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#106641 - 11/26/04 08:24 PM Heian/Pinan

Greetings again debators.

Glancing over the various posts, there seems to be an almost uniform disdain for the Heian/Pinan kata. I was wondering if this is really representative of people's feelings for these forms?

I personally quite like this set and feel they are very straight-forward kata that make a very efficient and effective system. My studies of these kata (and kata apps in general) really began when I read that they were named Heian/Pinan, meaning "peaceful mind", becuase upon mastering them one's grasp and ability in self defence should be such that they are able to walk anywhere and be of "peaceful mind". Also that though modified for safe practice they were created by compiling all the core self defence methods of Itosu's system.

If anything I feel that their introduction as school teaching kata (schools being only for rich children back then) varifies this as Itosu is noted as being very concerned with the welfare and strength of the Japanese/Okinawan youth, and it makes no sense to teach ineffective methods to the future of the country.

Any comments?

#106642 - 11/26/04 09:08 PM Re: Heian/Pinan
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH

As one who is neutral about the Pinan kata, as Isshinryu tradition grew out of Kyan Sensei's teachings and doesn't use them, I can't say I have disdain for them. It's just they aren't relevant to my source tradition.

I was trained in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan's variations over 25 years ago, and did study the Shotokan variations. After Isshinryu kata they were very easy to learn, but not challenging for long term development, as say Seisan or Chinto kata. Again my opinion.

It always seemed to me the Pinan kata developed from a desire to create group drilling forms, hence shorter length and standardized embusen, make it easier to keep everyone focused for large group drill.

The older kata, didn't follow that paradigm, they were taught almost indivdiually, and the skills were taught and reinforced individually too.

When group instruction came into existence, keeping the group focused using large line skill against the former method of teaching small technique skill.

At no time were the Pinan to replace older kata methods, instead they provided a more standardized method for instructing beginners to develop skills preparing for more traditional study.

It is incorrect to consider the Pinan skills less brutal than others. The Pinan techniques are as much karate as any, and used to completion hurt, break and all the rest. It's just the focus for beginners wasn't to try and teach them to apply those skills. It wasn't developed as the short course for street lethal. Nobody teaching in any school is ever going to show students how karate could be applied. That is always against the community interest. Remember before the school exeriments, karate was almost exclusively a private practice.

And I think it was a noble idea, taking an Okinawan tradition and shaping it to help prepare youth. At the same time in Okinawa that tradition didn't end there, in time some of those students continued in their art, and the Pinan crossed over to their schools as a beginning point. Yet in some traditions it didn't have an influence either, and those traditions also successfully continued, too.

The larger question about the Pinan, is are they the best way to develop beginning skills? In the 30's Nagamine created the Fyugata Sho Kata (along with Miyagi creating teh Fyugata Ni Kata - later becoming the Geseki Sho Kata for Gojuryu).

In my opinion, I like Nagamine's creation, and use it myself. It offers a wide range of technique that works at many levels of training, not just for beginners.

Several years after that another attempt was made to create another set of beginning kata, but outside of being documented in a Japanese text in the later 30's, that atempt to create a more public group karate tradition, ended.

There never has been a universal answer that fits all sizes.

The Pinan became the Heian after Funakohsi Sensei worked to rename the kata that he taught in Japan, to be more readily accepted by the Japanese. He also reordered the way that he taught the first two, reversing their order as he thought that new order made more sense.

As everyone on Okinawa did their own thing, sniping at what others did was a common pastime, one that continues to this day.

Any kata choice is just that, a question of choice. Neither better or worse than the others.


Victor Smith
bushi no te isshinryu

#106643 - 11/27/04 03:50 AM Re: Heian/Pinan

In the form of karate I study I find that the pinans are needed not only for the principles that they hold. They are the building blocks for the kata kusanku to understand to pinans you need kusanku and to understand kusanku you need the pinans because the pinan kata came from kusanku. The movements build and augment each other. Personally Pinan Godan is my favorite of the pinans.

#106644 - 11/27/04 12:44 PM Re: Heian/Pinan
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
Hi AgenT,

Your comments how the 5 Pinan kata are building blocks for Kusanku are interesting. I've seen that repeated many, many times. Of course in some traditions such as Isshinryu, the Pinan aren't used and Kusanku still happens. Without any bad side effects.

BTW this isn't an Isshinryu tradition, but the manner in which Kyan transmitted his kata. After all Kusanku pre-dated Itosu's efforts.

Has anyone actually mapped how the Pinan actually build Kusanku skills? Have they mapped what these kata do to create better Kusanku technique?

I'm not disbelieving the statement, just trying to understand what the Pinan actually offer that Kusanku alone does not contain?


Victor Smith
bushi no te isshinryu

#106645 - 11/27/04 01:30 PM Re: Heian/Pinan
still wadowoman Offline
Improved beefier techno-prat

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 3420
Loc: Residence:UK- Heart:Md, USA
At what level do Ishinyu practitioners learn Kusanku?

In Wado it has to be learnt for brown belt (3rd kyu).

The Pinans are much shorter and easier for less advanced students to learn.

#106646 - 11/27/04 02:36 PM Re: Heian/Pinan

For me the Pinans do help with Kusanku. When I get stuck in a spot on Kusanku and can't seem to get it right, I'll switch to the Pinans.

For example, recently, despite having done martial arts for 18 years, my cat stances were getting out-of-whack. So I'd toy around with the cat stances in Kusanku, and then feel okay with it, go back to regular speed and the problem was still there. I'd do the cat stances separately, but again, when I went back to Kusanku, the problem was still there...the cat stances didn't feel right.

