H. Nidan, Step 8-15, Shuto, Nukite, Kesa Kiri, Tsuki Uchi

Applications of Heian Nidan (Pinan Shodan) by Bruce Clayton.
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H. Nidan, Step 8-15, Shuto, Nukite, Kesa Kiri, Tsuki Uchi

Postby HanshiClayton » Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:52 pm

Reference: "Nito Ryu," Kendo Principles IV - Nito-ryu [Two Swords] DVD
Also, "Chi Sao," William Cheung, Finer Points of Chi Sao DVD.

Steps 8-15 of Heian Nidan are the knife-hand "blocks" and the nukite attack at the first kiai.

In the context of the Shuri bodyguards, this is the "reaction" part of the fight in which half the bodyguard team attacks the enemy force while the other half of the team gets the king to safety.

Weaponless Interpretation

In the "reaction" context, the bodyguards attacked the crowd of enemies to break the momentum of the attack and draw attention away from the principal. The knife-hand block is easily used to knock a person's guard down and then stun him or throw him. For the analysis of shuto-uchi and ami-uchi (in knife-hand blocks) see the last four moves of Heian Shodan.

To see how this works, just imagine that you are forcing your way through a crowd by slapping people in the face. Each knife-hand stackup is a slap to the face; each knife-hand "block" is a back-hand to the face. Neck-strikes and ami-uchi throws can be added as opportunity permits.

Nukite 1

There has always been some difficulty interpreting the osae-uke (pressing-block) and nukite (spear hand) attack at step 11. There is a karate legend saying that the ancient masters could pierce a man's chest with their fingers. This isn't really true, but it is often repeated by teachers who have no other explanation of this move. In modern life, putting Shotokan power behind straightened fingers results in broken fingers and no real damage to the enemy. We all know that; we just don't say it in front of beginners.

The nukite is not a mistake nor a recent adulteration: it appears in all versions of H. Nidan/P. Shodan. How might we interpret it, then? Let your thumb open up a little from the usual shuto hand position as you do this move. Instead of ramming your fingers into his torso, ram the tip of your thumb into his eye. Except for a discrepancy in height, that move fits the kata extremely well. It is also a finishing move, as required by the kata. If you stick your thumb in a man's eye, he won't be doing much fighting afterward.

There is a legend that Itosu "removed" the eye-gouges from the Heians before teaching them to children in Shuri's school system. I think he "removed" the eye gouges by turning them into harmless finger pokes.

Nukite 2

Iain Abernethy suggests in his videos that the nukite is really a taisho uchi (palm heel strike). You just extend the wrist slightly to get the fingers out of the way and strike with the heel of the hand.

Chinese stylists practicing Chi Sao (sticky hands) technique often trap the opponent's hands with a pressing block and then drive in over it with a finger poke to the throat or a palm-heel strike to the jaw. You can see this pictured on the cover of William Cheung's video on Chi Sao.

Nito Ryu Interpretation

Nito Ryu is the specialization of Kendo that teaches you how to fight with one sword in each hand. This technique is allegedly based on Musashi's two-sword style of fighting, although modern Nito Ryu is extremely limited compared to the real thing. Kendo rules place severe limitations on what targets may be attacked. Thrusting attacks (tsuki) are confined to the throat, for instance, and only senior teachers are allowed to attempt them. Musashi would have found that very confining.

We began this kata by taking swords away from attacking samurai. In fact, we took two swords away and ended with one in each hand. We know that Matsumura was a kaiden master of the Jigenryu school of samurai sword-fighting. As a sword master, Matsumura certainly knew of Nito Ryu, or of some similar Musashi-like two-sword system. We know that H. Nidan (P. Shodan) was originally created by Matsumura. We know he was in daily confrontations with samurai, all of whom were armed and he was not. He must have practiced stealing their weapons from them. If the first few moves of H. Nidan show us how to take swords away from a samurai, why wouldn't the rest of the kata shows us how to use them?

The basic strategy of the Nito Ryu style of swordfighting is to "fence" with the smaller sword (in the right hand) while holding the larger sword overhead in the left hand, ready to slash like a whip. This is a deadly combination against a fighter who has but a single sword. One of the standard Nito Ryu attacks is to beat down the opponent's guard with one sword while thrusting with the other.

This attack looks exactly like step 11 of H. Nidan, the pressing-block and spear-hand attack. (Stabbing with a katana is much more credible than poking with a finger, don't you think?)

It is worth noting that a tsuki (thrust) through the center of the torso is impossible if the opponent is in armor. This opponent is undoubtedly a samurai, but not in battle dress. He's in cotton or silk clothing, and his arms, throat and body are exposed to our blades.

Try walking through the knife-hand "blocks" of this kata while holding a pair of short bokken (representing wakizashis). The shuto-uke stackup lets you sweep the opponent's sword aside while stabbing at this chest with your other sword. The "block" pulls the stabbing sword free as your other sword slashes at his throat. Take the next step in and perform the actions on the opposite side.

Could not a kaiden master sow panic in a crowd of samurai bureaucrats by leaping at them with two bloody swords flashing? I think he could. That's what this part of the kata is all about.
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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