Shiko dachi, a forgotten stance in Shotokan? 四股立ちは忘却されたのか?

 

Have you ever used shiko dachi  四股立ち in your kihon or kata? IShiko dachi kanji 2f you are a shotokan practitioner I assume you have not. Do we find this stance in our katas? No, and as a result we do not use this stance in our kihon. Haven’t you ever thought it was sort of strange? I did. No one, as far as I know, has ever bothered to explain if there is any good reason why. If shiko dachi was there from the start what had happened to it? Isn’t it an interesting question and wouldn’t you like to find out? Let us investigate together and try to find the answers.

First, we need to look at the shotokan history by reviewing the textbooks. I always refer to two of the shotokan classics; Funakoshi’s Karatedo Kyohan  空手道教範 (2005 Neptune Publications Incorporated) and Nakayama’s Dynamic Karate (1966 Kodansha). I believe these two books are the foundation of shotokan karate and the best references. I have a copied version of Japanese Karatedo Kyohan (1935 Kobunsha) but for our discussion I will use the translated version which was translated by Harumi Suzuki-Johnson.

Karatedo KyohanIn Chapter 3 of Karatedo Kyohan, pages 22 and 23), Funakoshi listed seven stances, namely Hei soku dachi, Hachi ji dachi, Tei ji dachi, Zen kutsu, Ko kutsu, Neko ashi, and Kiba dachi. He stated, “There are seven general stances.” I am a little surprised in the incompleteness of the list as it misses the very popular and important stances such as musubi dachi, fudo (sochin) dachi, hangetsu dachi, tsuru ashi dachi, sanchin dachi and kosa dachi to name a few. So, it is not a surprise that shiko dachi did not make it in this list. I will explain extensively why shiko dachi did not make it as a popular or key stance in shotokan later in this article.

How about with Dynamic Karate? Its Chapter One is “Stance and Posture”. In page 27, Shiko dachi is listed among other key stances such as Kiba dachi and Fudo dachi. Then in page 37 Shiko dachi is shown again by occupying the entire page with a photo and some explanation. Dynamic KarateHowever, the explanation by Nakayama 中山正敏 (1913 – 1987) is very short, “This stance is just like the straddle-leg stance except that the feet are turned outward at an angle of 45 degrees and the hips are lower. A plum line dropped from the center of the knees would hit a point midway between the feet.” That is all. It does not say why it is included and how it is used. It is introduced twice but you would wonder why bother. I will share my understanding regarding this subject towards the end of this article.

Now let’s look at the other styles and see if they use Shiko dachi. It may be a surprise to some readers that this stance is a very popular stance. Seienchin 2It is found in many katas from the other styles. Probably the most representative one with the shiko dachi stance may be Seienchin which is one of the Shitei katas in the mixed style tournaments like WKF, WUKF and WKC. This kata is one of the kihon katas practiced by the Nahate styles such as Goju ryu and Uechi ryu as well as Shito ryu and Kyokushinkai.

Here is a video of Seienchin performed by a Shitoryu competitor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDqOFQveOc8

Here you can see that this kata is really based on shiko dachi. Though I am not familiar with the details of the Naha-te katas, I know shiko dachi is so popular it is included in almost all katas (ie. Seipai, Saifa, Gekisai, Sanseiru, Seisan, Suparinpei, etc) and on the other hand, kiba dachi is not used in them. It is almost like a mirror image of shotokan. How interesting.

So, let’s get back to the fundamental question, why we do not have Shiko dachi in our katas?

