August 23rd, 2015
Sensei Kim Garon of the
Staying Rooted and Balanced in Neko Ashi Dachi
Onegai shimasu, Hanshi, Sensei and Deshi of USRKUSA,
A common mistake in neko ashi dachi is to collapse the forward leg in towards the supporting leg (see photos below). It usually occurs when a student is balancing the forward leg solely on the tip of the big toe. In pages 43-44 of Building Warrior Spirit, (Soku/Foot Foundation section), Hanshi describes neko ashi dachi as: Ninety percent of weight on rear foot, which should be flat down and gripping the deck while forming a forty-five degree angle and ten percent of the weight is on the forward foot, held straight, toes gripping the deck and heel held high. It is impossible to grip the deck with the toes if you are balancing on the tip of the big toe. Even if you manage to keep the leg straight you will not be rooted to the best of your ability if you are balancing on the tips of your toes.
Kyoshi Mackay referred me to the classic photo of Grand Master Ansei Ueshiro who can be seen gripping the deck with all five toes.
Kyoshi suggests new green belts practice neko ashi dachi by placing the ball of the foot on the deck, then raising the heel to at least 45 degrees from the floor. This presses the front of the ball of the foot into the deck. More advanced students can then employ the muscles of the toes (strengthened by toe-tip kicks) to dig into the deck, allowing them to raise the heel even higher. Balancing strictly on the toes (vs. gripping with them) inadvertently collapses the forward knee inward and creates a weaker stance. But perfect stances also require more than perfect alignment. Rooting down, proper weight distribution, and being prepared to explode the next technique are what make the stances of Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu unstoppable.
arigato, Hanshi, Kim Garon, San-Dan