Naihanchi

Nai­hanchi (The Iron Horse) kata demon­strat­ed by Shi­han Wayne Tyler.

Naihanchi Kata History

For a kata with an ori­gin sup­pos­ed­ly obscured by the mists of time Nai­hanchi has had much writ­ten about it. There is clear infor­ma­tion that Nai­hanchi was well known and incor­po­rat­ed into sev­er­al styles as far back as the 16th cen­tu­ry but the accept­ed view of it’s ori­gins go much fur­ther back into his­to­ry. It is believed that Nai­hanchi was devel­oped as a tech­nique in Chi­nese ch’uan fa, which is con­sid­ered to be the first orga­nized mar­tial art. A Bud­dhist monk from India named Bod­hid­har­ma trav­eled to Chi­na some­time around 525 A.D. He is cred­it­ed for bring­ing Zen Bud­dhism to Chi­na. He also brought a unique fight­ing style which he taught to the Shaolin monks whom he con­sid­ered to be weak and out of shape. Out of this began ch’uan fa. Nai­hanchi may be part of this begin­ning and could well be around 1,500 years old. 

Fol­low­ing is an excerpt from an arti­cle by author Ian Aber­nethy (5th Dan) titled “Nai­hanchi — Karate’s Most Dead­ly Kata?

…It is my belief that Nai­hanchi con­tains many high­ly effec­tive tech­niques & con­cepts that are of great val­ue to today’s mar­tial artists. Few mod­ern day stu­dents val­ue the kata due to its sim­plis­tic appear­ance and hence fail to give it the atten­tion it deserves. As men­tioned ear­li­er, this sit­u­a­tion is not helped by the fact that many instruc­tors explain that the kata is for use when fight­ing on a boat, or on the raised land between pad­dy fields etc. Such expla­na­tions are unlike­ly to inspire the stu­dent to val­ue the kata, as few are like­ly to find them­selves in such bizarre cir­cum­stances. All the side­ways steps in the kata are there in order to posi­tion you to strike an oppo­nent who is now off cen­tre due to the pre­ced­ing tech­nique, or to move you inside the effec­tive range of an opponent’s strike, and have noth­ing to do with fight­ing around pad­dy fields! 

It must be under­stood that each kata was intend­ed to be applied as a stand alone self-defence sys­tem and were not designed to be used in con­junc­tion with the oth­ers (although there is no rea­son why they could not be). Each kata records the fight­ing tech­niques and prin­ci­ples of the per­son who cre­at­ed it. It is ridicu­lous to sug­gest that the cre­ator of Nai­hanchi was a ‘pad­dy field fight­ing spe­cial­ist’, that a war­rior like Mat­sumu­ra would be even remote­ly inter­est­ed in such meth­ods, that Itsou would spe­cialise in these meth­ods and then insist that his stu­dents spend a decade per­fect­ing tech­niques for such a remote pos­si­bil­i­ty. It is far more prob­a­ble that Itsou believed Nai­hanchi to be so effec­tive that even if it was the only thing the stu­dent ever learnt they would be an able fight­er.

The propo­si­tion that Nai­hanchi was intend­ed to be a stand alone fight­ing sys­tem is sup­port­ed in the writ­ings and teach­ings of Cho­ki Moto­bu (1871–1944) who was one of Okinawa’s most feared fight­ers. In 1926 Moto­bu wrote, ‘The Nai­hanchi, Pas­sai, Chin­to and Rohai styles are not left in Chi­na today and only remain in Oki­nawa as active mar­tial arts.’ The key word in the pre­ced­ing quote is ‘styles.’ This infers that Moto­bu believed all the katas list­ed to be sys­tems in their own right. Hironori Otsu­ka (who received instruc­tion on the kata from Moto­bu) points out the amount of knowl­edge con­tained with­in Nai­hanchi in his book, ‘Wado-ryu karate.’ In the book, Otsu­ka states that the kata would take more than one life­time to mas­ter and that, ‘there is some­thing deep about it.’…” 

Nai­hanchi was in fact Mas­ter Hironori Otsuka’s favorite kata. Fol­low­ing is his view of Nai­hanchi:

I per­son­al­ly favour Nai­hanchi. It is not inter­est­ing to the eye, but it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to use. Nai­hanchi increas­es in dif­fi­cul­ty with more time spent prac­tic­ing it, how­ev­er, there is some­thing “deep” about it. It is fun­da­men­tal to any move­ment that requires reac­tion, I believe. Some peo­ple may call me fool­ish for my belief. I, how­ev­er, pre­fer this over all else and hence I incor­po­rate it into my move­ment.”

