Here at Calasanz Physical Arts we end up seeing and teaching a lot of students from other martial arts schools. The first thing I look for when evaluating them is a strong stance. Some have excellent stances while others are weak and wobbly. When it comes to stances it is easy to see what is effective and what is weak instantly. You can think of a stance as the architectural arrangement of your own body. In architecture, if the blueprint is good you will have a strong building that will be capable of managing gravity and will successfully maintain its structure when confronting forces from all angles. If the blueprint is poor the building will be incapable and will fail when encountering outside forces. When it comes to the structure of your body this is no different. A good stance is your foundation. It is where every motion spawns from. Without a strong foundational structure any thing growing from it, like a punch or kick, will be comparatively weak to the same punch or kick coming from a structure that is fundamentally sound. Without a good stance, all the fancy moves in the world are nothing but superfluous.
“Being grounded” means you’re 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 well 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. A karate practitioner came into our school looking for a challenge. Be aware that this is not the type of thing that only happens in the movies, as I’ve experienced a lot of this juvenile behavior over the years from plenty of guys who felt they had something to prove. This guy kept trying to sweep me off my feet and try as he might he just couldn’t. Every time he came after my leg to sweep it, I dropped into a strong, grounded horse stance. My connection with the floor was so strong, even the full force of his sweep was unable to successfully accomplish the goal.
So, How do you develop good grounding? First of all, do a lot of stance work, it is simple, if you want a good stance you must practice it as with anything else. 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 benefits that come from the simple act of holding a strong stance are often overlooked and really there is no better way to develop good grounding. The old-timers used to love to see how long they could hold a horse stance and this is really a good practice. Get into a good horse stance, do not move your feet 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. You will 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, their grounding practice develops their legs properly and naturally without the risk of serious injury.
You can also 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 within your style.
Next, pay close attention to your stances while practicing katas. Be aware of your foundational structure and 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 will grip the ground better when necessary and your supporting leg will be rooted enough so you can deliver strong kicks with precision and balance. In the end a strong stance is the best place for any martial artists to start!
Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness
507 Westport Ave, Norwalk CT 06851