A Beginners Guide To Karate Stances

Sharing is caring!

Given its impact on media, pop culture, and movies, it’s no wonder most people immediately assume Karate to be one of the refined arts of self-defense. It’s not wrong to think this; Karate is mainly utilized for self-defense, even under the most challenging circumstances. When learning about Karate, you will find that there are several Karate stances for you to master.

Sure, if you had just watched the reboot of the Karate Kid, you are bound to imagine that just about anyone can learn Karate with little effort. But that would be a rookie mistake. 

Learning about various Karate stances, and in short, mastering Karate is neither easy nor painless. You need to have a strong will and an equally strong determination to master the art in its various forms. Only with extreme dedication will your reach black belt level!

As surprising as it may seem, given Buddhism’s predilection for non-violence, Karate can be traced back to Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism in Western India. Its roots go back nearly two millennia. You can trace the modern form of Karate back to four hundred years when the basic karate stances were formalized and categorized systematically.

It was eventually imported to Japan and, from there, to the rest of the world. Read on to learn more about the various Karate variations and karate poses. Keep in mind that modern Karate involves a lot of stress, hard work, and physical training. 

Today, there are various forms of Karate doing the rounds, including Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu and Goju Ryu. If you are into a more aggressive form of Karate, then you may want to learn more about Kyokushin Karate. It specializes in low kicks, with which you can bring down an opponent effectively.

What Are The Various Forms Of Karate Stances Available Today?

Karate can be traced back to Kung fu. A mere look at Kung fu should make it apparent that Kung fu is more aggressive, head-on, and violent. As for Karate, you can trace its early beginnings to Kung fu, taught in the precincts of the Shogun temple. Today, it is a martial arts form, all on its own and has even developed into different variations.

We have listed the various forms of Karate available today. Even though they all belong to the same group, they are inherently different in how Karate and its various karate poses are used to defend, protect and even, at times, to attack.

If you’re keen to learn more about Karate, then you may want to start with some of the popular types of Karate that are currently in vogue.


Shotokan Ryu was developed by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), one that he developed into a specialized martial arts form, along with the rest. Today it happens to be one of the most popular forms of Karate being taught worldwide. You need to understand that the core precepts are the same as other forms of Karate – they merely differ in the application.

The Shotokan form of Karate consists of wide karate poses, quick strikes, and linear methods. With wide stances, the students would be able to better protect and defend themselves with quick, efficient strikes and using arms, elbows, knees, and feet.

For example, when it comes to beginner shotokan karate stances, you’ll find that the karate poses are comprehensive, which should provide you with better balance and, thereby, deliver better precision-timed kicks and blows. It’ll also help your leg muscles develop.

Take the karate stances in Shotokan; they mainly consist of three – starting with the Kihon, Kata, and the Kumite. When it comes to the Kihon karate stances in Shotokan, you will find that it is a fairly basic stance in this form of Karate. It mainly consists of practicing all the blocks, kicks, sideswipes, shots, body twisting, etc. The whole point of this method is that it prepares you for the time you take an opponent head-on in an actual Karate fight.

Goju Ryu

When learning about karate stances for beginners, you will come across some of the Goju Ryu stances. Goju Ryu happens to be one of the few karate styles originating from Okinawa. It happens to be Okiniwanan Karate, replete with hard and soft stances. It needs to be pointed out that while other forms of Karate have long since set out their style, Goju Ryu is the only one to remain true to its historical roots.

Sure, you are bound to fret about what makes Goju Ryu so special? For starters, the unique mixture of hard and soft stances sets it well apart from the other variations of Karate. Even the very name stands the same.

This form of Karate features both complex, closed fist approaches and circular, soft, open palm approaches. Moreover, you would generally utilize this form of Karate to block attacks and defend while disarming your opponent effectively. Hence the mixup of both hard closed palm and softer, open palm movements. It’s no wonder that some of the Goju Ryu methods are quite popular among the various karate stances for beginners, right after the various Karate stances in Shotokan.

Wado Ryu

Wado Ryu, is one of the four major karate styles still widely practised worldwide. If you are keen on Wado Ryu, you want to learn more about what sets it apart from others. It was founded by Hironori Otsuka (1892- 1980) for starters.

Given the impact of JiuJitsu and Karate stances of Shotokan,  no wonder it’s pretty popular. This type of Karate differentiates itself from others primarily based on its various joint locks and throws. Think back to the various Judo and Karate sessions on the telly, where one opponent had to throw the other within a few moments of combat. All those movements were based on the precepts of Wado Ryu.

Given the considerable impact that Ju-Jitsu had on this style, it is no wonder that Wado Ryu is all about the harmony of everything around you. You’re primarily supposed to defend yourself from attacks with your quick movements.

Some would even term this type of Karate to be spiritual in nature. It mainly advocates harmony; it teaches its students to avoid sparring with quick movements while remaining in harmony. As you may have gleaned, the emphasis of this form of Karate lies in shooter stances, fluid movements, less contact sparring and more on how better to defend yourself from attacks.

Shinto Ryu

Quinoa Mabuni conceptualized and created the fourth form of Karate style around 1928. As one of the popular formats of Karate, it mainly consisted of accuracy and by extension, precise strikes. It also happens to be one of the few styles of Karate that lays equal emphasis on both defense and aggression.

 Shinto Ryu also consists of blocks, kicks, and precise strikes. If you had assumed that all Karate was mainly for defense only, you could not be more wrong. There are certain variations of Karate stances where the emphasis lies more on aggression. In Shinto Ryu, it’s divided equally between aggression and defense, with shorter, fluid movements and precise blocks, strikes, and more.

Getting Started With Karate Stances

If you are still set on learning Karate, then you’ll find that the process is similar to your very first bicycle ride, anxiety-ridden from start to finish. Leaning Karate or, for that matter, any martial arts requires a lot of hard work and determination on your part; that’s a given. You also have to master all the karate stances for beginners and various poses before you can master the skill. 

As you learn Karate, you will encounter various stances you will need to master. If you thought that a stance was just that, a pose you need to form to pass a class, then you need to rethink. These stances form the bedrock on which Karate rests. These various karate stances were primarily designed to lower the center of gravity while providing you with better stability.

When it comes to these stances, posture is essential at all times. You would be required to maintain the perfect posture at all times – it needs to be pointed out that a stance may be particular to the body movement, as in offense or defense. When it comes to maintaining the perfect posture, you need to take a deep breath, roll back your shoulders, keep your head straight in line with your spine, tense up your lower abdomen and tighten the pelvis area – that should do the trick!

Moreover, they were designed to exercise the various muscles in your body as you practice them. While some are pretty easy, like the Seiza pose, others are inherently harder. So read on to know more.

A Closer Look At Some Of The Common Karate Stances

A proper Karate stance is essential to master the martial arts, irrespective of whether you are just an amateur getting started on his first-class or an expert. We can’t stress this enough. You may want to think of it as a medley that brings your breathing, mental focus, and muscular movements into sharp focus. While some karate stances for beginners vary from one style to the other, you need to look at some of the popular ones, widely prevalent today.


The Seiza pose is one of the most basic Karate stances, where you are required to kneel on the floor. It is the most basic posture in Karate, shared among the various styles. In Japanese culture, the Seiza pose also happens to be the traditional method of greeting. It’s usually used during the floor bow or the Zarei.


1. Place your knees on the floor and rest your buttocks on your feet.

2. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.

3. Make sure your back is straight, and your breathing is even and controlled.

4. Remain calm.

Musubi dachi

If you are familiar with Japanese culture, you know it is the formal posture of standing. Usually, in Karate, opponents take this posture to perform a formal bow. You will be required to stand in the correct pose and perform one to your opponent before starting the fight. Musubi dachi and rei are required to be performed before the start and end of any Karate session.


1. Place your heels together with your toes pointed outwards at 45 degrees.

2. Keep your arms close to the sides of your body.

3. Maintain an erect posture at all times. Keep your back straight, and do not slouch.

4. Keep calm and take a deep breath.

Hachioji dachi

This happens to be more of a formal waiting posture. You can use the same at the end or in-between various sessions.


1. Keep your feet apart at shoulder width, with the toes pointed outwards at 45 degrees.

2. Move your arms forward, with the fists being closed and the elbows only slightly bent.

3. Be mentally alert.

4. Make sure your back is erect, your neck straight, and that you are calm and poised.

Kiba dachi

One of the most basic postures in Karate. You can utilize this particular pose for self-defense and Kumite practice sessions. Kiba dachi essentially adds more strength to the back of your legs and your core. This particular pose, whether low in height or more (depending on which style you have preferred to work with), should help defend yourself better, even against attacks from the side.


1. You place your feet about two shoulder widths apart, with the toes parallel and facing forward.

2. Bend your knees and lower your center of gravity.

3. Keep your back and neck straight. Don’t slouch.

4. Push your knees outside.

5. Make sure your weight is evenly spread.

Sanchin dachi

Also called the hourglass stance, it is used chiefly by various styles for Kata. However, a few others use the same for Kumite and various self-defense moves.


