Fighting Postures To Create Power, Flexibility And Movement.
I remember what it was like learning Karate. I had a sensei who barked orders, and had us stand in stances for what felt like eternities, until our legs ached, our knees cramped and we walked funny. Now that I'm teaching beginning Karate at the dojo, I'm finding that I'm falling back on the way I was taught, and in some ways, that's not good. My sensei wasn't real big on explaining the "whys" behind the four stances, and how they worked from a kinematics perspective; it was all "Do it this way, because."
For my students, I want them to know a little bit more about it, and the way that it works. In some ways, this came from watching Mythbusters, where they explained the physics behind the board breaking tricks. While Qi and Ki-Yaas are important, there's also some pretty interesting stuff going on.
Anyway, there are four basic stances in Karate: Ready, Forward, Horse and Fighting stance.
The Ready stance puts your feet at shoulder width apart, your shoulders relaxed, and your hands held apart about 6 inches in front of your body. From this stance, the amount of motion needed to get to the other stances is minimal, and, in my classes, I have my students stare straight ahead, and tell them to pay attention to their peripheral vision.
The Forward stance is the basic walking stance - you see it a lot in martial arts movies, Move your back foot (left for a right handed fighter) forward, keeping the back leg straight - this allows the back leg to act like a coiled spring for directing power from the ground, through the hips, and forward. Take a step forward by moving your back leg up, keeping the same "rooted" stance as you move; the focus of this stance is movement in a fight, without making yourself vulnerable. From here, all your blocks should be available, and you should be hard to leg sweep. I have my students practice this one with a blind fold on from time to time, or with something balanced on their head, because it helps them focus on balance while moving.
The Horse stance is the most basic "punching" stance, and it's called the horse stance because you're standing with your legs wide apart, as if you're riding a horse. It'd meant for power and stability; as a consequence, it's hard to move in the stance, but it directs all the strength of your leg through your body's core to deliver a punch. Anyone who's ever seen Chuck Norris punch someone with his legs sort of wide apart has seen this stance, and knows what it's like. One of the tricky bits about this stance is that the deeper your stance, the longer your punches are in terms of reach - that's because, as you tuck your butt under, it's using the long bones of your thighs to pull your shoulders forward without leaning into it, exposing your neck and back.
The Fighting Stance is the "edge on" stance - it's actually not too different from a fencing stance. You have both knees bent, and have the side of your body facing your opponent. Like the horse stance, the deeper your crouch, the longer your reach - you'll know you're doing it right when you feel like your butt is hanging over open space. When doing a step, draw the back foot up to the heel of the forward foot, then lift and drop the forward foot the natural distance. Your attacking hand should be about waist height and about 6-8 inches from your navel, your back hand should be up, around your head height, so that you can use it as a fulcrum for moving your body. Chow Yun Fat is most often shown in this stance, as is Michelle Yeoh.