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River House Dojo

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White to Yellow Belt

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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 Nidan

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.

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Heian Sandan

Orange to Green

Heian Sandan training is designed to impart an understanding of complicated turning and footwork as well as close distance fighting techniques. Heian Sandan is not as physically taxing as either Heian Nidan or Heian Shodan. Many schools interpret the stomping kicks as crescent kicks designed to block the oncoming techniques of an attacker. However, this interpretation is largely in the West, where a simple knee raise is quickly interpreted to be a flashy and high level kicking technique.

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.

2. Inside 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. Fold for a left inside block as you step out, and then focus the block in time with the foot stepping down.

3. Cross Block - Step with the right foot to the left to assume the closed leg/feet stance. Some people try to stay low in this stance - don't bother. There is no requirement that you bend your knees for balance nor anything else here. Just stand up with the knees relatively straight. Put the left hand over the right shoulder and beside the right ear. Reach forward and down with the right arm. Block downward with the left arm and then make an inside block with the right arm. Reverse the blocking by putting the right arm over the left shoulder and bringing the elbows together. Now inside block with the left arm and down block with the right without

moving the feet. This technique stumps more people. The basic idea is to trade hands. The hand blocking inside goes down and back up. The other hand goes up and then down.

4. Repeat on the Other Side - Turn 180° and step into a right leg back stance. Inside block, and then stand up and perform the cross blocks. Remember, the right arm is inside, down, inside, and the left arm is the opposite.

5. Double Hand Block - Look to the left 90° and step in that direction with the left foot so that it becomes the front foot in a new back stance. Double hand block with the left arm and the right arm supporting. Fold for a double hand block by putting the left fist in front of the right shoulder and the right fist touching the left elbow. Block as the foot settles in as the front foot of a left side back stance.

6. 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.

7. Spinning Bottom Fist Strike - Without moving the left hand, rotate the right wrist and forearm counter-clockwise so that the right elbow sticks up in the air. Spin into this technique by pivoting on the right foot as you pull the left foot forward in a counter-clockwise direction. As you spin and come forward, your right hand will end up on the small of your back with the back of your hand touching. Continue the step with the left foot stepping forward into side facing horse riding stance. Look over your left shoulder. Bottom fist strike with the left hand to your own shoulder height. Pull the right hand from behind the small of your back and draw it. The drawing action is really just a token motion, since you can't get anything out of it except recovering control over your right hand.

8. Stepping Punch - Step forward into a new right front stance and punch middle level. Kiai on this technique.

9. Stand Up - Pivot on the right foot and spin counter-clockwise, pulling your left foot up to the right. Stand up into the closed feet stance with both feet firmly together. As you do this, place your fists on your waist with your elbows pointing straight out like chicken wings. Do this quietly without any tension.

10. Stomping Elbow Block and Back Fist - From this position, raise the right knee up to the chest, after the knee is up, pivot to the left on the left foot, and then stomp down into a horse riding stance that is side facing looking over your right shoulder. The knee raise is a snapping action. The motion should look as though the knee comes up quickly and then bounces off an invisible object back toward the floor in a knee lift for a front kick. But there is no kick - just the knee lift. As the foot lands, turn at the waist so that the elbow of the right arm sweeps, in position with the fist on the waist, across to the left until it is pointing at the left 30 degree angle. Immediately bring the fist up and arc it over vertically for a snapping back fist strike. The fist should take an angular trajectory - not travel straight up and then down. Rather, it travels up at a 70 degree angle, and then back down along that same angle. Snap it back to the waist. Step forward with the left foot using the same stomping action. The stomping step will not work properly unless you understand that it is an underhanded arc, not an overhand arc. You must turn the hips into the direction you will travel before you lift the foot and knee very far, otherwise, you will end up raising the knee and then wildly swinging it about trying to take the step. Turn the hips, raise the knee, lower the knee as you complete the pivot, and repeat the mirror image of the elbow block and the back fist strike. Step forward a third time the same way and repeat.

11. Vertical Sword Hand Block - After returning the last back fist to the waist, reach under the left arm with your open right hand. The left hand should reach across with a fist until the elbows meet. Block in a round, sweeping motion with a vertical sword hand, slowly decelerating the technique and adding tension as you go. You should exhale slowly during this technique, but no one should be able to hear you. Don't hiss and wheeze as you exhale and block slowly. Just because you are tense doesn't mean you should be making a lot of noise when you breathe.