1. You must place your feet closer, at one shoulder-width distance. Now, turn your feet inward, at 45 degrees.

2. Bring one of your feet forward, and make sure it’s perfectly aligned with the one in the back.

3. Bend your knees a tad to better protect your groin.

4. Tilt your pelvis, tense up your abdomen, and remain erect.

Zenkutsu dachi

The Zenkutsu dachi or the forward stance, as it’s better known, also happens to be one of the most prolific and popular Karate stances you will encounter. While this stance is rarely used for Kumite, it’s mainly utilized for conditioning your body – just before your bout.

You may notice that the Japanese version tends to be longer and broader. This should enable you to power up as you move forward. Practicing this stance, you can tone up your legs better, and even your glutes, in the process.


1. Put your front feet first. Bend it at the knees so that you cannot see the foot.

2. Now, extend your back leg to 45 degrees while pushing at the ground. Your rear leg should be at 15 degrees unless you do not favor falling flat on your back.

3. Ensure you maintain at least two shoulder widths between the feet and keep the legs shoulder-width apart.

4. Distribute your body weight 60% to the front leg and 40% to the rear. Make sure your back remains upright, with your abdomen tensed.

Fudo dachi

Fudo dachi is also known as the immovable stance. You need to understand that as a traditional posture, this particular stance is not ideal for quick, agile movements.


1. Put your front foot forward at a 45-degree angle. Now bend it at the knees so that you cannot see your front foot.

2. Bend your rear foot at 45 degrees as well. Make sure you maintain at least two shoulder widths between both feet.

3. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet.

4. Make sure you keep your posture erect and do not slouch.

Kokutsu dachi

As a defensive posture, Kokutsu dachi is quite effective. You can use kokutsu dachi to ward off attacks and, at the same time, use it for quick, agile movements. With this defensive pose, you can retreat, evaluate your opponent’s strategy, and make your next move.


1. Stretch your rear leg backwards at 45 degrees. Stretch your front leg forward with the toes pointing straight. Make sure there are at least one and a half shoulder widths between both feet.

2. You also need to distribute at least 70% of the weight to the rear foot and the remainder, 30% to the front.

3. Maintain an erect pose and tense up your abdomen.

4. Remain calm and control your breathing.


Neko-ashi-dachi, also known as the cat stance, certainly lives up to its name. If you were wondering, it happens to be a defensive posture where most of the weight is transferred to the back leg. What makes it stand out is that it allows for quick, agile movements and is perfect for Kumite. With this pose, you can counterattack, with frontal assaults, sideswipes to evasions.


1. You need to bring the rear leg backwards and position it at 45 degrees. Now place your front leg forwards so that only the ball of the foot touches the ground slightly.

2. You must maintain at least one shoulder width between both feet.

3. Now, make sure you rest most of your body weight (90%) on your back foot and just 10% on your front. Now, you can make fast, agile movements and even counterattack.

4. Make sure you remain calm at all times during your bout.


As a defensive posture, it enables you to defend yourself effectively. But with the crane posture, you can transition into other poses with ease and alter your method of attack. It is mainly used to transition to Shotokan Kata.


1.  Place your right foot down. Now place the ankle of the other leg behind the knee of the standing leg.

2. You can slightly bend your standing leg while rolling your hips to maintain balance.

3. Keep your back and neck straight and your abdomen tense.

4.  Control your breathing and remain calm and poised for the duration of your bout.


The Kosa-dachi pose or the cross stance is mainly used to turn from a jump. For example, you can use this stance if you need to accomplish a short jump or need to turn when landing from a jump.


1.  Move your other leg forward so that its knee rests on the back of the front leg’s knee. Now, move your front leg forward so that its foot is flat on the floor.

2. Remember, when it comes to the rear foot – you need to touch the toes and ball of the foot to the ground.

3. Maintain a straight back, and remember to maintain the pose.

4. Above all, don’t panic and remain calm at all times.

Karate Stances, Why Are They So Essential?

When it comes to learning Karate, you will soon find out that learning about the various stances and how to use them effectively makes up most beginner lessons. The fact remains that Karate poses or stances are essential for any martial arts student. Without learning about the various stances and their importance – you will find it hard to progress with your lessons.

You need to think of Karate like a skyscraper, and the only way a skyscraper will stand the test of time is if the foundation is strong, right? Karate stances are akin to a strong foundation. It would help if you learned all the stances and their application – and with it, you’ll soon be able to master the skill.

Remember that Karate is not just about defense but offense as well. It all comes down to whether you have managed to master the various stances.


You would be hard put to think of any socio-modern cultural references other than some of the Karate-based Hollywood movies. Let us state that movies add glitz and glamor and often stretch the truth to good effect.

When it comes to learning Karate stances, don’t expect to master a lot in a week or less. Sure, they did it in the movies, but that’s not real. When you land on your keister, after aping the movies, you’ll probably realize this as well.

Learning about the various stances takes time, hard work, and sheer determination. So what are you waiting for?

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.