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Pinan First Step

All of the five Pinan kata begin with a left nekoashi dachi (cat stance). Facing the front, we step forward or diagonally with our right foot, and pivot to the left into the nekoashi dachi. How far should we step with the right foot?

Imagine that you are standing in the beginning position for the Pinan with your toes behind a horizontal line. How far beyond the line will you step with your right foot? Think about it. Go try it.

My personal answer is about 2 inches. I suspect that most people will have stated a larger number -- I know that I used to step much farther. (For your reference, I am 5 feet 8 inches tall.)

What shortened my step and thus narrowed my stance, was the use of hanmi. In hanmi (the shoulders and tanden are diagonal), a narrow stance is possible. With the shoulders square and the tanden facing the left, a wider stance is needed. Otherwise, the legs will buckle or pinch the groin.

You might also notice this. If you are standing with your toes on a line, try pivoting to the left with no step at all. Your left foot will now be 2 inches or so behind the line. This is because we piviot on the ball of the foot, not the toes. Thus, even without a step, the stance will have some width. With a 2 inch step, there might be a 4 inch width.

One error I notice among my students is stepping too far to the right. This makes a fading nekoashi dachi. When you pivot, the left foot should stay in place, not slide to the right (away from the attack).

Part of the reason for the fade/slide is that most students take a nekoashi dachi with only 10 or 20 percent of the weight on the front foot. In Kishaba Juku, we tend to put much more weight on the front foot -- sometimes up to 50 percent. You will notice that none of the Pinan kata begin with a kick. The first movements are all blocks. This is why the weight distribution is about equal for the first movement. Again, this weight distribution is characteristic of Kishaba Juku. Other forms of Shorin-Ryu use other distributions.

Not all nekoashi are the same. One used for a block will differ from one used immediately before a kick.

Getting back to the step, the shorter the step, the faster the pivot. The longer the step, the longer it will take to pivot. Keeping close to the line will optimize our speed. Kata is like walking a tightrope (or series of intersecting tightropes).


Charles C. Goodin