Kyoju Hausel, Soke, demonstrates Okinawa white crane martial arts at Chinese New Year
Celebration at the University of Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Sandra Sinicki, Geneva, France.
Sunday, July 4, 2021
Niseishi (nijushiho) 二十四歩 Kata. Examination of one of the Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu karate kata, known in Okinawan dialect, as niseishi (“knee-say-she”) shows interesting characteristics. This kata, like most Shorin-Ryu kata, is a favorite of many students. Niseishi, translates as the "24", possibly referring to 24 techniques (waza). Others suggest it refers to '24 steps'.
This kata was introduced to Okinawa karate by Seisho Arakaki (1840-1918), who was a member of the Okinawan royal court and held the recognized title of Chikudon Pechin. The title indicates Arakaki was part of a special class of Okinawa elite, equivalent to the Japanese samurai. The modifier - Chikudon, relates to a level of pechin that translates as ‘district’. It is apparent Arakaki’s martial arts skills went beyond karate and into the realm of kenjutsu.
Arakaki’s karate education was directed by a Chinese boxing instructor Wai Shinzan. While in China, Arakaki studied southern Shaolin gung-fu as a student of Wai Shinzan, and was educated in the art of white crane (hakutsuru) martial arts. White Crane is a beautiful, but deadly art, taught in some traditional Shorin-Ryu styles as well as to some members of Juko Kai International. The kata and bunkai of white crane Shorin-Ryu, include aesthetic movements providing the observer with visions of white cranes posing along the edge of a pond. White crane techniques resemble wings of a crane, crane postures, and even beak thrusts at eyes; while other movements display wing strikes to neck, and wing blocks. However, these are mostly absent from niseishi with the exception of wing strikes that occur near the mid point of the kata.
It is reported Arakaki learned the Chinese versions of niseishi, seisan and sanseiru from his Chinese instructor, and later adapted ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ techniques to these kata to make them more pliable to self-defense.
Today, niseishi remains a beautiful, yet brutal kata demonstrating the beauty of intermixed, fast and slow movement, along with strikes that include teeth-crushing elbow strikes (hiji uchi), hammer-fist strikes (kentsui uchi), ridge hand strikes (haito-uchi), and the simultaneous over-under double punches of yama uchi to the body core. Today, this kata is practiced in many styles including Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, Shotokan, Wado-Ryu and even Korean Tang Soo Do.
Most martial artists have heard of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu karate master Gichin Funakoshi in that he is considered by most, as the father of modern karate. Funakoshi moved from Okinawa to mainland Japan in 1922, and taught Japanese students the way of karate, known as karate-do. When Funakoshi introduced niseishi to mainland Japan, he renamed it nijushiho to make it acceptable to the Japanese culture by using Japanese, rather than Okinawan, dialect. Breaking down ni-ju-shi-ho, the individual words mean: ni=2, ju=10, shi=4; and ho=techniques: 24 techniques.
Seiyo Shorin-Ryu members training in waves of the south China sea along the coast of Vietnam.
Sudden contrasts between slow, and explosive accelerated movement in niseishi, provides a distinct rhythm in the kata likened to tides of ocean waves crashing on a beach. The kata focuses dynamic use of hips with smooth movement like waves crashing on a beach. Because the kata was taught by Wai Shinzan, it is thought to originally be a form from the Fujian Province of China, and part of the southern Shaolin curriculum.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Members of the Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Hombu in Mesa, Arizona, are introduced to Itosu's Passai kata. In our system of Shorin-Ryu Karate known as Seiyo-Kai, members are introduced two different Passai kata: Passai Dai (大 dai meaning major) and Passai Sho (小 sho meaning minor). Passai is nearly universal in traditional karatedo schools, but the kata have many differences depending on the style of karate. Soke Hausel kept these kata intact.
The kata includes a variety of bunkai. Each ryu has their own variations of bunkai. Some historians suggest the kata was created by a left-hand martial artist; while others suggest it was designed to defend against an antagonist armed with bo. Soke Hausel noted that he sees no evidence the kata was created by a left-handed martial artist, particularly when there are more than a half-dozen movements that favor right-handed martial artists.
