This post is about a Bow-Arrow stance (Gong Jian Bu), a fundamental stance which is named also Bow stance or Mountain Climbing stance. I will discuss the Bow-Arrow stance which is used in Qigong and Taijiquan, Yang traditional style. In other styles this stance might be practiced differently.
Bow-arrow stance in Qigong
In Qigong you practice this stance to learn how to align your body and improve posture, to develop stability and to stimulate the flow of Qi. The practice of Bow-arrow stance together with a Horse stance can help you with your back issues.
You utilize this stance for example when you turn your whole body from frontal position to sideways or in a moving Qigong to step or walk forward etc.
…and in martial arts
Bow-arrow stance is usually used in martial arts as an offensive stance, for attacking techniques. The structure of this stance enables the practitioner to protect the groin to a certain degree. This stance also enables practitioner to draw his/her rear leg fast and use it for kicking attacks.
Structure of the Bow-arrow stance
In a Bow-Arrow stance one leg is forward. The knee is bent and ideally lined up with toes. Be careful that it doesn’t go beyond the toes if you want to keep your knees unharmed.
The front leg supports 60 percent of your weight. The big toe is pointing 10 degrees inwards. In this way your groin is a little more closed and protected and you are also more stable.
The rear foot is turned outwards at approximately 45 degree angle. The knee should be lightly bent.
The heel of the rear foot is roughly aligned with the toes of the front leg. It can be placed a little wider but not too much to not expose your groin. The rear leg supports 40 percent of your weight and is firm and stable. It serves as a counterbalance to the front leg.
Your mind shouldn’t be focused only forward (which in this case is Yang) but also backward (which is considered Yin) if you want to keep balance, be stable and strongly rooted.
Your shoulders and hips are pointing in the direction of the front leg. Your upper body stays upright, centered and relaxed. When you use also hands (for example to push or punch) it is a common mistake to lean too forward and losing your center.
Remember the idea of the rope at the top of your head. The torso is sinking down. Keep your head and pelvis aligned.
To develop the right feeling, not only for your center but for the connection of the whole structure, it is useful to stand still in a Bow-Arrow stance for some time with your eyes closed. The same as for the Horse stance, proceed gradually and practice regularly. Start with few minutes and then increase the time of practice.
Transition from a Horse stance into a Bow-arrow stance
In Qigong you often transition from Horse stance to Bow-arrow stance. Let’s see how to do the most basic movement. (see also the second part of the video Bow-arrow stance below )
You stand in a Horse stance. Start with a moderate width. Weight is equally distributed on both legs, 50-50 percent.
You first transfer more weight on a rear leg. Then you turn your hips and at the same time you turn the front foot on a heel for approximately 90 degrees. You start to transfer 60 percent of weight on a front foot and then you turn your rear foot on toes to get a 45 degree angle. Don’t forget that the toes of the front foot are pointed slightly inwards (10 degrees).
As always find the position which is comfortable for you. Adapt the position by stepping closer or wider but always keeping in mind the structural principles described in the first part of this post.
To return into a Horse stance, move first your rear foot on toes into a starting position. The knee should be aligned with the foot. Then you can transfer more weight on a rear foot and rotate your front foot on a heel to the starting position. You are back in a Horse stance, the weight is again 50-50 on both legs.
Repeat while you are turning on the other side.
Listen to yourself
As always 😉 I will remind you how important is to listen to yourself while you are practicing. Listen to your body and respect your current range of motion. Modify and adjust your posture, the width and the height of the stance… and never force yourself. You will build the strength of your muscles and tendons and flexibility of your joints gradually.
Practice consciously and avoid injuries
I have mentioned some common mistakes regarding this basic level of practice that you should be aware of. To reassume:
- The knee of the front leg should never go beyond the tips of your toes.
- In the ending position the hips and shoulders should be directed in the same direction as the front leg.
- The rear leg should be lightly and softly bent. It shouldn’t be tense. The foot and knee should be pointing in the same direction.
- Maintain the alignment of your torso.
Later on you will start practicing other transitions from one stance to another while moving and stepping forward (in a moving Qigong, Taijiquan…). In this phase of practice is even more important to practice Bow-arrow stance correctly to avoid eventual knee injuries. Usually you will not injure yourself in a short period of time. But in martial arts a use of Bow-arrow stance is very frequent and after a long period of many incorrect repetitions injures might start to appear. The path to recovery is very long.
I will not address this topic more in depth in this post. If you are not sure about your Bow-Arrow stance practice I would recommend you to find and consult some qualified Qigong or Martial Arts teacher.
You will find a Bow-Arrow stance easier to practice if you are already familiar with a Horse stance that you have practiced it for some time.
Practice a transition from Horse stance to Bow-arrow stance only with legs. Later you will combine this stance with different movements which is more demanding, especially in Taijiquan form or techniques.
Remember that here we are analyzing movements of feet, hips for learning purposes… First you practice slowly, being aware of each phase. Later these movements will become more connected and fluid. Keep in mind that your body movement should originate in your Lower Dantian and that your goal is to connect and feel all parts of the body as one organism.
May the Qi be with you!
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