Introduction and commentary:
Purposefully, I decided to conclude this series of five articles on each of the Heian with Heian Shodan. My hope is that the readers gain from this, via the content of all five articles. Okay! So let's begin. With 21 movements 平安初段 (Heian Shodan) is the first in this series of five kata; however, as you will know, the original the order was reversed.
While most people are aware of this, and know ‘why Funakoshi Gichin Sensei switched the first two (Heian/Pinan)’, I will concisely state ‘why he did this’ this here: based on his various writings about it. Essentially, he changed the order “…because ‘the original Nidan’ was easier to teach and learn”. Yes, it’s that simple!
However, significantly fewer people know that “the original order of the Heian gata was based on their respective levels of 応用 (Oyo/Application). This was the work of the kata’s creator, Itosu Anko Sensei.
So, the order that Shotokan uses, “…begins with Pinan Nidan (our Heian Shodan), which is a kata for practicing/applying ‘flinch responses’. That is dealing attacks coming in at us. Whereas, Pinan Shodan (our Heian Nidan) practices/applies ‘responses after connection to the opponent’”. This could be カキエ (Kakie) or 手組 (Tegumi)/無刀 (Muto).
Therefore, to summarize: “Shotokan has a more systematic/logical order for initial teaching and learning; whilst, the original order is more logical in regards to an exchange with an opponent/self defense”. In my opinion—during the initial stages of learning—Master Funakoshi’s switching of these two kata was a very positive thing for karate; nonetheless, ‘it is still essential to understand the reversed order in regards application’. This may seem an overly simplistic approach, but as the Funakoshi Sensei famously said: “Victory and defeat are determined by simple matters”.
Here are the five different waza featured in Heian Shodan:
Before I list those five waza I want to reiterate and expand on Funakoshi Sensei’s ‘educators logic’ in switching the first and second Heian/Pinan (which is largely shown by the numbers of waza encompassed in these kata). Whilst the ‘original Shodan’ featured 12 different waza, the ‘original Pinan Nidan’ only has only five. Moreover, Funakoshi Sensei allegedly deemed ‘applying keriwaza’ as being “…more complex actions for beginners and of lesser importance for them, than tewaza (in the very early stages of training)”. In addition, the ‘original Heian Nidan’ has “…far more ‘single waza in single steps’. There is literally only one (movements three and four: gedan-barai kara kentsui)”. Whereas, the original Heian Shodan features five (renzokuwaza/combination techniques).
Still, from bujutsu/practical oyo perspective, regardless of the aforementioned points, the Heian Shodan (of Shotokan) is often only applied in “the secondary phase in a self defense situation”; that is, if the initial attacks are percussive blows as opposed to connecting. Hopefully that matter is clarified now. OK, so allow me to move on to the five waza in our Heian Shodan (Pinan Nidan).
1) Gedan-barai (Zenkutsu-dachi).
2) Chudan oi-zuki (Zenkutsu-dachi). Also commonly labeled as ‘Jun-zuki’.
3) Kentsui jodan tatemawashi uchi (Zenkutsu-dachi).
4) Jodan age-uke (Zenkutsu-dachi).
5) Shuto chudan-uke (Kokutsu-dachi).
To expand on details of the kihonwaza, in the ‘Shotokan Heian Shodan’, I recommend this article just over five years ago. It has a few technical tips: https://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2017/01/first-article-for-2017-few-notes-on.html
YOI: Ryoken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).
1. Hidari sokumen hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
2. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
3. Migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
4. Migi kentsui tatemawashi uchi (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
5. Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
6. Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
7. Migi jodan age-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
8. Hidari jodan age-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
9. Migi jodan age-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi)—KIAI!
10. Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
11. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
12. Migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
13. Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
14. Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
15. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
16. Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
17. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi)—KIAI!
18. Hidari shuto chudan uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
19. Migi shuto chudan uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
20. Migi shuto chudan uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
21. Hidari shuto chudan uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
NAORE: Ryoken daitai mae (Hachiji-dachi).
I know from now, that I'll seemingly self contradict (some of my points made above), but what I’ve discovered—as I’m sure you have also—is that parallel knowledge always exists. The aforementioned aspects of ‘ease of teaching/learning’ still apply, as does ‘the oyo/applicative order’… So, why then do most of the top Shotokan karate experts see Heian Shodan as ‘the ultimate kata’? The beginning and the end. Well, the idea is simple, yet important to know. The full circle in Budo represents technical completeness, but with no ending: this is Heian Shodan.
Taken as a whole, Heian Shodan is a kata which leaves nothing to hide in one’s kihon and karate in general. Even though there are no kicks, ‘keriwaza ability’ is shown via the unsoku. Intrinsically and collectively, the first Heian (in Shotokan) is a challenge: irrespective of technical level and experience.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).