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Techniques>Stances>Front stance

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Front stance

Intro

The front stance offers increased stability without hampering quick movement, relatively quick kicks with either leg, and quick changes to other stances.

Characteristics

  • Width. One and a half shoulder-widths.
  • Depth. One and a half shoulder-widths.
  • Front foot position. The front foot is pointed straight ahead.
  • Back foot position. The rear foot is pointed straight ahead, maybe angled outward some.
  • Front leg position. The front knee is bent, and the shin is vertical.
  • Back leg position. The rear leg is straight but not locked.
  • Shoulder position. The shoulders are perpendicular to the opponent’s line of attack.
  • Hip position. The hips are parallel with the shoulders.
  • Weight distribution. 70% of the weight is on the front foot; 30% is on the back foot.
  • Center of mass. The center of mass is centered between the two feet

Details

The front stance is the workhorse of the stances. It is used in practically every pattern. Some of its strong points are:
  • It is strong in all directions.
  • Although it exposes the front of the body to attacks, it is the strongest stance to use against frontal attacks. 
  • It permits a wide range of attacks by both hands and feet.
  • It adds the mass of the body to any forward attacks. 
  • It allows the attacker to close distance quickly on the opponent and over a large distance.
  • It allows quick movement in any direction while maintaining a firm base and stability.
The following front stance discussion describes the traditional front stance. In actual usage, a shallow (feet closer together) and half-facing (body at a forty-five-degree angle to the opponent) front stance is used as the primary fighting stance by most martial artists.
  • When the left leg is forward, the stance a left front stance. When the right leg is forward, it is a right front stance.
  • Stand with the feet parallel, about one and a half shoulder-widths apart. Step one foot directly forward one and a half shoulder-widths deep into a front stance while maintaining the width of one and a half shoulder-widths. Imagine a square drawn on the floor with each side equal to one and a half shoulder-widths. You are standing on the corners of the square.
  • For a proper front stance, one foot moves up its side of the square to the top corner. If the stance is too long, you will not be able to move quickly. If the stance is too short, you will not have proper stability. It is often claimed that longer stances strengthen the muscles that work through the knee joint and so the stance helps protect the knee joint from the damage caused by unloaded kicking. However, it is better to protect the knee joint by avoiding unloaded kicking altogether.
  • In a low front stance, the imaginary square is enlarged to two shoulder-widths or greater, which makes the stance lower, wider, and more stable, but it also makes movement slower. Too wide a stance opens the groin to attack.
  • Test your fore and aft stability by having someone push on your extended fist. You should be able to resist a very strong push from this direction. Some coaches also pull you forward by drawing on your lead arm, but the stance is primarily designed to withstand a frontal impact.
  • The body faces the opponent. Keep the hips parallel with the shoulders and perpendicular to the opponent line of attack.
  • The front foot is pointed toward the attacker but may be angled slightly inward.
  • Bend the front leg at the knee, with the shin vertical. With the leg in this position, there is a smooth flow of tension throughout the leg. If the knee is not bent enough, mobility is lost. If is bent too much, the sharp angle of the knee interrupts the flow of tension throughout the leg. TIP: When front leg is bent properly, your front toes should just be hidden by the knee. Don’t lean knee forward past the toes. Don’t lean the knee inward.
  • Point the rear foot toward the opponent or maybe outward 15-30 degrees. Any lesser angle puts too much stress on the leg and mobility is reduced. Any greater angle weakens the stance and lessens the amount of force that may be applied in a forward direction.
  • The rear leg is straight, but the knee is not locked.
  • The toes and outside edges of the feet grip the floor, while the legs are tensed with outward tension.
  • The center of mass is centered between the feet, at the center of the imaginary square. TIP: In this position, 70 percent of the weight will be on the front foot (hence the name front stance) and 30 percent of the weight will be on the back foot. Don’t shift too much weight to the front foot.

Tips

  • Don’t let the feet come closer together in successive front stances. At the middle of the motion of stepping into another front stance, you can bring the feet closer together but they should be kept at least a hip-width apart.
  • If you are in a front stance and someone pushes against you from either side or from the front or back, you should settle your mass down and into the force, but you should not have to shift your feet. If you must shift your feet it is because they were not initially positioned wide enough. When you are pushed, your feet instinctively shift the proper position to brace against the force, so try to position your feet properly so there is no desire to move them when pushed.

    You should strive to let your body instinctively settle into this neutral, natural position without your having to think about it. If the stance performed properly, you should feel solid, stable, and in balance but you should be able to resist a force from any direction or be able to move in any direction.

Criticisms

Some say the stance is too rigid, that a straight or even slightly bent rear leg is too tense and hampers quick movement. To move, the rear leg must relax and tense again.

Some say the legs are kept too wide apart.
"The way of moving the feet is none other than that of ordinary walking." -Miyamoto Musashi. 
"Anyone who separates his feet too far will never become a good practitioner." -K. Sawai.
This is why the front stance is also called a walking stance.

Are these criticisms valid? 

To move, the feet must be brought closer together or the body will be unstable. In classical karate, the feet were kept much closer together. Wide separation between the feet was introduced as a means of strengthening the lower part of the body.

However, the low front stance is not used in sparring; it is only used in patterns, where precision, raw power, and artistic expression are paramount. For sparring, a modified front stance with the feet closer together and with less tension in the legs is used. This more relaxed stance facilitates quick movement and quicker techniques.

Stance Stability

Sometimes, beginners have difficulty keeping their legs still while in a front stance or other stances; the legs begin to shake. This is somewhat related to muscular strength in the legs, which will increase over time, but many any times this is related to the way students shift their weight while attempting to use hip snap with techniques.

Some martial arts stress keeping the rear leg straight at all times while in a front stance. This means that when attempting to use hip snap by rotating the hip around the vertical axis of the body, they throw their body weight onto the front leg. The weight immediately shifts backward where it bounces off the stiff back leg. The weight continues this back and forth vibration for a few milliseconds until it settles in the center. This motion shakes the entire body and increases the mass being applied to the legs, making them tremble.

When using hip snap, instead of thinking about it as a rotation of the hip and body about the vertical axis of the body, think about the hip lagging behind the leg during the step and then snapping back into position just as the foot touches the floor. This way the body weight is snapped behind the technique without adversely increasing the mass borne by the legs. When necessary, the rear foot may rise on its toes during the application of a technique, so the rear leg may push into the technique and thus increasing its power.

To ease stress on the knees, keep them pointed straight forward, not angled inward or outward. When stepping, the knees should flex forward and backward naturally with no side-to-side movements.
Maintain a proper width in the stance so the body does not have to move around to maintain balance. It the width gets too narrow, you make body movements to maintain your balance and try to conceal these movements, which puts stress on the legs and makes them wobble.

With proper hip snap, proper width to the stance, and keeping the knees point straight ahead, there is less of a tendency for the legs to shake.

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