No stance no chance!
Ok troops, so lets address the importance of the basic stances in your training. As a starting point your stances are your foundation. If the foundation is not strong whatever is on top of it will eventually fall. Think if your house was built purely on sand, you get the idea, right?
In Kenpo, stances are taught to be tailored to fit the individual and not the other way round as in so many other arts. We do this by tailoring the stance to the individuals Height, Width and Depth body makeup. There are three ways to check your stances:
Toe to Heel alignment (Front toe to rear heel) this give us the correct Width of a stance.
Knee to Heel alignment (Front heel to rear knee) this gives us our own personal Depth of a stance.
Bending of the knees (One or both) which gives us the proper Height in a stance.
I cannot over emphasise to importance of nailing your stances. This mantra had been imprinted in my massive head by my instructor, 8th Degree, Miss Jaki McVicar.
Mr Parkers quoted, “The first rule of Kenpo is to establish a base.”
So, lets look individually at the stances and how you can improve yours whilst practising outside of class.
Attention Stance – Easy right? Well maybe there is more to this stance than meets the eye. The Attention stance is taught to keep the students alert for a command; it is used when receiving instructions when your Instructor wants your FULL attention.
The weight distribution is 50 – 50, feet together, knees bent, hands straight down against legs, Head facing forward. Some common mistakes that I see in class are feet not being together or knees not being bent
Horse Stance – There are three basic types of Horse Stance that you will encounter during your basic level Kenpo training at Total Defence. All of them use the same 50 – 50 weight distribution. You can find the correct dimensions for your horse stance by following these simple instructions:
1) Stand with your feet together.
2) Move your heels out to the sides to form a upside down V
3) swivel on your heels to move your toes out to a 45% angle
4) Finally move your heels out slightly so that your toes are slightly pointing in. Bend your knees, keep your back straight and push out to feel slight pressure on the outside of your legs……Simples!
Meditation Horse – This stance is used at the start and end of each class. Its purpose is to give the student a few moments to clear their minds and prepare themselves for the class. Your left hand should be open but covering the right fist.
Training Horse – This is taught to isolate the students lower body, which aids working the upper body. A good example of this is the Five Star Block set. It is still very important to make this stance strong. Remember to keep your knees bent and, if doing basics like blocks and punches keep your hands in a chambered position at your hips.
Fighting Horse – Also known as a side horse. Used in your Kenpo techniques but not often as it hampers the use of your rear arm or leg.
Ok, so lets get to the key stances
Neutral Bow or Fighting Stance – This is our Fighting stance. Its your safety zone, launch pad and base for almost every key move in Kenpo. You should always strive to be neutral to your opponent. The weight distribution is 50 -50. You can practise this stance by placing a broom on the floor and having one foot on each side.
Forward bow – This is your Power stance. It is also transitory and used to create Back Up Mass when using the rear hand to strike. You are using this stance already in your techniques. Think of Alternating Maces. Can you spot the forward bow? The weight distribution in this stance is 60 – 40. 60% of your weight should be on your forward leg with your rear turned to enable your hips, shoulders and rear foot to face directly forward.
45% or 90% Cat Stance – Once again a transitional stance. Executed from a neutral bow by sliding, in most cases the front foot back and turning your hips to face forward. Its the rear foot that governs whether it is a 45% or 90% cat stance by the angle it is facing. Weight distribution is 90 -10. 90% on the back leg.
A good rule to follow is to remember “When you Cat you Kick”. Think of Delayed Sword. Can you think of any other techniques where this is used?
Reverse Bow -The reverse bow is really just a forward bow but looking to the rear. It is used to generate power but also to gain distance from your opponent. It enables easier deployment of scoop kicks, hammerfist’s etc. Weight distribution this time is 60 -40 but 60% on your rear leg. You will find when you have the stance correct your height zone will drop as you go into the stance.
There are many other stances that you will encounter in your Kenpo journey but I hope that this will give you a good base to build from. Please do not take training your stances lightly. Get them right at the start and your training will progress much quicker. I have been training for over 30 years and still constantly practise. Stances should be your First priority. Get them right and the rest is easy! Well maybe not 🙂