This post provides a complete list of Goju Ryu stances with instructions on how to perform them correctly and their illustrations.
Table of Contents
- Heisoku dachi (閉足立)
- Musubi dachi (結び立)
- Heiko dachi (平行立)
- Heiko sanchin dachi (平行三戦立ち)
- Sanchin dachi (三戦立)
- Hachiji dachi (八字立)
- Naihanchi dachi (内歩進立)
- Shiko dachi (四股立)
- Yokomuki shiko dachi
- Naname shiko dachi
- Zenkutsu dachi (前屈立)
- Han zenkutsu dachi (半前屈立)
- Kokutsu dachi (後屈立)
- Hanmi kokutsu dachi (半後屈立)
- Moto dachi (基立)
- Bensoku dachi
- Renoji dachi (レの字立)
- Neko ashi dachi (猫足立)
- Sagi ashi dachi (鷺足立)
- Sesan dachi (十三立)
Heisoku dachi (閉足立)
Heisoku dachi (meaning “feet together stance”) is an informal attention stance.
In this stance, your back is straight and relaxed, your feet are placed together, and the weight is equally distributed between the two feet.
This stance is not used often in kihon practice or kumite but does appear in some kata (for example, Shisochin kata).
Musubi dachi (結び立)
Musubi dachi (meaning “united stance”) is a formal attention stance.
In this stance, your body should be straight, knees are slightly bent, heels are touching and feet are pointing out making a 45° angle.
However, note that in some styles, the angle formed from toe to toe in this stance is said to be about 50° and 60° but not 90°, so please follow what your instructor says.
This stance is used when bowing to greet or show respect to your instructors or training partners, and at the beginning and the end of a kata.
Heiko dachi (平行立)
Heiko dachi (meaning parallel stance) is an attention stance.
In this stance, the feet are shoulder-width apart, the big toes and the second toes should face forward, the inner edges of the feet are parallel, and the center of gravity is at the mid-point between the two feet.
This stance is commonly used in stationary kihon drills but also appears in some kata as a transitional stance.
Heiko sanchin dachi (平行三戦立ち)
There are a couple of versions of the heiko sanchin dachi (paralleled-hourglass stance) but the Goju Ryu version according to Master Morio Higaonna is as follows.
From the heiko dachi stance, step one foot forward. The toes of both feet should point forward and the inner edges of the feet are parallel. Both the width and the length of this stance are about one-foot length.
Sanchin dachi (三戦立)
Sanchin dachi (meaning “three battle stance”) is the most difficult stance to master and probably the most important stance in Goju Ryu.
Sanchin dachi is performed as follows:
- Begin with heiko dachi, step one foot forward
- The heel of the front foot should be on the same line as the toes of the back foot
- The toes of both feet should turn inward slightly
- The front foot is turned inward at about 20° angle
- Tense your tandien, buttocks and thigh muscles and then pull the hips upwards
- The knees should bend and turn inward
- The feet should be placed firmly on the ground with the toes gripping the ground
- The center of gravity should be at the midpoint between the two feet
- Keep your back straight and your chin tucked in.
Sanchin kata, considered the core and most difficult kata in Goju Ryu is done entirely in the sanchin dachi stance.
Hachiji dachi (八字立)
Hachiji dachi means “character eight stance”) because the feet in this stance resemble the character eight (八) in Japanese.
Hachiji dachi is also called “natural stance” because it is close to the natural way people stand.
In this stance, the feet are shoulder width apart, the toes point out at about 45°, the body is relaxed and the knees are slightly bent.
Hachiji dachi is often used in kihon practice and also appears in Goju Ryu kata such as Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni.
Choki Motobu, one of the best karate fighters ever lived, considered hachiji dachi (also called hachimonji dachi) to be the most practical stance in karate.
Naihanchi dachi (内歩進立)
Naihanchi dachi (also called kiba dachi in other karate styles) means “sideways fighting stance”.
To perform naihanchi dachi stance, start with hachiji dachi stance, turn the heels outward and lower the hips.
In this stance:
- The feet are wider than shoulder width
- The outside edges of the feet are parallel
- The toes are pointed only slightly inward and the knees also turn slightly inward
- The back is kept straight and the pelvis is tilted upward a little
- The body weight is evenly distributed between two feet.
Naihanchi dachi stance in Goju Ryu tends to be higher and narrower than naihanchi dachi (kiba dachi) in Shotokan style (see images below).
There are also other minor variations in how naihanchi dachi is assumed amongst different karate styles.
Naihanchi dachi stance appears in many kata. The kata Naihanchi (also known as Tekki) is done entirely in the naihanchi stance.
This kata is practiced in Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu and other styles but not in Goju Ryu.
In Goju Ryu, it is sometimes used in kihon practice, for example, when doing a series of yoko geri (side kick).
Shiko dachi (四股立)
Shiko dachi means “square stance” and is also called “straddle leg stance”.
To assume shiko dachi, start with kiba dachi and turn the heels to point the toes outward at about 45 degrees.
In this stance:
- The feet are about two shoulder width apart
- The big toes point outward diagonally at about 45 degrees
- The knees are turned outward
- The back is straight
- The hips are lower than in kiba dachi and the thighs are almost parallel to the ground
- The body weight is evenly distributed between the two legs
- The soles of the feet are firmly in contact with the ground.
Shiko dachi is a great stance for developing lower body strength and stability.
