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karim_benakli
karim_benakli's picture
The Pinan Shodan dilemma !?

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to expose my below concern more particularly to Iain, but of course everyone feel free to give your advice...

I’m a fervent believer and practitioner of Iain's approach of applied karate and bunkai jutsu. My style is Shotokan but it does not really matter for the question and the somehow “problem” I’m encountering with the progressive approach of the pinan kata series …!

My dilemma comes with the combative principles and techniques that are to be found in the 1st moves (the 1st sequence of 3 moves to be precise) of the first pinan (Heian Nidan in my style).

Indeed, the pinan are progressive katas, going from simple techniques to more elaborate techniques (and principles) as you go through them from the shodan to the godan, with an evolution from simple striking techniques to more elaborate grappling, but …

BUT what about the 1st moves of the Pinan Shodan ? These moves should be the first basis of the basis since they are the 1st one learned to the practitioners, they should represent a straight forward, simple and direct technique. However, all explanations I’ve seen about these, being either an arm lock or an arm control technique followed by (not-so-natural) strikes, are from my point of view quite complex and not achievable for a “beginner”. Controlling the arm of an opponent, in one or the other way, is in itself already a very advanced technique !

Hence my problem: I do not find another simple consistent explanation for that first sequence, and the arm-lock/control view on it -which is logic from a stance and arm movements position- is contradictory to the progressive evolution that we should find in the pinan series.

Can you help me to get out of this dilemma ???

Thanks a lot.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Please forgive the brief reply, but I’m pressed for time today and will be away from the PC for the rest of the weekend.

Only speaking for my approach here, but I divide bunkai into “primary bunkai” and “secondary bunkai” (as explained on some of my DVDs, but maybe not the ones you have watched). The primary is what gets taught to my students first and is what I feel is most likely to have been the “original intention”. The secondary bunkai is other potential functions for the movement that are to be explored after all the primary stuff. The idea is that I want the students to be able to analyse kata for themselves as they one day make a secondary application into a primary one when they teach their own students.

Where I think you are confused, with regards to my approach is that the arm-lock you are referring to is a secondary application (which I must add is not the same as the “arm-break” commonly and ineffectively attributed to the same sequence). It is the one I showed on the Bunkai-Jutsu 1 DVD because at the time it was the grappling and locking side of things that was of most interest to people. The best part of a decade later it is pretty much taken as a given that karate kata contain grappling, but the majority view was that kata was blocks, kicks and punches. So that DVD shows a whole mix of things and does not stick to the primary bunkai for the purposes of showing the progression I’ve talked about elsewhere.

If people want to see all the primary bunkai that I teach, in the order I teach it, and the drills used – which does follow that progression – then it is “The Pinan / Heian Series: The Complete Fighting System DVDs” that the need to see (Bunkai-Jutsu 1 being the better choice for those wanting a general look at how kata can be applied).

Shodan 1 (the first drill) simply shows how to get the arms out of the way to hit the jaw. The jaw is undoubtedly the best KO zone of the body and I see the kata starting with the key skill of “here’s how to knock him out and here’s how to get the arms out of the way”. This clip – not from the DVD – shows me teaching how that drill can be built upon to further explore that concept:

I hope that helps.

All the best,

Iain

PS Not as breif as intended :-)

karim_benakli
karim_benakli's picture

Thanks a lot for your clear and constructive explanation !

That helps, now I can go on with my progressive study of the pinan without that dilemma anymore.

Thanks again Iain.

Rgds,

Karim

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Karim,

I'm pleased that helped and thanks for the feedback.

All the best,

Iain

Th0mas
Th0mas's picture

Just a thought ... the moves in in Pinan Shodan are also very similar to the openning moves of Kenkudai and so naturally I have assumed may also be applicable in the same way. e.g. stepping in, arms raised under a flurry of blows from opponent, trapping and scooping opponets arm, hammer fist to jaw... 

 To me that seems to show a sound principle of taking the fight to the opponent and gaining control.

nielmag
nielmag's picture

Just wanted to get peoples feedback.  As usual I love the drill Iain placed, but on the clearing limb and giving uppercut outside the arm, how about clearin the arm and stepping inside and delivering the uppercut and repeating  the drill from both the inside  , and outside? or is this too much like block-counter of most schools?

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

neilmag wrote:
is this too much like block-counter of most schools?

Try it under some pressure and see if you can pull it off.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

nielmag wrote:
how about clearing the arm and stepping inside and delivering the uppercut and repeating  the drill from both the inside, and outside? or is this too much like block-counter of most schools?

 I do know some people who drill it that way. I prefer not to as I feel the “outside” is a much better position to be for those techniques. That’s just personal preference though.

The aim of the drill is to get students to play with how they can get the arm out of the way to hit the jaw or neck. The first three motions hit the jaw when the arm is up, central and down. The shutos then hit the neck then the arm is to the left or the right. From tori’s point of view this makes a cross, and regardless of where uke’s arm is on that cross a potentially debilitating strike can be delivered. By randomly moving the arm about, as demonstrated, the student gets to learn how to intuitively move the arm about to create openings, as well as taking what is given. This is therefore a way to drill techniques as opposed to “a technique” in itself.

