Help with horse stance?

Guys, I have been going over some of the stuff from my karate days (Chinese kempo, not sure of the pedigree - these days I am more a kickboxer/mixed recreational fighter and this is simply for my own training, not competition of any kind) and deciding on training techniques I want to keep or hone. Among them is the horse stance. I've been reading up on this and it seems like this is indeed a good stance for training and strengthening the legs. Some questions, for anyone that can help me:

-I was taught that my heels should be off the floor enough for a piece of paper to pass under them. This seems very weird to me. Is it just a way of saying the emphasis is on the balls of the feet?

-Our horse stance was never very low. I can hold it quite easily. Should I widen my feet and lower my body, to further challenge myself?

-We were taught to practice blocks, punches and other hand techniques in this stance. How do you practice twisting the hips in this stance? Are you supposed to hold the stance rigid or are you allowed to turn your hips and feet a little to practice the rotation that goes into punching?

Thanks for your time.

Here's how I used to train the ma bu. I still use it from time to time, but don't 'train; it any more.

feet are shoulder width apart, you may even want to think hip width apart. The feet are parallel, toes pointing straight ahead. There are various hand positions you can use, but they generally involve 'holding a ball' and your arms are held out in front of you. From here, make sure the knees are directly over the toes and squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Now, tighten your abs and 'pull' yourself up by arching your back. Try to get the back as close to perpendicular as you can, but the thighs MUST stay parallel, toes forward, knees over the toes. In the end position, the head is held high (imagine a string attached to the crown of your head pulling you up), the eyes look forward, the back is arched. (you 'pull' on the back to keep it arched throughout the posture, the feet are shoulder width, toes forward, knees over the toes. breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Expand the belly on the inhale, contract onn the exhale. Start off with 30 seconds and work up. 3 minutes is considered a strong horse.

Ma bu will strengthen the legs, especially at the knee joint, but it is really more of a core exercise that focuses on breathing (qi gong). It also teaches one to 'eat bitter' or learn to accept pain. This stance is very good for training any hip throw variation, and wil actually teach you to 'hit' the other guy with your hip as you enter for the throw. Ma bu also develops root and the ability to drop center.

There is a variation known as the Three Flats that teaches spiral power. Stand with the feet together, ankles touching and knees touching. Make 'Tai Chi hooks' with your fingers and stick them out in front of you, wrists touching and elbows touching. Maintain contact at the joints and sink into ma bu. All the requrements from the first post still apply.

Terrific feedback, guys. Thank you. I'll train this for a while just focusing on the stance and get back to you.

Very curious now about the triple hip twist!

 Interesting, Kyo! It's not something I was ever taught but along the lines of the way i have been thinking about the stance.

Lot of Earl Montaigue demonstrating DIM MAK! Any recommendations? Is it this one?

The horse stance I was describing (in both posts) comes from Baoding Shuai Chiao. Don't think there's any qi gong involved, but who knows.

H2ODragon: I believe that Qi Gong practice is a part of all, or at least almost all, Chinese MAs. However, as I am not an expert in Baoding Shuai Chiao, I won't speak for that/your system.

Now that would depend on how you're defining Qi Gong. If you mean working with the breath, then yeah, there's a lot of Qi Gong in Shuai Chiao, and it's designed to coordinate with the throws. The horse I'm describing will help you build a killer O Goshi, Harai, Uchimata, etc. It helps you really get that hip under and scoop them up. The breathing aspect of the horse helps with the lifting. In practice, you exhale but only a little puff of air comes out. The purpose is to expand and pressurize the abdomen.

That's not what the standard definition of Qi Gong has come to be. Most people are thinking more of a Zhuan Zhang type of thing. I've done that too. Fong Ha taught me the Wuji QiGong from I Chuan a few years back. It's real cool stuff, but not the same as what SC is doing.

I haven't seen the Iron Shirt you're talking about. I've done Iron Body, and that invloved a prone position and people jumping off a chair onto your belly while you relaxed as much as possible. Fun days back then.