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NAIHANCHI KATA

by

Sensei Don Bohan

              The Naihanchi Kata of Isshin-Ryu Karate has its origins in the old Shuri-te style of Okinawan Karate.  Shuri-te, the forerunner of modern, Shorin-Ryu has used the Naihanchi katas for at least the last four hundred years.  Although the history of the Naihanchi is vague, it is thought by many to have its origins in the external southern styles of Chinese boxing.  Isshin-Ryu uses only one Naihanchi while Shorin-Ryu, Okinawan Kempo and the Shorin-Ryu derived Japanese styles use three.  In Isshin-Ryu the Naihanchi Shodan is used.

            The name "Naihanchi," literally means "Iron Horse."  When one has developed the Kiba-Dachi stance to the point where you become immovable, it is said to be Fudo-Kiba-Dachi (Rooted Horse Stance) or Iron-like; thus, the name Iron Horse or Naihanchi refers to such development.  In Japanese Karate, Naihanchi is called Tekki, which also translates to "Iron Horse."

            Naihanchi was designed to teach fighting from side to side in a stable but highly maneuverable stance.  Originally it was taught for fighting while standing in a rice paddy ankle deep in mud. Modern practitioners of Karate refer to Naihanchi as the "Back to the Wall Kata" coming from the fact that all orientation is to the left, right and front, with no turn 180 degrees to the rear.

For reference, the Naihanchi kata is performed along one main line going from left to right.  If one uses the face of a clock for reference, then one would stand facing 12:00; the line of movement would be first to 9:00, then to 3:00.  (See diagram A.)

              Naihanchi is performed in two segments, the second half being the mirror image of the first.  In other words, the first half of the kata would be performed to the left and the second half would be the same moves, but in the opposite direction.

Diagram A

12:00 position

First half            |            Second half

  9:00<----------------------------|---------------------->3:00 position

 

OPENING

              Stand in attention stance--heels together, toes point at a 45-degree angle.  The spine is straight (including the neck) with the knees bent slightly.  Hands are open with the palms against the thighs (fingers point toward the ground).  Relax by taking a few deep breaths utilizing the diaphragm and set the mind toward the purpose of concentrating on the kata.  Perform the Tachi-Rei (standing bow).  Bend from the waist to a 45-degree angle; do not take the eyes off of the opponent and do not show the back of the neck (this is a form of disrespect); straighten back up to the original position.  Bring the hands (left over right) left hand open (palm toward the body) and the right hand (also palm toward the body) in a fist.  Lower the hands from the solar plexus to in front of the groin (The fingers of the left hand now point to the ground).  As the hands are lowered, pivot the feet inward to a pigeon-toed stance with the knees slightly touching together (this is a cover for the groin against possible attacks at that level).

 

SERIES NUMBER 1

1.         Leaving the hands in place, look 90 degrees to the left, and immediately perform a right-over-left crossover step (See note on performing crossover step).   Simultaneously perform a left-hand shoulder-level palm-up outside ridge hand block, 90 degrees to left and immediately follow up with a right-hand cross-body horizontal elbow smash.  Then stack your fists right over left on your left side of the left hip.

(A)       The left hand has blocked an attack coming from the left. The left hand then cups the opponent's head and the elbow has finished him off.

(B)       The left hand has blocked an attack coming from the left. As the block was performed the finger of the ridge hand block struck your opponent on the side of the face, causing his head to turn enough that he was not able to see the elbow strike coming.  The stacking movement is a neck break, as you have not released your opponent's head from the last move.  Bring the upper body straight so that it now is oriented in the direction of the bow.

** NOTE ** When doing the crossover steps in this kata the foot of the stepping leg passes directly in front of the knee of the leg that is being stepped over.  Then the foot of the leg that just has been stepped over passes directly behind the knee of the leg that made the first step.  Keep in mind that you will always be stepping into a Naihanchi-Dachi in this kata.  The high leg lift serves three purposes:

(1)             Keeping in mind that you are defending while standing ankle deep in mud, the high leg lifts are pulling your feet out of the mud.

(2)        The lifts may also serve as blocks against low level attacks such as kicks and sweeps.

(3)        These may also be a stomp kick to the opponent's foot or ankle area.

2.         Look over your right shoulder 90 degrees to the right.  Lift the right foot up in front of the left knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).  Simultaneously perform a right-hand-down block to the right and immediately follow with left-cross-body-palm-up-spear hand at solar plexus level and simultaneously bring the right hand to the right hip.

