Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby mls_72 » Thu Nov 03, 2016 4:27 pm

According to the Yang Family website it says:

5. What is a Bow Stance?

A bow stance is like the shape of an archer's stance. Knee follows the toe direction and doesn't go past the toe. Back leg is straight but not locked. Shoulder width between feet. Forward and back feet are rooted. If feet are too narrow (not shoulders width apart) you are not stable. Back foot points to corner or 45 degrees. Weight is 60% front, 40% back.


However: I am not seeing this consistently in the form. Should it be consistent that way? because I tend to step longer that others as I can go lower than most. Which puts the knee over toe, however I've been told to: "Not let knee go past middle of foot". Knee at 'middle of foot' is very stable for me and good for push hands.

Also I always keep my stance at "hips width", I see Yang family wants shoulder width, but I have been told when doing Single whip to corner or Saber to corner, it should be more narrow almost on a line. which feels unstable to me.

Seeking Clarification. I think the stance can vary depending on circumstances. See attached images:

Image
and
Image
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:14 pm

mls_72 wrote:According to the Yang Family website it says:

5. What is a Bow Stance?

A bow stance is like the shape of an archer's stance. Knee follows the toe direction and doesn't go past the toe. Back leg is straight but not locked. Shoulder width between feet. Forward and back feet are rooted. If feet are too narrow (not shoulders width apart) you are not stable. Back foot points to corner or 45 degrees. Weight is 60% front, 40% back.


However: I am not seeing this consistently in the form. Should it be consistent that way?


Greetings! First of all, the wording seems very inconsistent in the above description for a bow stance.
Here are the examples as follow:
1. "Back leg is straight but not locked." If the back leg is straight, then it is automatically locked. To be consistent, the back leg should be bent a little bit.

2. "Forward and back feet are rooted....... Weight is 60% front, 40% back." The word "rooted" means equal weights are applied to both feet which contradicts to the "Weight is 60% front, 40% back."
Last edited by ChiDragon on Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:06 pm

mls_72 wrote:According to the Yang Family website it says:

However: I am not seeing this consistently in the form. Should it be consistent that way? because I tend to step longer that others as I can go lower than most. Which puts the knee over toe, however I've been told to: "Not let knee go past middle of foot". Knee at 'middle of foot' is very stable for me and good for push hands.


It was understood to me as a beginner, it is not to let the knee go beyond the toes to prevent applying too much stress to the knee from damage. It seems to me, during Tai Ji Quan practice, it is ok to have the knee within anywhere above the foot but not beyond the toes as indicated in figures A B C D and G. However, in handling a sword, it is a better position to have the knee in line with the toes as indicated in figures E and F.

As a general rule for the Yang style, it is always to have the arms and legs bent. The distance between the feet should not be too close or too far apart which puts one in a double-weighted position. The body weight should be distributed 1/3 toward the front between the distance of the legs.
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby global village idiot » Fri Nov 04, 2016 1:47 am

I sometimes wonder how important some of the "rules" are, and also about when certain "rules" become more or less important as we advance in the art.

Foot position, knee position relative to the feet, etc., are all important rules when starting out, for reasons we've stated here and know to be true elsewhere. And yet, we don't have to look very far to see very accomplished practitioners violating them left and right....but for the right reasons.

Take these two videos, for example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97kMU3WgmtE


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIpKW6AnKYw

The first is a Mr. Tung ignoring all sorts of rules concerning posture; and yet, he's rooted, the chi is down in the dantian where it belongs, his motion is fluid, circular and the truth is that between him and me, I know who would prevail in push-hands (HINT: it ain't me).

In the second video we see a student performing under the gaze of Fu Zhongwen; and if the student is doing anything wrong with regard to his knees, you wouldn't expect it to get past Mr. Fu.

I'm nowhere near the level of either of these two - to where I know "at the molecular level" which rules I can dispense with and which are truly fundamental, so my knees never go beyond my toes; still, it seems that there is a level of expertise (to which we can aspire if not attain) where the rules are, if not ignored, then understood in a way much different from the beginning or intermediate practitioner.

gvi
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:48 pm

global village idiot wrote:I sometimes wonder how important some of the "rules" are, and also about when certain "rules" become more or less important as we advance in the art.

Foot position, knee position relative to the feet, etc., are all important rules when starting out, for reasons we've stated here and know to be true elsewhere. And yet, we don't have to look very far to see very accomplished practitioners violating them left and right....but for the right reasons.

