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In Tai-Chi, if I remember correctly, many stances and movements signify something , such as "push opponent away", "block a kick" etc. At least that's whatone of my trainers claimed.

In one of the tracks of Body Combat 50 (a kickbox workout) there is this stance. Does it come from a traditional martial arts form, such as Shaolin Kung Fu? If so, what does it mean? Does it stand for something more violent such as "ready to strike with a dagger" ? Or is it just an "energy stance"/ just showing readiness?


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I think this might be better named a "posture" - stance in my vernacular usually refers just to the feet and their positioning. – William Mioch Feb 22 '12 at 11:35
Good idea. Title renamed. However, there is no tag yet named "posture". Can you create one? – knb Feb 22 '12 at 14:22
done - you just type in the tag you want (at least that's what I did) – William Mioch Feb 23 '12 at 11:11
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In Shaolin Kung Fu, that is actually a combination of a few different moves. Forms will typically encode movements in combinations like this, for multiple reasons. One, it makes it easier to remember large amounts of moves, as forms were typically used to preserve techniques where handwritten manuals weren't sufficient. Also, when fighting in real life, you never will be using a single technique in isolation and will often have to combine techniques fluidly. This translates into the fluid movements and transitions in forms, and the seemingly superfluous arm and legs movements.

I'll break down the different parts of the stance, according to my own training in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Wu Su. Different styles may have some differences in detail, but probably will have similar constructions.

  1. The diagram is demonstrating someone in a reverse bow and arrow leg stance. A typical bow and arrow leg stance is used for stability in the front-back direction. It will have both feet positioned at an angle, with the front leg bent and the back leg out straight. The front knee is turned in and the toes on both feet are pointing in the direction of the knees, parallel to each other. Weight will be distributed 70% on the front (bent) leg and 30% on the rear (straight) leg. The practitioner will be facing forward. The reversed variant of this stance will have the weight distributed the other way: the rear leg is bent with 70% of the weight and the front leg is out straight with 30% of the weight. Often, the reverse version of the stance is used in transition while stepping or preparation for a technique (such as a sweep or a kick).

  2. The right arm is executing a low circular block. These are typically used to deflect low punches or kicks, or other incoming attacks. It is likely that the person in this diagram either is mid-turn, defending against an attacker striking from behind, based on the body position.

  3. The left arm is executing an upper block. These blocks will typically be used to defend against high incoming attacks striking in a downward motion. They can also be used to deflect attacks to the face or break out of shoulder or lapel grabs.

The positioning of the person in this diagram makes me think that this is the likely situation that it is illustrating: The practitioner is engaged against a person in front of them, and is in a bow and arrow leg stance at the time (he could have transitioned to it from executing a strike, or other technique, or it could be his "ready" stance). The attacker executes an upper attack or grapple and is deflected via the upper block. At the same time, another attacker advances from behind and attempts to attack the practitioner with a mid-range kick to the kidney or floating ribs. He turns and deflects this incoming attack while still maintaining control of the first attacker's arm.

Of course there are other situations where this position may end up occurring. However, this is what immediately occurred to me when looking at the diagram.

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Nice answer and welcome to the site ^_^ – David H. Clements Mar 20 '12 at 2:52
@DavidH.Clements Thank you! – Ben Richards Mar 23 '12 at 5:34

Postures encode a lot more than the obvious. Sometimes you'll find yourself in the middle of sparring, and you flow through a posture you've trained before. "Oh! I just did X! I didn't know I can use it like that!"

Striking and blocking are the most obvious application. The next layer beneath that relates to what you can do when you grab or use joint locks. In this posture's case, there are some sort of throws/sweeps in there.

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To add to one of the answers, blocks in two different directions, such as the mountain block in Taegeuk pal-jang, make sense in the case of defending against multiple attackers. If there are multiple threats, then you have reason to defend yourself in different directions.

You'll also see some weapon forms taking a similar stance to create a longer block using the weapon (i.e. staff forms). In the forms I've seen, it has been used as part of a longer sequence of blocking and striking.

When you look across martial arts, blocks are rarely used alone. They are often used with other blocks or strikes either before or after. The use of the stance above would depend on the context - what happens before and after.

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In my case, it's at the beginning of a form, which starts with a low block with the fist at the hip tucked in, before the arm is raised above the head. – knb Feb 19 '12 at 20:51
I think I'll accept this answer because I like that you pointed out several aspects: it can be multiple attackers, it depends on the context, and it still can belong to a weapon form. – knb Feb 22 '12 at 14:25
That's interesting. In Taegeuk Pal-Jang, the technique is done as one. What about the speed of the technique? There's usually room for interpretation in that as well, but it could also be an indication of what it may be used for. Also worth keeping in mind is that forms are usually a way of practicing techniques that would otherwise be used in a more dynamic fashion (i.e. sparring). – rcheuk Feb 23 '12 at 19:20

In Korean, I would call that santul makki or mountain block. It appears two times in Taeguk Pal Jang. It is followed (in that poomse) by a crossing shoulder grab (using the lower blocking arm) and a killing uppercut (using the raised blocking arm).

In terms of it's meaning, I would interpret as "protecting your head from an attack on your left as you move quickly inside the strike of the attacker on your right so that you can quickly disable him."

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Thanks! What a great answer!- Still, I'll wait a bit (1-2 days) for new answers coming in. – knb Feb 19 '12 at 18:19
Hm, In my picture, the guy moves the fist over his head, but in the taekwondo form, it is more a horizontal upper arm / vertical lower arm, and the fist is placed a good deal more away from the head. – knb Feb 19 '12 at 18:35
@knb, you are welcome. You aren't wrong in noticing the difference between the form and the picture. Personally, I would call that a variant that, in real life, would certainly be adapted to the situation of the moment (i.e., block high if the attack is coming high). Your mileage will obviously vary. – Bob Cross Feb 19 '12 at 21:00

This position (approximately) occurs in the first form ("discipline form") of the Shaolin Qi Shi (seven animals) style of Kung Fu that I am learning. In this form, the hands are held in eagle claw rather than closed (the position is therefore known as "low eagle"), and the upper hand is closer to the face, but it is otherwise the same.

The position occurs as one returns from a side kick to an attacker in front, and is held only momentarily - the form continues with a high and a low block with the leading hand, then a counter-strike with the upper rear hand.

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I'm rather loathe to answer this one again... However...

It's a simple defence against a kick.

Catch the leg, raise it up with the back hand. Front hand pushes opponent backwards over the extended leg.

No "blocks", no strikes. Just catch, lift, push.

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