Wednesday 23 August 2023

壮鎮 (Sochin)

Yumi-zuki from Sochin on the cover of Karatedo Kyohon.

 Rather than commenting first, here are some comments from ‘SOCHIN’S ULTIMATE AUTHORITY’, Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei (8th Dan), former Fuku Shuseki-Shihan of the JKA, and many times All Japan and World Champion. He was also Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s ‘#1 model student’ whilst teaching, and in his books and video tapes. Bottom line, he's a legends LEGEND! — André Bertel. 

Osaka Sensei stressed to me that his two favorite kata are in fact 慈恩 (Jion) in training and 壮鎮 (Sochin) for enbu. Before delving into Sochin he stated “Start with Jion and end with Jion”; nevertheless, if you’ve trained with Osaka Sensei here inJapan, you will know that he technically references everything back to 平安 (Heian).


Osaka Sensei’s commentary on Sochin

“The dignity and strength of Sochin kata can be compared to that of a large mountain. Everything about this kata is big. The firmness of fudo-dachi, also referred to as sochin-dachi, and the large-scale movements are the dominant characteristics of it. In these regards Sochin utilizes strong and effective attacks combined with silky smooth flow of movements that seamlessly integrate different kankyu (rhythms).

Nonetheless, as in everything, kihon is the most significant point; that is, if one loses proper kihon it ceases to be karate. Sochin clearly exhibits this critical point in both its execution and application. You cannot merely focus on going through the sequence of Sochin, nor any kata if you wish to perfect it; rather, it is most important to focus on each individual waza. Furthermore, with its relationship with the waza around it. The mind and body must become one. 

In regard to fudo-dachi, much time must be dedicated to its mastery. It is not just a question of placing your feet correctly on the floor; instead, you must feel you are grabbing the floor with your feet to the extent that if you lift up your feet the ground will come up too. That’s what you must try to achieve with fudo-dachi. When you move on to the next technique you must release the feet and move smoothly. As soon as you move rapidly into the next stance you should feel rooted to the earth once again. This ability can only be achieved via an enormous amount of training with intense concentration (André Bertel note: AKA—deliberate/professional-level practice”). Once you have mastered your tachikata you can go on to the movements. I will repeat myself.  It’s critical to work on your tachikata first before everything else.

(Osaka Sensei concluded on this note to really emphasize Shotokan's integral base positions: André).




             Number of movements: 41

             Placement of kiai (plural): movements 30 and 41


While I have Osaka Sensei’s booklet (in Japanese) outlining all of the standard kata plus Taikyoku and Hyakuhachi (Hyakuhappo/Hyakuhachiho/Suparinpei/Pechurin), this is my own summary of Sochin that is based on my karate master, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei’s teachings. This has little relevance as only a few of the terms (technical labels) differ. In these few instances, I will add notes to highlight these points.



REI (Musubi-dachi)


YOI (Hachiji-dachi) Ryo ken daitai mae


1. Migi gedan-uke doji ni hidari jodan age-uke (Migi ashi mae fudo -dachi). Note — this waza is also known as ‘Muso-gamae’.


2. Migi tateshuto chudan-uke, saken hidari koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


3. Saken chudan-zuki, uken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


4. Uken chudan-zuki, saken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


5. Migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi). “This waza is also commonly referred to as ‘Manji-gamae’ and found in nine other standard Shotokan kata (the fifth Heian; Bassai Dai and Sho; Kanku Dai and Sho; Jion, Jitte and Jiin; and Gankaku). In sum, this elucidates the importance of this technique.” — Asai Tetsuhiko.