My concerns with much of the block-counter stuff (by which I’m taking that you mean the long-range block an oi-zuki stuff)  is that anything learnt through its practise is not transferable to conflict. The drill shown is to develop the skill of getting the arm out of the way of the key targets; which is transferable. However, the long flow itself is not directly applicable or desirable. What we want is a quick and direct finish; whereas in the drill we are constantly changing methods and it is deliberately extended.

So I would see what you propose as being fine as a drill to map out alternative striking options (although I personally prefer outside only for this drill), but as a directly applicable “technique” there is obviously issues (as there are with the drill I show too). That’s fine though because it is not a technique, but a means to drill techniques. Why neither are the same as the block-counter stuff is that the skills developed are transferable and can be taken out of the drill and applied.

I hope that helps.

All the best,

Iain

Maxime Pornin
Maxime Pornin's picture

Hi erveryone,

I have for a long time had the same dilemma as Karim on these first three moves, and came up with an interpretation on which I would very much like to have your opinion. I believe this sequence to combine the hip turn and arm sweep to escape a wide range of frontal attacks : considered from the front, you are seen to turn your hips to the side, placing your weight on one foot and moving slightly down and aside, while your arms sweep up and away any attack coming from the front at head/torso height. The idea would be of removing a very big and heavy hat and throwing it aside : actually, on a single-handed or double-handed grab, or bear hug from any direction, if you grab both wrists, or both elbows or a wrist and an elbow, you will escape the attack and redirect it away (the purpose of the second two moves), while placing yourself in good position to counterattack (or run for it). 

This become rather apparent if you look at how this sequence is performed in some shorin styles (Matsubayashi shorin ryu for instance), with Neko Ashi stance and Ude-Uke plus Age-Uke combination.

I think I join the idea expressed by ThOmas above : there seems to be in this sequence an application of the same principle (Lift/open the attack and close it away) seen at the beginning of Kushanku, and which appears in a number of other Kata (see the first sequence of Tekki Nidan, or similar moves in Unsu, Saifa, Bassai, Seisan/Hangetsu or Nijushiho).

Like all theories, this one is certainly objectable. However, I think it offers at the beginning of the Pinan Kata series a very basic technique that will work on a lot of different attacks, and that will take you out of harm's way even when half-missed : it is a good thing if the second move can trap an arm, or if the second or third moves result in an effective strike, but even when this fails, you will have freed yourself from the attack and placed you in a favourable position.

There remains however the very good question of the logical progress in the Kata : in my interpretation, we are far from the opening stages of confrontation, and much closer to learning a life-saver for when things already got very wrong.

(Note : please forgive my english if it sounds wrong - I promise to train it more)

Maxime

nielmag
nielmag's picture

That makes sense.  The reason I asked about stepping inside is that I saw a photo of Funakoshi Stepping inside and delivering an uppercut (Couldnt get that pic on this comment box though!).  However I dont know the context, if that was at a University demonstration or if that was an actual Bunkai application.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Actually a great comment made - 

neilmag wrote:
The reason I asked about stepping inside is that I saw a photo of Funakoshi Stepping inside and delivering an uppercut (Couldnt get that pic on this comment box though!).  However I dont know the context, if that was at a University demonstration or if that was an actual Bunkai application.

We should be very aware, when looking at old text's that what we are looking at may be for a certain audience, or indeed a certain reason and NOT the proper function.

It does awnser some of the clearly 'not very functional at all Bunkai' often demonstrated by those that came before.

DaveB
DaveB's picture

Hi all

I have a slightly different take on the structure of kata sequences/program's.

Rather than a straight-forward progression from simple to complex I believe that the first kata in a sequence is what I call the "system kata". This is the core kata that expresses the key points of the fighting style being presented and all the subsequent forms are derivations of the ideas in the system kata: they highlight and expand on the core ideas. This is why the core kata Hiean Nidan (P-sho), Tekki shodan (naihanchi) and kanku-dai (kusanku) are all at least as complex if not more so than those kata which follow them.

It also explains why these were the three kata that began Funakoshi's syllabus in his earlier teachings (as illustrated in the kata order of his book Karate-jutsu).

karim_benakli
karim_benakli's picture

Regarding

Quote:
There remains however the very good question of the logical progress in the Kata : in my interpretation, we are far from the opening stages of confrontation, and much closer to learning a life-saver for when things already got very wrong.
 

This is probably depending on the intentions of the creator of the Kata, and will thus be different from a Kata (or Kata series) to another. As Iain explained in one of his podcasts about Gankaku / Chinto for example, this one directly starts with complex techniques (listen to the podcast for explanations) while the Heian clearly follow a progression starting with simpler techniques.

