Wing Chun Stance
The Importance of the Wing Chun Stance
Stance is one of the rudiments of the Wing Chun system. Often a student may spend many hours refining the fine points of a technique, only to find that this time has been wasted because their stance is incorrect. This is a little like spending hours working on the engine of a car and then discovering that your vehicle is not fitted with four wheels. When one has managed to develop a correct stance it is much easier to learn new techniques as a student is able to feel what is, or is not, working. Without a correct stance, nothing really works, and the student is operating by guesswork. In this article I will outline the fundamentals of the Wing Chun stance.
It is important that students develop a reasonable stance before learning bad habits that may take some time to correct. Often a student with a weak stance will fall into the trap of using brute strength to make a technique work. The more time they spend doing this, the harder it becomes for them to learn the movement correctly.
Too High or Too Low
The knees should be slightly bent to lower the center of balance and maintain stability. As with all Wing Chun this is a question of degree. It is not enough to simply bend the knees as much as possible. If one is too low in the stance this will cause the thighs to become tense. This means that the student will lack balance. The legs should work like shock absorbers absorbing force and transferring it to the ground. This is not possible if the thighs are tense. As well as being unbalanced a stance that is too low will lack mobility. If the stance is too high a student may also lack balance and therefore power. They may be pushed over, as they will find it difficult to absorb the incoming force. It is not realistic to give a certain angle as correct for the degree of bend at the knees. Body shape, flexibility and muscularity will vary between different people. By experimenting with raising and lowering the stance slightly students must find the correct height for their stance.
The most important thing is to keep one's thighs as relaxed as possible. Sometimes students are under the illusion that the knees must be kept close together in order to guard against groin kicks. While holding the knees tightly together may defend against a snap kick delivered between the legs, the resulting lack of mobility will make the practitioner open to almost any other attack. Also you will find that you can be pushed over easily. It is important that the feet are facing slightly inwards. This helps to ensure that kicks are delivered through ones centerline, thereby protecting against groin attacks by striking rather than just blocking.
The back should be straight in order to transfer weight to the ground efficiently. If it is bent, force exerted on the practitioner may cause his/her stance to buckle. This principle may be illustrated with a plastic ruler. When a ruler is stood on end held straight, it can support a heavy weight. When the same amount of weight is placed on a slightly bent ruler, the structural integrity has been lost and it will collapse. Through correct training in Wing Chun a student will develop the muscles required for good posture.
People with back injuries will benefit from this as those muscles that protect the back are strengthened by the stance. Further health benefits may be found in the relaxation factor of the stance. People often carry tension in their shoulders. In the Wing Chun stance the chest is spread open and the shoulders are as relaxed as possible. This is not easy to achieve, but as students develop, they will attain deeper levels of relaxation. This physical skill of relaxing is a very useful tool for controlling stress. A student should feel relaxed and energised after training. If you find that you leave training sessions feeling uptight, chances are that you have been using strength rather than skill.
The hands should be on the centre-line when in the guard position of the stance. The elbows should be forward from the body and the angle at the elbow should be the ultimate angle that is found in the basic Wing Chun positions. The hands must be relaxed with the fingers pointing forward. Thumbs should not stick up.
So far we have only spoken about the stance in terms of physical structure. This is only part of the picture. The skill of directing ones energy or 'thought force' forward through one's centre-line is an integral part of the stance. It is not easy to teach. A student must learn to concentrate while remaining relaxed. Over years as one's skill develops, a student will sense more energy flowing through their body as restrictions are eliminated and the channels for directing this energy open up. Perhaps the greatest benefit to be found in the training of the stance, is improved mental concentration. Learning to use one's mind more efficiently is of even greater value than the ability to defend one's self.
Grandmaster Jim Fung