Fudō-dachi, the ready stance, is a modified form of parade rest. Students are to stand in this default position when not engaged in any other action.
Your feet face straight forward. The outside edges of your feet are exactly shoulder-width apart (i.e., your feet are directly underneath your shoulders). Your bodyweight is evenly divided between both legs. Your knees are slightly bent, not locked. Locking your knees will slow you down, since it adds an extra step (unlocking your knees) to anything reaction that follows. Your back is straight -- no slouching -- with your chin up. Ready stance vaguely feels like sitting on the edge of a barstool.
[photo of fudo-dachi from the front and side. use paint to draw lines to illustrate shoulder-width.]
Please note the following:
- Typically, you do step into ready stance; you snap into it using a nami ashi.
- Your hands are held in front of your hips, with your hand clenched in fists, with unturned wrists, as a sign of peaceful intent. It may seem strange for clenched fists to be a sign of peace; however, standing in this position prevents using sleight-of-hand tricks to conceal knives or other weapons.
[video on how to palm a knife, and how that fails in ready stance.]
- Entering a fighting stance is a clear expression of violent intentions, which renders peaceful negotiation impossible from that point forward. Once you commit to attack, there is no going back. As such, entering a fighting stance is to be avoided at all costs, unless there is no alternative or means of escape.
- The element of surprise. Not standing in a fighting stance leads attackers to believe that you don't know karate. After the initial defense, the attacker will be stunned by the confusion of what just happened.
- Adaptability. Ready stance is more-or-less how people normally stand. So, by learning how to defend yourself from this default position, you can never be taken off-guard, because standing normally becomes your guard. With one movement, a ready stance can become any other stance or position. Ready stance grants you the freedom and flexibility to assume the most appropriate position that the situation calls for. While ready stance requires an extra movement to get into a fighting position, that step can be used as an evasion, adding another layer to your defense.
Fudō-dachi literally translates as “immovable stance,” which seems to be a paradox. However, like all paradoxes, it is only a contradiction when viewed from the surface. "Fudō" can also mean “firmly centered,” or “securely grounded,” which it is. Also, this stance is coupled to the notion of fudōshin -- an “immovable mind” which cannot be disturbed. Fudōshin responds to any crisis without losing its composure, meeting each new challenge with an icy jadedness. Fudōshin is a mind which can unhesitatingly devote its full attention to anywhere it is needed, and is capable of making the appropriate and correct decision without consulting the internal monologue for its approval. A major goal of karate training is to develop such a mind.