Santi Stance

Santi Stance


In Xingyiquan students are introduced to, compared to our basic stances, quite new exotic stance like the Santi stance.

In Wuzuquan it happened that we were introduced to the Triangle stance (which is similar to yet different from the 4/6 stance) and the Dragon Riding stance (which is similar to yet different from the Bow-Arrow stance).

In Praying Mantis Kung Fu the Seven-Star stance seems to be quite often used.

Could you please elaborate on the advantages and disadvantages of stances like Santi Stance, Triangle Stance, Dragon Riding stance and the Seven Star Stance compared to our basic stances?

Sifu Roland Mastel


In Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, the basic stances are Horse-Riding, Bow-Arrow, False-Leg, Four-Six, Single-Leg, Unicorn and Goat.

While all these basic stances are also found in other kungfu styles, these other kungfu styles frequently use stances that have become characteristic of the styles, like the Triangle Stance and Dragon-Riding Stance of Wuzuquan, the Santi Stance of Xingyiquan, and the Seven-Star Stance of Praying Mantis.

In Wuzuquan, by far the most frequently used stances are the Triangle Stance and the Dragon-Riding Stance. It is worthy of note that the term "Dragon-Riding Stance" is our innovation. Wuzuquan practitioners of other schools would call it the Bow-Arrow Stance.

During the Wuzuquan course in December 2013 in Penang, I mentioned that as the Bow-Arrow Stance in Wuzuquan was quite different from the Bow-Arrow Stance we normally used in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, it might be a good idea to use a different term for this stance. You suggested "Dragon-Riding Stance", and I found the suggestion excellent.

The Dragon-Riding Stance, which is similar to yet different from the usual Bow-Arrow Stance, is sometimes used for special situations in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan. For example, in the pattern, Single Whip Saves Emperor, in Shaolin Basic Combat Sequence 15, the Dragon-Riding Stance is used. While the two feet n a Bow-Arrow Stance are in line, the two feet in a Dragon-Riding Stance are apart.

The Triangle Stance in Wuzuquan is slightly wider than the Four-Six Stance in Taijiquan. In Wuzuquan the Triangle Stance and the Dragon-Riding Stance are frequently used alternatively. When you ward off an opponent’s attack, you use the Triangle Stance. As you move forward immediately to counter attack, you use the Dragon-Riding Stance. If he counter-attacks, you sink back into the Triangle Stance.

Why are the Triangle Stance and the Dragon-Riding Stance frequently used in Wuzuquan instead of the more common False-Leg Stance and Bow-Arrow Stance found in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan? As it was explained at the Wuzuquan course, it is because of certain advantages. Moving back into the False-Leg Stance to defend, and then moving forward again to the Bow-Arrow Stance to attack, would take more time. Just sinking back the body into the Triangle Stance, without moving the feet, and then shifting the body forward into the Dragon-Riding Stance, again without moving the feet, is faster.

Having the feet slightly apart in the Triangle Stance, instead of in a straight line in the False-Leg Stance, is to facilitate the sinking back of the body. If the feet are in a straight line, it is not only more difficult to sink back, it also places the exponent in a disadvantageous position.

As there is no movement of the feet but only shifting of the body, when a Wuzuquan practitioner counter strikes, he uses a Dragon-Riding Stance instead of a Bow-Arrow Stance. If he wants to use a Bow-Arrow Stance, he would have to move his front leg so that both his feet are in line. This will be slower than just shifting forward to the Dragon-Riding Stance.

The Dragon-Riding Stance would render an exponent’s groin exposed. This is the pro and con of the stance. It has the advantage of speed but the disadvantage of exposed groin. A good martial artist would know the pro and con of his techniques, and a great martial artist could change his disadvantage into his advantage. On the contrary, you can see that many martial artists expose their groin without even realizing it.

We aim to be great martial artists. So we shall change the disadvantage of the exposed groin to be an advantage. We use it as a false opening. When an opponent kicks at our groin, we break his kicking leg, fell him onto the ground or use any suitable counter we have prepared but will catch the opponent by surprise.

triangle stance

Triangle Stance

The Triangle Stance is also frequently used in Xingyiquan. With the hands in front like in the Separate Dragons Technique, but with the palms facing forward, it is called the Santi Stance or Santi Poise. “Santi”, which literally means “three bodies”, refers to the three external harmonies of feet, body and hands.

Like the Horse-Riding Stance in Shaolin Kungfu and the Three-Circle Stance in Taijiquan, the Santi Poise is the fundamental method in Xingyiquan to build internal force.

