Fudō-dachi, the ready stance, is a modified form of parade rest. All karate students are under a standing order to maintain 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; they are not locked. Locking your knees slows you down, by adding the extra step of unlocking your knees to anything which 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 a ready stance; you snap into it using a nami ashi.
- As a sign of peaceful intent, your hands are clenched in fists, in front of your hips, with your wrists unturned. While clenched fists don't seem like a sign of peace; however, this position precludes 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 clearly expresses violent intentions, which renders peaceful negotiation impossible from that point forward. Once you commit to attacking, there's no going back. As such, entering a fighting stance is to be avoided unless there is no alternative or means of escape.
- The element of surprise. By not standing in a fighting stance, attackers are led to believe that you don't know karate. This augments your initial defense, because 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. A ready stance is one movement away from becoming any other stance or position -- and using that step as an evasion adds 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.