June 4, 2013 / in Wing Chun Theory / by Sifu Justin Och
More than bent knees and wide stances, Wing Chun stances and rooting provide the basis for the strength and force of each offensive and defensive move. Take, for instance, a “duck stance”—most people walk and stand with the toes pointing out from the heels and centerline. When this happens, your center of gravity changes from being underneath you to behind you. When the toes point out and your heels point in, your center is drawn behind you. Though you could bend your knees, widen your stance, or think about rooting, it would not improve your dynamic structure if you are attacked.
Your center of gravity within the various Wing Chun stances and rooting is more than just bending the knees and getting a wider stance. It’s also more than simply visualizing yourself “sinking” into the ground. As my Tai Chi Grandmaster would say: “these are all great tools, but you’re still cheating”—cheating in the sense that anyone can widen their stance or bend their knees to gain this kind of rooting.
The Source of Good Wing Chun Stances and Rooting
So where does great rooting come in? First you must question and test your current understanding and abilities in rooting and moving. Wing Chun stances will undoubtedly alter your preconceived ideas about these positions.
Rooting without dynamic movement is useless stance work and impractical. When you practice static rooting or stances without movement it has no purpose or ability against a striking, multi-ranged assailant.
There are many tools and drills we use to check every level of Wing Chun stances and rooting from the arms, chest, hip, and legs into the ground. Rooting downward and striking forward is a mystery to some. I remember learning other styles where the Master would tell us to bend the knees and “feel” yourself rooting. This is like saying knowing “of” and “feeling” out your A, B, C’s is like knowing, reading, and understanding the ‘Freedom From Fear’ by David M. Kennedy. It isn’t the same and you will always question if your rooting could be better and what you might gain if it was.
Great Wing Chun Stances and Rooting Questions
What does wing chun stances rooting mean if it isn’t just bending the knee’s or widening the stance?
Is rooting for your school of Wing Chun shock value rooting?
Can you do it if you’re standing in a bar, restaurant or home or does it need preparation?
Is it too close or too far apart?
Does your rooting hold up when caught off guard and someone attacks with something you didn’t expect?
Someone comes and pushes you can your rooting recover quickly or do you lose balance easily?
Is your stance tested and practiced reflex, or is it more of induced movement attached to a sequence of responses?
Can you, while attacking in a fast or vicious manner, maintain this chosen rooting, wide stance, or structure at all times, or do you notice it changing? Choosing a stance that maintains your rooting, structural reinforcement of all of your techniques while keeping and increasing your ability to be dynamic within your footwork are all key.
Wing Chun Stances disagreements
Even within Wing Chun there is a disagreement of structure, Wing Chun stances, rooting, distance of footwork, knee positions, and even weight distribution. I have visited many different schools and heard the arguments and justifications of each thought. Some very well known instructors keep the knees in, almost touching each other in order to protect the groin. Other well known teachers have stances that keep 80% of their weight on the front and 100% of their weight on the back foot. Still other teachers claim there is no set stance—just foot work that is used dynamically. The key is whether their students can use it for fighting. If so, then the explaination is backed by the beautiful and sweet music of practical application.
If your foot work can move dynamically; be used practically and under the tenants of pressure, shock, and surprise; and can still hold up and reinforce every attack and block you have, than you are doing your art justice. It’s easy to use the strikes and footwork of another art but to dive deeper within your own and find the truth and practicality in it preserves the art into the next generation.
We have our own ways of testing our downward rooting while pressing forward in and out of the dynamic representation of Wing Chun. That’s not to say we are not always students of this amazing art and that we have it perfect—we don’t. We are always improving, gaining, growing, and seeing new light that Wing Chun has to help us in every aspect of our self defense. Ask the questions, test yourself, and grow within each day as new skills are both discovered and revealed. If you have questions about our footwork and structure, please feel free to ask us. We would love to continue this discussion.