Editor’s note: Com­pared to the oth­er katas shown on these pages Nai­hanchi appears to be almost seden­tary by the lack of move­ment as shown by the foot posi­tion dia­grams. That is very decep­tive. To quote Mr. David Everett sen­sei (6th Dan), “Nai­hanchi just doesn’t lend itself to sim­ple expla­na­tion.” As my jour­ney into the arts con­tin­ue I have reached the belief that this kata is one of the more com­plex with­in Wado Ryu. 

Naihanchi Kata

1. Rei. Close the feet into heisoku dachi and leave the hands open. Keep­ing the arms and hands relaxed bring the hands to the cen­ter, with the left over­lap­ping the right, so that the fin­ger­tips are even (the end of each index fin­ger is even with the end of each lit­tle fin­ger).

2. Slow­ly, keep­ing your arms and hands relaxed, raise the hands slow­ly until they are slight­ly above your eyes.

3. Slow­ly let the hands sep­a­rate, keep­ing the arms and hands relaxed, and move in a semi-cir­cle out to your sides and down, keep­ing the palms fac­ing for­ward, until the hands meet back at the cen­ter, side-by-side with lit­tle fin­gers touch­ing each oth­er and the ring fin­gers touch­ing each oth­er (hands are still fac­ing for­ward).

4. Slow­ly, bend your arms at the elbows, bring­ing your palms up and toward your body, as the upper arms con­tin­ue to hang relaxed. As the hands reach their peak, let the right hand slide behind (clos­er to your body) the left hand, so that the fin­ger­tips are even (round­ed, not par­al­lel). Then keep­ing the elbows as close as pos­si­ble to the body, and the wrists straight, let the hands go down, piv­ot­ing on the point that is at the cen­ter of the mid­dle bones of the mid­dle fin­gers, until the hands are at the cen­ter, with the left over­lap­ping the right, so that the fin­ger­tips are even (the end of each index fin­ger is even with the end of each lit­tle fin­ger).

5. Slow­ly turn your head 90 degrees to look left.

6. Slow­ly turn your head 180 degrees to look right.

7. Step your left foot to your right, then your right foot to your right, as you drop into nai­hanchi dachi. As you step, the hands piv­ot on the mid­dle knuck­les of the mid­dle fin­gers, until the hands and arms are par­al­lel at the solar plexus lev­el, and the right hand push­es straight out to your right, extend­ing your arm (not quite straight), and your hand open (thumb cocked), palm fac­ing for­ward, strik­ing with the knife edge of the hand, while you pull your left hand back in a hikite posi­tion.

8. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to the right, throw­ing a left empi strike, par­al­lel to the floor and across your low­er chest, into the palm of your right hand (thumb cocked). The left hand should end palm fac­ing your body, with the right arm in line with the left, and the right fin­ger­tips even with the tip of your left elbow.

9. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to your left (to your front line) as you pull your hands to a right tae uke, and you turn your head 180 degrees to the left.

10. Throw a left gedan uke straight to your left side.

11. Bring your left hand into a hikite posi­tion as you throw a right jun­zu­ki, at chin height, across your body to the left, 45 degrees off of the front line, snap­ping it back so that you end up in a left tae uke. As you punch turn your head 45 degrees to the right (45 degrees left of the front line).

12. Step your right foot to your left, then your left foot to your left, throw­ing a right soto uke and turn­ing your head 45 degrees to your right (to your front line) as you set into nai­hanchi dachi.

13. Throw a left jun­zu­ki to chin height (keep­ing the palm up), while the right hand relax­es back toward your right shoul­der (let the elbow drop, but don’t pull it back — the upper arm hangs straight down from the shoul­der to the elbow). Then throw a right gedan uke to the front, while the left hand relax­es back toward your left shoul­der (let the elbow drop, but don’t pull it back — the upper arm hangs straight down from the shoul­der to the elbow).

14. Throw a left jun­zu­ki to chin height (keep­ing the palm up), as the hand comes back to a soto uke posi­tion, bring the right hand up to sup­port the block, push­ing into the side of the left elbow (palm down).

