The Eight Stances – #5 Praying Mantis Stance

The fifth stance of the eight is the Praying Mantis:

  • Weight distribution is 70% back leg and 30% front leg
  • Sit on back leg with foot at 45 degree angle.  Front leg is bent with knee turned inward to protect groin.  Front leg weight rests on ball of foot.
  • Shoulders are at 45 degree angle to target.  Arms are bent at elbow and at “fighting ready”.  Elbows are directly above knees.
  • Mantis hands can be thumb touching pointer finger, thumb touching pointer and middle fingers, or thumb touching all fingers.  Wrist is relaxed and bent.
  • Back is straight and slightly rounded.
  • Eyes look over knuckles of front hand

Tang Lang - FrontTang Lang - SideTang Lang - Back

The Eight Stances – #4 Dragon Stance

The fourth stance of the eight is the Dragon Stance:

  • Twist to the left or right and sink down in this low stance
  • 70% of weight on front leg – 30% on back leg
  • Back knee gets very close to touching achilles tendon of front leg
  • Front arm bent at elbow and palm is facing outward.
  • Rear arm is protecting armpit/ribs area with fingers facing up
  • Eyes are looking underneath front arm
  • Keep back straight, but slightly rounded
  • Rear foot heal is off the ground and weight is on toes

Dragon - FrontDragon - SideDragon - Back

The Eight Stances – #3 Empty Stance

The third of the eight stances is the Empty Stance:

  • Virtually all bodyweight rests on the back leg – rear foot is at 45 degree angle 
  • Front foot is on its heal with toes pointing up and slightly inward
  • Front arm is bent, elbow facing down, hands open and eyesight gazed between thumb and fingers
  • Back arm is bent with hand nearby front arm’s elbow
  • Shoulders are at 45 degree angle to front

Empty Stance - FrontEmpty Stance - SideEmpty Stance - back

The Eight Stances – #2 Forward Bow Stance

The second stance of the eight is the Forward Bow.

  • Front leg is bent and stance is low enough whereby your knee blocks your eyes from seeing the toes.  Front thigh is parallel to ground in low stance.  Back leg is almost straight.
  • Front knee is directly above the heel – not too far forward, nor too far back
  • Front foot is facing forward, but slighting turned in.  Rear foot is at 45 degree angle from direction of punch.
  • Eyes look over the knuckles of the front fists
  • Arms are bent and relaxed – parallel to the ground and punching out with tight fists.
  • Weight is distributed 60% to the front leg and 40% to the back.
  • Head is held gently upright, as if suspended by a string from above.

Forward Bow - FrontForward Bow - SideForward Bow - Back

The Eight Stances – #1 Horse Stance

The first stance of the eight is the Horse Stance.

  • Imagine the position of your lower body when riding a horse and that’s how the lower body should sit in the stance.
  • Toes point forward – almost inward – and the kneecaps spread outward somewhat.
  • Eyes look over knuckles of the front fist
  • Weight is spread evenly between the left and right legs (50-50) and the muscles of both the thighs and rump should be used to hold the stance
  • Back is relaxed, mostly straight, and perpendicular to the ground

Horse Stance - FrontHorse Stance - SideIMG_1515

The Eight Stances – A Brief Summary

Dragon Stance

The 8 Stances are a highly important part of your training – particularly the training of tung lung (praying mantis).  The purpose of stance training is to develop leg strength, rooting, relaxation, and the development of chi.  Additional benefits include attention to natural breathing thru the nose and mental focus.  Of course, their will be times when stances seem incredibly difficult.  This is to be expected and one of the reasons why Chinese martial arts took the name of ‘kung fu’, which means “hard work”.

A few things to consider when training the 8 stances.  First, your upper body must remain as vertical (perpendicular to the ground) as possible.  Leaning either forward or backward creates a few problems including unwanted tightness, incorrect body alignment, and  less than perfect balance.  Practicing the stances at home in front of a mirror can help ensure proper posture.

Second, focus your mind on relaxing your muscles.  The upper body muscles are the easiest to  relax during stance training – although for some, all relaxation is difficult when holding low stances.  There should be no tension.  Relaxing the muscles of the lower body requires much more practice and mental focus.  Shaking legs from exhaustion is a common and expected reaction when holding low stances for extended amounts of time.  This does not mean it’s time to break your stance!

You must overcome the desire to break your stance and rise up or lower your stance to alleviate the pain.  Find a stead point to fix your gaze and control your breathing.  Relax your mind and just focus on what you’re gazing at and try not to recognize the exhaustion of your leg muscles.  Eventually, the “burn” will subside and you will feel a combination of incredible body warmth and blood flow.  Martial arts masters thru the ages believe this to be “chi” or the “life force” to be flowing through your body.  This sensation develops explosive power and speed and will accelerate your progress.

Third, pay strict attention to the proper weighting of each stance.  Some require the weight to be equally distributed between the feet, while some require the weight of the stance to be on only one foot.  This also asks the practitioner to be cognizant of where the weight is to rest on the sole of the foot.  It should be evenly distributed on the entire foot when the entire foot is on the ground.  Feel your toes gripping into the ground.

Fourth, sink your weight and lower your stance as low as possible while keeping correct posture and relaxed muscles.  Low stance training is similar to kicking training.  Most kicks used in sparring are waist level and lower, but when practicing kicks we kick as high and hard as possible.  Most stances used in sparring aren’t super low, but when practicing stances and doing forms we keep as low a stance as possible.

Lastly, the 8 Stances are a part of your training that can easily be done at home or anywhere you find time to train.  Start off with 5 seconds per side for each stance.  Continue doing that daily for a few weeks and then bump it up to 10 second per side for each stance.  Continue this kind of progression until you can do each stance for a minute each side.