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Wastelander's picture
The Purpose of Karate Stances

Hello, everyone,

My latest article is up on my website, and covers the purpose and application of stances:


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

A very good article!

This tends to stem form the fact that the word tachi (which changes to “dachi” when it is a suffix to another word) literally means “stand,” which implies a static, inactive position. Indeed, Chibana Chosin (founder of the Kobayashi branch of Shorin-Ryu) preferred calling [stances] steps instead of stances because of this, and his insistence that there were no static postures in kata.

I was not previously aware of Chibana’s preference there, but it makes perfect sense to me. Something we would all do well to adopt!

My favourite quote on stances is Genwa Nakasone’s when he is explaining Funakoshi’s 17th precept (“Stances are for beginners; advanced students will use natural body positions”). Nakasone wrote:

Karate has many stances; it also has none.

We can identify positions in teaching that should be moved through to ensure the right shift of bodyweight; and it that process of identification we create a “stance” (we have lots of those). However, movement should also be fluid and continuous such that we never freeze on a given position (i.e. in application we have no stances). We should always be moving.

As I say to my students, “There are only two things still in a fight: unconscious people, and people who are about to be unconscious”.

All the best,


Chris Jvrn
Chris Jvrn's picture

I was speaking to two karate-ka friends on Sunday and we spoke about how often people take a move and then keep it that way, and how this relates to stances as well. 

Often in the karate world we say the move is X and must stay X, and often this becomes a static or fairly immobile movement, a good example of this is how the oi-tsuki is used often in Shotokan, it becomes an isolated or very singular move, I.E. I have done a single block and will perform this singular attack and freeze in a nice photofinish of the second movement of Heian shodan (pinan nidan). And then kind of do not know what to do from there.