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Night Techniques

One thing is very different today than in pre-War Okinawa. They did not have street lights, particularly in the rural areas. When it was dark, the only light was from the moon and stars. On a cloudy or moonless night, it was pitch black.

Some Okinawan kata contain night fighting (defense) techniques; that is, techniques designed to overcome nighttime limitations or to exploit them.

The first movement of Kusanaku, for example, is the shield the eyes. When you do this at night, it helps you to see a little better. When the hands come together after making a circle, there is a slight clapping or tapping sound. This might be to attract the opponent's attention and lure him into an attack.

Whe we drop to the ground in Kusanku, this is so that we can better see the opponent, lit by the night sky. It is easier to see from the ground and it is hard to see looking downward.

There are night techniques in other kata as well. In Rohai and Passai, we search with our feet. When we feel the opponent, we instantly strike. In Rohai as well, we search with our left hand and then punch with our right. At night, you must feel for the opponent.

I remember an Iaido kata where we reached out and tapped the ground with the sword. This was to attact the opponent. Then we cut to that spot.

Some people have "loud" kata. They are always making a loud snapping sound with their gi. Obviously this would be a disadvantage at night as it would give away his position.

At night, it is also difficult to keep your balance. You could easily step into a hole or trip over an object. This is one reason why we lightly brush the ground as we step. We do not lift our feet, generally.

Try practicing your kata in the dark. Be very careful, and make sure that the area is safe. See if you notice techniques that lend themselves to the darkness.

I learned about these things from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, Sensei Pat Nakata, and Mr. S. Sunabe.


Charles C. Goodin