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Pinan Shodan

Tonight I was teaching Pinan Shodan to a student. I have to say that Itosu Sensei certainly must have enjoyed himself creating this as the first kata to teach school students. It is an impossible first kata!

Just take the first few movements -- they are all two handed combinations. And then there are all the shuto uke movements!

I put Pinan Shodan up there among the most difficult kata in our system. Before you get me wrong, I mean that it is difficult to do well -- not difficult to learn or gently move through. But to do this kata well is a real feat.

I have to admit that several years before I had the good luck and privilege to meet my Sensei, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I saw a video of him performing Pinan Shodan. I thought that he was a magician!

You see, Pinan Shodan without koshi is, well... pretty unsatisfying and clunky. But with koshi, it is like silk magic. The movements just burst out.

I think that Itosu Sensei might have made Pinan Shodan as a Gordian knot ("any very difficult problem; insoluble in its own terms"). You can't solve it using the usual rules. To do the kata well, you have to use your body, particularly your core, in a very coordinated manner. You have to cut through a rigid approach to movement.

You could watch 100 people do the kata. No, no, no, no, no.......... bam! Yes, that is it!

I don't know if Itosu Sensei really intended this. My perspective might be slanted because of my Kishaba Juku training. In our system, certain kata really stand out -- because they give us a great opportunity to use our koshi.


Charles C. Goodin