First we must all remember the following fact. When Funakoshi 船越義珍 (1868 – 1957) learned his karate in Okinawa in the late 19th century, the Okinawan senseis had not needed to use any specific terms for the stances and the techniques. The only terms they had were the names of the katas. An Okinawan instructor had only one or two students. Sensei showed the techniques with his body and did not give out any explanation nor needed to put the terms to different techniques. He would say, “Watch this kata” or “Do this technique like this.” My assumption is that Funakoshi was taught the katas but did not have the distinction between kiba dachi and shiko dachi. Thus I assume he probably allowed both stances; kiba dachi and an open toed stance (shiko dachi). He might have considered it as a relaxed stance of kiba dachi when one cannot do a tight kiba dachi stance. Old Funakoshi TekkiTo have a perfect kiba dachi you really have to pull your toes in and the inner muscle tension in the thighs. I am sure you have experienced that as soon as you relax the legs your toes point out easily. In fact, look at the stance of Funakoshi (photo right). This is from Tekki and his stance is definitely not a strict kiba dachi as we know it. I say this is much closer to shiko dachi. Some people try to give him an excuse that he was old and he could not hold a good kiba dachi. Funakoshi-tekki-shodanBut here is another photo of Funakoshi doing Tekki when he was younger. I think that is very disrespectful to Funakoshi sensei if we said he was too old for kiba dachi as he was only in his 50s in this photo (left). So, in the old shotokan training, I assume he allowed shiko dachi like kiba dachi in different katas.

We no longer practices this stance and we wonder why. Was this stance considered by someone else other than Funakoshi as an unnecessary or even a bad stance? OK we will continue our investigation.

As I pointed out above, Funakoshi himself used shiko dachi in Tekki and I assume he did in other katas such as jion, jutte and gankaku. Thus, I do not think Funakoshi considered open toed stance, shiko dachi as unnecessary nor bad. I am sure Funakoshi taught this stance to Nakayama because he added this stance in his book.

If so, was it purposely dropped from or changed in the Shotokan syllabus by someone else?

I believe so. You naturally wonder why. Let us look into this further. You must know the history of early shotokan, namely before WWII (specifically in 20’s and 30’s) to understand what has happened to the karate Funakoshi originally brought from Okinawa. He started to teach karate in Tokyo in 1922 when he was 54 years old. He was not the first Okinawan to bring karate officially to the mainland Japan.Motobu In fact, Choki Motobu 本部朝基 (1870 – 1944, photo left) moved to Osaka Japan in 1921. His karate level was excellent and was very agile, which gained him the nickname Motobu no Saru, or “Motobu the Monkey.” His existence was almost unknown for three reasons. He could not speak Japanese well and he had no influencial connection in Japan. In addition, he was reputed by some to have been a violent and crude street fighter. His training was so severe not too many students could last out and continue to be his followers. Eventually he decided to return to Okinawa without having made much impact to the karate world in Japan. But he was a big opposing factor as he openly criticized Funakoshi and claimed his karate was poor.

Funakoshi moved to Tokyo in 1922 and to his credit he was successful in promoting karate in Japan. He could speak Japanese and he was lucky to make a good connection with Jigoro Kano 加納治五郎 (1860 – 1938), the founder of Judo. So, he was the only karate sensei in Tokyo then but soon other Okinawan masters started to arrive in Japan. The most notable one was Kenwas Mabuni 摩文仁賢和 (1889 – 1952), the founder of Shito ryu. He visited Tokyo in 1928 and decided to move to Osaka in 1929 to live there. Funakoshi‘s profession was a school teacher and was not a full time karate practitioner when he lived in Okinawa. He learned from two teachers, Azato and Itosu but he learned only Shuri-te style of Okinawa karate.Mabuni_Kenwa2

On the other hand, Mabuni (photo right) was a policeman he had a lot of time to practice karate. In fact, he trained almost full time and had two famous teachers: Itosu from Shuri-te and Higaonna from Naha-te. So, Mabuni learned Okinawa karate in a very comprehensive way. As a result he became legendary for his encyclopaedic knowledge of kata and their bunkai applications. By the time he arrived in Japan, he was regarded as the foremost authority on Okinawan karate, bunkai and karate history.

So, what had happened here with Funakoshi teaching in Tokyo? Most of his students were the young students from various universities in Tokyo. However, some adults from other martial arts such as judo, jujitsu (Otsuka, later founded Wado ryu) and kenjutsu (Shimoda and Konishi, later founded Jinen ryu) also joined to learn karate on the professional level. So far so good. However, he faced the first problem as the students became more advanced. They wanted to know a lot more about bunkai and to practice kumite. Ever since he arrived in Tokyo, he only taught kata and some bunkai explanation but there were no kihon or kumite. He was very adamant about sticking to only kata training and prohibited any jiyu kumite. In fact, he resigned from one of the university karate clubs as he found the students there were secretly practicing jiyu kumite. It is clearly recorded that many of his students were very dissatisfied with the way Funakoshi trained them.

