Tachi: Stances for a Reason

In the Okinawan martial arts there has always been a great emphasis on stances. The reason for this, is that, through proper stance training, a small person can generate maximum power, which can then be used to effectively defend against a larger opponent. When Karate was first introduced into the Western world, one of it’s attractions was the power which the small practitioners of the art could generate. Stories were told of little men who could perform amazing feats and that size no longer mattered if the skill was sufficient. Today with combat sports abounding, where people are matched according to size and bigger people tend to have an advantage, little has been emphasized about the need for good stances. Yet there are times when a story will circulate about a small man or small woman, who defends him/herself against a larger opponent or in a gang situation. When these stories are told, suddenly the reason for good, old fashion Okinawan stance training is once again made clear. Two such stories that come to mind are as follows. A young woman, highly trained in the martial arts, who recently finding herself divorced, decided to visit a local night spot, in order to get back into the dating scene. She had not realized that the night life had changed so much from when she was single, and that things tended to be a lot rougher than when she was young. Anyway, she and a young female companion, went to the night spot, to dance and meet people. Two men approached them and decided that they were to receive all the young ladies attention. Trying to be nice, the martial artist thanked the men for their attention and said that she, and her very intimidated friend, would prefer not to be escorted. Unfortunately, one of the men had had too much to drink, and was overly aggressive. The martial artist realizing the danger, put herself between her companion and the aggressor, and with a loud assertive expression, insisted that the man leave them alone. At that point the man took a swing at the young lady, who simply fired a reverse punch, with full and proper stance transition, into his chest, knocking him back six feet, and giving him enough pain that he decided he did not want to hang around any more. The second story deals with a young man in his twenties who was only five foot seven, and not very massive. A group of street punks came into his yard and decided to beat him up, since he had been in the attempt of starting a neighborhood watch program. Using proper stance transitions and body movement, he was able to outmaneuver his attackers and defend himself, until he had an opening to escape. Both of these individuals were able to survive and come out on top of their situations due to proper martial arts training, which included stance training. There is one particular aspect of stance training which is essential for effective self defense techniques and full power striking. This can be called the art of the stance transition. In Japanese it is usually simply referred to as Tachi Sabaki, or stance manipulation. There are three main methods of stance transition, which involves flowing from one stance into another, so that maximum power is generated, with minimum effort. The first transition has the practitioner start in a Renoji Dachi, with the feet in a V position. From there the practitioner moves into Shiko Dachi, the square stance, and then with a pivot of the rear foot into a forty five degree angle, while straightening the rear leg, the person forms, Zenkutsu Dachi, a forward stance. In Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, the Shiko Dachi is also called the Shiko Kokutsu Dachi, square back stance, since the purpose of forming this stance is to generate power by pivoting into the forward stance. Thus this stance transition moves through the following stances; Renoji Dachi, Shiko Kokutsu Dachi, Zenkutsu Dachi. It must always be remembered that stances are not static postures taken and held, but rather points of reference in a motion. The object is never to simply freeze in a certain stance, but to move through it in the delivery of a technique. A second stance transition has the practitioner start in the Sochin Dachi, poetically meaning the peacekeepers stance, and then pivoting the hips while drawing the rear foot up into a Sanchin Dachi, three battle stance. In Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei Sochin Dachi is called the Kakuto Kiba Dachi, fighting horse stance, since the idea is to stand in a horse stance with the body at a forty five degree angle to an assailant. Many consider the Kiba Dachi the ultimate fighting stance. From this stance it is possible to execute any of the martial arts techniques from throws to jointlocks, from punches to kicks. Using the stance at the forty five degree angle allows for the use of the rear hand and leg, as well as, the lead. A third, and very simple stance transition, has the practitioner, once again, start in the Sochin (Kakuto Kiba) Dachi and simply turn the hips while straightening the rear leg and pivoting on the balls of the feet into the Zenkutsu Dachi. Both of these latter stance transitions can be done starting from the Renoji Dachi and stepping into the Kakuto Kiba Dachi, or since many martial arts styles think of the Kiba Dachi as the nitty gritty stance, that once it is clear a confrontation is going to happen, then there is no reason not to start