Teaching stance using contrasts?

geezer

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I still teach a handful of people Wing Chun and Escrima. The Wing Chun I practice comes from the "WT" lineage and has a strongly back-weighted stance with the feet flat on the ground, while the Escrima stance, coming from Rene Latosa, is 60-40 front-weighted, with the back heal raised, almost like a JKD stance.

Since the stances, stepping, and most everything else is so different, I have always followed the conventional wisdom and insisted that a student pick one art or the other, but not cross train until they spend a couple of years in their base art and gain a solid proficiency in the basics, especially the stance work.

Recently however, I have broken my old rule and have started doing exactly the opposite -- That is teaching through contrasts. It started in a pure Wing Chun class last Thursday. When one of my less experienced WC students was drilling or sparing, he would continually abandon his back-weighted Wing Chun stance and instead would shift his weight forward into a 50-50, or even 60-40 front weighted stance similar to a boxing or Escrima stance. Even worse, he seemed to be totally unaware of what he was doing no matter how many times I corrected him. I realized he couldn't correct his mistake as long as he wasn't even aware of it.

So on an impulse, I had the entire WC group practice the front weighted Escrima stance, and also had them review the essentials of the WC stance for comparison. Then I had them advance across the floor moving from one stance to the other. So I'd call out "Escrima! Step, Two, Three ....Wing Chun! Step, Two Three..." forcing them switch back and forth and physically experience the difference in weighting between them.

I continued this drilling with variations for at least 20 minutes and then returned to our standard WC curriculum. Immediately, there was a notable improvement in their WC stance and stepping. I believe that by having some specific exposure to what is NOT WC the students are able to better recognize the feel of what IS WC, i.e. learning by contrasts.

Now I'm not going to be insisting that these students take up Escrima (although two of them already train that art as well), nor do I intend to "blend" the styles. Not at all! But I am thinking that this method of training using contrasts can be very useful for correcting bad habits and increasing kinesthetic awareness. Any thoughts?
 
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wab25

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So, I am going to come at this from a dance point of view... as I know that much better than Wing Chun and Escrima... But, there is the same issue.

When dancing to the same music, same song even... if you are classic ballroom, you will use the Quick Step or Foxtrot. If you are a swing dancer, to the exact same music, you will do Lindyhop or East Coast Swing. While many of the moves will work in both, there is a distinct difference in the style of movement and the flow of what technique leads to what other technique. The stances are different, even the carriage is very different.

I had the opportunity to learn both forms, at the same time. And while I could easily show which one was correct for the right class... when it got down to just dancing, or even worse practicing a new routine that was at my limit... it was easy to switch into the wrong form of dance. Many times, I never knew I switched, because both felt "right."

One of the things that helped out when learning the same moves, to the same music in totally opposite styles of movement... Started from when you went into class. The culture. Ballroom culture and Swing Dance culture are very different. When you went to a club where is it very much a ballroom feel, its much harder to switch into Lindy and vice versa. When a club did not really hold one identity or the other, I could not keep things straight, it was mess... or at least I was. I don't know enough about your two arts to know how much difference in culture there is between the two, but consider making things different from the moment the class starts. Don't wait until you get to the technique itself.

When looking at the dances, they had very different styles in movement, but were many times doing the same things. If you take Lindyhop and put a ballroom stance and carriage on it, you get West Coast Swing... (If you want to get a ballroom guy really mad, tell him his West Coast Swing is really just Lindyhop done in a ballroom style... his whip is a swing out...) So, when I look back at how I learned these dances... what was interesting was that the moves they taught to beginners, were moves that were easy to do, in the structure of the dance... and harder to do, with the other sides structure. What this did was re-enforced the structure. In order to do this move easier, you have to emphasize more our style of dance... such that if you went into the other style, first it made things hard, and second it felt awkward... meaning you got immediate feedback, from your body, that you were off. And while yes, you could do the same move in the other style, in order to do it, you would have to completely change everything, 100% to the other style, before you could even begin to attempt it on the other side of the fence.

When teaching your two arts, I believe that each has reasons for the way the stand and move. If you concentrate on moves for the beginners, that really take advantage of the correct stance and movement... they should start to feel it when they use the "wrong" stance. If you pick moves to teach them, that the only way to improve the move is to put even more emphasis of the "correct" way to stand and move... then the students will get feedback from their own body that they are doing it wrong. When they get on the other side (into the other art), when they learn to do the same move, they will have to rebuild it, in the new style completely... which re-enforces the differences in the two styles. While they will be able to switch, they will be doing it knowingly and because they are choosing to.

