Kung Fu Stances You Must Know (with Chinese Names)

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At Face Dragons we know that martial arts are a great way to teach both mental and physical fortitude but before you can become the next Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, you need to know the kung fu stances. Fighting stances are the the most fundamental aspect of martial arts training and the first thing you practice when learning kung fu.

Luckily there is a form designed to teach you the basic kung fu stances – Wu Bu Quan. You can even learn this at home.

Wu Bu Quan 五步拳 (wǔ bù quán) The Five Shaolin Kung Fu Stances

One of the first kung fu forms I ever learned as a child was Wu Bu Quan, literally “five step fist.” It was also the first form taught when I trained at the London Shaolin UK under Shi Yanzi. But I’ve also seen it practiced throughout China and at the Shaolin Temple.

The purpose of this short form is to teach the student five commonly used stances so that he or she will be ready for further study. So lace up your favorite kung fu shoes and let’s get started.

Bow Stance 弓步 (gōng bù)

The bow stance is long and about shoulder width wide. The front leg should be bent at about 90 degrees and the back leg should br straight with the back foot flat on the floor.

Horse Stance 马步 (mǎ bù)

Horse stance is often used as a training technique to strengthen the legs. If you can stand in horse stance for 5 minutes, you’ve got gong fu!

Horse stances are done at differring widths, however in a Northern style, like Shaolin, it’s quite wide. The ideal height of a horse stance is also debatable. If you’re just training for leg stregnth, you want your thighs to be parralel to the ground. My master would put a wooden staff on my thighs to make sure they were level.

However, when you are moving through a form or using a horse stance to perform a technique, you won’t alsway need to go that low.

Resting Stance 歇步 (xiē bù)

The name resting stance may be a little confusing, especially if you find it difficult to get down into this tight kung fu stance. FOr anyone who isn’t very flexible, this stance won’t feel like a rest!

Crouching Stance 仆步 (pú bù)

Put a red sunset behind someone performing this stance and you have a kung fu picture made in Heaven. You’ll find pu bu, the crouching stance in many styles of kung fu and tai chi, so it’s a useful one to learn.

You need some flexibility to get down into this stance, so warm up and stretch your hamstrings out before you start practising. If you can get your butt to the ground, you’ll get extra “kung fu cred.”

Empty Stance 虚步 (xū bù)

You may wonder about how useful this one-legged stance really is, but if you watch muay thai kickboxers fight, you’ll see they often use this exact stance. The empty front leg makes it easy to avoid the low kicks that are so common in muay thai and MMA.

Other Stances

These are some of the fundamental kung fu stances everyone should learn when they first venture into Chinese martial arts, but there are plenty more stances to learn. Many of the following stances are specialized to one specific style of kung fu.

  • Post Stance 丁步 (dīng bù)
  • One Legged Stance 独立步 (dú lì bù)
  • Walking Stance 散步 (sàn bù)
  • Riding the Dragon Stance 骑龙步 (qí lóng bù)
  • Seven Star Stance 七星步 (qī xīng bù)
  • Meditation Stance 坐盘步 (zuò pán bù)
  • Kneeling Tiger Stance 仆虎步 (pú hǔ bù)
  • Monkey Stance 猴步 (hóu bù)
  • Cat Stance 猫步 (māo bù)
  • Snake Stance 蛇步 (shé bù)
  • Drunken Stance 醉步 (zuì bù)

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