Category Archives: Karate

Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

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kata kick Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Static karate stance

The importance allotted to historical tradition by karate, and similar arts, results in something similar to the historical weapons used in battle re-enactments such as those of the sealed knot, i.e. sub-optimal in modern times. This post shows how karate’s emphasis on form over function results in a ‘flat’ inactive ‘fighting’ stance which is in stark contrast to the activated, primed posture of the Muay Thai stance.

The irony is that while traditional karate generally favours historically accurate technique, form, it fails to do so accurately. Karate progressed from the secret training in the back gardens of Okinawan masters to the universities of Japan where training methods were altered. In a nation preparing for war there was an emphasis for militaristic precision in technique.

mt stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Dynamic Muay Thai stance

Over time performance of the kata, which supposedly contain the essence of the karate fighting systems, was (and is) emphasised over the useful elements of the movements. The outcome is an emphasis of form over function and a perfection of that form. This is clearly a drifting of purpose from the martial to the art, with effectiveness being compromised for the sake of form.

In contrast the progression of Muay Thai technique reflects the requirements of the contest; damage your opponent or get damaged! These requirements ensure that essential elements, or function, are retained, at least potentially, rather than superseded by the need for perfect form.

Activated Muay Thai Stance

An example of this contrast, form v. function, can be seen in karate stances and Muay Thai fighting postures. While karate stances undoubtedly provide a solid base from which to fire off strikes they tend to hamper rather than support movement, while Muay Thai fighting stances deliver on both counts.

In addition, any decent Muay Thai fighter is activated in his fighting stance whereas the karate fighter in his traditional stance is not. This difference can be thought of as the difference between being ‘on your toes’ and ‘on your heels’. One is actively engaging the muscles while the other is rather flat footed.

cycling good poor Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Pedalling foot position

The traditional karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are like cycling with the saddle too low and the centre of your feet pressing into the pedals. To optimally transfer the force generated from the whole of the lower limb the saddle should be high enough to allow the leg and foot to extend with the ball of the foot pressing into the pedal. Try this on a bike and you will notice the difference immediately.

Humans tend to stand ‘lazily’ with body weight supported by bones rather than anti-gravity muscles. By standing back on the heels with the legs straight the thighs are soft and inactive, analogous to waiting at the bus stop. However, if the bus is in and you need to get on, you shift your body weight, bend the legs and activate the leg muscles to move.

Karate v MT stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Karate Stance v Muay Thai stance

Karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are not active in nature, like you’re waiting for the bus, while Muay Thai fighting stances are active and similar to getting on the bus. The anti gravity muscles in the legs are firm, ‘sprung’ and ready to produce force, as a runners would be at the start of a race, ready for the gun.

The structure of the Muay Thai stance is set up with the muscles activated, or spring loaded and primed for action,  while traditional Karate stances are somewhat flat-footed and static in comparison. This observation is clearly illustrated in the picture from the UFC fight between Machida and Shogun

Originally posted 2010-10-02 00:18:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

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After years of training in Goju Ryu Karate I needed more than what I was getting, I went out and got it. One of the things that really used to niggle was the insistence on inch perfect stances or dachi in Japanese. All the moving basics that served as stance practice was also irritating and detracting from the good stuff. This involved shuffling around as forcefully as possible from one stance to the next. The upshot was a completely unnatural, sub-optimal mode of moving between strictly defined standing positions or stances.

Now don’t get me wrong, at the time I enjoyed a good session of bashing out rep after rep of kicks and punching combinations up and down the dojo, it was always a good workout. But you do wonder about the value of such training. Sure your technique is good, or form rather, which is not the same thing. The trouble is while you can hit hard it’s all very effortful, whereas others are able to hit harder without so much effort, this becomes bothersome.

3 Karate Dachi Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

Anyone with any experience of karate or watching it will be aware of the nonsensical movements of practices such as 3 step sparring and it’s spin offs. I’m not a fan and really time could be much more constructively spent.

I came across a site the other day which exemplifies Karate’s over-insistance on strict form over function. This site has clear illustrations of ‘perfecft’ Goju Ryu Dachi, there are so many and they are so precise it’s all a bit of a shame. Confusing for a beginner and irritating for the more experienced, the real shame is that the act of moving between positions is, of course, necesarry and can be used in the development of power.

For instance, moving from a long stance to a short stance, say zenkutsu to sanchin, creates force through momentum. Furthermore, moving from the short cat stance, neko ashi dachi, which opens the hip slightly into a long stance such as zenkutsu dachi allows a greater potential for opening and closing at the hip and therfore potential to produce more power.

While there is potential within these movements for power to be produced, the trouble is so much credence is given to the actual structure, or form of the stances and feet placement that so much of the ‘internal’ aspect is lost. All the focus is on the feet when really it would be better used elsewhere in the body where the real power can be actioned from the opening and closing.

Karate training such as moving basics has potential to teach people to produce power, and some people naturally can do so, but it is in spite of the training rather than because of it. Stringently emphasising foot placement over other practises is getting it all inside out.

three stanes Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

It would be much better to have someone practise opening and closing the waist at the hip and doing so while moving forward by taking a long-to-short shuffle step. By concentrating on these movements rather than correct stance, constructed of foot position and rigidly defined posture, the learner’s feet and posture will gradually take care of itself. Sure they will need pointers but what they don’t need is an idealised form forced onto them. Then of course you would need to practice this movement in sparring or partner work.

Put simply, people are built differently, those with short legs will struggle to have a long enough zenkutsu dachi or low enough neko ashi dachi for some Goju Ryu Karate teachers, no matter how hard they try.

Originally posted 2011-06-12 17:20:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Power Punching with the Waist

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Increasing Punching Power by Opening and Closing

aliforeman 300x222 Power Punching with the WaistThe waist area is packed with muscle and potentially will add substantially to your power punching. In karate Senseis often tell you to use your hips but they should really be interested in the waist. After all the hip is no more than a joint between leg and pelvis. There is a lot of muscle working across and around this joint which can contribute to the power and force produced in a punch if it is applied correctly. And that’s probably what those Senseis actually mean though.

Opening and Closing separates the actions within the whipping punch sequence

When performing a whipping punch a defined sequence is performed; the snapping action at the waist causes the hip to snap toward the target quickly followed by the shoulder and then the arm. At the waist, this action involves a stretch, opening it up, and then a contraction causing it to close again. This opening and closing process is a critical part of the whipping punch and is apparent across other joints too. When learning this punch the most difficult part, or one of them, was ‘leaving the shoulder behind’. Differentiating between the hip and shoulder actions within the sequence is key, doing so will produce the desired whipping action and hugely improve power. Opening and then closing actions at a joint precipitate the next opening and closing actions in the sequence….


Years of punching in stance had negated this opening and closing action, certainly at the waist. Emphasising pushing the hip and shoulder through, towards the target, left my punches, well frankly substandard. Differentiating the hip and shoulder action was the first step in improving this part of delivering a punch. It took a fair bit of practice but I got it eventually. Pulling back the shoulder to produce a stretch across the pecs, opening the area, causes the shoulder action to follow the hip creating the sequential feel to the whipping action.

Improving Power Punching requires tension!

If the shoulder is just opened and the muscle is not activated, power potential will not be achieved. The muscle stretched must be done so under tension. It’s awkward even typing that word as the general association when using it is of a stiff puncher relying on arm muscles to produce power by pushing the punch. The feeling of stretching under tension is a little like the following:

pacquiao knockout punch vs hatton 300x240 Power Punching with the WaistImagine someone is pushing against your arm, you stand still and resist but the arm is pushed backward stretching the pec under tension as it is resisting the push. If it wasn’t under tension the arm would just shoot back and you would follow. Probably not the best analogy but it gives you an idea. The opening and closing actions must be performed under tension to optimise your power punching. Of course you have no-one providing the resistance so you need to produce your own tension.

This process can be repeated at the waist by opening and closing it under tension. The action is not as obvious here but it is possible. The opening action involves stretching open the thighs, a kind of drawing back of the rear hip, if punching with the rear hand. This produces a stretch, which can be done under tension, this produces the potential for power. This must then be transferred toward the target by the hip closing rapidly. The front and rear hips perform different actions, one forward the other back to open and stretch the waist.

The interesting thing is that this opening and closing action is present in saifa kata and although I was told to perform this action in the kata it was not emphasised in regular training. It’s a great pity. I always enjoyed that part of the kata, it felt good because it felt like I was power punching!

Originally posted 2011-03-17 15:08:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Developing Ippon Kumite

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It would be useful to progress the Ippon Kumite training methodology beyond that of the standard jiyu ippon kumite illustrated in the previous post, to see if the techniques practised work in a situation closer to an actual fight. One thing I used to do when I trained strictly traditional karate was to reduce the time available for the defender. Rather than start from long stance the starting position would be made progressively closer, using sanchin and heiko rather than zenkutsu. It is possible to really shorten the distance and time available to the defender in this way or similar. The outcome is that available responses become much more limited, refining the response options.

ippon1 300x240 Developing Ippon Kumite


The next stage would be to attempt to implement these refined options in a freer scenario. Can you use these techniques in a fight? It is the instructor’s job to create drills to test the trained options. If a movement or technique does not work it gets binned.

Gasshuku Ippon Kumite

I’ve been on gasshuku’s where we would have a long Ippon Kumite session, swapping partners but going through exactly the same methodology with each, six attacks on each side of the body from long stance (head, torso and groin punches and front, side and roundhouse kicks). The idea was to try different responses throughout the session.

To be fair it was pretty good fun but you learnt very little. It would have been better to have a go at some of the techniques the higher ability people were employing and then work them using something like the Ippon progression I described above. That would have been more useful and would have fitted in with the ‘form police‘ ideology; i.e. everything could have been done ‘in stance’. Sadly, even that was small step was too much.

The upshot of the sort of Ippon Kumite training we did was that people would often spar in a disjointed way. Even on gradings this could be the case. I remember a grading where there was a multiples section, 2 on 1. I was really happy because I knew that I wouldn’t be called up for being too aggressive and for my group this part of the grading was very good with both attackers fighting as a team. However, the other group with the same 2 on 1 remit was more like a karate demo where one attack comes after another, poor.

ippon2 300x281 Developing Ippon Kumite


Start with Ippon?

The Ippon Kumite I describe would probably improve the standard model, however it’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig! Better to drop the whole thing and try something that provides more value. I am in favour of training that is sufficiently fluid so a beginner has a chance to pick stuff up. Altering the timing to make it easier is one method of doing this, which is probably what Ippon Kumite was intended to provide. However, for the training to be of value this easier training methodology simply has to be accompanied with training that applies the learned skills in a drill that is more representative of what is required in the real world; whether that be in the ring, cage or in a bar brawl.

While safety has to be a consideration, it is essential to at least attempt to bring the dojo into the 21st century! This could mean dropping training methods of limited value, such as Sanbon, Ippon Kumite and San Dan Ge, or at the very least moving these training practices on a little.

Originally posted 2010-11-14 18:17:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Was that Sanbon Kumite in the Marius Zaromskis video?

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My mate sent me this Marius Zaromskis video on Facebook (ta Tommo), it shows the Dream welterweight final between Zaromskis and Jason High. I was watching the clip thinking ‘classic match up between kickboxer and wrestler’ but then BOOM was that sanbon kumite I just saw? I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve not seen it.

Marius Zaromskis vs Jason High

What a great KO; round kick set up with two feint punches and followed immediately with a, probably unneeded, short hook. In the slo-mo replay it looks like sanbon kumite; gyaku suki – gyaku suki – mawashi geri (reverse punch, reverse punch, roundhouse kick). Well a kind of two step version of that combination, which is quite probably used in the more adventurous versions of sanbon kumite.

At first glance it could be said that this combination was taken straight from the dojo and used in the ring. Sure the combination is at least reminiscent and the footwork is similar. However, the long stances of the stepping ippon and sanbon kumite drills that I dislike so much are far removed from the long steps Zaromskis uses to make ground on his opponent. Comparing this video with the grisly effort from the ‘Marks, Set, Go‘ post I originally used to illustrate sanbon kumite, it is clear that you could train for as long as you like in the standard sanbon manner and you would struggle to pull off the same knockout.

The karate drill involves starting from a position that requires an adjustment to move from as you are flat-footed, with weight back, this gives the opponent a chance to get away. Zaromskis, however, is set to move, makes up the ground with two punches with the kick sailing over High’s dropped guard. Sure the wrestlers lack of discipline in keeping his guard up helped Zaromskis but he fired this combination off explosively because his fighting posture is set to easily allow forward movement and fire strikes and kicks explosively. The karate drill does not allow this.

In UFC98 Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans to take the light heavyweight title. The knockout involved punches that were quite different to those of standard karate, but his victory was hailed as a victory for karate, at least by some, and it has to be said it was a great win by Machida. On two occasions in the second round Machida used sanbon kumite style stepping to attack Evans, the first time as a counter, the second to make up ground when he had Evans in trouble.

The first time he used it he got in with some quick strikes but as soon as Evans was able to get his feet back under him he was able to retaliate, this can be seen at 10:05 of the video in the link above (3.28 left of round 2 on the UFC clock). Machida’s karate stance, which keeps his head out of trouble and weight back, does not allow the momentum to be transferred into the target in the same way that Zaromskis’s fighting posture does. Zaromskis explodes out of the blocks while Machida is held back somewhat.

