Wednesday 17 June 2015

Shizentai: Hachiji-dachi

Speed work: Sanbon renzuki in shizentai - hachiji dachi.
This article will briefly outline why I believe that the Shizentai (natural position), in particular Hachiji dachi, is the most important stance in Karate-Do.
Please excuse the `name dropping’ but I’d like begin by quoting the founder of the Japan Karate Association, Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, whom emphasized that “…the various forms of shizentai are for the advanced practitioner”; moreover, that “natural tachikata (stances) are most basic and most advanced positions in karate-do”. There are two key aspects underpinning this reasoning: firstly, that self-defence will inevitably be from a natural position; and secondly, ‘generating maximum power from a natural position is more difficult’—as it is more internalised (than, say, from a zenkutsu-dachi, kiba-dachi, fudo-dachi and the like).
Hachiji-dachi from the rear (please note my right foot before looking at the next two photos)
Based on this rationale, “…irrespective of what tachikata you make or utilize, you must replicate what is done and achieved in hachiji-dachi (and, indeed, other forms of shizentai i.e. - heisoku-dachi, heiko-dachi, renoji-dachi, etcetera)”. In particular, this relates to maintaining one’s shisei (posture); and awareness and smooth/level application koshi no kaiten (rotation of the hips), tai no shinshuku (contraction and expansion/stretching of the body)—again, this strongly relates back to sustaining one’s shisei; and the use of the seika tanden. Needless to say, this foundational point can be applied to all other aspects of kihon; furthermore, kata and kumite. In other words, the relationship between the actions in the most natural position(s) and the unique tachikata, featured in karatedo, highlights a universal concept
Note the right foot from the previous photo.
in budo (martial arts).
To expand on this, let’s consider the most common ‘kamae’ in Shotokan style karate-do (which un-coincidentally is performed in hachiji dachi). It is the `ryoken daitai mae’ position. Ryoken daitai mae is performed before and after completing kihon, kata, and before and after the various forms of kumite. However, this kamae is not simply performed in hachiji-dachi; rather, it moves from musubi-dachi through heiko-dachi (interestingly, passing through its Okinawan roots) and finally into hachiji-dachi “…with the fists moving into their final position in perfect coordination with the feet pivoting outward”. Within this rudimentary action includes the critical aspects of `te-ashi onaji’ (same timing of the hands and feet) and `kakato-chushin’ (heel centreline), both of which the traditional karateka will need to address throughout their karate journey.
Before I wrap up I’d like to also reference hachiji-dachi in relation to the initial movements of the Heian kata and Kanku-Dai (where the karateka must move leftward for the first ukewaza). Consequently, this provides a fundamental means for fostering kakato-chushin. This is because in order to form one’s tachikata correctly the right foot of hachiji-dachi needs to be turned to the correct angle to form a proper stance. The most blatantly obvious example is when one makes kokutsu-dachi (i.e. – movement one of Heian Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan; and movement three of Kanku Dai), as the rear foot ideally points 90 degrees; hence, the front and rear leg form a perfect right angle. Needless to say, if the right foot remains in the hachiji-dachi position, it will be incorrectly pointing rearward, and “…a weak/unstable and distorted, `shiko-dachi-like’ stance will be formed”. So again, we can see how hachiji-dachi teaches the karateka to move their feet correctly.
Movement 1 of Heian Shodan requires a larger action.
Lastly, I can’t help but mention that Hachiji-dachi gets its name from the positions of the feet, which perfectly form the kanji for `hachi’ (eight). Of course, the number eight is very important in Budo as, amongst other things, it relates to happo (the `eight directions’) used in combat. While this is symbolic, it still has meaning, especially when we think back to the aspects of self-defence mentioned earlier; that is, “…in response to an assault, moving in any of the eight directions in a natural state”.
In sum, hachiji-dachi is extremely important as it tells us a lot about our positioning, coordination and centring, amongst other things. Likewise, ryoken daitai mae expands on this by forcing us to address basic timing/hand-foot coordination. Next time you hear the command `yoi’ in your practice; are training choku-zuki; or doing anything else in hachiji-dachi, just remember that you are ‘simultaneously training both the beginning and end of Karate-Do technique.
Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

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