Zenkutsu dachi (literally: “front-bend stance”), or front stance, is the basic position where counterattacks are launched from. Driving into this position adds all of the power the legs and core muscles to a technique, unlocking one’s full potential.
To enter a front stance, your rear foot must be two shoulder-widths behind the front foot, and one shoulder-width to the side of it. The front foot's toes point forward, and the rear foot's toes point 45° outside. The front knee is directly over the front ankle. Bending the front leg too far, or not far enough, leads to instability and hindered motion. The rear leg is completely straight, with the knee locked.
Alternately, one can easily enter front stance by entering a horse stance and locking one leg to make a 1/8th turn in the other direction.
[photo of front stance from the front and side.]
[photo of incorrect front stances (too far forward, both legs locked) from the side. Include red X’s to show that this is bad]
70% of your bodyweight is carried on the front leg. Try test yourself by weighing yourself on a scale, then enter a front stance with only your front foot on the scale. When done correctly, the scale will read 0.7 times your bodyweight -- and if it doesn’t, then shift around until it does.
In general, if your legs feel comfortable, then something is wrong. Your leg muscles should experience a feeling of burning and tension at all times. This cultivates tremendous leg strength, which will power all of our techniques. In order to keep and maintain this burn, you must lower your center of mass, and keep it low.
Again, a good stance is 2” (5 cm) lower than what intuitively feels like a good stance. A low center-of-mass creates a solid, stable structure which allows for devastating attacks and a resistance to takedowns. However, remaining low requires constant concentration on body positioning; and this concentration is the first thing to go when anyone becomes distracted. It is imperative to focus on “thinking sinking,” to help ignore unnecessary thoughts and distractions. This mental aspect of karate training is the most difficult aspect to master, yet it is part of the first lesson.