What is the Wing Chun Stance for?
Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma is the foundation stance from which all variations and the Wing Chun fighting stances and footwork are derived. It is essentially this position that influences the footwork of how a Wing Chun fighter moves and generates power.
The Concept Behind the Name
The Cantonese name of the basic stance is Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma, this describes the appearance and feel of the stance. It is the stance from which all three empty hand Wing Chun forms are practised, but more evident in the first form, siu nim tau, where the entire hand form is practised in this basic stance.
‘Yee’ is Chinese character for the number two and this clearly describes the correct position of the feet in this Wing Chun stance. With the toes turned inwards in the classic “pigeon-toed” position, a line drawn between the toes of both feet would represent the shorter, top stroke of the character, while a line drawn between the two heels would represent the longer, bottom stroke of the character. The remaining translation ‘Yee kim yeung ma’ describes the slight abduction of the legs, and this is sometimes referred to as “a goat-gripping stance”.
The Importance of Structure
The Basic Stance and the Saam Gok Ma (Triangular Advancing stance) are two variations in Wing Chun stances that share the same triangulation between the hips, knees, and feet (see How to Train Biu Ma).
The first is often referred to as the basic stance, this is the most common form of training stance within the Wing Chun martial arts system. Also referred to in Cantonese as "Character-Two Adduction Stance". This training stance helps to balance the body evenly while isolating the lower part of the body from the upper part of the body. Key to this stance is that you if you close your eyes you should feel your body weight evenly distributed between your toes and the heal of each foot.
The basic ‘Ma’ (stance) teaches the Wing Chun student to ground or root themselves to the earth, and this adheres to the fundamental concept in Chinese martial arts of borrowing power from the ground. If Wing Chun is about economy in motion, and moving efficiently, then this stance allows the practitioner to train and practice their hand actions and hand shapes in a simplistic and efficient manner.
Rooting represents the sinking of the body’s centre of the balance to the ground. In this sense, the body becomes naturally heavier, but flexible which further helps a wing chun student to turn and deflect incoming pressure. This concept is not unique to Wing Chun, it can be found in many other martial arts such as Jiu Jitsu, karate, and even wrestling. However, in Wing Chun this notion forms the foundation of basic training from day one.
Forming the Basic Stance
Key characteristics of forming this stance are the feet, knees, and hips. The feet are tuned slightly inwards to create a a triangulation in the legs. Turning your feet in slightly rotates your knees, and when combined with a tilted hips, any pressure that goes down onto your arms will be pushed through to your knees and feet, effectively dispersing pressure to the ground.
To form the “Basic Stance” first bring your feet together then bend your knees as far as you can without leaning forward. Second, pivot on your heals and turn your toes outwards (approx. 45 degrees), then pivot on your toes to turn your feet inwards. At this point the hips should be tucked in, allowing the weight to be taken up by the knees which are now bent in line with the inward-pointing feet. The width of your stance should be shoulder width apart for greater mobility and balance.
The basic stance is used primarily for beginners wing chun training. It functions to root to the ground and develop power and connectivity between all the major joints of the body. Hence, when a connection is made between attacker’s arms, the pressure generated is dispersed to the ground. Hence, the alignment of the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees via the ankles to the ground gives structure and stability in the root.
When formed correctly, your stance should be evenly balanced between both legs, since this develops your strength for the advancing stance (saam gok bo). However, the Basic Stance is also deliberately unstable when pressed from the front. When force is applied to this position, there is a natural tendency to collapse into a better posture to deflect force. In this sense, the basic stance teaches you to use the energy of an attack to form a favourable position to defend.
Overall, the basic stance in wing chun is not a fighting or self defence stance. It is a training stance to help develop connection from the ground to your arms. For example, imagine that you were standing on the ground and linking with your arms but the middle of your body was weak, as if made of jelly, any force that hits your arm will not be dissipated down to the ground, but absorbed into that jelly. Hence, the whole idea is to create a structure of connectivity between the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and feet, thus drawing power or structure from the ground without compromising efficiency of movement.
The Second and most relevant to self defence, or fighting with Wing Chun, is characterised by having the leg forward. The stance shares the structural characteristics of the basic Ma, but has more mobility and practicality for self defence. (see The Self Defence Stance of Wing Chun).
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