Foot position, knee position relative to the feet, etc., are all important rules when starting out, for reasons we've stated here and know to be true elsewhere. And yet, we don't have to look very far to see very accomplished practitioners violating them left and right....but for the right reasons.
Take these two videos, for example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97kMU3WgmtE

The first is a Mr. Tung ignoring all sorts of rules concerning posture; and yet, he's rooted, the chi is down in the dantian where it belongs, his motion is fluid, circular and the truth is that between him and me, I know who would prevail in push-hands (HINT: it ain't me).

gvi


Mr. Tung Hu Ling was a great master in the Tai Ji legend. He has great influence from the past for the future practitioners. Have you notice that his arms and legs are always bent which is the most distinctive feature of the Yang Style Tai ji? I have not encountered that Mr. Tung was ignoring any rules. Perhaps you can point them out for us.

Even a master like Mr. Tung Hu Ling, he still had a chance to be off balance which caused to jump back(see video at 5:04).

This thread is about the foot distance for the Gong Bu(弓步). Are you mixing the idea with other movements?

FYI Gong Bu was used to be called 弓箭步, the bow and arrow stance. The front bent leg is being the bow leg and the back leg is the arrow leg. Nowadays, it is just called Gong Bu for short.
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby DPasek » Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:33 pm

global village idiot wrote:I sometimes wonder how important some of the "rules" are, and also about when certain "rules" become more or less important as we advance in the art.

I think that it is important to understand the reasons for training rules, and to understand when it is appropriate to “break” those rules.

In the example of the knee in the forward bow stance, many schools use specific rules for practice that may not always need to be strictly applied, depending on the circumstances.

For wall squats – facing a wall with the toes of both feet (at body width apart) touching the base of the wall – the limit will be vertically above the toes since the wall will prevent the knees from going any farther forward. The torso should be as vertical as possible, but most practitioners will lean forward to some degree (limited by the wall so that the head never goes farther forward than the toes). There should not be any strain on the knee during this exercise.

My standard for solo form practice is different. Here I expect students to only shift as far forward as they can while maintaining their root when pulled, which for most is about the middle of the foot. Those who are good at the wall squat may be able to go as far forward as the toes if they maintain the body dynamics (hip movement) as used in the wall squats.

For health, the limit of vertically above the toes may be fine. For martial usage, for most practitioners the limit may be back farther, typically near the middle of the foot. For some weapons and fast forms, where there may be pivots on the forward weighted leg, a vertical shin may be more stable during the pivot. For styles that take a longer forward step, the limit may also be a vertical shin, depending on how low of a stance they take.

For sword usage, where the opponent will not grab and pull on the sharp sword blade (they would sustain serious cuts to their hand if they tried this), the knee vertically above the toes allows for a slightly longer extension of the weapon, which could be advantageous.

As to the width of the stance, there is also some variability, especially between styles. I was taught to be at the body width – shoulders for most men, hips for most women. But some styles may take wider stances (e.g. some Chen styles) and others may take narrower stances (e.g. Guang Ping style). Since this varies from style to style, I would not consider it to be a rule for Taijiquan in general, although there may be school specific rules to follow.

There is a compromise between stability of the stance and mobility of the hips when discussing width or length of stances. Bigger stances tend to be more stabile, but can restrict the hip mobility, and sometimes the ability to step freely and smoothly. It may come down to personal preferences, or school or style emphasis.

It can also depend on the situation you are in. Fighting a single opponent may dictate different stance preferences than otherwise. Facing someone who is strong attacking from front to back, rather than side to side, can also influence stance choices.

I think that stance choices can depend on many factors, including personal strengths, abilities and preferences.

You bring up great topics – keep them coming!
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby global village idiot » Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:12 pm

ChiDragon,

I was speaking in more general terms, which I thought were relevant to the discussion; specifically, the fact that some of the rules we typically follow in our practice may best be thought of as supporting other, much more fundamental principles.

To give one example, Mr. Tung leans forward a lot, and his head is often bent more forward - not "suspended" - than I could get away with if my instructor caught me at it.

And yet, when we look at his practice of the art, it follows the principles expressed here: http://www.scheele.org/lee/classics.html#songof13

From this we may reasonably conclude that he has advanced to such a high degree of skill that he knows when - and why - he can deviate from certain basic principles everyone must learn. He can get away with leaning way out of plumb and not having his posture "picture perfect" because he's a master of the art; I'm not, so I need to focus on the fundamentals.

