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Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:24 pm
by mls_72
As the weather begins to more and more toward cold fall/winter mornings, I am inclined to find better ways to staying warm. Regular form practice is not enough even though one way does seem to help generate a lot of heat: low stance Taiji Gong Bu (Bow stance).

As a general rule I do not allow my knee to go past the mid-point of the foot.


However there is good and bad thing about low stance training.

1. definitely builds up body heat
2. If your flexible it can be very challenging and assist strength conditioning
(similar to Warrior 1 and 2 from Hatha Yoga)
3. Trains your gong fu.
4. challenges your stepping and balance.

1. in cases of weakness it is a knee killer.
2. harder to separate weight when stepping.
3. tense up more trying to use strength in the separation of weight (hinder qi flow)
4. By mid-way in the Long form your ready to quit from legs burning.

Low gong bu in Yang Taijiquan form training:

First I want to talk a bit about "Gong bu" as it is a classical stance from many of the styles of gong fu, Long fist (Chang Chuan/Chanquan) in particular.
Many legendary founders of IMA (Internal Martial Arts ie. Taijiquan, Baguzhang, Xingyiquan) in the olden times came from a more Traditional background of having studied some form of long boxing whether Shaolin or another style taught in the village. Yang Lu Chan was reported to have possibly learned some local village form of Shaolin Hongquan, a type of Long boxing that uses classical stances like Ma bu, Gong Bu, Shi bu, Pu bu, Xie bu (horse stance, bow stance, empty stance, drop stance, cross stance) before learning Chen style.

Today's Taijiquan uses a modified variation of these stances. The older classical Long fist styles have a very fast tempo with often a 'stop and go' approach to stance work and postures while Taijiquan has a clear smooth transition and even pace in the execution of it's movements between postures. We also know that Longfist makes one breathe harder and creates heavy exhaustive breathing from jumping and kicking, while Taijiquan is relaxed and allows the practitioner to breath calmly and deep from the Tan Tien. There is no doubt however that these stances are the foundation of the skills in the 1st generation of Taijiquan masters and many other masters had studied martial arts before going into "Internal" training. That type of hard training is called "Gong Li" Li being the strength of bones and muscles. There are even stories and pictures old masters training Taiji stances under a table.

Yang Taijiquan "Da jia" or Large Frame also uses a modified 'Gong Bu' but without the depth of a Longfist practitioner. However when on one of my visits to Mainland China, I did see a younger group practicing the Traditional Yang form at a very low stance similar to the classical Gong Bu one morning in the park.



So where am I going with all of this? well what is the standard level for low stance work in Yang Taijiquan? I would assume that it would be not to low as to compromise root, cause inability to properly execute the separation of weight (full/empty), and cause inability to properly discharge jin (internal force).


Re: Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:11 am
by Audi
Hi Matt,

Very interesting post and nice illustrations.

I don't know very much about who is supposed to undergo this type of training nowadays. I seem to recall someone posting a video of Fu Zhongwen or Fu Shengyuan with a young student doing the form with low stances. I thought the desired standard was to have the thighs parallel to the ground.

I personally do not try to practice the form in this way. My legs are too weak and my knees too old. I do sometimes use somewhat low stances in push hands practice, but that is another matter. I do believe that low stances can be a good way to train basic gongfu; however, most of what I have seen in person I have not particular liked. I think consistently practicing with a low form without close supervision creates a strong temptation to push the form in a way that loses some of its flavor. Even so, I think that with proper supervision, it can be a good way for younger folk to experience a more physical challenge and to train in a more obviously martial way. For folk like me, who are no longer young, I think it might be more beneficial to do push hands, fajin, and standing meditation to experience more martially oriented training. Others may have different opinions.

Take care,

Re: Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:42 pm
by mls_72
Thanks for the reply Audi.

here is a video performing part of the first section about as low as I comfortably can without deviating from the principles and separating the weight. By the end I was most definitely warm and able to deal with the cold temperature.

Found this version of a practitioner doing a really really low form from the Yang Pan Hou side of Yang Taijiquan.

Re: Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:43 am
by Audi
Hi Matt,

Very nice. I see not only clear weight separation, but a separation of empty and full in the energy as well. It is also interesting to see a slightly different flavor in the movement of the torso.

Take care,

Re: Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 8:38 am
by Richful
Hi Matt,

I'm new here, been practicing for a few years though :)
The main issue I find with low stance training is flexibility and openness of the kua. Maintaining correct posture in the spine with the cocyx pointing straight down etc, while doing low stances requires great flexibility in the hip-flexor, otherwise they cause your pelvis to tilt back and your butt to stick out. I've been aiming at lower stances too so I stretch everything in isolation before practicing the form, that way you're not loading the muscle you want to stretch.
My 2c :)
Good luck training.


Re: Depth of Taiji Gong Bu?

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:27 pm
by mls_72

Yes, i agree hip flexors require great flexibility and many stretching drills. there are a wide variety of stretches I was taught in Chang Chuan or "Long fist" that will stretch these.
1. wall stretching,
2. dynamic stretching,
3. static stretching,
4. ballistic stretching,
5. floor stretching,
6. and partner stretching.

The low gong bu Taijiquan, I call "Winter Bear training" based on the Bear animal frolic i learned from a teacher that helps with raising the BMR (Basal metabolic rate). Low stances will raise body temperature, the bear inspired exercises use low horse stance-like squats and gong bu to warm body in cold day.

other wise no need to do low stances in spring, summer, and fall when the weather is less extreme.