Sunday, July 28, 2013

Opening Seisan Kata – Sho-Dan Study 101

Opening Seisan Kata 101.1 – a minor study in application potential

First Post a word from our sponsor

I thought it might be useful to try and show all the application potential I
find and teach for Seisan Kata’s opening section, as an expansion of earlier
efforts. Among the many reasons  my son is beginning this study,I’d also like to
record this for my instructors future efforts, and I’d like to share my thoughts
with my friends, too.

But starting to define them I both realized how much was there, almost an
unlimited number of potential to explore, and if I could document them I also
realized nobody would ever be able to use them.

Then I remembered words from Harrill Sensei, “The kata applications I share
aren’t important, it’s the principles underneath them which are important.”

Then it came to me, I should listen to Sherm’s words. So instead of focusing on
describing all of the potential applications I can do, I’m going to focus on the
principles underneath my application study and accompany them with some
examples. In turn they are where I yield my application study.

It also strikes me that trying to post everything I see at one time will lead to a babble complex, so I’m going to do this one piece at a time, and hope it leads to questions, thoughts, disagreement and perhaps even agreement on occasion.

To frame this series, I will offer this post.


Application Potential instead of Bunkai

I remember well a time when kata was just kata, almost everywhere, and a desire
to see if they were something else was a long, hard journey of self study.  In
time other study began to point out interesting answers used by other systems,
but I always returned to my own belief the kata technique ought to be used to
their full potential just as they stand.

Along that path a word came into public usage. The word was ‘Bunkai’, and the
most common usage was this was how the instructor would teach the applications
of the kata technique, their ‘bunkai’.

Words take a life of their own.  The use of ‘bunkai’ came from the developing
Japanese forms of karate. It is a specialized term within some of that
community, not a universal understanding for all Japanese. Outside of the
martial arts community that used it the average Japanese would use the term  as
the car mechanic would bunkai the car, take it apart, to locate the problem.
Really a very different use of the word, where in karate perhaps the kata is
bunkai’d to explain the applications.

But the use of ‘bunkai’ to explain how kata application was taught was not
enough. Other additional terms such as ‘oya bunkai’ arose to explain the
alternate applications, etc. to develop a more technical explanation of what was
being taught. So things became more structured as abstraction to discuss the
actual events, and categorize them.

I spent quite a while on a different sort of ‘bunkai’ one more like the concept
of hidden hand ‘kakushite’ in a tradition where the dan studied thousands of
applications tied into kata sections similar to mnemonic devices to remember and
teach them. But this ‘bunkai‘ did not use the kata techniques directly. Yet did
accurately describe another abstraction, or map to lay on top of the process of
developing a students applications.

I am not comfortable with the use of ‘bunkai’ to really understand karate. 
Having an instructor define answers is fine, and if that’s all one chooses to do
that is fine too. But I look to a freer hand.

On Okinawa, pre 1900 there was extremely little technical vocabulary to define
karate. There was no ‘bunkai’ you just experienced, first hand, your
instructor’s answers, and for a wide variety of reasons, it is reported many
instructors rarely taught application use until very long in the arts study. And
I’m sure there are those who used it very early for the student too. Just
because there are stories, one should never assume those stories explain the
full picture.

Dan Smith (Seibukan) just made the observation on the cyberdojo, from a question
about the use of the term ‘kakushite’ that I feel ties into this topic.  “The
Okinawans try not to emphasis specific applications as it limits the possible
responses or utilization of techniques. Tijikun means demonstrating what the
hand is doing and is teaching method utilized by Okinawans to emphasize the
correctness of technique rather than the specific application.”

Regardless of what anyone else does or taught, when we perform kata all of its
techniques represent a potential that any of us ought to be able to tap into.
This Application Potential does not have limits drawn around it.  If you work
and find a method of using the technique that you were not shown and in turn you
can successfully drop an opponent with it, there is no right or wrong answer.
There is simply potential realized.

When I began to look at kata technique this is what struck me, how can it
actually be used, and my own studies began to find out what did work. Of course
there are layers to this study, and in turn the more I looked the more I was

Then serendipity let me experience Harrill Sensei, and an entire universe beyond
my initial understanding was there. For he would take a movement sequence (as he
defined it) and explore it’s potential, in greater and greater depth, literally
hours and hours on one movement.

Though not his student, he pointed in large directions that I continue to follow
with my own efforts as well as what he shared.

But application potential is not the end, it is but a beginning step, with
infinite answers. After studying the potential, then the work comes learning how
to sell that potential against stronger and stronger attacks, how to learn how
to choose between the potential answers for a best situational response, and
acceptance not to limit the answers to keep one un-readable by an opponent,

* * * *
My first reason for taking this route is to try and develop a clear path in this exploration as we develop a stronger new Dan development program.  I’m working with my son in particular at this time. But I think the stronger we can make this will help my students train their students in the future too, by giving them a strong foundation behind any techniques application potential, shortening they way into advancing, far more interesting studies.

I also do not consider the study of application potential but one step on the way. After each is how to you build the confidence, skill and presence to actually use them.
There are no short paths we can follow,

Opening Seisan Kata 101.2 – The Kata Section Defined
When I think of Isshinryu in my soul, it is where I began on the first day. Yes I did begin with the study of the charts, but I also began with the study of Seisan Kata.
Seisan Kata’s opening section links so many different topics. Depending on how you received the charts, it’s potential is there. You can find its soul within Sanchin and within SunNuSu. Variations on a core theme, a core Seisan-ness.
And in total, Almost variations within the Seisan Theme (Tou’on Ryu, Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu, Ueichi Ryu and on) share some similarity in the opening section.
But the potential is not universal. A school nearby does a variation of the Seibukan Seisan.  Their use of stepping out in a block in horse stance and then shifting into their front stance with the punch is not one I personally believe in, and in turn many of the Isshinryu potentials are not there, replaced by other ones.
So limiting myself to Isshinryu, realizing there are variations on the theme, still feel many will understand these section definitions, for the kata.
AS I perform Seisan the section I am looking at would begin:
1.      Cross Hands (right hand on top)
2.      Left Foot Forward Left Side block as Right Hand Chambers
3.      Right Reverse punch as Left Hand Chambers
4.      Right Foot Forward Left Reverse punch as Right Hand Chambers
5.      Left Foot Forward Right Reverse punch as Left Hand Chambers
I realize some may not cross the hands (chambering the right hand and just stepping forward with a left outside block) which may change some of your options.  
Others may follow the reverse punch with an outside block with the same hand, or just emphasize the punching hand’s retraction after the strike so much it is almost identical with a block.
I suspect the most common explanation for the first side block and reverse punch is the attacker is punching with their right hand, you step forward, block/parry the punch aside and punch them in their solar plexus.  (Which by the way is one of the variations I will be discussing, as will its obvious follow-up, continue to step forward and keep striking (3 times) into the attacker).
But Shimabuku Sensei saw a different answer (from the Harrill Sensei notes on the self defense techniques in the Pleasant Isshinryu files section from 2002) 1.a. Left hand holds right wrist. From Seisan, pull the hand back to the release position and strike to the solar plexus.

