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River House Dojo

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Heian Shodan

White to Yellow Belt

Originally the second of the five Heian kata, this is now practiced as the first by most novice students in modern Shotokan Karate clubs. Heian Shodan is distinguished by its use of the down block, the upper block, the middle level stepping punch, the sword hand block, and the fact that every technique takes one step to complete.

.The purpose of this kata is to teach the student basic stepping in a front stance and back stance, to teach the application of stepping punches following blocks which remove any obstructing limbs, and the use of blocking as attacking.

Heian Shodan is generally best introduced to students after they have completed a 2 month long sequence of training in the basic techniques. They should be familiar with the concepts of the individual hand and foot motions, the three basic stances, the basic kicking techniques, and the processes involved in advancing, retreating, and turning the body about in a stable fashion.

Directions

1. Natural Position - Begin the kata with your hands relaxed at your sides in fists. Your feet should be about as far apart as your hips are wide as measured from the inside of your feet.

2. Down Block - Look left before you do anything. As a general rule in every kata, look before you start to move in any new direction with a snappy head turn, and ensure the face is fully pointing in the direction you are about to move. Step out to the left with the left foot into a front stance. The stance should be about 12 to 14 inches wide when measured from the most inside portion of one foot to the other. The hips are already to the side because of the angle of your motion, so you don't really have to turn them. Some people make an extra motion of trying to turn their hips forward so that they can snap them to the side again, but this is unnecessary. This technique really doesn't harness the hips very much. When you fold the arms for the block, you should bend your knees just a little - not too much - before stepping out with the left foot. Whatever you do, do not lean forward or bend over forward and then expand back out to good posture as you step out. Keep your posture vertical.

3. Stepping Punch - Step forward with the right foot into a front stance. Punch middle level. The punch should focus when the foot touches the floor and should be relaxed by the time the stance settles. There will be vibration in the stance after the foot hits the floor that will take a brief moment to dissipate. You focus during this time. Keep the hips squarely to the front throughout the step. Do not try to cock the hip back and then wiggle the pelvis on impact in an attempt to create any vibration. Vibrations happen on their own. Simply drive forward and keep the hips as square to the front as you can, and you'll end up doing the motion most efficiently.

4. Down Block - Turn 180° to the rear looking over the right shoulder. Step the right foot back to the left without leaning forward, fold the arms for the down block as you pivot clockwise, and then unfold them in a burst to perform the block as you continue to pivot to the right performing the down block. You should finish in a front stance with the right foot forward.

Not recommend turning the way Kanazawa demonstrates in his Karate Kata books. He reaches back with his foot, as if testing the temperature of the water and then pivots on both feet. By doing this, he leans forward and away from the turn, and he ends up fouling not only the beauty of the kata but also the speed and efficiency of the turning action. Instead, on any turn, bring the feet together as you pivot on one foot, never lean, and then step out in the direction of the next technique.This should all be performed in one fluid motion without a pause when the feet are brought together.

5. Vertical Bottom Fist Strike - This is the only technique that keeps this kata from being completely symmetrical. From the down block position, raise the right fist overhead by passing it past the left ear and then over the crown of the head in a vertical fashion. As you pull back the fist, you should retract your front front foot half-way back to the left foot. Shuffle the foot back into place again while you strike downward to your own mouth height. You should finish with your elbow at a 90° angle.

There are several points of contention here for many people. Some schools prefer to do this technique the older way: They pull the foot back as they strike and not shift back forward again. Shotokan schools avoid this style of motion for one reason: it prevents the kata from returning to the same spot. Others prefer not to have the elbow bent on contact, and instead extend the arm straight out at the completion of the strike. While studying kata, keep in mind that such details are petty concerns which ultimately will not affect what you learn from them, will not impact whether or not you pass tests for new ranks, nor will they affect your success in competitions. It is the overall performance that wins, loses, passes, fails, and teaches. An elbow being bent this way or that on a single technique that no one agrees on is truly left up to the performer to manage. Should the hips be to the side or to the front during this technique? The hips should be to the side. Strikes performed with one hand on the lead leg side that are not punches are generally performed in the half-front facing position.

There should be no reaching with the left hand in order to make a draw hand. Just leave the left hand where it is on the side of the hip as you perform this action.

