A Sample on stances in martial arts training

Forward Stance: This stance is also called the Bow and Arrow stance. Most people say this term is from “front leg bent like a bow, back leg straight like an arrow”. Other styles call it a front or forward stance. When attacking or defending the front, this is the stance to use. Push the front knee out beyond your toes. In many styles it is said to not allow the knee to push beyond the toes, but this is part of the defensive posture. With the knee past the toes, an attack to the front knee can be absorbed without much damage other than bruising. To truly understand any stance, one must keep in mind that you cannot understand the behavior of a river by scooping out a bucket of its water. When this stance is used in fighting, this pushing of the knee aids in the forward momentum of the attacking technique. A shallower stance here would check that momentum and weaken the attack. Every time you check your own momentum in your forms, you are training your body to do the same in a real confrontation, and this is a very bad habit.

The italics and underline are added. This is how I introduced Forward Stance in my previous book Learn Hung Gar. When the book came out, I was chastised on several internet kung fu forums and much more so in email. Some were more polite than others, but no one agreed with me. To those who were rude, I can only thumb my literary nose. Everything I teach is tested and retested every time that I teach it, so I know that I am correct in this one.

In every stance used in any martial art, there are going to be a common set of considerations. They can really be boiled down to three ideas, Stability, Ease in transfer of power, and Mobility.
The wider and lower your stance, the greater stability you will have. However, one must not forget the other two elements. The wider and lower your stance, the less mobility you will have, and at a certain point, when the stance becomes too low, you lose the ability to transfer power to your fullest potential as much of your energy is going to be lost in trying to generate power from too deep of a base. To form a proper Forward Stance, the feet need to be slightly wider than the shoulders. Your rear foot should be as straight ahead as possible without turning it into an unnatural position, and your front foot should be slightly turned toward the center.

In the interest of generating the best transfer of power the following guidelines should be considered. If your rear foot is turned too far toward the center, you will sap your power when the technique reaches its target. If you allow your rear foot to turn out too far to the outside, you will lose power as well, due to the added stress on the muscles on the inside area of your thigh.

Your front knee should be pressed out beyond your toes. This was a point of serious contention when my last book Learn Hung Gar came out, but I am right on this. Remember, for something to follow the scientific method, it must be observable, explainable, testable, and repeatable. Here, I am going to allow you to observe, explain, test and repeat my views on the degree of bend in Forward Stance.

Once you address all safety issues, you will need a training partner you trust, as they will be making a direct strike to the front of your knee.

Assume Forward Stance the way you were taught. Have your training partner cup their palm heels together, squat low, and strike the front of your front knee with medium force. You should notice immediately that your knee moved back. Depending on how hard they hit you, you may have moved a lot. Next, assume the stance with the knee pressed out beyond the toes, and have the partner strike you again. The results will speak for themselves if you did your stance correctly. With the knee pressed out beyond the toes, you are able to take much more force on a direct strike to your knee.

Once you are taking a correct Forward Stance, it is time to take it out on the road. In the old days we used to do this around the track on the high school football field. There are not as many people who like to train that way now, so adjust as you see fit, but remember, in the martial arts, training is an even exchange. You and your students will get out of it exactly what you put in.

To aid in understanding the idea that stances are transitional, take a Forward Stance, and press the knee forward. In a smooth motion, allow the press to continue until the rear foot must come up and take position for a new Forward Stance, or else you will fall down. Repeat and repeat until exhaustion.

Once Forward Stance in motion becomes acceptable, I like to add a cross-body punch to the mix.
I do not believe that the cross-body punch is given its proper recognition in modern martial arts. Too many practitioners want to breeze past this fantastic technique and get to the back flips and the cartwheels. I do not understand why. As important as the stance is the relaxation of the muscles on the outer thigh of the front leg and the tension on the front of the rear leg, across the abs and inner thigh of the front leg, and the striking arm for this is where the highest power in this technique will be coming from.

For a beginner, you need to do this with full power in order to get the feel of the proper lines of power in this technique. Once this feeling starts to come, it is good to mix in some slow repetitions to gain a deeper understanding of the technique. Continue to work on this and develop a true appreciation of the technique.