MabuniOn the other hand, Mabuni had a different attitude. He welcomed jiyu kumite and went as far as a full contact karate using the protectors (photo left). Many young university students became curious about Mabuni so they along with Otsuka and Konishi visited Mabuni dojo to learn about kumite. Moreover, Mabuni knew more advanced Shurite-kata such as Unsu, Sochin, Gojushiho, etc.

So, what did this mean to Funakoshi? In the 30s he faced the serious competitions from Motobu, Mabuni and other Okinawan masters. What did he do? Now what we have to put a spotlight on Funakoshi’s talented son, Gigo or Yoshitaka 義隆 (1906-1945) who moved to Japan with his father when he was only 17 (1923). By 1930 Funakoshi senior was over 60 years old while his son was 24 years young but had been practicing karate for more than 12 years under his father (Gigo started the official training when he was 12 years old). Gigo was not an expert yet but he proved to be very talented and strong.

In 1934 Funakoshi’s number one assistant instructor, Shimoda died from an illness. After this Gigo took over the position and started to make a strong influence on Shotokan karate which his father brought from Okinawa. Funakoshi Senior believed the basic 16 katas or even fewer were enough. Gigo disagreed as he was young and wanted to learn more katas. What did he do? He went back to Okinawa to learn more kata and bunkai. He also visited his competitor, Mabuni to learn more Shurite katas. Gigo is also credited with many different kicking techniques such as mawashi geri, ushiro geri and yoko kekomi. Yoshitaka or GigoHe also believed in the low stances (photo right) and did not like the high stances such as neko ashi and sanchin dachi. I also assume Gigo changed from the moving techniques using high stances to the still ones with low stances such as kiba dachi and zenkutsu dachi.

You also know it is easier to move if the toes are pointed outward like shiko dachi. So, when you do the body shifting from one kiba dachi to another in a kata like jion and jutte, your stance becomes more like shiko dachi. Gigo Funakoshi also shows that this is true (photo above). I know your instructor will tell you to pull your toes in. You also realized that you can squat deeper if your toes are pointing out and it is extremely difficult to lower your hips when you have a perfect kiba dachi. This is natural when you consider how your leg bones and the hip joints are constructed.

So, Gigo thought shiko dachi was a defective kiba dachi and decided to drop it from the syllabus. In all katas, the stance was limited to kiba dachi and shiko dachi stance was discouraged or even prohibited. Funakoshi Senior was not happy with all the changes his son was making. Why was he quiet? It was mainly due to the period the Japanese society was going through in 30s and 40;s, the war period starting with China in 1937. Gichin must have compromised and allowed those changes as long as Gigo did not bring in the jiyu kumite and the tournaments.

Egami and Gigo FunakoshiWe know that Gigo had a big influence on both Egami 江上茂 (1912 – 1981, kumite with Gigo who is on the  right of this photo), the founder of Shotokai 松濤会, and Nakayama, one of the key organizers of JKA 日本空手協会, until Gigo’s passing in 1945 at the very young age of 39. It is very interesting that two organizations, despite the same origin (Funakoshi Sr and Jr) developed their own techniques including the stances so differently in such a short period of time. I will not go into the details of the differences between Shotokai and JKA Shotokan in this article but look at shiko dachi in Shotokai (photo left). shotokai shiko dachi 2The feet are pointing outward on a straight line which is very unique and it does not look like the stance we know. Try to stand in this way. You will find it is very unbalanced and will not be able to keep the stance if you are pushed from the front or the back. A quick lateral body shifting is possible but I am not sure why they chose this stance and called it shiko dachi. Maybe a Shotokai practitioner can enlighten us.

So where did shiko dachi originate? Many readers may already know that it is from sumo 相撲, the traditional Japanese wrestling. The exact period of origin is not know but it could be traced back to the 6th century or earlier. Prior to becoming a professional sport in the Edo period (the 17th century), sumo was originally performed on the grounds of a shrine or temple. It is still popular in Japan and it is broadcasted on TV as a tournament of 15 days that happens six times per year. It keeps some old traditions such as throwing the salt in the ring which is supposed to purify the ground. 相撲四股立ちWomen are barred from the ring so the workers have to be all male. There is a controversy regarding this policy at the sumo association and many people both men and women have protested but so far this policy has not been changed.

