Our photo theme this week is “Get Physical” — physical education and culture that spans dynasties. Kung fu, qigong, elderly square dancing, and everything in between.

We’re kicking off our photographic glimpse into China’s (complex and longstanding) physical culture with a quick how-to on the Horse Stance (ma bu 马步), a basic stance common to every style of kung fu. And like everything in China, there are regional differences. Not every photo will be kung fu, but you can bet this one is.

Horse Stance

  1. Do all that fancy stuff pictured in steps 1 – 6.
  2. Spread your feet to a little wider than shoulder width, with toes pointed directly forward (see picture 7).
  3. Bend down at the knees, without buckling them inward. Keep your back pointed straight up. Good monks should be able to balance teacups of water on their bent knees for up to an hour.

Horse Stance is an A+ exercise for your legs, and develops strength in the outer stabilizer muscles that traditional squats might miss. It’s kind of like “the electric chair” for misbehaving PE students — knock out one minute of the stance while your Hot Pocket microwaves, and feel the burn.