Saturday, 25 July 2015

Yang and Yin in martial arts stances

Hello, everyone. Today's post is old news to Taijiquan students, but if you study karate at your average Western dojo (Take note: average- I know there are teachers who go the extra mile) this stuff may be news to you.

I don't know about you, but I find a tremendous amount of the classical teachings in the mythologies of Dragonball Z, martial arts films and stories.

I am going to use these stories as examples to show where the forces of Yang and Yin work in our stances.

Now- just so that we start off at the same place: In this context I am not going to talk about good and evil, light and dark and other irrelevant manifestations of this concept. The forces I am going to discuss are gravity as the Yin force and then - as the Yang Force- that force that resists it. The anti-gravity force...

If you have watched Dragonball Z you'd know that Goku flies. This levitation phenomenon was often mentioned in classical tales in the Chinese martial arts world. Having an abundance of Yang Qi is said to make the body light and able to counter the force of gravity.

This myth survived through the centuries and found its way into our movies. In Remo Williams (somewhere in the 80's) we see the master (they pulled a David Carradine move with the character, btw) running on water. Those who watched the movie can also tell you that Remo- the student- had to practice running on the beach without leaving footprints in the sand.

We saw another example of this in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon when Chow Yun Fat and Zhang Ziyi were gliding through the air, balancing on bamboo stems and just lightly touching the water surface with their feet while in flight.

In the real world- Yang stances are found in kickboxing, sports karate and boxing ("fly like a butterfly").

These stances are mostly on the balls of the feet and very mobile. 
 Bruce Lee was famous for his springy, extremely mobile fighting stance. Where kungfu (and karate) was known for their placid, firm stances Bruce broke tradition by adopting the more mobile fighting stance and teaching his students to use more active footwork when fighting.

His speed was legendary. 
Few fighters are as airborne as Taekwondo fighters! Their flying kicks use a lot of Yang Qi, whether they know it or not.

Biokineticians, however, will tell you that it is due to plyometrics and not some mysterious anti-gravity force. They are right. But then again- the ancient teachers did not have a word like that- so we can understand that they would not have written or spoken about it that way.

Bruce Lee had a simple way to activate the Yang force in the body- this:

Boxers can also tell you that a jump rope is an excellent tool with which to develop your footwork.

Now- let's look at Yin Qi...

We know that Taijiquan fighters are not as bouncy as kickboxers, but they are able to send their opponents flying.Their stances are firmly rooted with heels flat to the ground. Instead of being moved by his assailant he stays firm as his assailant is the one flying off or bouncing off him.

My Shukokai Sensei used to go into yoi stance and then ask us to try to pick him up. We never managed to push him over, pull him off balance or lift him. This firm rootedness I would later find to be described in the Chinese martial arts as a Yin skill.

Yin stances are excellent for executing throws and joint locking techniques. This is why a good understanding of Yin force is actually a must for arts like Judo and Aikido. If you do Judo- I strongly recommend that you learn Tai Chi as well. The two arts are distant cousins that are actually very much alike. Some Judo people just don't know it.  

To get an example of having more Yang energy in your stance than your opponent you can watch this video. It is one of my all-time favourite fight scenes. I am sure a lot of you like it as well:

Fighters need to move- and really fast.

Preferring Yang force over Yin is on a permanent basis is not the way to go, however. Movement can come from stillness, but something that is already in motion cannot easily be brought to move differently at short notice.

See the short bout between the Shaolin Monk and Taekwondo Champion here.

In this video the Shaolin monk is not as bouncy and the Taekwondo fighter. He moved when it was needed, but also remained still and rooted when it was necessary.

For ways of developing Yin force you do not have to look further than this particular stance: 

Whether you call it Ma Bu or Kibadachi this stance is a well known part of karate training and one of the best ways to strengthen legs that I know. Shaolin and Wudang students also learn to sink their qi when adopting this stance. The blows and kicks that are delivered from a stance like this are devastating and those who master this stance can shake their opponents about like rag dolls (maybe not that much, but they do have an advantage. ;))

One of the coolest people in the martial arts world today is the JKA's Sensei Naka Tatsuya.

I have found a video on Youtube in which he actually shows how these forces work in our stance and technique. 

See Naka Tatsuya Sensei's video here:

He does not use the words "Yang" and "Yin", but did a great job of showing how these forces work.

David Gaffney and Davidine Sim wrote in their book "Chen Style Taijiquan" about the signs of having and excess of Yin in technique and posture. Sure- Yin force is cool and makes you calm and sturdy, but when you fight you are not meditating! You need to be fast and agile as well.

Finding the balance between these forces in your stances will give you the ability to move like a jungle cat while being able to hit with the force of a speeding car. You will be able to dodge attacks while also being able to throw your opponent with ease.

Train well, everyone! 

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