We teach a lot of students from other martial art schools. The first thing I look for when evaluating them is a strong stance. Some have excellent stances while others are weak and wobbly. A good stance is your foundation. Without a good stance, all the fancy moves in the world are useless.
“Being grounded” means your connected to the earth. In martial arts, grounding is your ability to grip the floor or the ground beneath you in a good, solid stance. If you are grounded, it’s harder for your opponent to throw you down or knock you off balance.
I recall an incident many years ago in my Wing Chun class in Chinatown, NY where a karate practitioner came into our school wanting to fight one of us. Please don’t think that this only happens in the movies, as I’ve experienced a lot of this juvenile behavior over the years from lots of guys who felt they had something to prove. This guy kept trying to sweep me off my feet and he just couldn’t. Every time he came after my leg to sweep it, I dropped into a strong, grounded horse stance, making his mission impossible.
How do you develop good grounding? First of all, do a lot of stance work. The biggest mistake a lot of new martial artists make is to quickly learn their basic stances and then never pay attention to them. Practicing stances, both stationary and moving (forwards and backwards) should be done routinely.
The old-timers loved to see how long they could hold a horse stance. Get into a horse stance and watch the clock. See how long you can hold it until your legs literally start to shake and you feel like you just can’t take it anymore. Log your time and work on increasing your time. See how strong your legs get and how powerful your stance becomes. Remember, martial artists who practice grounding exercises don’t need to do squats, leg curls or leg extensions in a gym.
Practice your stance work with a partner. Get into a stance and have your partner try to get you off balance. This will test the strength of your stance. Another exercise I like to do at my school is to have one partner push their opponent, while he or she drops into a strong stance. This gets you accustomed to grounding while in motion. You can practice this with any basic stance in your style.
Next, pay close attention to your stances while practicing katas. Make sure that with each transition, your stances are strong and grounded. Putting some effort behind your stances not only improves your katas, but you’ll notice that you have more control over your legwork when fighting. You’ll grip the ground better when necessary and your supporting leg will be rooted enough so you can deliver strong kicks with precision and balance.