Taiji Day 252: Horse Stance Revisited Again

Today, even though I didn’t sleep much, I woke pretty well refreshed and ready to roll.  It was a nice change.  Not sure what shifted, but definitely feel like I crossed a threshold and now am likely to a) sleep better and b) get stuff done.

Like revisiting horse stance.  Horse Stance is one of those things about any martial art that is agonizing when you first begin.  “Bend the knees deeply,” says the teacher, “but not so far that your knee is any farther forward than the tips of your toes.  Right… now hold your calves there, but use your thighs to sink down further…”


And it’s painful. And it’s tiring.  And it’s tiring for a good long while. None of the things that Westerners do seem to prepare us for long periods of time in horse stance… like all the way through two qi gong routines and a tai chi form.

But thanks to the miracle of daily practice — not so much a miracle as an agonizing round of early mornings and late nights, and throwing off the covers in a cold bedroom at 5 am — the leg muscles gradually acquire the wisdom and strength to achieve this feat quite naturally.  The calves grow strong enough to support the knees; the tendons and ligaments surrounding the knee grow stronger, and the thigh muscles thicken.  The power developed in the muscles of the leg becomes a kind of spring, able to support the martial artist as they leap into combat; or support them with a firm foundation and a low center of gravity as they sink down into a defensive stance.  Oh, yeah.  Horse stance is one of those things that can make you a badass.

Me?  A badass?

No, I’m not there yet.

Mind you, I’m making progress.  It’s the case that I have a much easier time retaining horse stance, and I can now hold horse stance all the way through Five Golden Coins and most of Eight Pieces of Silk without falling over in agony or wanting to put polio-style steel braces on my legs.  Am I being overly dramatic? Yes. Am I capable of holding horse stances during all of the pauses all the way through the tai chi form? No.

Will I get there with daily practice?  Yes.

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