As far as defending against bo? Soke Hausel claims there is no evidence for this. Anyone attempting to block a full-force strike from a bo with closed fist blocks like those in passai dai would spend a lot of time in the ER. Bunkai demos of Japanese Shotokan practitioners emphasize blocking bo, but Soke doesn't believe anyone in their right mind would survive such a strike. This is because the force of the strike of bo in flight would be greatly increased by blocking with an arm to yield an additive force of a head-on-collision between bo and arm. Visualize blocking a baseball bat swung at full force with your arm - your baseball career would be over. For those unfamiliar with Shotokan - Shotokan is variety of Shorin-Ryu introduced to mainland Japan by Funakoshi in 1922.
As with many kata, the origin of Passai are obscure probably because karate was kept secret for hundreds of years with nothing written about the fighting art until it was introduced to Japan during the second decade in the 20th century. So, we are left to speculation as to where this kata came from, its meaning, and who was the author or authors.
The version of Passai we practice in Seiyo Shorin-Ryu is similar to the form taught by the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu karate masters Anko Itosu and Gichin Funakoshi. It is suggested the Okinawan kata is at least 400 years old based on a silk drawing of the kata that was analyzed using carbon isotope age dating. It is also suggested by others that the kata was originally a form named after a family on Okinawa.
But others turn to the translation of Passai to help find the origin for the kata. The kata is called Passai on Okinawa. On mainland Japan, it is called Bassai. The kata is also found in Korean martial arts such as Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do. In Korea, the kata is known as Bassahee, Bal Se, Pal Che, Palsek, Bal Sae, Ba Sa Hee, and Bal Sak.
In Gichin Funakoshi’s 1922 book, the kata is referred to as Passai which was also the name used by Motobu Chōki of Okinawa in 1926. But for some reason, Funakoshi decided to rename the kata as Bassai in 1936. It is suggested “Bassai” was the Chinese pronunciation.
The meaning of Passai can be “to penetrate a fortress” or to “extract from a fortress”. The Japanese meaning of batsu is "to pull out or extract” while the Chinese meaning is "to seize or capture”. Additional insight comes from an interpretation of kanji for sai/soku which can mean “fort”. In the 1973 translation of Funakoshi’s book Karate-do Kyohan, the author refers to the kata as “Breaking through an enemy's fortress.”
This may be in reference to the power in which the kata (especially closed-fist blocks) is executed, as well as emphasizing power from hip rotation. The kata focuses on destroying an attacker’s defense with very strong and powerful blocks. When we practice this kata, we have a feeling of precise movements with fast execution of each individual technique, with attention to balance, speed and power. Remember the TV series ‘Tool Time’ - this is a kata that needs MORE POWER to be done properly! Each closed-fist block in the first half of the Passai dai kata needs every ounce of power, strength and speed you can muster. Your blocks should shake the walls of the dojo! If you practice this kata like tai chi (slow and with no power) you are doing yourself a great disservice and butchering the art. You need to feel the power and snap in every closed fist block!
So, it may be that the kata was an Okinawan family kata or had some other lineage. Even so, karate has its origins in Chinese gung-fu. After Okinawan martial artists learned gung-fu in China, they stream-lined or remove many of the aesthetic movements and deep stances, and developed a more pragmatic self-defense system. It is thought this kata also originated from Chinese boxing before it fell into the hands of Okinawan martial artists. This is supported by Gichin Funakoshi who stated that the form is “a Shōrin-ryū form derived from Chinese Shaolin styles”.
Some historians point to similarities of Leopard and Lion gung-fu to movements in the kata. Okinawan karate historian Akio Kinjo believes the name of this kata originated from the Chinese term “bàoshī” meaning “leopard-lion” which is pronounced “bá-săi” or “pà-sai” in some Chinese dialects. Other historians see a resemblance to Wuxing Quan (Five Element Fist) gung fu.
There are several Okinawan versions of Passai. The version practiced by members of Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai could be termed Itosu no Passai Dai or Funakoshi no Passai Dai to imply the version of our kata was authored by these two great Okinawan karate men. Anko Itosu popularized karate by introducing it into the Okinawan school curriculum. Itosu was also known for modifying kata to fit his karate personality. He modified Passai Dai from the Matsumura version. The Passai who kata is thought to have been created by Itosu. Funakoshi, a student of Itosu, also modified the kata when introduced to Japan.
It is also interesting to note that Passai may have roots in Tomari village on Okinawa, simply because Passai dai begins with the right fist covered by the left hand, like other kata thought to have originated from Tamari, such as Jutte, Jion, Giin and Empi. This hand gesture is a common salutation in China.
