Up to this point we have taken the time to do a deep linguistic delve into the five main categories of techniques, and their subsequent subcategories, as laid out by Nagamine Shoshin Sensei in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. From this point forward we are going to be looking to translate individual techniques into their literal and nuanced meaning. Due to the vast number of techniques contained in this book, we are going to breach from our previous practice of making no assumptions of previous knowledge. Instead, I will be labeling the following installments something along the lines of, “… of Matsubayashi Ryu: Part [insert number],” to help those following these mini-articles keep track of which ones they have, and have not, read. (I will also copy and paste this paragraph in each new write up, so next time feel free to skip it if desired.)
Tachikata (立ち方) are the methods of standing in Matsubayashi Ryu and Nagamine divided these methods into these subcategories:
- Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち)
- Jun shizentai-dachi (準自然体立ち)
- Jigotai-dachi (自護体立ち)
- Naihanchi-dachi (ナイハンチ立ち)
- Zenkutsu-dachi (前屈立ち)
- Naname zenkutsu-dachi (斜め前屈立ち)
- Kokutsu-dachi (後屈立ち)
- Kosa-dachi (交差立ち)
- Ippon-ashi-dachi (一本足立ち)
- Iaigoshi-dachi (居合腰立ち)
We have already done deep translations of all but the individual techniques within Shizentai-dachi and Jun Shizentai-dachi. As such, these are what we will focus on in this installment.
1. Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi
2. Migi-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi
3. Hidari-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi
We have already translated Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi when we looked at the Kamaekata (構え方), but lets recap. Soto (外) is Outside. Hachiji (八字), refers to the shape of the Japanese Character (字) Hachi (八), which is like such / . Shizentai (自然体) is a Natural (自然) Body (体). Ending in the suffix for stances, -dachi (~立ち). So Soto-hachiji Shizentai-dachi is a Natural (body) Stance, where the feet make an / \ shape and the toes are pointing slightly Outside.
Before moving on, you might think, “well, that doesn’t sound like a name at all!” If so, you are absolutely correct. Most of the individual techniques don’t have proper names. They are simply described to us using the Japanese Language and Uchinaaguchi (the language of the old Ryukyu Kingdom). This is why, this author, feels it is important to do a literal and nuanced translation of these techniques. So we can properly understand what Nagamine Sensei was trying to teach us.
Keeping that in mind, lets move on to Migi-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi (右足前自然体立ち). That’s a bit of a mouth full. Almost like saying a full sentence? Migi (右) is Right, as in, “your right side.” Ashi (足) is one of the pronunciations for Foot. Mae (前) is one of the pronunciations for Front or Forward. By now we should have remembered that Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち) is a Natural Body Stance or Natural Stance. Lets string these back together, Right-Foot-Forward Natural-Stance.
Being of a sound mind, I am confident you have already translated Hidari-ashi-mae Shizentai-dachi (左足前自然体立ち)without my help. However, that would make my task of translating these super boring, and as it is possible that such an assumption could be incorrect, lets go through it together. Just in case. Hidari (左) is Left. Ashi (足) is again Foot. Mae (前) can be both Front or Forward. And typing Shizentai-dachi (自然体立ち) so many times is going to give me carpal tunnel. So again stringing these back together we get, Left-Foot-Forward Natural-Stance.
Did you remember that Jun Shizentai-dachi (準自然体立ち) is a semi-natural stance? If not, that’s why we do review as we go along. It is practically impossible to remember something upon first hearing it, or reading it, which is why a student should never get frustrated when/ if they are acquiring a new language or skill. If you find yourself getting frustrated, just take a break and allow the information to “soak in” for a little while before returning refreshed. Sometimes in our zeal to acquire more, more, more, I SAID MORE, we forget that it is important to pace ourselves. Learning should be thoroughly rather than skimmed, and the speed an individual acquires such things change from person to person, so try to enjoy each step of the journey
Pedagogical humbugs and philosophical musings aside, Chokuritsu-fudo-dachi (直立不動立ち) was also discusses before with Kamaekata. Chokuritsu (直立) is to Stand (立) Straight (直). Remaining Non-Moving, or Fudō (不動). We could also just call this Standing at Attention or an Attention Stance. It is important to note some nuanced differences here. While Attention Stance and Ready Stance may sound quite similar in English, in Japanese one is a subsidiary of the other. Chokuritsu-fuso-dachi (直立不動立ち) is a Kamaekata (構方) and a Tachiwaza (立ち技), but the reverse isn true.
Moving right along we have our third Kamekata, which is also an individual Tachiwaza, Heisoku-dachi. Previously I gave you one translation, this time I am going to give you a different one using a different Kanji. Why would I do this? Because you will find this happens a lot in karate, so I’m simply preparing you for such. This time we will translate Heisoku-dachi using the kanji, 閉足立ち. Hei (閉) is Closed. Soku (足) this time being Foot/ Feet. Ending with our suffix of -dachi (立ち). Regardless of which kanji and translation is used the general description is the same. A Closed-Footed-Stance.
Lastly lets cover one of the most important stances in Shorin Ryu, Neko-ashi-dachi (猫足立ち). Neko (猫) is Cat. Ashi (足) is Foot. And our wonderful suffix -dachi (~立ち). While Cat-footed-stance or Cat Stance is a literal translation, this is again a description of not only how the stance should look but also how it should function.
Now here is a bonus something that even experienced instructors often forget about at they read through The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, and as they teach classes. Remember Migi-ashi-mae (右足前) and Hidari-ashi-mae (左足前)? While the only time Nagamine Sensei mentioned this is with Shizentai-dachi, these two phrases apply to every stance where the feet are staggered. So we have Migi-ashi-mae Neko-ashi-dachi (右足前猫足立) as well as Hidari-ashi-mae Neko-ashi-dachi (左足前猫足立), as well.
This continues with:
This completes our translation for Kameakata and Tachikata. Next we will discuss Semekata (攻め方), but will probably only being looking at the techniques done with Seiken (正拳).