What Stances Exist In Karate?

how many stances are there in karate?

Tachikata is the Japanese word for stances. Whether you are just a beginner or an experienced practitioner of Karate, you will deal with stances all the time.

I will mention several different stances that exist in Wado Kata and basic training in this article. The explanation will be mostly aimed at the exact posture. You can think about the position and direction of the feet, as well as the weight distribution. Stuff such as the cause, function and applications will not be mentioned in this blog.

I categorised the stances into four groups. This is nothing official. It's for the structure of this article.

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7 sideway karate stances

The first group are the sideway basic stances, where the feet point either inside, outside or straight forward.

Heisoku Dachi

Heels touching, feet closed. Keep your body straight and distribute your weight 50/50. This weight distribution applies to all stances of this category.

Musubi Dachi

Heels touching, feet opened in an angle of (about) 60 degrees. Some styles use a standard of 90 degrees.

Shizentai Dachi

One foot space between the heels, roundabout hip width. Feet point in an angle of 2x 30 = 60 degrees, similar to Musubi dachi.

Jigotai Dachi

One shin length between the heels. You could see this as a wider version of Shizentai. Jigotai can be found in Kushanku and Bassai.

Naihanchi Dachi

One shin length plus one to one and a half fist between the heels. Feet should piont inside. Bend you knees slightly. 


Shiko Dachi

One shin length plus one to one and a half fist between the heels. Feet point outside. Legs should be bent with the knee above the ankle.


Han Shiko Dachi

Han shiko dachi is similar to Shiko dachi, although the stance is slightly smaller. This stance can be found in Chinto.

10 forward stances

The first group are the sideway basic stances, where the feet point either inside, outside or straight forward.

Hidari/Migi Shizentai (Shomen Shizentai)

This stance is used for practicing Tobikomizuki and Tobikomi-Nagashizuki. One foot is just in front of the other, roughly a fist length.

Hanmi Shizentai

Some instructors use Hanmi instead of Shomen shizentai for Tobikomi and Tobikomi-Nagashizuki. The stance is virtually the same, except for the position of the hip, which is angled or in other words; Hanmi.

Moto Dachi

Moto dachi is equal to Junzuki dachi, but it is a shorter stance. This stance is from Shito Ryu and is found in Bassai (movement 2,3,4 and 5) and in Niseishi (movement 1 till 5).

Junzuki Dachi

Junzuki dachi is the stance which is used to practice Junzuki. The inside of the front foot should point straight forward (front knee bent), while the back foot points diagonally forward (back leg virtually stretched). It is important that the knee of your back leg is not collapsed. Although the weight distribution is formally 50/50, for beginners it is advised to use 60/40. 60/40 is also probably the consequence of your movement.


Gyakuzuki Dachi

This stance is a bit shorter and wider than Junzuki dachi. An essential difference is the direction of the front foot, which is slightly inside because the line of the heel has to point straight forward.

Junzuki No Tsukkomi Dachi

Junzuki no Tsukkomi dachi is a stance that is executed almost on a straight line. The inside of the front foot should point straight forward and the back foot completely to the side.

Gyakuzuki No Tsukkomi Dachi

This variation of Gyakuzuki uses a very wide stance (toes back foot aligned with heel front foot), with the weight more towards the front foot. The keypoint is to push the hip forward sufficiently and keep the body straight. The stance is primarily used to practise Gyakuzuki No Tsukkomi. Variations can be found in Kata Pinan Yondan and Kushanku.

Nagashizuki Dachi

Nagashizuki dachi is virtually equal to Kokutsu dachi, with the essential difference that this stance has to be classified and a forward stance. Futhermore, it has to do with the level of the Karateka whether Kokutsu dachi and Nagashizuki dachi are equal to one another. For beginners, the back foot will point less to the outside (angle compared to hipjoint).

Yoko Seishan Dachi

There are two variations of Seishan dachi, there is Yoko seishan dachi, the sideway variation and Tate seishan dachi. With Yoko seishan dachi, both feet should point slightly inside (line of the heels straight forward) and both legs should be slightly bent. The weight distribution should be 50/50. The first half of Seishan is dominated by this stance.

Tate Seishan Dachi

Tate seishan dachi is best to be compared to Hanmi gamae, the stance that you take when you practice Keriwaza or Renrakuwaza. Seishan dachi however, is more narrow and the front foot should point inside. Due to the strict 50/50 approach, this stance has a different character.

5 Back stances

The third group are the backward leaning stances, where in general attention is paid to the position of the hip to determine whether the stance should be classified as Ma Mi (Shomen), Han Mi or Ma Han Mi.

Mami (Shomen) Neko Ashi Dachi

In Wado all Neko ashi dachi have the same weight distribution, 2/3 1/3. The biggest part of your weight is placed on the back leg. In case of Mami or Shomen neko ashi, your hip should piont straight forward and your back foot diagonally forward. Of course the heel of the front foot should be lifted off the ground.

Hanmi Neko Ashi Dachi

Hanmi neko ashi is de middle of Mami and Mahanmi neko ashi dachi. The back foot point exactly to the side and the hip is positioned at an angle, called Hanmi. Han = half, Mi = body.

Mahanmi Neko Ashi Dachi

Mahanmi is de extreme of all neko ashi dachi, as your hip has to be completely pointing to the side. The Kanji for "Ma" means true, real or complete. In other words, not virtually or almost to the side, but completely and fully to the side.

