Stances

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Before one can make a stand to stop violence, they must first know how to stand. The most fundamental skill needed to become a successful fighter is good posture. (It sounds strange, but it’s true.) Untrained people will instinctively hit in a way that feels strong to them, but it is actually quite weak. A proper karate punch feels weak to the thrower -- but not to the receiver -- because proper a stance absorbs the recoil of the strike and redirects through the skeleton and into the ground -- not into the muscles.

Proper stances and good posture allow karate practitioners (karateka) to maintain their balance, enabling them to perform powerful kicks, and to resist various reaps, sweeps, trips, throws, and takedowns. This stability is a result of a proper weight distribution, which is largely achieved by keeping the center-of-mass low. In general, your legs should never feel comfortable, because a proper stance is 2” (5 cm) lower than what feels comfortable.

Low stances are often criticized as being “immobile,” but that is a slanderous lie. The mobility of a stance is a function of the area it encloses; if mobility becomes a problem, it is not because the center is too low; it is because the stance is too wide, or too long. Maintaining a high center-of-mass, or bouncing about, gives the opponent the leverage they need to execute takedowns. Additionally, people who bounce around have no foundation, making it impossible to add the bone-crushing power of their legs into each of their techniques.

Before delving into specifics, there are a few general principles that all karate stances share:

  • Carry your bodyweight exclusively on the balls of the feet, and never upon the heels. To do this, you must learn to walk in a cat-like “toe-heel” fashion, instead of the normal “heel-toe.”
  • The knees and toes must always point in the same direction. This prevents tweaking the knee joint, and allows you to exploit the full range-of-motion of the major muscles.
  • The feet stick to the floor like suction cups, with the toes clawing at the ground like tiny, weird little fingers.
  • To remain perfectly stable in a three-dimensional space, you need three legs. However, it is unlikely that you have more than two. For this reason, each stance has directions where it is inherently weak, and can be toppled. While this cannot be fixed, it can be mitigated by continuously re-positioning yourself into a safer stance or angle each time the opponent moves.

Our lessons will utilize the following stances: