|Said by seniors to be Nakayama Sensei's closest follower, Abe Keigo Sensei.|
Introduction and commentary:
With 23 movements 平安五段 (Heian Godan) completes this series of kata and, like Yondan, is a summary of the fundamentals found in Nidan, Shodan and Sandan; moreover, an extension of these to deal with alternative situations in unarmed self-defense. Accordingly, it features flinch responses/striking; responses upon connection to the opponent(s); gatame-waza (locks); and nagewaza (throwing techniques).
An important lesson from this formal exercise is to avoid blurring techniques; that is, when renzokuwaza are used (and there are many in this short kata) you make each action fully with kime.
Movements one to six feature an application principle on both sides and can be used according to the position of the opponent. The wind up and weight drop with uchi-uke dropping into kokutsu-dachi must be maximized. Likewise the snatch and tsuki followed by tai-sabaki and zenwan mizu nagare no gamae, which functions as an ude-gatame (arm lock).
Once again, remnants of yondan are found in movement seven by the use of an advancing kokutsu-dachi and the execution of chudan morote-uke. This is occurs again one more later in the kata (movement 20), albeit in a different stance (migi ashi zenkutsu), which is a telltale.
Movements eight to twelve involves ryoken gedan juji-uke follow by ryosho jodan juji-uke, ryosho juji chudan osae-uke, follow rapidly by nobashi-zuki (uke-zuki/hiji suri-zuki) flowing immediately into chudan oi-zuki. This sequence also involves locking and impacting. Be sure that ryosho juji chudan osae-uke drops directly downward as opposed to being brought closer to your body.
On movement 13 which is migi sokumen gedan-barai there are two ways. One with and one without fumikomi. I personally still do the ‘Best Karate’ version with the stamp, which is consistent with movement 26 of Bassai Dai; however, both ways are equally effective. In this case, I advise everyone to experiment with the best version for themselves when applying this waza in Oyo Kumite and the other essential forms of 'kata based goshin-jutsu practice'.
Movements 14 to 16 involves trapping the opponent then impacting with mikazuki-geri then pulling them into an enpi. Kick chudan in solo Kate training but, in application, make a big slap to the opponents inside thigh or groin to fold them in half; thereby, chudan becomes jodan with your elbow. This is a very powerful and reliable sequence which very little fine motor skills and accuracy. Just focus "...on a relaxed and snapping swing of the leg and sharp and soft shoulder to deeply plant the tip of your elbow".
Movements 17 to 19 conclude with the first high jump in the Shotokan Kata, however, this is literally throwing oneself when practicing Godan as a solo routine. These three movements are, in fact, the set up and execution of 背負い投げ (Seoi-nage).
Once again chudan morote-uke is applied again here in movement 20 (as mentioned above) but this time in the straight lined zenkutsu. By this stage the karateka must be well versed "that as this waza (within Heian), is always in isolation"; hence, it is always a simultaneous defense and attack.
To conclude movements 21 to 23 apply a take down and, alternatively arm lock and neck wrench on both sides. This also trains "hip work and transitions from zenkutsu to kokutsu-dachi in harmony with the shuto gedan uchikomi and classical Shotokan ‘manji’ formations" (which was a vast technical improvement on the Okinawan version, which was allegedly masterminded by Master Funakoshi and/or his son).
Here are the 17 different waza featured in Heian Godan:
1. Chudan uchi-uke(Kokutsu-dachi).
2. Chudan gyaku-zuki (Kokutsu-dachi).
3. Zenwan mizu nagare no gamae (Heisoku-dachi).
4. Migi chudan morote-uke (Kokutsu-dachi).
5. Ryoken gedan juji-uke (Kokutsu-dachi).
6. Ryosho jodan juji-uke (Zenkutsu-dachi).
7. Ryosho juji chudan osae-uke (Zenkutsu-dachi).
8. Chudan oi-zuki (Zenkutsu-dachi).
9. Sokumen gedan-barai (Kiba-dachi).
10. Tekubi sokumen chudan kake-uke (Kiba-dachi).
11. Chudan mikazuki-geri (Ichi ashi dachi).
12. Mae-enpi (Kiba-dachi).
13. Sokumen chudan morote-uke (Kosa-dachi).
14. Uho tsuki-age (Renoji-dachi).
15. Tobi-komi kara ryoken gedan juji-uke (Kosa-dachi).
16. Chudan morote-uke (Zenkutsu).
From the many tegumi-waza (grappling techniques) in the ‘basic’ Heian we can see and learn “… a complete system of self-defense. This, as opposed to ‘impacting/striking arts’, and ‘grappling arts’, being separated/compartmentalized”. Indeed, before competition Karatedo (and, of course, competition Judo, as well) budo was bujutsu. Hence, for the traditional karateka: "...in unarmed self-defense, striking and grappling are absolutely inseparable entities".
