Training Questions?

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Training Questions?

Postby Tye Botting » Tue Oct 19, 2004 10:32 pm

Just wondering if anyone at the Bryan/College Station school has any training questions for me, since I haven't seen you all in so long (or ever yet, right Ross?)

So, is there anything you would like to ask or want some advice on? I'm here for you for just that reason, so don't be shy. I may not see you all that often anymore, but I still consider you all my students and I want to help if I can.

So ask away! (If I haven't met you, just put a brief intro first, and then ask away)
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Postby R O Dubl S » Wed Oct 20, 2004 1:12 am

I guess as an intro, I will just tell you a little about myself. I am a sophomore accounting major at Texas A&M. My hometown is Beaumont, TX, which is on the gulf and near Louisianna. As far as a physical intro, I can give you my stats, I am 19 yrs old, 120 lbs., 5'8", skinny build with long legs. This is the first Martial Art that I have ever taken, although I have been interested for years, but could never find a place I was comfortable with in my hometown. I have played many sports, mainly baseball (pitcher for 7 years), tennis, golf, and basketball.

Well, the only thing I can really think of that I am having a problem with is being able to hold certain stances for a long period of time. Like Chi Ma (Horse Riding), Hsaio Teng Shan (Small Mt. Climbing), and Tso Pang/Yu Pang (Cross) always give me problems.

I can hold a Chi Ma for close to two minutes at max, but after, my legs are super sore. I stretch adequately I believe (Sifu Rivers has helped me work on stretching), but when I am doing like Stance form, which requires holding all these different stances for lengthy periods of time, when it gets to the end, I can't hold them anymore. My form is good and all, but I just wanted to know if there was anything, whether it be a certain exercise or whatever, that I can do to work on these. I practice fairly regularly outside of class doing the stances and exercising, but I just wanna see what else I can do to improve this.
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Postby Tye Botting » Wed Oct 20, 2004 7:44 am

R O Dubl S wrote:Well, the only thing I can really think of that I am having a problem with is being able to hold certain stances for a long period of time. Like Chi Ma (Horse Riding), Hsaio Teng Shan (Small Mt. Climbing), and Tso Pang/Yu Pang (Cross) always give me problems.

I can hold a Chi Ma for close to two minutes at max, but after, my legs are super sore. I stretch adequately I believe (Sifu Rivers has helped me work on stretching), but when I am doing like Stance form, which requires holding all these different stances for lengthy periods of time, when it gets to the end, I can't hold them anymore. My form is good and all, but I just wanted to know if there was anything, whether it be a certain exercise or whatever, that I can do to work on these. I practice fairly regularly outside of class doing the stances and exercising, but I just wanna see what else I can do to improve this.


Good question, and one that could apply to just about anyone - everyone can use more practice on stances. Let me say just a couple of important things about stances that really bear repeating, even if you have heard them before. First off, stances are the base-work of everything - every bit of power you generate, every application of movement, every bit of what you do has to go through or from your structure in a stance, powered and supported by it. And as we all know, it's your basics that become most important in a real situation. What's more basic than your base? So they deserve the attention.

Having said that, remember that stances are dynamic, rather than static. Even though we work them by holding them in long periods to build our legs and connective tissue, it's really the transition from stance to stance that is the important skill. This is what generates the power for everything we do. A better translation in my mind for stances would have been "steps" or "transitions" - something to remember when you're working them or doing your techniques and forms. But you can't transition well if you don't do so from good strong stances. Still, you don't fight "from" a static stance, you don't generate power stuck in a stance... You plain don't move if you're stuck in a stance! ;-)

OK, so now we have a quick background or refresh on stance theory. On to some practical notes, and then ways to perhaps improve.