Ideally, you want your breathing to be invisible and inaudible to everyone around you.

12. Stepping Punch - As soon as the vertical sword hand block reaches the end of its path, step forward and punch with the left fist in a front stance to the middle level.

13. Pull and Punch - This next step is a little tricky. Remember it has two parts and you'll perform it more easily. The first part is that you step with the right foot up to the left, and then you step out with the right foot until you are in a horse riding stance. You have not moved your hands yet. This is the first part of the step. The second part consists of you pulling the left foot to the right, pivoting on the right, and then turning 180° to face the rear. Continue stepping with the left foot to the left until you are in a new horse riding stance. Draw the left arm strongly while you punch over the left shoulder with the right fist. The fist is vertical for the punch. Perform this same technique to the right. Shift both feet to the right six inches by lifting the right foot and pushing off with the left. The left foot will drag the floor until the right is planted. Try to make the way that you perform this technique subtle. Don't lift the right foot far, and the whole shift is only a few inches. Draw the right arm strongly while you punch over the right shoulder with the left fist in a vertical position. Do not look over the shoulders. Look straight ahead. Kiai on the second motion.

14. Finish - Stand back up into the natural position by recovering the right leg back up into the stance.

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Heian Yondan

Green to Blue

Heian 4 is usually the first kata that offers long-term challenges to the karate student. The problems for Karate players first encountering this kata seem to focus around the side snap kicks, making the kata flow, and constructing the awkward and unflattering back stances. Because of Heian Yondan's fluid mechanics, awkward and plodding performance which was easily hidden in the blocky movements of Heian Sandan is exposed in this kata as techniques that need improvement.

The kata utilizes more kicking with back fists thrown simultaneously, more reinforced blocking using both hands, and large use of the elbows and knees, but unfamiliar techniques are not more difficult, they are simply unfamiliar and performed to a different sort of rhythm. Practice will bring these techniques under control just as it has for all of the techniques the student has had to master up to this point. The most difficult movements are generally considered by novices and many older students to be the back stance and the side snap kick. These challenging techniques require flexible hips and ankles. Strong knees are also helpful. Being 8 years old is also helpful. These techniques were not structured so that anyone could learn and perform them. Most adult novices find these techniques to be impossible to ever perform to the level demonstrated in books and videos.

The back stance and the side snap kick present a particular challenge to people with inflexible knees and ankles. While these techniques tend to attract quite a lot of instructive time in order to overcome this difficulty, I recommend that instructors teach these techniques with a goal of finding the student's limits in mind.

Contrary to the quaint platitudes offered by most karate texts, human beings do have limits,and straining those limits is both dangerous and unproductive. When the student has progressed as

far as he can, the instructor must acknowledge the effort and allow the student to stop focusing on improving techniques that Father

Time and genetics have placed out of the student's reach.

Prioritization is a more useful skill to pass to students than is simply repeating the absolutism of, "You can do anything." Thus, I recommend that at first the coach push the student to find what they are truly capable of, but at some point recognize that spending an unbalanced amount of time on these two techniques will not yield a return on investment in the future that will justify having done this.

Give the techniques time, and then work with what you have.

Today, instructor level Karate experts make subtle adjustments to the performance line of Heian Yondan in order to force it back to the same starting and ending point. Since the kata's last technique is not very adjustable, the rest of Heian Yondan must be rigged to return the kata solidly to the starting point, especially with today's competitions demanding that the starting and ending point be identical in Shotokan competitions. I like to widen the angle of the wedge block back stances so that they are shallower. That is a subtle change that makes it easier to return to the starting point.

However, I also believe that having to return exactly to the starting point of a kata is a silly exercise in perfectionism for perfectionism’s sake. While kata can be engineered to do this by the people who promote sport Karate, I do not see it as a valuable skill. It improves neither the appearance nor the function of practice or the resulting learning from the kata.

 

It is useful for the instructor in that both left and right movements must be executed equally with regards to stepping distance and angles for the student to come close to the starting point.

Heian Yondan introduces several technical patterns which appear over and over again in

Shotokan kata. For example, the two side kicks with the thrusting back fist strikes will be repeated in the Kanku dai kata. The front kick followed by the vertical back fist strike is also another technique that will be demanded of the student later in their training.

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.

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. Bring both open hands by the right waist in no particular position, and then slowly bring them up and around strongly. Add tension and decelerate the action as you progress. The left arm performs a high level inside block with the back of the open hand.