If Machida were to truly explode out of the blocks with punches,  it would look more like how Vitor Belfort knocked out Wanderlei Silva a few years ago or with a kick or something like the KO in the Marius Zaromskis video. If sanbon kumite were able to prepare you to explode on someone as in these clips it would have definite value, however, in the standard format it doesn’t come close. Apologies for the awful sound effects, I suggest the mute option!

Originally posted 2010-11-30 01:27:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Sanchin Kata – Sinking in Sanchin Dachi

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The phenomenon of ‘sinking’ or dropping your weight was first shown to me by a Go ju ryu instructor in Southampton on a sanchin course I attended many years ago (thanks Mike). I’d gone down there to learn more about the kata that underpins Go Ju ryu Karate. He showed us how the structure of sanchin dachi hourglass stance allows you to drop your weight and make yourself heavier!

miyagishime Sanchin Kata   Sinking in Sanchin Dachi

To ensure that you actually drop your weight correctly the following procedure was followed. Firstly, stand upright, as if standing to attention. Your partner stands behind you squats and places their arms around your middle to lift you up. Unless the other guy is huge you should manage this fairly easily.

Then you adopt sanchin dachi, ensuring each part of the stance is adopted and the body is aligned correctly. Then your partner adopts the lifting position and lifts. At least they attempt to, because the sanchin person will be significantly heavier than before!

I was pretty blown away by this revelation at the time and still enjoy showing people this trick. If the structure of the stance is adopted as intended the sinking of weight can be used to your advantage. Much later on I met and did a very little amount of training with a karate bloke who had been doing some wrestling. He was a big bloke and insisted on showing me some bits and pieces. In the clinch he grabbed me and threw me around a bit but not as easily as he had thought. We discovered that sanchin had saved me, I had naturally dropped my weight and made it difficult for him to chuck me around.

When you drop your weight your ‘centre of gravity’ is lowered and you are more stable than otherwise. This and other facets of sanchin helps in the clinch enourmously as not only are you more stable but you become strong throughout your body making you a much more difficult proposition than if you were upright and stiff legged.

For myself, I have found that many bigger guys have had more trouble with me in this position than if I’d had no experience of sanchin. The problem for many Goju practitioners is appreciating the mobility within sanchin, but that’s another story. Suffice for this article to reiterate the sinking and stability of sanchin dachi.

Clinching 300x222 Sanchin Kata   Sinking in Sanchin DachiIn addition to the sinking it is important to tighten the body when in the stance to add to the stability benefits for two reasons. Firstly, if you fail to connect the upper and lower portions of the body the sinking at the feet will occur on its own and not be passed onto the upper body. This is beneficial in itself if you want to prevent someone lifting you up, or at least make it more difficult; limp upper part, sanchin sunk lower part. Secondly, by pulling into your centre you pull on the opponents limbs (or whatever you are grabbing) helping to control him in some way.

In the clinch, for example, it is important to keep the shoulders down and pull in with the traps to fix the arms to the opponent while dropping the weight. Further, doing a little sit up with the pelvic floor muscles pulls the body down slightly further adding to the sinking action and connecting the upper and lower portions of the body. This is one way to use sanchin dachi.

Originally posted 2011-02-07 05:00:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What is Karate? Ippon Kumite?

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Given the interest in my ‘anti-Karate’ ramblings on here by Karate_Stylist (KS) in his various typo-riddled guises icon wink What is Karate? Ippon Kumite? I think it’d be a good idea to try to put forward my point of view as succinctly as possible. I am not anti-Karate as such, rather I am against the steadfast adherence to out-dated training methods and a lack of willingness to progress beyond the standard. Sanbon kumite or San Dan Ge and associated Ippon kumite exemplifies it for me. San Dan Ge is the Goju version of sanbon kumite and is equally awful.

These training methods teach a robotic method of shifting through or between Karate stances. As KS mentions, trying to fight in this manner would be a disaster. There is so much wrong with this method of movement, which I have covered elsewhere, that I really can’t see the point.

From Sanbon to Ippon Kumite

I have read that it teaches timing but if it does, this timing is at such an almost banal level that it really is less than basic. Ippon kumite steps up the skill level a little and does allow room for learning timing of techniques that is different to that of the attacker and some angled counters. The trouble is that the protocol is so formalised and so far removed from anything like what happens in a fight that it’s value is less than it should be.