6. Stepping Punch - Step forward with the left foot and punch middle level. There is often disagreement about what constitutes middle level punching. Some people prefer to punch directly in front of their own solar plexus (the place where the tip of

the sternum ends). Others prefer to punch more toward the middle of the sternum so that the arm is parallel to the floor. And yet others punch in front of the shoulder. Each instructor seems to have his preference. Over the long term, as you advance, remember that these air techniques have only imaginary targets, and punching consistently in any position during a kata will not affect your ability to punch a real target located somewhere else. It is up to the performer to choose.

7. Turn and Down Block - Look left 90° and bring the left foot in to the right as you fold for a down block. Step out to the left into a front stance with the left foot and down block strongly.

8. Upper Level Rising Blocks - Raise the left hand open in front of the forehead in the same shape as an upper level rising block. Keep the elbow at 90°. Step forward, and trade the hands, upper level rising blocking with the right hand in a fist synchronized with the turning of the hips to the side. Open the right hand, and then step forward and block again with the left. Repeat again with another step on the right side and let out a kiai. The hips are turned to the side on each block. Try to step forward, bring the hips to square as the feet pass, and then leave the hips there until you move the arm. Try not to gradually unfold the hips as you step forward, but rather burst them to the side at the end of the step.

9. Down Block - Turn 270° counter-clockwise with the feet close together as above, and then step out with the left foot into a down block. 

10. Stepping Punch - Step forward with the right foot and punch middle level with the hips square.

11. Down Block - Turn 180° to the right as before, and down block.

12. Stepping Punch - Step forward with the left foot into a front stance and punch middle level.

13. Down Block - Turn 90° to the left, as before, and down block.

14. Stepping punches - Step forward and punch middle level. Again. And again for a total of three. The timing of these three techniques, and the three upper level rising blocks, can be either 1--2--3 or 1---2-3. It's your choice. Tournament competitors usually use the second timing. People who prefer their kata more old fashioned tend to use the first. Keep the hips square during all three of these techniques. Don't wiggle them or otherwise try to artificially induce hip motion. The power behind the punch is the stepping action driving the hips forward.

15. Turn and Sword Hand Block - Turn 270° as before with the feet close together. Step out into a left back stance and sword hand block middle level with the left hand. This will work well for you if you avoid the biggest pitfall in performing this technique – allowing the back to curve to the side so that the hips are not directly under the torso, but instead are tilted with the front leg side higher than the rear leg side. Correcting this will create a truly beautiful back stance that you will be proud to display.

16. Sword Hand Block - Step forward and to the right 45° angle with the right foot. Pass the foot close to the left foot as you step. Block with the right hand. Try to wait to turn the hips to the side until the very end of the technique. Remember that sword hand blocks, as almost all basic blocks, contain a strict folding, chambering, or stacking action before the block itself is thrown. These actions have particular meanings, and should not be skipped or looked at lightly. To improve the speed of your blocking, snap the folding action rather than performing your blocks in a slower, two motion sort of way. Be careful that you do not short the motion in an attempt to go faster. Always throw your techniques as fast as you can using the strictest and longest motion.

The trick is to step quickly. During basic technique training, allow the hands and the feet to race one another. The hands will always win, but the faster you move your hands, the faster your feet will move. And the reverse is true, so try to step very quickly, and make your sword hand techniques a single, snapping motion instead of reaching, stepping, and then blocking in a plodding, slow kind of way.

17. Sword Hand Block - Turn 135 degrees to the right and sword hand block with the right hand again. Because of the way you will perform this, turning your hips out to the side explosively will be impossible. Don't try to force it. Instead, harness the turning of the shoulders in the direction of the block. This is a different sort of leveraging of the body from the last block.

18. Sword Hand Block - Step with the left foot to the 45° angle to the left into another sword hand block. Perform as in 2 moves prior. 

19. Finish - Stand back up into the natural stance by withdrawing the front leg back to the support foot. Do not push off with the front foot. Lift it and withdraw it back in. Do not lean to withdraw it. This requires some skill to do. 