15. Turn your head 90 degrees to the left, then with­out shift­ing your body weight, lift your left foot toward your right leg, to the cen­ter of your body, then set it back to it’s orig­i­nal posi­tion.

16. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to the left, keep­ing the arms in the same posi­tion rel­a­tive to your shoul­ders.

17. Turn your head 180 degrees to the right, then with­out shift­ing your body weight, lift your right foot toward your left leg, to the cen­ter of your body, then set it back to it’s orig­i­nal posi­tion.

18. Turn your shoul­ders 180 degrees to the right, keep­ing the arms in the same posi­tion rel­a­tive to your shoul­ders.

19. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to your left (to your front line) as you pull your hands to a right tae uke, and you turn your head 180 degrees to the left.

20. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly throw the left hand to strike out to your left in a hor­i­zon­tal tet­sui toward the back side of your body at shoul­der lev­el, and a right punch across your body to your left (keep­ing the right elbow at a 90 degree angle) at shoul­der lev­el.

21. Slow­ly pull your right arm back to a low hikite posi­tion (fist to the belt) as you relax your left elbow slight­ly, turn your left hand palm up and open your left hand (thumb cocked).

22. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to the left, throw­ing a right empi strike, par­al­lel to the floor and across your low­er chest, into the palm of your left hand (thumb cocked). The right hand should end palm fac­ing your body, with the left arm in line with the right, and the left fin­ger­tips even with the tip of your right elbow.

23. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to your right (to your front line) as you pull your hands to a left tae uke, and you turn your head 180 degrees to the right.

24. Throw a right gedan uke straight to your right side.

25. Bring your right hand into a hikite posi­tion as you throw a left jun­zu­ki, at chin height, across your body to the right, 45 degrees off of the front line, snap­ping it back so that you end up in a right tae uke. As you punch turn your head 45 degrees to the left (45 degrees right of the front line).

26. Step your left foot to your right, then your right foot to your right, throw­ing a left soto uke and turn­ing your head 45 degrees to your left (to your front line) as you set into nai­hanchi dachi.

27. Throw a right jun­zu­ki to chin height (keep­ing the palm up), while the left hand relax­es back toward your left shoul­der (let the elbow drop, but don’t pull it back — the upper arm hangs straight down from the shoul­der to the elbow). Then throw a left gedan uke to the front, while the right hand relax­es back toward your right shoul­der (let the elbow drop, but don’t pull it back — the upper arm hangs straight down from the shoul­der to the elbow).

28. Throw a right punch to chin height (keep­ing the palm up), as the hand comes back to a mid­dle block posi­tion, bring the left hand up to sup­port the block, push­ing into the side of the right elbow (palm down).

29. Turn your head 90 degrees to the right, then with­out shift­ing your body weight, lift your right foot toward your left leg, to the cen­ter of your body, then set it back to it’s orig­i­nal posi­tion.

30. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to the right, keep­ing the arms in the same posi­tion rel­a­tive to your shoul­ders.

31. Turn your head 180 degrees to the left, then with­out shift­ing your body weight, lift your left foot toward your right leg, to the cen­ter of your body, then set it back to it’s orig­i­nal posi­tion.

32. Turn your shoul­ders 180 degrees to the left, keep­ing the arms in the same posi­tion rel­a­tive to your shoul­ders.

33. Turn your shoul­ders 90 degrees to your right (to your front line) as you pull your hands to a left tae uke, and you turn your head 180 degrees to the right.

34. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly throw the right hand to strike out to your right in a hor­i­zon­tal tet­sui toward the back side of your body at shoul­der lev­el, and a left punch across your body to your right (keep­ing the left elbow at a 90 degree angle) at shoul­der lev­el.

35. Move your right foot to the left into heisoku dachi, as you open your hands and low­er them bring­ing the hands to the cen­ter, with the left over­lap­ping the right, so that the fin­ger­tips are even (the end of each index fin­ger is even with the end of each lit­tle fin­ger).

36. Open your feet to masu­ba dachi as your hands move to your side. Rei.

Help­ful Hint

Every move of this kata, after the six open­ing moves, is done from nai­hanchi dachi to your orig­i­nal front line, and any step­ping foot, steps in front of the oth­er foot, and close to the oth­er foot (out­side edges of the feet touch­ing), then the oth­er foot moves to put you back in nai­hanchi dachi.

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