The Vocabulary of Posture, Stance, Pose, and Style
Vocabulary is the foundation for understanding a subject. Martial art practice is filled with words that have similar meaning or are used interchangeably. When forced to put my practice into writing, I discovered that in a single paragraph I would skip between form and posture while speaking of the same stance.
Is the Taijiquan a sequence or a routine? Is a static position a posture or a form? The interchange of the words forms, posture, and stance creates confusion. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, sequence, or routine? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?
To avoid confusion, I promise to try to use the following the terms when presenting the physical practices in these lessons.
In simplest terms, a stance is what you are doing with your feet. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a stance as “the way in which someone stands.” You could expand that definition to include a posture “you deliberately adopt in sports,” but that is a posture, not a stance. A stance is what you do with your feet, not your hands, head, or chest. In the martial arts you assume a few stances repeatedly, each in the expression of a different posture. For example, there is the horse stance, the toe stance, and the bow and arrow stance.
The New Oxford American Dictionary says that a pose is “a way of standing or sitting usually adapted for effect.” For our purposes, a pose is the stance plus the position of the hands, head, and chest. The body will transition through many poses while expressing a martial art posture.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “a position of a person’s body when standing or sitting.” That could be a pose, but in Taijiquan a posture is more than a static pose. There can be multiple poses between postures, a series of transitional movements that end in a final pose that gives the Taijiquan posture its name. Sometimes a sequence of postures is grouped under a single name. Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, for example, groups Ward Off, Roll-back, Press, and Push.
Form and style are used interchangeably. Form is more specific. A style can have many forms. When discussing the various lineages of taijiquan, for example, there is the Yang family style and the short, long, or competition forms.
Style is a broader term for the various forms of a martial art. For example, there is the Yang style of taijiquan, but within the Yang style there are many forms that originated from Yang, Lu-Chang’s sons, and their students.
Going forward, I will try to stick to these definitions, and not refer to the heel posture used in the Brush Left Knee posture. Instead, I will call it the heel stance in the transitional pose of the Brush Left Knee posture.
One more word…
Method is “a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.” Since the 17th century, the scientific method has transformed our understanding of living organisms, our planet, and the Universe.
Creation stories of martial styles imply that the art was better in the past, that some master perfected it in seclusion, and it has lost power and meaning since that time. The opposite is true.
Martial styles have adapted to their times. From necessary training for survival to health and meditation practices in the modern world. Each master has refined their style to fit their personality and fitness requirements. The popularity of the internal martial arts sprouts from such refinement in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
These martial art masters did not use the scientific method to create or refine their arts, but they did have a framework for development. Chinese medicine theory is at the heart of all the internal martial art styles. While this theory misses the mark on the body’s internal functions, it proved to be correct on physical functions.
I developed my Earth Dragon Canon Method to martial art study because as a strong skeptic I recognized many of the traditional practices as esoteric and unfunctional. This is not new, many of the old teachers claim to have discarded the dross in favor of the functional. Most of those focus on fighting applications over health benefits. The Earth Dragon Canon Method focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual health.