The origin of Naihanchi is unknown, but legend and oral tradition indicate that Sokun “Bushi” Matsumura brought Naihanchi to Okinawa from China. The kata was taught in both the Shrui-te and Tomari-te systems. Matsumura taught this kata to Chotoku Kyan who in turn taught it to Tatsuo Shimabuku. There are three versions of this kata: Naihanchi Sho Dan, Ni Dan, and San Dan. The Isshinryu version most closely resembles Naihanchi Sho Dan.
Yasutsume Itosu and Choki Motobu were known to appreciate and practice this kata regularly. Motobu was quoted as saying, “The only kata that was necessary for one to be a good fighter was Naihanchi.” It was claimed that Motobu would practice Naihanchi 500 times each day. Itosu was so proficient at the Naihanchi stance that he could root himself so firmly that it was impossible to move him. The name Naihanchi translates as, “fighting holding your ground.” Many of the strikes and blocks are delivered without shifting stance.
This kata employs only the Uchi-Hachiji dachi stance which tips the feet inward while keeping them aligned toe to toe and shoulder width apart. The pelvis is tilted slightly upward and the lower body is tightened during the kata. The Shorin-Ryu system teaches the stance with the feet straight down the outside edge as in our Seisan stance. Master Shimabuku turned the toes inward as in Sanchin dachi. The Shorin-Ryu version of Naihanchi Sho Dan starts and proceeds to the right. Master Shimabuku changed the direction in which the kata started in the Isshinryu version by beginning it to the left. No one is sure why he made the changes other than to make his version different.
Since all of the techniques are delivered side to side or to the front, it is often stated that this kata is for fighting in an alley or with your back to the wall in any narrow passageway such as between cars in a parking lot or tables in a bar. The techniques are among Isshinryu’s most devastating. Naihanchi kata is a rough and tumble kata rich in Kyusho Jitsu and Tuite techniques. The kata involves rotation of the upper body to facilitate blocking techniques coming from the side. This rotational movement develops strength in the abdomen and low extremities.
The kata is primarily for close range fighting and employs horizontal and vertical elbow strikes, concealed knee attacks, haito and hammer fist blocks, nukite strikes, ankle strikes, foot sweep avoidances, and double vertical punches sometimes described as a vertical punch and a guard. It involves a complicated system for the avoidance of foot sweeps combined with bumping and pushing techniques. On first glance, this is one of Isshinryu’s simplest katas. Upon closer inspection, the kata is complex and could take years to understand. Such is the beauty of Naihanchi kata.
1. Yasame, Kaiyudske, Rei, Announce, "Kata Naihanchi", ... now, Open.
2. From Open Position, cross Migi foot over Hidari foot temporarily entering Kagi Dachi and bring Hidari foot out from behind Migi foot entering a Naihanchi Stance. Face forward.
3. Looking left, immediately execute Hidari Haito Uchi, Migi Empi Uchi into Hidari palm, Morote Hidari chamber of hands, look forward.
4. See right, perform Migi Nami Ashi, then Migi Gedan Barai, then Hidari Nukite Tzuki across midsection to opponent on right.
5. Step left foot over right (Kagi Dachi), lift right foot and enter Naihanchi Dachi.
6. Look to front attacker. Perform Hidari Shotei Uke (Jodan), then Hidari Seiken Tzuki (Gedan), then lift left fist up under Migi Empi Uchi (Jodan), then do Migi Uraken Uchi to bridge of nose.
7. Look right, do Migi Nami Ashi, then Naihanchi Dachi then Migi Chodan Uraken Uchi to Migi side, immediately return arms to front facing.
8. Look Hidari, perform Hidari Nami Ashi, back to Naihanchi. As you swing around to perform Migi Tetsui Tzuki across your own body to opponent on left, drop left fist into chamber, following Tetsui Tzuki add right fist to left chamber.
9. Look front, look right, perform Migi Nami Ashi, back to Naihanchi. Take both fists from left chamber and perform Morote Seiken Tzuki (Chodan and to Migi). Kiai.
10. Repeating 3 in reverse, stay looking right and execute Migi Haito Uchi, Hidari Empi Uchi into Migi palm, Morote Migi chamber of fists, look forward.
11. See left, perform Hidari Nami Ashi, then Hidari Gedan Barai, then Migi Nukite Tzuki across midsection to opponent on left.
12. Step right foot over left (Kagi Dachi), lift left foot and enter Naihanchi Danchi.
13. Look to front attacher. Perform Migi Shotei Uke (Jodan), then Migi Seiken Tzuki (Gedan), then lift Migi fist up under Hidari Empi Uchi (Jodan), then do Hidari Uraken Uchi to bridge of nose.
14. Look left, do Hidari Nami Ashi, then Naihanchi Dachi then Hidari Chodan Uraken Uchi to Hidari side, immediately return arms to front facing.
15. Look Migi, perform Migi Nami Ashi, back to Naihanchi. As you swing around to perform Hidari Tetsui Tzuki across your body to opponent on right, drop Migi fist into chamber, following Tetsui Tzuki add left fist to right chamber.
16. Look front, look left, perform Hidari Nami Ashi, back to Naihanchi. Take both fists from Migi chamber and peform Morote Seiken Tzuki (Chodan and Hidari). Kiai.
17. Draw Hidari foot to Musubi Dachi.