Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of the martial arts or self-defense stance. Every style or school of self-defense seems to have it's own unique forms or situations. Some are said to be derived from the movements and natural defenses of animals, while others seem to have been created at the whim of the system's creator.
Learning a martial art for aesthetic reasons, as in the case of those who simply like anything Japanese, Chinese, or for health and fitness motivations is great. But, if you're taking up the study of the martial arts or enrolling in a self-defense course for the purposes of developing the ability to protect yourself in a real-life street fighting situation, you must be very critical of everything that you are being taught.
And, one of the first lessons you will encounter after joining a class, is the concept of the stance or defensive position. In the martial art of ninjutsu, also referred to as budo-taijutsu, the word used to refer to these situations or "positions of safety," is kamae (pronounced "come-eye"). While other styles of martial arts, like Aikido (pronounced "eye-key-doe" – not "a-kee-doe") use the same term, most karate-based martial systems use the word dachi (pronounced "dah-chee" ).
Regardless of the word used, or the way the body is formed to make each post, you must keep in mind that when the system was being developed, the focus was on self-preservation – not looking "cool." With that in mind, you must make sure that each step or kamae that you're being taught and spending so much time learning, has 3 critical elements. These elements, or key points, vary with the intended use of the posture, but they are there in every good, solid, and effective stance.
If all three elements are not present in any given self-defense stance, you either need to get clarification as to why, ask what's missing from your understanding of it, or throw it away!
The 3 Critical Elements of An Effective Self-Defense Stance
Most martial arts and self-defense systems have, at their foundation, a basic protective posture. Again, this instance can have many forms according to the system, but it should have three qualities if you are to be able to trust using it in a life-saving, self-defense encounter with a real attacker bent on doing serious damage.
These 3 critical elements are:
1) Create and control the distance between yourself and your attacker. The key to remember here is:
"If you control the distance, you control the fight."
2) The lead arm creates a shield or barrier between you and your assailant. The essential strategic point here is that:
"If he can not hit you, he can not hurt you."
3) Blades (profiles, or turns) the body sideways to the attacker. The key idea here is:
"If he can not hurt you, he can not beat you."
Your ability to control these three vital, strategic elements with your body positioning …
The distance between you and your opponent
Keeping your weapons "between" you and your attacker, and …
Controlling the placement of your own targets relative to your attacker's weapons
… will determine how much energy, effort, and attention you'll have to put into your own self-defense.
So, remember this simple slogan that I learned from one of my own teachers:
"If he can not hit you, he can not hurt you. And if he can not hurt you, he can not beat you."
This is a great way to remember the 3 key elements that make up a good self-defense stance. And remember, laying a proper foundation for mastery is like building a house. Without it, nothing else will stand up for very long. And the last thing you want, whether house or self-defense training, is for everything to come tumbling down when the storm comes!