And in the case of a progression, this is also of course depending on what the creator had in mind; it can be from the simplest technique to the most complex, as it can start with the most vital (life-saver) which is not necessary so simple...

And regarding

Quote:
Rather than a straight-forward progression from simple to complex I believe that the first kata in a sequence is what I call the "system kata". This is the core kata that expresses the key points of the fighting style being presented and all the subsequent forms are derivations of the ideas in the system kata: they highlight and expand on the core ideas

I think this may be true for the Tekki's, and all Katas having a "Dai" and a "Sho"; I'm not so sure regarding the Heian/Pinan, but anyway this is worth being analysed further.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Personally I think Iain (and others) teachings around the progression of say the Pinan kata is an excepionally useful model for karateka who wish to follow it.

However I do not believe it was the origonal intention in terms of application for combat, but in the abscence of any real evidence I don't dwell on it.

There are many ways of looking at kata, modeling progression etc etc, some are much better than others. But it's pretty certain Itosu created and formed the Pinan series for school children/young people and proberly not for combat application - they can of course still absolutly be used for this function.

The Naihanchi Series is much easier to model, take Naihanchi Shodan, add a couple of variations and you have Naihanchi Nidan, add some more complex veriations and you have Naihanchi Sandan.

I do see why, for example the Sho versions of the classical kata may have been put together as 'easier' versions of the Dai kata - but I struggle with any real insight, as I only do Passai Sho/Dai and no other kata varients, but even then it doesn't make much sense in our Ryu in terms of logical progression or variations.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
But it's pretty certain Itosu created and formed the Pinan series for school children/young people and properly not for combat application - they can of course still absolutely be used for this function.

While a common view, I don’t see any evidence for the Pinan kata being created as a child’s physical education program. I think all the evidence tells us that the Pinans were a combative system adapted for use in physical education; as opposed to them being created for physical education and being adapted for combative use. So I would hold the opposite view to the one stated above. Rather than outline all my thinking here, I would firstly refer any interested people to this article:

http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/there-nothing-peaceful-about-pinans

The article is called, “There is Nothing ‘Peaceful’ about the Pinans” and begins with:

In this article I want to challenge some of the commonly held beliefs about the Pinan / Heian series. Although frequently viewed as kata for children or beginners, it is my belief that the Pinan series represent a holistic and frequently brutal combat system. To establish why I believe that to be true, the first thing I want to call into question is ….”

If people read the article it will explain some of the reasons why I feel the “children’s kata” label has little to support it. Funakoshi, a student of Itosu’s, is quite clear that, “Having mastered these five forms, one can be confident that he is able to defend himself competently in most situations.” We also know that Motobu was taught a version of them long before  the time they were taught in the school system. We also have the issue of Itosu and all his students teaching the Pinan kata to adults who had nothing to so with the Okinawan school system; which would be a very bizarre thing to do if they were non-functioning children’s kata.

Yes they were taught to children, but that does not mean they were created for that purpose … especially when we have the creator’s student’s making direct reference to their combative function and teaching these kata to adults.

When my boys run around the garden playing with their toy guns that does not mean guns were created to keep children fit. Nor does it mean that the soldiers of today are adapting a children’s game for use in war. The combative function came first, and the toys and games were adopted from that. I feel it’s exactly the same with the Pinans: The combative function came first and their use in children’s education was an offshoot of that.

Aside from all the historical bits and pieces, I feel the kata themselves give strong evidence of combative function and not physical education. If they were only created for physical education use in schools, then Itosu did a very bad job.

There is no demonstrable physical progression throughout the Pinans. If there were for physical education we would expect the kata to get longer and more physically demanding as we went up i.e. Pinan Sandan would be physically harder than Pinan Nidan, which would be harder than Pinan Shodan. But we don’t see that physical progression as Sandan is probably the least tiring of the whole set.

Technically there is no progression either and that’s so obvious that most people teach Pinan Nidan (renamed Heian Shodan in Shotokan) before Pinan Shodan (i.e. 2,1,3,4,5).

So if it’s not physical and not technical, what is the reason for the order of the Pinans? To me, it has to be a combative progression and I think that when we analyse the kata we can see that.

The “children’s kata hypothesis” has little to support it in my view. If we ask on what basis that claim is made all we have is “Itosu taught them to children in schools”, but that is a long way away from saying they were created for that purpose alone; especially when we have so much evidence to the contrary.

If there is something I’ve missed that gives support to the children’s kata hypothesis and can account for the fact that their name and nature point to combative function, along with Funakoshi’s statement to that end, then it would be great if people could post it here so people can take a look at it. As always people have to look at the evidence and make up their own minds.

All the best,

Iain

JWT
JWT's picture

Hi Iain

I'm fully with you on this one, in fact I also wrote an article on the Heians not being for children quite a few years ago:

http://www.practicalkarate.co.uk/CombatBeginners.html

To view the Pinan/Heian as children's Kata is to ignore firstly the commonality of individual techniques with other Kata, and secondly the commonality of combinations of techniques with other Kata.  To claim that one is for children is to claim that they are 'all" for children.

