1. Measuring out the Stance
We always measure out our stance during training. This is to ensure that you will always put your feet the right distance apart instinctively. Once in the training stance, you push your waist forward, knees over your toes and your hips over your knees so that the thigh is almost vertical. By having the bones and joints under a mild strain by having your feet turned in at 45 degrees, the bones, muscles, and more importantly, putting some mild strain on the ligaments of the knees and ankles. This strengthens them. You know how footballers and basketball players are always getting knee reconstructions? That’s because although they have strong muscles, their joints aren’t up to the strain. It takes a long time to strengthen them, like when they heal. Muscles only take a week or so to heal, bones a month or two, but ligaments take years. It is the same time as that needed to strengthen them. Fighting is a greater strain than playing basketball. Recently, the Australian Institute of Sport and other sporting bodies determined that, while it takes a mere few weeks to strengthen bones, and a few months to get people’s muscles ready for a sport, it takes longer to get the muscle attachments strong enough, and even years of continuous training to get the joints ready.
2. Toes in
The angles of the feet show the balance angles and the angles of attack and defense of the human body, and are the directions of the balance points of your enemy as well as yourself. It is far easier to demonstrate this point than to write down easily. In a later blog when we talk about movement this becomes extremely important. For now, it is enough to say that in order to be able to move correctly, is it vital that the student keeps his feet at this angle. It is between 45 and 60 degrees. No more and no less.
The toes, being turned in, also put a continuous strain on the joint and bones, strengthening them.
3. Knees bent
In a fight, you need to bend your knees. They need to be bent enough so they can absorb the shock of a kick without straightening, and they need to be bent so you can move quickly. You can’t move without bending your knees, so best to keep them bent and mobile at all times. Most people do not bend the front knee enough.
In the form, the stance is even deeper than usual, because the form is for training.
4. Elbows back
The elbow strike has two main functions. First, it is an elbow strike. We keep our fist high and in our armpit to get better distance for the strike to someone behind us. An extra few inches into his rib cage is a bonus. We also move it straight back, to increase the effect, rather than around. The second function is to get a stretch for the muscles around the shoulders that inhibit the full force of the punch moving forwards by stretching the muscles that slow it down, relaxing them.
This position is not chambering; we never pull our hands back to punch. This is because it telegraphs the technique so the opponent has too much chance to block it. We hit from anywhere to anywhere (demonstrate from low to high, side to side etc) without pulling back. It is more efficient that way. Also, if we get caught inside the centre where you have stepped in too much, then you can’t pull back, and have to strike almost touching our opponent, like this to the neck. Similarly, on the ground (or against a wall, etc), the ground is in the way of chambering. It is also why we use short-range power, so we don’t have to pull back. It’s faster. The elbows should be straight back from the body, not sticking out, and parallel to each other, and the forearms should be parallel to the ground.
Students often tend to have the wrist too straight in the withdrawn position, or too bent. The first is correct; the second is too “straight” in that the knuckles are in line with the edge of the arm. The third is too bent.
5. Waist forward
This sinking of the waist is very important for learning the waist power of VTK. The waist should be forwards and the pelvis tilted up as far as possible. This is the key to all VTK power and stance. It cannot be emphasized enough.
6. Facing with shoulders square.
We stand square to our opponents, while most martial arts stand at an angle. They do this so as to present a smaller target, with less vulnerable areas. However, it has the disadvantage of taking away one of your hands from immediate use. If someone wants to use the back hand to follow up or at the same time as my other hand, I have to move my body, and this is both slower and telegraphs too much. The enemy can see it coming for too long, enabling them to block you. It loses surprise. Not only that, in VTK we use both hands simultaneously. This effectively doubles our speed since we are using both hands at the same time. There is no block punch block sequence in VTK. It all happens at the same time. So, we can use both hands at the same time, doing more than one thing at a time. This gives us a considerable speed advantage, which is needed if your opponent has initiated the attack, meaning you have to catch up, or if he is faster than you, which VTK always assumes. We always assume our enemy is faster, bigger, stronger, etc, and are thus pleasantly surprised if it turns out he isn’t.
7. Head position
We hold our head up rather than hunch forward. This keeps our face a few inches extra away from our opponent, while keeping our hands the same distance from his face. The position is like when you hold your head proudly. I call it being proud of doing VTK. We also look forwards, and if we have to look around, we use our eyes to look, rather than turn our head. If you look away with your head, that is when you will get hit. If you look with your eyes, you can look back before he knows you have looked away. In this case, the eyes are quicker than the hand. Even better, use peripheral vision and keep looking at your opponent while being aware of your surroundings.
We also keep our back teeth clamped together with the tongue on the hard palate on the roof of your mouth behind your top teeth. This makes your head a single piece, so your jaw is harder to break, your teeth harder to smash, your tongue impossible to bite when he hits you, and if you do lose teeth, you are less likely to choke on them. Your lips should be firmly closed. You should not look around, but at your opponent, or in the form, your imaginary opponent. This way, if you get hit very heavily in the head, you are less likely to have your neck broken. Don’t pull faces, just look at your opponent without displaying any emotion.
8. Relationship between the yee ji kim yeung ma and the saam bok ma.
If you are in the yee ji kim yeung ma and turn one foot from 45 degrees inwards to about sixty degrees outwards, through the centre of the foot, (not on the heels, or the ball of the foot – these will widen or shrink the stance respectively) you will convert the training stance to the fighting stance. The idea is that the training stance teaches many things the fighting stance does not.
a. It puts strain equally on both right and left legs, knees and ankles.
b. It teaches angles of attack and defense.
c. It is inherently unstable so you can improve your stability so that in the fighting stance you are strong.
d. It makes facing easier to learn.
e. You can halve the number of training positions. (otherwise need to do left and right hands, with left foot forward then right foot forward.
f. You can move from training stance to either fighting stance, left or right. But you if start in a fighting stance, left or right, in a fight, you are committed to remaining in that stance, or risk opening the groin to attack when you change feet. You are also committed to what may actually be the wrong side if the enemy takes advantage of your stance. Therefore, when a fight is starting, you do not commit to a fighting stance until the enemy is actually in range for fighting, but instead remain in a neutral stance so you have more options.
g. It is not pivoting (as thought by some practitioners, especially in Europe), but simply a demonstration of the relationship between the training and fighting stance.
h. Note that the direction of travel and of facing is in the direction pointed by the back foot, about 45 degrees from original position, and not at 90 degrees, so the front foot is angled in across the centre, so that the knee protects the groin without needing to move the knee inwards. It is a common and easily made error in that the student thinks that the direction of facing in a fighting stance is 90 degrees to the training stance. Also note the feet are converging not diverging.