** Back from Taiwan and on Canadian soil I am fighting jet lag and working on a new retreat for myself. A great little place, boat access only – so when I wanna be alone and train I can be. Alone time means writing for me so I thought I would share an excerpt from the nearly finished Shaolin 18 Lohan Palm Book I am working on…
Movement 3: Sit (on the) horse three horizontal palms (Pics 89 – 97)
Once the Ma Bu (Horse stance) is settled in to the right hand moves into position with the palm of the hand, still held in the Ox Tongue Palm, rests on the body gently just below Dantien. The inflation of the inhalation of breath during this cycle of breathing during the form will determine the movement of the hand. As the belly expands in the Buddhist breathing style the hand rises upwards to the heart or middle Dantien. (89-90)
Horse Stance (Ma Bu)
This fundamental of Chinese Martial Arts is often learned early in ones martial career and rarely reflected on in depth later on. This is the first appearance of the stance in the form and it is worth taking a look at its requirements for self evaluation.
- Weight 50 / 50
- Stand tall like the monkey – sink the chest and lift the back, lower tailbone.
- Tailbone pointed between the heels. Do not tuck the pelvis too much.
- Weight centered in the feet at yongquan (bubbling well).
- Create the archway of the crotch (Dang):
Imagine sitting on a large exercise ball with your feet flat on the ground. As your weight settles downward the ball expands and pushes the knees outward. This rounds out the entire inside of the legs into an arch.
- Knees above the feet.
- Ground do not Root:
The english word “root” implies to a native speaker the image of a tree growing upward while its mighty roots dig into the earth. This tends to make people either soften too much until they are barely standing but rather are sitting on their legs or they tighten their thighs to hold their weight and “hold” to the ground. Even once the natural softening of the body happens in static posture training, the mind has been training just as long with it’s ideas about the word “root”. This idea of becoming immovable penetrates the stance eventually just like any other error can in training. Trying to root like a tree or become like an object that proves immovable will transform your bodys reactions to your thoughts as ‘try to never be moved’.
The issue with this is twofold. First the idea of trying to not be moved is creating conflict with the opponent and is double heavy (force on force). This results in conflict where luck and strength are the major factors reather than skill. A yang incoming force should be dealt with by Yin and vice versa. The metaphor of the tree plus the idea “try to not be moved” is also at odds with itself and the stance. Neither trees nor mountains try to remain still. They are still. Try to move them as you like but its nature is to remain still and as such they are very difficult to move. Not the same as “trying” for a result.
Second, the name of the stance itself implies its intentions. Ma directly translates to Horse and Bu is normally translated as “stance” but more accurately as “step”. The animalistic nature of a horse, even a well trained one coupled with how it steps or stands implied in the name gives it a living breathing quality – “Stand like a horse stands.” Trying to push over a horse is futile when it chooses to stand and as a prey animal it is always scanning the horizon and ready to run at any moment from a predator. You are the horse, you are not riding one.
This means the Horse Stance needs to have these qualities as well for martial or qigong benefit. The activation of the entire body in this way to be soft, supple, powerful, and yet ready to step at any instant brings a visceral sense of the body when readied and so brings many more relationships into play mental and physical.