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Pinan / Heian Shodan and Nidan Variation Drills

This video shows a Pinan / Heian bunkai combination that we recently worked in the dojo. It’s vital to understand that the kata is always showing techniques and drills as an illustration of concept. To realise the full value of kata, we need to look beyond the example given to the principles upon which the example rests. As one part of this, we should also look at how the kata examples can be varied and combined inline with the underlying principles. That’s what we are doing in this video.

The students had previously practiced the solo version of the Pinan kata, and the two person drills we do for those kata (see “The Pinan / Heian Series: The Complete Fighting System” Volumes 1 & 2). We then moved on to practise those methods in a differing context.

We begin from a clinch and then switched grips to repeatedly strike with the back hand (second motion of Pinan Shodan / Heian Nidan).

The idea is that you pull your enemy closer to you with your left hand and deliver a blow to the side with your right hand.” – Gichin Funakoshi describing the application of the second move of Pinan Shodan / Heian Nidan in the original edition of Karate-Do Kyohan.

If the strikes had proved to be indecisive, we then maintain the initiative and unbalance the enemy by applying a momentary arm-bar and strike (bunkai of the gedan-barai and oi-zuki in Pinan Nidan / Heian Shodan). Funakoshi references gedan-barai being used as an arm-bar in his book Rentan Goshin Karate-Jutsu during his description of Koma Nage.

Although the kata shows a lunging punch, other strikes can also be substituted. On this occasion we worked with a rising kick to the face and a dropping hammer fist to the base of the skull.

Having drilled these variations with a partner, we then took them onto the pads.

The main reason for drilling these variations and combinations is to give the students further examples of the kata principles in action, and to help them see beyond the specific examples given by the kata.

Hironori Otsuka (founder of Wado-Ryu karate) wrote; " It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practised sufficiently, but one must not be 'stuck' in them. One must withdraw from the kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms of training. Essentially, it is a habit - created over long periods of training. Because it is a habit, it comes to life with no hesitation - by the subconscious mind. " ('Wado-Ryu Karate' page 19-20)

That is what we are doing here. We are withdrawing from the kata to practise an “alteration”. This helps cement the underlying principles in the mind of the student, so that these principles become the “habits” by which the student operates in the everchanging world of combat. Most of the past masters expressed very similar views to Otsuka. For example:

Kata must be practiced properly, with a good understanding of their bunkai meaning … the ways of attacking and defending have innumerable variations. To create two-person drills containing all of the techniques including each and every one of their variations is impossible … If one practices kata correctly, it will serve as a foundation for performing, when a crucial time comes, any of the infinite number of variations.” – Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-Ryu).

Those unfamiliar with these principles, and this approach to kata, may find what is shown to be a little confusing. If that is the case, please visit and check out the first volume of “The Pinan / Heian Series: The Complete Fighting System”. The drills shown on that DVD / Download will make things a lot clearer.

All the best,


PS The YouTube link can be found HERE

Pinan / Heian Shodan & Nidan Variation Drills