Monday, May 18, 2009

Front Stance

I just finished reading Karate Do Nuymon by Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi Sensei introduced Karate to mainland Japan in the early 20th century. He was also in Okinawa the school teacher of Tsuyoshi Chitose Sensei – founder of Chito Ryu Karate, and instructor of Kaicho Yamamoto, founder of Yoshukai Karate.

Karate-do Nyumon provides interesting insight about etiquette, spirit and historical aspects of Karate and in the way it was taught in Okinawa before the 20th century. It also points to connections between Zen and Karate. I’ll come back to this later.

I was however surprised by some pictures, which in some cases do not seem to really match the text.Were these pictures added after Funakoshi Sensei wrote the book ?

For example, Funakoshi Sensei’s description of the Front stance Zenkutsu Dachi emphasizes very clearly : “make sure both feet point in the same direction”.

But then, in the picture illustrating the stance, the front foot is directed to the front and the back foot is perpendicular to it!

The 2 most common mistakes in front stances are :

1. Stances too low and/or too wide, and

2. Back foot turned to the outside (which usually happens BECAUSE the stance is too low)

Front stances should not be so low that they prevent one to move quickly. Very low front stances are not adapted to actual fighting. They might look good to certain judges for Kata performance, and they certainly will help build strong legs, but there is no way one can move quickly from a very low front stance, when the weight is not on the ball of the foot.

Boxers, or Kendoka are fast. They keep their feet close to each other turned in the direction of the opponent, with their weight toward the front of their feet. Personally I try to focus my weight right behind the ball of the foot (first point on the Kidney Meridian).

And Front stances should be done with 2 feet parallel. Actually, the front foot could even be turned slightly inward, to improve traction from the toes, and the back foot parallel to it can push forward. This allows fast moving in all 4 directions. I do not understand how anybody could fight with their back foot flat and sideways. It does not allow for quick moves, nor to deliver enough power in Gyaku Tsuki.

Sensei Chitose, who was a Medical Doctor and spent a great deal of time studying the human body mechanics, recommended a stance where the feet were slightly turned inward. This can be seen today when Chito Ryu people practice Seisan or Sanchin Kata (This also protects your groin).To me this makes perfect sense, providing here again, that you do not turn your feet too much inward, which would also prevent the ability to move fast. Once again, it is a matter of finding the right balance.

Anyway, Karate do Nyumon is a good book, You should read it if you can et a hold of it. Soon I'll take you of the Heart Sutra quoted by Funakoshi Sensei !

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