It's the same thing in many areas. When we learn to play a musical instrument, we drill in fundamentals and basic technique, aiming to be as precise as we can in playing the notes in the exact way they're written. When we achieve proficiency, we have the mastery of the instrument which, combined with an understanding of expression, allow us to concentrate on communicating the art of the music and the beauty of the composition. And sometimes the needs of artistic expression require the musician to depart from the fundamentals and basic technique. This is why two people can play the same piece of music, with no mistakes, and whereas one sounds beautiful and expressive, the other sounds dry and lifeless.

It's the same thing with Mr. Tung. His expression of the art of tai chi is graceful and beautiful; whereas mine, even in the rare occasions when I don't make any major screw-ups, looks lifeless and stiff.

gvi
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:28 pm

gvi

Exactly............. 8)


Edited to add:
Well, rules were made for the beginners. Masters may break any rules as far they have reached the realm of practice.
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby Audi » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:52 am

Greetings all,

Here is my understanding of the rules for the Yang Family bow stance.

In a horse stance, the feet should be shoulder-width apart; however, a little narrower or a little wider is also acceptable, according to individual preference. Wider is more stable, but less mobile. Narrower is more mobile, but less stable. I have never heard that Yang Family style recommends bow stances with the feet almost in line.

You judge what is shoulder width by aligning the outside of the feet with the outside of the shoulders. Again, there is some leeway according to individual preference.

To form a bow stance from the above horse stance, pivot what will be the back foot 45 degrees and step straight forward with the other foot. How far you step forward is up to you, but is constrained by how low the previous stance was and the need to keep the hips level. Because of this choice, there is not a unique alignment between the angles of the feet or nor any unique imaginary line you can always draw between them.

The procedure for stepping and shifting weight involves a number of principles, but the final stance should allow you to feel rooted in both feet. This is not really possible if you allow the front knee to go beyond where you can see the toes.

I know of no rule that specifies how much the knee has to bend nor how close the knee should come to the toes. I have been taught that this can vary from posture to posture and how much energy you are sending out at that specific moment. The more energy you send out, the less the knee should bend, in accordance with how much energy it can support (cheng 撑) at that angle.

Ultimately, the real rule is about internal feeling and not really about any specific angle. If you bend the front knee too much, it will become impossible to root through the back foot. If you bend it too little, the flavor of the stance will not look sufficiently open for our style.

A related, but separate issue is where your center of balance is. This is controlled not only by how much you bend your front knee, but also by where you put your hips and how much you bend the torso.

There are physical ways to explore and test these concepts. If anyone is interested, I can try to elaborate on what I do and what I feel.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby global village idiot » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:58 pm

By all means, please do elaborate!

I've learned quite a lot through you, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's benefited from your insight and experience.

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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby Audi » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:51 am

Greetings all,

I have posted before about four ways to look at learning styles that I learned in a seminar. My post below requires that you explore all four learning styles to get the most out of it. It's hard to describe exercises accurately in print, so approaching them with these learning styles consciously in mind might make them more productive.

The four styles can be mapped onto four quadrants formed by two polarities: one between internal and external orientation and one between concrete and abstract orientation.

Someone with an external and concrete orientation likes to work with things to see how they act. We can call such a person the “tinkerer.”

Someone with an external and abstract orientation likes to examine evidence and data and make judgments about them. Let’s call such a person the “juror.”

Someone with an internal focus and abstract orientation likes to work out theories about how things behave. Let's call such a person the “theorist.”

Someone with an internal focus and concrete orientation likes to problem solve. Let’s call such a person the “engineer.”

Apply all four approaches to the exercise I describe below to ensure you get the most out of them

First, if you would like to test your bow stance, make sure you have a feel for “thrusting” and “supporting.” In other words, make sure you can actually use the stance.

Stand in a horse stance (with the feet in line and parallel to each other) with the feet about one and a half shoulder-widths apart. First, make sure you know what you shouldn't do. Relax your hips and lower back. Look down and see that your nose and navel are in the right-and-left center between your feet. While alternatingly bending and unbending your legs, you should be able to see that your nose and navel do not have to move left and right at all. This shows that you cannot merely rely on bending your knee to form the posture correctly. In other words, straightening a leg and thrusting with it are not the same thing.

