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Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 1

This is a subject that has bothered me for many years. When I say "bothered," I really mean it. I wrote an article about body mechanics for Classical Fighting Arts. It was intended to be a three or four part article but I reduced it to only one part. The reason was that I was stuck on the second part. Writing about koshi and body dynamics in general did not give me a problem. It was the second part that stopped me. The second part was on the placement of the weight on the feet and pivoting.

When you stand in a Karate stance, where do you place your weight -- on the balls of your feet, your heels, distributed equally on the soles of your feet, or something else? Try it. Go through any kata and feel your weight placement.

For myself, I have always assumed, first as a student of Matsubayashi-Ryu and later as a student of Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu, that the weight was placed on the balls of the feet (or at least mostly on the balls of the feet). I can't remember my sensei over the years telling me this, exactly, but it was something I took as gospel.

Perhaps I learned this as a Judo student. I remember learning that you should be able to place a piece of paper under your heels when you are doing Judo. You slide your feet, with the weight mostly on the balls. However, in Judo you are grappling with an opponent who is in front of you most of the time, grabbing you by your collar and sleeve. You are trying to avoid being thrown. Placing the weight on the balls of the feet makes sense in this situation. But Karate involves a greater range of movement, and we are usually not engaged in grappling, particularly when performing kata.

I believe that the weight is also placed on the balls of the feet (mostly) in Kendo. Again, the opponent is usually in front of you. Motion is usually forward, which is facilitated by placing the weight on the balls of the feet.

In Karate, we have to be able to move in any direction. There is not only one opponent. We could be attacked by multiple opponents from any direction. We have to be able to move in any direction, as quickly as possible.

If we are poised to move forward, it will be harder for us to move backward or to the sides. When we place our weight on the balls of our feet, we typically lean a little forward. To move backward, we have to first shift our weight back, which takes time.

For the above reasons, I have recently come to question my belief that the weight is supposed to be on the balls of our feet (or mostly). I may have misunderstood this principle from the beginning, or latched on the a rule that best applies to beginner and intermediate students. I am not sure. But I now believe that there is a better way to position the weight and to move.

I will discuss this more in the next part of this post.


Charles C. Goodin