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On Kata

"On Kata" is reader feedback column designed to elicit your ideas about kata, their philosophy, structure, strategy and application.
Drawing of a person doing the 1st move in Pinan number one

Do you have a good application for this kata move seen in Pinan (Heian) two and several other forms?

Just send mail to Feedback@FightingArts.com and describe the application to us.

You can also send a photo or sketch in an attachment to your e-mail. We will post the best answers.

The previous technique in pyong an 2 being a knifejand block, we can consider an attack having already been parried. We step forward and strike the neck or collarbone with the right knifehand (the spearhand thrust), and to the nipple with the left knifehand (the supporting hand). The spearhand slips behind the head to pull as the turn begins, and the supporting hand slides up the arm to strike the chin and snap the neck, ending in a knifehand block position, left hand out to guard, right hand at the chest.


I take a little different view of the spear hand application. in one of my katas we enter the spear hand from a rectangle knife hand block. the rectangle knife hand is used to intercept a punch or a lapel grab. the front hand of the rectangle block is used to control the elbow area of the attacker while the back hand of the rectangle block is used to control the wrist. the wrist of the attacker is now in a slightly elevated position with reference to their elbow. the defender now steps forward initiating the spear. this brings the wrist of the attacker down, bending the attackers arm back onto their bicep. the foward hand which had been controlling the elbow is used as a ridge hand to the bend in the attackers elbow. when the transition is complete the attacker has an arm bar applied to them and they are usually headed towards the ground, impacting on their backs.this application comes from viewing "outside the box". looking at the kata,the hand going to the elbow is below the spearing arm. I take this as indicating where I apply the technique verse how the technique should be applied.

just a thought from someone with a good instructor.

Regarding bunkai (application) of the movement shown from pinan shodan (Heian Nidan, Pyong Ahn Yidan), here is one of many:

Part 1: The circular downblock preceding the spearhand thrust of course Deflects an attack downward slightly (robbing the technique of its power) and Allows the attacker's hand/arm to be trapped by the defender's left (blocking) hand.

Part 2: What appears to be a spearhand thrust can be a number of movements. However, in the present application, the open hand (which is best kept opened wide, rather than relaxed and curled) can then press upon the elbow of the attacking arm, forming an arm lever/bar.

Part 2, Variation 2: Another, and more likely application (considering the next 270 degree turn into catstance/backstance with a lower or middle knife hand defense) is that the spearhand thrust is meant for the hand then to go around the attacker's waist. Then, when the 270 degree turn is made into catstance/backstance, what you have actually done is executed a hip throw (O Goshi) or a body drop (Tai Otoshi).

Most of the moves in the Pinan/Heian forms preceding the 270 degree turns can translate into throws.

Eric Madis

It's well known that Itosu adapted certain moves in Karate to make it "safe" for school children to practice, around the turn of the last century. In doing so, certain moves and techniques were supposed to have been adapted to make it more difficult to seriously injure. Typically, this particular appliction from the Pinan could be interpreted somewhat differently than taking the posture literally.

In the past, nukite waza were performed slightly differently to how most people now associate with them with the advent of Karate turning from a practical combative method to a modern Do form. Specifically, rather than having the hand flat and the fingers aligned alongside one another and the thumb on top of the hand, the fingers were squeezed more into a point with the tip of the thumb reaching across to the base of the little finger. Similarly, if both the pressing hand and the thrusting hand are turned through 90 degrees each, so that the pressing hand then performs more of a knife hand strike and the nukite is thrust slightly upwards with the palm uppermost, we can then see an application straight from the Bubishi. Large Intestine 10 is struck which then opens the throat ready for the upwards straight finger thrust to the throat.

Most Kata, and especially the Pinan series should not always be taken literally. The moves contain a code which needs to be interpreted in context rather than taken literally. Similarly, as the Pinan/Heian have undergone so much "development" over the last 100 years or so, moves which have become dynamic are unlikely to bear direct resemblance to the real meaning. Let's not forget that as far as the Heian versions of the Kata are concerned, even the senior practitioners from the golden age of shotokan's development did not practice bunkai, so how is it likely to have been transmitted accurately? Dynamism had taken over and form was more important than actual effectiveness. We need to search manuals such as the Bubishi to unearth the real meanings behind some of the more dynamic moves in our kata.

Phil Snewin

My favorite application of this movement is:

Attacker can be punching or reaching to grab you. Step in as you parry/suppress the attack with your left hand, crescent step behind the attackers leg as your spearhand attacks the throat. Lower the spearhand to middle level as you finish the step. Your right hip displaces attacker's hip as you finish the step, throwing him as you strike. Timing is critical. You move in as he moves in. It is essential to catch him mid-step to unbalance him with minimal effort.


