A long time ago, and far away, I started on a karate adventure with no expectation that 50+ years later I would still be exploring this. (In fact, I have to thank Doris for convincing me to attend my first karate class in the basement at MSU’s Women’s Intramural Building. Yet that is another entertaining story for another time.) I was immediately enthused with Self Defense Karate training and attended every class. After initially learning some basic Kihon Kata I was disappointed to hear that I had to learn the three Naihanchi Katas to prove I was worthy of learning the more advanced, useful Pinan Katas. Who wanted to learn the Naihanchi katas that were all sideways movements? What good is Naihanchi kata? Funakoshi even changed the name to Tekki for the Japanese Shotokan practitioners. Others told me:
- Naihanchi Kata was designed to fight in the narrow alleys of Okinawa,
- Naihanchi Kata was designed to fight on a boat in the ocean, and
- Naihanchi Kata was really just a dance done to music to prove your worthiness to learn Pinan Kata.
I really had no interest in learning to walk sideways in a boat or narrow alley to prove I was worthy to learn the more advanced Pinan Katas. I just wanted to learn to fight, er, I just wanted to learn this classic art form. (Yeah, that’s it! For a while I did want to become a Buddhist Monk – another story)
On the program, Kung Fu David Carradine endured picking up an iron pot with burning charcoal embers in it with his forearms to prove his worthiness of being a Shaolin Monk. Why couldn’t I just do that instead?
We didn’t know then that the Pinan Katas were designed by Itosu to teach karate to children.
We didn’t know that Choki Motobu based his karate style on Naihanchi.
I didn’t think Naihanchi had any real-time self defense applications that I wanted to learn. No one I talked with could explain anything to me either other than by learning them I was proving my worthiness to continue learning. Begrudgingly, I learned all three Naihanchi Kata so I could move on to the more exciting and readily applicable Pinan Katas.
After running around and training in the Martial Arts wilderness for 10 years I met now Grand Master Sensei Seikichi Iha, 10th Dan, Beikoku Shidokan, Shorin Ryu Karate. He received his 8th Dan shortly after I started training with him. His strength, speed, body movement and control were phenomenal. Yet he was so gentle and compassionate. How does he do that, I wondered? Still, 40 years later I am still wondering that.
After class, while practicing kata Sensei Iha would often show me one technique application. Just once. Then he would walk away. Others would ask him to repeat it and he’d just laugh saying we’d understand when it was our time.
Soon while training with Embassy Security personnel, including the US Marines assigned to the Embassy, I would have sudden flashbacks at applications Sensei Iha had demonstrated on me and surprisingly realized that many of them came directly out of Naihanchi Kata. What? How could that be? So many of these now incredibly effective applications that easily took down men much larger and stronger than me all came out of Naihanchi.
Then I read that Choki Motobu (a renowned Okinawan Karate fighter) designed his whole karate fighting style around Naihanchi Kata and began to explore this connection further. It helped, too that Motobu trained Grand Master Katsuya Miyahira, Sensei Iha’s instructor. The more I dug, and remembered what Sensei taught me, the more I discovered that apparent sideways movement led attacks and defenses controlling leg and hand attacks, with brutal counters. Joint attacks, pressure points, even just percussion of hitting and kicking is involved in this close-in attack and defense. Lots of headlocks and neck twists, too. So much China-Na (Chinese joint attacks) and more is found in Naihanchi. The more you explore the more you find. How much of Choki Motobu’s teachings were passed on to me by Iha through Miyahira? I will never know. (Click to find a montage of Choki Motobu performing Naihanchi Shodan and Katsuya Miyahira performing Naihanchi Shodan.)
Naihanchi has become my favorite kata. It really brings me joy to perform Naihanchi Shodan as I think of the various effective applications connected with the smooth near-effortless body movements.
We do Naihanchi Shodan in almost every class and normally end class with it, too. It’s brilliant simplicity refreshes after a hard training class and allows the mind to focus on applications. Plus Naihanchi Kata allows you to identify readily those who are thinking kata applications and others who are just dancing in their pajamas.
If I had but one Karate Kata to practice it would be Naihanchi as it contains the basis for all other self defense karate movements. There are probably a few movement exceptions, but other than a double somersault tornado kick, I can’t think of any.
Want more information on Naihanchi self defense karate applications? I am happy to show you just come to class.
Kiyoshi, 8th Dan, Virginia Dojo
Roberto’s karate students insisted he rent a more permanent location for his Karate instruction instead of wandering from building to building while renting out space in School gymnasiums and Churchs. In 2017 he and his students decided upon an office space in an office condominium complex. His students have built it into an outstanding training space evoking the sense and feel of traditional Okinawan Karate Dojo. Many students drop by just to meditate, or for Yoga or Tai Chi classes. Drop by even if just to see the dojo space!
Roberto began studying martial arts in 1969. He studied judo, Shorinkan Shorin Ryu karate, Shotokan Karate, Goju Ryu, and Kung Fu. He started studying with now Grand Master Seikichi Iha, 10th Dan, Beikoku Shidokan Shorin Ryu in 1979 and continues until now as one of his senior students.
During Roberto’s long-term overseas assignments stationed as a Foreign Service Officer (Diplomat), he trained US Embassy Security Personnel, US Marines, foreign security operatives, and people just like you. When stationed in the Washington, DC area he also always built a cadre of dedicated Shidokan Shorin Ryu Karate students. Now retired from the Foreign Service he concentrates on teaching proven-effective adult-focused self defense karate at the Virginia Dojo in Alexandria VA.
Roberto is a member of the East Coast Beikoku Shidokan Karate Black Belt Promotion Board and the National Black Belt Promotion Board. Among his numerous awards are:
“Best Martial Arts Teacher in Washington, DC” in 2017.
“Best Martial Arts in Washington, DC” 2018
“Best Martial Arts in Alexandria” 2019
“Best of Lessons.com” in 2018 and 2019
6416 Grovedale Dr., #302-B, Alexandria, VA 22310