Do you have a root?

Discussion in 'Chinese Martial Arts Articles' started by futsaowingchun, May 4, 2009.

  1. futsaowingchun

    futsaowingchun Banned Banned

    Do you have Root?

    A lot of people who begin taking up a martial art for the first time, such as Wing Chun, tend to be overly eager. Many just want to learn the "good stuff" and jump right into advanced training. Beginner martial artists try to take short cuts by spending as little time as possible on the basics, bypassing the "hard, boring, and mundane" aspects of training like developing a strong root.

    What they fail to realize is that a strong root is essential to building a good foundation in preparation for advanced training. Simply put, without a strong root you have no gung fu. What does a strong root really mean? Without a solid root, one's techniques will simply not work against someone with a developed root, and ones attack and defense will lack the necessary force to deal with their opponent's attack. A person who has failed to develop a strong root is like a house of cards, apply modest pressure and it totally collapses .Also a person devoid of a root has no real structure and can be controlled easily by one who is rooted. Without structure, this type of person must rely solely on brute force or sectional power to generate force (such as the power of only the hand or foot.) Although this type of power can be great, it is unconnected from the whole body and lacks the power which comes from one's root.

    When issuing force from the root, however, whole body power is used. This power originates from one's root and is connected from the ground-up and transmitted through one's structure. Not just the portion of the hand or leg is used, but the whole connected body. This power is unbroken like the chain on a bicycle. When released; the force feels like being hit by a tidal wave or a sudden shock wave. This type of power is what gives the smaller person the ability to generate a tremendous amount of power compared to someone who relays solely on his arms or legs. In the old days of the great masters, you often heard about persons of a small stature who were able to defeat larger foes with their ability to deliver power beyond the normal. I'm sure such great masters from the past, must have spent a lot of time on their foundations and had tremendous root in order to accomplish these great feats. Besides basic horse and stance training another very useful way to develop a strong and stable root is from regular Chi Sao practice.

    (The practice of Chi Sao is unique to the Wing Chun system.) By regular practice, one feels what it is like to have their root and structure tested continuously. This is very useful in root training. The constant forward pressure from ones opponent during Chi Sao is a great way to test the root. One must learn to channel this pressure from the structure into the ground, and issue power from the ground though ones structure. If your root is weak one will simply fall over or lose balance. This is the basic and most invaluable skill one should develop in order to advance to higher levels of training in Chi Sao.

    In my opinion, one should not concentrate to much on fancy or complicated techniques in the beginning. The focus should be on learning how to root. Fancy hand techniques or combinations may seem impressive to the beginner, but without a solid root all those techniques go out the window. Without a firm foundation, one will not be able to issue any stopping power to one's opponent, or have the ability to use his structure. One will simply have to rely on external factors like speed and brute force to overcome their opponent. In conclusion, without a root, hands have no meaning and are neutralized and nullified. Without root, there is no gung fu.

    By Sifu Michael McIlwrath
  2. Darryl

    Darryl Valued Member

    Just a small will find many Chinese Styles practise a form/or forms of Chi Sau.
    We have Luk Sau, Bay Say and Chi Sau. Ours though are practised from the start - as freestyle with no set drills.
    Doesn't Tai Chi Chuan have pushing hands...which is very similar in principle.
  3. futsaowingchun

    futsaowingchun Banned Banned

    Hi, yes your right many kung-fu styles have some sort of chi sao like exercise. Tai chi has push hands, but unlike Tai chi push hands wing chun chi sao is used for hitting the opponet. Tai chi is mainly concerned with up rooting and fa ginging you,so both have similiar ideas but applied differently. Also in Fut Sao wing Chun we also do our Chi Sao free form. Almost like close range fighting.
  4. Darryl

    Darryl Valued Member

    Yes no probs, but I did say OURS ...(My style)

    "Ours though are practised from the start - as freestyle with no set drills." I didn't say other styles 'did' or 'did not'.

    You said ..."so both have similiar ideas but applied differently".

    I didn't say any different.

    Please understand the word 'principle.'

    Ideas, principles and concepts are much more important than techniques or training drills.

    Yes I do know some Wing Chun. I have many friends from this style. Also...Yes I have been to Fotsan and Hong Kong.
    I am not knocking any art here, or how they are practised. - They all have value.


  5. futsaowingchun

    futsaowingchun Banned Banned

    Oh sorry..Just a little confused today...anyway,,I agree with you. Keep up the good work..
  6. xshaolinkidx

    xshaolinkidx New Member

    just a quick addition. yes i completely agree that people training now tend to try to SKIP the basics and go to the advanced, therefore never developing a strong root, and as a consequence will never be a formidable fighter. but you forget that its not just NOW that this happens. it has been like that since the beginning of martial arts. haha thats why we have legends like we do. only a select few REALLY get good, and those are the ones that pay attention to detail. others come and go, but those with a root stay forever. Also its not just in martial arts but EVERY art. those who decide to learn and completely MASTER every technique in their art will truly become an artist, but many don't. so many musicians skip basics or can't read music, so they never become great, and so on.

    good post guys

    ok so what small things have you guys learned or discovered to develop a stronger root?
  7. futsaowingchun

    futsaowingchun Banned Banned

    In one word pressure. Learning to deal with your opponents pressure.
  8. xshaolinkidx

    xshaolinkidx New Member

    learning to deal, sounds too much to me like like bending to it. i was talking about things like diffusing leverage and movement of your center
  9. Infrazael

    Infrazael Banned Banned

    What is root? How do you (personally) define it? And how do you develop this root?

