Thursday, June 9, 2011

The manner of Isshinryu Kicking

Shimabuku Tatsuo using a kicking techinque from kata SunNuSu.
photograph located from Google images, owner uncredited.

Most of us will not face an kicking attack by an Okinawan trained karate-ka. Conditioned for modern kumite kicking attacks where an opponent launches kicks trying to break through or defense we are not necessarily prepared for the original kicking attacks.

If we were the lessons within the Isshinryu kata should be well to be understood, for they explain both kicking strategy and the key for basic defense.

The Okinawan use of kicking was in the range of striking. The kick might be launched exactly at the same distance you might strike, very close into the opponent. This necessitated a different method of kicking than modern competition. One good example is that found in Shimabuku Tatsuo’s execution of the Isshinryu kata. It also offers a very different perspective of how to defend against such close kicks.

Watching the kicking techniques of Shimabuku Tatsuo in his kata you see that the knee rises before the kick is thrown, and the kicks are targeted straight out from the knee towards the groin or thigh of an opponent in the case of front kicks. In fact in general the kicks are targeting the legs to remove the opponents base to down them.

Even the knee strikes are being performed straight into the leg of an opponent, not rising up. This makes these strikes at an even closer range than striking. As they are performed forward there is less time for opponent response.

I recommend closely viewing Shimabuku Tatsuo and his primary kicking techniques in his kata.

01 - Seisan front kick, cross over front kick

02 - Nihanchi inner kick

03 - Seiunchin step as stomp at kata end

04 - Wansu Knee strike, side kick, front- front kick

05 - Chinto front kick, jumping front kick, cross over front kick

06 - Kusanku front kick, front - front kick, inner crescent kick, jumping front kick

07 - Sunsu side kick, front kick, round kick, cross over stomp, knee strike


1) The targeting of the kicks being shown. All are below the waist because of the implied range of kicking.

2)The use of the front – front kick at the end of Wansu kata as one plausible counter against kicks being shown. Raising the leg as a deflecting parry and then counter-kicking the opponents leg.

3) I have omitted the use of stepping as a lower leg attack from this discussion.

Of course this method of kicking is not unique to Isshinryu.

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