Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Kata We Practice - Naihanchi Shodan

At Tallahassee Karate Club we practice a number of empty-hand kata (forms). Kata are sets of pre-arranged self defense techniques combined with movement in a pattern. Kata have been practiced in Okinawa for hundreds of years as a method to transfer karate knowledge from teacher to student.

The first kata that a student learns in our Dojo is either Fukyugata Ichi or Naihanchi Shodan. If a student is brand new and has never done any kind of martial arts before, they start with Fukyugata Ichi. If they have any experience, Naihanchi is first.

Naihanchi Shodan is the first of 3 Naihanchi kata. The Naihanchi kata are very different than the other kata as their pattern is to move back and forth along a line instead of moving in multiple directions.

Naihanchi is a deep kata that teaches the student most of the principles they will need to be able to apply in all their other kata. By tucking the koshi and feeling the connection between the waist and the lats, the student can begin to learn to make power without relying on the turning motion inherent in other kata.

The Naihanchi stance, which looks like riding on a horse, builds a strong base and teaches the student to grip the floor with their feet. It is excellent for physical conditioning as it builds strong leg muscles.

We often practice Naihanchi very slowly, combined with circular hip and arm motions. To the outsider, this may look a little like Tai Chi and not karate. Practicing this way helps the student to analyze each movement in a critical way to understand where the power points occur, how to make a connection between the bottom half and the top half of their body, and how to improve their overall body dynamic. Then, when it is performed fast, with full power, the student can retain this wisdom in their performance and make power in all the right places.

Besides being an excellent vehicle for using the whole body to make power, Naihanchi is an intensely practical kata. There are so many obvious self defense techniques in Naihanchi that a practitioner could train in this kata exclusively for their entire karate life and never get bored. Straight on block and strike techniques are easy to find through a little analysis and grappling techniques appear easily with a little closer examination.

I hope you will find as much enjoyment in this kata as I have over the years!

Click to watch a video of Shinzato Sensei doing Naihanchi Shodan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,
Was just looking through your blog. Thanks for taking the time. It was really nice to see how things have progressed over the last year and a half from the building of the Aikido dojo to your "thinking of okinawa" and the latest post on naihanchi. I'm glad you are doing it.

Take care,
Chris Walton