Besides remaining in a "focused mode" whereby one gently focuses on the dan tian, or in a "cosmic mode" whereby one thinks of nothing as in the Horse-Riding Stance and the Three-Circle Stance, Xingyiquan practitioners (if they have the chance to learn the secrets of past Xingyiquan masters) also employ the "correspondence mode" and the "expansion mode" in Santi Poise training. We shall practice these two modes during the Xingyiquan course at the UK Summer Camp 2013.

Why are the "corresponding mode" and the "expansion mode" used in the Santi Poise but not in the Horse-Riding Stance and the Three-Circle Stance? It is because it is suitable in the Santi Poise but not in the Horse-Riding Stance and the Three-Circle Stance.

This discovery from Xingyiquan classics that the Santi Poise employs the "correspondence mode" and the "expansion mode" to develop internal force helped me to resolve a problem I thought for some time in the past, i.e. why unlike in other kungfu styles where stances used to develop internal force are symmetrical, like the Horse-Riding in Shaolin and the Three-Circle Stance in Taijiquan, the Santi Poise used in Xinyiquan is not. I could not find the answer in Xingyiquan classics.

But while preparing myself to teach Xingyiquan at the UK Summer Camp 2013, I found the answer. The asymmetrical position of Santi Poise is necessary for the "correspondence mode" and the "expansion mode" in Santi stance training. In other words, if Xingyiquan practitioners use stances that are symmetrical, like the Horse-Riding and the Three-Circle, they would be unable to apply the "correspondence mode" and the "expansion mode".

Why did Xingyiquan masters use the "correspondence mode" and the "expansion mode" to develop internal force? This is because the two modes effectively contribute to how force is being exploded in Xingyiquan techniques. Or reversely, because of the manner Xingyiquan techniques are applied in combat, the force derived from the “correspondence mode” and the "expansion mode" training method is very useful.

I am not sure which event came first in the historical development of Xingyiquan -- whether Xingyiquan masters applied Xingyiquan techniques in combat first, then discovered the two modes of stance training to develop force for the techniques, or whether Xingyiquan masters used the two modes in their stance training first, then applied the force derived from the training to their techniques in combat. There was no mention of this development in Xingyiquan history. But I believe these two developments were connected as they complimented each other.

Besides using Santi Poise as the fundamental method to develop internal force, the fundamental method to explode the internal force derived from the stance training is the flow method. In other words, the Santi Poise is used to build internal force. The flow method is used to explode internal force. This philosophy is not found in Xingyiquan classics, at least not in the classics I have access to. I discovered this connection during my preparation to teach Xingyiquan, and articulate it here.

This does not mean that past Xingyiquan masters did not use the flow method to explode internal force. But they did not explain it or describe it explicitly. It was likely that they might not be aware of the flow method. Past masters did not make a distinction as we do between techniques and skills. They practiced the techniques over and over again diligently, and the skills evolved spontaneously probably without their conscious knowing. But if we understand the underlying philosophy and train accordingly, we can achieve the same result in much shorter time.

The Santi Stance is excellent for this purpose of exploding internal force. It is no co-incidence that all the five elemental fists of Xingyiquan are performed in the Santi Stance.

Not only the Santi Stance provides an ideal form to explode force effectively, combined with the drag-step and the roll-step, it is also excellent for fast, pressing movement for which Xingyiquan is famous. Had Xingyiquan practitioners used the Bow-Arrow Stance or the sideway Horse-Riding Stance, the movement would not be as fast and pressing. The Santi Stance, combined with the drag-step and the roll-step, constitutes some excellent footwork to chase after opponents, giving opponents little or no chance to escape.

At the same time, the hand position of Santi Poise provides excellent cover against possible opponents' attacks, as well as fast, powerful strikes onto opponents.

The disadvantages of the Santi Stance as compared with the Bow-Arrow Stance are that it is short-range and exposes the groin. As mentioned earlier, great martial artists change disadvantages to advantages.

The disadvantageous short-range of the Santi Stance is overcome by swiftly dragging the back leg forward to a T-Step, which is frequently used in Xingyiquan, and this complements Xingyiquan being a forceful, pressing art. The hand technique of pi-quan, or thrust-palm, not only prevents an opponent striking back but striking the opponent instead. It is an ingenuous technique.

It is also worth-noting that "pi-quan" literally means "chopping fist", but here the technique is not a chopping fist, it is a thrust palm strike. Had it been a chopping fist, it would be less effective. A thrust-palm is excellent for the purpose. It is also worth-noting that pi-quan which is actually a thrust-palm despite its literal meaning, is the first of the five elemental fists. It being the first of the five important typical Xingyiquan techniques is no co-incidence.