And eventually I’ll be discussing that too.
So that’s where I’m coming from.
Opening Seisan Kata 101.3 – Some Basic Principles Underlying the Discussion Defined
I think it’s a good idea to frame several tools I’m going to be using in this discussion up front. If this boors you feel free to skip reading the rest. 
But as I continue along my way, they’re going to be referenced and more principles specific to certain types of applications, will be added.
On conclusion I think I’ll wrap all the principles behind the techniques together in an appendix.
Let’s see if Sherm knows what he was talking about (and I’m sincerely betting he does).
1.  Kata I’m defining as a relatively fixed tool (hey I’m polite) develop certain energy potential, and application potential tries to use as much of that energy as possible, as exactly as possible, for greatest results. 
2.  A technique application may be Offensive in nature, Defensive in nature, or Counter Offensive. But as in combat all plans are thrown aside when the enemy is joined (borrowed that line of course from many movies – last seen in Tom Cruise’s Last Samuari) My definitions of course are just an arbitrary analysis of potential.
Offensive – when I choose to use a sequence to directly attack the opponent (frequently from the side or the rear).
Defensive – They strike first and I defend against their attack to stop it.
Counter-Offensive – They’ve attacked and I survive and counter-attack. The simplest answer is I’ve been stuck in their grab and yank and I respond.
3.  The manner of Stepping is not defined by the kata.
The concept of application potential does not follow 100% kata technique, but allows a bit of warp to consider all the techniques potential. Most times I start with identical stepping as in the kata, but at times when I find the shape of an attack does not make it harmonious I’ll step differently. Principles behind those choices will come at that time.
4.  The manner of Stepping is either Straight or Curved.  Now there’s a line that should be included in the Code of Karate, IMO  I must be clear I’m a solid crescent step guy. That’s how I was trained to execute the system, it’s how I teach the system (getting very heavy on my students (advanced too) cases when they don’t use it), and I believe it represents one of my core values behind Isshinryu energy development.
But being a rational individual I fully understand very similar power potential (perhaps the same) exists with the straight style of stepping. It’s just not what I do and if I go into my normal chant on stepping execution, feel free to tune me out. Course I’m right <Grin>
5.  Behind the crescent step. There are many types of energy development in our body all of which combine in our execution. What I really like about the crescent step is how we pull our lower body into our centerline and then can explode from that centerline into our opponent, increasing the energy of our strike.
The specific timing I strive for is 2/3rds of the step is drawing into the centerline and 1/3rd of the step to explode out.
There are subsidiary benefits, such as allowing you to change your mind ½ the way in your step and back up from the centerline using replacement stepping, if the opponents coming in faster than you wish. (thanks to Rich Kordel for suggesting that to me years ago).  So you get to compress some of your energy and explode it into your attacker, combining with the other energies from your body.
6.  Description Shorthand
I tend to use a short hand I developed long ago to write less.
RFF = Right Foot Forward
LFF = Left Foot Forward
RFB = Right Foot Back
LFB = Left Foot Back
RP = Right Punch
LP = Left Punch
And so forth.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.4.1 – Crossing Hands
Crossing Hands applications represent variances in the manner in which the ‘X’ is formed for its application potential.
I expect many did not think I’d start here.
In fact I would not have started here but for the fact Sherman Harrill began the first clinic I attended with this section of Seisan Kata.
But in this post I’m not beginning with what I understand of Sherman’s answer. Instead an answer from my studies.
The situation – you have somebody on top of you, say shouting in a crowded place and you read their eyes, and reddening face and realize they’re ready to grab or strike you.  Your hands are relatively down at your sides, and your back is against the wall, bar or people behind you so you can’t move forwards or backwards.
The response – You release you knees, allowing your center to drop and your two fists strike up, forming the ‘X’, with the right fist on top.
You strike with the vertical ridge of knuckles into the solar plexus. In fact as your weight drops from the knee release, your fist strikes up, slamming into their solar plexus with great power gives you an opening for Plan B, C and/or D.
Principles involved:
Knee Release 1.a. – I owe Joe Swift to getting my mind on this, he translated material on this from a book published in Japan, and later released in English. I can’t remember the name right now, though I know Len’s referenced it several times.
Essentially you cannot move unless you release your knees continually. The knee release coupled with allowing the bodies weight to drop into a technique allows that dropping weight to be released in other power, such as a strike. 
You can prove this readily. Take a partner (perhaps one you don’t feel to friendly towards on that day) and try the rising crossed hands strike into their solar plexus without releasing your knees. Then do the same with the knee release and see which gives you a bigger bounce, and which causes their eyes to bulge out more. Then form your own conclusions, not my word.
This is just one example, there are others we will be using later. This is a principle with a lot to offer in application potential.
Principle of Alignment Theory – Here’s another difficult one to explain. It’s easy to show in person and it can be done with different description maps (words) to explain the same idea.
In this technique it’s pretty simple. When you cross the hands your power increases (you an also prove this to yourself). You aren’t slamming the lower left hand their tight, just rising, not necessarily supporting the right. But as long as the left rises and touches the right it’s more powerful.
The simple reason for this is because when the wrists touch, the other side of the body is drawn forward, keeping it in better alignment for more power.
If the human body is not aligned correctly for technique (which can vary depending on how the technique is being used for energy release) it is less powerful.
If you are perfect, you can make the rising right hit the solar plexus correctly and still get the bang for your buck, but when your hands touch you won’t make a mistake, your entire body is engaged properly.
Oooops – Addendum
Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s - Advanced Tai Chi Form Instructions.
As a practitioner of Yang Long Fist Tai Chi Chaun, at the forms end there is a section called ‘Step up and Form Seven Stars’ that employs an identical hand formation, and the two hands rise up to face height but passes the solar plexus along the way.
Recently I was looking at Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s book and was struck with his description of the application of this technique.
Page 95, “The two wrists intersect and support each other as they attack the opponents solar plexus.  This blow is extremely devastating.  Its victims re unlikely to escape serious danger. Those who use it should not do so lightly.
I’m not certain I would endorse his analysis of the medical ramifications of the strike, but it can pack a wallop. Yes my son doesn’t like me striking him this way, nor in many other ways either <G>.
This is the first of many other parallels I will try to show as this technique analysis continues.
Notes – 9.6.2005
The rolling center (and the appropriate knee release to help move the kyoshi, abdominal area, is necessary to use the full body, and not just the upper body. When you parry right and down your center shifts to the right focused on the parry. Then when you roll the left over to the left and the right rolls up (in the ‘x’), your center rolls left. Then when you roll your left arm up you roll your center over to the right to roll them down. Caution do not roll the wrist, properly from the ‘left side block’ position that hand forms a hammer-fist to down the opponent.
When your back is against the wall
Sherman once said to really know how to sell a technique practice with your back against the wall so you can’t move out of the way (readily). With this application you really need to use your ongoing rolling center to make this happen.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.4.2 – Crossing Hands – Tribute to Harrill Sensei
When I met Harrill Sensei for the first time, and it was when he was covering maybe 150 applications a clinic, a very stiff pace, he explored a great many different potentials within the Crossing Hands of Seisan Kata.
