Hung Gar is known for its strong, stable stances and puts much emphasis on stance training. Needles to say that stance training is considered to be an extremely important part of Hung Gar and their importance cannot be stressed enough. They are the foundations of all techniques and movements, as well as being one of the most important key elements to the successful progression and advancement in the art. Contrary to what some modern martial artist may think, stance training is a must and the proper training and development of stances is crucial to any Hung Gar practitioner.
In the past, Hung Gar students were encouraged and devoted much of their time to the training of stances. Traditionally it was a common practice for the beginning students to spend anything from six months to one year of solid stance work alone before they were allowed to learn anything else. Day after day the student was required to assume a low horse stance - sei ping ma and hold this position for extensively long periods of time. This time period was usually ranging anything from the burning of one- incense stick to three-incense sticks, which in total is about 3 hours. In the modern times of today, this kind of training is rarely done or seen anymore. There are variety of reasons why most modern martial artist don't bother with such gruelling training anymore most of which usually comes down to change of times, way of living, personal attitudes and needs. In some peoples case pure laziness and lack of patience. The fact of the matter is, despite its extreme importance, most martial artist of today don't even spend 10 minutes a day training in gung fu, let alone 3 hours of stance work every day. Unfortunately majority of today's students are looking for quick results, always anxious to learn new techniques and move to the next stage without proper understanding or mastery of what they were taught in the previous stage. In other words they try and run before they can walk. Traditional training methods such as these are no longer appreciated nor seem useful and worst of all the enormous benefits offered by this type of training are often over looked or totally ignored.
What is all the fuss about? one may ask and wonder why should one has to devote so much time and effort to training of stances? There are many reasons, but to sum it up the main purposes behind stance training are: strengthening and conditioning of the legs, training the mind and the spirit, rooting, internal energy training and last but not least to improve posture-structure, all of which support each other and connect to each other in a complimentary fashion.
Strengthening and conditioning of the legs is one of the most obvious benefits of stance training. Correct stance work will train and condition the whole, not just a specific part or area. It will build and strengthen the muscles, joints, bones and tendons of the legs as well as other related parts of the body. Regular and proper training will enormously increase the power, strength and endurance of the legs. It will also improve the speed and flexibility. The practitioner will be armed with extremely powerful legs, which can be used to attack or defend.
Mental conditioning, the training of the mind and the spirit is also an important part of stance training. Tempering and controlling the mind is one of the hardest parts of gung fu training. A gung fu practitioner must have a calm, focused mind and a strong spirit. Long durations of stance training can be extremely boring and very painful. This being the case, most people, especially beginners' cant sit in a low horse stance for a very long time, even if they have strong legs. Hung Gar practitioners need total concentration, patience, willpower and determination to be able to hold a low horse stance for an extensively long period of time. As mentioned above, in the past Hung Gar practitioners were required to do six months to one year of solid stance work alone before they were allowed to learn anything else. One of the main reasons behind this type of training was to test a students mental, moral and physical strengths and weakness. Those who couldn't cope would soon drop out and quit.
Developing a solid root is an extremely important goal of all gung fu practitioners and one of the main reasons behind stance training. Stability and balance are the first things that come to mind when talking about rooting. Although this is true, rooting in gung fu involves much more than just having a stable stance or good balance. Beside other things rooting involves correct body structure, relaxed body, sinking of energy etc. Some people also have the false idea that having a solid root is being too static and stiff. One must be rooted at all times regardless of stance or position. It is said that when standing be like a mountain, strong and unmovable, when moving be like the wind, swift and fast. Despite its importance most beginners and even those who has been training for many years experience much difficulty in achieving a solid root, mainly due to lack of understanding and not enough practice. They are easily pushed over and have neither stability nor balance even when they perform the simplest techniques. They lack strength and speed in their techniques and cannot generate power using the whole body.
Stance training focuses a great deal on internal energy or chi - qi cultivation that is also one of the most overlooked factors when talking about stance training.