Belt requirement found here: White to Yellow Belt

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Heian Shodan

Yellow to Orange

The second of the Heian kata was originally taught as the first. Heian Shodan and Heian Nidan have traded names, and now the one with large down block and punching actions is taught before this kata.. Heian Nidan’s content of large scale use of sword hand techniques, spear hands, reverse-side blocking, and kicking distinguishes it from the other Heian kata. This kata is usually considered more difficult for students to grasp than Heian Shodan. Heian Nidan may be simple and easy to break down into its essential content, but within it can be found some very effective techniques and maneuvers. The opening movements are interesting joint attacks aimed at the opponent's elbows. The spear hand technique demonstrates the use of simultaneous blocking and attacking. The side snap kick and back fist performed early in the kata are other examples of the tactic. The kata also includes reverse side blocking techniques in its second half. Some instructors interpret these techniques as elbow locks performed against the opponent's attacking arm. The final four techniques are more examples of blocking as attacking. The down blocks are sometimes interpreted as strikes to the opponents groin while using subtle footwork to avoid the attacker's technique. While teaching basic postures and turning, Heian Nidan also provides training in many combat ready sequences of techniques.

Directions

1. Natural Position - Begin the kata with your hands relaxed at your sides in fists. Your feet should be about as far apart as your hips are wide. Here’s a tip for putting  the feet at the right width the Goju-Ryu people use: stand with your heels together and your toes pointed outward. Now move your heels out by pivoting on the balls of both feet, and then straighten your feet. That is a good width to use.

2. Two Handed Block - Step out with the left foot into a back stance. Do not move the torso to the left. Instead, just lower the torso straight down as you bend the knees  and move the left foot out into position. The feeling should be one of compressing the  right leg downward by bending the knee. Bring both fists by the right waist in no particular position, and then snap them up and around strongly. The left arm performs a high level inside block with the back of the fist. The right arm performs an upper level rising block. The forearm and fist of the right arm point forward in the same direction as the toes of your right foot, and the left arm should be pointed upward directly. The knuckles of the right hand should point at the height of the left wrist. The forearms should be about 8 inches apart so that your face will fit between them. The wrists of both arms must be perfectly straight. The left elbow is at a perfect 90° angle as is the left shoulder. The right shoulder should be at 45°, and the right elbow should be at around 100 to 110 degrees. When finished, this technique forms a nice rectangle between the arms when viewed from the front of the room. When viewed from the side, the arms are far enough apart that the face is between them and has an unobstructed view forward.

3. Crossed Arms Strike - Pull the left arm down so that the left fist finishes in a vertical position next to the right ear. The right fist should strike in an outward arc so that the bottom fist strikes the to the chest level. The technique should finish so that the elbows are pressed together.

4. Bottom Fist Strike - Unfold the arms and draw the right arm back to the waist strongly. Bottom fist strike to your own shoulder height with the left arm. The timing of these three techniques is 1---2-3.

5. Repeat - Shift the weight to the left and face the right so that the left foot becomes the rear foot in a right back stance. Repeat the above techniques of the blocks and strikes with the same timing.

6. Triangle Side Snap Kick - Step halfway up to the right foot with the left. Do not step directly to the foot, but rather step out in front of the line of your stance by about one foot so that your left foot sets down upon what would be the top of a triangle formed by that point and the two footing places in your previous back stance. At the same time, bring the right fist back so that it sits vertically over the left fist in what is commonly called a cup and saucer position. The right foot should come up to the knee, sole pointing upward, with the blade edge of the foot pointing at and brushing against the inside of the knee. Snap a side kick outward and upward and then back to the knee with a strong contraction when the foot returns to the knee. At the same time, back fist with a snap and bring the fist back to the right breast when finished. Both techniques snap at the same time. Be careful not to lean back or forward when throwing these techniques. You should be fully side facing.

7. Sword Hand Block - Step down so that the right foot becomes the rear foot in a back stance with the left hand blocking in a sword hand block. Fold the arms strongly for the block with a snapping action as the foot moves down and the head turns 180° to the left. The block should focus with the step of the foot.

8. Sword Hand Block - Step forward with the right foot into another back stance. Sword hand block with the right hand.

9. Sword Hand Block -Step and sword hand block again with the left hand.

10. Spear Hand - Step forward with the right foot into a front stance. As you step, stab the right hand forward to the middle level with a four finger spear hand stab. The left hand should fold palm downward and finish so that the right elbow sits on the back of the left hand. The left arm and right arms should form a perfect rectangle between them. Don’t bend the left wrist. Kiai on this technique and remember it. The last five techniques will come back to haunt you in Kanku Dai.

11. Turn and Sword Hand Block - Turn 270° as before with the feet close together. Step out into a left back stance and sword hand block middle level with the left hand.