More on sumo if you are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumo

The most popular stance in sumo is called shiko dachi (photo above) in which one can take a very deep squatting position. The rule for winning and losing in sumo is pretty simple. A sumo wrestler must either push his opponent out of the ring (4.55 meter diameter) or throw him (no body parts except the feet must touch the ground of the ring). In the ancient time, they were allowed to hit and kick even if it could hurt an opponent. One famous story tells that one sumo wrestler killed the other by kicking him and he won. Nowadays these two techniques are prohibited, however, an open hand slapping is still permitted though it is not considered as an honorable technique in the modern sumo.

In fact, shiko dachi is so popular in Japan because many athletic coaches believe this is the best stance for their athletic activity.

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サッカー

For example, you will find the warm up and the leg exercise using shiko dachi in a basket- ball training (photo left above) and a soccer practice (right). I do not need to show the photos of the practitioners in judo and western wrestling but they also engage in the exercises such as deep squats using shiko dachi. I want to show one more example. One of the most popular sports in Japan is baseball. The photo left below shows the kind of exercise the Japanese high school baseball team members do (below left).

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The photo right, shows the famous Japanese baseball player, Ichiro Suzuki  鈴木一郎 who now plays for New York Yankees. One of the exercises he does on the field as shown in the photo is his stretch using wide shiko dachi.

So what had happened to shiko dachi when Nakayama formed JKA in middle of the 20the century?

Nakayama was not only highly trained in karate, he also was aware of the modern science and the medical aspect of the human body. He knew the great benefit one can get from training shiko dachi. To show the respect to Funakoshi he did not change the stance from Kiba dachi to Shiko dachi. SquatWhat he did was to keep this stance for the leg exercises. We practice the deep squats often in our training in Japan (photo right) to strengthen our legs. Nakayama added shiko dachi in his book, Dynamic Karate. Unfortunately, he failed to put the explanation of how this stance should be used and what are the benefits in his book. I wonder if this omission was intentional or not. Regardless, as a consequence, I am afraid that the importance and the necessity of shiko dachi has not been relayed and taught enough to the western shotokan practitioners.

Then what are the benefits of shiko dachi specifically? There are two major benefits that I can quickly point out. One of them is the training of the inner muscles that connect the thighs to the pelvis. Training these muscles is not easy but it is extremely important for karate. I have mentioned these muscles in my previous articles on Weight Training and Relaxation. I will not explain these muscles again but I ask you instead to read those articles as you can get the full story behind this subject. One thing you can do is to do the slow and deep squats using wide shiko dachi. You will feel the tightening or the tiring of the muscles that are located inside of your thighs. You may wonder if the same muscles can be trained by using kiba dachi. Try the deep squats using kiba dachi. Where do you feel the pressure? Musculature_Deep_HipDo you not feel it mostly on the front of the thighs? Of course, you will use the hamstrings and the rear muscles (gluteus maximus) too but you will use the quadriceps the most. In shiko dachi even though you will use the quadriceps you will use the inner muscles such as adductor longus, adductor magnus, etc (see the illustration). I have mentioned in the past that strengthening these muscles are very important to any of the athletic activities including karate. The inner muscle exercise cannot be maximized if you practice with kiba dachi alone.

Second benefit of shiko dachi is its mobility. In seienchin kata you will see the practitioner moves from shiko dachi not only sideways (back and forth) but also towards the front in an interesting way. Of course you can do this with kiba dachi but you can do it easier with shiko dachi as your feet are pointing outward which makes the stance less restricted. So, kiba dachi gives you more solid or stable stance but shiko dachi can be more mobile. You can keep a steady kiba dachi when you are in that position without any body shifting. However, when you body shift regardless of moving towards left or right in kihon or katas such as Tekki, Jion, Jutte, etc. your feet will naturally open up, though your instructors will yell at you to keep your feet parallel.