(A)       A second opponent has attacked you from the right side with a kick.  You raise the right leg in an effort to block and stop his kick with the right backfist block and follow up with a left spear hand. 

(B)       The opponent has attempted to sweep, which you avoid by lifting the right leg, he then grabs you on the shoulders and you strike him with a backfist to the groin.  As he bends over from the groin strike a spear hand is thrown to the throat area to finish him off.

** NOTE ** When the Kata calls for you to lift the leg and then place it back down, the foot of the leg being lifted comes in front of the knee of the support leg.  Most students will bring the foot up to where it almost touches the knee of the support leg.  If your opponent were to strike or push the leg as it is lifted it would drive the foot into the knee of the support leg possible causing great damage.

3.         Leaving the hands in place, perform a crossover step, stepping left over right and coming set into a Naihanchi-Dachi.  Look 90 degrees to left (the direction of the bow) and immediately perform a left-hand shoulder-level palm-up outside ridge hand block, followed with a left-hand-shuto-leg block.  Execute a right-shoulder-level-elbow strike (The elbow strikes on your center line and your right fist stops next to your right ear).  As the elbow strike is executed bring the left hand to your right hip and immediately follow with a right-hand-cobra-style punch to the opponent's throat.  As the punch is being delivered, simultaneously bring the left fist under the right bicep to reinforce the punch. 

(A)       The opponent to your front has attacked with a punch from the left hand.  This attack is blocked with a left outside ridge hand block.  The shuto-down block parries away a knee attack to the groin.  You then deliver an elbow to your opponent's chin, knocking his head back.  You then deliver a cobra-style strike to his exposed neck (a killing blow). 

(B)       The opponent to your front has attacked either with a punch from the left hand or a grab with the left hand. The left shoulder level outside ridge hand block acts as a block/parry/grab with the left hand.  In a down block motion the left hand pulls the opponent's arm down. The opponent's arm is hyper-extended.  The elbow strike with the right arm thus breaks the opponent's arm and is immediately followed by with a right hand cobra-style punch to the opponent's head as a killing blow.

4.         Look 90 degrees to the right and immediately lift the right foot up in front of the left knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).  As the stance sets, simultaneously perform a right-arm-shoulder-level-outside block.  The left arm is across body, parallel to the ground, with the left fist placed under the right arm (palm down).

(A)       This is a re-enforced block that is intended to keep the opponent off of you until you can deal with a second opponent.

(B)       The right forearm stops the punch of the opponent and the right backfist hits the opponent in the face.  The left hand is a backup guard to prevent an attack from slipping past the right block.

5.         Look 180 degrees to the left and immediately lift the left foot up in front of the right knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi). As the stance sets, simultaneously bring the right hand cross-body with a hammerfist strike to the ribs.  The left hand returns to the left hip.

(A)       After hitting the opponent in number 4 with a backfist, a second opponent has grabbed you from the left.  Turning your body from the right to the left has opened up the opponent's body area.  The right hammerfist is to his ribs or kidney area.

6.         Look 180 degrees to the right and immediately lift the right foot up in front of the left knee and then slam the foot back down in it's original location (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).   As the stance sets simultaneously perform a right side body punch with the right hand.  The left hand acting as a guard comes across the body at the solar plexus level.   A Kiai is performed at this point.

(A)       The opponent on the right is struck with a double punch to his body.  The right hand strikes high on the rib cage, as the left hand strikes into the lower rib cage. These punches finish him off.

(B)       The opponent on the right has grabbed your right shoulder while attempting to sweep your right leg.  The leg lift avoids this sweep.  The right forearm is driven upward and the right shoulder rotates outward, thus disengaging his hold.  This also places the right fist in a position to punch.  The right fist, in a whip like motion, uses the elbow as a pointer and a punch is delivered to the opponent’s upper rib cage.  The left hand is a punch to the lower rib cage if the opponent is close enough or as a guard to retaliation if the opponent is to far off to strike.  The punch finishes him off.

 

SERIES NUMBER 2

** NOTE ** The next move begins the second half of the kata.  It is the mirror image of movements 1-6

7.            Perform a right-hand shoulder-level palm-up outside ridge hand block, 90 degrees to right and immediately follow up with a left-hand cross-body horizontal elbow smash.  Then stack your fists left over right on your right side of the right hip.

(A)       The right hand has blocked an attack coming from the right. The right hand then cups the opponent's head and the elbow has finished him off.

