Stand on one leg. Now stand on the other. You’ve just shifted the entire mass of your body through space and you probably did it easily, without thinking. Nevertheless, that simple action is something a Jiulong student studies deeply.
If Jiulong standing practice is about learning to create a stable and strong structure of your body, then shifting practice is about learning to move that structure. The ability to shift one’s weight is a key component of attack and defense. It is obvious that a punch is far more powerful when you put your body weight into it than if you just throw out your hand.
Practicing shifting from side to side or forward and backward, allows the student to explore and learn how to move the entire body in the most efficient way possible. This is done by incorporating the lessons from standing practice on relaxing non-active muscles and maintaining a strong structure, into movement. Maintaining a strong structure while moving requires the student learn how to change the structure while moving, i.e. change the position of the arms and move the torso to ensure that shifting weight does not weaken the structure somehow.
Furthermore, the student learns how to coordinate these changes in torso and upper limb movement with the weight transfer from one leg to another. This is crucial to the ability of being able to put the entire weight of the body into a strike or push whether it is with a hand, elbow, shoulder, or torso.
In Jiulong we play a game called Willow Bends that involves 2 partners facing each other closely enough to touch forearms. They are allowed only to shift from side to side as each tries to get the other off balance by finding weaknesses in the other’s structure and using the power of the entire body to force a partner to take a step. This game puts pressure on the student’s ability to maintain a stable structure under dynamic conditions and contains lessons in attack and defense.
NOTE: Such a game should not be seen as a kind of sparring practice. It is obviously not because of its highly restrictive rules. It is a game designed to teach and test very specific skills that we feel can be useful in personal combat. Someone who thinks that being good at this game automatically confers skill in a real physical conflict will likely adjust this opinion rapidly if they find themselves in an actual fight.
Finally, the practice of shifting strengthens the legs and improves balance. When done correctly, it protects the knees from damage through its emphasis on good body mechanics and postural alignment. This makes it an excellent and safe exercise for many people with different kinds of knee problems and it can be practiced just about anywhere at any time.
We believe that weight shifting, like sitting and standing, is another building block in the construction of a skilled martial artist. As such, it deserves study and diligent practice because it serves as a foundation for the next stages of training in Jiulong