Exploring Naihanchi kata applications

This week, The Karate Nerds dug into some applications of Naihanchi bunkai.

Location: the new Karate Kaikan dojo in Tomigusuku, Okinawa.

We train together several times a week (in addition to our individual commitments to train with various local teachers) and use the sessions to compare learning and ideas. Often we cover some much interesting stuff that no-one remembers to video it as we are all training hard (lots of sweat!, hey its Okinawa).


This time, however, we decided to make sure to take some video footage. Included below each video is an explanation of how to apply the techniques being demonstrated in the video, as well as why it is done the way it is being shown. A knowledge of Naihanchi kata will help you in recognising the stances and movements shown here. Naihanchi kata would appear to have a great number of potential applications so this is just a tiny fraction of the possibilities.


*And obviously, PLEASE BE CAREFUL IF YOU CHOOSE TO TRY ANY OF THESE TECHNIQUES WITH YOUR FRIENDS! Make sure you start slowly and work your way up to full speed. We are working about 70% speed here, so you see why it’s important to start slowly – the ukemi (ability to fall gracefully/protecting yourself while you fall) is not as easy as it looks… 🙂


Naihanchi kata includes low kicking/sweeping leg movements sometimes called “namigaeshi” or wave kick so in this video, the application of that is quite direct – Nicolas is stepping forward to punch, but the stepping leg is quickly kicked and stopped as I advance to punch – and the distraction of this gives a nice opportunity to counter. Timing is essential here in order to stop the leg before it gets past the opponents vertical centre of gravity. Ifs its later than that the effectiveness is much reduced.


In this short clip, James is demonstrating the distraction principle of the Naihanchi kick to the front leg a bit more directly (and painfully) 🙂 In this example, by kicking the front leg and distracting the opponent, you have a window of opportunity to then take them down. Drilling these short string kicks is essential to build power. You can do this on a long low kick bag for example.


Some variations (and payback!) from Nicholas working on the same principle from above – finding an opening and applying either a strike or take down after kicking the front leg. And finally then, a few nice takedowns (Kotegaeshi, Iriminage) and counters from James.


A nice joint lock application from Ben (a quick way into Shihonage) – still kicking the front leg to take the opponents mind off of the hand to hand connection – followed then by an awesome Chin Na style joint lock flow from James!


Again, a somewhat faster demo of what it looks like to really interrupt an oncoming attack (kicking the “stepping” leg as the opponent is moving in to punch).


Here is a great Naihanchi drill to work footwork and entering positions – my explanation is that your essentially side stepping behind the opponents strike, using your hips/waist torque to generate power/tension, and then unwinding into the opponent as you push them back (Also a trip or throw over the leg is clearly quite easy to find!).


Similar Naihanchi drill as above, only this time James is stepping in front of Bens attack and really closing the gap. The key here, is to position yourself at your opponents center of gravity as you are moving “through” them – to me, your trying to essentially interrupt the attack and redirecting simultaneously! But it’s much easier said than done, as the instinct to hesitate when moving into an oncoming attack is very strong…


Here I am working to stop Nicholas’ stepping leg (power leg) by again kicking it briefly to stop his forward momentum, but then quickly following up with side kick to his back knee/thigh – throwing him off balance and opening him up for an easier take down. Worked well a few times, but finding the right space and timing was very tricky! 🙂


James and Ben working the same technique. Timing is essential as the two kick techniques need to flow quickly from a single movement to keep the momentum and keep the opponent off balance. Combined with kusushi to the upper body (pulling the front hand forward, pushing the head forward and down) this results in a fast takedown.


And of course, a little comedy too as Ben ad libs a takedown… “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” ;D

Author – Maxwell Honey


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