Then the natural question may be, “If this stance is so beneficial, why didn’t Nakayama explain more about shiko dachi?” My answer will be only my guess. I did not hear the explanation directly from Nakayama when I met him before his passing. However, I know that he had a great respect to both Funakoshi senior and junior. He was sort of sandwiched between these two instructors. So, he believed shiko dachi could be used in the katas interchangeably with kiba dachi but he did not want to put it in writing. He only added this stance in the Tachikata (stances) list without any explanation. He intended to explain the importance to his students in person and I know that he had done so to the JKA instructors. However, this omission in his book resulted in one of the shotokan’s mysteries.

Kanazawa Seienchin

It is widely known that to supplement shotokan kata, Sensei Kanazawa 金沢弘和 (1931 – present) practiced seienchin himself. I am sure one of the reasons to practice this kata was to get familiar with shiko dachi. I suspect his followers must be aware of or practice shiko dachi kata such as seienchin. Here is a video of Kanazawa performing Seienchin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U7KPaiZJ08

NishiyamaI also hear that late Nishiyama sensei 西山英峻 (1928 – 2008) created a kata called Kitei in which shiko dachi is included.

Here is a sample video of this kata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McVf2bTvqSs#t=13

If this is the case, the big question is why didn’t this information spread more to the western world? I cannot answer that question but I wish to recommend strongly to all Shotokan practitioners that we will add this to our standard training syllabus now so that we can enjoy the benefits from this excellent stance.

Conclusion:

Shiko dachi was a part of original shotokan karate that was brought from Okinawa by Gichin Funakoshi. Shiko dachi was used almost interchangeably with kiba dachi in the shotokan katas in the early 20th century.

Gichin’s son, Gigo being physically strong emphasized the strong and steady stances such as low zenkutsu and low kiba dachi. He not only discarded or ignored the high stances such as neko ashi and sanchin but also shiko dachi as it is less stable (though more mobile) than kiba dachi.

Nakayama, knowing the benefits of shiko dachi kept the stance in the syllabus. However, he did not push this stance as he decided to keep all kiba dachi in the JKA katas. He wanted to use it only in the leg (mostly squats) exercises. He failed to write the benefits and its use in his famous book, Dynamic Karate. We do not know if the omission was intentional or unintentional. Unfortunately, it resulted in the general omission (forgotten) of this stance from the standard shotokan training.

If you have a problem making the strict kiba dachi because of the lack of flexibility or whatever the reason, now you can relax. You no longer need to feel depressed or discouraged. You found that Shiko dachi is an excellent stance and it is more flexible than kiba dachi. I will not go so far to recommend replacing kiba dachi with shiko dachi in our katas, as I believe the kiba dachi requirements of the inner thigh tension and butt tucking are important and necessary for us to master. Since you can use shiko dachi in your shotokan katas such as jion and jutte, learning a Naha-te kata such as Seienchin is not necessary to practice shiko dachi. Including the exercises both in kihon and hojo undo 補助運動 using shiko dachi is, I conclude, critically important and necessary for any shotokan karate practitioners to improve their karate.

Nakayama Shiko-Dachi

10 Responses to Shiko dachi, a forgotten stance in Shotokan? 四股立ちは忘却されたのか?

  • Osu Shihan. Great article on Shiko Dachi! Well done!

    I realize the article is meant to focus on the “forgotten-ness” of Shiko Dachi, but It inspired me to discuss something else with you – the actual stances themselves.

    I would like to look at Kiba Dachi and Shiko Dachi from an anatomy point of view.

    As a person starts in a standing position (heisoku dachi), knees straight, feet touching and parallel, that when they start to separate their feet, that they naturally become lower to the ground, their knees want and should bend eventually, their toes point outward, and they will pass through Kiba Dachi on their way to Shiko Dachi.

    I think it is completely unsafe and unhealthy for one’s knees if they perform a low Kiba Dachi with their feet too wide because your knees have to twist to keep your feet possible. Do you agree? (I’m not saying you are advocating this, i’m just hoping to discuss it anyway).

    So it seems to me that, in order for your pelvis and knees to be happy, that a feet-parallel Kiba Dachi should be noticeably higher than a toes-out Shiko Dachi which should be a deep low stance.

