The Pinan / Heian Katas as a Fighting System (Part 5)

Welcome to the final part of this series of articles on the Pinan / Heian katas as a fighting system. So far in this series we looked at the background of the Pinan katas and discussed that they are said to represent a complete fighting system that contains techniques for use at all stages and all ranges of a fight. We also discussed that whilst the modern order in which the Pinan series are taught is based upon the relative technical difficulty of the solo performance of the forms, the original order is based upon the progression of a live fight.

We have seen how Pinan Shodan (Heian Nidan in Shotokan) predominately deals with the initial exchange of limbs; how Pinan Nidan (Pinan Shodan) moves on to deal with techniques that can be applied once the initial grip has been established; we looked at how Pinan / Heian Sandan deals with techniques that can be used when fighting from a clinch; and we saw how Pinan Yodan introduces more advanced techniques and the more sophisticated use of techniques in combination.

In this final article, we will examine some of the applications of Pinan / Heian Godan. As the final stage of the Pinan / Heian system, you will see how Godan contains the longest transitions of the whole series. We will see how the kata teaches us how to blend techniques together as we move from technique to technique and from range to range. A good example of this type of transition is the sequence flowing on from the ‘lower cross-block’.

An attempt to crush the opponent’s testicles is checked (Fig 1). Quickly place your free arm under the opponent’s wrist. This is the application of the ‘lower cross-block’ (Fig 2). Pull your arms towards you in order to cause pain and lock the wrist (Fig 3).

The opponent will instinctively rise onto their toes in an attempt to alleviate the pain. Thrust both hands upward in order to break the opponent’s grip. Keep contact with the opponent’s arm in order to maintain control. This stripping action is the application of the ‘upper cross-block’ (Fig 4). Push down strongly on the opponent’s elbow as you apply a slight upward pressure on the wrist. Depending upon the style, this movement is either performed to the front or to the side. There is little difference between the two methods in terms of the actual effect (Fig 5).

Keep hold of the opponent’s wrist. Pull your hand to your hip, as a punch is delivered to the base of the opponent’s skull (Fig 6). Seize the opponent’s shoulder in order to maintain control over the opponent’s motion and step forward to deliver a final strong blow (Fig 7).

By examining the previous example from Pinan / Heian Godan we can see that this combination is longer than the ones seen in the other Pinan / Heian katas. This again reflects the logical progression of the whole series. It would make little sense to practise such transitions if a student did not have a firm grasp of the fundamentals that were introduced by the first three katas, and the more advanced principles and combinations introduced by Pinan / Heian Yodan.

We shall now look at another more advanced transition found in Pinan Godan. In this sequence, we will see a trapping and striking motion, move into a throw and finally the sequence is completed with a ground-fighting arm-lock. This sequence is commonly labelled as a ‘reinforced block’ followed by a ‘rising punch’ and then a jump into ‘lower cross-block’.
During the dialogue stage of the altercation, the opponent has managed to secure both your wrists (Fig 8). Rotate your right hand so that the gap between the opponent’s thumb and fingers is upwards. Use your left hand to slap the inside of the opponent’s wrist as you drive upwards with your right hand. This will trap the opponent’s hand, free your right hand, and allow you to deliver an uppercut strike to the opponent’s chin. This movement is the application of the ‘reinforced block’ (Fig 9).

Pull your left hand back and grab the opponent’s left wrist. Take your right hand under the opponent’s arm. This movement is the application of the ‘rising punch’ (Fig 10). Execute a shoulder throw (Fig 11).

As soon as the opponent is on the floor, wrap your arm around your opponent’s arm. Cut into the opponent’s elbow with your forearm in order to bend their arm (Fig 12). Trap the opponent’s arm under your armpit. Place your right hand on the opponent’s upper arm, just below their elbow joint. Grab the wrist of your right hand with your left hand. This grip will lock the opponent’s arm into position (Fig 13). Take your right leg over the opponent’s body. Turn your body ninety-degrees to twist the opponent’s Humerus outside its natural range of motion. This lock is the function of the ‘lower cross-block’. Notice how the reverse cat-stance prevents the opponent from shuffling around and alleviating the pressure (Fig 14).

Throughout this series of articles we have seen how the Pinan / Heian katas are far from the ‘introductory kata’ they are often presented as and that they do in fact represent a coherent fighting system that progresses in a logical order. We have also seen how the forms cover the various ranges and stages of an altercation. However, one range we have not covered until this point is fighting on the ground.

The whole subject of using karate techniques on the ground is too lengthy to go into here and I’d refer you to my books, videos and articles if you’d like to know more. However, for the purposes of this article it should suffice to say that we can make use of many of the locks, chokes, strikes etc recorded in the Pinan / Heian series whether we are in a vertical or horizontal position. It should also be understood that in a real situation we should aim to spend as little time on the ground as possible and therefore the katas prefer to demonstrate their grappling principles from a vertical position. This is because being vertical is the preferred option and the katas always endeavour to encourage the correct strategy. With this in mind, you’ll appreciate why the Pinan / Heian series leaves it until the final form in the series to introduce the direct application of a ground-fighting technique. Only when all the preceding forms have been fully understood will the karateka have a firm grasp of the technical principles and correct combative strategies to make the use of such a technique effective and appropriate to the circumstances.

In the first part of this series, we found out that the word ‘Pinan’ or ‘Heian’ (same word, differing pronunciation) means ‘peaceful mind.’ It is said that the creator of these katas, Anko Itosu, chose this name to reflect the fact that once the Pinan / Heian Series and their applications have been mastered, the karateka can be confident in their ability to defend themselves in most situations. I definitely believe this to be the case.

Although the Pinan / Heian katas are frequently viewed as being for beginners and children, it is hoped that this series of articles has helped to convince you that the Pinan / Heian series do indeed represent a full fighting system that covers the skills and methodologies needed for most situations. If you’d like to learn more of the applications of the Pinan / Heian series, I’d refer you to the first video in my ‘Bunkai-Jutsu: The Practical application of Kata‘ series.
I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed this series of articles and that they have helped you to develop a better understanding of the Pinan / Heian series. As is reflected in the name chosen for this series of katas, they truly do represent a coherent and logical fighting system that will indeed give us the skills we need for most situations. The amount of information contained in these katas is vast and we should be sure that we study them deeply.

Leave a Reply