The solid stand — but everything in motion

The solid stand — or is the move­ment and rota­ti­on rather the cen­tral the­me? Why is so much empha­sis pla­ced on the stand in mar­ti­al arts?
In pri­ma­ry school, stan­ces are sim­ply part of it. But behind it the­re is usual­ly litt­le more than a gym­nastic exer­cise. One “goes” to the stand. For hours they work on how the foot posi­ti­on has to be, how deep the stance has to be, how sta­tic it loo­ks. And how to “walk with it”. Which, sur­pri­sin­gly, is very stre­nuous and feels stu­pid, espe­cial­ly for nor­mal people.

Stand without statics

Actual­ly, howe­ver, it is more about struc­tu­re and body ten­si­on. I also like to deal with them in detail, whe­ther as a prac­ti­tio­ner or as a trai­ner. But I try to see the stand holisti­cal­ly. Again and again I pay atten­ti­on to the cor­rect exe­cu­ti­on, to weight shift, posi­ti­on of the feet, the kne­es, the pel­vis. “Power comes from the earth, the ground.” Through the toes we can feel how we absorb the power, the ten­si­on sprea­ding. Put­ting strain on the outer edges of the foot can be a chal­len­ge for a knock-kne­ed per­son like me. Kne­es that are slight­ly strai­ned out­wards help with this per­cep­ti­on. Loo­se in move­ment, but in the moment of con­fron­ta­ti­on, of impact, this for­ce — absor­bed by the rota­ting hip work — hel­ps to make the punch or kick real­ly effective.

On the other hand, tho­se who have not yet deve­lo­ped a solid stand, i.e. who have not yet “felt” the sta­tic, will not only fail to app­ly the for­ce in the punch or kick, but also “wob­b­le” in the move­ment after­wards, always in dan­ger of losing their balan­ce. So in pri­ma­ry school, the foun­da­ti­on is first laid, qui­te liter­al­ly. Zen­kutsu Dachi, Kiba Dachi, Kokutsu Dachi — high and low, nar­row and wide. Later on, the cat and cra­ne posi­ti­on, i.e. Neko Ashi Dachi and Tsu­ri Ashi Dachi.

In the dif­fe­rent Kata one con­ti­nues to work on it. The deeper and more spa­cious the stands, the bet­ter a form loo­ks. But from here it beco­mes dif­fi­cult. Becau­se ever­yo­ne who com­pe­tes in tour­na­ments knows this: a litt­le deeper, a litt­le more ele­gant in the final posi­ti­on. In many cases, this has an effect on the pri­ma­ry school: the stands are lower, they are con­si­de­red to be clea­ner. In move­ment, the head should even remain at the same height, so the trai­nee can’t even get up when run­ning for­wards or back­wards. And in today’s Sho­to­kan and many other styles this even beco­mes a most­ly line­ar move­ment, i.e. only back and forth.

But exact­ly this fixa­ti­on on the low level in a line leads com­ple­te­ly astray in my opi­ni­on. Any­way, when it comes to mar­ti­al arts (and not sports). As a means of streng­t­he­ning mus­cles and buil­ding up a good “ground fee­ling”, deep stan­ces also have their mea­ning. But when you look over the gar­den fence, every half­way intel­li­gent per­son rea­li­zes: some­thing is wrong. Clas­sic boxers depend on fast hands, hard hits and quick avo­id­ance move­ments. After all, they only have their hands. The stand is a natu­ral one, feet shoul­der-wide apart. Tae kwon­do­ka are experts at using their feet. In batt­le the same posi­ti­on: shoul­der-wide, always extre­me­ly agi­le and fast. Only in the moment of the hit it is fixed, so that the oppo­nent can be kno­cked down. Also in Silat, whe­re the fight is even more inten­se with rota­ti­on and ground work: basic posi­ti­on shoul­der­wi­de and almost upright.

Low positions are no good

If I want to or have to fight, low posi­ti­ons tend to hin­der me. And if I’m atta­cked, the worst move­ment is the one that takes me strai­ght back. If an oppo­nent attacks me, he will try to move his power in my direc­tion. If I stubborn­ly go back­wards, he will fol­low me and build up, simi­lar to a wave, to ever stron­ger pene­tra­ting power. Becau­se he is always fas­ter in going for­ward than I am in going backward.
So I have to get out of the attack direc­tion. And alrea­dy I am in the high art of attack and defen­se angles. If I mana­ge to move side­ways for­wards, I can alrea­dy stand super, becau­se I am clo­se to the atta­cker and dia­go­nal­ly to his side.