Watching some variations of this kata on videos just to see the differences employed by different karate schools. It is important to look at every variation because we can sometimes gain important insight into the bunkai.
For the various kata bunkai, the initial stance in the kata can relate to a simple self-defense technique against a wrist grab. Other wrist grab self-defense applications are found throughout the kata and include single wrist grabs, cross-wrist grabs, double wrist grabs, as are defenses against kicks, punches, arm bar defenses, sucker punches, chokes, etc.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
|Bunkai from kata (self-defense). This application shows|
up in several advanced kata.
Bunkai (practical applications) are every bit as important as the karate kata they are found in. The more one trains in kata, muscle memory, balance, speed & power will improve. And when one practices kata along with the bunkai, the better their skills will be in self-defense.
But it is important to take time initially to:
But it is important to take time initially to:
(1) Take your time to build muscle memory. As your body gains muscle memory, focus all strikes, blocks and kicks (blocks need to be as powerful as strikes, but use your head because some students can not accept powerful blocks).
(2) Speed up technique and perform kata and bunkai as fast and powerful as you can. Take a few seconds and watch some of the more impressive students in a dojo - what are they doing that makes them look so fast and powerful? You should be able to duplicate & even surpass their efforts - just put in as much energy as you can in your kata and bunkai. But make sure that the technique and stance are not sloppy.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
You need to have focus even at the beginning of a new technique or kata. How you practice in the dojo, is how you will defend on the street. If you put in little effort, you are going to learn something, but you are also setting yourself up for a real shock if you have to use your martial art for self-defense. Take a look at any Tai Chi video. Do you think the performer of tai chi could actually defend themselves? Ask yourself. Am I fast enough to block a punch from an attacker? Can I knock down an attacker with one strike?
Another bunkai found in kata - this one occurs in Naihanchi shodan
As muscle memory kicks in when you are learning a new kata or bunkai, practice the bunkai and kata slow, but focus every single kick, punch and block. During the session, emphasize posture, balance & proper stance.
Next, do bunkai and kata with as much energy as you can muster - imagine defending yourself and you have to respond to your opponent with great force and speed.
When it comes to bunkai, it is important that after you acquire muscle memory to train with great acceleration and focus. We’ve all heard the gi sleeve and cuff ‘snap’ during class. This is your goal! Listen for that snap on every move in kata and in bunkai! The gi snap is an important training aid. But, protect your training partner by punching in the air next to him or her, that way when someone makes the wrong move, you both will survive.
|Kata bunkai demonstrated at black belt clinic at the Arizona Hombu dojo by Grandmaster Hausel. Students claim|
Soke Hausel is so fast that they cannot see the techniques until he make a concerted effort to slow down. This kind of
speed and power results from training with power, speed and focus in all kata and bunkai.
In Okinawan dialect, there is a kata known as Seisan; in Japanese, it is Hangetsu. It has also been called Sesan, Seishan, and Jusan. Seisan refers to the number ’13'. Thirteen what? Thirteen hands, 13 fists, 13 techniques, 13 bunkai, 13 seconds?. But in Japanese, Hangetsu, means ‘half-moon’ referring to pigeon-toe stance (hachi-dachi) used throughout much of the kata. Even so, Seisan was applied decades, if not centuries, before it was called Hangetsu by Gichin Funakoshi.
Seisan is thought to be a very old kata, and is prominent in the Naha-Te (i.e., Goju-Ryu, Kokushin Kai) karate schools. For those of you who have studied the history of karate, you will remember, karate took on different characteristics in three different villages on Okinawa: Shuri, Naha and Tomari. The Naha practitioners emphasized body building and hardening and were considered physically powerful martial artists. At the beginning of the kata, we can see evidence of the Naha influence in slow blocks and punches that Naha schools often perform with ibuki (deep and hard breathing) and resistance. As a teenager, I remember practicing this and similar kata with ibuki and by the time we finished, a break was needed to catch our breath. That is how intense the breathing exercise is performed.
The kata is found in most legitimate karate styles including some Korean martial arts. The kata is considered to be advanced. If you are curious, I would suggest watching some videos of this kata just to get an idea of the considerable differences employed by different schools today.
|Training in kata at the Arizona hombu dojo in Mesa, Arizona under the |
watchful eye of Soke Hausel, Hall-of-Fame grandmaster of
The Seisan kata likely originated from one of the many Chinese Kung Fu systems, but it is unknown which. There are some Chinese styles that have a form called 'Shisan' in their curricula, but a link from a specific kung-fu form to Okinawan Seisan has never been established.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
|Training in Naifanchi kata at the Seiyo no Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kai hombu in Arizona.|
Members train using kiba dachi, or horse riding stance, which is prevalent in these three forms.
Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern karate and a Shorin-Ryu Karate practitioner stated, “Once a kata is learned, it must be practiced repeatedly until it can be applied in an emergency: for just understanding the sequence of moves in kata is useless.” Karate taught in most Shorin-Ryu Karate dojo are designed to build balance, muscle memory, hip rotation, blocking, kicking and punching power. Each and every strike and block in kata is taught to be focused and powerful. But then there is much more to kata.
Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-Ryu Karate, is quoted as saying, "Karate is not fixed or immoveable. Like water, it's ever changing and fits itself to the shape of the vessel containing it. However, kata are not some kind of beautiful competitive dance, but a grand martial art of self-defense which determines life and death". Could it be that these great Okinawan masters of karate knew something that those who claim there is nothing of value to kata know. I suspect so.
When a qualified person takes each kata and dissects it into several bunkai (self-defense applications), each individual bunkai (every move in kata) can be taught as self-defense. When this done over and over to educate the muscles, mushin will take over and the technique, or a variety of the technique, will appear later during karate training when you least expect it, or during a time when you need to defend yourself - but only if the bunkai is practical and it becomes part of your daily life.
Every move in kata should be able to stand alone for self-defense. Such self-defense applications are taught to increase punching, blocking and kicking power while at the same time strikes are focused on pressure points. In Shorin-Ryu schools, we also teach shitai kori (body hardening) to assist the practitioner in the ability to take strikes to pressure points. Through time, kata becomes a personal sensei (teacher), that self-instructs the student in self-defense and should include punches, blocks and kicks along with hidden techniques such as pressure point strikes, throws, chocks, releases, restraints, ground techniques, and more.
Kata is very important in most Shorin-Ryu Karate schools. A large variety of kata are taught at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona, as well as all of our schools around the world. Students of Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo train in many of these forms including the Naifanchi kata. These three kata (forms) known as Naifanchi are practiced by nearly all Okinawa karate and Japanese schools and even some Korean taekwondo schools. The kata are known as Chulgi (Korea), Dai Pochin (China), Tekki (Japanese) and Naihanchi or Naifanchi (Okinawa), and sometimes referred to as Naifunchin. The interpretation of how they are used in training and combat (bunkai) varies from style to style and even from school to school. All three kata follow the pattern along an imaginary embusen (line) running right (migi) to left (hadari) focusing on kiba dachi (horse-riding stance).
|Inside the Arizona Hombu.|
When in horse-riding stance, the practitioner (karate ka) may imagine being part of a cattle drive in Wyoming. Visualize climbing into a saddle whether on the back of a horse, or on the sawhorse at the Texas Roadhouse while placing your boots (in Arizona - your flip flops) in stirrups. Your feet will be parallel while your knees are bent to straddle the horse. This is what kiba dachi should feel like (try this at the Texas Roadhouse and just tell your waitress you are practicing karate should she ask).
As you practice Naifanchi kata, keep this feeling in mind. Now imagine riding a short pony named ‘Shorty’. The only way you can keep your feet from dragging on the ground on Shorty is to emphasize the bend in your knees (hiza). I can’t emphasize how important it is to practice this stance (dachi) correctly as beginners tend to relax and avoid deep knee bends while throwing a partner over their legs during bunkai practice. This can lead to hyper-extension of a knee – so keep those knees bent!
|Wyoming Horse riding stance, |
(c) sketch by Soke Hausel
Others suggest the kata were designed to teach peasants to fight on rice paddy dikes. In this scenario it is suggested the word 'naihan' in Naihanchi refers to ‘narrow path’ through a rice paddy. And if ‘chi’ were pronounce ‘chin’ (as in Naifunchin) it could imply ‘battle’ as it does for Sanchin (another common shorin-ryu kata). Thus naihanchi it could be interpreted as ‘battle in a rice field’.
Kiba dachi on the rocks – practicing kata at 8,500
feet in the Laramie Mountains on 1.4 billion year
old Sherman Granite in 1985.
