Friday, March 30, 2012

From Tachi Waza to Ashi Waza

My 7th grade teacher, Miss B, was fond of saying, "Keep things for 7 years before throwing them out." That's not a bad rule. My sock drawer could use a little of this discipline. The point is reducing clutter, getting rid of the useless. If Miss B took a look at a typical karate lesson plan I just know there would be a number of things she'd love to trundle off to the dumpster. Take the tachi waza, stances: kiba dachi, zenkutsu dachi, sanchin dachi, kake ashi dachi. Like sweater vests, how many do you really need? What are they doing in the syllabus except to have students stand in funny ways while developing leg strength and preserving tradition? Miss B would have gotten rid of them all. I am all for reducing clutter, especially as springtime approaches. Before we fill the dustbin with seldom used and appreciated karate technique, let's see what can be put to good use.

In my previous post I spoke of neko ashi dachi, the cat stance, as a counter or defense to leg attacks. The unweighted leg is immune to sweeps, trips and reaps. These leg attacks are found in sanchin dachi (ouchi gari) and kake ashi dachi, the cross legged stance. Kake ashi dachi can be interpreted as almost any of the ashi waza in Judo (deashi baria, kouchi gake, kouchi gari, hiza guruma, sase tsurikomigoshi). Note, I am not implying that Judo is the source of this bunkai. Throwing and leg attacks are found in many martial arts older and contemporaneous with Karate and Judo, Shaolin Kung Fu most importantly. However, Judo is the most refined of martial arts when it comes to throwing and provides handy terminology.

So now we have a great bundle of ashi waza instead of funny ways to stand. Throw them away? I think not. Try out a few of these ashi waza. Your tachi waza will never be the same. Sorry Miss B, I'm keeping my tachi err ashi waza.


  1. Think about walking. Whether you walk, run, jog, skip, advance like a fencer, step-and-slide like a boxer or kick it gangsta style with the Pimp Limp you do the same thing. You move from a double-weighted stance to balancing on one leg, move a leg and shift your weight. Walking is a kind of incremental falling where you throw out a leg and catch yourself.

    The single-weighted neko ashi dachi (under all its names) is a lousy stance to stand in statically and launch power shots from. But it's more than just a way to avoid having your front leg swept.

    When you are single-weighted the unweighted leg can move without moving the center of mass. And it isn't limited to moving in one direction over a set distance. If you understand angles and have good ma-ai you can play at the edge of your opponent's range. A slight change in where you put that front foot can shorten the distance and advance timing. Or it can lengthen the distance and retard the timing. It can change the relation between your body and your opponent's quickly and subtly with slight differences in placement and orientation.

    Step in front. Step behind. Move the center. Appear to move the center. "Chord the circle" on which the two of you are standing.

    You can mess with his perception of distance and time in some very useful ways if you know what you're doing. If you shorten the stance up and have good body mechanics you can shift the weight from one foot to the other without him being aware of it allowing you to move in unexpected directions and at unexpected times.

    (Disclaimer: My karate days were a long time ago. I got silatized years back, so the way I see things is heavily influenced by that experience)

  2. Thank you for your detailed comment, Dan. I hesitate to think of all the great things one can do from neko ashi dachi. For me, it is the midpoint between A and B rather than the starting point.

    I completely understand your condition (silatized).:-)