There are 17 ‘waza’ or techniques in the first two Heian Kata, which as you will know were reversed in order by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei. Asai Sensei, Nakamura Sensei, Osaka Sensei et al., have explained to me about ‘the switch of order’; and accordingly, I thought I’d share a little bit about this today. First note below, there are eight ukewaza (receptions); four tsukiwaza (thrusts); three uchiwaza (strikes); and two keriwaza (kicks). I will leave stances and footwork for today to make things clear. But firstly though, look at these WAZA… The brackets are used in the case of double techniques; thus, separating the categories in order to accurate each technique.
2. Jodan age-uke
3. Chudan shuto-uke
4. Haiwan sokumen jodan yoko-uke (doji ni zenwan hitai mae yoko-kamae)
5. Jodan sotonagashi-uke (doji ni kentsui sokumen sotomawashi-uchi)
6. Sasho chudan osae-uke (doji ni chudan tateshihon-nukite)
7. Chudan uchi-uke: Gyaku-hanmi
8. Chudan morote-zuki
1. Chudan oi-zuki
2. Sokumen chudan-zuki
3. (Sasho chudan osae-uke doji ni) Chudan tateshihon-nukite
4. Chudan gyaku-zuki
1. Kentsui tatemawashi-uchi
2. (Jodan sotonagashi-uke doji ni) Kentsui sokumen sotomawashi-uchi
3. Uraken jodan yokomawashi-uchi (doji ni sokuto chudan yoko-geri keage)
1. (Uraken jodan yokomawashi-uchi doji ni) Sokuto chudan yoko-geri keage
2. Chudan mae-geri keage
Of course, I could have written further and completed the whole Heian series and perhaps Tekki Shodan also (to analyze all six ‘standard’ SHITEI-GATA; nonetheless, that would be less effective in explaining you what I am trying to clarify.
My point is, these 17 initial waza are what Itosu Sensei really stressed at the start of training for young people. So what? Based on this, you can see that these kihonwaza are very easy to apply and are highly effective in self-defense.
This naturally brings me to Itosu Sensei’s student, the founder of what is now known as 松濤館流 (SHOTOKAN-RYU): Funakoshi Gichin Sensei. Yes, he changed the order Pinan Shodan and Nidan, and significantly modified these kata technically. But still, for the most part, they remained same formal exercises… But…
HE MADE THESE KIHON-GATA FAR BETTER! MORE ECONOMICAL FOR APPLICATION IN SELF-DEFENSE than what his teacher taught! Yes, he improved his teacher’s karate. Not only improved, but the made the Shotokan ‘Heian Kata’ superior.
Some may contest that his modifications were to ‘sportify’; however, this assumption is false as Funakoshi Sensei was actually against ‘competition karate’. For him, on a technical level, karate was a martial art for self-defense. Moreover, only to be used in the most dangerous circumstances. This theme can be found throughout his publications. Accordingly, the modifications to the kata were improvements for increased effectiveness in this regard.
With this in mind, Funakoshi Sensei also changed the kata to increase difficulty; thus, also increase effectiveness in application when one utilizes more natural movements. This is why Shotokan kata is particularly disadvantaged in competition nowadays. The stances are more for training the body, balance, and so forth; thus, great for those focused on kata for fighting—but not advantageous for those wanting to ‘perform precisely’ in competition. This is why Shotokan Kata, when done properly looks like a fight. Examples, Osaka Sensei’s Sochin (actually, let’s face it, almost every kata); Kagawa Masao Sensei’s Bassai-Dai, Bassai Sho and Sochin; Yahara Sensei’s Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Sho, Unsu; Asai Sensei’s Nijushiho, Tekki Nidan, Kakuyoku, Hushu, etcetera.
And while I never feel I can be as good as the aforementioned senpai (seniors) I remain inspired by their skill: and this helps to drive me forward in my own training.
I haven’t detailed why I didn’t explain the waza in the first two Heian kata for ‘real fight application’. However, I don’t need to for anyone who is an experienced street fighter, or full contact fighter. They understand. Low kick, high tsuki/uchi, choke and break.
Furthermore, within these limited waza there are a vast array of standing grappling waza and, yes, newaza (ground fighting techniques) encrypted as well.
In sum, when Shotokan is practiced properly, as BUJUTSU, it is second to none. Unfortunately, the overemphasis of winning competitions has resulted the dilution of effectiveness: especially in regard to development of destructive fundamental techniques.
WITH CORRECT TRAINING THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT. 押忍！© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).