Ichi Knee

Funakoshi Gichin, Otsuka Hironori, 1935

In our eighteen kata there are hundreds of techniques. Of those hundreds of techniques, we drop into a single-knee kneeling position three times. 

We never prone out, roll, fall, or kneel on two knees. We drop into a “plank” posture once.

The one-knee posture happens in Pinan Go dan, Wanshu, and Chinto. 

There are multiple useful interpretations of these techniques. All involve throwing the opponent and following up.  For a good interpretation it is necessary also to consider the vulnerability of the kneeling posture, as well as its power. The technique sequence in the kata shows us how to defend a subsequent attack from the one-knee position.

There are many throws that might go to one knee. Here is one from Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi was an Okinawan Shorin Ryu practitioner active at the time that our kata were formulated. He was teaching for years before Shotokan took shape and diverged from the Shorin Ryu he learned on Okinawa and originally taught. The image above is from the mid-20th century.

He is showing this a defense against a high punch.

Two of the one-knee techniques, in P5 and Wanshu, are part of a defense and counter sequence against a middle punch – which accounts for the preceding move in the kata, and our response. The following step in both kata, shown in the arrow at the right foot in the photo, is the same as the one we use in both Pinan Go dan and kata Wanshu. The Chinto application of this posture that we are using is not a hip throw. It is a take down and strike with the opponent in front of you throughout the sequence.

We always drop when throwing. Whether we are moving from shizentai to zenkutsu or from shizentai to nekko ashi, we start tall and drop into the throw, for maximum leverage high to low as well as in horizontal rotation. Examples of the shizentai to zenkutsu drop and turn to throw are introduced in first kata, Pinan ShoDan and Pinan NiDan. The second case, shizentai to nekko ashi, appears in Pinan ShoDan, Pinna NiDan and throughout our kata.  We use the identical principle in advanced kata. 

Some of our members are skilled at rolling out, but it is not necessary to train this kind of application with a full execution of the take down technique. Going to the balance point with controlled power will work to grasp the body dynamics of this application, as it does with all the throws we find in our kata. We train so that all counters to nage waza (throwing techniques) are initiated on contact, not when the grip is established, or when throw is underway. In this way we retain the combative initiative and momentum. 

See Evidence of Old Karate in Modern Kata for more on this.


Post by Jeff Brooks, author of the influential book True Karate Dō, instructor of Yamabayashi Ryu at Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC

Post Copyright © 2023 Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC

Photo Gichin Funakoshi 1935

1 Comment

  1. Sam says:

    It could also be the throw Uki Waza from Judo, 2 kyu.

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