I see you didn't mention what should be the hardest stance for anyone - cat stance (or literally 'empty' stance). With the top of the rear leg parallel to the ground, it should be the hardest to hold for any length of time, or indeed even to get to at first. So make sure you aren't short-shrifting yourself on that stance. And, unfortunately, all stancework will hurt the muscles at first. ;-) It's just the nature of it - muscles don't like to be pushed, and they certainly don't like to be pushed and then held in the position of most stress for long periods. They do get used to it though, and you do get used to the type of pain (or more correctly, information) they send. We had one student who used to almost revel in it - he used to like leading the class in horse stance work, going well into the point of creating a burning, running-water type of feel in your legs on horse stance marathons. Cat stance is a particularly painful one due to its difficulty - if you can hold a rear-thigh-top-of-the-leg-parallel cat stance for any length of time, you will no doubt feel that. Then you get to see an added benefit of stance training - perserverance and general pain toughness. Pain really is just information, and need not affect the muscles controlling things; it's just really insistant information about possible impending damage - but there is none in this case, as long as you're healthy and breathing and really didn't pull a muscle or some such.

Having said all that, there are a couple things you can do to help make them come along more quickly and therefore become a bit easier. First, remember that the exact structure of the stances (i.e. depth and angles, and all other details) is more important to work than the length of time (also important, but not at the expense of the first). That is, do the stance as exactly correct as possible, then try to do it longer and longer. When you're working them on your own, pick a particular stance you want to work on in earnest and then go to it in perfect detail until that detail suffers. Stop, rest, repeat. This way you're building good habits into the muscles while still exposing them to the stress you want them to be able to deal with for longer and longer periods of time. At first, like with cat stance, this may only be for even a fraction of a second. But if you're diligent with this, then it will quickly build. If you don't do this, and you work the other way, trying to do a half-assed stance for X minutes and then try to work your way deeper and deeper, it's a much more frustrating route giving you little to no real success after some initial gain. Doing it right and then longer is much better than doing it longer and then working to be more right.

Also, you can try a couple of training tricks I used to use:

- Pick a "project stance". Concentrate on working it, either in set sessions, or just throughout the day whenever you can drop into the stance and work it, even for a little bit. I used to get up and do stances during commercials when I watched TV, and eventually worked them up to a point where I did the whole stance form over the course over the course of a 1/2 hour show (works out to about 2mins apiece, in succession without stopping). Initially for the commercial work, I'd just pick a single one and try to work it throughout the commercial break, resting for a couple of quick seconds if my form and exactness suffered too much, then going right back down into it.

- Work them with weights. Since I lift, I sometimes would work my horse riding stance at the end of a squat session, by taking a weight I could squat for like 8-12 reps and simply holding the bottom position of the squat (top of legs parallel with the ground, which also happens to be competition legal squat depth) for as long as I could. Just playing around with this, I think my best was 255lbs for 55 seonds.

- Don't stop when your legs get "the wobblies" or when you get that burning pain. Always go longer, even if it's one second. Try to increase the length into the pain that you can go. This will push you past plateaus and really speed up your stance gains, and improve your overall toughness.

Hope some of this helps, and good luck!
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Postby Tye Botting » Wed Oct 20, 2004 9:22 am

Some other points...

Heels down - the way we generate our power, unlike some other styles, is through the point of our heel concentrating our base to take advantage of our hips and legs without the added spring of being on the balls of your feet. (Chi ma, teng shan, pu tui, and L stance (chang ding) = both heels down. Hsiao teng shan and tsao/yu peng = front foot heel down. Cat stance (hsu shih) and tu li = rear foot heel down.)

Heels in line on chi ma, teng shan, and pu tui. Hsiao teng shan and tsao/yu peng have heels on a sort of a T looking from the top; both of those also have the rear heel straight up (i.e. after balls of the feet, the rest of the foot is perpendicular to the ground from the side and front/back views). Similarly on those two, the rear thigh should be pointing down straight at the ground, almost as if it was just hanging down from your hip, while at the same time your rear shin should be parallel to the ground.

Pivot on your heels for all non-kicking motions. Pivot on the balls of your support foot for side kick and roundhouse, and be sure to put your hip into it (unlike the front kick).
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