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When people start comparing karate styles, there is often some confusion about the function of kiba dachi (referred to as the “horse stance”) and shiko dachi (open legged stance). These comparisons often overlook function as a distinguishing factor and focus more on aesthetic details, or rehash arbitrary stylistic dogma. Although the two look somewhat similar, the postures lend themselves to different applications and contexts of usage.

Kiba dachi

Generally speaking, kiba dachi is found in the Shorin family of kata. The Naihanchi series make extensive use of it.  In appearance, it looks much like a high squat position: legs straddled a bit wider than shoulder length, toes facing forward, knees bent, butt dropped behind the ankles as opposed to in front, torso erect, slight posterior pelvic rotation. The depth and length of the stance varies from group to group,  but there’s no point in making it so low and wide that your lower back hyper-extends (the dreaded “shelf butt”), or your knees collapse inward. Some sources, such as Motobu Choki, advise that twisting the hips towards one leg or another in this kiba dachi forms the fundamental stance for free-engagements.

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Ryuei-ryu Seisan

Goju-ryu Seisan

Uechi-ryu Seisan

Shito-ryu Seisan

Shotokan Hangetsu

Wado-ryu Seisan

Seibukan Seisan

Isshin-ryu Seisan

Kyudokan Shorin-ryu

Siu Lim Tau (Wing Chung)


Tensho ( Shito Ryu karate’s version in this example)

"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin


May 2020

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