While we are teaching this system, our sanchin stepping is our first hurtle. I feel my students are very well balanced and extremely stable within their fighting positions because of their understanding and usage of the sanchin stance.
First, I explain why our back foot is expected to be straight regardless of how awkward it feels at the moment and why most great fighters (if truth be known) do not fight with their back foot straight. Those of you who believe you are a great fighter, please have someone take their cell phone with a video camera and ask them to record you sparring. If you can honestly say you maintained a straight back foot while fighting effectively, you are indeed special.
I find my back foot straightens as I deliver a strike because that will allow my hips to rotate into position and along with my speed, I can access 100% of my force. If my back foot is not straight, my body will be restricted full rotation and I will not be able to access 100% of my mass into the force of the punch. My back foot angled will diminish my rotation and take away some of my mass and much of my speed.
As for the front foot being slightly angled, it is because in a karate match and your average street fight, we do not discuss regulations and ban kicking. While our front foot is slightly angled, our leg has a tendency to rise center mass when we lift it up to block kicks. If our front foot is straight, that is how our leg would come up leaving the center opened. I would suggest angling your front foot if you plan to use it to block kicks.
There are a lot of people who teach the “old heel to toe” method. I feel this is too technical for beginners and not very accurate. I believe “heel to toe” is a little shallow and does not provide for enough stability front to back. Side to side was always shoulder width. Again, that is a little measured. How many of us will take the time to look at our stances to insure we standing text book measurement and tolerance.
I simply teach the fact that we’ve practiced sanchin stepping our entire life. As we learned to walk since we were less than a year old, we’ve learn to step forward into balance. I don’t mean those ridiculous giant steps while we are fooling around or speed step when we are in a hurry and stretch our distance out. I mean just the normal walking steps at a normal pace. Our body will find our best distance because we’ve been doing it our whole life.
As for side to side, what do we do with that? Know it or not, as we walk, we are balanced on one leg while we are taking a step. As we set our forward step, we need to widen to a minimum of shoulder width to maintain stability from side to side. If we are too wide, our wide stance can hinder and slow down our movements.
So, take normal relaxed steps forward (or backwards) and anchor your front foot at a slight angle feeling full balance side to side as well as front to back without being too wide.
You will see that Uechi-Ryu is one of the best fighting systems you can learn because of the techniques and good habits taught in our katas.
In future articles, I will discuss in depth the beauty of our training methods and how efficient our system is for attacking or defending.