We learn and practice Karate to be able to control ourselves physically and psychologically. A karate practitioner should in fact focus more on getting that self control rather than being preoccupied about winning over an opponent. The reasoning behind this thought is that once one has mastery over his or her own body and mind, one has already won the battle; due to the physical agility and the self confidence that one acquires.
The Karate practitioner trains over and over to be able to unlock the secrets and limitation of his/her own body. He or she learns several ways to use legs, hands, arms, torso, and head to both block and counter-attack. Karate practitioner also learns to use his or her body to gain reach and tactical advantage.
It is important for the Karate practitioner to be able to move in and out of the opponent’s reach as easily and as quickly as possible. Although in Karate there are many different stances the practitioner should have the same agility and capability to move back and forth, and side to side. This should allow him/her to move out of harm’s way or to gage the proper distance for a strike. All the stances in Karate share one common thing and that is a straight back or a straight posture. In fact a straight back is such a common thing in Karate that one can notice it in the Karate practitioner’s stance out of practice. Thanks to Karate it is rare to see a “Karateka” slouching; he or she would usually be standing or sitting confidently with a straight back ready for action at all time.
The beauty of physics is that it works as follow. With a straight back, perpendicular to the ground, a human body’s center of gravity is projected at the waist. The only effort the body has to do in this case is to lift its own weight up with the legs (the biggest muscle of the body); every other movement (back and forth, side to side) should be performed almost effortlessly. When the body is bent forward the center of gravity slides forward of the waist. In this case the body has to apply a greater force just to stand still. The body now is using different muscles just to gain balance. The weight of the body is not sitting neatly on top of the legs; it is rather spread past the waist requiring the help of the back’s muscles to keep the whole body from falling over. The same principle applies when the body is leaning backward, except that in this case the abdomen’s muscles are going to be called to help keeping the body from falling backward.
Bottom line, in Karate we try to optimize the use of our bodies to gain advantage over our opponents. With a straight back or straight posture the body seems to be easily manageable. Self inflicted injuries should automatically stop taking place because the body is using the proper muscles for the proper circumstances. With an incorrect posture one is asking the body to perform tasks using weaker muscles that were not supposed to be used for that specific action. Self inflicted injuries are not the only outcome of an incorrect posture. And incorrect posture physically limits the mobility and the agility of the fighter rendering him/her vulnerable to the opponent’s attacks.
It is important for a Karate practitioner and probably for all martial artists to keep a straight back while practicing their art. One has to be watchful and aware of his or her posture. There is a trick one can use to be able to put his or her back in the right position. If one makes it a habit to push the chest forward and up one can almost guaranty that his/her back is at the proper position.
The way we stand up should show confidence and should, to a certain extent, show intimidation. The bad guys or the bullies attack those that appear weak or those that are not capable of portraying confidence. It is a way to avoid conflict.