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What is Street Kata?

Street Kata - An Introduction

HEIAN SHODAN
Kamae (ready stance) is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai (natural stance)
Perform kata exactly, actual combat is another matter.

These are two of the guiding principles written by Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern Shotokan Karate. Funakoshi wrote twenty guiding precepts for Karate. It is important that anyone that wishes to perfect their martial art learns or has an understanding of them. In our classes we focus on a relatively new way of training in Shotokan with these two principles in mind. We call it Street  Kata. I have studied this way of training Shotokan under the instruction of Sensei Mark Carroll of Katsumi-Kai Shotokan, for the last ten years.

UNDERSTANDING

It is taken that any Karate-ka who wants to train with the Shoto Jutsu method should be or at least approaching Shodan level.  The main reason for this is that the practitioner should be able to perform all the basic punches, kicks  and blocking techniques within Shotokan.  Also any knowledge of basic judo or ju-jitsu is an advantage, as in real fights close quarter contact is very common. To train in Shotokan you must also study throwing, arm and wrist locks and some basic ground fighting.    

BASICS

The kata should be preformed many times by the practitioner until they are totally happy with the individual movements. Usually this would consist of the many years of training to get the practitioner to Shodan. The Kata has twenty one basic movements which must be fully understood. Mainly this should include the shape and form of the stance and the position of the arms. Then the movement from one position to the next should be fully examined and understood. The kata should be learnt by the practitioner with no set preconception of the bunkai to each of the moves within the Kata. Once the basics of the Kata are understood the practitioner can move onto other areas. 

STRIKING TECHNIQUES 

The main idea of Shoto jutsu is the practitioners’ personal visualization of the bunkai to each section of the Kata. Within the kata the practitioner has chosen primary striking techniques to use. For example in Hiean Shodan, apart from the obvious oi-zuki and tet-sui, there are uppercuts, elbows, hook punches and ridge hand strikes. Once the practitioner has chosen which strikes fit their preferred Bunkai they must now be pressure tested

PRESSURE TESTING

Ideally Shoto-Jutsu should be practiced with a training partner so they can hold several types of striking pads. We will look at Oi-zuki for this example. Standing in yoi, hold the left hand up as you would in the basic fence position. The right hand is held with a fist in the hiki-te position on the right hip. Five punches will be practiced from this position. All of these punches are concealed within the single technique of oi-zuki. First they will be practiced slowly to understand the full dynamic movement of the hip and body and then at speed.

1.Ura-zuki  

Slide the right fist forward letting your forearm rub against your hip. When the elbow reaches the hip the full extension of ura-zuki is complete. Draw the fist back to the hiki-te position. The left hand and arm should be held up as still in the basic fence position with all the punches and only pulled to the hip at the practitioner’s discretion.

2. Ta-te zuki

Slide the right fist forward letting your forearm rub against your hip. As the elbow passes the hip twist the fist to the ta-te zuki position. When the elbow passes about six inches in front of the hip  ta-te zuki is complete. Draw the fist back to the hiki-te position.

3. Choku-zuki

Slide the right fist forward letting your forearm rub against your hip. As the elbow passes the hip,  begin to twist the fist through the ta-te zuki position. Carry on twisting the fist as the arm travels on. As the arm nearly reaches full extension the fist should be fully rotated to the punching position. Choku-zuki is complete.  Draw the fist back to the hiki-te position.

4. Gyaka-zuki

Slide the right fist forward letting your forearm rub against your hip. While you do this begin to bend your knees and push forward off of the right foot and drive your left leg forward towards front stance As the elbow passes the hip, begin to twist the fist through the ta-te zuki position. When the arm nearly reaches full extension simultaneously finish the front stance as the fist is fully rotated and the hip fully rotated. Pull back to the ready stance. Gyaka-zuki is complete.

5. Oi-Zuki

Slide the right fist forward letting your forearm rub against your hip. While you do this begin to bend your knees and push forward off of the left foot and drive your right leg forward towards front stance As the elbow passes the hip, begin to twist the fist through the ta-te zuki position. When the arm nearly reaches full extension simultaneously finish the front stance as the fist is fully rotated and the hip fully rotated with the hip square. Oi-zuki is complete.

When you have good understanding of the techniques, pair up with your partner. Stand close to your partner, face to face, with your left hand on their right shoulder. Execute ura-zuki to the stomach, as you finish the punch your partner should move about 6 inches back. Now execute ta-te-zuki to the sternum, as you finish the punch your partner should move back about 8 inches. Now execute choku-zuki, as you finish this your partner should step back so you can step forward and complete giyaka-zuki. With the hip and inner thigh muscles pull your left leg back and return to the fence position and then immediately step in with your right leg as you push with your left and finish with oi-zuki. This should be repeated faster and faster with full form, full spirit and full control.

When you are happy with these techniques then repeat the same combination of techniques while your partner holds a focus pad or a shield. This allows you to actually hit something, focus your punch and find out how effective your technique really is.

Then turn around so you are facing away from your partner. When he taps you on the shoulder spin around fast, he will be stood in any of the four positions, then execute the correct punch for that distance without any hesitation. This exercise can be done with or without focus pads.  

The next step is for the practitioner to visualize which part of the Heian Shodan they would use any of those four punches. We will take the first two moves of the kata for an example.  You should stand at yoi and ready to begin your kata. When he decides, your partner will approach you from your left and at about a forty five degree angle. It could be at any speed or with any hand or body gesture. Then you can choose the required punch. Let’s say you decide to deliver ta-te-zuki to the neck. This relates to the beginning of the ge-dan-barai movement. We will take it that the punch makes your partner reel backwards on his heels. Pull hiki-te as you push away with your left hand to your partner’s chest, as you finish the push begin stepping forward off your left foot and drive your right leg forward. All the way through this step forward, attention should be made to holding off your partner with your left hand as you focus on the left driving foot. As you reach the front stance deliver oi-zuki. All of this should be done in free style. Then continue with the kata in traditional form.  Your partner then runs on to be on your right as you deliver the last of the three agi-uki moves. As you turn, break into free style and use this as a pull around. Deliver the appropriate punch for the distance made, then push away and deliver oi-zuki. Then without pause continue with the kata in traditional style to the finish.

The main idea of training this way is that the karate-ka can relate the basic technique, partner work with and without pads directly to the kata. This should begin to bring the kata alive to the performer and bring a new dimension to its execution.

This is just one of the many techniques that can be trained with Heian Shodan. Upper cuts, hook punches, elbows, break away techniques, throws, arm locks and breaks, chokes and strangles. All of these techniques are within the kata and as the practitioner performs the traditional kata a partner could interact at any point. Without hesitation the karate-ka will break into free style and use the correct bunkai without thinking.  Now imagine if there were a number of partners to interact with the karate-ka at every move of the kata. The traditional form would not be visible, only a number of free style techniques delivered with determined accuracy and intent. It would flow effortlessly as the karate-ka reacts naturally without thinking.

And finally, take the training partners away and let the karate-ka perform the kata in free style not traditional. What would you see? You would see him fighting many situations in his mind using the kata as reference. He would be flowing between moves, punching, twisting heads, breaking arms, throwing, choking. He can see the fight without the bodies in front of him..........  welcome to Street kata!

Written by Sensei Martyn Chapman from our Cheltenham Club.