Is there progression in the Pinan/Heian?  In terms of technical difficulty of solo practice - not really.  But that brings us back to questions of how we practice Kata, both solo and paired, and to what end.  

When I put together the Heian Flow System I drew together a large number of applications.  Some of them I'd been taught directly by other people, others I'd seen in books or on video, others were my personal variations on things I had been taught, and others were applications I had created based on my experience of training over the years - particularly with reference to my cross training in Aikido.  The applications were processed through a number of filters, the majority of which I'd describe as common sense, but later inspired quite  strongly by the similar filters Bill Burgar had listed - though I focused far more on researching  HAOV.  However this on its own only creates a string of applications, whereas what I was looking to create was a unified progressive training system, and as such many good applications that I felt did not tie in with that system were ditched.

What resulted was a way of using the Kata and associated paired drills as a teaching model.  In Shodan I focused on basic flinch based responses to high and low level attacks, including for variety strikes and basic unbalancing techniques.  In Nidan I introduced the concept of redundancies and following through and dominating with multiple strikes.  In Sandan I added further HAOV but introduced the crucial concept of moving freely between grappling/trapping/locking and striking, plus adding variables that would send students in overlapping circles through previous drills so they would learn to adapt and think fast.  In Yondan I added a few more HAOV and alternative approaches and in Godan I focused on other redundancies.  It remains not only a Kata based sparring exercise but a progressive training system.

I would like to touch again on the question of Kata for children, since this reminds me of a seminar I attended in Chesham last Tuesday.  The seminar was being taught by Rick Clark, but Bill Burgar (author of Five Years: One Kata) was there helping out with me as well and towards the end, he used me as an Uke and ran some Gojushiho based exercises on creating a visual and tactile frame of reference using paired Kata in order to improve visualisation during solo practise.  Bill executed a sequence from Gojushiho on me - pointing out how his techniques were moving me and setting me up, but also stressing the need to create visual and tactile reference points for the techniques so that when practiced solo they could be imagined and similar benefit gained.  At the end a question was asked about the visualisation exercise, as to whether practising with visualisation changes the physical nature of the Kata.  The answer is yes, because even though subtle, the movements and focus shift as you take ownership of them and in your imagination the drills become live situations.

What's the relevance?  When we do Kata, any Kata, without fully understanding the intent of our movements we are essentially doing nothing more than a form of physical exercise, a dance.  When we do the Kata solo and we have in our mind the sight and sound and feel (and maybe even smell) of an event, and each movement is applied in context against that imagined person - we are doing Karate.  Until we take possession of those moves fully, and realise them in our minds, we are simply doing Karate for children.  Ultimately training in this way will take your Karate away from the 'one size fits all' jacket that your instructor/system gave you, because it shapes and moulds to your body, your thoughts, your strengths and weaknesses, and becomes yours. 

Hope that's of interest

J

BRITON55
BRITON55's picture

Hi all, I have a philosophy which I refer to most things in life..."Think outside the box" .

When viewing something, you analyse, digest in a way that  your trained learning process allows you to best absorb and process that information so you then have an opinion on the value of that information.......then you may be asked to view that information from a different angle and alter your standpoint..........this may occur several times so you may find that what you knew 1st is now last in your list of interpretations...............if you never think outside the box ie; your own method of learning and absorbing you may have a single- minded approach to life..........." A pencil you are told is for writing, sketching,.....to an assasin it is the perfect  disguise for a very dangerous weapon to cause damage to your mark at close range"

Hyung, Kata, Poomse,Forms are pencils!

Again Iains view on context reveals how we must think outside the box to get a comprehensive outlook on information presented to us. Its what the politicians are not saying we should be focused on wink

peace and harmony

yours in budo

stevecool

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

JWT wrote:
I also wrote an article on the Heians not being for children quite a few years ago:

http://www.practicalkarate.co.uk/CombatBeginners.html

To view the Pinan/Heian as children's Kata is to ignore firstly the commonality of individual techniques with other Kata, and secondly the commonality of combinations of techniques with other Kata.  To claim that one is for children is to claim that they are 'all" for children.

Nice article John! I'll tweet and facebook that one out as I think people will really enjoy it.

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

you said -

I think all the evidence tells us that the Pinans were a combative system adapted for use in physical education; as opposed to them being created for physical education and being adapted for combative use. 

and I said -

'Itosu created and formed the Pinan series for school children/young people and properly not for combat application - they can of course still absolutely be used for this function.'

Outside of our beliefs around the origonal intention for the Pinan kata, by Itosu I don't think were to far apart at all myself!

One issue, there is nowhere evident on Okinawa or even Japan, that i have seen or heard of  (up until the last say 20 years) of any training akin to 'combative Pinan kata type training)?

