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Les Bubka
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Naihanchi Dachi - Itosu Bowed Legs?

Hi all, I came across this interesting article by Andreas Quast, translating Toma Jugo memoir. "Tōma Jūgō – Karate as a Physical Education Subject in Secondary School" In this article is description of Itosu, stating he had massive bowed legs. Would this be the reason for Naihanchi Dachi inward toes? In comparison Naihanchi Tachimura version is in shiko Dachi. I find it interesting that there is possibility that students were learning monkey see monkey do instead being instructed with explanation.(This is just speculation) http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=8553

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

It's an interesting theory. Personally, I tend to think that kiba-dachi is more a result of bow-leggedness than Naihanchi-dachi; take a look at Motobu Choki's Naihanchi, for example, and you will see that he has his feet pointed forward with his knees over his ankles. His stance is much narrower and higher than modern kiba-dachi, but it's essentially the same sort of posture, and much easier to do when one is bow-legged. Naihanchi-dachi, on the other hand, has the knees turned inward along with the feet, so that they track in the same plane. More likely, in my mind, is that Itosu adapted Naihanchi based on his experiences with Naha-te under Nagahama--basically, merging Sanchin concepts into Naihanchi. This isn't terribly surprising when you also consider the fact that he introduced shime into Naihanchi practice.

Iain Abernethy
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Interesting! It would strike me as unlikely that students would be encouraged to mimic their teacher’s inherent physical characteristics. It’s not impossible, but Occam’s Razor would have us concluded that the toes are in slightly because that’s the way he wanted it done. For it to be otherwise the students would have had to mimic something without instruction to do so, and then Itosu never corrected it at any point.

Due to the relative dimensions of my arms and torso (think T-Rex) my elbows can’t make it far inside my bodyline. For the kata motions that demand that, I point out the restrictions of my build to students and encourage them to do it in the optimal way, as opposed to the sub-optimal way genetics enforces upon me. There may have been more of a culture of conformity in the past – i.e. do exactly as sensei does and don’t ask questions – but even then, I’m doubtful it would be to the point where ailments and physical idiosyncrasies were copied and uncorrected to such a degree.

To me, the toes are in simply so they point in the same direction as the knees. This facilitates hip motion in a natural way with no stress on the knee joint. I do see some pull the feet in too far which can make it painful and unnatural. However, I think a mild incline means feet knee and hips are all rotating the same way … and that’s why it’s done that way.

As an aside, have I missed a newly confirmed picture of Itosu? The linked article has a photo captioned, “An eldery Itosu Ankō, leaning on a walking stick.” It was not along ago that the picture previously believed to be Itosu was instead suspected to be one “Sango Miyake”:

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/itosu-anko-still-not-identified

Are we sure this photo is “an eldery Itosu Ankō” and is anyone aware of the evidence for this?

All the best,

Iain

All the best,

Iain

Nimrod Nir
Nimrod Nir's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Are we sure this photo is “an eldery Itosu Ankō” and is anyone aware of the evidence for this?

Ha! The Itosu identity mystery continues.

I love it!

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Wastelander

Personally, I tend to think that kiba-dachi is more a result of bow-leggedness than Naihanchi-dach

I think that you might be right, it is more likely with the kiba dachi. 

Iain 

 For it to be otherwise the students would have had to mimic something without instruction to do so, and then Itosu never corrected it at any point.

I'm sure that Itosu would correct students, but on other hand how many heard, seen or experience the teacher who just shown and not explain. With advice "If you train long enough, the technique will reveal itself".  I think that could be a factor in feudal society.

As an aside, have I missed a newly confirmed picture of Itosu? The linked article has a photo captioned, “An eldery Itosu Ankō, leaning on a walking stick.” It was not along ago that the picture previously believed to be Itosu was instead suspected to be one “Sango Miyake”:

No clue, I have not came across any new information about image of Itosu. 

Kind regards

Les

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Les,

Les Bubka wrote:
I'm sure that Itosu would correct students, but on other hand how many heard, seen or experience the teacher who just shown and not explain. With advice "If you train long enough, the technique will reveal itself".  I think that could be a factor in feudal society.

We can’t discount that, but it was really the generation after Itosu who adopted a more “military style” training format. The likes of Funakoshi, Mabuni, Motobu, Chibana, etc all learnt from him in more informal, small training groups. I find it unlikely that all of them copied along and were not corrected in that setting. When we start to get the very big groups of “budo karate” in the universities then “follow along and don’t ask” would be more prevalent.

It’s also worth noting that Motobu does critique Itosu’s stance in Naihanchi; not for the angle of the feet, but the tension in the stance:

“When standing in hachimonji (figure 8 stance i.e. 八), these days it is generally taught to squeeze the soles of the feet together and apply strength to tighten the insides of the legs … This form is used exclusively by those in the Itosu lineage … It you try this, you can be easily be pushed over. This tension has no effect no matter how much tension you put into the posture. Kata should be taught as close as possible to its application, and not altered for physical training purposes. It is unacceptable that a kata be passed on in a way that is removed from reality. Therefore, I can not approve of the squeezing of the feet together.”

Motobu tells us that Matsumura also did not approve of Itous’s stance. The inference is that Itosu altered it for training physical purposes; and that this was not approved of by Motobu and Matsumura. There’s nothing said about the feet position through. This is could be because there was nothing unusual about it; or at least nothing deemed worthy of note or criticism.

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
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Hi Iain,

Sure its all speculation :) 

Kind regards

Heath White
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Where does the Motobu quote come from?  I'd like to read up on this.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

The way it is taught, at least the way it was taught to me, is exactly as Iain says--the turned-in feet allow the knees to track in-line with the toes as you engage the hips for rotational power.

With regard to foot position, I do recall some statement Motobu made about not liking Itosu's "pigeon-footed stance," but I don't know how accurate the translation was, and even if it was accurate, it doesn't necessarily mean that there was any technical issue with the foot position. I will say that shiko-dachi is more than likely the intended stance for Naihanchi, though, based on photos of Yabu Kentsu teaching Naihanchi in shiko-dachi, photos of Funakoshi Gichin working Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan in shiko-dachi, plus the KishimotoDi, Okinawa Kenpo, and Matsumura Seito versions that still use shiko-dachi for the kata. Interestingly, since the idea of changing the stance for training purposes to be different from the stance in application; from what I have seen, most people actually DO naturally switch to shiko-dachi when they work Naihanchi applications, unless they are very intentionally using the stance position to break the opponent's structure. Indeed, even Motobu, himself, used shiko-dachi in Naihanchi application from time to time, as did Konishi Yasuhiro when the two of them trained together and took some photos.

As to the picture of Itosu, the Okinawan Karate Information Center at the Karate Kaikan on Okinawa did recently confirm that the picture everyone thought was Itosu was actually Sango, but they also determined with more confidence that the man in the new photo is Itosu. Before, the determination was made based on a couple elderly peoples' recollections of Itosu, which they admitted could have been off, but this time there were written names accompanying the picture, and while they admit it is still possible that they mis-aligned the name and person, or that they are missing some other piece of context, but they are more confident about their identification this time around.

Iain Abernethy
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Heath White wrote:
Where does the Motobu quote come from?  I'd like to read up on this.

It’s from his book, “Karate: My Art”. This new translation is a good read:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Skill-Karate-Ryukyu-Bugei/dp/B0849Z3J7S/

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Skill-Karate-Ryukyu-Bugei/dp/B0849Z3J7S/

All the best,

Iain