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During kata I have a real issue maintaining my stance, this is predominately caused by me bringing my rear heel up off the floor when striking. The two katas I have learnt, so far, are taikyoku and pinan shodan. The style is Godoryu, which is a combination of shotokan and wado ryu.

I think the problem crops up in general but either not as prevelant OR I'm not picked up on it as much. I am aware I do it so I have been trying to keep my heel down.

Is there any exercises or shortcuts that I can use to help keep that heel on the floor?

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    What stance are you doing, and what technique? Heck, which kata and form of Karate while we're at it? :) And what's your favorite color? What's the average wingspeed of an unladen swallow? – Macaco Branco Feb 10 '17 at 15:17
  • Sounds like a basic proprioception issue-once you can make yourself aware of the issue you can fix it yourself. It could also be a flexibility issue. Focus on your feet and their connection to the ground. – Dave Newton Feb 10 '17 at 23:41
  • @SeanDuggan African or european swallow? I have updated my question to reflect style and katas. – NinjaArekku Feb 13 '17 at 10:05
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Without a video clip of your performance, it will be hard to diagnose a problem. However, I can give you some tips that might help you, as this kind of problem is fairly common - usually, it is beginners that have these problems.

Sometimes, the heel lifts before you take off for a step; other times, the heel lifts as you strike even though you landed properly. You didn't indicate the timing at which you lift the heel, that is an important set of troubleshooting steps. Personally, I don't always mind the heel coming up in order to take a step, but some instructors have differing opinions.

If you are rushing to strike before you get into your stance, that can pull you forward - that can lift the heel. The solution is to slow down, and time your strike to land with the step, if that is what is called for in your form.

At the moment of your strike, your body should be settling down - as in "downward". So, your strike goes forward while the body sinks down.

Lower your shoulders. Rising shoulders encourages raising the body, which encourages lifting the heel.

Lower your chin. An abnormally uplifted chin can encourage rushing the strike, which can lift the shoulders, which can raise the body.

It could be you're doing all else correctly, which means, you're just lifting for the strike or for the take off on a step. This means a bad habit has settled in. The fix for this is to practice at an exaggerated slow motion as you go through your forms, and focus on keeping the heel down. To undo habits is difficult; you'll need to do this more than you think. How much time is hard to say, it depends on how comfortable you felt while lifting the heel; you'll need to overcome that comfortable feeling and replace it with not lifting the heel, and so now you have to practice enough for it to be comfortable, then practice enough for it to become habit.

As to this (the bad habit) this is often seen in young children who have walked on the balls of their toes. This is a bad habit for them as it leads to poor posture, and doctors are keen to have the child settle onto the heels. You'll hear parents remind the child "off the toes" or "don't walk on your toes". As you get older, these habits tend to go away, but depending on how long it has been occurring (if this describes you), and how old you are now; but, this current habit could have been borne from this early childhood habit. You see it in people who, as they walk naturally, they step and instantly lift the heel. I'm not sure if this is a bad habit, as far as walking and posture is concerned; but I notice that people who do this kind of bounce as they walk are often the same ones who lift heels as they step.

Now, I realize you qualified your problem with kata, but, you didn't say you weren't having problems when not doing katas, and, it's possible you are. So if you don't have problems outside of kata, then this doesn't apply of course:

But when you strike - usually in problems like this, it will be a reverse strike (the hand opposite the lead foot) which when over-reaching, it pulls the rear foot up. In this case, you need not think you have to reach to hit your target. If you do, you are off-balance, and then could be used against you. If you are lifting while "air striking" (that is, striking without a target) then you need to think about your target to be imagined much closer than you are. If you are lifting the heel while striking a target (hand-held or a hanging or standing bag) then be closer to the target so that you don't have to feel you are reaching.

