An Interesting Karate Trick To Help You Keep Your Balance on the Train…Maybe

I can’t be the only one this has happened to. Your riding the train, minding your business, when all of a sudden, out of spite, the mean ole train conductor pulls to an abrupt stop nearly making you tumble head over heels.

Okay, okay, perhaps the train conductor isn’t doing it out of spite, I wouldn’t imagine so at least. But the fact remains that sometimes trains may shift suddenly. I think it’s tough for people to keep their balance while standing on trains because unlike a buses, another common mode of transport, you can’t necessarily see what’s happening outside of the train. The train tunnels can be quite dark and it can be hard to tell when the rail is about to make a turn. Also with stops, it can be a bit tricky to judge exactly when the train conductor is going to hit the brakes. With buses you can judge these factors pretty easily, right? Because you have windows, open roads you can see, and you can see the same stop lights/signs that the driver sees.

On the way home from work I decided to stand up during my 20 minute commute. After having that 39.9゜fever (I’m not exactly sure what caused it) a little while back, I decided not to use the support handles hanging from the crossbars on the train. When the Tsukuba Express pulled to the first stop, Miraidaira (みらいだいら), though it was only a small stumble, I lost my balance. The second stop Midorino (みどりの) was very much the same thing, a slight stumble. Initially I wasn’t using the handle supports because I was being slightly germophobic (I’m not usually) but ended up wanting to figure out how I could keep my balance with no stumbles. I was kind of like a game for me.

Being that I didn’t want to make a scene by simply levitating (sigh…you know how people can be when you show off your mutant powers ;) ), I thought about my karate training. In Kyokushin karate, there is a stance called sanchin dachi (三ちん立ち) or the three-fights stance (I don’t know why it’s called that). In this stance you step back with the right or left foot, elbows braced into your sides, forearms extended and fists raised, with your toes pointed inward at 45 degree angles:

This is generally used as a training stance (not really for fighting) and it allows the karateka (karate practitioner) to keep their balance quite well. I wasn’t going start doing these forceful inhale/exhale exercises (like the man in the video above) on the train and break out into a formal Kyokushin stance, elbows in position and fists raised…because that would be embarrassing and just a tad weird. Can you imagine the looks you’d get on the train?

But one thing I did take from this stance was the foot position. In the sanchin stance, the toes of both feet are pointing inward, which means that your heels point outward. I tried this while riding, and for the Bampaku Kinen Koen, Kenkyu Gakuen, and Tsukuba stops, I was able to keep my balance without trouble. I was actually able to get a better sense of my balance and the train’s movement by standing this way…now if I can just learn that blasted fireball!

So the next time you’re standing on the train and you can’t reach one of the support handles try a little experiment: 1. first face one of the exit doors (it’s much more effective this way) and 2.try pointing your toes in just a bit and flaring your heels out just a bit. It kind of looks like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz just before she’s about to click her heels to get back home, except your heels will stay in contact with the floor:

I found this trick works for stops and starts (at least for me it does). Keeping your balance without the hand supports while the train is shifting and in motion is a little different and a little more difficult to do. Is there anything special you do to keep your balance on the train?


Donald Ash

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  • Tennille

    I keep my balance on the train by SITTING DOWN. lol

    • Donald Ash

      LMAO! That’s great!

  • Personally, I find the nearest pretty Japanese girl here in Decatur, GA USA and wrap my genitalia around her shin! Then I shout, “Neeeep! Hiya!” similar to how the guy in the video would. If the lady doesn’t take major offense and slap my mouth tasteless, then I can maintain great balance on the train. Obviously this technique is for masters only. I do not recommend it for beginners.

    • Donald Ash

      It is official, you are a clown, Derrick! LOL. I guess with this “master’s technique” the timing is crucial. Can you make it to your stop before getting pepper sprayed? Can you make it to your stop before some lady calls you out for indecent exposure? Can you make to your stop it before the authorities taser you into a drooling coma? Ahhh…so many questions…so many questions.

  • Lori


    I found your blog yesterday, its really interesting

    Until just recently I was a student at a international university near Osaka (only exchange) but I plan on moving back to Japan early next year to teach, so reading your blog with issues of apartments, the job, and general teaching has been very insightful.

    ….and as for riding the train (I doubt it is too different between Osaka and Tokyo) I just pretend I am surfing XD (maybe that is a habit as a Australian)

  • I don’t know how well this works for a guy.. but the few times I’ve been on a train and it was like that I sidled up next to a big, tall guy and then when I lost my balance it was more along the lines of “Oh hi there!” than anything else.

    Those breathing exercises sound intense. I clicked it then scrolled down to write my comment and thought it was the dog making weird noises XD

    • Donald Ash

      LOL! That’s great, Nanami. It’s also a possible way to get a date on the train. Good thinking, ne?
      Right!?! That dude is the video loves his oxygen, doesn’t he? I know it’s a part of the karate style he practices, but it’s pretty serious.

      • -laughs- I’m too shy to ever actually do that as a date tactic but I could totally see that working.

        Yeah he’s pretty impressive! I’ve been looking into Liu He Ba Fa.. it’s an interesting form! But I can’t find out much about it other than some videos. Still this guy is pretty pumped up! I think it’s awesome ^ ^

      • He is enjoying oxygen like the guy in the 80s on that York Peppermint Patty commercial! lol!

        • Donald Ash

          YOU’RE CRAZY! I remember that commercial. Great comparison!

  • Rebecca Quinn

    I make my leg and back muscles go into cement block mode.
    Works, but could give injuries someday.
    I’ll stick to walking. No matter how far.


    • Donald Ash

      Maybe it won’t cause injuries, it’ll give you permanent mighty, cement leg muscles. Then all you have to do is put on a mask and going around kicking bad guys…instant superhero!

      Thanks for your tip, Rebecca.

      • Rebecca Quinn

        I’ll be a Night Time Ninja on the trains and buses of Japan.
        Protecting citizens from spiteful busmen and train drivers.

        Haha no problem!

  • I stand with my feet apart diagonally. So my right foot in front to the right and my left foot back to the left. Keep your knees loose so you can go with the motion.

  • Also bend your knees a little. When the train stops suddenly, you won’t stumble and your knees aren’t locked, so your knees will take the body weight.

    • Donald Ash

      Nice suggestion, Bryan.

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