(B)       The right hand has blocked an attack coming from the right. As the block was performed the finger of the ridge hand block struck your opponent on the side of the face, causing his head to turn enough that he was not able to see the elbow strike coming.  The stacking movement is a neck break, as you have not released your opponent's head from the last move.  Bring the upper body straight so that it now is oriented in the direction of the bow.

8.         Look over your left shoulder 90 degrees to the left.  Lift the left foot up in front of the right knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).  Simultaneously perform a left-hand-down block to the left and immediately follow with right-cross-body-palm-up-spear hand at solar plexus level and simultaneously bring the left hand to the left hip.

(A)       A second opponent has attacked you from the left side with a kick.  You raise the left leg in an effort to block and stop his kick with the left backfist block and follow up with a right spear hand.

(B)       The opponent has attempted to sweep, which you avoid by lifting the left leg, he then grabs you on the shoulders and you strike him with a backfist to the groin.  As he bends over from the groin strike a spear hand is thrown to the throat area to finish him off.

9.         Leaving the hands in place, perform a crossover step, stepping right over left and coming set into a Naihanchi-Dachi.  Look 90 degrees to right (the direction of the bow) and immediately perform a right-hand shoulder-level palm-up outside ridge hand block, followed with a right-hand shuto down block.  Execute a left-shoulder-level-elbow strike (The elbow strikes on your center line and your left fist stops next to your left ear).  As the elbow strike is executed bring the right hand to your left hip and immediately follow with a left-hand-cobra-style punch to the opponent's throat.  As the punch is being delivered, simultaneously bring the right fist under the left bicep to reinforce the punch.

(A)       The opponent to your front has attacked with a punch from the right hand.  This attack is blocked with a right outside ridge hand block.  The shuto-down block parries away a knee attack to the groin.  You then deliver an elbow to your opponent's chin, knocking his head back.  You then deliver a cobra-style strike to his exposed neck (a killing blow).

(B)       The opponent to your front has attacked either with a punch from the right hand or a grab with the right hand. The right shoulder level outside ridge hand block acts as a block/parry/grab with the right hand.  In a down block motion the right hand pulls the opponent's arm down. The opponent's arm is hyper-extended.  The elbow strike with the left arm thus breaks the opponent's arm and is immediately followed by with a left hand cobra-style punch to the opponent's head as a killing blow.

10.       Look 90 degrees to the left and immediately lift the left foot up in front of the right knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).  As the stance sets, simultaneously perform a left-arm-shoulder-level-outside block.  The right arm is across body, parallel to the ground, with the right fist placed under the left arm (palm down).

(A)       This is a re-enforced block that is intended to keep the opponent off of you until you can deal with a second opponent.

(B)       The left forearm stops the punch of the opponent and the left backfist hits the opponent in the face.  The right hand is a backup guard to prevent an attack from slipping past the left block.

11.       Look 180 degrees to the right and immediately lift the right foot up in front of the left knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi). As the stance sets, simultaneously bring the left hand across the body with a hammerfist strike to the ribs.  The right hand returns to the right hip.

(A)       After hitting the opponent in number 4 with a backfist, a second opponent has grabbed you from the right.  Turning your body from the left to the right has opened up the opponent's body area.  The left hammerfist is to his ribs or kidney area.

12.       Look 180 degrees to the left and immediately lift the left foot up in front of the right knee and then slam the foot back down in the same place from where it was lifted (remember to maintain Naihanchi-Dachi).   As the stance sets simultaneously perform a left side body punch with the left hand.  The right hand acting as a guard comes across the body at the solar plexus level.   A Kiai is performed at this point.

(A)       The opponent on the left is struck with a double punch to his body.  The left hand strikes high on the rib cage, as the right hand strikes into the lower rib cage. These punches finish him off.

(B)       The opponent on the left has grabbed your left shoulder while attempting to sweep your left leg.  The leg lift avoids this sweep.  The left forearm is driven upward and the left shoulder rotates outward, thus disengaging his hold.  This also places the left fist in a position to punch.  The left fist, in a whip like motion, uses the elbow as a pointer and a punch is delivered to the opponent’s upper rib cage.  The right hand is a punch to the lower rib cage if the opponent is close enough or as a guard to retaliation if the opponent is to far off to strike.  The punch finishes him off.

 

ENDING

    Slide the left foot into the right and bring the heels together with the feet at a 45-degree angle.  Bring the right fist to the solar plexus and the place the left hand (in shuto position) in front of the right fist (palm toward the body).  Lower the hands to in front of the groin.  Bring the hands to the thighs (open in shuto position with the palms down to the sides).  Perform the standing bow.  Straighten the body and compose yourself.

 

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