Video: Kata Koshiki Naihanchin

This kata describes its intent, purpose, and meaning in its name, which literally means “fighting in a narrow space.” there are various versions of this kata and the prefix Koshiki indicates that this particular version is thought to be an original or ancient version.

The meaning of the name is twofold. Firstly, it has a mental or psychological meaning suggesting that one must overcome the self to become a better person. Secondly, on a physical level, naihanchin implies a situation of fighting in a confined area between two or more attackers. For example, the situation faced in this kata has been variously interpreted as being on a narrow bridge, road, or with your back against a wall or precipice. These two meanings summarize the true purpose of karate and budo: self-defense and self-improvement.

As mentioned, there are several forms of Naihanchin in modern karatedo, such as Koshiki Naihanchin, Kudaka no naihanchin, and others. These forms differ in terms of the actual techniques and sequences employed, but it should be remembered that the underlying principles, meanings, and teachings are consistent.

Koshiki Naihanchin is among the oldest kata, having originally been developed on Kudaka Island. In turn the kata evolved into its modern form in Okinawa, having been handed down from Tode Sakugawa to Sokon Matsumura and then to Ankoh Asato and Chotoku Kyan, and finally to Kaiso Kori Hisataka. Naihanchin is condisered to be representative of Shuri-te Shorinjiryu, or Karate developed in the area of Shuri city. It is interesting to note that the famous Master Choki Motobu, in his pursuit of karatedo, is thought to have only learnt two kata, naihanchin and bassai. this shows that a true understanding of kata can only be gained from proper and deep study, and that such a deep level of understanding of but a handful of kata can lead to a complete understanding of karatedo.

There are several primary teaching and strategies to be gained from the study of naihanchin. Firstly, this kata is a practical example of the saying “there is no first attack in karate.” Although naihanchin’s opening move can be interpreted as an attack, it is designed to seize the initiaitve against seceral attackers and is thus a form of defense. Thus, the true meaning of the saying means that karate should not be used for provocation or to cause conflict, but to defend oneself in the best possible way if attacked. In this way, naihanchin emphasizes how to stand, in which posture, guard, and attitude, to best defend oneself from attack from any angle. In other words, it teaches you how to protect your back in the most strategic way.

Secondly, naihanchin teaches one to train for the worst possible scenario, such as standing in a small boat, on a slippery log, on sand, mud, ice, snow, or with your back to a precipice. By mentally putting yourself in such situations a proper understanding of balance, posture and stance can be learnt practically and strategically. This form of training is regarded as being superior in many ways, namely mentally, psychologically, and of course physically.

Thirdly, naihanchin emphasizes opening the eyes to the front and to the back; that is the development of the “third eye” that is able to see all four corners and in all eight directions.

For the above reasons, naihanchin, in one form or another, was tradtitionally the first kata taught in karatedo and this remains the case to this day in Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo. Kaiso Kori Hisataka modified koshiki naihanchin slightly to cover the full range of basic techniques by adding the front punch (shomen zuki) and the front kick (shomen geri) sequences. In this way a truly complete form of the original kata was created. At the beginner level koshiki naihanchin is taught to tenth and ninth kyu (white belt) students. Students of intermediate and advanced levels should continue to practice this kata, developing applications suitable for their level of skill.