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Kenneth Poulsen
Kenneth Poulsen's picture
Old ToriTe bunkai for the Heian Kata's

Hi all,

Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this great forum - I am honered to be part of a forum, with so many highly skilled Martial Artists from so many different styles :). I am a simple Shodan, within a traditional Shotokan organization here in Denmark - that bascially just enjoys his training under a very skilled Sensei, and also enjoys to teach Heian Katas to Kyu grades once a week.

It was actually their questions, that led to this new path of my Do - mainly because I could not answer them in what I felt was a "logical and intuitively sound" way - but I had to resort to the "basic applied bunkai". The question eventually led to "how fast can I get a working Oyo in the first movement of the first Kata (Heian Shodan) using only the sub-movements that are allready there. When I cracked that one (or more correctly - found out where my opponent was, and that his "attack" basically was a hand holding on to my shoulder from right in front of me), the "path" was sort of opened, and I just had to continue :).

After a lot of 2 steps forward and 3 back, I am finally well on the way in this "pet-project" of mine, which is (I think??) sort of re-learning an older ToriTe bunkai for the Heian katas. (Basically no straight punches or "normal" blocks are included, distance is armlength and shorter, stances high, fists open most of the time (holding on to either wrist or elbow on the opponent), always busy - both of them! - and religiously following Itosu Ankas 6 precept being "Enter, Counter and Release is the rule of releasing hand).

This is great fun - and a LOT of frustration at times (I feel like a 10th kuy again - both doing the moves - and simply remembering throughout the Katas if my opponent uses his left or right hand to grip on to me when I start a new section, is a real challenge!), but I am slowly getting there :).

I am having trouble though with the correct way to "move" an opponent through a 270 degree turn (he moves about 180), without it looking like a series of small steps - or me leading an old lady over the street (it sort of "feels" wrong when I do the move - I can get i done, I just feel it should be "smoother" sort of?).

The problem is between the 9'th and 10´th movement in Heian Shodan. I have just finished throwing my previous opponent with the last AgeUke, and my new opponent has stepped in and repeated the grip with a straight left hand on my right shoulder - sort of "under" my AgeUke (that grip being repeated throughout the kata for each new opponent).

I have secured his wrist with my left hand (Entering), and I am about to "move" him through the 270 degrees left turn, and at the same time automatically twisting his body so his "dangerous" arm is on the other side of him compared to where I am (countering), in order to be able to release his gripping hand through the combination of the hip-rotation/gedan uke at the end, and at the same time securing his elbow with my right "hikete" arm (Release), to be able to finally complete that oponent in the next movement by simply stepping forward and pushing on his elbow with my right hand, and pulling back on his wrist with my left hand - and you get the throw (normally a punch in the traditional Karate bunkai).

The problem being, if I "twist" my hip (fast rotation) at the start of the movement to get speed built up for the move, I basically rip his elbow/shoulder apart (my right arm is putting pressure on his elbow allready at this point ) - and I just want to move him in a flowing way, and end up with my hip being in a shomen position at the end of the move, to have the force to release his hand from my shoulder (Shomen to Hamni the same time as the Gedan Uke, and get a good grip on his elbow/continue holdning on to his elbow at the same time)?

Any idéas or thoughts on how this "move" can be accomplished? (And I am sorry if my explanation gives problems - I have not worked with Videos yet, and I am a little intimidated by all the great edited videos I see here on this site :)... )

Kind regards



Nimrod Nir
Nimrod Nir's picture

Hi Kenneth,

My general advice regarding the turning parts of the Pinans (Heians) is don't be so fixated on them while trying to justify their purpose. 
Sometimes, a turn is just a consequence of a lack of space (the dojo is only that big...), so most katas simply turn backwards at some point.

Regarding this particular part, please consider Iain's take, which I find very plausible, realistic and well-fit in the general progression of the series:


This video also includes Iain's take on the application for the end of the kata, which is a counter to the application of the part you asked about.
I find this application particularly brilliant, as I was struggling to figure it out myself for some time.

Hope this is helpful.

Best Regards,


Wastelander's picture

I'm afraid it is difficult for me to really envision what you are trying to accomplish, just by your description--a video would definitely be ideal! Don't feel intimidated by the production value of other people's videos, either. Some of us are making them specifically for public consumption, so we try to make them look nice for that purpose. When I record reference videos for myself, or to propose ideas or ask questions, I just prop up my phone and record it, and that's it.

That said, it almost sounds like you are trying to "Aikido-ize" a lock that isn't meant to be done that way. By that, I mean you are trying to use it to guide a person and move them where you want, but the technique may simply not work well that way, and is more suited to a quick wrench, instead. It would be easier to tell if we could see it :)

Kenneth Poulsen
Kenneth Poulsen's picture

Thanks for the advice, they are much appreciated :).

I am currently working on a version of Itosu Anka Sensei's "Releasing Hand" bunkai for all the Heian katas,(using his statements about "avoiding a fight", strictly following his "Connect, Counter and Relase" and so on), and planning to do some videos so I can get other opinions on these techniques as well from you all. (I have worked through Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, most of Yondan - and currently on Godan. Not learned yet! - but worked through ;-) ... )

The few times I have found a partner to train with that also gives some resistance and actually works against me, these techniques works like a charm - but I am also learning a lot each time :). That is my main issue - I am desperately trying to find a partner to verify the techniques, to help remove my misunderstandings and do the Videos with! (I am doing traditional Shotokan Karate, and getting a training partner from my Dojo interested in these "non-traditional-karate, self-defence - without totally destroying your oponent at the same time" techniques is really difficult and an uphill battle, when there is also focus on training for the upcoming European Championships, Shows for different occations, work/life outside the Dojo, and so on).

I hope to be back with some videos as well in a short while  :).

Kind regards, Kenneth

Kenneth Poulsen
Kenneth Poulsen's picture

I am currently home with a cold (It is that time of the year), and I have still not found anyone to train and film these Releasing Hand techniques with yet :( ... 

Thanks for the help all, working on videos :).

Kind regards