14 basic Karate Stances


You instinctively know that if you toss your foot up in the air, you’ll fall. You’ll at least be off-balance. Your kick will be clumsy and inefficient, leaving you vulnerable.

A martial artist needs a stable platform from which to launch powerful assaults and protect oneself, much like a structure does.

There’s no one method to properly place your body, as you’ll see. The technique and context matter. All Karate stances offer some advantage and, when properly done, will boost your martial arts skills.

Karate Stances Explained

Every Karate stance has a reason, whether it’s for a technique or respect. Basic Karate stances are identical, however styles differ slightly, especially in names. Shotokan stances and names are discussed here.

All Karate stances have a few basic characteristics, regardless of name or execution.

First, bend your knees. Each posture combines mobility and stability. Each posture emphasises one over the other, yet neither can be achieved with straight knees.

Posture is crucial. Back straight, shoulders back. Keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings and opponent.

Tense the lower abdomen and tilt the pelvis to stay grounded.

Karate Dojo waKu has a video with more posture recommendations.

Here are 14 fundamental karate stances:

1. Seiza

Japanese culture emphasises respect and dignity. Karate borrows extensively from this, and bowing must be done correctly and at the right moment to show respect to the Sensei and other pupils.

First, we’ll discuss a courteous position, not a karate fighting stance. It’s the formal and courteous method to sit on the floor in Japan and is utilised in lessons when the instructor explains a technique or makes an announcement.

Kneel with your buttocks on your feet to complete the posture. Good posture requires a straight back and neck. This is the traditional floor bow posture (zarei).

2.Musubi Dachi

Stand with heels together and toes turned 45 degrees. Keep your back straight and shoulders back. Open palms rest on outside thighs.

From this stance, martial artists bow to their master and fellow pupils.

3.Heisoku Dachi

This position is similar to standing, with two exceptions. Instead of pointing toes 45 degrees out, point heels and toes forward. Make fists and hold them a few inches apart.

Some katas utilise this Karate ready posture.

4.Heiko Dachi

Parallel stance resembles ready stance. Arms and hands should be parallel. Open your feet to shoulder-width apart with forward-pointing toes.

This stance follows a bow. Students do this while listening to instructions.

5.Zenkutsu Dachi

Long front stance. Start with shoulders-wide feet. One stride forward, knee bent. Straighten your rear leg and point your toes.

This posture prioritises stability over movement. It’s utilised in kata and to strengthen glutes, thighs, and hips.

It can also be utilised to reach an out-of-range opponent or strengthen a punch. Imagine a Karate punch as the body falls into a deep front stance and momentum drives the fist.

6.Han Zenkutsu Dachi

This Karate stance shortens the front stance. Take a little stride forward from a parallel posture instead of a lengthy one. Shoulder-width apart is ideal.

Here’s the fundamental karate stance. It’s the most common self-defense and sparring position since it’s stable and mobile.

This stance is sometimes called a neutral stance because it’s easy to change from it. With a forceful punch, you may easily move into a front stance or a defensive cat or back stance.

7.Kokutsu Dachi

Many positions enable powerful attacks. Others, like the back stance, help you protect yourself and dodge punches.

Turn your back foot to enter. 45 to 90 degrees is OK. Bend your knee and bring your front foot in to rest softly on the floor.

70% of your weight should be on your back foot.

8.Kiba Dachi

Karate’s horse stance is incredibly adaptable.

First, it’s a good conditioning position for the legs, hips, and core. Every Karate student has done horse stance striking drills. Some teachers encourage pupils to have a low stance so a staff won’t slip off.

Second, it’s a good side-attack defence.

Karate horse stance:

  • Shoulder-width apart, spread your feet.
  • Keep toes pointed forward so feet are parallel.
  • Spread your weight equally between both feet and squat deeply.

9. Shiko Dachi

Some Karate schools prefer the sumo posture over the horse stance. Sumo posture is often called a horse stance, which might be misleading. Schools that utilise both have different names.

Sumo stance is similar to horse stance, with the feet pointing 45 degrees outward. Some schools prefer this since it’s easier to maintain yet has the same effect.

10.Fudo Dachi’s “Immo”

Immovable stance emphasises stability, as the name suggests. It combines the front and horse stances.

The front foot is angled inward 45 degrees with a bent knee. Bend the rear knee and turn the toes 45 degrees instead of maintaining them straight. Feet are shoulder-width apart.

This posture blocks strikes. Turning the legs in protects the inner thighs and groyne from low kicks and makes it tougher to be knocked down. The trade-off is mobility; it’s hard to shift rapidly from this position.

11.Neko Ashi Dachi

Cat stance is one of the greatest karate postures for sparring and self-defense. By pulling your weight back, you may execute rapid, powerful assaults with your front leg. You can shift directions and move sideways with most of your weight on one leg.

Set your back foot at a 45-degree angle to assume the stance. Keep your front foot’s toes pointed forward and drag it back towards your body. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. The back foot should support 90% of your weight. Only the toes and ball of the front foot should touch the ground, supporting 10% of your weight.

12.Tsuru Ashi Dachi

Crane posture was in the original Karate Kid. Near the end of the movie, after injuring his knee, he executes the crane posture before delivering the last blow.

Crane stance is a transition between Karate positions. It’s helpful for defence and planning fresh strikes.

Stand with your feet 45 degrees outward. Raise one knee so your ankle is behind the supporting knee. Always keep your standing knee bent.

13.Kosa Dachi’s Cross Stance

Cross stance is another effective transition stance. If you remain too long in the cross stance, your feet might tangle and you’ll fall.

Cross stance is useful while landing after a jump, evading an attack, or turning.

To do the position, plant your front foot with the toes facing front and bend your knee. Back leg crosses behind with toes and ball of foot on ground and knee against supporting leg.

14.Sanchin Dachi

This weird Karate stance is hard to perform. The angle of the legs protects the inner thighs and groyne.

To pose:

  • One foot slightly in front of the other, shoulder-width apart. Back foot toes should line with front heel.
  • 45-degree inward turns on both feet.
  • Knees bent inward.
  • The groyne and inner thigh are protected.

Beyond Basic Karate Stances!

Whew! We discussed Karate postures and their uses. In sparring or self-defense, you won’t hold these positions for long.

During katas and training, you’ll hold these positions for longer periods. Slow conditioning is dual-purpose. First, it strengthens the stance muscles (which helps make you stronger overall). Two, it helps you avoid standing inappropriately during a battle, which might leave you susceptible.

We hope this Karate info helps! Try practising karate stances and read our recommendations to enhance your Karate today.


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