    The human body’s knees certainly have lateral play, but I think it is generally considered unsafe and unreliable by sports specialists, and should not be relied upon for fast dynamic movement, like in Karate.

    Now going back to your article, it is incredibly interesting to see Kanazawa practicing Seienchin and for you yourself to be acknowledging the benefits of Shiko Dachi even though it isn’t really in Shotokan.

    So I guess I’m hoping you can compare Kiba Dachi and Shiko Dachi even more. Perhaps a photo of you performing Kiba Dachi how you think it she be done would be great!

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Dear Mark,

      Thank you very much for your comments and the invitation to further discuss.
      Let me respond back to the first question. “I think it is completely unsafe and unhealthy for one’s knees if they perform a low Kiba Dachi with their feet too wide because your knees have to twist to keep your feet possible. Do you agree?”

      If you look at the way the hip joints are connected, it is obvious the legs are not really on the side of the pelvis but rather forward. It is difficult to explain this with the words due to my poor English. If you look at the illustration of the pelvis it is easily seen. For this reason it is more difficult to squat down low with your feet parallel. However, I do not fully agree with your statement of “completely unsafe and unhealthy for one’s knees”. I agree with you for the beginners and untrained people. Our legs can be trained and what you described can be done without causing any negative effect to the knees. I do not recommend this to anyone who is below shodan and if they have any knee problems.

      I have my photos performing low kiba dachi at my Facebook photo section if you are interested. For the leg strengthening exercise I ask the students to bring their hips low so that the thighs will be at a horizontal level. However, for the kata and kihon I do not expect the stance to be that low. In fact, much higher and you can see this in the other photos and also the video clips that you can find in Youtube.

      Good luck with your training. Oss

  • Hi Shihan Yokota, may I share an insight or two? Shiko dachi is heavily used in almost all of the Goju Ryu kata, and the reason os addressed in your article. It is because of the ability to squat deeply from Shiko dachi. Goju Ryu Kara are filled with stand up grappling, and the bunkai very frequently ends in a throw. When you throw your opponent and they land at your feet, you want to follow up with a killing blow. If you deliver that from a very deep Shiko dachi it will work better than from Kiba dachi. Try this experiment: lie down, and have a student stand over you in Kiba dachi and try to hold that foot position as they reach down to you. The only way they can reach down is to bend forward from the waist. Once they do that grab a sleeve or lapel and pull. They will be right on the mat with you. Now have them turn their toes out and squat into a deep Shiko dachi. Their back will remain straight. And the harder you pull on them from the ground, the more power they can deliver without losing balance. Hope you find this useful!

    • Sensei Sumner,
      Thank you very much for your input. I think it is an excellent comment by bringing a situation of a throw and also of a killing blow to an opponent who is on the ground. As I wrote in the article it is true that we can get down or squat down lower with shiko dachi. Kiba dachi has its own use and benefits, however, it is not as practical as shiko dachi. I am not sure if all of the shotokan instructors agree with my statement. Regardless, many shotokan practitioners without knowing, most of the time, are using shiko dachi (or deformed kiba dachi) because it is extremely difficult to keep the feet parallel especially when you are body shifting.

  • A good article I enjoyed it ,whilst reading .
    As I practice Uechi ryu ,we have Shiko dachi in Sanchin (form) yet I notice when the kata is performed the Shiko dachi is a bit blured ,and is absent in other material in other words it’s there to be used but is relegated to non existent .its a bit like having a tool kit ,but not using a hammer instead other variations are used .

    • Sensei Ainley,
      Thank you very much for your input. It is good to hear from a Uechiryu practitioner. It is interesting to hear that you have Shiko dachi but it is relegated to non existent. Why do you think this happens in Uechi ryu? Is this common among all Uechi ryu dojo?
      In shotokan, we use Kiba dachi in many kata and they are monitored very closely and coached to form the “perfect” stance as it is a challenging stance. We also use this stance in kihon (especially with yoko geri) and also in kihon kumite. We would be interested in receiving the additional thoughts and input from you if possible.
      Regards,
      KYokota