Still others suggest these kata were designed to teach close quarters combat for a defender with his back against a wall. With this in mind, most waza (techniques) in Naihanchi seemed to be directed against attackers from the front and sides. But, there is at least one exception - the first waza in Naihanchi Nidan that is almost always interpreted as a defense against a bear hug from behind. But the more we examine this technique, it is apparent there are many applications including defense against single and double lapel grabs, and single and double wrist grabs.
What if the creator of this kata only had a long, narrow, training hall or small yard in which to practice? I suggest this only because I know some martial artists who have private dojo (gym or martial arts school) in their homes that are tiny such that Naifanchi kata would fit in their dojo.
|Front kick (mae geri) at the University |
of Wyoming about 1993.
|Master Cho of the Shaolin, |
(c)pencil sketch by Soke Hausel.
One of the main characteristics of Naihanchi lies in training the lower parts of the body through slow and steady sideward movement. When practicing these kata, one needs to maintain the same shoulder height throughout the kata (without bobbing) with weight distribution equally spread to each leg. According to the late Okinawan Grandmaster Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997), the posture for Naihanchi is similar to a sitting posture for Zen, with strength concentrated in the abdomen. Soke Nagamine recalled that Naihanchi kata were a favorite of Choki Motobu. Motobu was famous for brawling in the red-light district on Okinawa, and credited the Naifanchi kata as containing all one needs to become a proficient fighter.
|Sensei Hausel stands in kiba dachi|
with 400 pounds of weight on his back at the
University of Wyoming.
According to various sources, Itosu learned Naifanchi from Sokon Matsumura who had learned it from a Chinese man living in Tomari (a neighborhood of the Okinawan city of Naha). The form was so important to old style karate practitioners that Kensu Yabu (a student of Itosu) often told his students “Karate begins and ends with Naifanchi” and urged his students to practice the kata 10,000 times to make it their own. Before Itosu created the Pinan kata, the Naihanchi kata was traditionally introduced as the first kata learned in the Tomari-Te and Shuri-Te schools.
In a 1922 book entitled ‘Tote: Ryūkyū Kenpō’, Gichin Funakoshi attributed Naifanchi kata to the Shōrei-Ryu lineage. This is what I was also taught as a teenager, that this group of kata was originally a Shōrei-Ryu kata. Shōrei-Ryu, also known as Naha-Te, is often referred to as Goju-Ryu karate, the style of karate practiced by some of our students who moved here from Yuma, Arizona.
|Gichin Funakoshi, father of modern Okinawa |
Karate. (c)pencil sketch by Soke Hausel.
|Hanshi Finley, 7th dan, trains in kiba dachi at the University of Wyoming|
At the Arizona Hombu in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona, students train in these kata until they learn all of their bunkai (self-defense applications) before moving on to another kata. But during this training, they also learn many other martial arts including kobudo, jujutsu, various self-defense applications and samurai arts to keep the students from getting bored. Not all Arizona martial arts schools teach naifanchi kata but they are a very important part of the curriculum at Grandmaster Hausel's school in Gilbert, Mesa, Arizona, who taught martial arts for 3 decades at the University of Wyoming prior to moving to Gilbert, Arizona.
|Bunkai from Pinan Yodan and from Naihanchi Shodan practiced by Lexi and Janet at the Hombu Dojo|
|Gavin and John practice bunkai from Naihanchi Sandan kata.|
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It was in 1964, I walked into my first dojo (karate school): the Black Eagle Federation Dojo where Oyama's Karate was taught. We were initially told we were training in Goju-Ryu Karate, but later it was established we were students of Kyokushin Kai. It didn't matter to us, all we knew was we were learning karate. The dojo was small, musty and very primitive. The smell of stale sweat, blood and tears permeated the school. Not only did we learn to block as hard as we punched, we learned full contact karate and the only protective gear was an athletic cup: any part of the body was open to attack - groin, feet, legs, arms, chest and even the neck and face - we quickly learned to block effectively for self-preservation.
"Would you walk into a wilderness without a map? Then why would you consider karate without kata?" Soke Hausel
|Karate in the 60s. Photo of Senpai Dan Hausel (and geologist) performing |
'yoko tobi geri' at the University of Utah with Tim Smith (geophysicist).
It was the toughest training I ever went through - but I was only a teenager. Years later, I found basic training in the Army to be a breeze after karate. Later, when I was at the University of Wyoming, I discovered a martial arts association that was just as tough as Kyokushin Kai but more demanding. This association had the added benefit of learning a wide variety of martial arts - it was the best move I had ever made in martial arts - I applied for membership to Juko Kai International. At JKI, we trained in many martial arts, were taught extreme body hardening: the variety was very important to me as it made martial arts exciting and interesting.
