Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kata Query

I was performing the Bassai Dai kata, and suddenly it hit me that I need an answer to a certain movement.

This movement occurs in many kata: It is when you bring both feet together, stand up straight, and usually block WAY up high.. like two rising blocks in Bassai Dai, the augmented side head block in Jion, or when you place your fists on your hips in Heian Sandan.

As I was performing this move, I realized how all of my central vital points became open for attack. I also realized how vulnerable my feet were so close together. There is no stability to the Heisoku stance at all. I asked myself "Where in any self defense moment would I WANT to put my feet together, stand up, and lift my arms above my head exposing all of my vital points?"

And yet, you can see this type of position happen very often in Bassai Dai (Penetrating the fortress). at least 5 times. Why? Bassai Dai is a very strong kata that uses the hips.. why would we put our feet together, and stand up? That actually locks the feet, and hips in place.... sure.. we lift up our knee and continue into another movement.. but why stand up out of our lower stable stance, to get into a very 'tippy" high stance.

A few guesses that I had was that

a) we were trying to use the pull of gravity on our body to our advantage as we struck in the next movement.
b) we are trying to sucker in our opponent with the appearance of vulnerability.
c) we are looking for the right downward angle to achieve a vital attack.

However, all of the above guesses could be met by standing in Heiko Dachi ( Parallel stance), or from Shizentai ( Natural stance) where the feet are more stable, than in Heisoku Dachi ( closed together stance). At least in these stances, your hips are more free to do other movements if you need to.

Where in heaven's name is there any advantage to pulling your feet together, and standing straight up?

*Shakes head*

Well, just because I don't understand it yet, doesn't mean that I should throw it away. There's got to be a good reason since it is included in so many kata.

Hey, my dear Bo manipulating friends, Do you do a similar stance with your weapons? and does it help defend you or strenghten your attacks in some way?


Colin Wee said...

The double rising block in Bassai was mentioned in Shotokan's Secret as a grab done on your opponent's beard or headdress, done standing because the opponent may be untrained and has attempted to grab you whilst standing up fairly straight. The pull back may be a way of creating the right distancing or angle to re-grab the opponent's head. This is followed by a knee to the solar plexus, and the finishing techniques that follow.

In Toi-gye, a pattern that is similar to Karate's Jitte, the user raises his arms in yama uke, drops them, and then pops them back up in yama uke - all in a standing position. These moves are a defence against a kick. The dropping of the first yama uke acts as a block to the kick, and then the pop up acts as an underside trapping. Then the user turns into the opponent slamming his knee into the support leg and the other side of yama uke's forearm into the kicker's face/chest. When your leg is in the air, this is not a good position to be.

The standing up here may be an 'invitation' for the opponent to kick you. If you have protected yourself well and kept low, then realise you faced an opponent who favours high kicks - perhaps you can turn your opponent's preference to your advantage ... by 'encouraging' him to strike at what you have presented as a vulnerability or opportunity?

In Heian Shodan, after one of the lower blocks, the user pulls back into a standing transition, and then drops down to do a hammer fist strike to the opponent. Why does this transition occur and why doesn't a hammer strike be placed without the draw back? In this case, the user might be applying a handlock or wrist escape. The pull back is a way of unbalancing an opponent towards you. The draw downwards, pull back, and then re-application of strike is a great way to teach hard stylists the basics of an aiki technique. Aikidoists would have stepped off the line, draw the person down towards where they would have been previously standing and then apply a lock. But hard stylists may not be able to think in that manner.

Hope that helps.


Colin Wee said...

Sorry I discussed the technical bits but failed to answer the question.

The low karate forward stance is a great stance that allows you to generate a lot of forward linear energy into your opponent. Creating such power is addictive, so the real question is why would one depart from this stance?

The answer might be that you may not always want to strike and destroy one opponent, or 'just' one opponent. If you're dealing with more than one opponent, or if you're fighting in a team, you might choose to stun one person and then send him into a group of his friends. Or use him as a shield. Or allow one of your friends to incapacitate him.

I like the idea that you are accelerating the person into someone or something else. The manji uke, the opening sequence of Heian Nidan ... these two things and others like it accelerate the opponent's body so easily that I am left to surmise that part of karate requires you to understand that its main aim is to displace the opponent's centre of gravity - either by striking or by making him 'fly'. :-)


[Mat] said...

Scratches head.

i found on a goshinbodukai website that the bassai dai kata was originnaly a Bo kata.


Looking at the kata, I could imagine someone coming from behind and I would be trying to free myself from his grasp.

i don't see anything else. Someone's grabbed me, like in a big bear hug I can't do a thing - heisoku dachi - In an application, I'd add a little hip movement forward to add a kuzuchi effect while putting my arms way up high. Once liberated from his grasp, I'd be able to take on the next attacker by smashing his ribs before he gets to me while I take advantage of my previous high position to gain speed and power. _ I'd then be liberating myself and penetrating the other one's fortress.

To help: look at other karate style's bassai dai. Some small "nuances" are there that aren't left in some styles. (Which I didn't by the way- that's my limited view)

hope that helps ...

[Mat] said...

See what they did here ; (#8) I'm way off...


[Mat] said...

video : (though that part is ... ordinary)

Detailled text:

hey, here's one who says like me :

#23 (funny)

Here's funakoshi Sensei :

Guess it's a front choke hold then strike in the ribs - I was close.

[Mat] said...

sorry for so many comments ; do note the correct move, but not same stance.

I imagine it's a "estetichs" thing. Or maybe he's about to strike.


that search was fun. Got another one?

supergroup7 said...

Wow Colin.. thank you. You have given me such food for thought. It looks like my guesses were in the right direction.

From your words, I've gotten different impressions: Using the higher stance to reach things that would be unreachable from a low stance. Using the stance height change to surprise, and break holds. Using the stance change to trap a kicking leg ( I've seen that in the Bassai Dai kata.)

I can see how standing straight up can allow you to spin more quickly, and throw an opponent.

Thank you, Colin.

supergroup7 said...

I was shaking my head, and you were scratching yours, Mat.. Ha ha ha.

Mat? The website that you sent me to is all in French.. ARGH.. I can't read French THAT well, it hurts my brain to understand karate concepts in the language that I'm most familiar with.. but to try to mentally translate it into French. It won't happen. How about I just take your word for it.. :-)

I received an error message on some of the links that you provided. I believe that this is because the comments section of this weblog cuts off the last numbers. Could you please send them to me again by email? That is if you remember what the urls were.. if not.. then don't go through too much hassle.

I'm sure that I come up with tons of questions as I struggle to understand my kata. I'll come up with another one soon.. I guarantee it.

[Mat] said...

It's not the first time you had problems with urls given in comments


Triple click on them, it should work. Or select the text manually starting from the start of the link going downwards. It usually works.

I'll send the same comments via email. (copy pasted) Hope that works for you.