to these ones (that are fundamentally from Shaolin). If you are able to correctly perform these, you will be easily capable to implement the others (from other styles, etc.). There are several versions and ways of execution of these stances (as you saw in the previous lesson) and each of them has its own meaning (to know, explore and experience). As far as we are concerned, these are the ones that have proved to be the most functional (I personally did several tests, read also Is it legit?).
How to train the fundamental stances
To know how to position your body is (relatively) simple but it does not mean to be able to implement them correctly. Theoretical knowledge is only the first step, the second (and most important) is training.
We have to condition our body to them: let’s see how.
1. Standing stamina
The steps to build standing stamina (read Standing stamina: what is and its development):
- For a beginner, the first goal is to arrive to maintain each stance for 1 minute
- It is not simple as it may appear, initially, it is likely that you experience pain / discomfort (it is quite normal)
- You must remain completely motionless (if you can practice in front of a mirror it is perfect)
- Try to understand the meaning of each stance, you have to seek absolute balance, effectivity, symmetry and stability
- Each position should be maintained within a combat (this means that you must be solid as rocks and not fall to the first wind chill; you have to aim to be at the same time relaxed and immoveable)
- Lower is better (read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept) but don’t ask yourself too much right away or you will risk damaging your body (take care especially of your knees)
- You must build the right standing stamina step by step, increasing the time and lowering the height
- Once acquired a certain ability, the stances should become “comfortable”, solid and ready to express explosive power (to reach this goal faster you can gradually implement weights, read for example The weighted vest)
- Needless to say, training only positions strengthens you but is totally useless without the rest of the technical baggage
2. Explosive power
The next phase requires to develop explosive power:
- Jump from a normal fighting guard position (read Lesson 5.2) to the specific stance you are training
- Try to arrive precisely in the stance, without adjusting anything (no vibrations, corrections, unbalance, etc.)
- Use your breath correctly, when you open or go down, breathe out, when you close or go up, breathe in (use the warrior’s breathing, read Breathe Yoga: the warrior’s breathing)
- If the stance is not symmetric (like Ma Bu), jump on the position to the left, return to the initial one with a jump and with another jump execute it to the right (repeat the cycle)
- Another useful option for the asymmetric stances is the full-body rotation (from one side to the other)
- Each session can be of 5-10 minutes (mixing various stances or executing one by one)
- Try not to lose focus on the increase of precision and quality of each stance (read also 7 principles to become a better fighter)
- If the stance allows it, you can also add single or multiple punches (just to insert a training variation but only if this does not damage the quality of our stances read Same exercises, different execution)
A note by Master Kongling – Especially in the past it was very hard to be able to move a Shaolin monk when he was rooted in a fundamental fighting stance (eg. Ma Bu) and for a not practitioner is was almost impossible (read Ancient Shaolin monks vs modern ones). This is the type of standing stamina you should search for.
In the next article, we will talk about balance / stability.
In-depth video courses
- Basic Kung Fu stances: how to – The most detailed visual explanation of our Kung Fu stances
- A self-defense trick: the secret guard stances – How to be in a guard stance without getting noticed
- Training for balance / rooting: feet on tires – Use the car tires to build standing stamina
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- What is the hardest Kung Fu stance to perform?
Author: Master KonglingFounder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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