  • Hi Sensei
    As a practitioner of Shito-ryu (Shukokai) I (we) see shiko-dachi as one of the main stances, used side on it can withstand considerable amounts of force (tested regularly in our dojo) with little strain on the knees and ankles.
    We practice shiko-dachi with our shins vertical (front view), back straight, knees and feet at 45 deg, sitting low and our pelvic bone thrust up (great core workout), can be tested with heels, backside, back and shoulders touching against a wall.
    In this (comfortable) position I can turn in to a long zenkutsu-dachi (moto-dachi some would say outside our ryu) with a twist of the hips for attack and/or defence, even slide back in to nekoashi-dachi to quickly evade attack and adjust my position for a counter atttack, shiko-dachi can be used quickly (keeping low) moving forward again into shiko-dachi with a lone step (in front or behind) keeping body side on until twisting last minute striking low or a take down/throw and close grappling moves (Seienchin) and yes shiko-dachi is vunerable to attack from the front so needs to be able to transfer from shiko-dachi to another quickly, having our feet turned out aids immensely.
    Shiko-dachi is also part of our long kata list, our founder Sensei Chojiro Tani Founder of Shukokai, 1949) trained first with Sensei Chojun Miyagi (Goju-ryu) then with Sensei Kenwa Mabuni (Shito-ryu) so we have a substantial kata repertoire with shiko-dachiin the majority eg:Jiin, Jion, Seienchin, Siaifa, Ananku, Bassai (4 verions), kosokun (3 versions), Matsukazi, Juroku, Seiryu, Nisesshi, Shisochin, Rohai, Seipai, Kururubfa, Suparinpa (Sensei Tani’s tokui kata, performed in coloured wig noh-mask and full robes), even our pinan nidan (heian) has two double sets at the end which in the bunkai is strike step in with shiko-dachi and throw then finish with strikes sinking low and not leaning forwards ( great fun for teaching young kyu grades).
    Having cross trained now and again with other ryus I have alway found a properly done kiba-dachi difficult and painful (at my age 50+) and not easy to transfer from (maybe Sensei Funakoshi’s son being younger had no difficulty), also we do not use kiba-dachi in our ryu, My friend who have practiced Shotokan as long as I have Shukokai have no problems.
    My sensei says karate should not be hard or painful just the training.
    Thank you again for a great article
    Yours sincerely
    Paul

    • Sensei Cornell,
      Shotokan definitely has some short comings with the stances. Kiba dachi is an excellent stance to strengthen our legs, however, it is also true that it lacks the mobility. We used to train Shiko dachi (when Funakoshi Sr was in command). Unfortunately, our recent training dropped this important stance and many of us do not even know about it. We also dropped the other short stances such as neko ashi and sanchin. We invented kokutsu and hangetsu stance. If those stances are done properly I see the value in them but I see so many people doing them incorrectly which could lead to the knee problems. There are many shotokan practitioners who suffer the knee problems. One of the reasons is the incorrect stances. I am planning to write an article of correct stances to avoid knee injuries. I will include three “problem” stances; kiba dachi, kokutsu dachi and hangetsu dachi.

  • i tend to think shiko dachi is just more natural, functional, safer. Especially in asian countries you notice people squatting in the street reading a paper, smoking a cigerette, waiting for a bus all toes outwards. humans when using the bathroom will squat extremely low and the toes are pointed outwards. When practicing squats in the gym it is taught toes point outwards. From what ive seen okinawan karate is more natural and functional and when it came to japan aesthetics were more focused upon. In kihon we train all these awkward unnatural stances then when its time for kumite the first thing is to move into a natural stance because such low stances are not practical to spar with. So many people have knee, ankle, back problems from all these forced postures and i question their relevance. Im not sure gigo was making these changes for function. Ive never seen someone squat so low to defend them self or in kumite. Someone once said to me train your body how you want to use it. So either make kihon stances more higher and natural, not forced, or kumite stances lower and less functional.

    • Your observation of the Asian people is correct. I agree that pointing our toes out word is more natural. I can see why square kiba dachi was created (for training purpose) but it is a shame that Shiko dachi was forgotten or de-emphasized in Shotokan kata. When you look at how Master Funakoshi does his kata such as Tekki, you can see that his feet are definitely pointing out. The major change of lower stance came when his son took over the teaching in the 30’s. I am a believer of the importance of foot positioning. More studies should be done on this important subject.

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