in the most effective fighting position possible, thus you can simply begin the stance transition in it. Once these stance transitions are mastered in form, it is necessary to know how to apply them in actual self defense. In the use of the first stance transition mentioned, the defended starts in the passion looking Renoji Dachi, making it clear by the posture, that the desire to fight is not present, yet by the very position being fully capable of defending against attack. When the person attacks the defender moves from the Renoji Dachi into the Shiko Kokutsu Dachi for stability and power. In certain circumstance, such as any type of linear attack, the movement is also a dodge, moving the body at a forty five degree angle out of the path of the attack. In true Okinawan fashion, the punch is thrown relatively straight off the shoulder, which if the practitioner has dodger at a forty five degree angle upon taking the Shiko Kokutsu Dachi, will align the fist with the solar plexus of the attacker. Using proper body alignment this means that the heel on the ground of the right foot, will push, driving the hip forward which will turn the shoulder, which will be directly behind the fist, with the elbow aligning properly, so that full body power is generated and directed into a vulnerable point on the body. This is the ultimate in human power generation, and the key to effective punching. In the second type of stance transition, the defender is already in the Kakuto Kiba Dachi, knowing that the fight is imminent, and wanting to be in a strong fighting position. When the attack comes the body is shifted accordingly, so that the power is either absorbed or diminished by going inside the point of focus. Then as the first punch is thrown, the practitioner moves into a Sanchin Dachi, so that the whole power of the body coming forward and rotating, generates force, imparting serious impact. The person may then use the flexibility of the bent knees to rotate the body back and forth, in the delivery of blows. Using a final left hand blow, if the left foot is forward, allows the practitioner to withdraw the right foot, back into the Kakuto Kiba Dachi, thus generating a great deal of power through counter rotation, and creating distance, just in case the attacker is not finished by the exchange. An application of the final stance transition is to simply pivot on the balls of the feet, to move from a Kakuto Kiba Dachi into a Zenkutsu Dachi. In actual self defense, this could be accomplish by executing a block at the same time that you enter the Kakuto Kiba Dachi, or already being in the stance. In either case the execution of the block begins setting the body for a full power torque into the attack with an appropriate strike. And this then is the most important point in understanding and knowing Tachi, stances. The stances are transitional phases of motion which effectively bring your body into position to apply a counterattack with the full possible power of your body. While it cannot add power in an unrealistic way, it does maximize the force your can humanly generate. Thus it is still very important that a person be taught how to properly form the weapons of the body, how to deliver those strikes efficiently, and where to strike for maximum effect. It does no good at all to simply hit someone, somewhere on their body, with something. You must hit them where it will hurt, and with something that will achieve the desired effect. Today we have many claims being made about ‘special’ systems of training, some claiming to be very old, others the ‘innovation’ of the decade, or in some cases by people claiming to have developed a ‘better’ way of doing the martial arts than the people who created them. The truth is simply this, the fighting arts have been around for thousands of years, and the martial arts for hundreds of years. There is nothing new to discover about fighting, but there is always personal improvement to be made. A martial art is only as good as the person learning it. If a person works hard, puts sufficient time into training, and is dedicated, they will be good. But that person needs to train properly. Each system has more than just techniques, they have principles and training methods. These principles and training methods need to be fully develop, so that the skills promoted by the system can be effective. Many people want to have some kind of ‘secret’ that will make them as good as a black belt, without having to train as hard as a black belt. That ‘secret’ does not exist. The only secret of the martial arts is, hard work! In a time when many of the old training methods are being called into doubt, especially in regard to their effectiveness, it is important to realize that there is a lot of difference between fighting in some kind of ring and fighting on the street. In boxing or kickboxing, if the fight does go to a decision, then it is very important to be ahead on ‘points’, or in a point tournament, it is not necessary to have full power generation, as long as the weapon strikes an appropriate target to score the point. Yet on the street there are no referees or judges. There is only survival, if your skills are sufficient to the situation. If a street situation does come to blows, knowing how to properly use stance transitions for full power generation, could be the difference between life and death.

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