Monday, 17 January 2022

The 40 ‘standard kihonwaza’ tested in the mainstream Shotokan syllabus


Today I will address ‘the big 40 kihonwaza’—which is actually 80 (as they examined on both sides)—in standard/mainstream Shotokan. It’s important to note that these waza are not only attacks and defenses but, also include stances and footwork.


Moreover, they are the kihon which optimally underpins all of the other waza in karate; that is, while this is a limited number of various techniques, they train (and unveil) one’s skill in all of the others. It is said that this 'system' was initially developed by Gichin Funakoshi Sensei and Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) Sensei. However, there is no question that it was later (painstakingly, scientifically and brilliantly) refined by Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei.


While other experts have added their own aspects, the kihon has remained relatively the same: in regards to Shotokan testing. This is important, as Isaka Akihito Sensei said to me to me in 2006: "... Shotokan Ryu is second to none, insofar as kihon is concerned". Furthermore, he dispelled the mixing of karate styles, which I totally agree with. In this regard, something that Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei also said to me in recent years perfectly resonated with this. Nonetheless, for now, I'll leave that there.


Obviously, within Shotokan, there have been (and are) some dramatic variations, which "...elucidates the training and research of various senior instructors". In particular, the excellence of Kanazawa Hirokazu Sensei and Yahara Mikio Sensei come to mind. However, today I will focus on the aforementioned standard 40 waza and avoid crossing over in wonderful innovations (from this exquisite base).



 Before proceeding please note — (a) Kamae such as the freestyle position of the hands, tateshuto chudan-gamae and ryoken sokumen gedan-gamae; also (b) Actions within movements i.e. – transitioning from shomen to hanmi; and (c) Other such aspects within the execution of techniques are included within the respective 40 ‘waza’.


突き技 (Tsukiwaza: Thrust techniques)

1. Chudan choku-zuki, 2. Jodan choku-zuki, 3. Chudan oi-zuki (Chudan jun-zuki), 4. Jodan oi-zuki (Jodan jun-zuki), 5. Chudan gyaku-zuki, 6. Jodan gyaku-zuki, 7. Chudan maete-zuki, 8. Jodan kizami-zuki and 9. Nukite (Chudan tateshihon-nukite).


受け技 (Ukewaza: Reception techniques)

1. Jodan age-uke, 2. Chudan soto-uke, 3. Chudan uchi-uke, 4. Gedan-barai and 5. Chudan shuto-uke.


蹴り技 (Keriwaza: Kicking techniques)

1. Chudan mae-geri keage, 2. Jodan mae-geri keage, 3. Chudan yoko-geri keage, 4. Chudan yoko-geri kekomi, 5. Chudan mawashi-geri, 6. Jodan mawashi-geri, 7. Chudan ushiro-geri kekomi and 8. Chudan kizami mae-geri.


打ち技 (Uchiwaza: Striking techniques)

1. Chudan yoko enpi-uchi, 2. Jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi, 3. Jodan shuto sotomawashi-uchi and 4. Jodan shuto uchimawashi-uchi.


立ち方 (Tachikata: Stances)

1 . Hachiji-dachi, 2. Musubi-dachi, 3. Heisoku-dachi, 4. Zenkutsu-dachi, 5. Kokutsu-dachi, 6. Kiba-dachi, 7. Kosa-dachi and 8. Jiyu-dachi.


運足 (Unsoku: Leg movements/Footwork)

1. Aiyumibashi (Fumidashi), 2. Kosa-aiyumibashi, 3. Yori-ashi (Yose-ashi), 4. Okuribashi, 5. Tsugi-ashi and 6. Tenshin.



 As already stated above, these waza are representative of all the others; for example, age-uke = tate-enpi, mae-geri = mae hiza-geri etcetera. Nonetheless, that’s not all. Think back to Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s point that “… by understanding one waza, one can understand many others”; hence, this limited number of kihon sufficiently covers all foundational basic skills. Consequently, this is why they were used as magnifying glasses, and since have been well proven over decades: to establish a ‘near complete understanding’ of each individuals overall karatewaza prowess. But what do I mean by ‘near complete understanding’?



 Form-wise, and for 'performance explosiveness', if we look at all of the mainstream organizations—they are great. That being said, the lack impact testing of kihonwaza (in the syllabus/exam kihon) IS A SERIOUS FLAW. This is something I changed years ago and also incorporated joint locks, chokes, takedowns and throws into the grading syllabus—but preceded and concluded by percussive blows.


In this way, karate is not limited to merely being effective within the dojo and karate competitions. This is where we pragmatically draw in the knowledge we have, from within the various kata.


Moreover, this makes Shotokan “…a complete art of self defense for people who seek the ability to protect themselves”.



 The standard kihon is utterly imperative, but effective impact capacity cannot be disregarded in the assessment of percussive blows. Furthermore, the tegumi aspects of karate must be included within the training and assessment of kihon. Thankfully, all of the Budo/Bujutsu Shotokan organizations and dojo follow this way now. We are not the mainstream, but together, we are keeping authentic Shotokan Karate alive.


With these points firmly in mind, and put into practice, Shotokan is literally second to none.


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

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