This section highlights some of the strongest lessons I learned from his teachings.
His use of the crossing hands and the following side block and reverse punch really shows how much he could look beyond the basic appearance of a technique.
What he did was open up the act of the crossing hands by taking its components, looking how different timing and entry into the cross hands would yield different potential.
This crossing hands was practiced against a straight punch, but I really think of it more as a grab defensive counter.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response - Staying in stance you roll your center line to the left. As you do that, your left arm rolls across their arm, towards your center and down. And with that movement your center line rolls back to the right. This section has been a double rolling of the hips.
[Variable, I also like to do this by reaching out with my left alongside their reaching arm, and then drawing it back as I roll their arm to my centerline and down. This is using the arm as an earlier intercept and allows you greater contact to control their limb incoming.]
As my left arm presses their arm down, my right arm now rolls in and up, striking their arm just behind the elbow, forcing their arm to bend. The ‘Cross’ is formed by the cross strike, as your right arm goes left it crosses the plane of your left arm pressing in and down. The ‘X’ is formed with their arm in-between, even if your two arms are not touching. As you’re doing this
When their arm bends at the elbow, begin the act of chambering your right, drawing your thumb back across their inner elbow, as you do that your left arm rolls up underneath and behind their arm, to a side block type of arm/elbow lock on their arm. Your right continues to chamber as normal.
You have also been rolling your centerline back to the left during the ‘X’ and Side Block process. This centering of your body centerline on the working aspect of a block/lock is another aspect of alignment theory, to create a stronger technique with less ‘arm strength’ instead using the entire body more efficiently.
At this point you press your left arm down across their arm to the right, and your body centerline rolls back to the right. This forces them down in an elbow lock.
You complete the technique with a reverse punch to the throat, behind the ear, the neck at the carotid sinus, or other target of choice.
You can even use an add-on here, and instead of a straight punch to the neck, add on a right hook punch into the tip of their shoulder for the pain it offers.
This is a very useful locking or projection technique, depending on angle of entry, and the manner in which the kata energy is expressed in the execution. Just by making the lock and roll down more extreme, it becomes a projection, throwing the individual on their head.
When they use their left - 
But this does not end here, because of another principle, the unlocking principle.
What if they grab at you with their left hand instead of their right. You don’t have to root for a more specific technique, instead just apply the technique the same way against their left grabbing arm.
You will discover it is a slightly different lock, more a bent arm drag down, but it works just as effectively. 
This rather unique category of karate technique usage makes me thing of how the Chinese Arts contain Chin-Na, or locking techniques.
In fact I’ve been looking through my Chin-Na collection and I don’t find this lock present, the most I can do is find the bent arm elbow lock-down ending, but not the same entry.  But the Chinese Chin-Na texts point out they do not contain everything, just the more common locks.
While similar to Chin-Na there is a difference, most of the chin-na I’ve seen (such as in Northern Eagle Claw) incorporate grabs with the locks to make the pain more intense and the lock stronger.
This set of applications does not do this. 
In general I approach use of locks the same way. Unless you’re contesting against someone on a one to one basis, grabbing the arm you’re trying to lock ties that hand up, and if you’re attacked by somebody else the same time, that grabbing hand just can’t be released enough.
On the whole I teach to use the rolling center into the lock entry and the pressure of arm against arm to work the opponent into the lock. If another attacks, you just have to roll your pressure away from the lock to free the arms up for the second opponent.
Instructors note – too often people feel more comfortable using a grab. It sometimes takes considerable work to keep everyone on mission, but the grab-less locks using your full body centering, and arm pressure to make the lock work with correct practice.
Principle of Fractal Analysis
Fractal analysis is a term I borrowed from a BaGua-zhang discussion that I like because I feel it really describes what Harrill Sensei was doing.  Fractals are a mathematical study where you bore down into smaller components of a process, and then deeper still, still yielding new study. [I’m not a mathematician and this is the closest I can wrap words around a very interesting very, very complex mathematics study.]
What I see as fractal analysis is taking components of a kata technique and using them as complete techniques itself. The deeper your bore, the more useful material is uncovered. 
The Unlocking Principle
I had worked out the theory behind the unlocking principle long before I had met Harrill Sensei, and was using it in my own studies, but he made it sing.
In its simplest statement, look at a technique from a right attack, from a left attack, while turning, or from rear entry.
The technique in the kata, is not limited to what appears before you as for its application potential.
The principle of the Add-on
Depending on the situation, there are often other endings that provide great effect too. There are no rules in application potential that say you cannot use the application to its fullness and then add something on for greater effect, obtaining synergy from the combination of techniques.
Where add-on’s are theoretically infinite, I am going to just focus on a few of the more logical ones in my experience for this level of study.
Spiraling Energy
One way to look at this lock is that the left hand in spiraling in during its movement till it completes the spiral by rolling the opponent down.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.4.3 – Crossing Hands the Director’s Cut
Here we come to the end of looking at the use of the opening crossing hands in Seisan Kata.  But this isn’t the least, rather one of the more important application potentials to study in the kata, the way I would keep score (and I normally don’t weight anything better or worse than the next).
The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself.
This usage of Kata Seisan’s opening crossing hands and side block then reverse punch also came from that first clinic I attended with Harrill Sensei.
The situation – Your opponent strikes out with their right hand.
Your response -  As their arm comes out, you step forward (for myself I normally chose to step forward with my right foot. [Interior Line of Defense.] My right hand strikes across my body into their arm, with a vertical ridge of knuckles. At the same time my left vertical hand strikes into their right oblique muscle, several inches below their right lower rib.
This simultaneous strike both deflects their arm and strikes them at a point where they really are not ready to receive a strike. Their focus is on their arm reaching out to touch you, not on receiving impact into a sensitive area.
Ernie Rothrock tells me this is one of the reasons the Chinese arts he studied chamber low, so the turning hand can be drawn back to protect that area, the returning chamber in effect wedging an attack away while it is being drawn back.
You can clearly see a relative comparison to Wansu kata parry/strike technique in this application.
But if really nailing someone when they’re not expecting it is enough a whole lot of other choices are open.
Next simultaneously chamber your right hand and perform an outside block with the left. Then complete the section with a strike into their solar plexus.
But we’re not finished with this by far.
The principle of the Chambering Hand
I think the thing that impressed me most about this technique was how the chambering hand could become a slashing plane of force. With the chambering hand you can:
  Return the chambering hand as a slash across the ribs.
  Return the chambering hand as a slash across the face.
  Return the chambering hand as a returning slash to drive a 2nd punch aside. This is where the attacker was performing a grab and punch.
When this sequence is used with the above sequence, it literally becomes ‘Hit ‘em once, hit ‘em twice and hit ‘em once again.’
I can even see how you might want to make a punch miss just to hit them with a really punishing return slice, if you really don’t like the opponent.

