Stand and Deliver

The first I-Liq Chuan basic exercise is stance training.  It is the first thing new students learn and a topic that more advanced students will revisit regularly.  Most of my classes even start off training stance with the rocking exercise.  Everyone from beginner to advanced student begins class with balance and stance training.  Why do we spend so much time emphasizing stance training when it’s something so basic and easy?  Can’t everyone stand already?  Well, yes and no.  Standing may be something that almost everyone can do without conscious effort, but not everyone stands with optimal body alignment and balance.

Without understanding balance of the body structure over the feet, the body can never relax as the muscles must tense to compensate for the body being off center.  Misalignments at the joints (i.e. pelvis tilt, knees not aligned to the toes, shoulders not over the hips, crown not suspended, etc) further contribute to muscular tension; extra muscular effort must be used to compensate for the kinked joint angles in the misaligned body structure.  If the stance is wrong, a lot of muscular effort can be unnecessarily (and maybe even unknowingly) wasted just standing upright.  With a balanced stance, the muscles can relax which maximizes their availability for use. The relaxed stance is the foundation for efficient movement and power generation.

Another thing to note during the stance and rocking training is the attention to the feet.  Training attention to the feet serves two purposes.  The first is that it focuses your attention on the immediate sensation of the weight of the body dropping to the feet.  In part, it’s a method of bring your attentions back to yourself and to the present moment, much like attention to breath during meditation.  The second is that attention to the sensation on the feet is training to use the proprioceptive information from the feet and ankles as feedback for correcting balance and stance.  Modern life has most of us spending a good deal of time in proprioception-dulling shoes and sitting down rather than standing.  As a consequence, we can easily forget how to use our feet both as sensors for body position or as point of movement for balance correction.  Simple exercises like rocking help us to appreciate the proprioceptive information from the feet and the biomechanical role the feet play in maintaining a balanced stance.

Stance training may not be difficult like say, calculus, but it’s not something to be glossed over either.  It pays dividends further down the metaphorical training road to pay attention to your stance.