The 前腕胸前水平構 (‘Zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’) is included in six of the standard Shotokan kata for a total of nine times. Half of these kata are the three Tekki, one of which is a shitei-gata (Tekki Shodan); one is a sentei-gata (Jion); and two are classified as advanced jiyu-gata: Gojushiho Dai and Gojushiho Sho. Here is a summary…
Tekki Shodan 9, 23
Tekki Nidan 16, 24
Tekki Sandan 16, 36
Gojushiho Dai 1
Gojushiho Sho 1
A key point of this Kamae is that it never occurs independently; moreover, it is always preceded by an ukewaza (and/or the Kamae itself becomes the reception) coupled with jodan ura-uchi. In the case of the two Gojushiho ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’, just said before is the uke and, instead of ura-uchi, another ‘back fist attack is employed: uraken tatemawashi uchi.
In the three Tekki, of course kiba-dachi is used indicating a horizontal movement or positioning in relation to an attacker; moreover, the lead in action is always haiwan jodan nagashi-uke doji ni gedan-uke.
Jion has the most unique ‘lead in’ to this kamae and ura-uchi: from ‘ryoken jodan juji-uke’ apply saken chudan tsuki-uke doji ni uken migi kata ue kamae’. It is worth noting here that like Gojushiho Dai and Sho, ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’ is completed in zenkutsu-dachi.
So 50% of this Kamae is in kiba-dachi, and to reiterate, in application this is ‘horizontal to the opponent’ or ‘shifting that way (in relation to them and/or their movement)’ and 50% is in zenkutsu-dachi (which in Jion is stationary—a flinch reaction based on the preceding shikakewaza—and, in both Shotokan versions of Gojushiho, it is proactive irimi-waza).
There are several classical—simple and highly effective—applications of this Kamae (and its surrounding movements). What’s more, they are non-specific therefore not dependent on a certain action and/or position of the opponent, require minimal fine motor skills, and are strong irrespective of physical strength or lack of it. In the case of employing zenkutsu-dachi a flinch/reflex model is employed by a generic cover up flowing into an impact. functions just as well against a clinch or frontal grappling, a linear and circular type punch; moreover, the defense requires minimal accuracy as it is a cover. The kiba-dachi variation in involves manipulating the opponent (or, if much smaller) using the same action to manipulate oneself in relation to them, followed by applying hadaka-jime (the rear naked choke).
Without deviating from ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’ we can see that this position is ‘the finisher’ in Tekk Nidan; whereas, in say Tekki Shodan, a neck wrench coupled with an ashi-barai helps ‘complete the job’.
Of course there are a lot more impressive applications to these, but these ones work, and work extremely well.
The last thing I’d like to highlight is that we can really tell, from the example of today’s subject of interest—the ‘zenwan mune mae suihei kamae’, that the original purpose of karate was, indeed, civilian self-defense. Furthermore, that our kata is full of grappling techniques mixed with percussive blows, which are highly effective in this context. Accordingly, without the understanding and practice of such waza and their proper applications, karate is an incomplete art.
At the other end of the spectrum is ‘applications for the sake of creativity’. While these such applications 'demonstrate the creativity of an instructor and cerebral karate', they are meaningless unless they are truly applicable; that is, utterly reliable and highly effective.
To conclude, it goes without saying that “…ANY WAZA or KAMAE (or movement/transition for that matter) found numerous times within the kata, is/are important”. Especially in regards to various positions/completions labeled as ‘Kamae’. Much like 'ukewaza are attacks' and 'jumps are for throws', Kamae are active positions and 'conclusions' (which are often used to control the opponent in various ways or outright conclude the fight).
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).