"Kata can be liken to a GPS used to navigate through karate" – Soke Hausel
When I was at the Black Eagle Federation Dojo and later at the University of Utah Wado-Ryu Karate Club, we practiced kata: kata was shrouded in mystery. It seemed like we practiced kata for no reason other than to practice kata. There was no explanation to their purpose.
"The purpose of kata training is not to be bound by form but to transcend form and evolve."
|Sensei Paula Borea and students train in Pinan Nidan kata at the Arizona Hombu, Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona.|
It wasn't until much later, while a member of the University of New Mexico Karate Club, the University of Wyoming Shorin-Ryu Karate Club and at Juko Kai International, that I discovered kata contained everything one needed for self-defense, comprehension, training - it was like reaching enlightenment in Zen. Kata is a training method unique to traditional martial arts. It teaches power, balance, acceleration, mediation, self-defense and focus.
"If there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking & punching", Soke Shoshin Nagamine (1907-1997)
In our system of Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo, we have more than 70 kata. Each kata has its own bunkai (applications) and all students learn both the kata and the self-defense applications to progress. And both the kata and bunkai are not sacred. There are times of discovery that require one or the other, or both, to evolve.
"Kata is the origin of Karate. If there is no Kata, there is no Karate! Without kata, there is no martial art - instead it becomes nothing by primitive street fighting!" - Soke Shoshin Nagamine
"One must embrace thedo mu genproverb, there can be no end to learning and that karate begins and ends with the study of kata". Soke Shoshin Nagamine
|Training in kobudo kata at the Arizona Hombu, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa |
and learning bunkai (applications) for the kata below.
|Hanshi Andy Finley from the Casper, Wyoming dojo trains with Sensei|
Patrick Scofield from the Arizona Hombu.
|Sensei Bill Borea trains with Dr. Neal Adam, Dai-Shihan, at the Arizona Hombu|
Monday, October 1, 2012
|The path, known as the way or 'do' in Japanese. There are many paths: some|
lead to righteousness
Next time you practice - imagine having to defend yourself with the power and focus you currently use to practice kata: this is how you are teaching yourself to defend on the street. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you are punching with no power or snap, you are training to do the same for future self-defense scenarios. This does not mean that you have to do every single kata full speed and power – but it does mean that you need to consider practicing each kata at least three times in each session: twice relatively slow with extraordinary snap in your punches and blocks (in other words – focus) and the third time with acceleration of technique (but also keeping your stances and timing in check).
Several years ago, I traveled across the continent to attend an international black belt clinic hosted in Florida. I was told at the clinic, I would test for godan (5th dan) in front of the grandmaster (who was and still is my instructor). At the time, I only knew of a couple of legitimate living grandmasters - extraordinary martial artists. So I was concerned about testing in front of the Grandmaster – but decided I would do my best and if it wasn’t enough, at least I tried. When I was called to test, I was surprised I was not only testing in front of the grandmaster, but also testing in front of about 250 yudansha (black belts) ranging from 1st to 9th dan. It was make or break.
|Training in Naihanchi kata at the Arizona Hombu, Winter 2014|
As you learn more about kata, you will discover hidden meanings & techniques. And in some cases, you will discover new techniques that no one ever thought of. As an example, one of Arizona yudansha – Dan Lang was testing for shodan and part of his exam was demonstration of Wanshu (Empi) kata. In the kata, he discovered one of the techniques can be used as taiotoshi (body leg drop). Now it seems so obvious, but why had no one ever seen this before? This is typical of kata.
Kata include training exercises for dachi (stances), uke (blocks), geri (kicks), uchi (strikes), ma (distance & timing), omote (techniques that are understandable), ura (hidden techniques), miegakure (techniques purposely hidden from outsiders or just plain misleading), ki (internal energy), ibuki (breathing), shitai kori (body hardening), tien hsueh (pressure point strikes), nage waza (throws), hitotsuki (one-punch knockouts), okurasu goroshi (killing strikes) and other techniques. Kata is the heart & soul of karate. Without kata, karate cannot be considered karate-do. Even so, there are kyoru systems, (ancient Okinawan fighting schools), that do not have kata and are referred to as karate-jutsu rather than karate-do. Even so, these old schools have considerable focus on traditions and respect for rank.