    Because there are dozens of Chinese martial art styles. And some are completely different, even opposite. And yet, are they suppose to develop "root" the same way?

    And while we're at it, do boxers, thai boxers, or karate fighters also have root? What about wrestlers, judo, or jujitsu fighters? How would you define their "root," if they had one and also would it be different than a kung fu fighter?
  10. ThunderSmith

    ThunderSmith New Member


    I think the point they are trying to get across is a lot of the stuff above being extremely useful techniques and skills to help you become a better fighter. Alot of these techniques are quite simple and basic, they're not particularly complex or hard to do initially but building these up early in your training helps to benefit you more over time.

    I've heard many people mention the rooting power of the horse stance. In a good horse stance it should be pretty difficult for someone to knock you down. The strength and stability of the stance makes it harder to be knocked down. But you can't master it in a night, it takes time to train like everything else. A fairly basic but incredibly useful thing in my eye.

    I don't know a great deal on chi sao apart from that I've done it about twice in training, it's something to do with understanding people's reflexes and trying yourself to react both mentally and physically. Again something that needs a bit of time to master.

    I think many styles have their own unique techniques that are like this even if they're not as well known as a horse stance or chi sao. There's probably a good few in pretty much all martials arts whether japanese, chinese, thai, or western. They may not just be practiced as much as others.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
  11. Infrazael

    Infrazael Banned Banned

    Yes, but the author of this article doesn't really explain in great detail his opinion of "root." And whether he thinks root is specific to CMA, or Wing Chun, or are there different "types" or root spread out between schools of CMA, and martial arts from other regions?
  12. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    There are 2 kind of roots, the static root and dynamic root.

    The static root is the ability to be able to redirect the incoming force to the ground through your legs without affecting your own balance. Here is an example of good static root:

    The dynamic root is the ability to be able to give up your own root and then regain it back later. After you have thrown your opponent over your head, if you can still mantain your own balance, you have good dynamic root.

    The dynamic root is also the ability to be able to take your opponent's root as your own root. Here is one example.

    IMO, the dynamic root is much more useful and important than the static root.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  13. geezer

    geezer Valued Member

    I have been using those same terms, "static" and "dynamic" since the 80's to describe stance stability. It's nice to know that it is actually an established distinction (I thought I just made it up). Anyway, my old sifu used to place tremendous emphasis on static root, including being strongly rooted even when standing on one leg! And, he did have an incredibly strong static stance, effortlessly performing moves like the one in your clip.

    On the other hand, I was constantly ridiculed for my weak static stance. I suffer from bone-fusions in my ankles which make it physiologicly impossible for me to correctly assume some of the classical stance positions. On the other hand I was raised doing motion sports like skiing, waterskiing, bicycling, skateboarding, and so on... not to mention arts like wrestling. Dynamic balance comes more naturally to me. And I found that in sparring, I surprised a lot of my classmates who kidded me for not being stable when standing still. While I recognize the value of static balance, I agree that dynamic balance is more critical in a dynamic situation like sparring or fighting. I always compare it to riding a bicycle. Learning how to balance on a bike while standing still is really tough, and probably won't be of much use in learning how to ride a mountain-bike over rough terrain. Still, I'm always struggling to improve my static root as well.
  14. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    If your opponent attacks the 90 degree angle from your feet line (line defined by 2 feet), your balance is always weak. If you can spin your body 90 degree and move one of your feet and readjust your feet line so you feet line will be the same as the direction that your opponent attacks, you will have strong root. IMO, a strong root is the ability to spin your body at the right moment.
  15. geezer

    geezer Valued Member

    I would call that "positioning" or "alignment", and it's true that getting a good position relative to your opponent will make your stance stronger. But I see "root" as something more subtle. Even when two people are square to each other... that is standing face to face with their feet side by side (with the "foot-line" you described parallel to that of their opponent) it is possible to have a stronger root than your opponent. Both sinking and being flexible and yielding play a role. Think Tai Chi.
  16. Ciar2001

    Ciar2001 New Member Supporter

    In Chowgar you don't realise that you begin developing root from the first day you start, it starts from first form all the way through, the longer you train the better and more obvious it becomes, that's I see root anyways.
  17. Anorhyme

    Anorhyme Banned Banned

    That should have no effect on developing the parts of your body involved in rooting. Your feet are just platforms. They could be wood or metal, it doesn't matter.

    Your root comes from your center and extends out past whatever is at the end of your leg.
  18. geezer

    geezer Valued Member

    Yeah that's why there are so many amputees with prosthetic legs that are push-hands and chi-sau adepts. Did I ever tell you about my great great great grand-uncle Ahab? Boy, could he ever root after that whale took his leg!
  19. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    If your opponent can push your center to be outside of your base, you will fall. If your body has some build in vibration power that can cancel out any outside force, any outside force cannot change the relationship between your center and your base, you have good rooting.
  20. Anorhyme

    Anorhyme Banned Banned

    Good Morning Hater. How are you today?

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