Zenkutsu dachi (literally: “front-bend stance”), or front stance, is the basic position from which counterattacks are launched. By driving into this position, all of the power the legs and core muscles will be added to a technique, unlocking one’s full potential.
In a front stance, the rear foot must be two shoulder-widths behind the front foot, and one shoulder-width to the side of it. The toes of the front foot point forward, and the toes of the rear foot points 45° outside. The front knee is directly over the front ankle. Bending the front leg too far, or not far enough, leads to instability; it is harder to move from either of those positions. 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 the bodyweight bears down on the front leg. A good test for this is to weigh youself, then with one front foot on the scale, enter front stance. When done correctly, the scale reads 0.7 times your bodyweight -- and if it doesn’t, then shift around until it does.
In general, if you ever feel comfortable, then something is wrong. There needs to be a feeling of burning and tension in the leg muscles 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 their center of mass, and keep it low.
Again, a good stance is 2” (5 cm) lower than what one intuitively thinks a good stance is. Keeping a low center-of-mass creates a solid, stable structure that allows for devastating attacks and great immunity from takedowns. However, remaining low requires constant concentration on body positioning. When one is distracted, this stability always becomes the first thing to go. It is imperative to focus on “thinking sinking,” and to avoid unnecessary thoughts and distractions. This mental aspect of karate training is the most difficult aspect to master, yet it is the first lesson.