So I went back to Pinan 2 (1 for the Okinawan people) and Taikyoku 3 (our style's version has cat stances). After working on those forms, I went back to Kusanku and the cat stances felt right again.

Sometimes my turns and balance are I go back to the Pinans.

Basically, if something is off in Kusanku, I take that spot, find the Pinan that is closest to it, and work on that Pinan.

It isn't so much that the Pinans are the building blocks of Kusanku, but they are a quick, easy-to-digest. What makes the Pinans superior to just practicing a particular stance or turn, or block or strike, is that they allow me to practice certain techniques in the context of an actual form. I don't know if my writing is clear here, but it's a good middle ground, for me, between practicing a technique out of context and working on the entire Kusanku.

To work on the Pinans allows me to practice the trouble technique while I have the mindset of doing a form.

To me, then, it isn't that one needs the Pinans to understand Kusanku or vice versa, but it helps to break it down into something more managable sometimes.


[This message has been edited by SRVMatt (edited 11-27-2004).]

#106647 - 11/27/04 04:33 PM Re: Heian/Pinan

Personally Ive never seen the Heians as being linked solely to Kusanku kata. For me Ive always seen connections to all of Funakoshi's original syllabus. I see clear aspects of Jion, Kankudai, Bassai dai, Tekki shodan and others, hence the reason I see these forms as a sort of culmination of the basic self defence methods Itosu's kata.

A recent dabate among th membership of the Shoto journal (an online shotokan research group) has turned towards the question of whether karate self defence should be taught gradually as part of a standard syllabus o if self defence should be focussed on and taught in a much shorter period. This is not meant to replace the concept of a lifetime of karate study, just that the first (for example) year should be concentrated on SD. I personally feel that this was one of the main points of the Heian/Pinan. Quick and complete SD before moving into more extended karate study.

#106648 - 11/27/04 05:27 PM Re: Heian/Pinan
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
In Isshinryu Kusanku is taught at brown belt. It is our longest empty hand kata, but it is followed by Sunnusu kata, created by Isshinryu's founder, another challenge.

Traditional Isshinryu begins with Seisan Kata, and moves to Seiunchin Kata, Nihanchi Kata, Wansu Kata, Chinto Kata, Kusanku Kata, SunNuSu Kata and Sanchin Kata. They both comprise the kuy training and the complete lifetime Isshinryu empty hand kata curriculum.

Seisan as the beginning is a very old Shorin tradition. Kyan was originally taught that way, and when Shimabuku began training as a boy he began that way too. So later exercises didn't make inrodes in that curricula.

To get better at Kusanku, you just work Kusanku more efficiently, tear it into pieces, etc.

For myself training youth for many years, after about 5 years of study on the issue, I enhanced the Isshinryu curriucla, beginning with Nagamine's Fyugata Sho, and then Shimabuku Ezio's Annaku before Seisan.

My intent wasn't to better Isshinryu, but to slow the youth down, and at the same time expose them to other Okinawan traditions. The average time for them to reach black belt takes between 7 to 9 years. But they also study Goju Saifa, Shotokan Nijushiho and Pai Lum Lung Le Kuen. My intent is that they understand those other traditions and by knowledge are not readily controlled by technique not in their system. It also helps slow the process. My students have no need to be 12 year old black belts. The nature of the area we live in. Different places I would likely teach differently.

But they have a more indepth knowledge of what others are doing in that process.

Yet their core tool is Isshinryu.

As for the question of self defense, I only train all kyu (youth and adult) in a small core of responses under black belt. They are exposed to the depth of kata tradition, but that is not their study. Instead basic striking and kicking responses, basic grab counters and basic locks are their focus. Rather than explore the infinite, I prefer they build skills that will work in their experience.

Then in time if they continue, theres a lot more to come.


Victor Smith
bushi no te isshinryu

#106649 - 11/28/04 12:13 AM Re: Heian/Pinan
medulanet Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/03/03
Posts: 2142
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona USA
Pinan kata help develop footwork and agility. Naihanchi develops strength in the legs and power generation. Advanced black belt kata such as Wankan, Rohai, Passai, Wanshu, Gojushiho, Chinto, Kusanku take these lessons one step further and apply them to fighting. Once these lessons are learned a student can rediscover the fighting aspects of Pinan kata. It is also possible to return to Pinan after working on Naihanchi to add the power generation learned to the Pinan kata, however, the fighting aspects are best learned from the other black belt kata, that is not to say that they cannot be learned from Pinan.

#106650 - 11/28/04 10:03 AM Re: Heian/Pinan

The Pinan katas are also taught to beginners throughout the Shorin-ryu systems, and Mr. Smith's point about the katas being used as group drilling forms is well-taken. The pinans are shorter than the more traditional katas upon which they are based, but possess many applicable bunkai in their own right. Within each pinan kata are a good deal of techniques characteristc of the older katas (both Passai Sho and Dai, Kusanku Sho and Dai, Chinto, GojuShiho, Rohai, etc. For example, one can see many similarities between Pinan Yondan and the Kusanku katas in Okinawan Shorin-ryu. The pinans are a good introduction to the classical techniques and bunkai of the older katas, but can be taught in group instruction format. As the students advance in rank, their knowledge of the Pinans helps them to learn and understand the older katas and their respective bunkai. Funakoshi Sensei really knew what he was doing.

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