The Right Stance for . . .


“Five-step” Horse-Riding Stance
“Five-step” Horse-Riding Stance


First I wish to say thank you for sharing your information on flexibility training. I am an admirer of your work, and because of the information in Stretching Scientifically, my basic kicks got much higher than they ever were before—a lot of people noticed that in the dojang where I practice taekwondo. I recently received my copy of Flexibility Express and I am excited to do the exercises presented on it. I am able to squat deep with my hips below parallel and feet slightly wider than shoulder width (four-step-wide horse-riding stance), with toes slightly pointed out at about 15 degrees and my knees going in the same direction as my toes while maintaining a decent upright posture with a very light weight (10 pounds to start). I am currently working on widening my stance and deepening it because I am new to squatting wide and deep; however, I am familiar with horse-riding stance from taekwondo where they taught us to have our toes and knees pointing out at approximately 45 degrees. My question is how acceptable is it to have the toes point out, and to what degree (how far?) should they be allowed to point out when squatting wide and deep? And by doing them this way, will I be able to effectively use isometrics to strengthen my legs in this way as I get wider (to a six- to seven-step horse stance)? Or should I keep them pointed in the direction I currently do? I noticed you demonstrate them pointing more forwards in your video when you squat. Please if you could advise me on this topic it would be a great help, and if you require more information I will try to provide it.

Thank you very much,
James in Canada


First, about the horse-riding stance:

In fighting, as a rule (and thus, with exceptions), the horse-riding stance is used for projecting force sideways. It is easier to exert force to the sides or to the front from a proper horse-riding stance (with feet pointing practically straight forward, no more than 12 degrees out of the sagittal plane) than from the stance with feet pointing out at 45 degrees. You can try both stances to compare the strength of punches you can generate from either; the ease of handling heavy weapons, such as the long pole; and stability and mobility for grappling, and then ask yourself why you wasted your time on fake teachers.

Second, how much can your toes point out:

In wide squats, the amount the toes point out should be such as to give you good stability in the gradually widening stance—because if you lose stability, you are likely to get seriously hurt.

For the correct knee and foot angles in squats, see the MWod “woman/man” test shown here:

MWod “woman/man” test

Generally, you can quickly find out why people do things in a certain way and whether some other way is better: By doing both those ways yourself.

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Flexibility Express DVD by Thomas Kurz

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...

7 Responses to “The Right Stance for . . .”

  1. 1 William Clarke

    Dear Mr Kurz

    I have been following Flexibility Express for several months. I can squat low (hips below knees) in 5-step horse riding stance. My progression with increasing weights in squats has been steady. I feel “ready” to widen my stance to 7 steps. Should I reduce the weight I use in squats, at least initially, when I widen my stance? Are there any signs a person is ready to widen their stance?

    Best wishes,

    William Clarke

  2. Are there any signs a person is ready to widen their stance?”

    Feeling comfortable at the current width.

    Should I reduce the weight I use in squats, at least initially, when I widen my stance?”

    Yes, if it makes you feel comfortable.

  3. 3 William Clarke

    Thank you.

    In ‘Flexibility Express’ you do not show exercises for developing front splits. Why is just the side split enough for one’s flexibility needs?

  4. In ‘Flexibility Express’ you do not show exercises for developing front splits.”

    I don’t? See chapter Squats to Splits, from 27 min. to 28 min. 30 sec.

  5. Hello, Mr. Kurz,

    Greetings from Brazil. I’ve been reading a lot of your articles and texts since I heard of you by chance for the first time. Before this I was trying to follow Pavel Tsatsouline’s method presented in his book “Relax into stretching”, but now, following your advice, I’m trying to strengthen my muscles before stretching them, and that’s something I wasn’t doing with Pavel’s method.

    I’m a taekwondo student and am preparing for my black belt test next December. I’m 34 years old, but I wasn’t practicing any physical activity since I was 17 years old until last January. So, according to one of your articles, it’s as if I had never done any physical activity before.

    In my dojang there are no weights, just like the dojang you described in this article (, and in the warm-up we do a lot of things you tell us not to do. For example, we do static stretches before our taekwondo activities (kicks). The problem is that I cannot simply step aside while everybody is doing these exercises. At the moment I’m trying to mix my taekwondo training with your method, but I practice taekwondo three times a week, and some days my muscles are sore and I have to give them a break.

    So my first question is: will I be able to do a full side split now, being 34 years old, even if I couldn’t do it when I was a teenager?

    My second question is: what should I do? I don’t want to interrupt my taekwondo training now since I really want to get my black belt next December, so I need to show up in the dojang. But it seems that I will progress very slowly if I mix these two training methods, and I’m afraid I might injure my muscles because of that. Could I simply avoid some kinds of exercises during the warm-up? Or should I avoid them completely?

    Thank you from a Brazilian reader and fan,

  6. Your first question is answered at and at

    My answer to your second question:

    You are in a situation similar to that of people I know who wanted to acquire fighting skills (as opposed to just getting black belts) but were stuck in areas without good instructors. If they wanted to spar and to compete, they had to attend workouts of substandard instructors and find ways of dealing with training nonsense. These people, fighters actually, went to the available dojangs, dojos, gyms, etc., just to practice with other fighters there. They eventually achieved skills surpassing those of their “instructors.”

    Here are things these fighters did:

    –Took time off and brought their strength, flexibility, etc., to a level at which their “master’s” ideas would not affect them.

    –Did not take the time off but developed adequate flexibility on their own, found a good-sounding excuse for showing up in a gym towards the end a stupid warm-up, and then quickly warmed up in the rational way.

    –Did the instructor’s counterproductive stretches at a low range of motion pretending this is the best they could do. This way they did not predispose themselves to injuries resulting from doing static stretches prior to kicking. Of course, after the workout and on their days off they did their own static stretching. They also did dynamic stretches at home, every day–on gym days prior to going to the gym, on other days as advised in Stretching Scientifically.

  7. After I read Tom’s books, I used to take the time to warm up intelligently before Kung Fu class. Then I could come to the class and do pretty much anything and not think I was damaging anything. Then I gave the books to my Sifu. He was a very accomplished martial artist, and had won many competitions in both forms and fighting on the US West Coast. But he was also a very intelligent guy, and open-minded and changed the warmups over time as a result of reading the books.

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