When I was a white belt, one of the first things I learned was the front stance. I remember it like it was yesterday. Front knee bent. Back leg locked. Hips and shoulders square. I worked very diligently, because I wanted to have the perfect front stance. I figured that since it was taught to white belts so early on, it must be pretty easy, so it’s a good element to work on making perfect. White belt is a fun time of ech chan cho bu, and 3 step and basics – everything you need to keep repeating the front stance. White belt is front stance, front stance, front stance. When you think you are done, do another front stance. My front stance got better for sure.
As I progressed through the ranks, I stopped worrying about my front stance so much. It had gotten to a point where it was very difficult to make it any better. It was pretty close to perfect, and I was happy with that. This stage continued on for years, even into my black belt rank. Then one day, something happened that changed my mindset. I noticed that my front stance was not as good as it once was. Why was I bending my back leg? How did my stance get so shallow? I had a pretty good front stance, but all of a sudden it seemed like it was falling apart! I thought about it for a while, and finally realized what was happening. I had lost my desire to have a perfect front stance. I was settling for ‘good enough’.
Everyone that has studied martial arts knows that in order to get better at any technique, and to learn new technique is to focus and practice. Most people apply this to their new form, or a new kick or such, which is great. A true martial artist, however, needs to apply this to their entire martial arts repertoire to some degree. One should never accept that any technique is good enough to be put on a shelf. Things of shelves get dusty and forgotten. We must strive for the perfection of all aspects of the techniques we practice.
Now whenever I practice any technique I have learned, or am learning, I try to think about them as a complete technique. Is the counter correct? What stance should be used? Am I doing that stance correctly? What needs to be improved to do this technique perfectly? I don’t put any part of the technique ‘on the shelf’ and assume it’s correct. Everything needs some amount of attention. If it’s not getting better, it’s probably getting worse.
Maybe someday we will have a perfect front stance, but in the meantime let’s keep striving for it!
Master Doug O’Hara