The method of karate I practice and teach heavily emphasises the study of kata below the surface. It continually takes on the challenge of what I call 'boiling off' the templates found in karate to help better understand the movements (i.e. essence) contained within them. The result typically reveals more similarities than differences and an art that's comparatively narrow and deep, as opposed to wide and shallow.
The techniques found in kata may involve (1) separation/splitting, (2) meeting/colliding or (3) joining/connecting the hands. Despite the many choreographed shapes and movements performed across the plethora of classical forms, this is really all the hands are (or can be) doing. And although each of these three core interactions possess individual importance, it is really the connecting of hands in kata that I'd like to focus upon in this blog post.
To begin, I'd like to recollect a story from a while back...
Following the ongoing debate and controversy over the Internet surrounding the practical purpose of Hikite (pulling hand), I thought I would offer my own take, which doesn't suggest any specific application per se, but instead covers what is in my opinion, a far more essential understanding of this concept in action.
For me, in order for the physical expression of karate to become both holistically effective and integrated, we must look at the classical kata choreography according to its most essential elements. Regardless of any particular combative purpose (which due to lack of historical evidence is always going to be a product of reverse engineering based on informed opinion), the expression of universal principles that govern karate are entirely dependent on how we move as a human being. That is really our only constant.
If you practice or teach karate as a means of self-defence, then I think it's crucial that you make a conscious effort to explore common traditional practices for aspects that are counter-productive to this goal. I'm not saying that we should eliminate these altogether (as they may provide other values), but it's important I feel that we are proactively mindful of where they may contextually sit.
One of the issues with traditional karate practice in terms of training for self-defence is that of environment. In reality, the application of any self-defence effort will involve interaction with either a real or potential violent threat to the safety of you, a friend or loved one. And the environment by which this interaction takes place may be totally unpredictable and critical to the outcome. Furthermore, that environment is likely to be in direct contrast to that of the dojo.
Here's an excerpt from My Book on the application of Naihanchi Kata for self-defence that discusses environmental considerations...
The notion of stances in karate has always intrigued me.
The shape of these distinct postures are what most people tend to hold in their mind when they think about karate, with their very silhouette becoming a feature on logos, club badges, websites and advertisements all over the world. However from a practical standpoint, nothing could be more problematic than losing the ability to move freely and becoming consistently malleable to the situation at hand.
Thus, the stark difference between the inherent staccato rhythm of classical kata performance and the vital requirement of total fluidity for their combative application is for me thought-provoking. What is it about the synergy of these two contrasting qualities that when combined together, provides us (the karate-ka) with greater value than the sum of its parts?
I am finally happy to announce that after a great deal of work on my side and plenty of kind patience on your side, Vol.2 of my Naihanchi book series is available to pre-order now...
To celebrate it's launch, the first 100 orders will receive a special limited edition (at no extra cost) that will be individually numbered, signed and certified!
Due to a number priorities in my life over the past few years, the publication of this volume has taken much longer than expected, but I hope that readers will find the finished product well worth the wait.
Here's a summary of what's in the book...
In this thought-provoking publication, Chris Denwood presents his approach to traditional karate through the choreography of one of its most important classical forms. Heavily illustrated and rich in content, volume two of this book series focuses on the exploration of Naihanchi (Tekki) Kata for civilian self-protection.
Chapters detail contextual aims and subsequent considerations, the generation of a core game-plan, plus associated application framework. The methodology of the kata is presented as a logical and flowing lesson plan, integrating key conceptual strategies and essential tactics. This instalment also covers a number of supporting methods by which to deeply analyse classical karate kata in order to get the most from your pragmatic study.
With over 300 pages and hundreds of photographs, I've added the chapter listing below to show the range of comprehensive topics covered in Volume Two. It is scheduled to be released in June, where all pre-orders will be fulfilled and shipped to recipients.
Remember - be one of the first 100 to receive a special collector's edition!
Thanks so much for everyone's support - it's always greatly appreciated!