Last time we discussed the five main categories of techniques Nagamine Shoshin Sensei layed out in The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. As a quick reminder:
Kamaekata (構方): Methods of Posture/ Readiness.
Tachikata (立方): Methods of Standing.
Semekata (攻め方): Methods of Attack.
Ukekata (受方): Methods of Defense/ Receiving.
Kerikata (蹴り方): Methods of Kicking.
Tachi as a stand alone word and Prefix
-dachi as a Suffix.
Keri as a stand alone word and Prefix
-geri as a Suffix.
This time we shall look at the three subcategories within Kamaekata in the text. Again, as we go through these we need to keep in mind Sequential Voicing, called Rendaku (連濁) in Japanese. This is where the initial sound of a word slightly changes based on if it is at the beginning of a compound word or if it appears later in a compound word. Tachi, which last time we established is Stance, is one such phrase as it becomes -dachi when used as a suffix. This same thing happens with Kamae, as it is -gamae when used as a suffix.
Nagamine Sensei divided the Kamaekata into three further subcategories:
- Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi
Firstly, lets look at Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi. This may look like a really long term, but once you understand each part, it becomes quite manageable. Let us start with the kanji, 外八字自然体立ち. Again that seems a bit more intimidating than it actually is. Therefore lets divide this up even more.
What is Soto-Hachiji (外八字)? For the purpose of this write up, no assumptions of previous knowledge will be assumed. Soto (外) is a prefix that means Outside. Hachi (八) means the number 8 (usually used when counting in class) and -ji (字) means Character. However in the case of Hachiji (八字) we are specifically looking at the shape of the Character 八, which resembles / . More on this in a moment!
What is Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち)? In the previous write up (and the recap above) we have already established that the suffix -dachi (~立ち) means we are dealing with a stance. Shizentai (自然体) is a compound word combining Shizen (自然) and Tai (体). Shizen is Natural and Tai is Body. Putting all these pieces back together we have a Natural Body Stance. Now looking at some nuance between Japanese and English, it is worth noting that 自然体 can also be more roughly translated to Neutral Body, making 自然体立ち a Neutral Body Stance or a Neutral Stance.
So where does Soto-hachiji come back into play? Again the main focus here is 八字, or the shape / \ . Soto, being Outside, refers to the feet when facing forward, thus the toes are facing outwards with the heels slightly closer together. We do this while the Body is in a relaxed Natural/ Neutral position. Making it Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi (外八字自然体立ち).
Next, lets hack into Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi. The kanji for Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi are 直立不動立ち and you’ll find this is much easier to translate, as Chokuritsu-fudo is a single phrase. 直立不動 as can simply translate to, “Standing at Attention.” When we add our suffix of -dachi we have Standing at Attention Stance (直立不動立ち). Through the process of eliminating unnecessary redundancies we can cut this down to simply Attention Stance.
If you really want a breakdown of each individual kanji, I’m more than happy to oblige. If not, skip this paragraph. Choku (直) is Straight, Ritsu (立) is another pronunciation for Stand, so Chokuritsu (直立) is to stand straight. Fu (不) is one of the kanji for negation/ non- and Dō (動) is moving, so Fudō (不動) is non-moving. Finishing with our suffix of -dachi (~立ち).
Finally lets look at Heisoku-dachi. The kanji are 閉塞立ち.* Again they just get easier and easier. While Heisoku (閉塞) is it’s own distinct phrase meaning Blockage, Obstruction, Blockade, etc. I think, this is a case where we can look at both parts individually in order to hammer home the meaning. Individually, 閉 simply means closed or shut, and 塞 means close or shut. So we can see why Heisoku-dachi (閉塞立ち) is usually translated as Closed [footed] Stance.
Before sending you on your way, I would like to cover the fact that, even though the Kamaekata are only divided into these three subcategories they actually cover seven distinct postures or ready stances. Furthermore there are other Kamaewaza (構技) used in Matsubayashi Ryu. However, as Nagamine Shoshin did not include them in this particular section of The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, it would be better served to save those for their own write up.
*I intentionally used the “wrong” kanji. The reasoning behind this decision is explained in a later installment, “Tachikata of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part 2.”