Guest Columnists - Stances in Wado

‘Foreign’ Stances within our Wado Karate

In Wado we have always had our Junzuki-dachi, a stance, one of many, that is synonymous to our Wado-ryu. However, over the passage of time of many years, we have been ‘introduced’ to a new wave of Wado stances from about the mid-80’s onwards.

These new stances have included the introduction of the ‘Zenkutsu-dachi' (front/forward-weighted stance) (I have picked on this one as it is the most fundamental, yet, believe it or not, one of the most misunderstood). Unlike our Wado Junzuki-dachi, of approximately 50/50 weight distribution, the Zenkutsu-dachi has a longer pronounced stance with the weight proportioned off-centre and pushed more towards the leading leg, promoting a more ‘pushing forward’ manoeuvre. This stance is fixed and less manoeuvrable than our Junzuki-dachi, as it would lack the flexibility of fast fluid forward, as well as rearward, movement. Wado stances are generally more upright and centre-weighted so that the practitioner may be able to move both forward and backward (and sideways) with equal ease to encourage speed and evasion tactics.

Wado schools that do not practise Sanbon-gumite, for example, may find difficulty in practising if they adopted the Zenkutsu-dachi, as it would require unnecessary amounts of ‘extra’ foot work and/or mechanics to get the retreat due to the forward weighted fixed posture that Zenkutsu-dachi promotes.

However, these changes in stances are not isolated just to the Wado basics and are becoming increasingly more apparent in many of our other stances, especially with the introduction of ‘aesthetics’, due to Wado competitors attempting to ‘compete’ in open/multi-style Kata competitions, etc.. Additionally with many Wado schools becoming more ’Wado-based’, the sky’s the limit on changes. I have seen Chinto being performed with a Shotokan version of Kokutsu-dachi (rear/back weighted stance), a blasphemy of all blasphemies.

Personally, I do Wado because our style IS different from the others. However, many Wado-ka have decided to ‘sell-out’ and change the way they perform their Wado to conform to the way that the others practise. Wado should remain as it is - different! We block differently, move differently, fight differently - and this is all reflected in the efficient way we move within our ‘own’ stances.

Over the years I have also seen many cases of our cat-stances becoming very rear-weighted and low, with much prominence with the leading heal being raised well out of proportion, and away from the traditional parameters. In many cases I have seen Wado Kata becoming more on par with Shito-ryu and Shotokan, especially in tournaments, where competitors overemphasise heavy breathing, exaggerated movements and ‘body-slapping’ during their performances. Even the opening moves of Ku-shanku, for example, have also resembled that of Kanku, with ‘interlocking’ and extending thumbs and looking up at the hands when above the head, etc. All these elements, of course, are not in Wado.

With so many people wanting to ‘develop’ their Wado, how far are they willing to go with it to make it look like the rest? We don’t do Shito-ryu, and we don’t do Shotokan or Goju-ryu - so let’s all get back and practise our Wado-ryu.

Gary E Swift, 8th Dan.
Chief Instructor to the British Wadokai Karate-do. British Wadokai

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