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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
If you have a good application for this first move from Pinan (heian) four, we would like to hear from you. Just send mail to 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.

Here are some responses we have received:

Here is my bunkai for the first few movements. This is for the shorinkan version of pinan yondan. First the the two knife hands to the left, (cat stance): The hand above the head grabs an incoming right hand (at the wrist), whether this be a downward weapon stike or a punch to the face, etc. The left hand strikes into the armpit, or the underarm (just as good), as you turn to the other side you are performing a throw, or destroying the elbow, providing you don't cheat on your footwork. The other side can be seen as the same technique to start, but without the throw. Instead you are pulling your attacker forward and to your left with your step and low block motion. Where you hyperextend the elbow. The most common counter to this hyperextension is bending the elbow and then trying to stand up straight. So the next step instead of going forward slide your left foot behind your uke and deliver your thumb into their throat, while performing a hyperextension of the left elbow with your chambered left hand and your hip. Next tilt the head back and push down pulling the uke's head into your waist in a reverse choke, with their left hand folded across the body. Turn your feet to snap the neck.

In Coung Nhu, the Vietnamese style I take, your thrust out in is called an arrow block which is followed by that move, which I'm going to use. your opponent throws a punch at your solar plexus, you would use the arrow block move to block and use your back hand to grab the wrist and shoot your front hand into their arm pit to make leveraging your opponent on to the ground for a lock or followup.

While dealing with an assailant head on who grabs your gi (about shoulder level), use both hands to wedge yourself free, at the same time try to sidestep so you can grab the back of your opponents head while applying teisho (palm strike) to the chin or nose.

One application for this Kata could be: Your attacker attempts an open hand push to your chest. While locking onto your attackers ring finger and pinky, make a high block motionextending his arm and opening up the armpit region. Then spear your fingers into the arpit to possibly disrupt the heart meridian. Be very careful and use caution if applying this technique.

Application for Pinan Yondan opening sequence:

Funakoshi describes "Sokumen Uke" as a defensive principle in Rentan Goshin Toudijutsu, in relation to the opening sequence of Kusanku.

This similar principle may be applied effectively to the opening sequence of Pinan Yondan, and relates to attacking the "side flank" of the opponent.

Entry techniques may vary, but for the purpose of discussion, consider the opponent attacking with a right-handed punch, straight to the face. There are tactics which may be employed in our posture to ensure that we receive a straight punch, as opposed to a hooking punch...these can be discussed separately. Alternatively, attacker may be simply pushing the chest.

As the right hand comes towards us, step and slide off to the 45 degree tangent, to the outside (moving left) of the punch. As we step, we slip the punch (negashi uke), deflecting ("brushing") with our left hand, bringing the right hand underneath to take up the control ("parry), as if performing mawashi uke.

Our right hand will perform this parry as we weight our front (left) the leg becomes weighted, we pivot to face back in the direction from which we have come, using the momentum of the left hip to throw the left hand up in a circular motion, bringing the palm heel of the left hand into the back of the head, at the occipital foramen, also referred in Kyusho Jutsu as Gallbladder 20 (Feng Shui). This is a very simple knockout technique to perform, and should be performed with caution.

In terms of the kata posture, our right hand will be ultimately controlling the attacking hand, whilst our left hand (often mistaken as the blocking or guarding hand in applications) is actually a short powerful striking motion to the back of the head.

Perhaps the most important conceptual leap in visualising and performing this application, is the kawashi footwork, which brings us back to face the position from which we started....this key concept underpinning the discussion of Sokumen Uke which Funakoshi described.

Steven Webster
Edinburgh University Shukokai Karate Club

Right hand deflects left handed attack up. Left spear hand to throat or eyes.

Left hand grabs chin. Right hand grabs back of head.

Turn to right and thrust hands down. This will twist the head and serve as a takedown.

I feel the back stance implies a left foot front or stomp kick. Since the goal is to put the bad guy down, I'd strike the closest knee. I've seen the takedown done by simply grabbing the chin and turning, but I ain't that good so I grab the head. You may be able to apply this against a right handed attack but you'd have to be careful to avoid getting the attacking arm in your way.



Pinan Yondan was one of my favorite Kata almost 20 years ago when I first learned it. However, the opening movements have been always been a little confusing. Below is a list of bunkai that I have uncovered/discovered over the years;

1. Against a high roundhouse kick, the lead hand blocking right above the knee and the rear hand along the shin. -my least favorite.

2. Against a grab to my right wrist, my right hand goes overhead lifting and exposing their ribs/armpit/throat to a spearhand strike. You may then move into the next (same) movement to the other side, which is an armbar/throw of sorts. The movement in-between these motions also allows a palm strike to the groin.

3. Similar to the above, but use the palm of the lead (left) hand to strike at their elbow. An arm break of sorts. Grab a partner and try these, you will discover yourself what eluded me for years.

-Bradley Ryan

Application for the first move of Pinan Yondan.....

Assailant attacks with right round punch to face. Defender blocks with left forearm (ulna) to the elbow region of attacking arm. Note that we do not step back to do this, but move forward slightly into the attack to unbalance the assailant and provide a larger shock to the attacking arm. This is not so much a block, rather an attack to the attacking limb. Simultaneously strike with right palm heel to the face, utilising the assailant's momentum to intensify the effect, as well as the suprise value of striking them as their 'striking' you.

The back/cat stance is not applicable for this bunkai. Instead use a natural, relaxed and short forward stance. Follow up with knee to groin, then whatever you want to finish.

- Mike Flanagan

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