Once karate practitioners, get through to practicing Heian Godan and have sufficient physicality in all five Heian kata, it is important that they are well into flow drills dealing with realistic self-defense scenarios; moreover, this training cannot be merely an occasional novelty but, rather, included in daily practice. Allow me to quote Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei here: “Kata can teach you how to fight, but not by merely doing them”. What he meant was "just doing the moves is not enough. With that in mind, I’ll now move on to a generic overview of Heian Godan.
HEIAN GODAN OVERVIEW
YOI: Ryoken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).
1. Hidari sokumen hidari chudan uchi-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
2. Uken chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
3. Hidari zenwan mizu nagare no gamae (Heisoku-dachi).
4. Migi chudan uchi-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
5. Saken chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
6. Migi zenwan mizu nagare no gamae (Heisoku-dachi).
7. Migi chudan morote-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
8. Ryoken gedan juji-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
9. Ryosho jodan juji-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
10. Ryosho juji chudan osae-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
11. Saken chudan nobashi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
12. Uken chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi)—KIAI!
13. Migi sokumen migi gedan-barai (Kiba-dachi).
14. Hidari tekubi hidari sokumen chudan kake-uke (Kiba-dachi).
15. Sasho ni migi chudan mikazuki-geri (Hidari ashi dachi).
16. Sasho ni migi mae-enpi (Kiba-dachi).
17. Migi sokumen chudan morote-uke (Migi ashi mae kosa-dachi).
18. Uken uho tsukiage (Hidari ashi mae renoji-dachi).
19. Tobi-komi kara ryoken gedan juji-uke (Migi ashi mae kosa-dachi)—KIAI!
20. Migi chudan morote-uke (Migi ashi zenkutsu).
21. Sasho jodan nagashi-uke doji ni migi shuto gedan-uchikomi (Hidari ashi zenkutsu) kara migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
22. Jotai-sonomama (Heisoku-dachi).
23. Usho jodan nagashi-uke doji ni hidari shuto gedan-uchikomi (Migi ashi zenkutsu) kara hidari sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni migi sokumen gedan-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
NAORE: Ryoken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).
In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say that 'Osaka Sensei almost references Heian for everything else in karate' which, again, elucidates their criticality for us Shotokan practitioners. While not 'mind boggling spectacular' like Osaka Sensei (in external performance of his kata) I also enjoyed Abe Keigo Sensei’s teaching style. Moreover, it is said by many of my seniors that "...Abe Sensei’s Karate was closest to Nakayama Sensei": at least ‘teaching-wise’. Needless to say, anyone who can break things down into simple parts, and make it accessible for everyone, is an expert teacher. I admire that he could teach kihon and kata that way, even though his fame came from being a ferocious kumite man. His waza of choice were uchiwaza and keriwaza, both of which were feared. In addition to his bushi lineage, he really had Samurai spirit. Accordingly, in light of this, I can’t help but think of Abe Sensei’s exceptional budo teaching skill in addition to his background and karate specialties.
It’s interesting to consider that with the Heian combined, the total number of official movements is 117, which is significantly longer than any other kata (standard Shotokan or Koten-gata). Maybe this point is trivia, but for me, unless only focusing on one Heian, I tend to do them all in succession followed by the oyo (applications). In this way, the consistent themes and progressive extensions of these can be practiced in a systematic manner. Needless to say, before this approach can be done, one must have good knowledge of the 基本技 (Kihonwaza) in all five. This highlights a very important point: “One can know all the applications, but without sufficient physicality (as alluded to above in this article), this also will have no meaning.” Consequently, balance in training is utterly imperative.
With this mind, whilst the meaning of the characters 平安 in Chinese (Mandarin) means ‘SAFETY’—referring to self defense mastery so one is 'safe'; whereas, the Japanese reading of the kanji is interpreted as ‘PEACEFUL’. It is important for me to say here that the Japanese reading is also essential for complete knowledge. This relevance is related to having ‘a calm mind’ and a ‘relaxed body’ in order to optimally use it in self-defense. Taken as a whole, this indeed gives “…a complete understanding of the name PINAN/HEIAN” and, more usefully for one’s daily training, “what the core physical objectives of these five kata are”. It also shows the intellectual genius of the formulator of these kata: Itosu Anko Sensei. 押忍 ― André