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Shotokan Karate Stances 16 Explained

Shotokan Karate Stances

shotokan karate stances

Shotokan Karate Stances

Here are 16 shotokan karate stances with explanations and a short video explaining in detail each one of the shotokan karate stances.

Heisoku-dachi (Feet Together Stance)

heisoku dachiHeisoku-dachi (Feet Together Stance)

This stance is used by some Shotokan Dojo when you bow (rei). This is also the position of many shotokan kata, tekki shodan, bassai dai, jion, jitte, Jiin, chinte and Unsu.

1. Place the feet together, side by side.
2. Keep your back straight
3. Keep the shoulders relaxed.

Many shotokan karate dojo bow in mosubi dachi or heisoku dachi, then move into the Yoi (ready position).

 

Musubi-dachi (Heels together, feet turned out at 45 degrees)

musubi dachiMusubi-dachi (Heels together, feet turned out at 45 degrees)

This stance is used when you bow (rei).

1. Place the feet together, side by side.
2. Keeping the heels together, turn the toes out at roughly 45 degrees.
3. Keep your back straight
4. Keep the shoulders relaxed.

Many shotokan karate dojo bow in mosubi dachi then move into the Yoi (ready position).

 

Heiko dachi (Parallel stance)

heiko dachiHeiko dachi (Parallel stance)

This stance is used after you bow (rei), in kihon, kumite and most kata.

1. Weight distribution for Heiko Dachi is central.
2. Feet should be hip width to shoulder width apart.
3. Feet should be facing straight forwards.
4. Keep both feet flat but have a little more pressure on the big toes.
5. Keep your back straight
6. Keep the shoulders relaxed.

Heiko dachi is the stance karate go into when making the Yoi (ready position).

Shizen-tai or yoi dachi also translate as “natural stance” (literally, ‘natural body,’ or ‘natural body stance’). While in heiko dachi, the karateka is usually in the yoi (ready) position, arms slightly in front of the thighs, fists clenched. The way the arms move into the yoi position varies from Dojo to Dojo.

Zenkutsu-dachi (Front stance)

zenkutsu dachiZenkutsu-dachi (Front stance)

This is the most practiced shotokan stance and is used extensively in most Shotokan karate kata

1. Weight distribution for front stance is 70% of your weight on your front leg and 30% on the back leg.
2. Feet should be hip width to shoulder width apart and this width will decrease as you advance in your karate.
3. Stance length depends on the length of your legs, but one shoulder width and a half is a good guide to start.
4. Feet should be both facing forward as much as possible.
5. There are two hip positions when first practicing front stance, they are square and side on.
6. Roll the hips up and try not to let your hips stick out.
7. Keep your back straight
8. Try not to lock the back leg straight. Your back knee should be very slightly bent.
9. Your front knee should be heavily bent and you should not be able to see the toes of your front foot.
10. Try not to let the front knee fall inwards, keep it facing forward.
11. If you drop a line down from your front knee it should come down just above the ball of the foot.

As with Kiba dachi, one of the most common mistakes is when karateka push the front knee outwards, the knee should remain straight forward and once again it’s the muscles that keep the knee in position. Try not to push the knee out and in some extreme cases when karateka force the knee out, you see the inside of the front foot lift off the floor

Kiba-dachi (Horse riding stance)

kiba dachiKiba-dachi (Horse riding stance)

This stance is used extensively in many Shotokan karate kata

1. Weight distribution for kiba dachi is weight central.
2. Stance length depends on the length of your legs, but one shoulder width and a half is a good guide to start.
3. Feet should be both facing forward as much as possible.
4. Bend the knees naturally, do not push the knees out or let them collapse inwards.
5. Roll the hips up and try not to let your hips stick out.
6. Keep your back straight
7. Tighten the inside of the thighs.
8. If you drop a line down from either knee it should come down inside the big toe.

Many karateka put to much force on pushing the knees out, the knees should bend naturally and your leg muscles should keep the knees in the correct position.

Kokustu-dachi (Back stance)

kokutsu dachiKokustu-dachi (Back stance)

This stance is used extensively in many Shotokan karate kata

1. Weight distribution for back stance is 70% of your weight on your back leg and 30% on the front leg. (some Dojo practice 80% back leg and 20% front leg)
2. Feet should be at a 90% angle to each other and heels in line.
3. Push the back hip forwards at a 45% angle and pul the front hip back
4. Roll the hips up and try not to let your hips stick out.
5. Keep your back straight
6. Your back knee should be heavily bent and if you drop a line down it should just come inside your back legs big toe.
7. Try not to let the back knee fall inwards, keep it facing 90 degrees to the front and just above the back legs big toe.
8. Your front knee should be slightly bent at all times
9. Try not to let the front knee fall inwards, keep it facing forward.

Of all the shotokan karate stances this is the most technically challenging and hardest to master.

Hangetsu-dachi (Half-moon stance)

hangetsu dachiHangetsu-dachi (Half-moon stance)

This stance is used extensively in the Shotokan karate kata Hangetsu.

1. Weight distribution for Hangetsu Dachi is central, so 50% of your weight on your front leg and 50% on the back leg.

2. Feet should be hip width to shoulder width apart and this width will decrease as you advance in your karate.

3. Stance length depends on the length of your legs, but one shoulder width and a half is a good guide to start.

4. Front foot should be turned in slightly and back foot should be facing forward as much as possible.

5. There are two hip positions with half moon stance, they are side on for blocking and turning into the punch when punching reverse punch.

6. Roll the hips up and try not to let your hips stick out.

7. Keep your back straight

8. Do not push your knees in or out, both knees should be bent over the inside of the big toes.

9. If you take a straight line from both big toes, it will form a triangle which the apex of, should be approximately 5 to 6 foot in front of your face. 10. Tighten the inside of the thighs.

Fudo-dachi or Sochin Dachi (Immovable stance)

Fudo-dachi or Sochin Dachi (Immovable stance)

fudo dachiThis stance is used in the Shotokan karate kata Sochin.

Stand in zenkutsu dachi (front stance), with the right leg in front.

Now turn the right foot inside slightly (some Shotokan Dojo have the foot pointing straight forward).

Put the back left leg into a kiba dachi (horse riding) position, so from the side, this karate stance looks like half a front stance and half kiba dachi, with the body weight forward as in zenkutsu dachi.

This is one of the strongest and most phisically demanding shotokan karate stances, hence the name immovable stance.

Sanchin-dachi (Hour Glass Stance)

Sanchin-dachi (Hour Glass Stance)

sanchin dachiThis stance is used in Shotokan kata Nijushiho and Unsu.

Stand in natural stance, feet parallel, then put the right foot forward so the heel is just past the line of the toes on the left foot.

Now turn the right foot inside roughly 30 degrees and bend the knees naturally over the big toes.

Tighten the inner thighs and roll your hips up, keeping the back straight.

The body weight is in the center on this shotokan karate stance.

Neko-Ashi-dachi (Cat Stance)

neko ashi dachiNeko-Ashi-dachi (Cat Stance)

This stance is used in several Shotokan Kata. the first being Hangetsu

Place your feet together, then slide the left foot forward until the left heel just passes the front of the toes on the right foot.

Heavily bend the now back right leg, roll your hips up, keeping the back straight.

The front leg bends and you place the ball of the foot on the floor, straightening the ankle. Some Shotokan Dojo have the toes lightly touching the floor instead of the ball of the foot.

Try not to let the front knee push out, or in too much, keep the knees facing forward and if you brought the front knee back it would be side by side with the back knee.

Tsuru-ashi-dachi (Crane-Foot Stance)

tsuru ashi dachiTsuru-ashi-dachi (Crane-Foot Stance)

This stance is used in the Shotokan Kata Jitte.

Place your right foot down facing the side and place the flat of the left foot against the inside of the knee.

Roll your hips up, keeping the back straight.

Sagi-ashi-dachi (Heron Leg Stance)

sagi ashi dachiSagi-ashi-dachi (Heron Leg Stance)

This stance is used in the Shotokan Kata Gankaku and Chinte.

Place your right foot down facing the side and tuck the left foot behind the back of your knee, apply a small amount of pressure from the top of the left foot to the back of the knee to help stabalize the stance.

Roll your hips up, keeping the back straight.

Kosa-dachi (Crossed legs stance)

kosa dachiKosa-dachi (Crossed legs stance)

This stance is used in many Shotokan Kata and the first time it’s used is in the first Kiai of shotokan kata Heian Yondan

Place your right foot down facing forward and tuck the left foot behind and just on the outside of the right foots heel.

The right foot is flat and the left foot is on the ball of the foot.

Lock your knees together, push your left shin against the back of your right calf muscle and roll your hips up, keeping the back straight.

Migi Ashi Orishiku (Right Leg Kneeling)

migi ashi orishikuMigi Ashi Orishiku (Right Leg Kneeling)

This stance is used in the first move of shotokan kata Enpi.

If you go into a short front stance with the left leg in front, then carefuuly place the right knee down into the kneeling position, the right hip should be directly above the right knee. Then there should be a slight angle coming down and back from the front knee to the front foot.

If you bring the front foot back to the back foot, there should only be a few inches between the feet, so as to be stable when in this karate stance.

Renoji-dachi (L Shape Stance)

renoji dachiRenoji-dachi (L Shape Stance)

Renoji dachi makes a letter L shape with about half a foots distance between the front and back foot.

The front foot heel is in line with the heel of the back foot.

The body weight is mainly on the back leg, with the heel of the front foot just lightly touching the floor. Weight distribution is very similar with the two shotokan karate stances,  renoji Dachi (L shape stance) and Teiji dachi (T shape stance).

Teiji-dachi (T Shape Stance)

teiji dachiTeiji-dachi (T Shape Stance)

Teiji dachi makes a letter T shape with about half a foots distance between the front and back foot.

The front foot heel is roughly in line with the center of the back foot.

The body weight is mainly on the back leg, with the heel of the front foot just lightly touching the floor. Weight distribution is very similar with the two shotokan karate stances,  renoji Dachi (L shape stance) and Teiji dachi (T shape stance).

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