The right arm performs an upper level rising block, but the forearm and open fingers should point in the direction of the left foot. The fingertips 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 100 degrees.

When finished, this technique forms a nice rectangle between the arms.

3. Two Handed Block - Pull the hands down from their upward position to one beside the left waist. Leave the hands open in the sword hand shape palms down. Pivot on the heels to the right, looking 180° in the other direction, and repeat the decelerating, tensed blocking action to the right. It is not necessary to shift backward and slide a little when doing this. Some people do that, but technically, the kata is done with a step out and then an in-place pivot – not sliding backward.

4. Lower X-Block - Turn to the left 90° and step in that direction with the left foot. The left leg now becomes the front leg in a front stance. From their upraised position, cross the wrists of the right and left arms, and then x-block downward powerfully from that position.

5. Double Hand Block - Step forward with the right foot so that it becomes the front foot in a new back stance. Double hand block with the right arm and the left arm supporting. 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 back stance.

6. Side Snap Kicks - From the double hand block position you are in now, pull the left leg up to the right knee. The left knee should point outward in the direction that you are going to kick. The left hand should be at the right waist in the cup and saucer position. Side snap kick to the left as you throw a left side back fist strike. Unlike the first back fist strike, don't snap this time. Rather, left the back fist out after you strike. Snap the kick back immediately, though, and step down into a front stance that has no width - the heel s are in line. Drive the right elbow into the left palm, which is now being pulled back from the back fist strike. The fist of the elbow-strike hand can be palm down or palm inward.

Typically in Shotokan kata, when you throw a single side snap kick, the back fist is snapped. When you throw two side snap kicks followed by elbow strikes, the back fist is left hanging extended after the strike. Be careful not to bend at the waist when you throw the side snap kicks. Your shin, shoulder, hip, and knee should all form a straight line from target to chin upon the maximum extension of the kick. Most people bend forward at the waist and turn their chest in the direction of the kick – which is less than ideal form for a side kick or a front kick. From this position, pull the left foot about halfway toward the right, and then raise the right foot to the left knee, turn the head to the other direction, and throw the mirror image of these techniques.

7. Sword Hand Block and Strike - Look over the left shoulder. Pivot on both heels to the left 90° so that your left foot becomes the front foot in a left sided front stance that is very wide and shallow.

As you perform this pivot, move the left open hand down as if to block to the lower level with a sword hand block, and place the open right hand up in the air with the elbow at a 90° angle as if about to perform an outside block. Continue shifting the weight and turn the hips to the reverse half facing posture. The shoulders should finish facing 45° to the left. The right arm should strike in a round trajectory to the neck level with the palm flat and facing upward.

The left hand should be in an open palm block to the upper level.

The right elbow should be bent at about 10 degrees, and the right hand should be parallel to the floor. Some people strike with the right hand moving in a forward motion toward the target rather than a rounded motion. In fact, this seems to be becoming more and more popular. The strike should be performed with a round trajectory.

8. Front Snap Kick and Back fist Strike - Front snap kick by stepping forward with the right foot to kick. As you step down, bring the left hand out in front of you with the open palm facing down at stomach level. The right fist should be somewhat behind the head, and right elbow should point from between the eyes. Pull the elbow down strongly as you lunge forward and plant the right foot, finishing by pulling the left foot forward into a crossed feet stance.

This looks like a vertical back fist strike. Kiai on the strike.

9. Wedge Block - From your current position, pivot counter-clockwise to the left on your right foot. As you pivot, extend the left foot outward to the 225 degree right flank from the kiai point. The left foot becomes the front foot in a new back stance. As you step outward, cross both hands at the wrists quickly with the palm sides of the fists facing inward. Burst them apart and then slowly wedge block with increasing tension and deceleration.

10. Front Snap Kick - Step forward with the right foot and front snap kick to the middle level. Leave the arms in the wedge position.

11. Double Punch - Punch with the right and then the left. The right punch has no chambering action, just punch directly from the wedge block posture you are in. The first punch snaps fast and the second punch thrusts strong.

12. Wedge Block - Move the right foot back in and then extend it out to the 90° angle to the right into a new back stance. Repeat the wedge block above.

13. Front Snap Kick - Step forward with the left foot and front snap kick to the middle level. Leave the arms in the wedge position.

