Horse stance

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The horse stance is an important posture in Asian martial arts and takes its name from the position assumed when riding a horse. It is called mǎbù (馬步) in Chinese, kiba-dachi (騎馬立ち?) in Japanese, kuda-kuda in Indonesian, kekuda in Malay, aswa vadivu in Malayalam, and juchum seogi or annun seogi (lit. sitting stance) in Korean. This stance can not only be integrated into fighting but also during exercises and forms. It is most commonly used for practicing punches or to strengthen the legs and back.

Chinese martial arts[edit]

A horse stance in wushu.

Mabu is used for endurance training as well as strengthening the back and leg muscles, tendon strength, and overall feeling and understanding of "feeling grounded".

There are five main Horse Stances used in Shaolin kungfu:

  • Front Horse (Horse Stance): A wide low stance, legs to the side, used to build up the back.
  • Straight horse: A long, low stance, should not be able to see toes; used to prevent being swept, and also used to advance when striking. Also called bow stance.
  • Hanging Horse: Used for retreating when there is no room usually, can be used for blocking then going to advance strike.
  • Cross Horse: Used for parrying usually. Also called cat stance.
  • Drop Horse: Similar to the Straight Horse, except used to duck. Like the Hanging horse, the weight is on the back leg.

See also Wushu Stances for more information.

Northern styles[edit]

The ideal horse stance in most northern Chinese martial arts (such as Mizongquan and Chaquan) will have the feet pointed forward, thighs parallel to the floor, with the buttocks pushed out, and the back "arched up" to keep the upper body from leaning forward. The emphasis on this latter point will vary from school to school as some schools of Long Fist, such as Taizu and Bajiquan, will opt for the hips forward, with the buttocks "tucked in."

In Northern Shaolin, the distance between the feet is measured by placing a fist and the lower leg on the ground. A relatively narrow posture was assumed for the horse riding stance.

Southern Shaolin[edit]

In Southern Shaolin, a wide horse riding stance is assumed as if riding a horse. The reason for this is that southern Chinese martial arts were designed to be used whilst fighting on boats and barges. The wide posture was created for greater stability in such conditions. The horse stance in southern Chinese systems is commonly done with the thighs parallel to the ground and the toes pointing forward or angled slightly out.

Most southern Chinese styles (such as Hung Gar) are known for their deep and wide horse stance.

Japanese martial arts[edit]

A karate horse stance

In Japanese martial arts, the horse stance (kiba-dachi) has many minor variations between individual schools, including the distance between the feet, and the height of the stance. One constant feature is that the feet must be parallel to each other.

Note that the horse stance differs from the straddle stance (四股立ち shiko-dachi?), widely used in sumo, in which the feet point outward at 45 degrees rather than being parallel.

Indian martial arts[edit]

What is referred to as the horse stance in south Indian martial arts is very different from the posture of the same name in other Asian fighting styles. Known in Malayalam as aswa vadivu or ashwa vadivu, it imitates the horse itself rather than the rider. In kalaripayat, the horse stance has the hind leg stretched completely backward while the knee of the front leg is bent ninety degrees. The horse stance is the main posture of the Shiva form and is related to the virabhadrasana (warrior pose) in yoga.

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