Orange Belt Mid-Level Stances

This is a group of stances that require you to be somewhere between erect and in a deep stance. These again can be quite simple stances or require a good deal of effort and training. Naturally, we start with the most difficult stance.

Naihanchi Dachi

The feet are positioned parallel to one another and somewhat more than shoulder-width apart. A good stance width might be about halfway between Kiba Dachi and Heiko Dachi. The knees are bent inward to establish a relatively low stance and then the legs and rear are tensioned in an upward direction.

The origins of this stance are a bit of a mystery (many theories though), but the stance is often attributed to close-in fighting strategies in which you will naturally seek to have a strong and stable base. This stance is used extensively in the Naihanchi Kata series (a set of three Kata you will learn later). Perhaps the name of the stance was derived from practitioners who found the stance useful in Bunkai for the Naihanchi Kata.

As described above the stance is very similar to a moderate depth Kiba Dachi. An alternate method of establishing this stance is to rotate the balls of both feet inward somewhat. Some martial arts styles suggest you rotate your feet inward up to 45°, but we think this is a bit more than necessary. Rotating your feet allows you to “grip” the floor better and also reduces the likelihood that you will be pushed back directly over your heels.

Naihanchi can be thought of as being very similar to Sanchin Dachi. The notable difference is that in Naihanchi your feet are adjacent (but roughly hip-width apart) to one another while in Sanchin Dachi one foot is slightly forward of the other. Sanchin Dachi is perhaps a bit more stable against an opponent located at Octagon angle 1, while Naihanchi is perhaps a bit more stable when dealing with someone positioned at local angles 5 or 7.

You will have the ability to explore the uses of this stance when you study the Naihanchi Kata. For now, practice the stance so you can explore how it is resistant to both defensive and offensive actions against a training partner located at Octagon angles 1, 5, and 7. You may notice that somewhat different foot orientations and stance depths are beneficial at different angles.

Han Kokutsu Dachi

This is generally referred to as a shortened Kokutsu Dachi. As you may recall, the word Han means half. The stance is identical to the Kokutsu Dachi except the legs are brought closer together so that overall the stance is higher. So, this might be considered to be a half-Kokutsu Dachi.

There are a couple of practical uses for this stance. The first is to pull back momentarily to avoid some form of an abdominal strike from an opponent. Pulling back into Han Kokutsu Dachi may provide just enough distance to prevent a strike such as Mae Geri or Mawashi Geri from finding its target. This is usually accomplished by rooting more solidly on the back leg and then sliding the front leg inward until sufficient clearance is provided. Naturally, you would likely move the front foot forward again to initiate a counter strike or move the front foot off to the side to initiate an escape sequence.

The stance can also be established by closing the width of an existing Kokutsu Dachi. This is done by momentarily shifting enough weight onto the front foot to allow the back foot to slide forward. Weight is then distributed so that a larger proportion of your weight is supported by the back leg. This might be done to raise your elevation while still maintaining a Kokutsu style posture. Such a posture might be useful in some forms of manipulation or Nage.

Han Zenkutsu Dachi

This is the shortened version of the Zenkutsu Dachi. The stance is higher than the Zenkutsu Dachi, but the back leg remains straight and the foot positions are identical, with the exception that the front and rear feet are closer to one another.

The most common use for this stance is to move your torso forward from Zenkutsu Dachi while not moving your front foot. Sliding the back leg forward moves you to a more erect posture while also positioning your torso somewhat forward of its original position. This can be utilized to perform a back leg sliding punch or to improve the ability to strike a distant target with a weapon such as the Jo.

Gai Bu

In Gai Bu (often called the High Lotus Stance) the legs are positioned in what might seem to be an odd formation. The front leg is directly along your Center Line with the front foot directed toward Octagon angle 1. The back leg then swings back and behind your torso so it forms a 135° angle with the front leg. If the left leg is forward then the right leg will be positioned in the direction of local angle 8. If the right leg is forward then the left leg will be positioned to local angle 6. The heel of the back foot is raised such that only the ball of the back foot is on the floor. The front leg is bent significantly and the entire front foot then rests on the floor.

Your center might be focused on local angle 1 and this is what you might expect in Tensoku Ryu. But in Wushu and Kung Fu, the focus is normally at 90° to the side nearest your back leg. So if your right leg is back in the direction of angle 8 then the focus would be directed toward angle 3. If the left leg were back at angle 6 then the focus would be directed toward angle 4.

The stance is normally established by stepping forward rather than back. An English equivalent pronunciation of Gai Bu would sound something like “Guy Bu.”

Bent Knee Stance

This stance is similar to the Heiko Dachi but the feet are placed a little bit further apart. The knees are then bent significantly but not severely and the weight is allowed to settle back and down so that the weight appears to be focused directly above the heels of both feet. The head, shoulders, and hips remain in perfect vertical alignment.

This is not a stance you will want to establish if your opponent is located directly toward angle 1. But the stance can be beneficial against opponents at other octagon angles. It should occur to you that this is another subtle stance variation that is closely related to Kiba Dachi, Shiko Dachi, Heiko Dachi, Sanchin Dachi, and Naihanchi Dachi. These are all, in fact, slight but useful variants that apply weight distribution in different ways. Each has its benefits and weaknesses. You will find it most beneficial to explore these differences.

You will find that you naturally assume these various stances as you work on exercises and drills with training partners. Try to notice when you have naturally adopted one of these stances and remember the circumstances under which you naturally utilized the posture. You will also want to notice when a posture you used was not beneficial or left you vulnerable in some way. This will suggest that you try a different stance in subsequent exercises to see if which stance would prove most beneficial under the current circumstances.

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