14. Double Punch - Punch with the left and then the right. The left punch has no chambering action, just punch directly from the wedge block posture you are in. The first punch snaps fast and the second punch thrusts strong.

15. Double Hand Blocks - Shift the left foot to the left 45° so that it becomes the front foot in a new back stance. Double hand block with the left arm and the right arm supporting. Fold for a double hand block by putting the left fist in front of the right shoulder and the right fist touching the left elbow. Block as the foot settles in as the front foot of a right side back stance. Step forward and double hand

block again. Step forward and block one more time for a total of three.

16. Hair Grab - Bend the front knee and straighten the back knee so that your stance goes from a back stance to a front stance. Don't shift the left foot outward to the left. Shoot both hands up quickly so that the two open hands stab up to ear level as if on the sides of someone's head.

17. Knee Strike - Bring the right knee up as if for a front snap kick, but don't snap kick.

Instead, execute a thrust with the knee upwards and hold that position for a brief instant. Pull both hands downward in fists from their extended positions with the elbows straight. Place the fists to either side of the shin. The arms should be on a 45° angle downward when the action is complete. Kiai on this technique.

18. Sword Hand Block - Pivot to the rear 180° on the left foot in a counter-clockwise direction. Step down with the right foot into a new back stance so that it becomes the rear foot. Sword hand block to the middle level with the left hand.

19. Sword Hand Block - Step forward and sword hand block with the right hand.

20. Finish - Step the right foot back to the natural position to finish.

Heian Godan

Blue to Blue Black Stripe

This kata continues with Heian Yondan's survey of reinforced, double armed blocking and countering. Heian Godan, however, lacks the side snap kicking that is so challenging in Heian Yondan. Instead, there is a jumping maneuver that is fairly difficult to pull off if you are an older novice to karate. Heian Godan's jump is not the last seen in the kata, however. It is only the first time that the student of karate has been required to jump off of the floor in a kata. Kata such as Enpi, Kanku-Sho, Unsu, and Meikyo require jumps that may reach high in the air, so the questionable skill of jumping is very important for those who aspire to be kata specialists. Be sure to read about the meaning of jumping in Schmeisser's Rules.

The mysterious techniques at the end of the kata, , (Manji Uke)are generally interpreted as strikes followed by throws. Although each instructor will certainly interpret them according to his preference.

Throwing techniques throughout Shotokan Karate kata are apparently encrypted into the structure of the kata. Why they are not more apparent is unclear. The last two techniques in Heian Godan, apparently meaningless to the untrained observer, are samples of this coding of throws and locks into the kata.

The Heian kata are required kata for competition in most organizations, especially in the style tournaments. The Heian kata are randomly chosen for elimination rounds in which two karate experts simultaneously perform the same kata side by side. The winner is chosen, and the loser is eliminated.

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.

2. Inside 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. Fold for a left inside block as you step out, and then focus the block in time with the foot stepping down.

3. Reverse Punch - Stay in the back stance, and punch across your body to the left. This is a very difficult technique. It requires that you rotate the hips, but the problem is that almost nobody can rotate their hips in a back stance without moving the rear knee. Since you are forbidden to move the rear knee, you have to twist at the waist.

It's your only choice, and it can be difficult. Try your best to twist in the direction you need to in order to punch with a straight arm.

4. Hook Punch - Look to the right. Step slowly with the right foot up to the left. As you pull the right foot up, pivot the feet to face to the right 90° angle (the front of the room). Hook punch with the left fist. The punch should be slow and tense. Add tension and decelerate as you punch. The forearm of the punch should be angled slightly downward. The feet should come together in the closed feet stance. The knees should be relatively straight, not bent visibly.

5. Repeat - Perform this same sequence to the mirror side. Step out with the right foot into a back stance, punch with the left hand, and then step up slowly while hook punching with the right arm. Theonly difference: Look forward instead of to the left while hook punching.

6. Double Hand Block - Step forward with the right foot so that it becomes the front foot in a new back stance. Double hand block with the right arm and the left arm supporting. 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 back stance.

7. Lower X-Block - Step forward into a front stance with the left foot. The left leg now becomes the front leg in a front stance. From the right shoulder upraised position, cross the wrists of the right and left arms, and then x-block downward powerfully from that position while rotating the shoulders to front.

8. Upper Level X-Block - Open the hands and stab upward without uncrossing the wrists. When you finish, your elbows should be at 90° angles and the center of the X should be above your forehead.

