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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Pinan Flow System by John Titchen

“Pinan Flow System: karate kata application for beginner to black belt” By John Titchen

INFO: Packed with information this book, the first in a four volume series, examines the first two Pinan / Heian kata. With practical application drills based on the study of the reactions of students to common forms of aggression and violence in high pressure scenario simulations, as well as research into violent crime, it contains a detailed analysis of the attributes that makes techniques effective, an exploration of the origins and purpose of the Pinan forms, and a discussion of some of the myths surrounding kata, their purpose and application. Each drill is clearly illustrated with photos and explanatory text.

This book approaches the kata by looking at the common factors that unite effective combative approaches rather than focusing on minor stylistic differences, and as a result provides applications and training drills suitable for everyone, regardless of style or grade. The application drills initiate from movements that simulate the body’s natural flinch responses to attacks or common fall back positions, and teach karateka how to close and create distance while moving freely between ballistic and grappling techniques incorporating close range striking, trapping, throwing, unbalancing and locking movements that mirror the forms.

The Pinan Flow System refers to the ability to train karateka to flow seamlessly between ballistic and grappling responses using techniques and tactics embedded in the kata.

The Pinan Flow System illustrates why the Pinan / Heian set, practiced by so many Karateka, are an important and misunderstood part of the legacy of Okinawan karate to modern martial artists. Far from being simply kata for beginners, they reflect the distillation of the knowledge and tactics of the father of modern karate, and are an essential training tool and technical manual for beginner and black belt alike.

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Pinan-Flow-System-application-beginner-ebook/dp/B00HPZACBA/

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pinan-Flow-System-application-beginner-ebook/dp/B00HPZACBA/

Foreword by Iain Abernethy

Kata is arguably the practise that defines karate.  Take away the kata (and take off the gi) and karate becomes largely indistinguishable from any other martial art that prioritises striking. If we acknowledge the central place that kata has in karate, we then need to ask if that place is justified?

For most karateka, kata is practised as a grading requirement, for competition, or as a means of maintaining “tradition”. The link to combat or self-defence is often inferred, but there is no demonstrable link.  If the karateka is primarily training for personal challenge, sport or cultural and historic interest, then the way kata is commonly practiced will be in line with their training goals. However, what about the karateka who has effective self-protection as their primary training goal?

For the pragmatically minded karateka, does kata deserve its central place? While most karate would like to answer in the affirmative, I think we need to be honest and say that, in general terms, it does not. This is not because of some inherent flaw with kata itself, but the way in which it is largely approached. Kata is practised as a “martial dead end” where kata is practised simply to get good at kata. It is for this reason that many martial artists slight kata.  Many karateka even question the practise with some abandoning it completely. To my way of thinking, this is a great tragedy as kata has so much to offer the pragmatically minded karateka. What is needed for the value of kata to be realised is for kata to be part of a demonstrable process: a process such as the one John Titchen presents in this book.

For the value of kata to be fully realised it needs to be part of a process that understands both the nature of kata and the nature of civilian violence. For the practically minded karateka, kata shows us its full value only when the problem (civilian violence) and the solution (the kata) are understood in relation to one another, and which gives rise to a process that includes solo-practice, realistic application, an understanding of underlying principles, and practise in free flowing situations. Even when the application of kata is considered, most karateka fail to practice something meaningful because one of the above elements is missing. Not so here! What John presets is a holistic way of approaching kata which addresses the realities of civilian violence. What you will find in these pages (and the pages of subsequent volumes) is one of the most functional ways to approach kata out there.

I’ve known John for a long time and know him to be one of the best there is when it comes to effectively simulating the realities of self-defence in training. He is also one of the most in-depth thinkers I’ve came across when considering the role and nature of kata. When you combine those things with John’s skill as a writer you end up with a very special approach to kata and a must read book.

I believe this book will provide much food for thought for the seasoned pragmatically minded karateka, as well as providing a superb “as is” approach to kata application that those new to the field can easily pick up and run with. Above all else, I also think this book will prove to be a pivotal part of the ever growing movement which is seeing kata retaining its central place in the practise of the self-defence orientated karateka. Not because of nostalgia or misplaced “tradition”, but because it works! This truly is an excellent book that karate will benefit from.

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Pinan-Flow-System-application-beginner-ebook/dp/B00HPZACBA/

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pinan-Flow-System-application-beginner-ebook/dp/B00HPZACBA/

Paperback version coming soon!

JWT's picture

Thanks Iain for taking the time to read the book and for such a positive review!

The paperback version has been delayed by my being very ill at the start of this year and by quality issues with the printer I had chosen, but the files are now with the new company and the book (in a new size) will be out soon! The second volume in the series will be hard on its heels.