Kata should be practiced keeping bunkai (applications) in mind while applying sufficient focus with every technique. Recently, I was reading a book entitled ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’. The author mentions tools used to memorize seemingly impossible numbers of words or ideas simply by installing interesting images at different points along a walk, and then just remembering the walk. The method is so efficient; legend suggests that one King of Cyprus could recite the names of every soldier in his army. Today, some people (mental athletics) employ this same method to remember the order of two or more shuffled decks of cards, whole books - things that most of us think are beyond us. And none of these people have photographic memories.
This made me think about kata. Kata can be liken to a walk – a walk that must be learned in detail. After this walk is learned, we apply self-defense applications along every turn of the walk. By doing so, every single feature of a kata, no matter how subtle, can be used to trigger self-defense applications that can be embedded into one’s long term memory. Personally, I use this method in teaching martial arts. Not only do I extract basics (kihon) from kata to use to warm up classes, I try to find different combinations of basics to keep students from getting bored. When I teach self-defense, I often go back to kata to extract techniques for teaching self-defense (bunkai). I do the same for kobudo, ibuki, shitai kori, etc.
"If there is no kata, there is no karate, just kicking & punching" - Shoshin Nagamine
KATA of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu
Kihon (Basic) Kata. Kihon kata of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu include two that are unique to Seiyo Shorin-Ryu and designed to teach hip rotation while striking (tsuki) and basic kicks (geri). The basic kata are termed Taikyoku (太極) and translate as ‘first cause’: the original taikyoku forms were apparently created by Gichin Funakoshi of Okinawa and we still teach two of his kata.
|Yan Ma of the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-|
Ryu Karate Club performs Pinan Godan kata.
In teaching kata, some styles use as many as six Taikyoku kata. We have four in Seiyo Shorin-Ryu.
- Taikyoku Shodan - Developed by Gichin Funakoshi to emphasize proper blocking, punching, stances, balance and respect.
- Taikyoku Nidan - Developed by Gichin Funakoshi.
- Taikyoku Sandan - Developed by Soke Hausel to emphasize gyaku tsuki (opposite hand punches), hip rotation & focus.
- Taikyoku Yondan - Developed by Soke Hausel to teach basic kicks.
Similar basic kata are found in other styles of karate and are named juni no kata, fukugata, etc.
|Soke Hausel teaches Pinan Nidan kata at the Arizona Hombu in Mesa.|
|Shihan Vance of Cheyenne, Seiyo Shorin-Ryu |
practices bunkai from Pinan Nidan with Sensei
Schroeder of the Utah Shorin-Kai
|Sketch of Chuck Norris of Tang|
soo do by Soke Hausel.
- Pinan Shodan
- Pinan Nidan
- Pinan Sandan
- Pinan Yodan
- Pinan Godan
Naifanchi Kata. Naifanchi (ナイファンチ) (Okinawan dialect) is pronounced Naihanchi in Japanese and renamed Tekki (鉄騎) by Gichin Funakoshi when he introduced these on mainland Japan. These are three kata referred to as 'horse-riding' forms that are performed in a linear pattern focusing on kiba dachi (horse riding stance). The kata is designed to teach hand and leg strength.
|Arizona grandmaster Soke Hausel demonstrates application |
from Naifanchi Shodan Kata at clinic at the
University of Wyoming assisted by Sensei Kyle Linton
In Seiyo Shorin-Ryu we break down each individual technique into ippon kumite (one step sparring). Each bunkai is followed with and additional strike or throw that is not choreographed.
- Naifanchi Shodan
- Naifanchi Nidan
- Naifanchi Sandan
- Passai Dai
- Passai Sho
Jion Kata Group. This series of kata, known as Jutte (also spelled as Jitte), Jion, and Giin (also spelled Jiin) provide many interesting techniques. Jutte (十手) translates as 10 hands, is believed to have been named because practitioners who master this kata, are be able to defend against five adversaries (with 10 hands). Others have suggested that the translation actually refers to the Japanese weapon known as the jutte as some of the hand positions suggest a jutte. This kata is also practiced in the Korean styles and called ‘Sip Soo’. Some techniques in the kata can be used to take a bo from an adversary. Jion (慈恩) translates as ‘mercy’ but also refers to Jion-Ji, a Buddhist temple. Jiin (慈陰) translates as ‘inverted mercy’.
|Looking to the Sky in Kusanku Dai|
I personally know of one ‘egg-head’ professor, after being promoted to shodan in Shotokan, offered to teach a class in ‘beginning karate’ at a University of Wyoming where he was also teaching engineering. For some unknown reason, he decided to teach his karate students, Kusanku Dai, one of the more complex kata. You can imagine the frustrations of these students who had never performed a karate punch or kick prior to his class. By the third class, the room was filled with one person – the professor.