6. Migi gedan-uke doji ni hidari jodan age-uke (Migi ashi mae fudo-dachi).


7. Migi tateshuto chudan-uke, saken hidari koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


8. Saken chudan-zuki, uken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


9. Uken chudan-zuki, saken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


10. Migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).


11. Migi gedan-uke doji ni hidari jodan age-uke (Migi ashi mae fudo -dachi).


12. Migi tateshuto chudan-uke, saken hidari koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


13. Saken chudan-zuki, uken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


14. Uken chudan-zuki, saken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


15. Ryo ken migi koshi-gamae (Migi ashi dachi, hidari ashi ura—migi hiza yoko). Customarily amongst the students of Asai Sensei the one legged stance is referred to as ‘sagi ashi dachi’ or ‘tsuru ashi dachi’: depending on the position of the foot on the supporting leg. — André Bertel


16. Hidari uraken jodan yokomawashi uchi doji ni hidari sokuto chudan yoko-geri keage (Migi ashi dachi).


17. Migi mae-enpi sasho-ate (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


18. Ryo ken hidari koshi-gamae (Hidari ashi dachi, migi ashi ura—hidari hiza yoko).


19. Migi uraken jodan yokomawashi uchi doji ni migi sokuto chudan yoko-geri keage (Hidari ashi dachi).


20. Hidari mae-enpi usho-ate (Migi ashi mae fudo-dachi).


21. Migi shuto chudan-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).


22. Hidari shuto chudan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).


23. Hidari shuto chudan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).


24. Migi shuto chudan-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).


25. Migi shuto chudan-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).


26. Hidari shuto chudan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).


27. Sasho chudan osae-uke doji ni migi jodan shihon nukite (Migi kokutsu-dachi, yori-ashi). Note – the shihon nukite is the ‘ura-nukite’ commonplace in Chinese boxing.


28. Hidari chudan kizami mae-geri (Migi ashi dachi).


29. Migi chudan mae-geri keage, migi zenwan hineri jodan kake doji ni hidari jodan ura-zuki (Hidari ashi dachi).


30. Hidari zenwan hineri jodan kake-uke doji ni migi jodan ura-zuki [KIAI!] (Migi ashi mae fudo-dachi).


31. Migi jodan mikazuki-geri sasho-ate kara migi gedan-uke doji ni hidari jodan age-uke (Hidari ashi dachi kara migi ashi mae fudo-dachi).


32. Hidari chudan uchi-uke (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


33. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi ashi mae fudo-dachi). Osaka Sensei uses the alternative term of ‘jun-zuki’ here and in movement 35.


34. Migi chudan uchi-uke (Migi ashi mae fudo-dachi).


35. Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


36. Hidari chudan uchi-uke (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


37. Migi chudan uchi-uke, gyaku-hanmi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


38. Migi chudan mae-geri keage (Hidari ashi dachi).


39. Uken migi chichi-mae doji ni saken chudan-zuki (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


40. Uken chudan yumi-zuki, saken migi koshi (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi). Here Asai Sensei termed this tsukiwaza as yumi-zuki or ‘bow thrust’, which describes the waza not coming from the hip; whereas, Osaka Sensei simply terms it as uken chudan-zuki or ‘right fist middle-level thrust’.


41. Saken chudan-zuki, uken migi koshi [KIAI!] (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).


NAORE (Musubi-dachi)


REI (Hachiji-dachi) Ryo ken daitai mae



Selected 分解 (Bunkai) and 応用 (Oyo)


In different ryuha/kaiha, and even between different Shotokan groups different terms can mean different things. In the case traditional Shotokan, for example, ‘uchi-uke’ comes from the inside-outward. Whereas, in the JKF (Japan Karatedo Federation), this waza is labeled the opposite; that is, soto-uke. Neither is right or wrong, it is merely the perspective.


With this type of point in mind, I need to clarify what bunkai and oyo means to us. Bunkai literally means ‘Analysis’. Oyo literally translates as ‘Application’. According, bunkai, in our case, is to break down the movements to learn the correct trajectories and positions in the kata movements. Once a person has learned the proper kata ‘actions’, bunkai is no longer needed, unless teaching someone else. You can see bunkai in Nakayama Sensei’s books and videos (likewise in Asai Sensei’s, Shoji Sensei’s, Enoeda Sensei’s et al).


