Sunday, 28 February 2016

HANGETSU KATA

Today I thought I’d offer some advice on Hangetsu kata. To initiate this process, I will firstly (1) give brief overview of Hangetsu; secondly (2), I’ll list the techniques in the kata—a technical overview  (following the official command count); and thirdly (3), I will provide some selective tips, via bunkai (analysis)—surface level points; namely, common errors/aspects of caution. I will not cover oyo-jutsu (applications) today but, instead, focus on the correct form of Hangetsu.

(1) A brief overview of Hangetsu: The original name of Hangetsu was Seishan. Funakoshi Gichin Sensei renamed the kata, like many others, to provide a name with more relevance in mainland Japan. 半月 (Hangetsu) literally translates as ‘Half moon’, which Funakoshi Sensei chose based on all of the crescent like steps and actions in the kata; furthermore, the half moon shape formed by the feet ‘inside of the stance’. 

Hangetsu consists of 41 movements with the kiai applied on the 11th and 40th techniques. It takes approximately one-and-a-half minutes to complete. Elucidating its technical significance Hangetsu is amongst the 15 kata that Funakoshi Sensei specifically selected for his system. It is worth noting that some instructors such Oshima Tsutomu Sensei, who was a direct student of Master Funakoshi, insist in only practicing these 15 formal exercises.  

A key point of Hangetsu is the coordination of waza (technique), unsoku/ashi-hakobi (footwork/leg movements)— te-ashi onaji—and kokyu (breathing). It is important to note here, insofar as breathing is concerned, that Hangetsu does not encompass ‘ibuki’ style breathing that is audible; like, for instance, Sanchin kata. Nevertheless, some instructors have incorporated this element into Shotokan-ryu (often via Hangetsu). That being said, it is claimed that “...the original version  of this kata, in Okinawa, did not feature audible breathing” but, rather, the breathing was done in a stealthy manner. This method is what is maintained by the JKA.

Lastly, like the aforementioned ‘three coordinated aspects’, “…the sequences in this kata come in threes”; which, application-wise, means ‘both sides (left and right) and an alternative’; however, today (as I've mentioned in the opening of this article)—rather than addressing applications—I will primarily focus on correct technique. OK, so let's move on to the technical overview…
 
Note the positions of the legs and feet.
(2) A technical overview of Hangetsu:

Rei (Musubi-dachi).
Yoi, Ryo ken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).

1. Hidari chudan uchi-uke (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
2. Migi chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
3. Migi chudan uchi-uke (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
4. Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
5. Hidari chudan uchi-uke (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
6. Migi chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
7. Ryo jishi ippon ken ryo chichi shita (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
8. Ryo jishi ippon ken chudan morote-zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
9. Kaisho yama gamae (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
10. Ryo te ryo gawa gedan kakiwake (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
11. Migi chudan uchi-uke doji ni hidari gedan-uke (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi). – KIAI.
12. Usho tsukami (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
13. Hidari chudan uchi-uke doji ni migi gedan-uke (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
14. Sasho tsukami (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
15. Migi chudan uchi-uke doji ni hidari gedan-uke (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi). 
16. Usho tsukami (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
17. Migi chudan uchi-uke (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
18. Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
19. Uken chudan-zuki/Saken hidari koshi (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
20. Hidari chudan uchi-uke (Yori ashi—Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
21. Migi chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
22. Saken chudan-zuki/Uken hidari koshi (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
23. Migi chudan uchi-uke (Yori ashi—Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
24. Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
25. Uken chudan-zuki/Saken hidari koshi (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
26. Hidari uraken tatemawashi-uchi/Uken migi koshi (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
27. Migi ashi mae kosa.
28. Hidari chudan mae-geri keage/Saken migi kata.
29. Saken gedan zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
30. Migi chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
31. Hidari jodan age-uke (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
32. Migi uraken tatemawashi-uchi/Saken hidari koshi (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
33. Hidari ashi mae kosa.
34. Migi chudan mae-geri keage/Uken hidari kata.
35. Uken gedan zuki (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
36. Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
37. Migi jodan age-uke (Migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi).
38. Hidari uraken tatemawashi-uchi/Uken migi koshi (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
39. Migi chudan mikazuki-geri/Sasho-ate (Hidari ashi-dachi).
40. Uken chudan-zuki/Saken hidari koshi (Hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi). – KIAI.
41. Ryo teisho gedan awase-uke (Yori ashi—Hidari ashi mae neko-ashi dachi).

Naore, Ryo ken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).
Rei (Musubi-dachi).
Zenkutsu-dachi is not featured in Hangetsu Kata.