The video is of Shotokan Karate legend Kanazawa Sensei talking about and partaking in the jiyu (free) version of the ippon. As a Karate legend I hesitate to diss Kanazawa Sensei, however, while he does indeed shift between the deep Shotokan stances well the movement can hardly be described as natural and free-flowing, however he does move much better than those Karateka in a clip of sanbon kumite from a previous post. Further, the techniques used are a great example of what is wrong with karate, they just won’t work against someone moving freely and naturally.

KS says that the progression from sanbon to ippon kumite are points along the journey and a method to train the underlying principles of Karate-do; discipline and hard work. This is all very well but it is rather like knocking a building down with a lump hammer. Sure it’s hard work and it will build discipline but it’s hardly efficient. This is not meant to be an attack on KS but merely an expression of my frustration with the inefficient training methods of karate which are still purported to by worthwhile.

Where are the underlying principles?

Now I realise an eight minute you tube clip of a Karate legend cannot possible illustrate everything he has, however it does show how a Karate legend performs Ippon Kumite and as such should provide a top class example. Now forgive me if I’m wrong but I don’t see anything of great value in that clip and if the underlying principles of Karate-do are hidden in there somewhere please can someone help me spot them? KS says he is unable to do so in narrative anyone else care to help?

Originally posted 2010-11-10 14:09:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Art of doing sanchin without doing sanchin kata

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In the last sanchin kata post I looked at the mysterious (to me at least) connection between upper and lower body sections and its importance in punching. Here I intend to use examples from beyond Goju Ryu and Karate to illustrate this connection. As noted this connection is the most important, or prominent, but there are many other lesser connections that need to be contributing to a punch’s delivery, these also should not be floppy!

Doing Sanchin without the Dachi

Holding the starting press-up position in place, the plank, is an example of when the pelvic floor simply has to be engaged to make the position strong. If you are floppy rather than engaged the posture will sag. You can see this sagging in many adult beginners and a lot of younger kids, when they attempt press-ups. In fact kids can perform some hilarious attempts at press-ups due to weakness or age-related under-developed musculature.

This is an instance where engaging the pelvic floor and deep core muscles is essential to maintaining posture, it is roughly equivalent to the static sanchin dachi of the kata where you are immovable. Everything is strong and pulled in at the waist with a lifted or rotated pelvis. This part is often grossly exaggerated thereby negating the positive effect. When trying to get the connection message across to kids I call this the ‘Michael Jackson’.

When performed correctly this form of connection has many martial applications but is pretty useless in isolation, with stability there needs to be mobility.

Adding Mobility to Sanchin Kata

Using the pelvic floor to lock-in the stance is often achieved by Goju Ryu people but when it comes to punching the connection at the waist is often lost, i.e. it becomes floppy. The stability gained in sanchin can be used to resist in Goju Ryu training practices such as kakie but mysteriously does not transfer to punches. This is NOT universally true, I’ve trained with some exceptional Goju people who can engage their pelvic floor and have fantastic punches.

I personally think that because the sanchin kata shime testing tends to be on the hard side the external muscles are emphasised to the detriment of the deeper muscles, such as those of the pelvic floor. However, once the Goju Ryu person learns to lock in they become stronger but as the shime testing still emphasises the hard the soft is neglected. This means that there is no transfer of the connection from stability to mobility. Hopefully, that makes sense, if not the following example should.

I watched a great video of pro-MMA fighter Ross Pearson circuit-training with a tornado ball. To get the benefit from training with this device the connection simply has to be present. If not rather than smashing it from side to side with force the ball would be waved from side to side. I have never used such a thing but remember the first time I tried a similar exercise with a dumbbell at Uni, I was surprised at the intensity required to chuck a relatively light weight about. The video clip shows this exercise and others being performed well, the deep core muscles are being engaged.

The connection requirement to successfully get the tornado ball moving is the same as that required to successfully manage a whipping punch and to produce power at the waist. Mastering the tornado ball will help you power your punches and is a way of doing (one aspect of) sanchin without doing sanchin kata!

Originally posted 2011-04-20 05:23:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Power Punching Tips – Connecting with the core

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This post takes a look at the role the deeper core muscles play in connecting the top and bottom portions of the body, i.e. the torso and the legs. This connection is critical if the full potential of power generated is to reach the intended target, because often it is not.