9. Pressing Side Block - Without changing the stance or the posture, stand in place and move the hands to the right side of the torso below the shoulder. To do this, unhook your hands during the motion so that they are no longer pressed together by the back of the hands. Press the palm heels together, and as you lower the hands to your right, your hands will spin. Finally, the right hand fingertips will point forward, and the left hand fingertips will point to the right.

10. Straight Punch - Punch with the left fist from the pressing side block posture. Some people begin the next step before they execute this punch.

11. Stepping Punch - Step forward and punch middle level in a front stance. Kiai on this technique. The timing of the entire kata up to this point is 1--2-----3--1--2-----3--4--5-6789.

12. Big Stomp and Down Block - Turn 180°, pivot to the left on your left foot, and then raise your right knee into the air. You should be facing squarely to the left when your knee is up in your chest like this. Leave your left arm where it was in physical space, not in relation to your body. When you pivot, move into it and collapse your shoulder inward. Reach over your left shoulder with your right fist and prepare a down block. All of the above happens simultaneously.

Now continue pivoting to your left and lower your foot strongly into the floor, stomping as you assume a horse riding stance facing to the left. During the entire turn, keep your eyes to the front. Sharply down block to your side, keeping all of these movements synchronized.

13. Back Hand Block -Turn your head sharply to the left 180°, then fold your arms so that your right arm and fist are reaching over your left arm and open hand. Fold before the block quickly and strongly. Quickly at first, then very slowly move your open hand, formed like a sword hand with the fingers straight, palm side following. Some people prefer to face the palm downward at first and then turn the wrist only at the last portion of the movement for drama. Either way is OK.

 

14. Crescent Moon Kick - Once you have reached the pinnacle of this motion, turn to your left and crescent kick into the palm of your hand with the sole of your right foot. Do not move the left arm while you do this - keep it in position relative to the room, not the body. Your left shoulder will close inward as you perform the kick and turn the body forward. Leave the right hand at the right hip. Keep it in position relative to the body. As you connect with the palm of your hand during the kick, you will continue turning and step down into another horse riding stance facing the opposite way from the last one.

15. Elbow Strike - As your foot makes contact with the floor, simultaneously strike the palm of your left hand with your right elbow. Turn your right fist so that your palm faced inward or downward - it doesn't matter, your elbow doesn't change. Your left arm, as you were stepping through, eventually started to bend at the elbow to facilitate this move. Your arms should describe a perfect rectangle in front of your chest.

 

16. Double Hand Block - Look right 90°. From this position, move the left foot up to and behind the right so that you assume the crossed feet stance. Now Double hand block to your right with the right arm. The left arm is supporting.

 

17. Uppercut - Look 180° to the left. Immediately step out about 1 foot with the left foot so that you assume an L stance with the left foot as the front foot. Punch upward with the entire double hand block mechanism.

 

18. Jump and Lower X-Block - Bend the knees slightly. Move the hands lower as you pivot to face the left 90° angle. Leap off of the left foot and lift the right foot behind it. Tuck the feet and legs up against the body tightly. Pull both arms back in drawn positions. As you land, step down into the crossed leg stance with the right foot in front and the left behind. X-block to the lower level. Try to keep your back erect without bending over.

 

19. Double Hand Block - Step forward into a new front stance with the hips to the side. 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. There is no width to this stance - the heel should be in line with each other.

 

20 Manji Uke Blocks - Look over the left shoulder to the 180° angle. Shift the weight to the left leg so that it becomes the front leg in a

new front stance. Straighten the back leg. At the same time, swing the right hand around and down in a lower level sword hand strike from the outside inward. The left hand should be open as well with the palm facing inward. Execute a passing block with the left hand and finish beside the right side of the neck. Shift the weight to the rear by straightening the front leg and bending the rear so that the stance moves from a front stance to a back stance without moving the feet. Upper level inside block to the rear with the right hand. Down block to the front with the left hand. The inside block fist should pass over the head as it travels to its finishing position.

Pull the left foot to the right and stand up with the knees relatively straight. Pivot on the heels so that you face the opposite side. As you do this, use moderate speed and relaxed motion to trade the arms. The right arm should go to the down block position and the left arm should go to the upper level inside block to rear position

Step forward into an in-line front stance and strike with the open hands as before. Shift the weight back to a back stance and perform the swastika blocks again.

21. Finish - Lift and withdraw the right foot back to the left to stand in the natural position.

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