Kosa-Dachi Bunkai

Kosa-Dachi (Cross Stance)

Recently, on some of the martial arts study groups I am a part of, the topic of kosa-dachi (cross stance) has been coming up somewhat frequently. This stance is found in many variations, in several kata. The discussions we have been having have mostly focused on the use of kosa-dachi in Naihanchi, and similar discussions have cropped up when discussing the stepping and enbusen (performance line) of Naihanchi, in general. Many people, for many years, were told that they were learning to balance, or walk with their back to a wall, or simply advance toward an opponent approaching you from the side. These explanations really don’t fit, though–at least, not entirely.

Stepping through kosa-dachi into shiko-dachi in Tachimura no Naihanchi

When we perform the kata, we step over our own foot into kosa-dachi, and then step out into either Naihanchi-dachi, shiko-dachi (sumo stance), or kiba-dachi (horse stance), depending on the version you practice. The kosa-dachi you step into may be wide, or narrow, and the toes may point in different directions depending on how your style does it. In the end, these details don’t matter too much, as long as it works for you. The stances still work, more or less, the same.

Something that can be difficult for people to realize is that the kata doesn’t necessarily care how you get to kosa-dachi. Stepping forward into it is the easiest way of accomplishing it, but you can also step back into it, or twist into it. In the video, above, Ryan Parker Sensei demonstrates a variety of ways to get to the kosa-dachi position. In this case, he is demonstrating them from a tai sabaki (body evasion) context. This is the primary application for kosa-dachi in KishimotoDi, where stepping or twisting into kosa-dachi is used to slip under/around your opponent’s attack.

Kosa-dachi can also be used to apply rotational force, either for tuidi (joint lock) techniques or for strikes. No method is perfect, of course, and it is certainly less stable than stepping to a wider-based stance, but this does have some benefits. It is a very fast and nearly effortless way to twist your body, and therefore use your body to apply a technique instead of just using your arms. It also allows you to keep your legs under you, and makes it more difficult for your opponent to grab them.

Twisting to a variant of kosa-dachi in Kusanku, following with a rear-leg kick

An added benefit to the kosa-dachi position is the ease with which the rear leg can be brought forward. This can be done simply as a step (as seen in the Naihanchi kata) or as a knee strike or kick (as seen in Pinan, Kusanku, and Nidanbu). This means that, once you have used kosa-dachi to avoid an attack, or to apply your own upper-body technique, you can follow immediately with your lower body.

A judo instructor discussing footwork for entering into a throw

A slightly more obscure application for the kosa-dachi position is entering for a throw. Most of the time, in kata, you aren’t shown a throw after stepping to kosa-dachi, but sometimes you do turn. Just as pivoting into kosa-dachi can be used to generate power, untwisting out of kosa-dachi can generate power. This is the way it is used in judo. When I was actively training in judo, I was taught to enter into almost every throw by stepping to different variations of kosa-dachi, while applying kuzushi (off-balancing) to my opponent with my arms. This position coils your body, like a spring, and makes it easy to drive a throw.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.