Dec 16, 2019 - Feature of the Week

Kata in the Snow

In many schools of Okinawan karate, before the development of the formal styles known today (e.g., shorin-ryu, goju-ryu, or uechi-ryu), naihanchi shodan was often the first kata learned by a novice karateka. It introduces the concepts of generating power in a small space with isolated movements as well as the way to block an attack while delivering a counterattack simultaneously.

Naihanchi was originally created as a single kata, practiced for between one and three years under the tutelage of a teacher, until it was mastered. Today, naihanchi is taught as three separate katas, usually in the intermediate ranks, between kihon (basic) and fukyu (foundation) katas and the advanced katas of passai or kusanku.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Growler spent time with his family in the mountains of Big Bear. During that week, 18 inches of snow fell around their house. To share the fun with his family and friends, he took pictures of the snowfall and of himself braving the elements. On a whim, he demonstrated naihanchi shodan in the snow, showing that kata can—and should—be practiced anywhere and anytime by a karateka dedicated to their art and training.

As seen in the video, naihanchi is practiced in a linear fashion, walking to one side and then the other. In reality, the techniques of the kata are intended to be executed in a circular manner, maneuvering around the opponent. Further, the symmetry of the kata allows the karateka to practice the techniques on both sides of their body, preparing them to defend against an attack from any direction.

Copyright 2019, Christopher Grau.