The reason I hold my view is before Itosu there was 'Tode', a combative, personal martial art. After Itosu there was karatedo - ie karate 'changed' for the education system, and to prepare Japanese Military youth. (Im being rather general, please excuse that).

It's not a slight of the Pinan kata, I think they are outstanding tools, to be used for many things. And I certainly feel if someone focused on the series, with appropiate supportive training then they can put them to good use - even better use than some of the classical kata in terms of application due to their simplicity (compared to say Chinto, Gojushiho etc etc).

To me much of the evidence (what little there actually is) points to this view. I feel the same happened with Goju Ryu and the Shorei Ryu origonal systems.

Interestingly I also feel the same happened with Judo, Kendo etc etc.

By the way, I reccomend all my students use your work to help them aong, this is in no way meant to challange- just my view.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Shoshinkanuk,

shoshinkanuk wrote:
this is in no way meant to challenge- just my view.

Of course :-) That’s the whole point of the forum is to exchange views so people can draw from the myriad of viewpoints, thinking and evidence put forward. It would be pointless if there was no variation in views as that would mean no discussions, no clarification and ultimately little information. I accept we have differing views and I think that’s a good thing.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Outside of our beliefs around the original intention for the Pinan kata, by Itosu I don't think were to far apart at all myself!

I think we are a long way apart on this issue as the ramifications of what the Pinans were created for is massive. There is a huge difference in how they should be approached depending upon whether we see them as created for exercise or conflict; as that determines their very nature, how they should be viewed and how they should be trained.

I would see “exercise and adapted to conflict” as being a very long way away from “conflict and adapted to exercise” as the chosen viewpoint hugely affects the very nature of the forms and how we approach them. I therefore do feel our views are poles apart. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
The reason I hold my view is before Itosu there was 'Tode', a combative, personal martial art. After Itosu there was karatedo - ie karate 'changed' for the education system, and to prepare Japanese Military youth. (I’m being rather general, please excuse that).

I don’t think that really solves anything though because the crucial issue of “during Itosu” is ignored, as is durign what period the Pinans were created.

The Pinan series were created during the time that karate (“tode” if you prefer) was being practised as a combative system. The Pinans, as the evidence strongly suggests, were a created as a combative system during that time. Itosu then adapted that combative system for use in the Okinawan education system for use as physical education. The “physical education model” gains momentum and karate loses some of its original potency. The Pinans are henceforth viewed as nothing more than a children’s form of exercise as opposed to the combative system that I feel all the evidence points to them being (see previous post). The point is that the Pinans were created BEFORE the change and not FOR the change.

Karate did change when it was views as being more “educational” than combative. That saw all the kata being viewed as being less about functional application and more about “physical art” and exercise. The Pinans are not alone in this. Those of us with a more pragmatic interest in kata therefore adopt an "older view" of their nature and purpose.

As I say, I’m not aware of anything that leads me to think the Pinans were created for exercise and not conflict. I am however aware of plenty of evidence for the contrary view.

Thanks for helping to ensure this issue gets explored.

All the best,

Iain

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Hi Iain,

Great responce, there is indeed lots to explore on this subject............I shall try and compose a clear post, but may need help!

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I think we are a long way apart on this issue as the ramifications of what the Pinans were created for is massive. There is a huge difference in how they should be approached depending upon whether we see them as created for exercise or conflict; as that determines their very nature, how they should be viewed and how they should be trained.

Personally I think the ramifications are irrelevant re what the Pinans origonal intention was, what every major Ryu from Okinawa got from them was Kihon training, suitiable for group classes and particulary suitiable for youth and begineers.

Very little applicable Bunkai, drills or associated training was passed on via the major Ryu - if indeed there ever was any.

How they should be viewed and trained (and I train shockingly close to how your material demonstrates) certainly seems effective, but it didn't and doesn't form part of traditional training from the major Ryu of Okinawa, or indeed mainland Japan - it's re-engineered, or developed by some rather talented people over recent years (say last 20).

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The Pinan series were created during the time that karate (“tode” if you prefer) was being practised as a combative system. The Pinans, as the evidence strongly suggests, were a created as a combative system during that time.

Im not so sure about karate during the timeframe (ie after the Meiji Restoration) and the Pinans development, or even adaption from say Channan, or perhaps the classical kata set - theres way to many variable to be sure of anything - I would be most interested in the evidence?

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The point is that the Pinans were created BEFORE the change and not FOR the change.

Yes this is an interesting point, but how do we know when exactly they were created and for what reason?

JWT
JWT's picture

An interesting debate. cool

I thought about replying to you earlier Jim, then iain replied and i had a little think.  Each time I came back intending to say something one or the other of you had posted something new.

I occupy a quasi third position in this little debate, for a number of reasons.

I can happily view the Pinan/Heain Kata as combative Kata for the following reason:

Almost every technique, and indeed many whole sequences, occur in other Kata that we would regard as 'heritage' Kata - that is Kata passed down to represent the teachings of a family/village/person.  As such in my opinion there can be no debate as to whether they can be learned and trained as combative Kata.  in that sense, while children can do them, and while they can be taught to children as a form of exercise, the inherent principles those techniques and combinations embody mean that they are not children's Kata.  in this sense they are much like the forms of TKD.