Try another incorrect way. Simply “relax” and lean your torso to the right and bend the right knee to receive the weight. This time you will shift the weight to the right, and your nose and navel will no longer be in the center. This method, however, yields no power.

Now try putting the energy of a drawn bow into your legs, keeping your lower back and hip joints open. Then push down hard against the ground like pushing down on the pedals of a bicycle. Depending on how you do this, you should be able to launch the body from side to side. This is basically “thrusting” (deng1). Try it alternating while alternating legs.

Next, as you thrust, prepare your other leg to receive the energy like a spring. It should feel like the legs are no longer two systems, but one. This is “supporting” (cheng1). After experimenting, you should feel that you are in total control of the transfer of the energy between your legs and that this transfer is very powerful. You can reverse direction at any moment, and both feet feel as if they are rooted and can increase the pressure on the ground at will.

Now stand in the bow stance we use at the end of Single Whip, Ward Off Right, and Fan Through the Back because there is both forward and rearward energy. This is a bow stance without much of a forward torso lean. You should have approximately 60 percent of the weight on the left leg and 40 percent on the back leg. Your hips and torso should be very open to the right, beyond a 45-degree angle. The left knee should be in a position that is between vertically over the ankle and vertically over the toes. If you do this right, you should feel significantly more weight on the left leg, but a substantial amount of weight on the right leg. If you were to weigh 200 pounds (90 kg), then you should have a full 80 pounds (36 kg) on the right leg.

Now try a “non-standard” bow stance. Keep the weight distribution the same, but bend the right knee a lot so that you can comfortably keep the spine vertical, the butt dropped, and the lower back open. Make sure that the crotch is rounded so that the knees point away from each other and the right knee points in the direction of the right toes. This stance meets of all of our basic Tai Chi requirements, but doesn’t meet our style requirements. Don’t worry if other styles have other requirement or other training methods. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Next, keeping everything else the same, let’s try to do our “standard” bow stance that has a forward torso lean. Straighten the back knee and lean forward in the direction of the front toes while squaring the shoulders to the front (the direction your forward toes are pointing to). Your hips should close slightly to the left, but should not end up square to the front like the shoulders. Most people actively doing this lean will end up somewhat top heavy, with too much weight over the forward leg. One reason for this mistake is that they unconsciously establish a pivot point in the back knee or in some point between the back knee and the back hip.

Go back to the position with a vertical spine and a bent back knee. This time, straighten the back knee, lean forward, and square the shoulders, but while using somewhere around the Dantian as the pivot point. This means that as some of the upper torso goes further forward ahead of the pivot point, some of the lower torso, pelvis, and butt should go further backward behind the pivot point. Since the pivot point is moving forward, this does not mean that that the lower torso literally has to make backward with respect to the ground. Make sure you allow the hip sockets to be loose and free to adjust as necessary. If you experiment with this, you should feel that you still have a great deal of weight on the back leg. Your left knee will be slightly bent, but without the knee going over the toes, and your back leg with be naturally straight.

What is “naturally straight”? Stand up and try taking a small vertical jump. Do you straighten your legs? (Yes! More or less.) Do your worry in the slightest about not locking the knees? (No!) Do you feel that the knees come close to feeling locked? (No!) Do you consciously reserve some energy in your legs to prevent them from being locked? (No!). Bring this same feeling into the bow stance, thrust the body forward without thinking precisely about the shape of the back knee, and make the posture as open as possible. Don’t memorize a position for the back knee, but rather let the energy determine it.

How much of a torso lean is necessary? This depends on your own feeling. The idea is to lean far enough forward so that you can clearly feel the lower back open and so that you can feel that your abdominal breathing is not affected by pressure on the lower back. An external, and therefore only approximate, guidepost is to keep the back and the back leg in one line.

Check your “thrusting” and “supporting.” Can you rapidly and powerfully rock an inch or so backward and forward, with only minimal changes in your joints, alternating the pressure between your feet and the ground? Keep bow-like stiffness in the legs, but allowing the joints to change slightly to accommodate the rocking. If you cannot press against the ground with your back foot, your front leg is probably too far forward, You should always feel able to press either foot into the ground. If either foot is near weightless, other than instantaneously as you rock, your posture is incorrect.

