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).