Welcome to Learning Unleashed! For our first post, we’re going to dive right into the training foundations that underpin the Yuuki Defense teaching philosophy. This is some exciting stuff here! While it might seem slow going at first, there are some powerful truths written deep into what we’re discussing that I’m going to outline clearly for you. So hold on! Take these lessons and apply them to your personal safety preparedness. I promise you will you be more resilient and more effective. Not only that, but the truths we’re going to review in this series of articles are also applicable to your daily life. Learn then, make them yours, and use them. You’ll be one step closer to EMPOWERING yourself.
Pinan- Studying Kata for Self-Defense - Part 1
You may say to yourself, “Why should I be reading about karate? I’m not a martial artist.” Or if you are, you might be saying, “karate is silly, I practice style X, where the REAL training is.” I’m going to remind you of something: What you have come to think of as “karate” is a modern development. Real karate was created for, and has survived because it was an effective form of civilian self defense. The only test in historical Okinawa on whether to keep a technique in the training regimen was, “Does this work?” Period. Real karate is a no nonsense pursuit. I won’t go into it here, but lots of the fluff you might be familiar with is just that...fluff. So we’re going to strip it down back to the basics and squeeze out the really good stuff for you.
SO WE BEGIN...
There are 5 kata in the Pinan/Heian Series. When Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of modern karate and of the Shotokan school, transplanted karate from Okinawa to Japan, he took these kata with him as his primary training tool. There, he reordered and renamed them to "Heian," meaning "peaceful mind." The "peaceful mind" referenced in the name is explained in Funakoshi's famous words above. In that simple statement, he clarified for us then that, unlike any kata series before, the lessons contained in these 5 kata cut right to the heart of karate training.
Now, Funakoshi didn’t create these kata. They were first introduced by his teacher Master Itosu, who is often considered one of the greatest martial artists in history. His ingenious training design combined with Funakoshi's purposeful instruction methods, helped to spread karate across the globe. Without the Pinan/Heian system, it is doubtful that this expansion of karate into a global phenomenon would have ever been possible.
In historical Okinawa, there were plenty of kata already. Each one hiding a combative lesson passed from some master on to the next generation. With so many available to learn, and with the foundation kata largely agreed upon among masters (think Naihanchi), why make 5 new ones and then group them together?
We should first remember that innovation is a novel response to a persistent problem. In this case, the real problem was that of transmitting martial proficiency in a reasonable amount of time. Traditional Chinese martial arts, the source of Okinawan karate, typically produce martial competency after 10 years of training. Itosu sought something better, something outside of this established tradition. He wanted to redefine the standards of training and develop martial proficiency in less time. He also wanted to be able to spread karate in a big way. With secret traditions taking decades to master, karate was ready for a breath of fresh air.
Itosu’s desire to condense karate learning may never have have been realized (It still demands a lifelong commitment), but by taking the perspective of the wise master shaping purposeful karate instruction, we can clearly see that the primary design criterion of the Pinan system was to transmit martial truths to practitioners as quickly and as effectively as possible. So we have to look at the series of kata as a whole. All 5 kata were designed to combine into one coherent training methodology. Each kata highlights a specific lesson within karate’s fighting repertoire.
Now that we’ve touched on the background, are you ready for more? In our next article we’ll be discussing the first lesson** in the series, and one of karate’s distinguishing characteristics: Forward motion. This is where the fun stuff starts to happen! See you then.
Keep Reading: Studying Kata for Self-Defense - Part 2
By Brandon Torrellas
*This is a paraphrased translation, and there is some debate as to its accuracy. Regardless, the content of the Pinan/Heian system is unaffected by these errors in translation. Our study remains in tact.
**For the purposes of this article, we’ll be going through the series using Funakoshi’s reorder of the Pinan system in which Heian Shodan & Pinan Nidan are the same*