View Full Version : Is stance training the worst way to stregthen your legs?

08-10-2000, 11:12 PM
I had come specific questions related to stance-training.

I think it was Knife-fighter that brought up this particular point… a friend of mine reminded me about it a couple of days ago. I know that if you’re going to fight using certain stances, you want to train your body to get used to them, but is static stance training really the most effective way to do that? Why on earth do you really need to hold a horse-stance for half an hour if Knife-fighters point is valid – namely that you’re only training your muscles in that particular position and range. This means you’re neglecting to train your muscles in other ranges - should you drop a bit less lower etc….

Now, when I used to fence, our lunges were developed through daily foot-work sessions which lasted about an hour. The ability to lunge and recover quickly was developed through repetition at various speeds, intensities, depths and shadowing exercises. We never did any static training.

Has anyone experimented outside the static confines of stance training, and indeed – as I suspect – found that true stability and strength is found in motion rather than in standing still?

Am I wrong in thinking that static stance training neglects total conditioning of the legs?


08-10-2000, 11:22 PM
Static training is good for focus, meditating and building strength in your legs.

My style of kung fu uses a form called eight basic stances: it's a form that's simply transitions into the eight basic stances. This is very good conditioning in getting into the stance and going from one stance to the next.

But, a static stance will build up strength in that stance. Combine the two, a pattern of transition and a set of static.

08-10-2000, 11:23 PM
Good post, Boxers and Thai Boxers train the same way, using non-static exercises and drills to develop there strength and footwork.-ED

Kung Lek
08-10-2000, 11:27 PM
Static stances teach us the proper form of the stance and how it "grounds".

Forms teach us how to move and make the stances "grounded" but at the same time transitory if the need arises.

It is one building block on top of another until the house (you) is complete.

Static stance training is a big part of fundaments of martial arts. No foundations and the walls will fall.


Kung Lek

08-10-2000, 11:42 PM
Kung Lek, and Robin,
But wouldn't it be more effective to focus on training your stances in motion as that will be how you will be using it? Also considering that combat is always in motion and isn't static. I personally just can not see how holding a horse stance for twenty minutes will make me a better fighter, if you say it is to build strength and proper technique, aren't there more effective ways to train those things that make better use of my time and energy? I am interesting in your replies, thisi s in no way a flame, thanks.-ED

08-10-2000, 11:54 PM
Good question. To learn any technique, like a punch, you must first learn to make and hold a fist. Now, I don't know of anyone who holds a fist for twenty minutes, but you do need to learn to hold the fist. If you only learn to transition into a fist, how hard do you think the fist will be? Or a leopard paw?

Training static stances is conditioning and technique training. There aren't any short cuts that I know of that will train technique better or faster than simply training the technique. If you only learn to transition and hold a stance for that second before you transition into the next, it will take longer to train that technique of the stance--because the focus of that training is too global: training the transition and the stance. Also, static training trains you to do the technique, the stance, properly. If attention to detail such as this isn't paid, then the technique more than likely will never be what it could be.

As far as holding the stance for twenty or thirty minutes--that's conditioning/strengthening of both the body and the mind. Stand still for thirty minutes and see where your mind goes. Try holding a stance--does your mind cave in? Will your mind cave in during a fight if it lasts longer than you expect? Will your mind cave in and you'll end up fighting a fight that you really shouldn't be fighting? Kung Fu is AS MUCH about the mind as it is about the body. Kung Fu is also as much metaphorical (for lack of a better word) as it is literal--that holding a stance is conditioning you to hold the stance (literal) and conditioning you keep your mind about you (metaphorical).

[This message has been edited by Robinf (edited 08-11-2000).]

Jaguar Wong
08-10-2000, 11:59 PM
Static stances are used for a sort of muscle memory. You body needs to know how it feels if you want to transition into the stances correctly. Anything beyond a couple of minutes is more conditioning than anything (like Robin said). It also helps to teach the body to drop the center of gravity and keep it there. The real key is to practice the transitions from one stance to the next, maintaining your root, and balance. That way when you hit, your stances may be a little higher than when you train, but the power is still there, because you are able to relax through the transition, as well as the final stance.

