Naihanchi (ナイハンチ) Kata

Naihanchi (ナイハンチ)
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The kata Naihanchi is said to mean ‘sideways fighting’ due to the kata’s distinctive embusen (floor pattern), but is also translated as ‘internal divided conflict’, it is practiced in many styles of karate today.
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Gichin Funakoshi renamed the kata Tekki (Iron Horse) in reference to his old teacher, Anko Itosu, and the form’s power.
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While the creator of the kata is unknown, it is referenced that it was Sokon Matsumura (1809-1899) who is said to have brought Naihanchi into karate. Matsumura fused the indigenous Okinawan fighting art of ‘Te’ with various methods of Chinese kempo to form what became known as Shuri-te.
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Matsumura occasionally visited China as an envoy on affairs of state. Whilst on these trips he would study kempo from the Chinese military attachés and visit local martial arts schools. It is possible that Matsumura was first introduced to Naihanchi whilst on one of these trips. He may also have received instruction in the kata from one of the many Chinese martial artists who visited Okinawa.
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It was Naihanchi that was taught first to new students. Not because it was a basic form, but, as is the tradition within the martial arts, the most important and challenging principles were taught first, unlike in the west, where we learn simple techniques and then progress gradually towards the more difficult ones. It was the kata taught to beginners before the creation of the Fukyugata and Pinan kata.
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Some researchers believe Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan were created by Anko Itosu (1831-1915). But others believe that as only Naihanchi shodan has a formal opening, it was originally one kata broken into three separate parts. Itosu is thought to have changed the original kata.
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The form is so important to old style karate that Kentsu Yabu (1866-1937), a student of Itosu, often told his students ‘Karate begins and ends with Naihanchi’.
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Naihanchi contains many highly effective techniques and concepts that are of great value to today’s martial artists. Few modern day students value the kata due to its simplistic appearance and hence fail to give it the attention it deserves.
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Choki Motobu (1871-1944), who was one of Okinawa’s most feared fighters, the kata he emphasized mostly in his teaching was Naihanchi. Although the masters of old would only know a few forms, they understood them in great depth and had the ability to apply them. Motobu was undoubtedly a pragmatist who took his fighting seriously, and he obviously regarded the study of Naihanchi as a vital part of learning how to fight.
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Naihanchi provides instruction on close range fighting; the techniques are also direct and relatively easy to apply. It integrates the use of striking and grappling, which is the key to success at close range.
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The methods and techniques of Naihanchi are highly potent and worthy of deep study. If you require effective close range fighting skills and you wish to follow in the footsteps of some of karate’s greatest masters, then Naihanchi and its applications should be practiced relentlessly and studied deeply. 👊🥋
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