Kokutsu Dachi

Your back foot should point diagonally backwards and holds the most of your body weight. Make sure to lean backwards with your upper body. Your front foot should point slightly diagonally forward.

Tsumasaki Dachi

Tsumasaki means to stand on your toes and in Budo this suggests the use of the ball of the foot. In Kushanku for example, when you drop your body the most of your weight is supported by your back leg having your heel of the floor. The front foot does not have to be flat on the ground per se. There is a chance that the edge of your heel will rise naturally due to the nature of the movement.

additional stances

The fourth group are stances that are difficult to appoint to either of the other groups. They are stances that have characteristics that belong to different groups or variations of stances already mentioned. I have written the following down for you by heart.

Gyaku Neko Ashi Dachi

Gyaku neko ashi implies that it is the reverse of the regular Neko ashi. Hence, in this case the heel of the back foot should not touch the floor. The length of the stance however, is not equal to Neko ashi dachi. For Gyaku neko ashi, which is also called yosei ashi dachi, the back foot has to be close to the front foot. Think about Pinan Yondan and Chinto.

Other names are:

  • Yosei Ashi Dachi
  • Tsumasaki Dachi

Ippon Ashi Dachi

Ippon ashi dachi is a stance where all of your weight is supported by one leg. Your other leg is in the air, this can be with the knee actively raised, as in Kushanku Neko damashi or with the knee held lower where your ankle contacts the inside of your knee, as done in Chinto. The stance from Chinto is called Sagi ashi dachi.

Sagi Ashi Dachi

Crane stance from Chinto. Some styles wrap their foot around, but Wado does not. Only lightly touch the inside of your ankle to your leg so you are ready to kick.

Ryo Ashi Tsumasaki Dachi

Ryo ashi means both feet, so both feet should have the heels raised. After the jump from Pinan Godan for example, you should land on both ball of the feet. Another variation is found in Kushanku. If you drop your body after Neko damashi and rest on both hands lightly, both feet should touch the ground and have the heels raised.

Kosa Dachi

Kosa dachi is a stance that is not officially used in Wadokai Kata, although there are some instructors that use it. There are variations of Bassai and Wanshu for example, where the back foot crosses behind the front foot.


Heiko Dachi

Heiko means parallel, which implies that both feet should point in the same direction, using a 50/50 weight distribution. Although when explaining Kihon Kumite Seishan dachi is usually mentioned, Takashima sensei talked about Heiko dachi during his explanation of Kihon Kumite 3. 

THE BASICS OF KARATE VIDEOSERIES
60+ MINUTES ON STANCES

Do you want to understand how your body works? What affect something has on everything else AND how to turn that knowledge into your advantage- practically...?

binge-watch playlist

Just press play 🙂

1/14 iNTRO: the 5 categories

Another videoseries on stances? Absolutely 🙂 

With stuff I never covered before on video.

2/14 the formal stances

  • Musubi Dachi
  • Heisoku Dachi
  • Shizentai
  • And what they have in common

3/14 how hip and foot direction is connected

  • Hidari Shizentai
  • Hanmi Shizentai
  • And how they are not formally different, but connected through natural movement

4/14 Junzuki Dachi

  • Junzuki Dachi
  • Foot, knee and ankle position
  • Wado's leeway
  • How to self-assess your stances and fix it

5/14 Gyakuzuki Dachi

  • 2 types of stances
  • The small surface level difference with Junzuki Dachi
  • The huge fundamental difference with Junzuki Dachi
  • Details of Gyakuzuki Dachi

6/14 Tsukkomi Dachi

7/14 Nagashizuki Dachi

  • Nagashizuki Dachi

8/14 Tsukazu Hanarezu

This quote from Ohtsuka sensei -that he applied throughout Wado in it's entirety- takes ANY stance to the next level. And your Junzuki too.

9/14 shiko Dachi

10/14 Kokutsu Dachi

  • Why your front foot should point in the correct direction
  • Why the right direction is not a surface level minor, but a fundamental major issue
  • What to focus on to move into the stance

11/14 Shomen Neko Ashi Dachi

  • Why and how high your heel should be raised
  • Correct weight distribution
  • Purpose of Shomen Neko Ashi Dachi

12/14 Hanmi & Mahanmi Neko Ashi Dachi

  • Unique feature of Hanmi Neko Ashi Dachi
  • Principle of Mahanmi Neko Ashi Dachi
  • Purpose of each one and why you have to practise all of them

13/14 the internal stances: Naihanchi Dachi

  • What is an internal stance?
  • Basics of Naihanchi Dachi
  • Proper feet and knee position
  • Methods and details about correct position of the hip

14/14 Yoko & Tate Seishan Dachi

  • How Seishan Dachi is related to Naihanchi Dachi
  • The fixed and flexible lines of Seishan Dachi
  • How the knee position in Shotokan and Wado prove the styles are opposites

advanced lecture on the function and purpose of stances

Originally intended as one video, I added and eleborated in depth. You'll learn Sakagami sensei's approach, Yokoyama Kancho's insights and Yanagawa sensei's final conclusion. Note that this series is placed on the bottom of the page for a reason. It's not for beginners...

1/3 how important are stances?

 

2/3 use your stance to your advantage with this approach

 

3/3 yokoyama kancho's explanation allow you to understand stances on a fysical fundamental level