January 9th 2012
Bob Dobrow, Ni-dan Shihan, Ueshiro Northfield Shorin-Ryu Karate of Minnesota
Nekoashi-dachi (Cat stance)
This important stance first appears in the pinan katas but is introduced at the Go-Kyu level in special exercise oyotan-ren.
Master Nagamine writes in the Essence of Okinawan Karate that "Nekoashi-dachi as well as shizentai-dachi has been regarded as one of the most important stances in [Okinanwan karate] . . . though it seems to be rather neglected in the karate often observed in the United States and mainland Japan.
The stance is formed from a shizentai-dachi natural walking stance by assuming balance with the back leg, which must be bent and which carries all the weight. The front foot lightly touches the floor and the angle of the bent knee is deepened until there is a vertical line between the knee and the big toe.
Cat stance is practiced by quickly moving forward and backwards in a straight line, or from side to side. In actual fighting, this stance is most advantageous for attacking an opponents side. I want to emphasize that although nekoashi-dachi appears like a defensive stance, it is equally effective for offensive techniques. In this stance activity lives with inactivity, or in Miyamoto Musashis words, Seichu do ari, dochu sei ari. (In stillness there is activity, in activity there is stillness.)
In the green book, Hanshi states that for cat stance, 90% of the weight is on the rear foot, which should be flat down and gripping the deck while forming a 45-degree angle, and 10% of the weight is on the forward foot, held straight, toes gripping the deck and heel held high.
Nekoashi-dachi is a low stance, as the height of the body is the same as jigotai or zenkutsu-dachi. To check balance, raise the forward foot off the deck without shifting your weight. Get lower! Touch the foot back down like a feather on the deck. To check position, stand up into shizentai-dachi. Check the position of the feet and then lower the rear of the body back down.
This is a hard and awkward stance for beginners, and can take at least a year before students feel some degree of familiarity in the technique. A common error is to lean forward creating imbalance, instability and potential lower back problems. The head should be centered over the body, with the back straight, perpendicular to the deck. When moving forward, lead with the belly, not the head. Tuck the groin in and sit back in the stance. Think cat: fierce, lithe, quick and deadly!
Study Hanshis nekoashi-dachi in the Kata DVD. And observe the famous picture of Master Ueshiro (attached) in cat stance performing kata Chinto. Look at his feet, his shoulders, his height. Especially take in his presence, his kiai---stillness in activity and activity in stillness.
Domo arigato gozaimasu and Happy New Year,