Now we return to a friend, The return of the Unlocking Principle.
The Attack - Now the attacker steps forth with their left and strikes with their left hand. 
The Response – Perform the identical defense against the left grab/strike as you would with the right.
You strike across with your right as your left punch strikes into their left oblique muscle. Then you simultaneously side block/parry with your left as your right hand slices across their ribs as you chamber. Then you strike out with your right hand. Where you strike of course is the issue.
There are other ways to step and change the angle of this defense against arm attacks, but more on them to come.
The principle of the 100% Drop
When you’re on the outside, and your striking hand is chambered, one way to drop your opponent all the time is to take that hand and deliver a vertical strike into their outside upper leg, striking into the bone.
This cramps their leg up (charly horse time) and they fall.
It is not the only option, but one that really works.
While there are many other Seisan principles that can be inter-mixed with these versions, we’ll let them be discussed as we move forward, rather than at this moment.
In fact this entire study will be self-reflexive. Many of the Seisan principles can be intertwined at will.
Note – far from done, I won’t be posting at this pace each day either.
One of the reasons I like this application potential rests in the relentless striking it represents.
Consider a boxing style attack. Here you begin working the exterior lien of defense, striking into their leading arm from the outside, and as you do so you’ve also closed on them with the lower body strike. Follow that with the slashing chambering hand and following strike.
In fact when pressed there is an alternative answer to the reverse punch, you pull the hand ½ the way back and then return the reverse strike, but release the knees to drop your weight and increase the power of the shorter strike at the same time.
You can also and should practice this from side to side opening it on the left, complete the sequence, and then open on the right, etc.
In fact for Seisan 201.1 – Working the Applications, this is a prime weapon against aggravated attack.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.5.1 – The Old Standby
The time has come to look at our likely original answer how to apply Seisan kata’s opening. In fact as the oft quoted Harrill Sensei would say when explaining one of his applications, “when push comes to shove I’d probably just hit them.”
So let’s look at the basic Seisan Hit
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] You step out with a left crescent step and use a left side block to deflect their strike. Then chambering the left hand you strike them into their solar plexus with your right hand.
And of course using the Unlocking Principle.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their left hand.
Your response – [Exterior Line of Defense] You step out with a left crescent step and use a left side block to deflect their strike. Then chambering the left hand you strike them into the side of their ribs with your right hand.
See how simple it is, just real Isshinryu.  So now we can go home and back to bed?  Unfortunately, not!
There are an incredible number of variables that we need to address to begin to understand the application potential of what I’ve described.
So many answers in fact I’m going to only cover one set of them now with other layers to come.
Both of these examples describe a rather straight line movement into the attacker. We’re going to keep with that for now.
Variable No. 1 – Principle that Blocks can also Suck!
The beginning outside block I teach has the arm hinge across the body, pivoting on the elbow, to deflect a strike aside.  Talking as I teach a common flaw often presents itself. If my mind is distracted I don’t block fast enough and I get hit as I’m trying to demonstrate how to perform it correctly.  That doesn’t make the basic blocking principle bad, rather demonstrates you have to perform it correctly. But it does highlight a real issue if you don’t accelerate faster than the attack is being accelerated towards you, there is a problem in the offing.
There are other ways to compensate for some of the structural flaws within the hinging block [All techniques have structural flaws at some point] and we’ll be looking at them in the next section.
But Harrill Sensei showed a different answer to us, one also found in our Bando stick studies.
The outside block can be performed in a very different manner, to have the left hand reach out and form the block, drawing the blocking forearm back to finish the block (an inward side block instead of an outside block. The arm ends in the same position, but the inward drawing motion, besides forming a moving wall, helps draw the opponent in closer, where the outside block just bounces their arm away often leaving their center in place.
By drawing them in, or sucking them in, it makes them closer to strike into with your reverse punch.
So depending on how you block, will determine where they will be located for you counter. There are strategic reasons for both sets of answers, and it works for interior and exterior types of blocking.
Principle 2 – How to Step into Seisan
Even using the crescent step to explode into the block, there are other basic stepping concerns that can be addressed.
For one thing you can use the crescent step to step on top of their lead instep. This cements them to the ground and allows their more immobile body to receive a strike more soundly because they cannot get away.
But the crescent step can also be used to hook the front leg into a front leg press with their foot/leg between your lead foot and leg, to create a press down.
Immobilizing the opponent always offers strong answers.
Principle No 3 – The manner of striking is either hard or soft
For me this goes back to my beginning. Mr. Lewis used to describe the Isshinryu strike as tightening on the instant of impact, and then releasing immediately afterwards.
So leave it to Harrill Sensei to turn this into practice. The best way I can express this was that he implied there were two sorts of striking. The first sort the fist is compressed tightly throughout the strike. The second sort, the hand is somewhat looser composed during the strike, but the impact helps tighten the hand even further than it can do itself, and as the hand releases after impact, that release helps it get out of dodge, and creates an interesting secondary effect. That receding hand causes the abdominal wall to snap out after compression. This creates a secondary shock from the strike. 
When Harrill Sensei would strike us in the abdomen this way you would feel a rising shock into your throat.
Private Note - Harrill sensei told us he only practiced this strike on Seisan’s Opening and SunNuSU’s opening.
I feel there is a sound tactical way to choose between the strikes. If having to respond instantly, the compressed fist makes most sense. You strike clean and hard.
If you have a moment of time to choose where to strike and the abdomen is a good target choice, then the looser fist to compress on impact makes sense too.
As I practice this Seisan Kata uses both striking techniques.
Principle No. 4 - Where to Strike
Interior Line of Defense against a Right Strike
  Opponents Solar Plexus
  Opponents Face
  Opponents Left External Oblique
Exterior Line of Defense against a Left Strike
  Opponents lower side below the ribs
  Opponents side ribs
  Opponents head below the ear
  Opponents thigh, striking directly into the bone.
The Interior Line of Defense against a Right Strike, offers another possibility. You can strike it with the vertical hand canted to about 1 o’clock and have the strike pass straight through their body so they feel it in their kidneys.
The other possibility is to strike into their Left External Oblique and have the vertical hand canted to about 11 o’clock. This strike causes the opponent to bend forward. In fact if you combine this with the sucking block, the block draws them forward, the strike to the left external oblique canted to 11 o’clock, causes them to draw forward further, and then you can pop them with your left.
There are certainly other areas to strike, but I think this is a good sampling for this time.
Principle No. 5 – How to Strike
Continuing the application analysis, you can strike with the two vertical knuckles flat fist, or you can strike with the two vertical knuckles striking in on an angle so you are using the vertical ridge of knuckles.
Principle No. 6 – The Add-on
Previously mentioning there are no real limits to what a kata technique application potential can be, one of the nice things you can do to a technique, is add something else on, the Add-on.
In my book, one of the nicest add-on’s to the reverse punch is a following vertical thumb strike underneath the tip of the opponents jaw, especially if you also stepped on their instep as you moved into them.
In fact after the reverse punch a whole series of thumb strikes make sense. Depending on how you slingshot off, you can strike either side of their neck with a rolling thumb strike (clockwise (as in a thumb hook) and counter-clockwise (as a reverse ridgehand strike)).
At the other range of add-on’s I like here came from some Indonesian training. After the reverse punch, just raise your hand so it flows across the sides of the eye orbit, this causes their head to move away from the touch, and in turn flow your open hand across their eyes in that direction. The resultant neck rotation will put them into extreme disadvantage or into a takedown.
This face flow works because we are all conditioned to turn our face away from pressure into the eyes ( for this to work its not on the cheek, but directly across the eyes from either side ) [Warning do this soft for practice, it can lead to the whiplash effect if not careful.]
While extreme counter training can train someone to turn into that flowing motion across the eyes, to almost everyone else as you touch the face you lead their focus. It also provides you with a less violent answer to stop an attack, if the circumstances warrant this option.
Principle No 7 – Use of the Block as a Strike
There no restrictions keeping us using the initial as a strike. Among the options.
Interior Line Answers against a right strike
1. LFF and Left rising strike into the solar plexus or the jaw.
2. LFF and left rising strike into the attacking shoulder.
Exterior Line Answers against a left strike
3. LFF and left rising strike into the upper ribs under their arm
4. LFF and left rising strike into the left side of their throat (under their striking arm)
5. LFF and Left rising strike into their left armpit
Principle No 8 – Grab and pull
In the grab and pull, the pull is as sharp as the kata practice can make it to drag the opponent closer.
Exterior line of Defense.
1. LFF Left outside block, then grab their biceps and yank them into the punch.
2. LFF Left outside block, then grab their shoulder (shirt/coat) and yank them into the punch.
Principle No 9 – Defense from the Rear
You’re standing alone outside and all of a sudden somebody jumps you from behind and places you in a bear hug. Another or Harrill Seisei’s answers was to just step forward with a left outside block (to help release the grab) and you chamber our right hand striking them sharply into their ribs at the same time.
Grab defenses are important to keep in the art. Yes many of us would not find ourselves being grabbed, but depending on location, or size of the attacker, if you’re a woman or child, being grabbed can and will be very real possibilities.
Principle No 10 – Defense against a right grab.
Whether they’ve grabbed your right arm with their left, your right arm with both their hands, or have grabbed both your hands, you have the same counter. You step out and reach your left arm underneath their arm(s) and then you deliver a left outside block and sharply chamber your right, then strike them. A very effective set of grab defenses using Seisan’s opening section.
But if that’s not good enough for you how about the Brillant Answer from Isshinryu’s creator.
To close this section, and give us pause, lets return to Shimabuku Sensei’s own answer for using this section of Seisan.  Left hand holds right wrist. From Seisan, pull the hand back to the release position and strike to the solar plexus.
Yep, he liked Seisan too.
I believe you will see this range of variables is not an everything goes sort of training.  I did not go into every basic variable, but enough to make the point. You can mix and match all of this with almost everything discussed to date. It’s why trying to describe all of these options would take forever.
And if this is basic Seisan, can you imagine what’s coming next?

Opening Seisan Kata 101.5.2 –   Moving Along or basic Angling for an Answer
Having looked at applying the kata as it’s design first suggests, moving forwards (and perhaps backwards), we must look into the spatial relationship of the kata movement to the attack.
I remember Joe Swift sharing a translation he made of Mabuni Kenwa describing how to interpret kata movement, from the 1938 book “Karatedo Nyumon”.  Mabuni’s point was it was a mistake to interpret the kata movements application potential just by the way the form moved. I would interpret that to mean just because the kata goes forward the only possible interpretation of that movement isn’t just straight ahead.
In fact you can use a movement to enter an attacker’s total 360 degree sphere of focus. While the attacker may be attacking you from the front, they could be attacking somebody else and you may be standing anywhere in relation to that attack and choose to enter it with your technique.  That really forms an entirely different sort of application analysis.
But the attack I’m interested in at this moment is still coming in straight at me.  Perhaps at a time one is fast enough to fairly move directly into the attack, or directly away from it, but one does not always stay young, and/or the attack might involve a weapon, and you most definitely want to be in the plane of such.
There is another answer, that of moving to the side, angling away from the attack.
Whether an Interior Line of Defense movement, or an Exterior Line of Defense movement, angling into your front stance removes you from the intended target zone, and in turn makes your response faster as you’re closer to your target.
Principle of the 20 degree shift
There are a number of different ways to shift. For myself I most often prefer shifting to a 20 degree angle across the attack.  You can shift both feet into that ‘angled’ front stance, but most of the time I use Replacement Stepping. If I wanted to angle to the right, as the attacker strikes, I’d move my left foot alongside my right, but instead of continuing to step out, I would step back with my right foot, to swing into that angled front stance.
Shifting the angle you are no longer where their grab/punch was intended and your hand to strike back is closer to them.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot begins the crescent step by drawing the foot in alongside the right foot, but then you step back and over with the right foot, forming a Seisan Stance facing across their striking arm at a 20 degree angle. You then use your outside block to parry their strike away from you, while you chamber your right hand (and perhaps slash it back alongside their chest as you do so).
If they are throwing the grab following punch, you can always strike across it with the bottom of your striking arm, deflecting it downward, and still hit them faster as your right hand is closer than it was originally.
And the Exterior Line of Defense works the same way, with just a different set of target opportunities, as the ribs or side of the head may offer.
As to how to use the movement, sliding your stance is as effective as replacement stepping. The goal is just to get into the position.
Offensive use of the Seisan LFF Left Outside Block
In a related issue, there are other uses of entering an attack on the angle, in this case using the 20 degree exterior line of offense, to stop an attacker directed elsewhere.
The situation – Your opponent RFF reaches out with their right hand to attack somebody else.
Your response – [Exterior Line of Defense] You’re standing on the exterior of the attack. You use your stepping crescent step to step in behind the opponents lead leg.
As you do this, you use your crossed hands to strike with the right hand into the opponents triceps, striking back towards their body. This will move their arm somewhat to your left.
Then as you step behind their leg, your left arm reaches down and then to your left in the left outside block.
The timing is such you trap their leg, and execute the left outside block underneath their outstretched arm into their chest. This ‘blocking’ motion steals their balance and your block downs your opponent.  In fact this is a variation of a standard Tai Chi theme, now to enter an attack with a strike/throw. 
Even fractals of that outside block/strike are available, that outside block could always be turned into a descending elbow strike if the opportunity is right.
Principle of Seisan with no movement
At one of the last clinics I attended with Harrill Sensei, I remember him talking about applying some technique as if your back was against the wall, you could not move backwards, and with the opponent before you, you could not move forewords.
To see this with Seisan Kata, take a neutral high parallel stance, with your arms hanging down.
The situation – Your opponent RFF reaches out with their right hand to attack you.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense and pinned down] Standing in parallel stance all you do is use your knee release effectively, don’t take a step and still outside draw side block and then reverse punch for effect.
Learning how to shift your center to match the technique can approximate the stance from the kata in question, and you don’t have to move your feet at all.
In fact you can do the entire Seisan Kata without stepping and still learn how to make each technique series work. The focus must be on learning how to shift your center appropriately with your knee release.
I’m not going to describe this further, just state I teach it and make it work.
So we see Seisan still has more opportunities to be considered, beside standard application study.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.5.3 –   Redefining the Opening or moving beyond the boundaries
One interesting principle underlying kata technique application study is there is no defined lines what constitutes a kata technique step. Sure there is the definition used for a new student as a training device, but there are no rules that says that has to define the technique as you work technique application potential.
It is for this fact alone, that the topic of how to define a section may be almost infinite in potential. It all depends on where you draw the lines. Taking the step and block then punch, then step and punch and then step and punch and making it a defined practice is as logical as just taking the first aspect, block and then punch.
I don’t intend to make this an infinite study, but there is one underlying principle that I find works everywhere, in every kata, in every system of study, every time. The Principle – Take the Next Step
The way I see using karate’s potential is to keep somebody from hurting me (or someone else). If I train very, very hard and have a very, very, very good reverse punch, what happens when I unload my perfect punch and ‘Arnold’ just stands there and takes it.  The possibility exists that there is always somebody that my best won’t work against, especially if you consider, age, size, amount of training, etc.
But what if there was a way to maximize that you could use your karate technique and put the attacker on the ground. Just that, put them down, with no other guarantees. Is that worth the effort?
To me it certainly is, and my study found a very logical answer. When I complete a standard kata section, I just add the next stepping movement in the kata, and use it as a sweep to take the opponent off their feet.
Thus they try and strike me, and I step in and block them then strike them, and then step around their leg and sweep them to drive them down.  Certainly this is more involved and requires training on the warp of the stepping process, but it is a very effective answer.
For example:
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus and as you connect you step forward with a perfect crescent step that ends with your leg bouncing into their calf from behind, and you continue the punch as a press to drive them down.
Or you consider a Shimabuku Sensei option expressed by Harrill Sensei. That immediately upon striking with the fist, compress the elbow and turn it into an elbow strike, and then step forward with the sweep.
And being an equal opportunity employer it works equally well if you use the unlocking principle and use the same defense against their LFF Left grab defense.
A more abstract use of the entire originally defined sequence is as follows, it works as above but you take the third step and get a really different answer.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus and as you connect you step forward with a perfect crescent step that ends with your leg bouncing into their calf from behind, and you continue the punch as a press to drive them down.
As they’re on the floor, and you’re holding their right arm in your left hand, take the third crescent step, pulling your left hand into chamber and rotating their arm in the process so the knee of your third step smashes behind their elbow. Which equates to a broken arm or a dislocation of the elbow.  [I suggest this be practiced very, very carefully.]
Principle – the Manner of Stepping
This leads us into the potential uses of stepping in kata technique.
We’ve already suggested you can step on top of their lead foot to immobilize them, or you can step behind their foot from the front, hooking the foot to trap their leg between your instep and your shin, for a pressing leg takedown.
But each stepping movement has other potential answers. The stepping can be a low kick into the ankle to force the opponent down.
Each stepping movement may be a knee strike into a groin or the inner thigh.
Each stepping movement may be a stomping strike into their lower leg.
Consider the following answer.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus and then you step forward, but when your right leg reaches your left, the leg rises and instead you stomp kick across their knee/lower leg, as you continue your step.
A rather final answer to a defense.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.5.4 –   Seeing Aikido Potential in Seisan
When I discussed the opening of Seisan kata I showed a locking technique crafted by Harrill Sensei.
I don’t find that kata can contain locks and or throws unusual for I’ve found many obvious ones in my own study. But Seisan’s opening section offers a unique glimpse how one art may be present in another. I’m going to describe several direct links to aikido technique.
I must hasten to add, this does not make Isshinryu aikido, rather using the Isshinryu technique with it’s aikido principle, is a very different answer than what aikido most commonly works for. The results tend to be more final.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus and as you connect you step forward with a perfect crescent step that ends with your leg stepping under and past their arm keeping that 20 degree orientation.
As your leg passes through you’re going to extend the normal chambering motion of the right hand from the kata.  What you’ll do is press your right arm underneath their right arm, and then raise it up as you step through.
As their arm raises, your left foot slides out and you rotate right 90 degrees on the balls of both your feet.
The right arm is completing its rise and as you rotate, you slide your right arm (fist closed) down the outside of their right arm, and finally open your hand, turn it over palm down and slide into their wrist for the grab as you complete the chamber.
This rolling motion rotates on their shoulder centerline, and they’re helpless to stop it, and then your chamber grab pulls them forward.
The percussive option is to then strike into their (ribs, neck, or behind their elbow. The Aikido option is to strike across the top of their arm behind their elbow as you chamber. The motion of the bottom of your arm rolling across their triceps insertion rolls them right over. 
But using the kata power and focus, this isn’t gentle, rather you chamber you hand and your striking arm actually slingshots their head into the ground, unless you chose to do it softer and use it as the Aikido Ikkyu (first) Lock or an amrbar.
On the other hand you can use aikido option No. 2.
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus.
Then to extend your punch you roll it back to your left shoulder and grab their right wrist from on top.
Next you chamber your right hand, and in this case we’re going to keep our LFF stance.
As the left hand chambers, shift 45 or so degrees to the right on the balls of both feet and throw a left reverse punch sliding the bottom of your left hand across their triceps insertion. Carefully of course because this is a really good way to break their arm.
You end up with a RFF and Left Reverse punch as if you did the second portion of the Seisan sequence, but not by stepping but by shifting.
This technique is a variation of Aikido’s Gokyu (5th) Lock. IMO in Aikido this is a very simple technique, but so dangerous it is not taught to beginners.
Or another variation.
You’re standing in neutral stance:
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] Your left foot steps in alongside our right, then your right foot steps out to create Seisan Stance with the 20 degree shift across their striking arm, as you block and deflect their arm with your left.  You immediately reverse punch their solar plexus.
Then to extend your punch you roll it back to your left shoulder and grab their right wrist from on top.
Now you step back with you right foot into LFF, and chamber your right hand, This pulls their wrist over and extends their arm because of the wrist lock.
This is Aikido’s Nikyu (2nd) Lock. Here we varied the footwork and direction but it still can be seen as a potential within the Seisan opening.
FYI, one variant of Matsubayshi Ryu I know uses a variation of this as their primary self defense lock for their students to practice.
And all of these locks can be countered, but if you’ve really nailed them first its rather unlikely they’ll be thinking about countering the lock.
Still another option in Seisan’s opening is an Aikido projection as opposed to a lock.  [Note, a lock can be extended into a projection, but a projection is primarily just that.]
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left outside block to parry their strike outside. Then you grab their arm with your left (from underneath0 and you immediately reverse punch your right arm across the side of their neck (your left, their right). 
This will cause their neck to roll to your right.
Immediately hook your hand behind their neck and begin to chamber your right hand holding their neck, at the same time you rotate your left arm clockwise, spinning them on the center of their trunk.
This variation is Aikido’s Rotary Throw.
Sure these aikido variations involve some minor changes of kata technique. You might classify them as extensions or even add-ons. But the Aikido principles, when used with  identical kata performance power and focus, becomes something much stronger to effect into their person.
And additionally the reverse punch often used, is identical to the way Usheiba documented his Aikdio examples in his pre WWII books. Strike first (called atemi in their art) and then aiki them.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.5.5 –   Some favorite add-ons
This sequence of techniques might be considered favorite add-ons or even odds and ends that I personally like.
1.       Cut ‘em Down
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left outside block to parry their strike outside. Then you grab their arm with your left (from underneath) and you immediately reverse punch.
Comlete with a right front kick into their Left inner thigh (above the knee) to buckle their rear leg. Then complete the leg movement by a Naifanchi style cutting kick into the rear/side of their right knee.
They strike, you finish!
2.  Step on By
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Exterior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left foot on the outside of their grabbing arm. No block, just strike their ribs with your right. Then you crescent step forward with your right leg behind their right calf, but when they meet, your keep drawing your leg back as your hand presses in. This is a fast sweep takedown.
3.  Elbow Power
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Exterior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left foot on the outside of their grabbing arm. No block, just strike their ribs with your right. Then you crescent step forward with your right and chamber your right hand, which becomes a rear elbow strike into their kidney..
Next slide your left foot to the left, pivot on the balls of both feet turning to the right, striking the back of their neck with your left fist, then grab their collar.
Next turning about 45 degrees to the left, step forward with your left and chamber your left hand. Between the kidney shot, the hit and the pull down you drop them on the ground, perhaps to step again onto their neck.
4.  Something borrowed - Ernest Rothrocks Jing do
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left outside block to parry their strike outside. Then you strike into their right side with a left palm strike. Next you immediately reverse punch, and follow up as required.
This combination left side block immediately followed by a left palm strike to the ribs, is done in one continuous circular flowing motion. The circular parry/block keeps moving on.
Guaranteed to get their attention.
5.       Something borrowed – Tris Sutrisno Hangetsu Application
The situation – Your opponent reaches out with their right hand.
Your response – [Interior Line of Defense] You step forward with a left outside block to parry their strike outside. As you complete the block your left hand then drops and rises to the front in a rising bent wrist strike into their jaw.
Next you reverse punch their solar plexus, following that with an immediate right backfist strike.
Instead of a One-Two, you turn it into a One-and, Two-and. Multiple striking sequence to off balance your opponent.
6.       Against a Kick
The situation – Your opponent kicks out with their right leg.
Your response – [Exterior Line of Defense]  You step forward with your left foot, the lead toes pointed inwards on a 20 degree angle and you use your left outside block to sweep underneath their kicking leg, and then complete the blocking motion as an outside throw. When they go down, you step forward to stomp into their groin.
Without research I’m not sure where but I know Harrill Sensei used a similar kicking defense, and Tris Sutrisno in turn used this as an advanced application for his Pinan kata.
I’m not particularly keen on doing such kick defenses, but if you’re in control of the situation it is effective. Of course that can be a big ‘IF’ if you’re really pressed.

Opening Seisan Kata 101.6 –   In Closing 
This beginning Kata Application Potential study was prepared to introduce you to the life long potential kata can provide.
If these 30 or so pages are just for one kata section, consider how much potential exists within the rest of our bushi no te Isshinryu study.
I certainly haven’t given everything I can see in this section, much less have even come close to mastering all the rest. But I believe this study will present an honest look at where your future studies may leave.
There are potentials for Seisan’s opening I haven’t mentioned. Either I’ve forgotten them at this moment, or I’ve purposefully left them out for a later date. Feel free to pick an answer.
This study represents some of the material Harrill Sensei shared with us once upon a time (and in on way describes his full Seisan answers). It also represents 30 years or so of my own practice, and some thoughts from my friends too.
Be assured, you will spend many years getting adequate at all these answers, and we haven’t begun to describe the Opening of Seisan kata 101.7 the integration of breathing with application, the Opening of Seisan 102 training structure. When you move beyond application analysis and go into application delivery against random attack, or the Opening of Seisan kata 103, learning how to choose more appropriate answers.
Seisan’s opening, while filled with potential, is not a very complex study, there are far more complex studies along our path. In the long run how you personally choose to own up to these studies will define your path.
But this study alone with work will make it impossible for anyone to anticipate how you will respond with Seisan’s opening.
A minor goal we all can ascribe to.