If you can't wait for the books in paperback, then you could brave my sense of humour and train with me instead! I'm running a seminar in two halves to cover drills from the full series on Saturday 26 April. To find out more about the seminar please click the link to Iain's 'what's on' section below. 


JWT's picture

I'm pleased to say that after an unexpected delay, the paperback version of the first volume of my new series on the Pinan / Heian kata, covering drills for the first two kata in the set, is now available.

So why did I choose to write another book on the Heian / Pinan kata?

I wrote my first book on the Heian / Pinan kata in 2004.  Between that and the publication of the book in 2007 lay transplant failure, dialysis, and the gift of a second transplant – all factors that slowed me down but increased my appreciation of how good karate can be for the weaker person.

 So why have I written another book, and not just one book, a whole series on the Heian / Pinan kata? 

 Over the last ten years the research and training methods that I’ve adopted have changed my karate practice considerably. 

 Through the investment I made in developing scenario training I’ve had the privilege of learning from watching large numbers martial artists face HAOV outside the comfort of the normal training environment.  The process has been helped by the diversity of participants: from fit young aspiring martial artists to normal hard training middle aged men and women, and even young teenage boys and girls, all of whom have enabled us to create a variety of realistic and emotionally distracting challenges. 

 In those simulations I’ve observed how people have accessed or failed to use their training in more realistic conditions. Confined spaces, close ranges, doorways, furniture, verbal and visual and physical distractions from other people, trying to deescalate a situation, trying to shield or rescue a child or perceived weaker individual, having limited peripheral vision or not being aware of a situation until after it has begun: these have all put participants’ ability to access their physical training and knowledge to the test, whether their training base was Shotokan, Goju, Wado, DART, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, MT, TKD, Boxing, Kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, or some obscure CMA, and whether they were 6th Dan, 5th Dan, 3rd Dan, Coaches or kyu grade students, or experienced LEOs, security or military personnel.  The successful tactics, when the participants were able to access their skill sets, were relatively diverse, but what brought them all together was the similarity of their responses when things didn’t go to plan, and both how and when things didn’t go to plan.

 What is consistently visible in the footage of these events is that successful navigation and extraction of participants from the close quarter fighting comes not through accessing their well drilled kumite combinations, but through movements and stances that more closely resemble the strategies that are shown in karate kata, even amongst those participants who have no martial arts experience.  In fact if I were to edit out the aggressors from the videos so that it appeared as if the trainees were fighting thin air, then the resulting movements would look more akin to a kata than anything else seen in the martial arts. 

 I wanted to share what I’ve learned with a broader audience than I can possibly reach through travelling round the world teaching seminars, and the logical next step was to try and condense my findings into more books.  In doing so I wanted write something that appealed not only to the experienced black belt looking for greater depth and practicality from their practice, but was also suitable for the complete beginner in karate trying to make sense of the funny movements he was learning in class, and that an instructor could safely teach to beginners.

 For me the Pinan / Heian kata represent a comprehensive catalogue of the interlinking strategies and approaches I’ve seen work under pressure.  The majority of these are found in other forms, but the Pinan are the perfect vehicle for spreading the word on how effective basic karate can be because as a set they are simple, taught to beginners in many systems, and practised by karateka at all levels of their training.  The practical defences against HAOV and the strategies from common less desirable positions that I’ve set out in these books are not complicated, in fact they are deceptively simple and easy.  Almost everything that is combat effective is simple and brought down to the bare essentials of movement.

 I hope you have as much fun reading the books and trying the drills as I’ve had writing and training for them.  I’m really excited to be able to release the first in the series covering Pinan / Heian Shodan and Nidan in both paperback and ebook.  I intend to have all four volumes in the series published this year and I’m up for travelling to teach in person at any club that’s interested.

The book is available from the publisher's bookstore: http://www.fast-print.net/bookshop/1557/pinan-flow-system as well as all major retailers such as amazon.



 All the best


JWT's picture

At the moment amazon seems to be directing people to the publishers (and taking a cut) rather than stocking the book itself, so until they carry it in stock you are better off supporting the 'little guy' and buying direct from the publisher:


Let me know what you think!   Cheers.   John  
Brooks's picture


Thanks for the recommendation. I recently purchased this book and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish some of the drills were on video. I will definitely be buying the rest (Kindle version).



David Price
David Price's picture

Just purchased the first volume in the series and what I’ve read so far is great. Many of the combinations in Karate Kata are recycled throughout the Tae Kwon Do patterns that I practice so I’m getting books such as this and DVDs like Iain’s on the katas to assist in finding practical methods within the patterns.

Have also got my associations answer to Iain Abernethy coming to do a seminar this month on the same so very excited!