Tag Archives for " Shotokan Kata "

Shotokan Myth #4 Returning to the starting point in Kata

Must we really return to the starting point in our kata?

When we do kata is it really mandatory that we come back to the exact spot where we started?  I can almost hear your reply; “Yes. Nakayama sensei said so in Best Karate.“  You are absolutely correct.  He listed 6 important points for kata in that famous book:

1. Correct Order

2. Beginning and End

3. Meaning of each movement

4. Awareness of target

5. Rhythm and timing

6. Proper breathing

For item 2 above, he clearly stated that “Kata must begin and end at the same spot on the embusen.  This requires practice.”

If you are in a tournament this is absolutely a requirement, isn‘t it?  If you are off by, say, one meter, I am sure those careful judges will take some points off of your performance.

Have you ever wondered why there is such a requirement?  Nakayama sensei did not explain why in his book.  Maybe it is such a natural thing and you may think I am wasting my time asking this.  But, I have wondered about this and foolishly investigated why for many years.  I was curious to know if the creators of kata (Itosu for Heian kata for an example) really designed all kata in such a way a performer will always return to the starting point.  After much investigation and direct questioning I concluded that this was not the case.  Someone changed the rule and created this new requirement of coming back to the exact starting point.  I wanted to find who was behind this and for what reasons.  This is a mystery and I wish to share my findings and my theory on this mystery with you today.

If you are a Nidan and above, you must have learned Chinte and this kata could be your tournament kata, especially if you are a female practitioner.  We know this is a very unique kata (Chinte literally means “unique or strange hand”,) but do you realize it also has a very unique (strange) ending (three hops backward)?  I have researched for many years and asked many sensei about these ending steps.  For the longest time, no one could give me a believable bunkai for these “unique” moves with the feet in heisoku dachi and hands clasped together.  It had been a big mystery to me, as I could not figure out the meaning of these strange hops.

The following is what I have found in the process of investigation.  One Japanese sensei, whose name I cannot reveal, told me it was for balance training.  Yes, it is indeed difficult to keep the balance with your feet and hands put together.  But if you think it through, it just does not make any sense as you wonder why they were put at the end of the kata.  After the final delivery of a kime technique (right gyaku zuki to chudan with ki-ai), we can expect a zanshin move as seen with the last step in Enpi.  However, why would anyone put three backward hopping steps that are not stable as a zanshin move?  Even if you buy this idea of having this balancing move there, why hop with two feet together?  Hopping with only one foot is more of a martial art move (like a tsuru ashi dachi in gankaku.)  No matter how much I considered the possibility, I cannot buy into this theory. (read more...)


Shihan Yokota has published numerous articles and books:

Book announcement: Re-print of Karate Do Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi

I am very proud to announce that KarateCoaching has access to the new re-print of Master Funokoshi's original book Karate Do Kyohan. KarateCoaching is working in cooperation with Tokon Martial Arts to fulfill your orders immediately. We can only highlight what a treasure this book in its full print is (not the shortened version that was published in the past) but we also need to mention that copies are limited so we highly recommend to place your order immediately as long as stock is still available.

Please order through the website of our partner Tokon.com


Karate Do Kyohan – Master Text for the Way of the Empty-Hand

Written by Master Gichin Funakoshi – The complete original 1935 Japanese Edition

Translated into English with all of the original photos and artwork

8.5” x 11” Format – Softcover Edition

This classic Shotokan Karate Master Text has been printed for the explicit purpose of providing an exact reproduction of the complete original 1935 Japanese publication, preserving a historically accurate archive replica in the English language, that now can be experienced and enjoyed by all who can appreciate its significance.

This legacy, as is the true goal of Karate Do, is meant to be experienced with mind, body, and Spirit. Master Funakoshi's message is transmitted in these pages through philosophical thought, physical and mental practice methods, and most importantly, with manifest image. Each photograph of Master Funakoshi not only demonstrates the exact form and method of each technique, but is also an archetypal key to the spiritual path he followed and exemplified.

This book is a comprehensive guide for the study of karate and is credited as the foundation document of the modern day karate movement. Inner strength and personal character development are stressed through an active daily regimen of physical exercise and martial technique.

Kara-te Do Kyohan is Master Funakoshi's gift to mankind. An informed study will reveal that his focus in life was to share his knowledge and the benefits he acquired and experienced through a life of conscious self-discipline rooted in the principles of Karate Do.