One interpretation:

Potentially, this position is arrived at through the grabbing or deflecting of the attacker's right hand, and finishing him off with a spear hand strike. At this point, the attacker is easy thrown, which is consistent with the next knife hand block movements.

Just a thought,
Howard Bash


I'm a fifth dan in a style that mixes Naha-Te and Shuri-Te prcatising both has often given me insights into the shuri bunkai. There is a lot out there out the moment but I only practise that which I know works.

From the Shuto uchi previous to the move you are showing someone has grabbed you by the left wrist. In Kei Shin Kan sepecially before moving the left wrist is circled clockwise, this would reverse th grip. From there step through stay hold of the arm and the nukite is not really a nukite. You stab to the eye with the thumb heap the open palm against the head and step through take down.

I know this move works. The nukite can also be symbol of a grab to the throat take down. The arm that you stay hols of can also be used to block the opponents left hand if he attacks again

Yours Muchly
Perth WA

The Kata application for Pinan 2. Being a "simplist", the application I would like to submit is the left hand to trap and suppress an adversary's hand (left or right) and then , quickly, seize their throat. Following this the next move, turning , can see you throw the adversary.

Albie O'Connor

A different emphasis, at a slightly longer range. Receiving a push, grabbing the pushing hand with the left hand, step back and overextending the wrist (little finger outward as far as possible) using body torque (the reason for keeping the left close to the body. Now, instread of a spear hand, execute a palm heel thrust to the point above the joint of the straightened elbow. (At this point the technique will look the same as most kata demonstrate it.) Consider for yourself what the next move would do to an already dislocated/ broken elbow. (If you want to practice it, and maintain a friendly relationship, get someone to thrust forward with a dowel/ 2" x 2"/ or light bamboo staff. NB: it must have some bend, to approximate the alighnment of the arm after the wrist grab.)

Chris de Wet

The spearhandd technique could be used in numeous ways. The obvious Kite to several hseuh points surrounding the Pectoralis Major and minor Muscle groups, being the manifest. Grabbing of flech or fabric immediatly under the arm-pit (towards the back of the opponent) and using a pivoting motion around the spinal access, with both hip and shoulders, would unbalance an opponent sufficiently to deliver a back hand or elbow to several targets with the left, most noteably the chin. Not entirely dissimilar, the previous mentioned pulling technique could be, if less vigerously executed, or resisted by opponent, used in conjunction with a knee strike to the left Oblique muscles of the opponent. Instead of the knee, a low roundhouse could be delivered to opponents lower legs with right leg to sweep. It is perhaps a little too rigid, but if the left hand can successfully be positioned to guard the upper and lower gates, it could be a somewhat useful technique.

Cameroni "The Other Pasta" Perry

Imagine this.....The illustration of the spearhand shows the left arm bent and underneath the right elbow, and the right arm outstretched with all fingers straight except for the thumb. Let's take the thumb and straighten that out as well and point it towards the middle finger, but not touching the hand. (leave space) There are many different strikes for this particular move. One that I have found to be most effective is this;....You are attacked by a person either shoving or attempting to stick you. If they attack with their left arm you can parry the arm down with your left arm. Make sure you strike and either push the arm into the body of your opponent or grab his arm,sleeve. If you grab, pull in towards your body, and shoot your right hand over like a spear, keeping your thumb straight to get into the soft tissue next to the larynx (throat) or you can attack a pressure point (ST 9) on the neck as well.

Application is everything, try the move a few times by parrying and hitting the arm across and down, and see where the opponents body is in relation to what you just did. It may give a better idea of where to hit next once you see where the body has moved.

Just a thought

This spearhand technique as shown can have two applications. The first is a spearhand to a pain point located just under pectoral muscle, or at the nipple (extremely painful for a female opponent). The other hand (arm) protecting your own chest muscles. The second less obvious is (using the picture)you are left hand shuto blocking a punch downward, and with your right you spearhand between the opponents arm and body so the spearhand goes behind the opponent. Then (as in the Pinan Shodan kata) you step behind left foot behind right and turn 180 degrees. If you raise your right arm up as you spin, this technique becomes an effective throw, or control technique. The left hand can assist the throw by grabbing (or pushing down)the back of teh head as you spin.

Ron van de Sandt


Imagine for a moment that someone is behind you and grabs your right elbow/arm with their right hand. 1) step back hitting them in the gut with your hip/butt. 2) grab their hand as you move and to release their hold pull your right hand forward. The next move would involve a 180 degree turn to finish the attacker...maybe

a warrior rambling


Previous "On Kata":

Drawing of a person doing the 1st move in Pinan number one
Do you have a good application for this move common to several Pinans (Heians)?

Just send mail to Feedback@FightingArts.com and describe the application to us.

Previous "On Kata" Responses

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