On a separate note we have the debate over whether Itosu intended them to be combative Kata.  in other words, were they designed for exercise or were they designed as combative Kata.  To answer this I feel I have to look at two separate issues:

1. Itosu's record as a Karateka and his reputation.

2. The provenance of the Heian Kata themselves.

Reference point No.2, in Heian Flow System I argued the case for Itosu simply being a 'tweaker' of the Channan Kata, renaming the older Kata Pinan for the benefit of non Chinese students.  There I also put forward the case that Matsumura was the originator of the Kata.   I'm still on the fence on this one.  If Matsumura was the originator of the Kata I'd be happy to accept them as being designed for combat, if Itosu only tweaked them the same applies, but if Itosu put them together from scratch then i would see them as designed for exercise progression rather than martial progression.

Reference point No.1, we need to really think about why Itosu did Tode.  I'm aware that Iain is a big fan of Itosu, and I also thought there is a great deal to thank him for, but I've never seen any solid evidence for him being a man with a great practical grasp of Tode/Karate as a fighting art.  While Itosu refers to Karate as a means for self defence, he never gives any implication that he understood or could apply its full capacity in this area.  In contrast he did clearly understand its capacity for the development of physical prowess.  We also have accounts to the effect that his core Karate study under Nagahama had been for strength and fitness only.  Funakoshi's few accounts of Itosu being involved in conflicts also stress strength rather than ability (compared with his accounts of Azato where evasion, speed and accuracy are the traits highlighted).  I will gladly be corrected, but I don't see there being any evidence for Itosu being anything other than a well read Karateka who had trained in karate predominantly superficially  as a form of exercise and who wanted to promote it to others for the same purpose.  In that sense he is no different from the vast majority of Karate instructors today and can truly be said to be the father of modern Karate.

I've uploaded the passage from Heian Flow System, which was written in 2005 and previously published as an article in 2007, here:

http://www.practicalkarate.co.uk/CombatHeian.html

John

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

Ah a fun debate!

There's one thing you're maybe not considering John. That Itosu and Azato didn't life with identical builds before they started tode practice.

It could be that Itosu was naturally a big strong man (and his tode practice enhanced that) so his choice of tode techniques reflected his natural gifts of strength and power. Whereas, Azato may have been naturally small and lithe so he tended to choose evasion, speed and so on.

So, we'd have two people of equal skill whose performance of tode looked markedly different due to their natural builds and therefore focus in training.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

Jon Sloan wrote:
That Itosu and Azato didn't life with identical builds before they started tode practice.

Hi Jon, im not sure it is actually recorded that Azato was indeed primarily a karateka, however I have never researched that area specifically. In Funakoshi's writings about Azato I always got the impression he was more of a BuJutsu exponent - talking about swords, archery and horsemanship etc etc, which could well have been Motobu UndonDi as opposed to karate per say.

This would fit very well with the description of evasion and speed. (I train a little in UndonDi)

In relation to body types, and karate if you think of Kyan (who we have pictures and accurate descritions of- a very small and slight man) karate, and then look at that aside Itosu Karate (I think the best representation would be something like Kobayashi Shorin Ryu) you will see some differences - however no 'major' ones in terms of strategy and execution IMO. (But this is another interesting debate, just making the point I guess).

IMO the major 'split' technically, and strategically comes from Shorin/Shorei - or if you like Shorin Ryu and Goju Ryu - clearly a different kata sets, different trianing methods - for different reasons IMO, however the arts do of course come closer as one progresses, as with all arts in application.

JWT
JWT's picture

Jon Sloan wrote:

Ah a fun debate!

There's one thing you're maybe not considering John. That Itosu and Azato didn't life with identical builds before they started tode practice.

It could be that Itosu was naturally a big strong man (and his tode practice enhanced that) so his choice of tode techniques reflected his natural gifts of strength and power. Whereas, Azato may have been naturally small and lithe so he tended to choose evasion, speed and so on.

So, we'd have two people of equal skill whose performance of tode looked markedly different due to their natural builds and therefore focus in training.

Hi Jon / Jim

A fair point, but as I note in my article, it was said that Nagahama purely taught Itosu Karate as a means of building strength.  The reference to Matsumura rejecting Itosu because he was too slow could be a reference to his size and strength.

Both Itosu and Azato were students of Matsumura.  Now it could be that they learned different things from him, that their training was tailored to their builds, but the training could also have been tailored to their perceived interests and to their social standing.  There is definitely at least one reference by Funakoshi  to Azato using Kyushu Jutsu in a lesson.  Funakoshi was directed to train with both, and I can't help but wonder whether as a weedy child he was sent to Itosu to get stronger, but learned his more martial skills from Azato, though that's purely a theory without much more than circumstantial evidence to back it up.  It does seem though that Funakoshi went to the two teachers for different things!

John

DaveB
DaveB's picture

Hello all,

What confuses me with this debate and all those like it, is why people seem to think that the pinan's had to be created for either one or the other?

It makes sense to me, that if you are conditioning students to use the basics of karate to become fit and strong and disciplined so that they will be good soldiers in the Japanese imperial army, then you might also wantsuch people to be have a confident and peaceful mind due to their confidence in their self defence skill.

Simply put, why would Itosu not want self defence forms taught to children? Children fight more than adults and Funakoshi noted that a number of children in the school he taught at had karate training behind them and that this enabled them to fight off untrained adults.

Any kata is exercise. There is nothing in the pinan that make them particularly good exercise over any other kata I have seen. That the pinan kata were taught to adult students, that they contain movements and sequences from classical kata, as well as the supporting info that has come down from Funakoshi et al seems to suggest that these forms are clearly combat applicable. That they were not trained that way until recently is surely a result of circumstances and cultural shifts.

JWT
JWT's picture

DaveB wrote:

Hello all,

What confuses me with this debate and all those like it, is why people seem to think that the pinan's had to be created for either one or the other?

It makes sense to me, that if you are conditioning students to use the basics of karate to become fit and strong and disciplined so that they will be good soldiers in the Japanese imperial army, then you might also wantsuch people to be have a confident and peaceful mind due to their confidence in their self defence skill.

Simply put, why would Itosu not want self defence forms taught to children? Children fight more than adults and Funakoshi noted that a number of children in the school he taught at had karate training behind them and that this enabled them to fight off untrained adults.

Any kata is exercise. There is nothing in the pinan that make them particularly good exercise over any other kata I have seen. That the pinan kata were taught to adult students, that they contain movements and sequences from classical kata, as well as the supporting info that has come down from Funakoshi et al seems to suggest that these forms are clearly combat applicable. That they were not trained that way until recently is surely a result of circumstances and cultural shifts.

Hi Dave

Itosu was arguing for the inclusion of Karate in the Okinawan school curriculum, not the Japanese school curriculum. 

Yes, children fight more than adults, but children don't (generally) fight seriously.  Anything other than a bruise or a bloody nose is rare.  The fighting movements in the Pinan are designed to do much much worse - not appropriate for children's fights.  I can't remember where Funakoshi suggests that children have fought off untrained adults - do you have a reference?

Thanks

John

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

I seem to remember a bit in Funakoshi's "Way" book where he referenced that he and other tode trained teachers were called in to handle students - some of whom were tode trained - who were violenting objecting to the removal of top knots.

That's the only thing i can think of off the top of my head.

JWT
JWT's picture

Jon Sloan wrote:

I seem to remember a bit in Funakoshi's "Way" book where he referenced that he and other tode trained teachers were called in to handle students - some of whom were tode trained - who were violenting objecting to the removal of top knots.

That's the only thing i can think of off the top of my head.

I think that's a classic case of the ignorant assuming that people who've trained in karate can deal with conflict.  It's thus a case of a few  teachers (who happened to be karate trained) manhandling/intimidating/disciplining some unruly teenage boys rather than trained children fighting off adult attackers.

DaveB
DaveB's picture

JWT wrote:

I think that's a classic case of the ignorant assuming that people who've trained in karate can deal with conflict.  It's thus a case of a few  teachers (who happened to be karate trained) manhandling/intimidating/disciplining some unruly teenage boys rather than trained children fighting off adult attackers.

Except that it is Funakoshi's own account (Karatedo: My way of life) and while the children were not fighting off "attackers" as such, he was quite clear that karate trained teachers were required to subdue karate trained youths for whom the loss of the topknot was (from what I gather) something akin to castration. How hard would you have fought your teachers if they were taking shears to the thing that made you a man?

Either way, the point was that I see no reason why you would not teach forms that had self defence applications to school children. The ryukyu's had been annexed by Japan and become Okinawa prefecture long before karate was introduced to the school curriculum. One of the purposes of this introduction was to instill discipline and fitness through regimented repititious training, in much the same way that some english school children would drill marching. This was seen as a way of producing a strong industrious nation who, when called to arms to serve the empire would be strong disciplined soldiers.

What techniques we feel are contained within the forms is entirely subjective. We may see lethal techniques now but Itosu may have intended straight forward basic combatives. Despite this we know that even the nastiest techniques are no use in a kata that is only trained as movement, so we can't use this as an excuse for not teaching a combat effective form to children.

