Kendo, Aikido, martial art related

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Postures, Stances and Body Shifting in Karate

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Postures
Basically there are three postures widely used in karate. The front-facing posture is mainly used in attack and the shoulders are at ninety degrees to the line of attack. The half-front-facing posture is mainly used in defence and the shoulders are at forty-five degrees to the opponent's line of attack. The side-facing posture, in which the shoulders are in line with or parallel with the line of attack, is used both in attack and defence.

With all three postures the upper half of the body will normally be straight and perpendicular to the ground, otherwise the balance will be endangered and the correct performance of most techniques difficult if not impossible. Naturally, the rare occasion does arise which calls for a non-perpendicular posture.

Stances
As much as the posture, the stance is an integral part of any technique you perform. Therefore, a strong technique from a weak stance is a contradiction in terms. The different stances used are the outcome of two considerations - one for strength, the other for agility. The actual ratio of these factors varies with different stances.

Heisoku-dachi (attention stance). Just stand naturally with the feet together and the weight evenly balanced on both feet. The knees should be not quite straight.

Hachiji-dachi (open leg stance). As for the above but with the feet about a shoulders' width apart. This and the preceding stance are simply natural stances from which you can move with maximum smoothness into stances appropriate to actual karate techniques.

Zenkutsu-dachi (forward stance). This stance is very strong toward the front and is useful both in attacking to the front and in blocking attacks coming from the front.

Step with one foot about two shoulders' widths forward and about thirty degrees diagonally to the side. Keep the back leg straight. Bend the front leg, forcing the knee outward directly over the big toe. Both feet should be flat, the front foot pointing slightly inward. In this stance the front leg takes sixty per cent of the body weight.

Kokutsu-dachi (back stance). A very useful characteristic of this stance is that, after having used it in stepping back and blocking or avoiding an attack, a mere shift of body weight into the forward stance enables you to close with the opponent and counter-attack immediately. Also, as most of the body weight is taken on the back foot, the front foot is free for kicking.

Again, the legs are about two shoulders' widths apart. A line extended to the rear from the front foot should touch the heel of the back foot, and this later should be at a right angle with the line. The rear leg takes seventy per cent of the body weight, and should be deeply bent and forced outwards. The front leg should not be quite straight, otherwise a stamping kick to the knee would easily break it.

Kiba-dachi (straddle/stance). This is a strong stance when attacking or defending to the side.

As in the two previous stances the feet should be two shoulders' widths apart. The feet themselves should be turned a little inwards, the knees forced outwards, so that the legs are rather like bows under tension. This involves a screwing tendency of the feet into the floor which is essential for the stability of the stance. It is equally important that the knees should be bent
deeply, thus keeping the centre of gravity low. The weight of the body is carried evenly on both legs, all the muscles of which (along with those of the pelvis) should be tightened. Sanchin-dachi (diagonal straddle stance). A stance equally strong to the sides and to the front - for attacking or defending.

As in the straddle stance, the knees must be tensed outwards. This is, in fact, just the straight straddle stance with one of the legs twisted forward, the front knee over the big toe and the rear knee a little in front of the big toe. The body weight is again carried evenly on both legs.

Neko-ashi-dachi (cat stance). Here the front leg carries hardly any of the body weight and so it can easily be used for kicking. Another great advantage of this stance is that from it you can easily and quickly move into any other stance - whether to the front, back, or to one side.

The back should be absolutely straight. Keep the rear foot flat and raise the heel of the front foot, the knee pointing a little inwards. The rear knee should be well bent.

Body Shifting
In karate, body shifting may be achieved by stepping, sliding, turning, or by any combination of these basic elements. The following general rules apply to all methods of body shifting:

1. Your head should be always more or less at the same height from the floor. Therefore, when moving from one wide-legged stance to another your feet come together and your knees must be well bent. This helps to maintain a strong balance.

2. You should neither raise your feet very high from the floor nor drag them. You loose both speed and balance in either case.

3. Whether fast or slowly, the weight of your body must always be shifted smoothly.

4. Begin and end every movement in a strong, correctly-spaced stance, and maintain correct posture throughout the movement.

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