Monday, February 16, 2009

How is kokutsu the opposite of zenkutsu

Photo courtesy of Tomer Gabel
Funakoshi, in his beginner's text, Karate-Do Nyumon, says the back stance, kokutsu dachi, is just the opposite of the front stance, zenkutsu.  But in what sense is this true?  Well, it turns out that kokutsu is the opposite of zenjutsu in several ways, and not all of them are superficially obvious.
  • There's the obvious opposite weight distribution - in zenkutsu, the front leg is bent, bearing most of the weight, while in kokutsu the back leg is bent and bears most of the weight.
  • Zenkutsu is more forward-facing, kokutsu is more side-facing
  • Zenkutsu is all about lunging through ma-ai into touching distance - aggressive movement forward.  Kokutsu is about shifting your weight distribution without gving up ground - standing your ground but being defensive and oblique instead of direct.
  • Zenkutsu is hard (it is about piercing through the center of enemy) - kokutsu is soft (it is about turning and fading and rolling his force off of you)
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  1. On a slight tangent, would you ever actually block a kick as in that picture? Directly to the side against it? Looks painful.

  2. HA! That's the first thing that I thought too, when I saw that pic - but it was the best pic of kokutsu I could find.

    I personally would not block a kick like that - that's the reason for doing kokutsu in the first place - to slip back out of the way of the strike without giving up ground.

  3. Oh good. I have no direct experience with japanese arts, so I wasn't sure.

    What we would probably do in sparring in that position (if you can't dodge or counter kick) is, from a left leg forward horse stance, turn the waist towards the kick and block downward from a guard position with the left forearm or elbow (and possibly the right as well), crunching in with the waist. Hits it across the vector of force so you don't just take it all with your arm, and leaves you pretty well covered, in a good position to strike.

  4. elf_man: Although I wouldn't recommend such a technique in a sparring match (uchi uke - first row on the right - would be more appropriate, for instance) it is a valid technique, and when done properly, with the side of the hand and no finger contact, shouldn't be painful.

    What's IMO apparent in that particular picture is a relatively bad distance estimation (maai), which is why the blocker is leaning slightly backwards. I hope I've improved significantly since the picture was taken :-)


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