The deep traditional stances that we use in our taekwondo training at Kowkabany’s Family Martial Arts Center (Tampa, Florida) have been prevalent in martial arts (karate, taekwondo, kung fu, etc.) for thousands of years! Long before you could drive down the street to a local gym filled with high-tech machines and personal trainers, martial arts practitioners understood the need to develop power in their legs for explosive kicking and for balance, as well as for strength in their core. In general, leg strength and stances should be part of every regular lesson, even your personal training at home. For competitors, the quality of your stances will make a big impact when you compete in forms competition. Most of these stances were not designed for actual fighting, they were utilized to improve the student’s physical fitness, as well as to improve the individual’s focus and concentration.
The basic back stance, found in karate as well as in taekwondo, is typically taught to a beginner student during their first few months of lessons. This is a simple technique that is easy to practice at home, and the only way to truly master this stance is to consistently practice. Remember, practicing stances does NOT make for Perfect stances… Practicing Perfect Stances will! To work on this stance, we suggest that you start by putting your heels on a straight line. The back foot and the front foot should form a right angle (90 degrees). The slide the front foot forward a bit farther than shoulder width, and “sink” the majority of your weight onto the back leg. Remember, ATA Martial Arts names its stances after the ‘weight shift’ required by the stance, so in a back stance, the majority of hte weight must be on the back leg.
The front leg should have a slight bend in it, but not so much that the weight shifts to the center of the stance. There is a definite deep bend in the back leg, and ideally the back knee should appear directly above the back foot, regardless of whether it is viewed from the front or the side. A common mistake with beginners learning this stance, is to bend the back knee forward towards the front leg… remember, the back knee should reside directly above the back foot. Another common error when developing this martial arts stance is to make the stance too short, which again shifts the weight to the middle. This is a fairly long stance when executed properly.
For beginners, we suggest that you simply practice this stance in place until it feels comfortable, and then practice stepping forward and back. Practicing in front of a mirror is a big help! As this feels better, start practicing with a simple hand technique, like a knifehand strike, or perhaps a double knifehand block. (The double knifehand block in a back stance is one of the compulsory martial arts techniques that we review during testings). As this becomes easier, you can begin to work on your timing, landing the hand technique (also known as a “basic”) at the same time that you land your stepping leg. As our hands can move so much faster than our feet, and to avoid a robotic look, the hand technique should be executed quickly and explosively right before the foot lands. This will get easier as your progress through your martial arts training.
In the American Taekwondo Association, we name our stances based on the “weight shift,” and over time you will learn the front stance, the back stance, the middle stance, the rear stance, the closed stance, the parallel stance, the front-rear stance, and a one-legged stance. These stances are integral to developing good balance, learning how to read an opponent’s weight shift when sparring, and for developing the strength in your legs. They are also very easy to practice at home while you are watching television (that’s a hint!). As with any practice at home, it is always important to attend regular lessons so that your ATA Certified Taekwondo Instructors can review your technique to fix anything that isn’t 100% perfect.