Sunday, August 28, 2011

Triangles, Circles & Crane Stances - Oh My!

My karate sensei talks loads about triangles - specifically about how strong they are. There are so many kata where our hands end up in some kind of modified triangle or other. Whenever he points out another triangle in a kata, ippon kumite or self-defense technique, I always think of the Great Pyramids of Egypt: still standing after centuries.

Circles are referenced a great deal as well in Goju, Aikido and Jujitsu. So many times, the technique isn't complete until your hands, arms, legs and/or feet end up exactly where they started - including blocks/strikes like mawashi uchi (two-hand circular block) and hiraken uchi (rolling back fist), simple movements like the crescent steps (half-circle stance movements) and kicks like ushiro geri (traditional back kick). Both Jujitsu and Aikido often use energy generated by the adversary against him/her by first moving him/her in a circle then abruptly making the person go the other way via a joint lock or strike. Cool stuff :-)

So imagine my surprise when yesterday in Jujitsu, I discovered that one body part might be completing a circle while another is moving in a totally different - and straight - direction. We were working on a self-defense technique that involved first linearly evading a straight punch then trapping the punch hand and guiding the adversary down until his/her face is at knee level by controlling the elbow you just acquired. The two other students I was working with were my height or taller and when Sensei A. - my 6'2" Jujitsu instructor - saw that we were all having some difficulties getting our tall selves out of the way of the attack, he had us drill the movements in what he calls "kata form" - which means slowly, deliberately and very much like the kata flow drill I learned about a year ago. He had us line up and stand with our hands up, feet together and knees bent before instructing us to step back then turn 90 degrees to the right to emulate the movement in the technique. The turn placed us into a perfect Sagi Ashi-Dachi (crane stance) - before we stepped forward with the rear leg, did a 180 degree turn and ended up in another Sagi Ashi-Dachi. "Now pair up and do the technique again," Sensei A. said - and yep, we all nailed it. Seeing the crane stance turn on itself - in a complete circle - was truly an ah-ha! moment for all of us. I felt like doing the happy dance right in the middle of the dojo!

And to think, I actually hated geometry in high school...


  1. The Book of Martial Power by Steven J. Pearlman discusses/explains the principle of the triangle.

  2. I think I really need to stop trying to approve comments via my iPhone as my big thumbs keep accidentally hitting "Delete" instead of "publish." Here's what I banished this week:

    "Epiphanies are fun!"
    - David "Shinzen" Nelson

    "Hi - good post. I have been thinking about this topic, so thanks for posting. Keep it up!"
    - Erica

  3. I love that crane stance, it comes into Rohai kata several times. We also use it in my kobudo lessons to defend against a bo strike to the knees. You turn 90 degrees into sagi ashi dachi whilst blocking the bo with one tonfa then you turn sharply 180 degrees and whack the bo out of the way with the other tonfa and then step in with a counter strike - great fun!