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Pinan Shodan -- Some Points

Last night we worked on Pinan Shodan at our dojo. That was the only kata we did and it was good to focus on the fine points.

As I have written before, I don't know what Itosu Sensei was thinking when he developed this kata, presumably for school children. Wow, what a hard kata!

I should clarify that. It is a pretty easy kata to do but a very difficult one to do well. The opening sequence itself it extremely difficult. I can honestly say that I have only seen two or three people do it well (in my opinion).

One of the things we worked on is the block/kick sequence (about the 5th movement of the kata, depending on how you count). After blocking and striking first to the left and then to the right, you step and block/kick to the rear. The block (right handed) is a chudan uke (middle block) and the kick is a tsumasaki geri (right front kick with the tip of the toes).

This one sequence deserves several classes (actually many years). If the opening sequence is difficult, this one combination is at least equally hard to do (well).

One of the things I mentioned to our class is the old adage that "a block is a block and a block is a strike" (and vice versa). This is an instance where the block is taught as chudan uke but done more as a strike, almost an ura ken.

The "block" and the kick look simultaneous but if you look carefully they are not. The block is a little ahead. Generally, no two movements are simultaneous, even if they look that way. Simultaneous movements have simultaneous recoils that can cancel, offset, or dispupt each other. With staggered timing (even if only in microseconds), the recoil is more controllable and usable.

The recoil of the "block" has to work into the next chudan shuto uke. After the block/kick combination, you step down and turn the front and throw a left chudan shuto uku. The recoil of the right chudan uke to the rear has to go into the torquing at the beginning in the left chudan shuto uke to the front. You do not simply do the first movement, stop, and then do the second. The two waves have to work together.

This is something you do not see too often. Most students execute movements separately and independently... 1, 2, 3.

The first two sequences of the kata are to the left and right. The next two sequences are to the rear and front. Many Karate students turn to the left, then turn to the right, then turn to the rear, and then turn to the front. Their shoulders sway from one direction to the next.

When I do the first two sequences, my koshi and shoulders generally face the front. For the next two sequences, they generally face to the right. I do not turn for the first two sequences and turn only once for the second two sequence. In essence, I am turning without turning.

I also tend to torque through my body rather than around it (see Pulsing Koshi).

The overall effect is minimized movement with more explosive power and speed.

As I mentioned, this kata is very hard to do well. And again, I wonder what Itosu Sensei was thinking? I will write more about this challenging kata.


Charles C. Goodin