Horse stance training is very important in Kung Fu, especially the southern systems of Shaolin. Most of the old timers keep talking about how hard they trained in the old days. It sounds as though only in the “old days” were people working hard. Today’s kung fu practitioners are not as good as those of long ago. Can this really be true?
When I was a beginner student at the San Francisco Hung Sing School under the teaching of late grandmaster Lau Bun, I only did the horse stance training for about six weeks. That was because I had a previous kung fu background. However, I had heard the other students discussing how in the old days everybody trained the horse stance at least for six months. I believed this for long time because I had not seen the previous students training and practicing. But all the students who began their training at the same time as I did (and even afterward) did not train the horse stance for that long. There were some who were made to train the horse stance for six months and longer because they did not attend classes regularly.
I interviewed some of my elder Sihings (senior classmates) privately later. These people were older than me by age and had training at least five to ten years before my time. I found out that they had not trained the horse stance for six month either and that their older classmates had told them the same tale about how the training was harder in the gold daysh. So it was clear to me that only the talk was handed down from the good “old days”! Of course, some of the hard working and serious students did take a good amount of time to learn and train their horse stances correctly, but that was only one out of the hundreds.
The choy li fut kung fu horse stance form is called the Ng Lun Ma (Five Wheel Stances). The reason it is called Five Wheel is because wheel or lun in Cantonese means one round, similar to the next round, the next turn or taking turns. The choy li fut kung fu only holds each stance for few seconds, which takes up to two hours to complete the whole horse stance form. Most the schools only have their students practice the stance form by holding each posture for only one second.
For the past three years when I was visiting China frequently, I came across many choy li fut schools which don’t teach the traditional choy li fut horse stance forms anymore. Some schools just pick out few of the main stances to work with their students. Some instructors made their students do horse sitting for long time as the other southern Shaolin kung fu systems do but those instructors did not have many students studying with them. Again, those instructors told the students that in the “old days”, they had to hold the horse stance standing position for an extended period of time before they could learn any kung fu forms.
Is it necessary or important to hold the horse stance position for a long time? My answer is NO. There were three reasons that the “old days” had to make kung fu students to hold the stance for long time: 1) to test whether the students had the patience for learning kung fu or not. 2) the instructor didn’t have enough teaching material to hold the students’ attention for a long enough period of time for him to make a living. 3) to test the students’ sincerity and morality before he handed down the arts to him. I believe only holding one stance position for a long period is wasting time. You must practice the stances to build up the leg muscles and at the same time you can learn other fighting techniques as well. When the practitioner only practices horse stance then only the horse stance has power. Once he moves to a different stance the muscles are not the same. He can lose his balance and the opponent can attack him at that moment. Therefore, I say it is important to practice the stances, but not necessary to hold one stance for too long of time.
Finally, you take a look at the best fighters in the world, I don’t believe that holding horse stance position for a long time is what made them a fighting champion!
September 2008 Inside Kung-Fu
Source: Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.
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