I am currently training for my Black Belt in a shotokan like style of Karate and I have been told many times by my teacher that I need to improve my back stance Kōkutsu-dachi as my bum sticks out and my front knee drops in (which is causing joint issues) as I am currently unable to open my hips to a 90 degree angle.

Are there any exercises that I can do in my spare time to improve my stance. I have tried to gently push my front knee into the correct position but this is quite painful. What stretches should I be doing to improve my stance?

I feel that if I am able to get my knee into the correct position, my bum will stop sticking out so fixing that is my number one priority.

  • Where is the pain? Is it the same both sides? Do you have the same issue both ways, or is your stance different from left to right?
    – slugster
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 11:50
  • I generally get pain just below my patella and when I push my knee out I get a sudden sharp pain on the inside of my thigh near my groin, not sure what muscle/tendon that might be Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 11:40

3 Answers 3


Please consider checking your stance structure and posture by working from the center out and down to your feet. Kokutsu is hard because you need ankle flex and tons of leg strength.

Make sure your tanden is sucked up and forward slightly. Use your stomach muscles to pull your butt under you. Keep it there for all stances. I always have a slight flex or tension in my lower abs.

Next, check your weight distribution. About 30% front 70% back (about) I do place some pressure on the balls of my front foot and pressure on my entire rear foot. Also, your back stance should be as long as your front stance. Make sure your feet are correct. The outside edges are perpendicular not the inside edges. <-- This might be why you have knee pain.

Another index to check is the rear heal, knee, hip, and should are all in the same plane. This allows me to make a coil (torque) as I drop or sink into the stance. Screw your self into the floor. Another index is my belt sits on the top of my back leg. It should not hang in the middle. Sit on top of the back knee. You should be able to see your foot if you look down (your knee blocks the view.)

Try 1 legged squats in bare feet. This does not include your regular training. Self train. Grab the floor with your feet. Think about using all the muscles and tendons in your leg. Your foot is flat to the floor. Start with 3 to 5 per leg. Another exercise that is more suited to Shotokan training is start in nekoashi-dachi and switch to kokutsu-dachi (same side) 100's of them both sides.

Holy smokes. If you google search "kokutsu dachi" I see an image of Kagawa Sensei. Does your back stance look like his? It's a thing of beauty. Note his foot, knee, hip, shoulder -- same plane. Search this "Kagawa Karate Kokutsu Dachi" That stance is picture perfect in my opinion.

Thank you. And good luck.

(This thing doesn't have spell check...look out) Thank you mattm!

  • Duh? plane not plain. Apologies.
    – TVentresco
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 0:10
  • 1
    +1 for Kagawa Sensei. And 1 legged squats. Also, would like to mention to the original poster, while you're working on your back stance, check your kibadachi with all the points TVentresco mentioned in the first half of this answer. I see this common failure with these two stances all the time in our dojo (butt sticking out, hip joint not flexed nearly enough, knees pointing inwards).
    – AerusDar
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 3:05

One thing that will help everything in your life is back squats--full butt to ankle squats with weight on your back and focusing on "knees tracking the line of the toes" form (it's not problem if the knee goes forward of the toes, the problem is when it tracks too far inside or outside. Outside rarely happens for long). Google Mark Rippetoe.

Of course to do squats well you'll have to open the knees up, so:

Your problem is very likely to be hip flexibility (It is a huge problem for me) and maybe related issues.

One stretch that should help quite a bit is to go into a squat and place your elbows to the inside of your knees with your hands together. Now use your elbows to force your knees out.

Another thing that might help is this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwzxKghoIlw. When I can remember to do them, I do 2 sets with each leg, with the second set being the opposite direction from the first.

You might also wish to use the foam roller on your quads and hips. Get 5 or 10 minutes of leg exercise to get the blood flowing and then onto the roller.

Do note that you should never stretch "cold" muscles, use dynamic range of motion exercises to warm up, then use stretching to cool down.


Based on your description (it's hard to tell exactly without seeing you), it seems like you need to increase your hip flexibility. If you want to improve hip flexibility, a simple exercise is to sit cross-legged on the floor. You can do this while reading, socializing, watching TV, etc. A more active stretch is the butterfly stretch. There is a big difference in hip flexibility between people who sit in chairs all the time versus those who sit on the floor.

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