Today’s class will build upon the foundational strikes learned in the previous class by adding in an important stance transition; the movement from Horse Stance to Bow Stance.
Key to performing this transition properly is the coordination of the lower and upper body. In Shaolin Kung Fu, this full-body coordination is is detailed by what is known as the “Three External Harmonies” (外三合, Wài Sān Hé). These Three External Harmonies form half of the Six Harmonies (六合, Liù Hé) which are a vital concept in traditional Shaolin martial arts.
These Three External Harmonies consist of:
手与足合 (Hands and feet together),
肘与膝合 (Elbows and knees together)，
肩与胯合 (Shoulders and hips together).
When applied to the transition from Horse Stance to Bow Stance, these Three External Harmonies in practice mean that the full body must be linked and coordinated behind your strike. For example, when practicing the first movement of today’s class (Bow Stance Straight Punch), your hips and shoulders should roll slightly in synchronisation at the start of the strike, then snap straight at the same time at the conclusion of the punch. Meanwhile, the front elbow and back knee both twist and straighten in coordination during the punch, whilst the hands and feet link together in a screwing motion which propels the punch forwards.
Meanwhile, the Three Internal Harmonies (内三合, Nèi Sān Hé) are equally as important here as you begin adding complete full-body movements into your training. These consist of:
心与意合 (Heart and mind together),
意与气合 (Mind and qi together),
气与力合 (Qi and power together).
This concept when applied to your practice means that your focus, intention, breath and will are all acting as a single unit. Your heart and your mind working together means that your focus and intention are in harmony without doubt or hesitation, acting naturally and instinctively. Your mind and your qi working together means that your intention synchronises with your breath, with each inhale and exhale coordinated with the movements of contracting and expanding, rising and falling, defending and attacking, retreating and advancing etc. Your qi and your power in unison means that your breath unlocks the full potential of your whole-body power generation, releasing your power at the appropriate intervals in a controlled manner.
Although these concepts form a fundamental part of Shaolin Kung Fu, they are advanced ideas which won’t be integrated fully into your training overnight. Try contemplating these principles and bearing them in mind as you practice; with careful study and diligent training, your training will naturally start to acquire these qualities over time.
Today’s training takes you through three basic bow stance movements; the Straight Punch, the Block and Chop and the Elbow Strike. Try following along with each movement slowly at your own pace to begin with, then once you are comfortable with the movements, try the following:
20 Bow Stance Straight Punches
20 Bow Stance Block and Chop
20 Bow Stance Elbow Strikes
Once you’ve finished this, feel free to rest and repeat the exercises for as many times as you’re comfortable with.
Good luck, and see you in the next class!