Oyo on the other hand is bujutsu-Karate, it is self-defense effective techniques, strategies and principles within the kata. For example, bunkai in Gojushiho Sho is three consecutive tate-shihon nukite to the solar plexus. This is ok if you are Edward Scissor hands. The same waza in Oyo is three neck cranks (joint damage, dislocations or worse) which, needless to say, is very dangerous (unlike the aforementioned ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' rip out the heart scene’).


Let’s compare and contrast Bunkai and Oyo from a couple of selected actions in Sochin:


First the ‘Muso-gamae sequence, which is followed by advancing with tateshuto-uke and two consecutive chudan thrusts’ (Movements one to four; six to nine; and 11 to 14).


Bunkai: Opponent attacks with hidari mae-geri then migi jodan gyaku-zuki. Block inside the kicking leg with gedan-barai whilst advancing, then cover the tsuki with gyaku-zuki etcetera. You can see from these two actions, it is ‘just doing the movements’; moreover, impossible to use due to lack of realism both in attack and defense.


Oyo: Opponent clinches you. Strike with migi jodan soto-uke (kentsui/wanto) to the side of the neck/head. Advance striking under the to the throat with hidari age-uke whilst striking to the groin with migi gedan-uke (gedan kentsui).


Secondly, the ura nukite sequence, beginning with hidari shuto chudan-uke and concluding with the first kiai (Movents 26 to 30):


Bunkai: Opponent attacks with migi chudan oi-zuki followed by hidari chudan gyaku-zuki. Defend advancing with hidari shuto-uke then osae uke and ura nukite simultaneously to foil the two tsukiwaza and counter. Follow up with hidari kizami-geri then cover a jodan tsuki attack with hineri-uke while kicking mae-geri and impacting with ura-zuki. Hineri-uke and ura-zuki again to cover and counter an additional jodan-zuki.


Oyo: Grab and/or cover then impact with hidari shuto-uchi or enpi-uchi (in the form of hidari shuto-uke. Pull the opponents head down simultaneously striking the eyes with a light and rapid ura nukite. Immediately impact with kizami-geri to the groin or eyes. Continue attacking with another mae-geri and alternate ura-zuki whilst simultaneously covering with the opposite arms (hineri-uke). In sum, a generic continuous blitz of defense and counterattacks.


OKAY! On to some Sochin trivia...


Firstly, I’d like to highlight an ‘old school Shotokan point’. In the case of the older Shotokan masters born in the 1930s and earlier, Fudo-dachi and Sochin-dachi were classified as different stances. Keep in mind, both of these were developedby Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) Sensei, and fully endorsed by Master Funakoshi. At that time Sochin-dachi was the wider stance used in Sochin kata; whereas, Fudo-dachi had the same configurations, however, the feet are in-line. When they were merged, I do not know; however, irrespective of labels, naturally utilizing both variations is valuable. Needless to say, these variations are consistent with zenkutsu-dachi and shokutsu-dachi (which is now simply called ‘zenkutsu’).


Secondly, another interesting point, relating to Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s son was that he actually developed Sochin kata, however, some have claimed that this was actually a lost koten-gata (old form). Irrespective of this, it not related to the other Sochin kata, practiced in other styles, nor Shisochin.


Thirdly, it said that Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s favorite kata were Kanku Dai and Sochin! However, I find that a little hard to believe—insofar as Sochin is concerned—as it wasn’t included in his 15 core Shotokan kata. Perhaps, it was after his publication of ‘Karatedo Kyohon’? But that seems too late in his life right! So, I have no idea... However, I’ve also heard from different senior masters, here in Japan, that Jiin was his tokui-gata. But, again, that was not included in his core group of kata. I suppose it is not important, but nevertheless very interesting.


I’d like to wrap on with one fun anecdote. At one seminar here in Kyushu I noticed Osaka Sensei used Fudo-dachi, a couple of times, in a kata where it’s not featured. He stopped and just stared at me with the 'you idiot look' and answered in his gruff voice: “I think I’ve done too much Sochin...[it’s]Zenkutsu-dachi”.

I'll end on that note. I hope this has a useful article for those of you who love the karate masterpiece: SOCHIN. Osu, — André

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

No comments: