Ongoing thoughts on my martial studies and interests, which encompass almost everything.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Naifanchi (Nihanchi – Naihanchi and all variant spellings)
After I made
blue belt I began my study of Nihanchi kata with Dennis Lockwood. There were no
explanations of what the kata was, just
the study and practice, practice, practice. Another puddle of water on the dojo
And after many
years yet another instance that nothing that my instructors taught me was ever
found to be wrong. Their classes were not history lessons, just the study of
Isshinryu. And for the most part I kept the same path.
Only after black
belt were there ever occasional discussions about other things. That left to
the individual a choice to pursue Okinawan history or not. It did not have much
to do with our actual practice.
You might note I
do have a lot of history on my blog. This is so they do not have to begin where
I did, if they find an interest in the subject, but it is totally voluntary.
When I began
reading what was available, I accepted that almost everything I read was true.
Then studying more, I found I had a lot of unlearning to do too.
When I learned
Nihanchi kata, I was amazed that there was something that matched what I
experienced in reality. In those days I was a construction laborer. You know
someone who digs footers for foundations, one who totes things, etc.
One of the
experiences I had was to move across mats of rebar laid out for concrete floor
pours. Now one way to cross rebar was to walk atop the mats, stepping carefully
not to trip and fall. Another method was to step in between the rebar and step
laterally between the steel.
This is what I
recognized. Interesting that Okinawans developed this method of stepping.
Carefully stepping high to cross the rebar sections and into the next free
space. Of course I never mentioned this in class, just did the kata.
So when later I
read a variety or reasons the Okinawans developed this form, stepping across
rice patties was something that made some sense to me. Not that I paid much
attention to the story, nor did I teach it. Much later learned Okinawan rice
was not grown in that type of patty. At least from what I have read.
stories did not concern me much, then again I never was teaching anyone to
defend attacks outside a wall.
What the stories
did inspire me was to use challenges to Naihanchi training for the adult
students. At times we did Nihanchi kata on balance beams. On sections of a tree
cut into pieces, forming a place to practice stability stepping between those
Nihanchi kata is one that begins stepping towards the left, however I learned
to to the kata mirror image so it would make it easier for all my students to
see me moving the same way they were moving. Of course I taught this to the
instructors I developed.
led me to realize that it really didn’t matter which way you went, you were
still doing the same kata. Then the adults started working the kata both ways.
was to do Nihanchi in a stack, one behind the other.
of practice making life more challenging.
the theories that Nihanchi was teaching lateral movement for defense. It makes
sense from one point of view as you are moving laterally, and many applications
can be found for that movement in certain situations that can be encountered.
there are NO rules as to what application potential can be, meaning that you
can move in externally of internally turning towards the attack, and you can
move away externally or internally turning towards the attack, and use movement
from Nihanchi kata to defeat an attack. The upper and lower body movements
provide potential, much potential that can be used.
in the early 1980s I trained with Carl Long, a Shorin
Ryu stylist. He taught me several Nihanchi practices that I have also done
from time to time.
first one was Nihanchi kata as a speed drill, seeing who can go the fastest
under say 10 seconds. Always doing full technique at the same time. It is an
other practice is more interesting, It is doing Nihanchi with a series of
turns. Start as normal but after the initial elbow strike, chamber, low block
and then strike across the body, when you step across you pivot 180 degrees
toward what had been your rear, and then continue the kata normally. Again when
that section repeats itself again step across and again pivot to the original
front of the kata, and close as normally.
version of Nihanchi open new potentials of application.
I had teenage students with too much energy. So I began a teen brown belt
practice, Doing Nihanchi kata with jumping spinning crescent kicks. Slake off
their extra energy. And though they do not admit it, it became a fun practice
for them, with the jumping spinning crescent kicks.
version for older more dignified karate-ka was to do the form with grounded
stepping and turning crescent kicks.
you train people for a long time it helps to find new ways to keep working at
realize Nihanchi is something of a holy grail for some karate-ka. Finding it
integral to their art. In some ways I agree with that. But personally I find
Nihanchi kata has a different role.
see Nihanchi kata as a basic training too preparing the core strength for better Chinto
kata practice. The use of the side to side strikes strengthens the core for the
spins in Chinto
kata. That spin uses the same core muscles, and to me Chinto is far more important to my
black belt practice.
long time ago, before youtube made so much available, a topic was floated that
the origins of Nihanchi kata was the Chinese form (and System) Tam Tuie.Those proposing that had never seen the form
and were relying on written descriptions that the form was performed side to
side.The form was in my studies with Rothrock Laoshi,
and it is performed side to side, but not the same way Nihanchi kata was. It
turns you to face the side head on and perform the form head on that way. A different
thing all together. (Tam Tuie is a very worthy study in its own right)
Nahanchi form in the Itosu lineage is also thought to have been a predecessor
for the lateral movement in the kata studies Nijushiho
Which by coincidence we have included in our training. But not the source
version of the Shotokan Tekki ShiDan (their version of Nihanchi).
further reference there are several groups that include Nihanchi starting to
days I just do the form several ways. As seen below and a version just stepping
out, No crossover stepping. I also do the form with short sticks in my hands
for force enhancement.
I have not begun to plumb the depths of Nihanchi.
I chose the varied spellings for Nihanchi (Naihanchi- Naifanchi, et al) as ways
I have seen the kata spelled at different times. All of which refer to the same
kata. At this point in time, I tend to use whatever spelling comes to me at the
time. My Isshinryu has never been a spelling challenge.