Muscles of the Core

Core Power Punching Tips   Connecting with the core

Muscles are arranged in layers, particularly in the middle of the body, commonly known as the core. At the front of the body the famed and much sought after six pack is located on the surface. These surface muscles are called superficial muscles – in this instance the rectus abdominis which is used in the sit up movement. This is flanked by the external obliques, the flatter muscle used in twisting motions of the torso. The deeper layers progress through internal obliques and transversis abdominis to the psoas major and minor muscles. This is an extremely simplified explanation but illustrates the layering of muscles in the body.

The deeper muscles have movement functions but also a stabilising role. This stabilising is hugely important in martial arts as it gives the movement muscles something to brace or pull against in certain situations. If this bracing wasn’t present the hips would provide only a floppy base thereby detracting from the force produced.

It is essential to activate the deeper muscles to provide a base from which to punch from when the legs are compromised. Obviously, the feet and legs add substantial power to a punch but if they don’t or can’t there needs to be an alternative way of providing a base to throw from. There are a myriad of reasons why the legs could be sufficiently compromised to not be able to contribute to the force of a punch. For instance, you could be pushed back against the ropes or the bar in a pub or you could be sat on top of the bad guy.

Critical Power Punching Tips

In these cases there is no obvious base, however, by pulling against the stabilised hip/waist it is possible to generate power from a compromised position. In a fight a compromised position is likely to occur so the ability to throw powerful punches from such a position is desirable. This allows you to strike effectively while you attempt to regain a good position.

The preceding video is a tongue in cheek look at the stabilising role of the deeper core muscles. While working with a dump bag we practiced punching from the mount. Someone pointed out that it was rather like riding a horse, in that you need to grip with the legs. The legs and feet form a base BUT you need to use the deep core muscles to provide a strong connection between the lower and upper portions of the body. This then enables the force from the upper body and the base to transfer into the target underneath you.

Using the deep core muscles is something that we should all learn, it’s one power punching tip that can help us in everyday life too, as the deep stabilising muscles are essential for maintaining good posture and a healthy back.



Karate Cat Stance, Feet and Pressure Points

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cat stance Karate Cat Stance, Feet and Pressure Points

Neko Ashi Dachi usually translates to Cat Stance but that interpretation fails to account for the word Ashi which means foot. So the literal translation is Cat Foot Stance, which suggests that foot is important, how exactly is debatable as whoever named the posture is not around to confirm.

Cat Stance for stalking

For me it suggests something akin to the outstretched foot of a stalking cat. That should be the emphasis, rather than how low you get in the back leg. By going low the mobility of the position is compromised, the weight is on the back heel and it is difficult to move. However, if the stance is more like that of a cat stalking that front foot is moving forward to get toward the prey. Obviously, a direct translation is not possible as most of us don’t want to eat our training partners or opponents. We probably do want to get at them though.


With the cat stalking the front foot is used to gain ground in a sly manner. It’s moved forward carefully to allow comfortable transition into a closer position. The leg moves forward without the whole body moving with it.

Neko Ashi Dachi for Muay Thai?

Certain Muay Tahi fighters use something like cat stance, although it has more in terms of the cat stalking description than what we tend to think of as neko ashi dachi, or at least what I think of it. Here’s a highlight of a Thai boxer – Damien Trainor – who I’ve seen fight a few times, which shows a variety of skills but also a tendency to fight from the position in question.

He uses the position to throw and fake front leg kicks, to move in from, defend low leg kicks from and even to adjust position to throw punches from. Importantly he doesn’t use it exclusively.

The video is a great illustration of how the cat stance can be used advantageously without emphasis being placed on the depth of the stance, that is my point. The whole depth of stance thing is a perfect example of how Karate often places form over function and it’s all wrong.

Cat Stance and Pressure Points

After the first post on cat stance I received a phone call from Tony Pillage of Way of the Spiritual Warrior who mentioned that they had been doing a lot of experimentation with cat stance. He said they had been getting a lot of success punching from cat stance so long as the Kidney 1 point was activated. This is known as the bubbling spring point and is important in acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi and presumably anything else relying on the meridians of traditional Chinese medicine.

I’m not a big fan of Qi theory as such, although I’ll happily take what is useful from it and have in terms of acupuncture. I remember the bubbling spring being important in the sanchin work I did with Steve Rowe years ago but I don’t pretend to understand it all. I prefer physics and sports science to describe energy and force production which is what chi is in martial arts, as far as I’m concerned.

Activating this point may have something to do with the karate cat stance and Tony does say that by activating it they have managed to get a lot of energy into the opponent using just little taps. For me it is more to do with lining up the structure correctly and thereby providing the potential for the body to transfer force generated but I’m willing to be enlightened……