Stances are the foundation of karate. Stances are at the heart of one’s ability to master one’s body and use basic leverage principle to aid oneself in defense against attack. Proper stances control the karateka’s balance. Without a proper stance, most techniques become ineffective. Using an improper stance, the karateka has to rely on physical strength rather than the proper application of a given technique. They in effect lose the benefit that karate offers.
At the heart of each karate stance is the aspect of controlling one’s center of gravity and balance. A proper stance will always be balanced, with the karateka’s center of gravity residing just below the navel area in the area known as the hara. Shifting the center of gravity too high makes the karateka vulnerable to being pulled off balance, or having the technique pull you off balance into a vulnerable position. Shifting it too low make transitions out of the stance more difficult and time consuming. For example, it would take the karateka slightly longer to first shift their center of gravity up and then launch an attack. In the meantime the attacker can prepare to defend or avoid the karateka’s technique. This would also tip off an opponent that the karateka is about to launch a technique.
Both open-hand karate, and weapons kobodu share many stances. Each stance has advantageous and disadvantageous as to angle of attack, defense, stability, and maneuverability. This section discusses these stances.
Keba-dachi or Horse Stance
The keba-dachi stance is also known as the horse or side stance. This is shown in the picture to the right. This is because the stance resembles the form your body assumes when mounted on a horse. In this stance, both feet are toes pointed forward, with the knees out over the feet. The feet are approximately a shoulders distance apart. The strength is in the lower torso, while the upper body is loose and relaxed.
The strength of this stance lies in its resistance to side attacks. A strong keba-dachi stance resists pushes from the side. It is a strong stance to execute throwing techniques from. The center of gravity is low and very balanced in this stance. The center of balance resides in the hara, a spot a couple of inches below the navel.
The stance is formed as follows:
When complete, you should be able to pivot in place and have a fists distance between the heel of one foot and the knee of the opposite leg. This is shown in the picture to the right.
7/3, 70/30, or Cat Stance
This stance has multiple names. Both 7/3 and 70/30 refer to the fact that 70% of your weight is on the rear foot. It also resembles a cat ready to pounce on it’s prey, thus the obvious reference. It is defined by shifting your body weight slightly to the rear. Seventy percent of your weight should be on the rear foot, while thirty percent of your weight should be on your front foot. The front foot’s heel is off the ground, with only the ball of the foot resting on the ground. The front foot has the toes pointing straight forward, with the back foot’s toes off on a 45 degree angle. This stance is shown below, both front and side.
Both knees should be slightly bent to act in the same capacity as a shock absorber on a car. In this stance, the karateka’s shoulders are at a 45 degree angle. This allows your shoulders to be directly over your hips. Also, you present a reduced profile to your attacker.
There are several ways to check this stance. First, the front foot should also be able to be drawn backward in a straight line, just making contact with the heal of the rear foot. A second way is for the karateka to be able to lift the front foot off the ground without
needing to shift your weight.
The strength of this stance is the fact that not much weight is on the front foot. This helps in both defensive and offensive situations. Defensively, it is not easy to knock out one’s front foot because the majority of the weight is away from the attacker. Offensively, it is very easy to execute snap kicks off the front foot. Little to no weight needs to be shifted prior to the start of the kick. Having the knees bent allows the shift in weight when the lead foot is lifted to execute kicking techniques.