Monday 7 November 2022

半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi): The original version

Every so often I'm asked “What is the correct way to do Hangetsu-dachi?” So, today I will address that Question; furthermore, I’ll share some key points I’ve learned (here in Japan, over the years) from the very BEST OF THE BEST!
Oliver Schömburg Sensei (3rd Dan Germany), and myself, practicing Hangetsu Kata.
Before I do that, I want to point out that: (a) what I am writing here today is not my opinion or unique methodology; (b) also, that this method is not a new ‘way’ adopted/evolved by the mainstream organizations here in Japan; and (c) that this IS 'the HANGETSU DACHI' handed down from Master's Funakoshi Gichin, Nakayama Masatoshi, and Asai Tetsuhiko.
With these experts in mind I also need to apologize in advance that I am qualifying this post today 'via name dropping'; however, the Hangetsu-dachi which I practice and teach is the original (which was previously taught in Shotokan as Seishan-dachi) and this really needs to be clarified. Otherwise, there is no reason for me to write and publish this article. It is gift for you: the reader.
What’s ironic here is that we are preserving the original Seishan stance as most styles and, indeed, Shotokan organizations have extensively altered it. Just to clarify, the only alteration I make (from the original form) is the use of the name ‘Hangetsu-dachi’ as opposed to its original label of ‘Seishan’. In other words, I simply use the ‘Shotokan label’, which utilizes mainstream Japanese. Accordingly, I'll adhere to this term throughout this article.
The original ‘Hangetsu-Dachi’
半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi), meaning the ‘half-moon stance’ is an
intermediate tachikata between zenkutsu-dachi and sanchin-dachi. Its forward and rearward strides are similar to zenkutsu-dachi, however, the inward tension on the knees are closer to that of sanchin; hence, it is categorized as an ‘inside tension stance’. Don't be confused by this term! Simply know that the pressure goes to the sokuto/outside 'sword' edges of both feet, and the knee and thighs lightly squeeze inward. This dynamic heightens the awareness of 'centralization' and allows the karateka to maximize switching between the three main axis's to optimize explosiveness. 

Whilst it is used for both defensive and offensive actions it is more often used for defense ("...due to its configurations to naturally cover up then launch explosive counterattacks).
Over the years here in Japan I have been taught that Hangetsu dachi is a natural position for absorbing blows whilst maintaining balance. 
Furthermore, as eluded above, a transitional stage in unsoku/movement. This point highlights that rather than being ‘fixed positions’, in actuality, they are in fact “key points in the transition of the center in conjunction with the optimal application of techniques”.
Returning to the classical description of hangetsu-dachi above and we can readily visualize one defending in sanchin-dachi then transitioning through hangetsu-dachi into zenkutsu-dachi (or fudo-dachi) to make a counterattack. Alternatively one might, say, contract into hangetsu-dachi and make an immediate counter from there; or expand for a larger scale waza. Irrespective of its use, the natural and optimal use of the human body—in real world self-defense—is the point of all karate ‘stances’ and techniques in general. This immediately brings to mind the old adage: “if
it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
So, let’s look at the exact Hangetsu-dachi as demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei. This was the original Seishan dachi learned by Funakoshi Sensei, and came to the IKS (International Karate Shotokan) via Asai Sensei, and other prominent students of Master Nakayama; thus, in a direct line from Funakoshi Sensei and, in particular, Masters Itosu, Azato and Matsumura.
The original seishan-dachi (HANGETSU-DACHI) demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei

Some instructors from Japanese organizations have tried to correct my stances based on their respective groups changes to them. This has included my hangetsu-dachi. They have said things like: “That’s not correct now, that’s the old way!” and/or “The organization has updated the stance”.
The first scenario I take as a great compliment, as I don’t want to be
 'swayed by the wind of ever-changing karate trends’. In the second scenario, I always ask “so, why the update of the stance?” When I ask this question, the answer is always unclear (or includes what I can only describe as 'plastic bunkai'); thus, immediately indicating the changes are, at best, cosmetic fluff.
In this regard, many times Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei has told me "... not to change my karate to the 'new style' and continue follow Nakayama Sensei’s way”. Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei has also consistently stressed “The recent changes to the kata have not only been unnecessary but 'have negatively compromised' the unique characteristics of Shotokan”.

To conclude, for an overview of Hangetsu kata, here's a direct link: André Bertel's Karate-Do: HANGETSU KATA (
 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

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