- Kusanku Dai
- Kusanku Sho
Group 7 This group of kata includes Niseishi (二十四歩) (introduced as Nijushiho to Japan by Gichin Funakoshi), Unsu (雲手) and Chinte (珍手). Niseishi kata (Okinawan dialect) is practiced by Tang Soo Do and named E Sip Sa Bo. The kata has 24 steps which is where it receives its name, but its origin is unknown.
Unsu (Unshu) translates as ‘cloud hands’ because of the motion of hands in the opening move of the kata. They are suggestive of clouds gathering for a thunderstorm.
Chinte translates as ‘rare hand’, ‘unusual hand’ or ‘Chinese hand’. It has unusual close quarter strikes along with taitoshi nage waza (body leg drop throw). The strict Japanese schools, like Shotokan, include a strange set of backward hops at the end of the kata that do not occur in other styles.
- Niseishi (24 steps).
- Unsu (Cloud hands)
- Chinte (Chinese hand form)
Group 8 Kata. Wanshu, also known as Anshu and Ansu (Empi in Japanese) was taught to Okinawan martial artists by a Chinese delegate named Wang Ji in 1683 A.D. Wang Ji is said to have been a martial artist of Fujian White Crane Kung Fu. The name of the kata may reflect this Chinese delegate’s name, and may translate as ‘dragon boy dumping form’ or as ‘strong arm form’. There are two principal versions of this kata, one from Matsumora Shorin-Ryu and the other from Itosu. When Gichin Funakoshi introduced this kata to Japan, he renamed it Empi (also Enpi) kata. Empi translates as ‘flying swallow’. Members of Tang Soo Do call this Wangshu or Yun Bi.
|Kata training at the University of Wyoming|
Seisan translates as ‘13 steps’ or ‘13 killing positions’ in Okinawan. In Japanese, this kata is known as Hangetsu and translates as 'Half-Moon Form' where it derives its name from the common use of hachi-dachi stance throughout the kata. This kata provides a feeling of a moving arch or half-moon due to common pigeon toe stances designed to protect the groin area from kicks. The form is originally from the Shorei-Ryu school. It is called Seishan in Korean.
- Wanshu (Empi) kata. "Flying Swallow".
- Sochin kata. Based on the powerful 'Rooted stance".
- Seisan (Hangetsu). 'Half-Moon Form'.
|Gojushiho (Useishi) Kata training at Arizona Hombu in Mesa.|
- Wankan Dai.
- Okan (Wankan Sho)
- Gojushiho (Useishi)
Hakutsuru Kata. Kata of the White Crane include Rohai. Rohai translates as ‘vision of the white crane’ or ‘vision of the heron’. The original Rohai kata is thought to have been created by Kosaku Matsumora and later broken down into three kata by Itosu. Gichin Funakoshi took these three kata and again combined them into one that he named Meikyo (明鏡) (translates as ‘polishing a mirror’). In the Seiyo Shorin-Ryu style, members not only learn Meikyo, but also a separate kata we retain the name of Rohai.
|White crane wings from Hakutsuru Dai Kata Photo of Soke Hausel of the Mesa, Arizona Hombu teaching White Crane Shorin-Ryu Karate Clinic at the University of Wyoming in 2010.|
Hakutsuru Dai and Sho kata are considered as advanced kata and have many unusual techniques that mimic movement of a cranes. For example, there are crane wing blocks (see above photo), and many pressure point strikes. It is thought these forms were originally developed by a Chinese female kung fu practitioner who created the kata while observing movements of white crane. The white crane kata have several deceptively powerful strikes and blocks.
There are many other empty hand karate kata taught by other martial arts styles (such as Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu) that include Annan, Annanko, Happiken, Jyuroku, Kururunfa, Matsukaze, Nipaipo, Ryuko, Saifa, Sanchin, Seiryu, Seiunchin, Shisochin, Suparinpei, Tensho, etc.