Power Stance VS Bow
By Eli Montaigue February 24th 2017
This article is with regard to push hands only, and not the Taiji forms or any other training methods.
OK so there has been some confusion lately as to bow stance
or power stance in push hands for beginners.
Let me start by saying that these views are mine and my father Erle’s, if anyone else chooses to practice or teach differently than us, then that is up to them, this is simply my take on it, and it was also my father’s take.
When teaching beginners anything in Taiji we have to
simplify things in some way, every teacher has their own way of doing this, and
often we do it differently for different students, as everyone learns in their
When you break something down, often we have to actually break rules, like for example Taiji should be a whole body movement, but sometimes we will show a beginner just how to move their arms.
So with regards to push hands, Erle started out teaching in the late 70’s using a bow stance, as it’s easier than the power stance for a beginner to hold good balance, then in the early 90’s he started to introduce the more advanced power stance to his students.
After a while of teaching the power stance, he decided to experiment with teaching it right from the start to beginners, he had much success in this, and by the late 90’s he had done away with the bow stance all together, teaching all his beginner students the power stance.
Both the bow stance and the power stance have their problems when teaching beginners.
There are many pros and cons to both, but the main one is as follows.
The Power Stance.
This is in Erle’s mind the “correct” way of push hands.
The main problem you will face when teaching this to beginners is that due to the smaller stance, they are more likely to lean forward to keep from being pushed backwards.
The Bow Stance.
This is in Erle’s mind the “Incorrect” way of push hands.
The main problem you will face when teaching this to beginners is that due to the longer stance,
the movement created by shifting the weight is a large forward and backwards one, in Erle’s words, “Push hands should never be a forward and backward movement, and always side to side”
So they both have a problem, but, in the bow stance even if the student does it perfectly, they are still programming their subconscious into a forward backward mind set, this is breaking one of the core principals of Taiji according to Erle.
However, with the power stance, this creates a side to side movement, but how do we solve the problem of the leaning forward?
By simply using less force, we start off our beginner students with a soft pressure in the power stance, this way they are learning the correct mind set right from the start, but shouldn’t lean as they are not being put under too much pressure.
Now there are times when I will use a bow stance to teach a certain principal in push hands, there are all sorts of things we can do when breaking things down, I even have a training method when I tell my students to lean forward on their partner, now I would never want them doing that in their push hands, but it gets across a certain point.
We use something called the “Basic Standard” There is no one perfect way to teach Taiji, but we use this basic standard as the guideline to work from.
If we have a student who picks things up really well, then we can teach them above the basic standard, or if they are struggling then we can teach them below it, that is up to the teacher at hand.
So when I say that push hands should be taught in a power stance, I mean this for the vast majority of people, I personally have never had a student who couldn’t learn the power stance, but maybe you have, and you might like to show them the bow stance for a little while to get a point across, nothing wrong with that, like I say everyone teaches in the way they know.
I have been teaching this way all over the world to hundreds
of people for the past 13 years, and I’ve
found it to work really well, plus also this basic standard that I speak of has
been created by Erle over his 35 years of teaching.
I’ve heard people say that this is wrong, and that Erle did push hands in the bow stance for decades before advancing to the power stance. This is true, but Erle always said that he had to work through all the rubbish to find the real Taiji, so their were many things that he learnt and trained in that he would not advocate teaching now. He went through so many different ways of doing things, over some 40+ years of practice, and he formulated a better way to learn than what he had to do.
He would often refer to me as an example, saying how my level of practice after 10 years training is so much higher than his was after the same amount, stating that this was due to me having a much better teacher, and because I didn’t have to waste years working through all the rubbish Taiji that he had to.
Lastly I’d just like to mention that a few people, old students of Erle’s, have been spreading misinformation about this subject, saying that Erle always and still taught bow stance for push hands to beginners, and that to skip the bow stance you will miss many fundamental principals in push hands.
Also, they have said that everything Erle said about push hands in his last decade was only ever meant for advance instructors, because he did not have any beginner students.
If someone says that you “must” learn first the bow stance, that’s fine, that’s their own choice, and I respect their way of teaching, but when people clam that these are the views of my father, then I have to step in and correct them.
Here are some truths about Erle teaching push hands in his last decade.
1. He never said at any workshop that the bow stance should be used for beginners, and always stated it was “incorrect” “Rubbish” or “Silly” to use this stance. Even though there were always many beginners present at his workshops.
2. He did teach many beginners classes.
in 2004 he started a local class in Gwynfe, teaching total beginners, my brother Ben and I would then take over this class. In this class he taught power stance.
There was also another total beginners class he started in Llandeilo that I would then take over, again he taught power stance.
3. I filmed a video, MTG 397, a total beginners video, including single push hands, I taught this in the power stance, Erle was behind the camera filming, and gave me a few pointers, but did not say anything about the stance.
4. Erle taught large workshops around Europe, sometimes he could get asked to do a class with 60 total beginners, he taught them power stance, stating that they should never do push hands in the bow stance.
5. Erle taught his own children the power stance.
When I first got serious about my training, dad started a class for the three of us every morning at 7am for 2 hours. He taught all three of us beginners to use the power stance, even Kathleen who was only 9 and had no previous training of any kind to go by.
So please understand that I’m not saying bow stance is wrong.
Personally I don’t like to use it in my teaching, but that’s me, I do a lot of things in my own way, but with this I stick to what Dad worked out over decades of teaching.
The message in this article?
Erle Montaigue advised beginners to learn push hands in a power stance.
You as a teacher should teach how you want, never just copy.
But if you’re a new teacher representing the WTBA, and you are unsure of how to teach, then do it how Dad and I do it.
Here is a short video of Erle explaining his views