I have relocated to another city a short time ago and now I am training mostly with an old disciple of my sifu. He starts the Tai chi training with practising 3 kung fu stances: Ma bu, Gong bu, Pu bu, which I found really useful for tui shou. As I researched in internet I have seen that there are more stances. I would like to ask what are these stances and why do we need them with some examples if possible?


2 Answers 2


Ma bu and gong bu are the most basic stances, and I'm sure every other martial art has them. Ma bu gets referred to as horse stance alot here. Gong bu is basically a standard attack stance. Pu bu is a bit less basic, but is great for flexibility and balance. Being able to switch between those three will create good hip flexibility and will allow you to do alot of the tai chi movements well.

Aside from ma bu, gong bu and pu bu, there's also cat stance (mao bu or xu bu). Switching between gong bu and mao bu will be necessary for getting the hang of basic dodging and building some spring in your legs.

Then there's xie bu, which is great for balance and upper leg strength. Its practical use is more limited, but I'm sure with some creativity, you'll figure out what works. Practicality aside, it's a great stance for leg workout.

This lady shows the basic stances very well in this video.

There's also a form called "Five basic stances of wushu". This image shows it pretty cleanly:

enter image description here

  • Wow, the lady in the video has an impressive flexibility.
    – Endery
    Jun 19, 2017 at 10:30
  • 1
    That's not just flexibility. It's a combination of flexibility, balance, and muscle strength, referenced to as gong li.
    – Raf
    Jun 19, 2017 at 11:04
  • 1
    There are six distinct named stances shown in "Five basic stances of wushu".
    – mattm
    Jun 19, 2017 at 19:24
  • @mattm I know. It's awesome, right? Technically speaking, the one between gong pu and tu li bu has a name too. My trainer names it whenever we have to practice it, but I won't even try to attempt writing its pinyin. djmartialarts.com/images/Wu-Bu-Quan1.jpg That chart (coincidentally from the same site) marks the actual 5 in bold letters.
    – Raf
    Jun 19, 2017 at 22:54

I am aware of two basic reasons to do stances. See Is it expected that all training stances/positions will have direct fighting applications?

  1. Stances are directly for fighting
  2. Stances are for training

Stances can be for one, the other, or both, depending on who is teaching.

Stances and variations

There are many different stances; it's probably not really practical to expect a full list. How styles use them and what points they emphasize vary substantially. Proper understanding of these differences is also frequently not possible with simple one-to-one comparisons because the training goals of one system's use of a stance may be covered by multiple other training methods in another.

That aside, here is a quick survey, focusing on points that have not been covered in your question.

  1. horse stance
    1. legs parallel to ground
    2. legs forming arch - this version is more about structure and less about muscular strength
  2. front stance
  3. drop stance
  4. cat stance - Weight is 100% on rear leg. This is for strength, balance, and protection
  5. crane stance - For balance, protection
  6. cross stance - Strength, flexibility, and leg trapping applications. There are variations both where:
    1. weight is even distributed
    2. weight is all on one foot
  7. 60-40 (4-6) stance: Weight is distributed with 60% on the rear foot and 40% on the front foot. In the bagua I have studied, this is the expected fighting stance.
  8. wuji - I don't actually know an English name for this stance. It's "normal" standing, in the sense that you can practice it without people necessarily noticing. This is for relaxation, balance, and meditation. I associate this stance with "internal" training, which is a rather controversial topic on this site both as a matter of categorization and theory.
  • 2
    Could you provide the original names of stances in pinyin, if you know them?
    – Endery
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:55

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