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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