Some simple words, â€œchallenge your balance and your technique will rise.â€
This is a concept that my Sensei, Sensei Cieplik, shared with me many times over the years but it took me a long time understand. The words are simple but applying them takes a lot of trial and error in the secret lab called my body.
I will use Kanku Dai as an example but this concept applies to all kihon, kata and even kumite to some extent. The idea is to find ways to force yourself to keep good posture whenever you are doing Karate. Doing kata and kihon techniques with your feet on the same line with one in front of the other will help you reach that goal.
A drill that my Sensei shared with me was to do a kata, Kanku Dai which has a lot of front stances, with my front stances inline. Trying to use the hips with both feet in the same line, while in a front stance, brings a whole new life to the kata. You have two choices when doing the kata this way, you either keep your body upright and move from your hips and your lower body or you fall over and all the students around you laugh at you.
Keeping the body upright sounds simple but this means keeping your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight vertical line when viewed from the side. When your your body is in this position, you have to move from your lower body and your hips because the shoulders and upper body are unable to lead.
Another example is picturing that you have a wooden dowel rod coming down through the middle of your head, all the way through your body. Many years ago, one of my Senseiâ€™s stuck a long bo (staff) in the back of my belt and every time I would lean or use my upper body to move, the bo would hit me in the back of the head. Iâ€™m sure it was fun to watch me do it but I learned very quickly to keep my posture upright and move from my lower body.
When you are in an inline stance and you turn, your body will move as a unit and you will not have that disjointed posture which normally causes a chest forward lean and wobble that we often see at the end of a technique. It also helps keep your chin and face further back and further away from your opponents hands. I don’t know about you but I don’t like getting hit in the face anymore than I have to so this is a plus.
I would suggest that you do not use these narrow stances all the time in your Karate classes because your Sensei might not like it but when training on your own, spend a few minutes or do a couple katas and see if this helps you.
Go give this a try and let me know what you see and feel.