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  • How low should the chin be? Right down on your chest, or just below 'normal' position? – Mike P Feb 13 '17 at 12:38
  • I had to think a lot about how to define normal! I think the best is to have the chin at a level at which the head balances on the shoulders without any muscle support. If the head rolls forward, the chin is too low. If it rolls backward, it's too high. You want it where it doesn't move either way. Similarly, you don't want the chin jutting out for a reach. I think there will always be the odd exception in your forms somewhere along the lines. But this is a good start, I think, that covers most cases without too much subjectivity. – user6519 Feb 13 '17 at 12:53
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You've already identified that you're bringing your heel up, which means that if you have access to a mirror in your dojo you can keep an eye out for it when you practice.

Other suggestions include:

  • Ask someone to watch you performing the kata at different speeds. Get them to check on what strikes/moves your heel comes up, so that you know what to focus on. Regular feedback from others is essential if you often practice alone.

  • Slow the movement right down, and practice not bringing your heel up at that speed. Slowly you can build up the speed, ensuring that you aren't bringing your heel up. Eventually you will feel whether your heel comes up or not, and be confident performing at full speed.

For me, it was repetition, repetition, repetition - and ask others to help!

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In general, over all martial arts, this means you're going beyond your reach. There's alot of different things you can do, depending on the when.

If it's during a specific stance, without any real movement, try standing higher in that stance and move in and out of it slower. As you get more used to it, you can stand lower and increase speed.

If the heel goes up during a punching technique, it may be no problem at all. You need to pivot on your foot for a decent punch, and depending on the stance, that pivot will make your heel go up. If you're in a bow-arrow stance that requires the back heel flat, and it does come up, you're trying to punch further than you can. You can learn your right distance for punches by facing a wall, standing close to it, and throwing a (VERY) light punch at it. Step back until your arm is only slightly bent (so NOT entirely stretched). Then practice punching at that distance to get the proper feeling of it. If you try punching further than that, your heel will typically go up, as you'll lean forward to cross that extra distance.

If it's during a kick, you're just kicking higher than you're able to. Kick lower and stretch to improve the reach. Lower kicking with proper technique and form is better than higher kicking with bad technique and form.

The most important part here, is taking your time. Do the kata step by step, take your time to check yourself on every aspect of the stance, correct it, repeat the transition over and over, til you get it right. For kicks, cut the kick down into parts. Lift your knee up, turn your hip, stretch leg, pull knee back, put it back down. Hold a chair or wall for balance if necessary, and do each step slowly, paying attention on each aspect.

So, in short, don't try to overdo yourself. Form and technique are the most important. Speed, power, etc. come after you get the technique.

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Shorten (and maybe widen) the front stances to keep your heel down. I think my instructors prefer a shorter but grounded stance.

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  • The problem can also occur because of not enough stretched body. Shortening the stance is the best solution then. When during some time of regular training, body gets stretched enough, we can enlarge our stances back. – mpasko256 May 31 '17 at 18:07
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Something that helped me a lot with this is my instructor would always suggest imagining I had poles in my feet that extended 20 feet below the surface of the earth.

This gets into the idea of grounding. Richard Clear shows a good example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAly_noiUC8. Mr. Clear doesn't explain it in the video, but from seminars I've attended by him and others, it appears as though he is imagining the force coming in through his fist or his fingers and directing it through is back heel. You can see it's planted in this video.

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As an instructor and ref myself your heel tends to go up when you aren't adjusting your foot position correctly. This has also go to do with your stances as well. I do Shotokan karate myself and if I were to use Front stance as an example, most people lift their heel when moving through because they're not staying the same height.

If I apply the foot positioning and stance issue this would be the case here; Your stance is too narrow or long so you adjust it by lifting your heel to make a "seamless" transition without the need to adjust your actual stance length. By lifting your heel you invariably go up as well (which in shotokan is wrong).

By moving your front foot out to where it's position would end up (being the back foot) would allow you to focus your movement through your hips and thighs rather than your thigh/calf.

The best method I used when teach was to take a stick (some can use rope) and a mirror have one person hold the stick a few cm above your head and have you walk under it in every stance you know. Use the mirror to find your weakest stance and take it from there.

Focus areas: 1 length of stances, 2 height of stance/movement, 3 use your feet to open your movement and lastly driving force of movement - are you driving from your hip/thigh or through your legs.

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