Fair enough, but just ’stan­ding the­re’ does­n’t help me eit­her, becau­se other­wi­se the atta­cker will sim­ply turn around with me and hit me. So I have to take action mys­elf. And I can only do this (mea­ning­ful­ly) if I have taken a sta­ble posi­ti­on mys­elf. So I have to go out of the direc­tion so that I can stand sta­ble but still react fle­xi­b­ly. And if pos­si­ble always! This is only pos­si­ble if I have dis­tri­bu­t­ed my body weight on both feet. If you wob­b­le during the avo­id­ance move­ment, you are doing some­thing wrong and you have to keep prac­ti­cing, prac­ti­cing, practicing.

Becau­se alt­hough the stand is qui­te natu­ral and very easy, it is not so easy to take it. So in advan­ced trai­ning the focus should not be on the stand, but on moving into it! The move­ment should be trai­ned, not the “locked” end posi­ti­on. Becau­se the­re is no end posi­ti­on when I fight. As soon as I have shot my ener­gy, collec­ted from move­ment and body rota­ti­on, in the direc­tion of the oppo­nent, whe­ther as a kick or a punch, I resu­me my natu­ral, most­ly shoul­der-wide figh­t­ing position.

If that is unders­tood and works, then from now on it is only fun. I stand safe in the fight, the oppo­nent on my side. The fol­lowing body rota­ti­on towards the atta­cker now puts me in an ide­al own attacking posi­ti­on. And as I stand on both feet, I have full con­trol over my own wea­pons, i.e. fists, elbows, kne­es, feet etc. In Silat this avo­id­ance move­ment with slight rota­ti­on is cal­led “Gelek”. And prac­ti­ced over and over again. For me per­so­nal­ly it is the most valu­able tre­a­su­re I have been allo­wed to learn here so far.

For some time now, I have been incor­po­ra­ting the gelek into all the part­ner exer­ci­ses, the kum­i­te, that I have lear­ned and prac­ti­ced over the past years. And lo and behold: Sud­den­ly mere sequen­ces of move­ments beco­me real­ly mea­ning­ful figh­t­ing situa­tions. It requi­res a litt­le prac­ti­ce and reflec­tion to reco­gni­ze the right angles. But I have alrea­dy writ­ten about detec­ti­ve work and the fun of dis­co­vering exact­ly the­se figh­t­ing ele­ments in ele­men­ta­ry school.

Up and down

And lif­ting and lowe­ring is now also gai­ning in impor­t­ance. Our body is built to sur­vi­ve a fron­tal con­fron­ta­ti­on rea­son­ab­ly unhar­med. But what ribs, col­lar­bo­nes or sto­mach don’t like at all is a bru­tal hit from below or abo­ve into the cent­re. If I mana­ge to make mys­elf a litt­le big­ger and then take my decre­a­sing weight with me in attack ener­gy, I not only have a stron­ger punch but also a bet­ter ang­le of action. If I alter­na­tively “emer­ge” from below, then I don’t need much strength at all to do qui­te a lot of dama­ge to the opponent’s body with my fist, whe­ther on the liver, kid­ney, under the chin or “just” under the ribs.

Also, when I’m up against big­ger and stron­ger oppon­ents, I need every oppor­tu­ni­ty to incre­a­se my pun­ching power. Okay, I usual­ly don’t have to make mys­elf hea­vier (sigh), but even­tual­ly I teach ligh­ter con­tem­pora­ries. And they depend on get­ting their kilo­grams behind their fists or feet by rota­ting and lif­ting and lowering.

If I now take what I have lear­ned serious­ly, my Kem­po will chan­ge. With far-reaching con­se­quen­ces. Becau­se if I also take our Tai Tsuku and Sai­fa serious­ly as tra­di­tio­nal mar­ti­al arts know­ledge, then I have to adapt my stan­ces and move­ments. All Kata are only mea­ning­ful if they are “fought”. So if the ima­gi­na­ry oppo­nent is actual­ly fen­ded off and then defea­ted. But if I have reco­gni­zed that most of the low stan­ces (not all!) are non­sen­se and if the appro­pria­te avo­id­ance move­ments are mis­sing, then I must con­se­quent­ly also chan­ge the Kata, so that it makes figh­t­ing sense.

If I train the Kata as a gym­nastic exer­cise, then I go into the deep stan­ces. The deeper, the more stre­nuous. And nice espe­cial­ly for jud­ges at tour­na­ments. But if I train Kata the way its foref­a­thers deve­lo­ped it, then stands are not the cen­tral ele­ment, but the move­ment and the angles to the oppo­nent, the body rota­ti­ons and avo­id­ance move­ments, the fle­xi­bi­li­ty and the effec­ti­ve­ness. Inse­cu­re stan­ces must be avoided at all cos­ts, becau­se in real com­bat they are dead­ly. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly espe­cial­ly for yourself …


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