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Mark Morschhäuser
Mark Morschhäuser's picture
Crossed legs in katas

What kind of application do you create from crossed leg sideway motions?

I know that the idea usually is that all kata movement has combattive purpose, but I just got the idea that all crossing steps in Tekki/Naihanchi could actually just divide the kata into sequences/pictures due to the lack of real turns.

So we get

  1. the yoi scene
  2. the second scene from the rising knee and haisho uke with the empi and the strikes until the next crossing step
  3. the third scene with the uraken or uchi uke or however you may call/use it, the uppercut, the sweeping motions until the double strike, from where the kata is mirrored

That kind of division is also sort of highlighted by the slower execution - I have never seen someone "speeding" through that crossing step. Does that make sense or do you really do anything in a sideways cross legged motion?

I don't know how reasonable other ideas like "kung fu evasion jump" are; assuming a straight attack, it feels really slow and bad as a tai sabaki motion: my face is still in place and moves slowly with my full body, while I could just lean and step a bit in a fraction of that time.

And then there is not much in other katas. The only kata I can come up with that even does hand techniques in crossed sideway motions is Matsumura no Passai by McCarthy. It combines manji uke with crossed legs and it uses a similar hand motion to the end of Jion, but also in a crossed stance, deliberately sinking down even.

The application completely eludes me... it is bad for pulling/carrying someone, kneeling on someone does not make sense with the kind or lack of hand movement and a knee strike is usually shown by standing on one leg and keeping the other foot in the back of the leg (manji uke with that kind of stance is part of Gankaku/Chinto for example). It might make sense with a kick but there isn't one. And then the sinking down part even...

Heath White
Heath White's picture

So, for Naihanchi, I agree with you about the three-part division of the kata.  My preferred interpretation of the cross-steps is one I got from Dan Djurdevic: they are actually twists in place.  If you stand naturally, and leave your feet in place but twist your upper body 90 degrees, your legs will cross.  If you then step out of this stance into horse stance, you will have completed the "cross step".  

Why would the kata do this?  My personal theory is that Naihanchi is designed to be practiced in minimal space, so what would be turns are converted into cross-steps.  Ordinarily in kata, attacks come from the front, however in "scene 2" at least the attack is coming from the side.  If you imagine the attack coming from the front, though, and then yourself twisting to meet it, you get the embusen of Naihanchi.

In other kata where crossed legs show up (Pinan 5, Bassai) I tend to think of them as entries into hip or shoulder throws.  Think of the way you get into o-goshi or ippon seoi nage.

Mark Morschhäuser
Mark Morschhäuser's picture

Thanks for your reply. In Judo we had this 180 degrees turn in front of the partner to pull him up, like you described and it makes sense to encode it in form of kosa dachi in a kata. In addition I was able to ask a 9th dan yesterday and he told me that as well: cross leg positions usually represent footwork to prepare throws. Crossed legs with Manji-Uke are very close to a seoi nage and the other crossed legs piece in Matsumura no Passai could be an encoded kata guruma: The position before uses zenkutsu dachi, so we really go from a frontal move into a 90 degrees turn, pulling with the rear hand (palm turned down) and grabbing a leg with the forward hand (palm turned up) to pull the opponent onto your shoulders, even sinking deliberately in kosa dachi.

Thinking more about it, I focussed too much on frontal attacks in bunkai so far, but it makes sense to assume that the attacker may be behind us - either from a standard bear hug attack (from habitual acts of violence) or because we turned in for a throw. I have seen some Goju-ryu kata where they actually showed a bear hug attack from behind in a video (the kata has sort of a backwards headbutt movement in it). So I'd say Abernethy's Bunkai Jutsu rule that an attacker attacks from the front maybe should be changed to: the attacker stands in front - except when he is behind us :-)

Marc's picture

Hi Mark,

there are always several possible explanations for movements in kata. The idea of dividing the kata into separate "scenes" by stepping from one into the next is interesting and might well be what this is. Using cross-steps as twists or entries into throws is also plausible of course.

I'd like to add another possible application. Imagine the attacker being right in front of you. You've already established some sort of hold of the attacker so you can pull them close. Now, if you step across with your foot you can make contact with one of the attackers legs half-way.

The application then could be any of the following:

  1. Attack the ankle from the outside with the sole of your foot to do a foot sweep (ashi-barai).
  2. Attack a vital point at the inside of the leg just above the ankle with the bony part of the ball of your foot.
  3. Attack the sural muscle (the calf) with the rear end of your heel.
  4. Attack the back of the knee by stepping into it with the sole of your foot (and follow through as if you would plant your foot on the ground, thus making them kneel).
  5. Attack the instep or toes by simply stepping (stomping) on their foot from above with your foot to cause pain or to fix their foot on the floor while pushing/pulling them.


If you are successful with any of those options that should break you opponents balance, which should make it easier to pull them over, control them, hit them or make them land on the ground.

If you miss their leg, no worries, then just continue the step. Maybe the rise of your knee that follows it hits them. Or mabe you just moved to the side a bit and pulled your opponent over with you which might give you a fresh opportunity to hit them.

All the best


Marc's picture

Actually, Jeb Chiles just posted a Tekki application that also uses the cross step at the beginning of the kata to kick to a point right above the knee joint.


Still the same idea applies: If you take the step anyway, why not hit the opponent with it on the way?