The correct position of the rider (Ma Bu)

What is Ma Bu stance?

In martial arts (Kung Fu and not only) there are several versions of the “horse stance” (Ma Bu), the one that we are going to describe has much in common with that of Shaolin ones but to avoid confusion (discussions and overlaps), we only correlate it to 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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 advantages of this stance are various, both in terms of training, both in terms of struggle:

  • It gives us great stability and balance (rooting, read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept)
  • It allows us to gradually strengthen our body (standing stamina, especially for lower limbs)
  • It teaches us patience (with the time, we should be able to hold the stance for more than an hour)
  • It teaches us to maintain a low posture (useful in various situations of struggle)
  • It helps our tendons transformation process (read Conditioning check for flexibility)
  • Assuming it allows us to quickly recover the balance even after more and more full body spins (we will discuss this in detail later)

How to perform the rider stance

Now let’s see how to take the correct rider stance in 6 Dragons Kung Fu:

  • First of all, let’s imagine being on a horse saddle
  • Let’s symmetrically widen our legs sideways
  • The feet should be as much as possible parallel to each other (well-planted on the ground and perpendicular to the torso)
  • The feet should be distant from each other at least 2 times the width of our shoulders (excluding arms)
  • We have to position the thighs so that they are as much as possible parallel to the ground (at the beginning it’s very hard)
  • The knees are bent at 90° (as much as possible) and directed towards the outside
  • We have to bend our arms and move them to the hips (or just above)
  • We have to close our fists and rotate them upwards (the back of the hands look downward, parallel to the ground)
  • The shoulders are wide open, gently stretched horizontally (but relaxed vertically)
  • The back, the neck and the head are well straight (they all stay on one straight line)
  • We have to imagine that our head is hanging by a thread (at its superior center point)
  • The pelvis is facing up (the belly rotate upward) and the abdomen slightly compress
  • The buttocks are tightened (that’s where we need to flow much of the effort) and must not be facing outwards
  • The whole body is arranged in a symmetrical and fully balanced manner (we have to feel it)

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu we distinguish also sub-positions (we will see them):

  • Wide ma bu (harder, wider opening but less bent knees and thighs not parallel to the ground, as in the photo)
  • Low ma bu (harder, narrower opening but more bent knees and thighs perfectly parallel to the ground)
  • Practical ma bu (easier, much narrower opening, knees less bent and completely not parallel to the ground)

Final notes

Let’s see now some advice and tips:

  • The first approach is tremendous, it will be painful and difficult to maintain this pose even for a few seconds
  • Let’s try to proceed gradually in order to accustom our bodies day by day
  • Shaolin monks start practicing ma bu stance with the back attached to a wall (this is great to align the head, buttocks, etc.)
  • The first few times we can support the legs putting our hands on the thighs (to better distribute the effort)
  • In the best execution, it should be possible to put a bowl of water on our thighs without spilling its content (low ma bu)

At an intermediate level is a good idea is to try to eat, study, meditate or do other things in this position; this way:

  • Do not be bored by the practice
  • Forget the feeling of pain
  • We can gradually transform a hurting position in a rest position
  • Do not waste our (precious) training time

When we improve we can start holding (in hand, on the shoulders, forearms, or thighs) weight gradually bigger (more about this later).

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • How long can you hold out in this position?

Author: Master Kongling

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