The End of Pinan Sandan

There are only two moves where we turn our back on our opponent. Both are in Pinan Sandan. This 6 second video shows the one at the end.

Take a look at where we are: Go back one step in the kata, before the punch that we are starting with here in this video: you will be in a horse stance, blocking an incoming punch with a left-hand palm heel, and following it up with a right-hand back fist to the opponent’s face.

The backfist briefly stuns the opponent. He could not see it coming. That is the move preceding the front punch, the one we are showing here at the start of this video. 

End of Pinan Sandan – clip two

Then you throw the left-hand walking punch while the opponent was rocked back by your back fist.But even though he is destabilized he grabs your left arm with two hands, and steps back, pulling you off balance in attempt to throw. 

If you pull back you might neutralize his throwing momentum, but he can also take advantage of your backward motion to push you backwards. If you know a bit of aikido or similar you can leap through the air, and if your attacker releases his grip on your arm at just the right time, you maybe be able to slap down as you land or deftly roll out.

But – this is a big but – if he doesn’t let go your shoulder will dislocate and you will land on your head.  If you aren’t in a dojo you may land on concrete or asphalt pavement, on a curb, on broken glass, or on cars, used syringes, people, burning tires or other debris.

And if your opponent has a friend nearby, he may decide to kick a field goal with your head as you land. Not good. 

The solution is shown in the kata. Let’s go back: you throw the left-hand walking punch. If it lands on the opponent’s solar plexus with full power, game over.  But all our kata show how to immediately follow up, if a technique fails.  

If the opponent is able to avoid your punch and grab your arm, and pulls you forward to off balance you and throw you then you step forward – not just stepping but twisting the whole power of your body against his exposed front arm, dislodging it and off-balancing him.

As you do, this turns him, as shown in the video. Displacing his body with yours, you destabilize his body architecture and strike, simultaneously, to his head and to whichever mid-level target is exposed.

Since he falls to his right, you continue your pressure on him and strike him in the direction where he is falling, as shown in the kata.  If the first pair of punches is effective, he will not have a chance to do the choke. But you can allow for that possibility and use the kata to follow through.  

This interpretation happens naturally, and is tactically sound. But, like in any bunkai analysis, the intention of the opponent – the dynamics in motion of what his is trying to do – has to be built into the analysis.  

Also, the “what if this technique fails” has to be considered. Like a chess player, a poker player, a fire team leader or an emperor, we will need to look ahead, consider the effect of our action, and prepare for potential consequences. 

Like any bunkai this one presents a large set of “what-ifs” – a set of rock, paper, scissors alternatives – to be explored and trained in.  The partners need to be committed enough to their techniques to feel the dynamics of the interaction, and controlled enough not to cause injury. 


For more on the tactical theory underlying our approach read the article Too Fast To See.

Post, photos and video copyright © 2023 Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC 山林流Yamabayashi Shorin Ryu dojo

Mountain Karate’s YouTube channel: @mountainkarate

For many other interesting and practical bunkai read the book True Karate Dō.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: