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Naihanchi -- Reluctance

The beginning of the Naihanchi Shodan kata teaches the student reluctance -- an unwillingness to use the destructive aspects of Karate unless it is absolutely necessary to do so... a last resort.

In the beginning of the kata, the left open hand is placed on top of the right fist. This shows that discretion/conscience (the open hand) is always in control of destruction/violence (the fist). See: Hand- Anger, and Treasure in the Pocket. The open hand is on the top.

The first step of the kata is to cross the left leg over the right and to begin a step to the right. The left foot only touches the ground with the ball of the foot. The weight remains 95% (or so) on the right foot. The student does not commit to the step. He looks to the right and waits. This step is like the open hand.

Dr. Noboru Akagi, a fine Kendo and Iaido Sensei, once asked me if I knew what I was supposed to think as I drew the sword. I replied that I did not (I actually thought that I was supposed to think about the cut). He explained that I am supposed to think: "don't cut, don't cut, don't cut." I was supposed to project the thought that the enemy should not cut me. If he does not cut, I do not have to cut either. But if he does cut, I will have to draw and cut him down (kill him) because there is no other choice... it has become the last resort.

The beginning of Naihanchi Shodan shows reluctance. It is a posture of "don't attack, don't attack, don't attack." Both the hands and feet are restrained, controlled, and held back. The student holds himself back.

Some students do not hesitate in the initial step. Often this is because they intend to make a big stomping or sweeping motion with their right root. They are rushing to generate power for this movement. They are rushing to the attack.

In Karate, we should always hesitate -- hold back. We should be reluctant to extend our hand and willing to do just about anything to avoid it. Once it become impossible to hold back, then and only then is it necessary to unleash the terror of Karate. Until then, it must be controlled. Reason must always be on the top, just as the open hand covers the fist, and the weightless foot covers the supporting foot.

My first Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro, always says that "a Karateman fears his own hand." He does not say that we should fear the attacker. We should fear our own hand and the consequences of our actions.

In all of our techniques, until the last moment of execution (throwing the technique), we should hold ourselves back and think: "don't attack, don't attack, don't attack."


Charles C. Goodin