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Pinan -- Attack Direction

Imagine the first movements of Pinan Shodan through Godan. You are standing facing the front. Where is the attacker?

Think about it for a moment. A punch is coming. Where is it coming from? What direction?

According to at least one "classical" bunkai interpretation I have seen, the attacks are all coming from the left. The attacker is standing to your left and steps forward with a punch. You react by stepping slightly forward to avoid the line of attack and pivot to the left with a block (depending on which Pinan kata you are performing).

But it always bothered me that the attacker is somewhat out of range in this scenario. Take Pinan Godan, for example. If you block his left punch with your left block, you are out of range for your right punch -- unless you are really, really close to him when you block.

If, however, the attack is coming from the front, then the distance is better. In the case of Pinan Godan, the attacker's left ribs are now in range for the punch, and the following kaku tsuki can actually be a nice elbow strike to the front of his ribs.

I think that all of the Pinan kata work very nicely with frontal attacks.

Of course, we can pivot in any direction. The attack might be coming from the rear. Or, if it comes from the right, we could use the mirror image of the first movement as our defense. The idea is to be able to respond to an attack from any direction -- an unexpected attack at that.

But it is a mistake to rigidly think that the Pinan attacks are only from the left. This limits our range of movements and techniques.

Formalizing the bukai of the Pinan or any kata into a prearranged set of movements done to entertain an audience (or for testing purposes) can make them very rigid and thus, useless. There are no fixed attacks and no fixed responses.

And why do we assume a nekoashi dachi in the first movements of the Pinan and yet do not kick? I wonder what Itosu Sensei was thinking?


Charles C. Goodin