One of the first-world problems that we experience today is neck and back strain. Many times it is caused by an accumulation of prolonged daily sitting in bad postures and looking down at your phone. Your muscles get used to the positions when you stay in them after a while. Eventually, muscles such as those in the hips, back, and neck will tighten, and the discs in the spine will compress creating an unnatural shape.
In WingChun, we learn proper alignment of the spine in the first stance, Jing San Ma (frontal body stance), which is done at the beginning of each form. The stance looks simple, but its most basic function (proper alignment of the legs, hips, and torso for stability, tension, and power generation) is used in all of the other stances and footwork. However, the stance may look awkward and can be difficult for most people to understand.
Here we will explain the basic concepts of the stance and their function:
Stand naturally with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Lower your body slightly then raise up by pushing off of the ground with your legs. (You do this naturally anyway when you are pushing something.) Don’t lock your legs keeping a slight bend in the knees so that you have some play to push or ground yourself if pulled forward.
At the same time, rotate the heels slightly outward to connect the legs to the hip joint. You don’t have to overturn the feet too far or squeeze in the knees, which would be uncomfortable. Not rotating the heels makes it easier for you to get pushed back without compensating by leaning forward.
Now, push your chest slightly up and forward from about the solar plexus. This creates tension in the upper body and keeps proper straight alignment. Pushing too much or letting the chest sink in is bad posture.
Once the chest is pushed forward, your body will try to relax the lower back and stick out the buttocks. So, you must keep tension in the hips and engage your core a little to maintain a straight lower back. Pushing the hips too far forward or letting your butt stick out is also bad posture. The former leads to lower back and hip pain and the later makes it easier to get pushed back.
Why is alignment important? Because leaning forward or backward makes it easier for you to lose balance. Also, good posture reduces back pain. You can try the same posture in your daily life when you are standing or sitting if you have back issues.
Why is tension important? Just like the arms, your body’s alignment creates a frame. Tension keeps both from collapsing when something pushes you. The holistic frame involves the legs, body, and arm as one piece. Please do not tense your muscles too much to a point that you are straining them. Tense just enough to maintain the frame.
If all of this information is too abstract, you can learn each concept by just getting into the stance and push against a partner’s arms. For example, try pushing with your toes turned out then see the difference versus the proper positioning.
In WingChun, good posture and mechanics are critical for optimal performance. Hopefully, this information will help you understand the concepts of the basic stance a little better so that you can apply good posture in your life.