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Shotokan Stances: The Big 3 review

Shotokan Stances - Zenkutsu Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi and Kiba Dachi

Shotokan Stances – Zenkutsu Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi, Kiba Dachi review.
While some of the stances are very similar, with just some minor differences, and while most of the deep stances are variations of high stance stances (or vice versa), there are also stances with really big difference between them. I’m not going to discuss all stances in this article as I already did it in the previous one. However, I’m going to focus on three of the most and basic Shotokan stances used by Shotokan Karate practitioners. The main focus of this article will be similarities and differences between Zenkutsu Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi and Kiba Dachi.

Why I’m focusing with ones?

Because they are the most common Shotokan stances, and mastering these ones will make learning new stances much easier. All other stances have at least one common aspect with one of this stances.

Why is so important to know the differences and similarities?

This is very important for beginners so that they will distinguish each stance and learn much faster.  

So, without wasting more time let’s go straight in to business

What do Zenkutsu Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi and Kiba Dachi have in common?

There are two things: height and length. All three stances have the same height and length. Yes, I know! Some people tend to say that Kokutsu Dachi is slightly shorter then Zenkutsu Dachi and or Kiba Dachi, but that difference is so small that for a beginner will most likely complicate things. Needless to say, from my searches, the Japanese Masters teach these three stances as having the same length and height. Of course, not everybody has the same body and there will always be slightly differences from on person to the other.

Looking just at the relation between Kokutsu Dachi and Kiba Dachi, we can also see that these two stances are executed with the heels on the same line, unlike Zenkutsu Dachi which requires the heels to be on different lines in order to maintain balance and have a solid stance. Also, both Kiba Dachi and Kokutsu Dachi have both knees bend, unlike Zenkutsu Dachi, which is executed by only bending the front knee.

And no the other thing,

What is the difference between them?

While there are a few differences, there is one thing that makes each of this Shotokan Stances very unique, and that one is really hard to spot by beginners. Especially when they get asked about the main difference. And that is: distribution of weight. While Zenkutsu Dachi keeps the weight forward and Kukutsu Dachi on the back, Kiba Dachi splits it even between the two legs with 50% of the weight on one leg and 50% on the other leg.

Once these main characteristics are understood, weight shifting drills from one stance to another are much easier to comprehend.

Two of my favorite drills for teaching bodyweight shifting are:

  1. The classic Kokutsu Dachi Shuto Uke kara Zenkutsu Dachi Ghyaku zuki.
  • 1.1 Static shifting from Kokutsu Dachi to Zenkutsu Dachi – no moving forward, no arms
  • 1.2 Same thing using arms
  • 1.3 Same thing moving forward.
  • Note: Everything is repeated 10-20 slow and another 10-20 times with Kime
  1. Zenkutsu Dachi to Kiba Dachi
  • 2.1 From Kiba Dachi step forward into hidari Zenkutsu Dachi. With the same leg step back into Kiba Dachi sliding to the left (Sliding is Kiba Dachi from left to right will increase the awareness regarding the distribution of weight), then repeat everything on the other side.
  • 2.2 After 10-20 repetition add Oi Zuki while stepping in Zenkutsu Dachi and Yoko Empi when sliding back in Kiba Dachi.

Of course there are many other ways of improving this, but these are my personal favorites. Nonetheless, I think this covers the main focus of this articles and I hope that this will prove helpful to everyone.

Note: To me beginner level is represented by white belts up to blue (including blue also) and the best way to teach this varies from one belt rank to another. White, yellow and orange belts may require different drill unlike green and blue belts that already have a certain experience. Also body weight shifting drill will not only vary with belt rank but also with age. What I had put together in this article is just a general idea and is not representing a certain belt rank or age.

Thank you for reading,
George Paun.

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