Yokomuki shiko dachi
Yokomuki shiko dachi means “sideways shiko dachi” or “sideways straddle stance”.
This stance is the same as the basic shiko dachi except that, instead of looking straight ahead, you turn your head and look to the side.
Naname shiko dachi
Naname shiko dachi (diagonal shiko dachi) has the same basic structure as shiko dachi but the body and the head turn diagonally toward the front.
This stance appears in the first few opening moves of the Seiyunchin kata.
Zenkutsu dachi (前屈立)
Zenkutsu dachi means “front stance” and is performed as follows:
- From the natural stance, step forward so that the distance between the back foot and the front foot is roughly about one and a half to two shoulder width
- The feet are one shoulder width apart
- The front foot points forward and the back foot points diagonally at about 30 degree angle
- The front knee is bent, turned slightly inward, and should be forward enough that you are not able to see the toes
- The back leg is naturally straight but not locked
- Most of the body weight is placed on the front leg
- The heel of the back leg should be placed firmly on the ground.
Zenkutsu dachi is used in kihon exercises for leg conditioning but also appears in many kata.
As with kiba dachi, zenkutsu dachi in Goju Ryu tends to be shorter and higher than the Shotokan version.
Han zenkutsu dachi (半前屈立)
Han zenkutsu dachi is similar to zenkutsu dachi, except that the distance between the front foot and the back foot is about half the distance in zenkutsu dachi.
In this stance, the weight of the body is equally distributed between two legs.
Kokutsu dachi (後屈立)
Kokutsu dachi is a back stance derived from the zenkutsu dachi stance.
Start with zenkutsu dachi, move your back leg across so that the front leg and the back leg are on the same line. You will also look backward in this stance.
This Goju Ryu version of kokutsu dachi is based on Morio Higaonna’s description as detailed in his book.
Kokutsu dachi in Shotokan and some other styles is different from the Goju Ryu version.
In the Shotokan version of kokutsu dachi, for example, most of the body weight is placed on the back leg and the back leg is heavily bent. The front foot points forward while the back foot points to the side at about 90 degrees.
Hanmi kokutsu dachi (半後屈立)
Hanmi kokutsu dachi, according to Morio Higaonna, is the same as the Shotokan version of kokutsu dachi (see image below).
In hanmi kokutsu dachi:
- The heel of the back leg and the big toe of the front leg are on the same line
- The distance between the two legs is about one and a half to two shoulder widths apart
- The front foot points forward and the back leg points to the side making a 90-degree angle with the front foot
- The front leg is slightly bent, the back leg is deeply bent
- The hips are lower
- Most of the body weight is placed on the back leg.
Moto dachi (基立)
Moto dachi means “basic stance” or “foundational stance”.
In this stance:
- The front foot points forward and the back foot points diagonally forward
- The feet are shoulder-width apart
- The body weight is evenly distributed between two legs
- The body turns halfway facing the front.
With hands in kamae, this is a practical stance for kumite practice.
Bensoku dachi is a cross-legged stance. This stance is similar to the kosa dachi stance in Shotokan.
To assume bensoku dachi:
- Cross one leg behind the other
- Bend both knees
- The front foot is placed firmly on the ground but only the ball of the back foot touches the ground
- The knee of the back foot is nested against the back of the front knee.
Bensoku dachi is a transitional stance that is used when one needs to change direction. It appears in kata like Seiyunchin and Sepai.
Note that there may be slight variations in how bensoku dachi is performed. For example, in one version, both feet are required to be flat on the ground.
Renoji dachi (レの字立)
Renoji dachi stance means “letter レ stance”.
To assume renoji dachi:
- Start with musubi dachi and step forward so that the feet are about one shoulder width apart
- The front foot points directly forward while the back foot points outward making a 45 degree angle
- The distance between the heel of the front foot and the heel of the rear foot is about the length of one foot
- The knees are straightened naturally.
Neko ashi dachi (猫足立)
Neko ashi dachi means “cat stance”.
To assume neko ashi dachi:
- Start with musubi dachi (formal attention stance) and step forward for a distance of about one foot
- Lower the hips deeply and transfer most of the body weight to the back leg
- The front leg is bent and the heel of the front leg is raised slightly with only the toes and the ball of the front foot touches the ground
- The back foot points outward at about 30 to 45 degree angle
- About 90% of the body weight is placed on the back foot.
Sagi ashi dachi (鷺足立)
Sagi ashi dachi means “heron-foot stance”.
In this stance:
- One leg is raised and bent while the other leg is slightly bent and supports the whole body weight
- The toe of the raised leg points downward.
Sesan dachi (十三立)
Sesan dachi literally means “thirteen stance” but is often referred to as “side facing straddle stance”.
In this stance:
- The feet are about two shoulder width apart
- The front foot points forward and the back foot points sideways
- The body faces the front diagonally.
This stance is used in the Sesan kata.
Other posts you might be interested in:
Goju Ryu Karate’s Dojo Kun and Their Philosophical Meanings
The Precepts of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-do
The Intended Meaning of Karate Ni Sente Nashi
What Is the Philosophy of Karate?
A Comprehensive Guide to Karate Etiquette
Traditional Karate-Do: Okinawa Goju Ryu Vol. 1: The Fundamental Techniques
Gojuryu karate basic stances for beginners
Goju Ryu Karate Stances and Footwork by Morio Higaonna 10th Dan
Musubi dachi or the attention stance
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