Instructor’s Notebook (INB) #25: A Horse Lesson

I was watching a competitive match on Youtube the other day (I do not do this regularly or I would have to spend days screening samples and answering people’s questions). A Muay Thai fellow was pitted  against a Kung Fu practitioner. I watched for about two seconds and knew the Kung Fu man would lose— even though he had some nice kicks and good timing. It was simple, he was standing in a horse.

The problem is that Kung Fu training sometimes goes against the basic idea of momentary benefit and confuses the temporary with the permanent. Think of it it like this … the good old punch to the face can be really effective (I assume we all agree on this).  So the beginner gets the wrong idea and goes out with manic punches at the face seventy times a second. No, wrong idea. You use the face punch, or the horse stance for that matter, momentarily, when it’s time. Actually it shouldn’t last any longer than a good face smack. You may throw fifty punches at the speed bag in training but you don’t in a match.

On the other hand people think the horse stance is bogus, and it is not. In other arts it is called the “athletic stance” and with good reason. It is only natural for a fighter to drop his center of gravity to gain stability and power. Every fight style, no matter how “reality” oriented do it unconsciously. The only thing is that Kung Fu does it somewhat obsessively.

Well, we have a different task and various goals that make the horse work.

1. We teach children, village style where clarity and basics are everything.

2. We preserve a miliatry cold weapon background where you definitely WOULD NOT want to come our out of your horse stance for a second.

3. We also have our qigong practice in which the horse can be useful indeed.

But to think of the horse as a specific stance against a single opponent is just wrong and, I suspect, always has been. It’s not the horse that’s the problem, it’s the thinking. How do we train better, more realistically and more to t he spirit of Kung Fu?

Here are a few ideas. Once the student has the feeling for the horse there should be more emphasis on ENTERING and LEAVING the stance. Dropping into its. Breaking away from it. Once the horse is put into context it can bring a tremendous to stability and definitely up the delivery power of strikes.

From the forms perspective the trick is to make the forms more and more fluid, yet keep the integrity of the legs. The horse should basically be invisible in performance but keep showing up mysteriously on those snapshots you took. Eventually it becomes a fluid horse.

Never forget the full name is “riding the horse” step not “resemble a horse” step.

Is all this true all this stance’s mates: cat, crane, tiger, twist? Of course.

2 Responses to “Instructor’s Notebook (INB) #25: A Horse Lesson”

  1. Jeff says:

    Sometimes it’s painfully obvious right from the start on those Youtube videos, isn’t it? I suspect an agenda of the person posting it.

  2. patrick hodges says:

    Really depends on WHEN you use any stance. Also, weapons involved? Environment? For example, an Indonesian style like Harimau is useful on wet slippery ground but wouldn’t work so well in the ring unless you can transition really fast to grappling, etc. Something like the French Maginot line in WWII where Germans went around the line. Warfare and military strategy doesn’t differ too much even when technology is modern. Example, I have heard US will pretend to give or sell modern military technology to a country full well knowing it is outdated and we have a counter for it already. Or Japanese Karate sensei after WWII taught Americans the wrong way to practice so they could easily be defeated. So, who knows what Chinese Sifu were up to when they made you sit on a stance all day long?

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