Ultimately I feel as Iain does: the pinan were designed to give a base of self defence skills and an overview of the fighting style embeded in kanku dai and other classical forms. Then they were introduced into the school curriculum as a means of fitness and discipline training and as an introduction to full karate study. Since "drilling" forms is not analysis or partner training there was no need to neuter the kata and remove any combat application and consequently we have them to rediscover today. However even if it were the other way around I can see no reason to create forms for school kids that have the combative applications removed if when you design the curriculum you include no bunkai based partner training.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Great response, there is indeed lots to explore on this subject

Thanks! The “lots to explore” element could be a problem here though as we could end up talking about all aspects of karate’s development and that will make for a very confusing thread. I'll therefore try to be as succinct as possible and provide a little of where my thinking lies on this subject. I’ll not start getting into all the “ins and outs” of karate’s development away from the Pinan kata as that would be impractical and unfocused. I will however touch on the general issues as they relate to the topic of the Pinan kata.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Personally I think the ramifications are irrelevant re what the Pinans original intention was, what every major Ryu from Okinawa got from them was Kihon training, suitable for group classes and particularly suitable for youth and beginners.

I disagree because of what I said in the post earlier. If the Pinans are viewed as being just a form of exercise then there is no need to think of them combatively because they have no combative purpose. If, however, they are combative in nature then bunkai study is central to understanding them.

There is no “right answer” here though as you view things differently to me and hence reach different conclusions to me on the impact of how the kata are viewed and the effect that can have. So there’s not much that can be gained from further explanations of our contrary viewpoints. I think we’ve sufficiently covered our differing views on the ramifications of how we see the kata. Back to how we see the kata themselves.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Very little applicable Bunkai, drills or associated training was passed on via the major Ryu

True. But that’s a little like saying there are no samurai today and therefore there were never any samurai. The historical changes surrounding karate – and many other arts besides – led to shift from combative function to exercise, character development and culture. So your statement tells us nothing about karate before the changes were made. Lots of people have written extensively about the “Jutsu / Do” shift and this would be one of those “lots of explore” issues which I would suggest would be beyond the confines of this thread and our availability to explore all elements of it.

As you say, some people are now trying to get back to “pre-do karate” and you’re right that most of that has happened over the last 20 years. However, what’s crucial to remember is that we are using the material we have from the “pre-do era” to do that. As an analogy, all living historians are of the modern age, but that does not mean what they are studying is modern. Likewise, bunkai is not modern just because modern people have researched it and practise it. I think there is much that makes clear that kata and application always went hand in hand in the past.

The lack of bunkai in many modern schools is also not unique to the Pinans as most kata are taught without application drills. Does that mean all kata were created for kids and karate as a whole is “Okinawan Tumble Tots”?

What we need is specific evidence that would support the notion that the Pinans were created for children’s exercise?

shoshinkanuk wrote:
Yes this is an interesting point, but how do we know when exactly they were created and for what reason?

We don’t know exactly and for certain. So we look at the evidence we have and draw the most likely conclusions from that. I’ve outlined some of the key bits of evidence for why I see the Pinans combatively and not as a form of exercise in the above post:

http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/pinan-shodan-dilemma#comment-2053

That post was a reply to you saying:

shoshinkanuk wrote:
But it's pretty certain Itosu created and formed the Pinan series for school children/young people and probably not for combat application - they can of course still absolutely be used for this function.

You’re right to ask, “how do we know when exactly they were created and for what reason?” but I don’t see how that squares with, “it's pretty certain Itosu created and formed the Pinan series for school children/young people and probably not for combat application” (my highlight). How can you be so certain? On what evidence do you base that certainty?

I don’t say that to be argumentative, but to point out that much of what is “common wisdom” has little evidence to support it. There is a burden of proof on anyone making a claim; even a widely held claim.

To me, Funakoshi’s statement that the Pinans give us “the skills to defend ourselves in most situations”; the name “Pinan”; the fact the kata were known to have been around before teaching karate to kids in schools was even on the agenda; the fact that Itosu’s 10 precepts suggest a progression from children’s karate to a combative system; the fact Itosu also taught the kata to his adult students before and after he began teaching them in schools (which would make no sense if they were created just for children); the fact that the actual motions of the Pinans are drawn from other kata (Passai, Kushanku, Chinto, etc) and those kata are accepted as being combative; even the very nature of the kata themselves (see my linked post above), all strongly suggest the Pinans were created to be combative and were only later adopted to use in children’s education.

If the kata were created for kids, where is the evidence for that? Was Funakoshi wrong? How can the exact same movement be combative in Kushanku (for example) but not combative in the Pinans? Why are the Pinans so badly constructed as a exercise system if that’s what they are? And so on.

I hope you see what I’m driving at? It was the making of a “pretty certain” claim that prompted me to explain why I don’t hold that view to be anything approaching certain. I also hoped it would open up the discussion with people explaining why they hold the positions they do; and I think we’ve been successful there.

As with many historical issues, there is no total certainty. All we can do is look at the evidence, the hypotheses put forwards on the basis of that evidence, and see what we personally feel is most logical.

I feel the most logical position is that the Pinans were not created to be “kids’ kata”, but were utilised for that purpose. I also accept that you feel the most logical position is that the Pinans are “kids’ kata”. I hope that our conversation has given people something to think about when taking their own position. Thanks once again.

All the best,

Iain

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