Saturday, January 7, 2012

Naihanchi "body-changes" (内蹯地転身)

Naihanchi kata [内蹯地型 or ナイハンチ] has apparently simple footwork moving side to side using a "horse-stance" (naihanchi-dachi) [内蹯地] and a "cross-stance" (kosa-dachi) [交差立]. However the horse-stance and cross-stance are used in application by rotating the body as one assumes these stances. In Shorin ryu these evasive body rotations are often referred to as "body-changes." "Body-change" is the English translation of Tenshin [転身] meaning "body-rotation" (also sometimes called tai-sabaki [体捌き]).  The primary purpose of a "body change" is to move out of the way of an initial attack and to make a renewed attack more difficult. However, an often ignored aspect of these "body-changes" is that they add considerable power to techniques. This is especially important for tuidi techniques.

The reason that the kata doesn't  illustrate all the possible footwork explicitly is that most of the techniques can be applied with more than one type of footwork. In fact, there are 20 basic pivoting methods that I use with Naihanchi (and innumerable variations as well as more advanced forms of footwork). Rather than illustrating all the possibilities, the kata indicates these in a somewhat abstract way. Below the basic kata footwork is shown in a short clip and is illustrated by a diagram below the clip.

The diagram below shows the two most basic ways to use the Naihanchi "cross stance". In the first example you leave the left foot unmoved and pivot on the ball of the right foot as the hips and shoulders pivot clockwise. In the second example the left foot still remains unmoved but the right foot steps behind as you pivot clockwise.
In the diagram below the footwork is similar to that illustrated above, but in each example the left foot takes a step before  the body pivots in a clockwise direction as the right foot moves into the "cross stance"

Here is a video systematically presenting the 8 kosa-dachi stepping patterns shown above:

Below are the two most basic stepping patterns for pivoting the body into a "Horse-Stance":

All 10 of  these stepping patterns can of course be used by pivoting anti-clockwise as well (making 20 basic stepping patterns).

Some (but not all) of these stepping methods can be seen in this video:


  1. Nice post. Haven't seen one yet on stepping, and as I'm sure you are aware it is a very important aspect of conditioning and self-defense.

  2. very nice post. I use the shorin ryu kosa dachi quite a bit but there are other style methods that can add quite a bit to this. I do not see a sequence where you go directly in / directly forward in your attacks. I truly believe the knowledge of how to use your kosa dachi is a very important aspect of this kata. i have been pretty much exclusively studied this kata for the last 20+ years and I still feel as if I am only scratching teh surface. brent.balfanz@yahoo,com

  3. 20 years and only just scratching the surface?! There's something fundamentally flawed in the art if that's true.

    1. I suspect "barely scratched the surface" is most likely rhetorical hyperbole, and most likely is intended to mean "I still feel there is more to learn". In any highly specialized and technical field, be it classical music, microbiology, or astrophysics (or the study of Naihanchi and its place within Ryukyu martial arts), if after 20 years in that field a person feels that there is nothing more to learn, that person was IMHO almost certainly never any good in that field.

  4. There are 14 methods of footwork of Tenshin; an interesting chapter to study

  5. There are 14 methods of footwork of Tenshin; an interesting chapter to study