Appendix 1
Private note on Pat McCarthy’s site about applications from Dana Sheets on Okinawan instructors
Regarding standing still or not in kata:

When training in Okinawa last year, more than one senior Okinawan Uechi-ryu teacher told our group that when you use karate technique you are never just standing still. You should always apply techniques using what folks in the Uechi-ryu community often call "tenshin" movements and most everyone else calls
tai-sabaki or ashi-sabaki (foot and body movement).

This means that you will always use your foot and body movement to put yourself in a place of advatage - from that place you will able to execute a strike or a balance displacement depending on your orientation to your attacker. In fact your foot/body movement should have already started the former or the latter.
Then you apply the principles of atemi/todome (setup & finish) as needed.

This "open-ended" outcome is frustrating in the sense that it doens't tell you what you SHOULD do next, only what you COULD do next.

And interesting proverb quoted recently to me from a Wing Tsun practitioner both highlights and makes light of the continued frustrations many experience in karate training.

"A Chinese master will show you three corners of the room and leave you find the fourth corner. A Japanese master will show you one corner of the room and leave you find the other three."

Of course the glory of evolution is that we now know the room has at least 8 corners (4 on the floor and 4 above) and maybe even more if the room is not a box. So for those of you working outside the box I hope you enjoy finding the corners. I sure am.

happy training,

Dana Sheets
Uechi-Ryu Silver Spring, MD USA

Appendix 2

Translation by Joe Swift (12/20/98) on bunkai to Pinan Nidan in Mabuni Kenwa and Nakasone Genwa’s 1938 book ‘Karatedo Nyumon’ pages 138 to 140.

Kata and Directions:

The meaning of the directions in kata is not well understood, and frequently mistakes are made in the interpretation of kata movements. In extreme cases, it is sometimes heard that ‘this kata moves in 8 directions so it is designed to fight 8 opponents’ or some such nonsense. I would like to specifically address this issue now.  Looking at the embusen for Pinan Nidan, one can see that karate kata move in all directions, forward and back, left and right. When interpreting kata, one must not get too caught up in those directions. For example, do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because a kata begins to the left that the opponent is always attacking from the left. There are two ways to look at this.

(1)     The kata is defending against an attack from the left.
(2)     Angle to the left against a frontal attack.

At first glance, both of these look alright. However, looking at only number (1), the meaning of the kata becomes narrow, and the kata, which in reality must be applied freely, in any situation, becomes awfully meager in its application.

Looking at an actual example, the 5 Pinan kata all start to the left, and then repeat the same series of techniques to the right. Looking at interpretation (1), the opponent must always attack form the left, and while fighting that opponent, another opponent comes from behind so the defender turns to fight that opponent. This type of interpretation is highly unreasonable.

Looking at interpretation number (2) however, the 5 Pinan kata show us that against an attack from the front, we can evade either left or right to put ourselves in the most advantageous position to defend ourselves.

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