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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.
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.
Uechi Ryu pioneer Seiko Toyama has passed away at the age of 81. Toyama sensei was the last remaining practitioner to have trained directly under Kanbun Uechi. The first time I saw a video of him demonstrating kata I thought “wow, I can only hope that I’m in that kind of shape and moving like that if I ever get to his age.” Our condolences go out to his family and students.
Click here to watch a video of his performance of Sanseiryu kata.