Cat Stance Notes

Purpose: the Cat Stance is primarily used a transition from retracting the front foot into a kick, typically a front kick.

A Good Cat Stance

  • Start from a Neutral Bow
  • Shift your weight onto your back leg
  • Pull your lead leg back so it’s inline with right next to your back heel
    • The lead foot shouldn’t be right next to it but close
    • The lead foot should be up on the ball of the foot
  • The weight distribution should be about 90/10 toward the back foot
  • Drop your rear hand to your low-zone
  • Bring your front hand to cover your high-zone

Notes on Practicing

  • Practice pulling your lead leg back and then executing a front snap-kick to the groin
    • After you re-chamber the kick land forward in a Neutral Bow
    • When your foot makes contact with the floor, execute a lead-hand snapping punch to the nose or to the solar plexus
    • Retract your punch to your guard

Forward Bow Notes

Purpose: transition force forward into strikes.

Despite the term stance implying something static, in martial arts stances should be looked at as moments in time, positions you flow through in order generate power, preset for strikes, or reposition yourself avoid your opponent.

The forward bow is primarily used for driving power forward, but it can also be used as a brace against a forward rush.

A Good Forward Bow

  • From a Neutral Bow
  • Pivot your back heel toward the outside of your stance
    • Left foot would go out toward the left, right foot out toward the right
  • Straighten your back back leg until it’s straight, but not locked out
  • Shift your weight forward onto your front leg
    • Front knee should be bent 90 degrees
    • Weight distribution should be around 70/30 to the front leg
    • Drive forward with the balls of your feet
  • Rotate your hips forward so they are squared up with your target
    • Shoulders should both be forward stacked over hips
  • Squeeze your glutes
  • When practicing the stance in isolation put your hands in the chamber

Notes on Practicing

  • Practice punching with your rear hand to the solar plexus or the nose as you shift into the Forward Bow
    • Retract your punch as you shift back into a Neutral Bow


Neutral Bow Notes

Purpose: a good default position to train kicking, striking, and combinations from.

The neutral bow is a compromise between mobility and limiting access to targets while still allowing the use of all weapons without having to move around yourself.

There are a lot of variations on hand placement and slight variations on foot placement – the following are good general guidelines.

Other Names: Guard, Basic Guard, Guarding Stance

A Good Neutral Bow

  • Feet should be just outside of shoulder width
    • Weight should be shifted toward the balls of the feet
    • Feet should be parallel and pointing 45 degrees in relation to your opponent/target
    • Should be able to draw a line from your back heel through your front toe (toe-heel alignment) to your opponent
  • Knees should be bent
  • Shoulders should be stacked over the hips
    • A more practical position is to drop the chin toward the lead shoulder
    • The lead shoulder should be raised toward the chin
  • Let the elbows hang and protect the ribs
  • Bring the rear fist up close to the jaw
  • Bring the lead fist up out in front of the nose
    • Not too far forward, but not too close either

Horse Stance Notes

Purpose: to practice upper-body movements in isolation

While not exclusively a hand focused system, American Kenpo relies on a wide variety of hand/elbow strikes and defensive arm movements to accomplish objectives.

Working movements in isolation helps the practitioner understand the movements and develop coordination.

A Good Horse Stance

  • Feet are a foot-width or two more than shoulder-width apart
  • Toes are pointed forward or slightly toed in
    • Your weight should be shifted forward slightly onto the balls of your feet
    • There should be just enough room under your heels to slide a piece of paper under them
  • Knees are bent and pushed out
    • You should feel the outside of your quads engaging
  • Tuck the butt underneath the spine
    • Think of curling the pelvis forward
  • Pull the shoulders back
  • Head should be stacked above the shoulders
    • Drop your chin slightly
  • Pull the fists back into the chamber palm-up
    • The chamber can be one of two positions: by the hips or the floating ribs



  • Same overall position as the Horse Stance
  • But bring your hands up into a shield and hammer in front of you mouth/nose
    • The right hand is a fist
    • The left hand covers the fist
  • Let your elbows relax and hang next to your ribs

Symbolism of the Hammer and Shield

  • The hammer represents the warrior
  • The shield represents the scholar
  • The warrior and the scholar are the two parts of the martial artist
    • The warrior knows “how”
    • The scholar knows “why”
  • The shield covering the hammer represents the scholar directing the warrior
  • Placing the hammer and shield in front of the mouth means to think before you speak or act

Fighting Horse

The fighting horse is a very defensible stance, the width zone is completely obstructed and the lead hand covers the head and ribs. The down side is that the body must be re-positioned or the rear weapons must move around around the lead weapons in order to be used.

  • The same foot/leg position as a horse stance
  • The hands are in a guard position
  • The opponent is directly to the side

Attention Stance Notes

Purpose: to help the student develop focus.

The student is expected to maintain focus directly forward. The idea is to focus so intently that they look through or past anything that gets in the way of them and their goal.

While in the attention stance the student may do 3 things:

  • Smile
  • Breathe
  • Blink

Other Names: Closed Stance

A Good Attention Stance

  • Feet are together
  • Palms of the hands are open
  • Palms are touching the sides of the legs
  • Fingers pointing at the floor
  • Back is straight
  • Shoulders are pulled back, but relaxed
  • Shoulders are stacked above the hips
  • Gaze is directly forward