Anyway, I hope that all made sense.

ps. I blame ""Escrima! Step, Two, Three ....Wing Chun! Step, Two Three..." for bringing up the dance reference...
 

isshinryuronin

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I still teach a handful of people Wing Chun and Escrima. The Wing Chun I practice comes from the "WT" lineage and has a strongly back-weighted stance with the feet flat on the ground, while the Escrima stance, coming from Rene Latosa, is 60-40 front-weighted, with the back heal raised, almost like a JKD stance.

Since the stances, stepping, and most everything else is so different, I have always followed the conventional wisdom and insisted that a student pick one art or the other, but not cross train until they spend a couple of years in their base art and gain a solid proficiency in the basics, especially the stance work.

Recently however, I have broken my old rule and have started doing exactly the opposite -- That is teaching through contrasts. It started in a pure Wing Chun class last Thursday. When one of my less experienced WC students was drilling or sparing, he would continually abandon his back-weighted Wing Chun stance and instead would shift his weight forward into a 50-50, or even 60-40 front weighted stance similar to a boxing or Escrima stance. Even worse, he seemed to be totally unaware of what he was doing no matter how many times I corrected him. I realized he couldn't correct his mistake as long as he wasn't even aware of it.

So on an impulse, I had the entire WC group practice the front weighted Escrima stance, and also had them review the essentials of the WC stance for comparison. Then I had them advance across the floor moving from one stance to the other. So I'd call out "Escrima! Step, Two, Three ....Wing Chun! Step, Two Three..." forcing them switch back and forth and physically experience the difference in weighting between them.

I continued this drilling with variations for at least 20 minutes and then returned to our standard WC curriculum. Immediately, there was a notable improvement in their WC stance and stepping. I believe that by having some specific exposure to what is NOT WC the students are able to better recognize the feel of what IS WC, i.e. learning by contrasts.

Now I'm not going to be insisting that these students take up Escrima (although two of them already train that art as well), nor do I intend to "blend" the styles. Not at all! But I am thinking that this method of training using contrasts can be very useful for correcting bad habits and increasing kinesthetic awareness. Any thoughts?
I applaud your effort and creativity as an instructor to come up with possible teaching solutions. I wouldn't recommend it for real new students, but after they have some skill, contrasting one style with another could increase their awareness of stance and posture.
One of the things that helped out when learning the same moves, to the same music in totally opposite styles of movement... Started from when you went into class. The culture.
Nice point. When the "music" and even the physical moves are the same or similar it can lead to one confusing the finer points between them. But if they focus and internalize the "culture" or style of the 2 different MA's (or dance) and understand that the "feeling" or doctrine is unique to each, I think it will go a long way to each having its own identity and separateness. The core contrast between them is not so much in the physical weight distribution, but in the concepts of the styles. The Tango and Foxtrot have such different feelings to them that it would be hard to confuse the moves of one with the other.
Anyway, I hope that all made sense.
Ditto. A little abstract, but internal things usually are.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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while the Escrima stance, coming from Rene Latosa, is 60-40 front-weighted, with the back heal raised, almost like a JKD stance.
How do you avoid foot sweep by using this stance? The more weight that you put on your leading leg, the harder for you to lift up that leg to escape foot sweep.

I don't believe there is any CMA system that put more than 50% weight on the leading leg as the fighting stance. When you stand like that, it's like to say, "sweep me, sweep me, ...".
 
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geezer

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How do you avoid foot sweep by using this stance? The more weight that you put on your leading leg, the harder for you to lift up that leg to escape foot sweep.

I don't believe there is any CMA system that put more than 50% weight on the leading leg as the fighting stance. When you stand like that, it's like to say, "sweep me, sweep me, ...".
The Escrima stance we use can vary between about 50-50 and 60-40 and is fluid and quick, like a boxer's stance. The slight forward weighting helps with power generation, using a "drop-step" like Dempsey's. As for how you avoid a low foot-sweep? You hit them really hard with in the head with a heavy stick ...or machete! :p

Funny how holding a weapon that amplifies your power and reach changes the geometry of everything. But even empty handed, having a somewhat front-weighted stance doesn't mean you can't evade a foot-sweep. You are just more committed. As for myself, personally...as I close, I used to transition one of two ways depending on how I read my opponent:

1. I shift my weight back and use my Wing Chun (which frees up my front leg to defend and attack).

2. I change levels and shoot-in under the incoming punch or elbow.

And honestly, since I've been really feeling my years lately, I've personally stopped doing option 2., although I still coach it. ;)
 

Oily Dragon

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I don't believe there is any CMA system that put more than 50% weight on the leading leg as the fighting stance. When you stand like that, it's like to say, "sweep me, sweep me, ...".