12. Sword Hand Block - Step forward and to the right 45° angle with the right foot. Pass the foot close to the left foot as you step. Block with the right hand. Try to wait to turn the hips to the side until the very end of the technique. Remember that sword hand blocks, as almost all basic blocks, contain a strict folding, chambering, or stacking action before the block itself is thrown. These actions have particular meanings, and should not be skipped or looked at lightly. To improve the speed of your blocking, snap the folding action rather than performing your blocks in a 1-2 sort of way. Be careful that you do not short the motion in an attempt to go faster. Always throw your techniques as fast as you can and use the strictest and longest motion.

13. Sword Hand Block - Turn 135 degrees to the right and sword hand block with the right hand again. Because of the way you will perform this, turning your hips out to the side explosively will be impossible. Don't try to force it. Instead, harness the turning of the shoulders in the direction of the block. This is a different sort of leveraging of the body from the last block.

14. Sword Hand Block - Step with the left foot to the 45° angle to the left into another sword hand block. Perform as in 2 moves prior.

15. Reverse Inside Block - Remember this technique, because you'll need it later when you try to perform Bassai Dai. Shift the left foot over to the left about 45° to form a new front stance. Fold the arms for a right inside block, but keep the hips half-facing as you fold the arms. Most people make the mistake of folding the arms and turning the hips forward before they actually start the blocking action. Pay attention to when you turn the hips during your block. Don't think on a macro level block=hip turn. Think about each piece of the block and each piece of the hip turning action. Once the foot settles into place, reverse inside block with the right hand, turning the hips strongly to the reverse half-facing position. No, you can't really make your pelvis aim 45° in the other direction. The best you can do is get it to squarely face the target. You'll have to turn your shoulders and twist your spine past the point that your hips will turn. You will learn, as you progress through karate training, that whether to keep the shoulders synchronized and fixed to the motion of the pelvis will be a conditional thing that changes depending on the conditions you are in and the technique you are performing. In this case, the shoulders go past the point where the hips turn. When you throw reverse punches, doing so is considered a big, fat no-no. As you perform this block, there will be several side-effects. The first is that your front knee will want to straighten, because in order to twist up this much, you really need a higher, shorter stance. The usual solution by most kata champions is to pull the front foot back about six inches without straightening the knee. Another side effect is that when you try to rotate to the reverse half-facing posture, you can't, so you end up pushing your hips away from the rear leg of the stance to the side. Be careful to keep the pelvis in front of that support leg. You'll have to actively push it into position until a few years of training go by.

16. Front snap kick - Leaving the arms in position, step forward and front snap kick with the right leg to the middle level. Some people get a little excited that they are kicking, and they like to try to kick ot the high level. Don't do that. The kata clearly calls for middle level kicking, and the challenge is more on your accuracy and consistency rather than athletic ability.

17. Reverse Punch - Reverse punch so that the punch focuses as your foot hits the floor in another front stance. You should be fully front-facing throughout the kick. Some people like to try to get hip rotation into their front snap kicks, but it is not productive. The rotation would necessarily occur when the knee was being lifted, and that action has very little to do with the resulting kick at that point. Keep the hips square, and in fact, you should try to push the hip of the support leg forward when you perform a front snap kick.

18. Repeat - Fold your arms for another inside block, and reverse side inside block with the mirror image of the three techniques you just performed. Finish with a left snap kick and a right reverse punch.

19. Double Hand Block - Step forward into a new front stance with the hips to the side with the right foot. Fold for a double hand block by putting the right fist in front of the left shoulder and the left fist touching the right elbow. Block as the foot settles in as the front foot of a right side front stance.

20. Down Block - Turn 270° counter-clockwise with the feet close together as above, and then step out with the left foot into a down block.

21. Upper Block Stepping Punch Step to the 45° angle with the right foot, and right side upper block in front stance. Do this by reaching with the left open hand over your forehead directly from the down block posture of the hand. Then throw an upper level rising block with the right hand as you rotate the hips to the side and step forward.

22. Down Block - Turn 135 degrees clockwise with the feet close together as above, and then step out with the right foot into a down block.

23. Upper Block Stepping Punch Step to the 45° angle with the left foot, and left side upper block in front stance. Do this by reaching with the right open hand over your forehead directly from the down block posture of the hand. Then throw an upper level rising block with the left hand as you rotate the hips to the side and step forward. Kiai on this technique.

24. Finish - Step back with the left foot to the natural position. The right foot is already there, but will need to be straightened up a little. Relax the arms at the sides.

Belt requirement found here: Yellow to Orange belt

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