My mental notes are kinda jumbled right now, so I hope I made some sense. Robin already did a much better job of explaining it anyways. /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Jaguar Wong
www.superaction.com (http://www.superaction.com)

Gargoyle again
08-11-2000, 12:03 AM
Static training is only ONE aspect of many other drills to build conditiong and strength. It is but one piece of the whole puzzle. I would bet that you are doing other things in class besides just horse stances. Is that the only stance you ever train? You must be punching, kicking, sparring, drilling, etc also, right? No? It is 100% horse stances all class long? Well, no wonder that you aren't seeing good results /infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Now, as an experiment, if you put one guy who did only horse stances, nothing but horse stances, as his sole source of training (never even let him throw a punch), and another guy in a normal class that also included horse stances among all of the other training, the second guy would be stronger, faster, better.

My point to this (I knew I had one /infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif) is that if you focus in on any one little thing, such as a stance, forms, sparring, and then try and extrapolate its value across the entire training spectrum, it becomes pointless.

08-11-2000, 12:18 AM
Jaguar Wong,
Muscle memory? Wouldn't training the stance in motion allow muscle memory to remember the stance in the proper context better?
I think Tricky-Fist named off a few training methods that I would think would better then static exercises. As it is my only real experience with static stances was in Karate a number of years back. All the styles I have studied since haven't really had any fix stances. The footwork training was based on motion and that was the way it was trained.
Gargoyle again,
Hmmm...I don't think your example is valid, now what I am interested in if you train two students the same exact way but, train one using static stances and the other non-static stances which would turn out to be the better fighter?-ED

08-11-2000, 12:44 AM
Stance training is not meant to be the only tool used. It helps build strength, balance, focus, and root, without risking joint injuries. As strength is built up, movement is added, then more difficult movement, etc. For advanced practitioners, static stance work becomes more of a meditative practice.

Kung Lek
08-11-2000, 12:45 AM

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link".

Static stances builds muscle as well as stamina and endurance. What it also does is increase the tensile strength of the muscle at the point of connectivity to the bone. This is where the muscles tapers into its smallest mass. to increase the strength in this area, stance training is a practical and effective way to do so.

Without the strength, the stances will not be rooted and you can be transitory all day long and still not achieve solidity with your stances.

When i started to learn Kung Fu, for my first year all I was given was static stances and some chi Kung exercises liek Jam Jong (Zhang Zhoung).

Whta this method did was instill in me the appreciation of the fact that Kung Fu takes time and it also gave me the ability to proceed with form knowledge more aptly without constant correction due to a lack of fundamental conditioning.

I have seen students time and again who fail to practice stance training and box stepping and it shows in their lack of understanding of form. This is apparent even in students who have been doing Kung Fu for more than two or three years.

Like I said before, if your foundations are not good then your house will fall.


Kung Lek

08-11-2000, 01:23 AM
Kung lek, my friend, you have the patience of a saint. I don't know how you do it.

Doing stance training is one of the BEST and most natural ways to strengthen the leg. The power the legs develop is enourmous. Mobility is increased by a great measure due to the enhanced strength at the joints. You can see it in form work. Those with weak legs cannot move with the grace and dexterity of those with the proper training. You can see it in fighting. Those with good leg foundation kick like mules and have rock solid foundations for their punching. They also can get to any level high or low because they can comfortably move with their legs at 90° angles. It's definately not a bad thing. Of course, those who don't or can't do it will say it's "bad".

As far as tricky's fencing quote, I will also disagree there. Many fencers I know practice holding the lunge position. It's one of the first things they do. Your school may have been different. Try and test your leg strength to that of your sihings see if there is a big difference. We are talking about leg strength here.

