Stances are an important aspect of many traditional martial arts. They serve the purpose of setting up or inviting certain attacks (such as hasso gamae which invites an attack to the middle, or taiki gamae which presents an obvious opening to the head) and so form an integral part of many formal techniques. Many stances were developed from a need to appear intimidating or well prepared in front of a potential assailant, in an attempt to dissuade them from attacking (aiki gamae, manji gamae). In other cases, stances can serve to conceal one’s preparedness with an inconspicuous or more natural looking position (useful for de-escalating a situation while remaining ready if that fails) - such as midare or tate muso gamae.
Being a Japanese martial art, stances in Shorinji Kempo are also an important aspect of etiquette, and like much etiquette relating to potentially dangerous activities like martial arts, are founded in safety. Stances such as kesshu gamae show that the student is paying attention during instruction, and gassho (rei) signifies mutual respect between training partners before starting to practice.
There are 17 formal stances in Shorinji kempo, grouped into two families (Byakuren and Giwa) named for two of the Chinese schools from which Doshin So took much inspiration in founding his system.
Byakuren (8 stances)
Ben is instructor at East London Shorinji Kempo. He has been practicing for 20 years and has reached the rank of 4th dan.
Shorinji kempo stances