(3) Selective bunkai (analysis/break down) of Hangetsu:

I have selectively outlined eight errors that are commonplace in the execution of Hangetsu kata. Whilst these are surface level points, they all relate directly to its oyo (applications) and overall technical efficiency. Needless to say, "you need the correct form to optimally apply the movements and sequences of the kata".

(1.0) The first major error I'd like to point out is the Hangetsu-dachi itself. Some teach/train this as a ‘long Sanchin-dachi’: this is wrong. Hangetsu-dachi should be thought as being half-way between Sanchin and Zenkutsu-dachi; furthermore, it is slightly narrower than Zenkutsu-dachi and the rear foot should foot/toes should attempt to point directly forward. The inversion of the legs should be natural, summoning centralized power, whilst the connection of the sokuto (outside edges, literally ‘sword feet’) must be consciously and somewhat unnaturally connected to the ground/floor.

(1.1) The second major error is the incorrect use of the legs; that is, when the hips rotate the legs should remain motionless. This characteristic is most obviously shared with Sochin. Consequently, this means that power is generated from the centre, in isolation, as opposed to primarily being initiated from the drive of the rear leg. (Please note however: - kakato chushin is still applied). In this way, the tanden is more utilized when transitioning between hanmi and shomen.

(1.2) The third mistake that stands out is superfluous actions, especially on slow movements i.e. – movements 1-10. The tendency is for people to ‘add fluff’ to their kata, which is the norm in `sports karate kata'. In actuality, simple movement is not only the most effective, but by far the most difficult to do. Moving directly and without waste is an imperative skill for those seeking the true way of karate. In this regard, rather than give specific examples, I suggest to simply check one’s own actions with brutal honesty—then do some pruning.

(1.3) My forth point might sound a little pedantic, nonetheless, I can’t resist making it. Be careful on movements seven and eight: make sure that ‘ryo jishi ippon ken ryo chichi shita’ and ‘ryo jishi ippon ken chudan morote-zuki’ have solidly formed ippon-ken; that is, the index finger is pressed from the side by the thumb. In this way, the index fingers are clamped between the thumb and middle finger to make strong fist. 
Migi chudan mikazuki-geri/Sasho-ate (Hidari ashi-dachi).


(1.4) The fifth issue I'd like to address is movement 11, where the first kiai is applied: ‘chudan uchi-uke doji ni gedan-uke’. This technique brings to light a number of technicalities, however, the combination of the following two aspects are often incorrect. Firstly, the pivot point is the axis of the front leg—not the seichusen—and the head remains set. Secondly, the winding up/chambering of the uke is tight and slightly precedes the movement; thereby, becoming  more ‘reactive’ as opposed to being passive to stimuli. It is worth mentioning here that this principle is imperative and fundamental in all Karate-do techniques; hence, this tip.

(1.5) Point six is another seemingly simple aspect, yet, often more cerebrally understood than physically applied. Keep the wakibara (the armpits) tight. In particular, return to point ‘1.2’ above and focus on your centre… Hangetsu-dachi and Hangetsu kata, as a whole, should take you on a journey to your seika tanden: usho tsukami and sasho tsukami (movements 12, 14 and 16 respectively) are particularly useful for evaluating (and then ‘further refining’) these foundational aspects.

(1.6) My Seventh correction is a pet hate. It is ‘the alternative’ of three actions, as eluded to above. Please note when making movement 17 (Migi chudan uchi-uke), when transitioning to the right side into migi ashi mae hangetsu-dachi, do not utilize yori-ashi but, rather, ‘direct step’. I guess I could go on and on, so here is one final point to wrap up…

(1.7) The final advice I'd like to give is about the gedan-barai following chudan mae-geri keage with the simultaneous fist raise to the shoulder (movements 28/29, and 34/35). These are not gedan-ukewaza but, rather gedan-zuki. Lastly, the final punch (movement 41) is uken chudan-zuki in hidari ashi mae hangetsu-dachi. It is not gedan-zuki in zenkutsu-dachi. It's important to note that zenkutsu-dachi does not feature in Hangetsu.

Ryo teisho gedan awase-uke (Yori ashi—Hidari ashi mae neko-ashi dachi).

To conclude, while I have not covered the oyo (applications), nor aspects such as waza no  kankyu (rhythm of techniques) and chikara no kyojaku (use of power in techniques), this article has generically outlined Hangetsu. Sometimes I believe it is better just to focus on 'form and corrections/refinements', other times 'applications in isolation', and yet other times 'form and applications together'. Aspects such as tempo/rhythm, use of power, and so forth, should also be the main focus in training sessions periodically. Doing this gives one differing vantage points for understanding and utilizing kata. I hope that this article has offered you something of use. Best wishes from Oita-Shi, Japan. - André.

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2016).

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