If you have some success so far, you can try a partner exercise. Put yourself in the final position of Brush Left Knee with the appropriate forward lean, using all of what you have learned so far. Make sure that your partner is not trying to compete with you, train him or herself at your expense, or help you so much that you cannot tell whether you are doing things correctly. Have your partner grab your right wrist in a handshake grip using their right hand. Have them pull steadily harder, while you relax your right arm completely. You should be able to set up an equilibrium in which they are trying to pull you forward in the direction of your left toes, but you do not leave your stance.

One way to maintain your stance is by trying to lean back and resist their pull. This is not what we want you to train to do. To tell whether are making this mistake, ask your partner to suddenly release your wrist without warning. If you stagger backward, this is your resisting force manifesting itself. If, however, you can more or less maintain your posture and forward lean, then you are doing it correctly.

If you have difficulty with a strong pull, check to see if your posture is setting up a pivot point in your left foot. Once you feel this, your opponent is in charge of your posture and you are at a major disadvantage. Instead of this feeling, see if you can keep your right arm limp in your opponent’s pull so that they supply all the energy, while, at the same time, you have a feeling that you are opening the lower back to tilt your butt toward your back heel and putting more weight on your back foot and on your straight back leg. If you can maintain the equilibrium in this fashion, then you are at an advantage.


At this point, verify what happens if you tense your right arm and trying to pull back, using the same motion as a biceps curl. If you do this, your right arm will immediately become full with energy, your legs will become empty, and you will pull yourself forward out of your stance.

Instead of leaving your stance, see if you can keep your right arm completely relaxed and then calmly and slowly reach forward with your left arm and pull or pry your right wrist free while keeping your stance stable. Since your opponent should be “full” as they maintain the equilibrium, freeing your arm with the force not involved in the equilibrium should be fairly easy.

It should feel that your stance has set up an energy dynamic to counter your much or all of your opponent’s pull without your conscious management. If you have to do it yourself, there is no dynamic. By definition, a dynamic should have a tendency to proceed in a certain fashion. If you have to make all this happen yourself, then there is no tendency and no dynamic. All you should do is choose which dynamic to bring into play.

If you can manage to free your hand without too much difficulty, next try to bring this feeling into a version of Play the Pipa/Guitar or Needle at Sea Bottom if you have some skill with applications. Before you try these moves, verify that if you yield to even a strong pull, you can use your loosened lower back to guide the pull into a circle using your now stable stance, and then pull your opponent back towards you quite strongly. If you can gain this ability, these postures should feel quite stable and under your control.

Let me know if you have any questions or any success with these exercises. I hope I have been reasonably clear and that they may be of some help.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:49 pm

mls_72 wrote: Back foot points to corner or 45 degrees. Weight is 60% front, 40% back.
Image

In this figure, it seems to me that the front foot should be black or ",solid" and the back foot should be grey or ",hollow".

Let's analyse the distance between the feet in each figure.
A. At this distance, it is OK for the body weight to shift forward and backward. However, it is too narrow of a margin to make circular motion with the hip. It is because the upper body is very unstable while the hip is turning.

B. It give plenty of margin for the hip to make circular motion.

C and D. If the body weight was shifted backward, the bending angle of the front knee tends to be increased. It puts the front leg into a straight position which is locks the knee. At the same time, it puts the body in a "double-weighted" situation. At this instance, the body had lost its ability and hesitated to have a swift transition for the next move.

Please note that I am not saying which figure is correct; but I'm just evaluate its effect under different circumstances.



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Re: Gong Bu: Lengths and Widths

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:53 pm

mls_72 wrote: Back foot points to corner or 45 degrees. Weight is 60% front, 40% back.
Image

In this figure, it seems to me that the front foot should be black or ",solid" and the back foot should be grey or ",hollow".

Let's analyse the distance between the feet in each figure.
A. At this distance, it is OK for the body weight to shift forward and backward. However, it is too narrow of a margin to make circular motion with the hip. It is because the upper body is very unstable while the hip is turning.

B. It give plenty of margin for the hip to make circular motion.

C and D. If the body weight was shifted backward, the bending angle of the front knee tends to be increased. It puts the front leg into a straight position. In the worse case, it puts the knee in the lock position. It also forced the body to be in an undesirable "double-weighted" situation. At this instance, the body had lost its ability and hesitated to have a swift transition for the next move.

Please note that I am not saying which figure is correct; but I'm just evaluate its effect under different circumstances.



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