Gichen Funakoshi (1868-1957) was born in Shuri, Okinawa and, as a boy, began training with Yasutsune Azato (Shuri-te) and Yasutsune Itosu (Naha-te). Through many years of diligent practice these two styles were blended and became what is known today as Shotokan Karate.


A Look inside:

picture51 copy


vpofb1 copy





December 31, 2012

Tekki Keypoint 3

What I am doing here is not an instruction. Or the answering board to your questions. I am providing this space so that the readers can exchange the ideas. I only wish to provide you the basic concepts from which you need to build your understanding.

We have already established that there are several levels of interpretation and applications. If the application works then basically that bunkai can be considered as "applicable" or "realistic". If it does not work then it means either the interpretation or application is incorrect or you do not know how to apply it.

There are two fundamental concepts we must know about Tekki bunkai.
#1: It teaches many short distance fighting techniques such as tsukami uke, kagi zuki, ashi uke or knee kicks (blocking with knee or leg) with nami gaeshi, unpi uchi, jodan nagashi uke, tate uraken uchi, hold breaks (first move of Nidan), throws (kagi zuki in Shodan, 2nd and 3rd moves of Nidan), gedan zuki, joint attacks and arm twisting waza, etc.

#2: Fundamentally, your imaginary opponent is in front of you and not necessarily to your side. This does not mean that you are to fight using kiba dachi exposing your front (groin and mid section) to your opponent which is unwise and unrealistic. Look at Funakoshi photo in my earlier posting where he is doing morote ude uke to his right side but in a beautiful kiba dachi. Scroll the photo so that his lower body below the belt is hidden and see only his upper body above the belt. Doesn't it look like he would be in his right zenkutsu dachi? In bunkai you will do this technique in zenkutsu, but in Tekki kata you practice from kiba dachi (for the purposes I had described). My opinion is that this kata was not designed as a fighting method with your back against the wall or in a narrow corridor. It was designed to teach a fight method with the limited hip rotation that means short distance fighting. How clever those Okinawan masters were!!


December 30, 2012

Tekki add-on

I must add one more point from the training purpose of Tekki Shodan. As you can see in the photo, Master Funakoshi is beautifully demonstrating the flexibility of his hips. A student must learn to rotate the upper body in 180 degrees in this particular combinations without deforming perfect kiba dachi. Unless your hips and mid section are flexible it will be extremely difficult to rotate the upper body as shown below. This the excellent example of a solid and unmovable stance with a flexible upper body movements.
December 30, 2012

Tekki Keypoint 2

I do not have much time today so I will put down the summary of the point here. There are two good reasons why Tekki is based only on Kibadachi and the body movement is sideways. The first one is obvious and everyone knows. Kiba dachi is an excellent stance to train your stance and strengthen your legs. The second one has been a mystery: why only moving sideways? I have heard a few ideas. One was that this kata was created to fight with the wall behind you. Another was to learn the fighting method in a narrow corridor. I will talk about bunkai in Key point #3 so I will not go into this.Let me present my understanding from this unique kata. I have already mentioned about the body shifting in my previous post.
Okinawan masters wanted the beginners (this was the very first kata before Heian was invented in late 19th century) to learn how to body shift sideways before they learned how to body shift forward. Why sideways first? It is because it is physically easier to body shift that direction. I know many people do not agree with this as you feel more comfortable moving forward and moving sideways feels un-natural. But please experiment. Stand up in heisoku dachi and lean forward. You have the leg muscles to prevent the falling. Then try to lean sideways, it is a lot harder to prevent falling sideways. Believe it or not, ninja of medieval Japan found this running method useful. Regardless, by "falling" to the side one learned how to body shift quickly. Once it is learned, the students went on to Bassai Dai that has the forward body falling in its first move. I must say this old time curriculum of learning the fast body shifting is amazing.In fact there is another reason for kiba dachi which is not too emphasized in the most dojo. Kiba dachi is classified as one of the outside tension stance. However, by moving sideways one learns how to tense the inner muscles of upper legs. This again helps in fast body shifting.I will cover the key point of bunkai in #3, hopefully tomorrow.


Kata Info




The 26 Shotokan Kata
Shotokan Kata Highlights & Important Techniques
Shotokan Kata Bunkai
Shotokan Kata Exercises
Shotokan Kata Enbusen
Shotokan Kata "no right" and "no left"
Shotokan Kata Ura
Shotokan Kata Names & Meanings
Shotokan Kata and their learning goals
Shito Ryu Kata
Kata Team
Kata Team Exercises