To say that stance training limits mobility is short sighted.
For the billionth time, static training is not the only method used to train the legs. Stances are still pictures of bigger bodies of movement. Stances were in effect developed to work together as a flow. But, if your legs are not strong enough to begin with they cannot flow.
This idea that boxing has no stances is absurd. A stance is how you stand, period. Boxing spends many hours practicing stance work in their own way.


Jaguar Wong
08-11-2000, 01:26 AM
Kung Lek gave some very good points, but I'll still throw some more of my crap up here anyways. /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

First of all, I'm not trying to say if one is better than the other, because I believe you need both to really benefit from any type of stance training. The muscle memory you would get from sitting in a stance benefits your root, balance, and ability to use the ground to deliver, and absorb power. The muscle memory you get from transition builds your strength to push and keep your root while moving. Your are very vulnerable in transition, so it's important to build your balance, but it's also very important to be able to sink (this doesn't mean you have to have low stances) your weight for a strike, to defend. On average (at my school anyways), the guys that don't practice their static stances (as far as proper alignment, and posture go), and just practice the punches and kicks using transitional movements tend not to hit as hard as the guys that do both the static and transitional training. Sure there are always exceptions, but static training teaches them to sink at the moment of impact so most of the knietic energy will be sent into the target, whereas the other guys tend to use more momentum to strike (which does work), but a lot of the energy is sent back because they're not using the ground. They are not trained to properly drop their center of gravity before striking. Yes they still hit hard, but I don't think they are reaching their full power potential.

The static stances, when applied, are one frame in the execution of a technique. It just happens to be a key frame in the delivery of power. If you can align your body properly, your punch has more potential to deliver the energy into the target.

Jaguar Wong
www.superaction.com (http://www.superaction.com)

08-11-2000, 01:34 AM
If the last four posts don't get the point across then I don't know what will.

Jaguar Wong
08-11-2000, 01:37 AM
LOL /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

08-11-2000, 01:44 AM
everyone seems to have put up very good posts on this thread. wow! must be a cold day in hell. haha!

i think one aspect that has been overlooked is the fact that horse stance training was often used to test ones sincerity and virtue, as well as to develop a strong mind and body.

i believe the people who are against stance training either never did a whole lot of it, and or never stuck with the school long enough to get a full appreciation of the exercise.

it is true that just holding a horse stance is not going to make you a great fighter, and one does have to learn how stances were meant to be used.
strong legs developed from horse stance training does develop power, as power is generated from the legs/ground, and is very strong and stable in 2 directions, left and right, but against a trained fighter who knows how, it is a simple matter to just attack the weak angles.
kung fu is taught in phases, and none should be neglected. it is those that don't stick with a school long enough that never get the useage aspect of stances.
e.g. most people are familiar with the dragon stance, but often times they don't know how it is used.
as a rank beginner you will be taught to use it in retreating, but how often do you see that done?
stay long enough, and you will learn the coiling energies that are used in the dragon stance for throwing.
but to have this knowldge without the development aspect is incomplete and of little value in dire situations.
you need both the conditioning and the applications.
all the conditioning in the world won't save you from a person who has both.

08-11-2000, 01:56 AM
Just to clear up some misconceptions hereÂ…

I think IÂ’m coming off as some punk who thinks standing in one position for extended periods of time is useless and thatÂ’s all my Sifu is making me do.

Let’s start with the fencing. Sifu Able, I respect your views and I take your point about keeping the lunge in fencing; however, they will not stay in that lunge to the same extent that a kung-fu practitioner would. If you doubt my coach’s ability, well, take it up with him: he’s the Olympic coach for Canada and he was ‘traditionally’ trained in Europe. A lunge is only as good as it’s recovery. Spending too much time just sitting there in the lunge is useless unless you train how to get the hell out of there. (sorry, that came across a bit cranky)

The difference between kung-fu and fencing though is the variety of movement, and you and all the other posters have made very good points, effectively relating to me the importance of seeking proper footwork and rooting through a variety of exercises, and not stance training alone.

I was trying to see – and I worded my question poorly and for that I apologize – if it was possible to build exceptional leg strength through static stance training alone. Someone asserted as much to me a couple of days ago.

DonÂ’t worry guys, I diligently practice my stance training in conjunction with footwork on a daily basis. But can any of you really blame me for asking when the entire concept seems so incredibly foreign in comparison to my past experiences?

Thanks at any rate for all of your answers,


Art is limitation; the essence of any picture is the frame - G.K Chesterson

08-11-2000, 01:59 AM
Just to add in my 2 cents...

I fenced for five years and we actually did hold a static en-guard and lunge position for as long as we could. This started on day 1 and continued through every day of my formal training. It has always made me appreciate the irony when people went on about the uselessness of ancient stance-training methods compared to the modern exercises used in western martial arts.

As for stance training in the CMAs, I have been taught it is for building correct structure/posture rather than simply strengthening the legs. If you want muscular legs, do squats. In our stance-training we have the goal of remaing utterly relaxed, with no tension in our legs whatsoever.

Of course, these are so-called internal methods, so they might be different than external stance-training (something which I have expected since reading various posters comments on the issue in this thread and others).


bamboo_ leaf
08-11-2000, 02:06 AM
Most CMA arts talk about being able to conect the upper and lower body to gernarate power and chanleing this out to the hands or feet and expressing this as a pluse (fa-jing) of power. I don't belive this is possible with out understanding /ablilty the concept of rooting/ finding your centure and also being able to find the centure of the oppenet.

either you train stances in the begining building the concepts and foundation or you train it later on when you find that some of the tech. your learning don't quite work right. Either way untill you devlope the concepts and some ablity to root, your taining can be come very confused.

Training the stances dose not have to be some type of indureance test, just remember what your training for.

just some other ideas to some of the good points mentioned already.

enjoy life

bamboo leaf

[This message has been edited by bamboo_ leaf (edited 08-11-2000).]

Royal Dragon
08-11-2000, 02:48 AM
Hello, everyone!!
I would like to say those who are pro stances are really well written, I esecially like the explenation from Sifu Abel. One thing I see as missing however is that a variety of stances must be practiced. Yes the 1/2 hour horse stance is important. There is nothing that develops over all power like that one, but the Shaolin have dozens of stances that are held. The 18 Louhan hands has 36 postures that are sequentialy held for 3 to 5 minutes each. This works the body in all ranges. The other issue is joint development. the joints are often damaged by impact type excersises like running or areobics etc. But stance trainning is a constant, continuas pressure that does not have the jarring dammaging shock of other excersises. This builds strong joints as opposed to dammaging them. I have actually rehabilitated a knee injurie with deep stance trainning. Some stances are better for the knees like the twisted horse stance and others are for the hipps like the cat stance (try leanning back on that one with the hipps yet leanning forward (sideways) with the body, you should feel like the rear hipp joint is under great pressure. Now hold that pressure for two minutes three times a week for 4 months).
Many have multiple purpuse's depending on the corrections you are useing at the moment. Stance trainning also loosenes the joints for greater range of motion, in addition to regular flexibility trainning, thus giving you a much more rounded work out The easier it is to move, the less of your own strength you waste on your own efforts to move, and the more strength you have to channel into your attacks or defenses. Stance trainning is a very deep discapline indeed!!!!

Royal Dragon

08-11-2000, 06:58 AM
Stancework=stability for throwing,striking power, and alligns the body for some good old fashioned chi flow. One of the other great things about stance training is that it gives you an added dimention in fighting. How many tai boxers can fight in a low fighting stance comfortably? If a Kung fu fighter comes inside and drops low, he can switch between high and low as well as left to right. This is a tremendous advantage when throwing is put into the picture. If your in a ring where there is a no throwing rule than hit the weight room. If stability and wider fighting range is a priority then it's time to hit the stance work.