Friday, January 1, 2010

San Ti Posture for Fighters

“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind”
                                                 ~ Morihei Ueshiba
When I first started writing this article I was reminded of one of my favorite episodes of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.
In it one of the characters, Uncle Iroh, is approached by a man wielding a large knife. The man assumes a weak looking, knocked-knee stance and demands Uncle Iroh’s money:
“[Mugger] – “Give me all your money!”
[Uncle Iroh] – “What are you doing?”
[Mugger] – “I’m mugging you!”
[Uncle Iroh] – “With that stance?”
Iroh proceeds to slam the mugger to the ground and takes the knife away from him. Then, Uncle Iroh stands the mugger back up, returns his knife, and shows him a stronger stance. It’s a funny scene, but it highlights an important point – without a strong stance you’re weak.
Xingyiquan and San Ti Posture –
For the past ten years I’ve cross-trained in an internal martial art called Xingyiquan (Xingyi). Xingyi Is known for its aggressive martial philosophy and simple training methodology.
One of the primary training methods is holding San Ti posture for extended periods of time. San Ti posture holding is a type of Zhan Zhuang or “standing like a post”.
Basically, Zhan Zhuang is the act of holding specific standing postures while maintaining certain structural requirements. There are many Zhan Zhuang postures and they are used for different reasons.
The purpose of San Ti posture is to build strength (especially in the legs) and structural connections that allow the practitioner to exert massive amounts of power. Correct posture and alignment are of great importance. A fighter whose body and movements are disconnected is a fighter who is weak and clumsy. Many of these postural alignments aren’t apparent to others observing the fighter (thus making them “internal”).

The Posture –
San Ti is a bit more complex than other forms of Zhan Zhuang like “Embrace the Tree” or “Wuji” postures. San Ti is a back weighted stance (as opposed to the more common double weighted stance) which means most of your weight will be on one leg (the back leg). Let’s take a look at the specific requirements for San Ti posture.
The Legs:
Start off by with you feet close together (about the width of one fist apart). One foot should be pointed forward (this will be you lead foot) while the other should be pointed out at a 45 degree angle (this foot will be your rear foot). Step forward with you lead foot. The distance between your feet should be about shoulder width or slight wider. Most of your weight should be on the back leg. The Traditional rule of thumb is 70% of your weight should be on your back leg with the remaining 30% on your front leg. You should strive sink all of your bodyweight into the ground.
The Hips and Spine:
Next we are going to elongate and stretch the stretch the spine which will stimulate the spinal cord (thus stimulating your Qi) and nourish the vertebral disks with synovial fluid. This will be accomplished in two ways. First we are going to tuck in the hips. To do this properly you will need to imagine as though you are going to sit down. You’ll know you’ve done it right when your lower back is flat (you can run hand down your back to make sure). Next you will stretch your spine by raising the top your head and tucking your chin in slightly. By imagining as though you have a string attached to the top of your head and someone is trying to pull your head up you should be able to get this correct. Remember that you shouldn’t be over doing this spinal stretch. Allow it to be as natural as possible.
The Arms, Hands, and Shoulders:

Form your palms into the “Tiger’s Jaw” position (see picture below).

Bring the rear hand up your Dan Tien area. Extend you arm and bring your lead hand out in front of you (palm facing out) so that your fingers are in line with your eyes. Allow both elbows to sink down but make sure you maintain a space in your armpits. It is best to imagine as though you are holding golf balls with your armpits. Next, allow shoulders to round and your chest to hollow. Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to look as though you’re slouching but you don’t want to have any excess tension in your upper back, chest, and shoulders either.

When you’ve done all this right you’ll look like Xingyiquan master Sun, Lu Tang – 

Traditionally, you are supposed to hold the posture for extremely long periods of time. Some sources state practitioners should work up to 1.5-2 hours a day of stance holding. This is overkill.
Not only is it not necessary to hold postures for such extended periods of time, it is also detrimental to your other training.
Developing strength and connection in a stationary position is one thing, but as a fighter you need to be able to move with that strength and connection. If you’re spending all your training time standing around (literally) then you’re going to miss out on other important aspects of training.
So, we’re going to have to do things differently.
Over the years, with a little trial and error, I’ve identified a few ways to incorporate holding San Ti posture into my daily and training routine.
I feel like the best times to work on San Ti Posture are:
·         In the morning – After waking up and doing a few joint mobility exercises (link) I like to work about 10 minutes of San Ti training (5 minutes each side).
·         During a cool-down – I’ve found that San Ti posture is a great way to cool-down after a training session. I do about 5 total minutes (2.5 minutes each side) just before I stretch out.
·         As a “pick-me-up” – Sometimes after sitting at the computer for too long or if I’ve spent too much time in front of the TV I need a “recharge” and San Ti posture is perfect for that. I usually do 2-10 total minutes of standing and I feel like a new person afterwards.
This deceptively simple exercise can really have an impact on your training. Give it a chance and you’ll see how just standing around can make you stronger.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner (donjitsu2)

1 comment:

  1. Overkill, no such thing. Go deep and focus the mind.