The other disadvantage of the Santi Stance exposing the groin is changed to an advantage for being a trap. If an opponent kicks a Xingyiquan exponent's groin or attack it with a low strike, the Xingyiquan exponent would break the leg or attacking arm with a chopping fist followed with heng-quan or diagonal fist to the opponent's dan tian or groin. Alternatively, the Xingyiquan exponent could apply a snake-form to break the opponent's leg or arm with a chopping palm followed with a swinging palm at the opponent's groin or face.

These points regarding the Santi Stance alone, which manifest profundity in simplicity, are sufficient to justify Xingyiquan as kungfu for generals. But it needs great skills, besides technical knowledge, to apply them well, which was the mark of generals rather than ordinary soldiers.

Let us now move to the Seven-Star Stance which is characteristic of Praying Mantis Kungfu. Please take note that another different stance, which is lowering the Unicorn Stance to touching or almost touching the ground, is also called the Seven-Star in the Seven-Star Set of Northern Shaolin I learned from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. The same stance is used in the dragon-form of Xingyiquan, but is called Embrace-Dragon Stance.

riding dragon

Riding-Dragon Stnce

Praying Mantis is famous for kicks, but Praying Mantis kicks are very different from the kicks in Taekwondo. Taekwondo kicks are obvious, and usually high. Praying Mantis kicks are purposely made to be inconspicuous and are often low.

Not many people, including modern Praying Mantis practitioners, know that the Seven-Star Stance is a formidable, low and inconspicuous kick meant to break an opponent's shin while engaging or distracting him above with hand techniques. Not many people can escape this devastating kick.

Indeed, I spent some time thinking why such an effective kicking technique was not adopted by other kungfu styles. One reason could be the exclusiveness of its teaching. This formidable technique was taught only to selected, trusted disciples. Other students had no chance to its teaching. In some schools of Praying Mantis, the technique was not even shown. The Seven-Star Stance was replaced with the False-Leg Stance, thus hiding the deadly kick.

Another possible reason why this formidable technique was not widely adopted was that there is a deadly counter, White Crane Steps on Snow, which becomes the nemesis of the Seven-Star Kick. If an opponent applies a Seven-Star Kick on you, and you counter with White Snake Steps on Snow, his shin, rather than your shin, will be fractured.

In the Seven-Star Kick the knee is straight, making it difficult for the attacker to retreat his kicking leg when being counter-attacked. Not wanting to take this risk resulted in the Seven-Star Kick not being adopted in other kungfu styles.

I have thought about this problem and have come up with some excellent solutions should an opponent use the nemesis, White Crane Steps on Snow, when you apply a Seven-Star Kick. One counter is found in both the Monkey Set and the Drunken Eight Immortal, another is found in the Monkey Set, a third is found in the Drunken Eight Immortal, and a fourth is found Shaolin Kungfu which I have shown a few times.

See if you can think out the solution yourself. If you can't, you can contact our Agile Gorilla, Roland, who may give you an answer if he thinks you deserve to have access to these close secrets.

Not many people know the combat application of the Seven-Star Kick in the first place. Lesser people know its counter. But as a competent martial artist, we must know the possible counters to our attacks before we apply the attacks. Hence, if you wish to specialize on the Seven-Star Kick, which will be very useful in free sparring competitions (if the competition rules allow it), you should know what its likely counters are (even when in reality most of your opponents would not know how to counter) and what you are going to do when your opponents apply these counters.

The Seven-Star Stance is also effective for locking an opponent's leg, tripping an opponent, and stepping on an opponent's foot to prevent him moving away.

All these stances -- Santi Stance, Triangle Stance, Dragon-Riding Stance, and Seven-Star Stance -- are not only extra-ordinary from our basic stances, they also serve very special combat functions.

These special stances, as well as our basic stances, were not thought out from imagination by some smart Alex, but evolved from centuries of actual fighting. Early fighters did not use any stances, they fought instinctively.

Over time, those who fought frequently discovered that certain ways of using their feet, body and hands gave them certain advantages. When various effective ways of fighting became institutionalized as kungfu styles, improvements on these fighting methods were passed on from teachers to students as a tradition. Eventually, over many centuries these effective ways of fighting were formalized as stances, footwork, body-movement and hand techniques. We are very lucky to inherit this very rich tradition.

seven-star stance

Seven-Star Stance

UK Summer Camp 2013
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The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread 10 Questions to Sifu about Xingyiquan in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.


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