Karate Stances

Kokutsu Dachi performed by George Paun - Kokutsu Dachi - Karate Stances

At first I wanted to write an article about the 3 most used deep Karate Stances used in Shotokan, Zenkutsu Dachi, Kiba Dachi and Kokutsu Dachi. But then I realized that it will be better if I will first write a short description of each stance and let analyzing those 3 stances for a later article. I know this may be boring for some of you as is nothing to enlightening here, but this article is manly targeting beginners in order to give them some clear ideas about each stance before any other discussion on this subject.

Karate Stances

(Tachikata, in Japanese) can be sorted in 3 categories:

  • High stances
  • Middle height stances
  • And deep stances

High Stances

  • Heisoku Dachi
    • Legs are perfectly together and straight. However, another way of doing this stance is with the knees bend. While the straight version is found through Katas, the other version is often used when practicing Maya Geri.
    • Note: In the past, some Karate federations used the bend knees in some Katas. For example count number 2 in Heian Sandan.
  • Musubi Dachi
    • Just like Heisoku Dachi with the only exception that the feet are opened at an angle between 30 and 45 degree from the central line.
  • Heiko Dachi
    • Toes are pointing forward, and the distance between the feet will be equal with the distance from on shoulder to the other.
  • Hachinoji Dachi
    • This one is more like a mix between Heiko Dachi and Musubi Dachi. Heels are shoulder length apart just like Heiko Dachi, only that this time toes are pointing outside on 30-45 degree angle, just like in Musubi Dachi.
  • Uchi Hachinoji Dachi
    • This is a reverse version of Hachinoji dachi. This time the difference is made by pointing the toes inside at the same angle of 3-45 degree, depending how flexible you are.
    • Note: Heisoku Dachi, Musubi Dachi, Heiko Dachi, Hachinoji Dachi and Uke Hachinoji Dachi have the weight distributed equally 50/50 ratio on each leg.
  • Renoji Dachi
    • Know as the L shape stance or the character レstance, Renoji Dachi is sideway high stance. Heels are almost on the same line and the rear foot turned 90 degree out (aligned by the outer blade of the foot), with the chest orientated sideways. Both legs are straight from the knees.
  • Teidji Dachi
    • Is similar to Renoji Dachis, but if the front leg will be brought back the heel will touch the middle of the rear foot shaping the letter T.

Note: Unlike the other height stance, this ones have the more weight supported by the back leg.

Karate Stances - Shotokan Karate Stances - High Stances

High Stances

Middle Height Stances

  • Tsuru Ashi Dachi
    • Also known as Gangaku Dachi or the Crane stance, Tsuru Ashia Dachi is a one leg stance, with the other leg raised, touching the knee of the base leg. The position of the raised leeg depends from one Kata to another and from style to style. In Shotokan Karate Do, however, the foot is kept behind the knee of the supporting leg (which is slightly bent from the knee), and is a fundamental stance in the Kata Gankaku.
    • Note: Some people classifies this a high stance, but due its height I consider this to fit better here, as a middle height stance rather than a height stance. 
  • Kosa Dachi or Kake Dachi
    • Crossed leg stance. Both legs are bent from the knee with the back knee tucked into the back of the front leg knee. The front foot is completely flat on the floor while the back foot touches the floor only with the ball of the foot.
  • Sanchin Dachi
    • Hourglass shape, Sanchin Dachi is similar to Uchi Hachinoji Dachi, but with one foot slightly forward and both knees bent. Not very used in Shotokan Karate Do, Sanchin Dachi can be found in Katas like Unsu and Nijushiho. On the other hand, this is a very popular stance among Okinawan based Karate styles, with many breathing techniques being executed from this stance.
  • Naijannchi Dachi
    • Not used in any of the Shotokan Karate katas, Naihanchi Dachi is the based stance of the Naihanchi Kata, which stays at the core of Shotokan Karate katas Teikki (Shodan, Nidan, Sandan). Wider than the shoulders width, this stance is lightly higher and narrower then Kiba Dachi. The outer edges of the feet should be paralel and the legs and buttocks should be tensed upwards, while the knees should be bent inwards.
  • Moto Dachi
    • Similar to Zenkutsu Dachi, this stance is shin length, around to fists wide and both legs are bent from the knee. Every other aspecs, are exactly like Zenkutsu Dachi.
Karate Stances - Shotokan Karate Stances - Middle High Stances

Middle Height Stances

Deep and low Stances

  • Nekoa Shi Dachi
    • Also known as the cat stance, Nekoa Shi Dachi keeps the whole weight of the body on the rear leg. Both heels are kept on the same line (sagittal plan) and the back foot is turn outside at 30-45 degree. The back foot is flat on the ground while the front one touches the ground only with the ball of the foot. The distance from the rear leg to the front leg is similar to one or two fists.
  • Kiba Dachi
    • Horse stance or stance of the iron horseman, Kiba Dachi is one of the most used stances in Shotokan Karate Do. The distance from on foot to the other is two times the shoulder width. Just like Naihanchi Dachi, the edges of the foot are paralel. Tension on the knees is poiting ouside and the buttocks are pushing up. Overal, Kiba Dachi is a wider and lower stance than Naihanchi Dachi.
  • Shiko Dachi
    • Very similar to Kiba Dachi. The only difference is that the blades of the foot are not paralel. Instead, they are turned at a 45 degree. This stance is not used in Shotokan Karate, however this a used a lot in the Okinawan Karate style. I did put this one for two reasons. First, I don’t beginner to become confused when they see this stance somewhere else, and secondly because I use this stance for different type of exercises or for teaching certain techniques.
  • Fudo Dachi
    • Unshakable stance or Sochin Dachi after the Shotokan Kata Sochin. This Karate stance looks like a Kiba Dachi turned 45, except for the head, torso and front foot witch are turned forward. Fudo Dachi is a little bit longer then Kiba Dachi and the weight is no longer split 50/50 on the two legs, but rather pushed a little more on the front leg.
  • Hangetsu Dachi
    • A bigger version of Shiko Dachi, this stance is particular to Shotokan Karate and is the basis of the Kata Hangetsu. Hangetsu Dachi keeps the same aspects as Sanchin Dachi, however is wider then Sanchin Dachi but shorter then Zenkutsu Dachi/Kiba Dachi/Kokutsu Dachi.
  • Zenkutsu Dachi
    • Frontal stance, Zenkutsu Dachi is a long stance with most of the weight being supported by the front leg. Shoulders width apart and two times shoulders length, the foot of the back leg is turned at a 30-45 degree while the font foot points forward with being align by the outer edge of the foot. The back leg is straight, while the front leg is bent.
  • Kokutsu Dachi.
    • In some aspects this looks more like a reversed Zenkutsu Dachi. Weight is moved on the back leg, keeping a ratio about 70/30, heels are on the same line, the back foot is turned 90 degree while the front one points forward. Back leg is bent in same way the front leg is bent on Zenkutsu Dachi, only that this time the knee is pointing to the side. The front leg is also bent, but much less.

      Karate Stances - Shotokan Karate Stances - Low and Deep Stances

      Low and Deep Stances

I think this covers all the mainly stances found in Shotokan Karate, exception the special ones (eg. count number 2 in Kata Enpi). I point once again that this article is mainly targeting beginners an that Naihanchi Dachi and Shiko Dachi ar two Karate Stances that ar not found in any of the Shotokan Katas. However in order help people not get confused with the height and toes direction for Kiba Dachi a thought is was better to put those here also.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day,

George Paun.

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