There's an old saying in kung fu, if you fight using your training stances, you're going to die.

I'm just kidding, that's not something I heard. I just made it up.

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Kung Fu Wang

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There's an old saying in kung fu, if you fight using your training stances, you're going to die.

I'm just kidding, that's not something I heard. I just made it up.
Old CMA saying said, you may not find any opening to attack, but if you keep moving, soon or later you will find an opening to attack.

So how to move is the key. IMO, if your opponent has

- right leg forward, you move toward his right.
- left leg forward, you move toward his left.
 

Oily Dragon

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Old CMA saying said, you may not find any opening to attack, but if you keep moving, soon or later you will find an opening to attack.

So how to move is the key. IMO, if your opponent has

- right leg forward, you move toward his right.
- left leg forward, you move toward his left.

And if your opponent is an immortal?
 

Kung Fu Wang

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But I am thinking that this method of training using contrasts can be very useful for correcting bad habits and increasing kinesthetic awareness. Any thoughts?
I used similar method to teach my students to understand the correct width of their stance. When they stay in

- narrow stance, their opponents will sweep their legs from outside in.
- wide stance, their opponents will spring their legs from inside out.

Soon they will find the correct width for their stance that can resist both outside in sweep and inside out spring.
 

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Not a WC guy (get this intruder outta heeere!), but personally I find that sort of thing very helpful. I'll even purposely do it myself in my own training. I'll purposely do a technique, stance, transition wrong (making myself raise up and down excessively, lean too much, go off balance etc), and then do it more and more correctly just to kinesthetically feel that drastic difference.
 

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As for how you avoid a low foot-sweep? You hit them really hard with in the head with a heavy stick ...or machete! :p
When I started learning the knife form I noticed that the stance is much wider than the typical wing chun stance and has about a 60/40 distribution with the majority of weight on the back leg.

I asked my sifu "is there a danger in someone sweeping your leg with 40% on the front and the stance being so wide?"

He replied "If someone manages to sweep your front leg while you have those knives in your hands you probably deserve to have your leg swept out from under you."
 

Argus

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Teaching through contrast is a great way to put things into context.

It's often years later that I realize WHY I was taught to do something in a certain way. As I learn other arts, I start to realize why things are done in, say, WC, or in that art, and why they're different.

One good example contrasting (some) FMA systems is just this. In weapons based arts, the front leg and lower body represent a target in which even incidental contact can be much more serious with a blade than it would be with merely a fist, and so often having a slightly front weighted and higher stance can be advantageous, and even give you the reach advantage against low line attacks: put your leg forward, and your opponent can attack your lead leg without getting hit himself. Straighten your body over your lead leg, and you can attack his head long before he can reach your leg.

Another thing I notice, which can be a bad habit in FMA, is that in Wing Chun we tend to enter straight or in a reverse "V" / male triangle, inserting the lead leg and lower body "into" the opponent. In FMA, you typically enter out at an angle, and keep your lead leg out of the center (female triangle) at close range, because again, your legs and lower body become a target, and you often need to pass a blade on the low line right where your leg would be.

Incidental contact with a fist on such a low line is not catastrophic, but running a blade across your waist when attempting to pass it with a gan-sau like motion becomes very problematic.

I do believe that Wing Chun is a bit specialized in empty hand versus empty hand, and that being aware of these issues is important if you consider that your opponent may have a knife or some other weapon. That said, Wing Chun has helped my FMA practice significantly.

That said, there are many different FMA systems out there, and I'm sure that there are times where FMA footwork can look a lot more like Wing Chun and even contradict my statements here, but this is just what I learned from my experience with Kali Ilustrisimo / Lameco and a bit of Modern Arnis thus far.

The Kali Ilustrisimo stance is interesting in that it's almost a mirror image of the Wing Chun stance, in which, like WC, the hips are tucked in, but most of the weight is over the front leg instead of the back. Very similar stances are found in weapons arts across the globe, be they Western or Eastern in origin.

The more I practice both arts, though, the more I see the two methods as complimentary and similar, as opposed to contradictory and dissimilar. If you take your Wing Chun stance, for instance, and without moving anything else, just slip the front leg back out of the way of an incoming weapon, Wala! You're in a Kali Ilustrisimo stance, with the hips tucked in and everything. And Pekiti Tirsia has many similarities with the WC stance as well, at times... but I'm nowhere near experienced enough in PT to offer any insight just yet.
 
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