Saturday, 22 February 2014

Creating Naihanchi

I would like to propose for those interested a thought experiment using the kata Naihanchi, any kata will do but Naihanchi is a great form to use as it is simple with some unique peculiarities. Starting with the generally accepted assumption that it is for fighting (or self protection) try to imagine how the kata was created? what aspects of fighting would go into formulating the stance, posture, fist, techniques and footwork? what is the value in practise of this kata for its assumed function 'the fight'?

To put it simply, starting here;

How do we arrive here?

The fight clip is one example of many hundreds available on youtube as is the Naihanchi clip both chosen for convenience. The purpose of the experiment is to see if Naihanchi is a logical form to arrive at from a fighting function and to attempt to gain insight into the process that went into its creation. The experiment is also if necessary to raise doubt around the assumption that fighting gave birth to this and other kata. Creating applications for movements in the form that look like bits of a street fight does not stand as evidence that street fighting was the original function. If the suggested source material for a kata does not show a logical progression to the form then alternatives need to be explored. 

Here are some alternative criteria to consider other than 'fighting' when looking into a katas original purpose,

Possible context - Civil arrest i.e control and restraining techniques, disarming techniques and arresting methods, Military skills i.e weaponry use and close quarter skills, Combative sports i.e wrestling, boxing.

Environment - different types of terrain would require different types of footwork and skills to maintain balance, posture and for effective delivery.

The number of techniques and order of techniques, taking into account right or left hand/side bias. Importance of sequence.

Postures, stances, types of steps and footwork, hand positions/shapes.

As well as observing what is in the form it should be questioned what is also absent from the form. For example if Naihanchi was created out of fighting experiences why is so much not included and what was the process that went into deciding to leave out so much? A few examples;

1. Why the head is not protected?
2. Why the upright posture which is maintained throughout the form, where is the bobbing and weaving and dynamic structure for a close quarter exchange and standing clinch?
3. Why the parallel stance?
4. Why the crossed step is the only step and why stepping is only performed sideways?

As shown above there are many criteria to be considered and questions answered if the explanation of a kata is to be accepted. Function dictates form, and the progression of function to form should be demonstrable. If Naihanchi (or any other kata) is taught and believed to be self protection/fighting then it should be possible to demonstrate the process that went into developing the kata and the reason for creating it as well as explaining everything from the context, sequence and structure to stances, techniques and more!

Please contact us with any comments, questions or most importantly for training please email Tom Maxwell at, thanks for reading!!!

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