H. Nidan, Step 23-26. Age Uchi, Debana Ude.

Applications of Heian Nidan (Pinan Shodan) by Bruce Clayton.
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H. Nidan, Step 23-26. Age Uchi, Debana Ude.

Postby HanshiClayton » Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:49 am

Reference, Musashi Miyomoto, The Book of Five Rings, pages 30-33.

Steps 23-26 of H. Nidan are the downblock/upblock combinations at the end of the kata.

Unarmed Interpretation

The downblock, shuto upblock, and normal upblock clusters at the end of H. Nidan are, simultaneously, easy to interpret and very difficult. They are easy because all three techniques are standard kihon basics. It is tempting to say that the downblock stops a kick; the shuto snaps up to intercept a punch; and then we step in and block another punch. Then we turn away. This is an example of a Dinglehopper.

There are two problems with this simple interpretation. One, attackers don't step backwards while punching, so why would we step in with that second upblock? Two, an upblock isn't usually considered a "finishing blow." We turned our back on an uninjured enemy. This violates the Waldow Principle. Itosu would never have done that.

We can do a little better by invoking the age uchi and tai otoshi techniques described in Step 8-10 of Heian Shodan. The left shuto upblock deflects and catches his right arm. Step in and rock his head with a right age uke under the jaw. Grab the cloth at his left shoulder, and with your elbow still firmly under his jaw, turn to the left to throw him on his back.

The only problem with that interpretation is that the kata turns to the right, but perhaps we could invoke the Shadow Principle to save it. The Shadow Principle states that left/right inconsistencies are often not significant, and should not be used to reject an application. Even so, the unarmed interpretation of these clusters is not satisfying.

The sword version, however, is bloody good fun.

Nito Ryu Interpretation

We need to return to the subject of Musashi, Japan's genius sword-fighter and folk hero. Musashi fought and won over 60 duels, and killed many more swordsmen in actual battle. He is the inspiration of the two-sword system, which I identify as "Nito Ryu."

Musashi is the author of The Book of Five Rings, which he wrote in 1645. This is the bible of Japanese swordfighting in spite of the fact that it contains only five detailed descriptions of winning techniques. For our purposes, it is significant that four of these five techniques achieve victory by slicing the opponent's upraised arms from below. That isn't the image we carry away from the samurai movies.

In step 23, we turn to the west and perform a left "downblock," but is it really a downblock? In Nito Ryu our left hand holds a katana, so the hand could be "down" while the blade is angled upward. This would be a sweeping deflection to the left. The enemy has slashed down at us, and we have knocked the blade aside.

Musashi says our opponent will raise his sword and try again. As his hands go up, maintain the pressure against his blade. Follow his sword upward with your own so that he cannot slash down. This is step 24, the "shuto upblock." It is sufficient to maintain blade-to-blade pressure, but I prefer the interpretation where my blade is braced against his unprotected wrists.

At this point you could run him through with the wakizashi in your right hand, but what does that achieve? He'll die, but not right away. When you turn your back, he could still cut down on you. This is why the kata does the second upblock as you step forward. Use the blade in your right hand to slash the muscles in the back of his raised upper arms as Musashi would do. Slice them to the bone as you step past him. This step-and-slice motion is visible in debana do, a Nito Ryu drill where you drag your sword across the opponent's abdomen as you charge past him. I suppose cutting the arms would be debana ude, if the kendo rules allowed such a thing.

The slashed triceps muscles make the opponent helpless, unable to wield the sword. This satisfies the Waldow Principle. We can turn our back on this enemy. He has been neutralized.

Steps 25 and 26 are the mirror image, with the same interpretation.
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
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