Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links



By Charles Rhodes, P. Eng., Ph.D.

Heian Shodan is a basic kata of Shotokan karate. The second turn goes 180 degrees Clockwise (CW) from 9:00 o'clock to 3:00 o'clock. The rotation is on the left leg. The preferred pivot point is the left heel. Rotation on the ball of the left foot increases the distance from an attack from 3:00 o'clock but requires more strength and skill.

The initial position is a long zenkutsu-dachi, right leg forward, right arm oi-zuki, left fist at hip, hips shoman toward 9:00 o'clock. The weight distribution is 70% on right leg, 30% on left leg. The body must be erect with the centers of mass of the pelvis, trunk and head forming a straight vertical line herein referred to as the body axis. The ass and chin should be tucked in. The left leg must be completely straight and under compression from the horizontal force vector component exerted by the right leg. Relaxing the left leg releases an energy pulse from the right leg that explosively moves the CM toward 3:00 o'clock to start this turn.

1. Look backwards over the right shoulder.

2. Simultaneously straighten the right leg, bend the left leg and vigorously swing the extended right arm, fist closed, palm down in a large horizontal CW circular motion from 9:00 o'clock to 1:00 o'clock. This movement shifts the body Center of Mass (CM) from near the right foot to close to the vertical pivot axis through the heel of the left foot and generates angular momentum about the pivot axis. The body CM should not rise. The unloaded right leg remains in firm contact with the ground and extended toward 9:00 o'clock.

3. Generate major upper body angular momentum by vigorous CW hip rotation while both feet are still in firm contact with the ground to exert torque. Simultaneously punch right with the left fist palm in;

4. Use left ankle movement to position the left foot to allow free rotation about the pivot point (the heel of the left foot);

5. Continuing CW hip rotation lifts the extended right foot off the ground. The left leg is fully loaded. Free rotation commences about the left heel pivot point. Allow the left foot to revolve around the left heel. Initially the right leg is extended forward which is balanced by the body axis being slightly behind the vertical pivot axis;

6. Instantly free rotation commences tighten the buttocks to pull the vertical body axis to the vertical pivot axis and to pull the extended right leg in against the centrifugal force so that the Achilles tendon of the right foot bounces against the lower shin of the left leg. The body axis must remain vertical.

7. Simultaneously whip the right fist to the left shoulder as in retraction after a horizontal backfist strike and extend the left forearm tangent to the trunk toward 3:00 o'clock as in a chudan or gedan punch. The change in momentum of the right arm provides the extra torque that the body needs to complete its 180 degree rotation. This set motion must be completed before the turn reaches 180 degrees.

8. These leg and arm actions maximize initial angular momentum, minimize moment of inertia about the vertical pivot axis during free rotation and position the body for energy discharge. The reduction in moment of inertia during free rotation increases both the angular velocity and the rotational kinetic energy;

9. As the rotation reaches 180 degrees the hips and shoulders should be square to the target at 3:00 o'clock and the big toe of the left foot should point toward the target at 3:00 o'clock. Press the left heel into the ground and drive (half step) out with the right leg into zenkutsu-dachi hips hamni toward 3:00 o'clock. This action increases the moment of inertia and positions the body for delivery of all available kinetic energy to the target via a right arm gedan block/strike. Reinforce this right arm gedan block/strike by retracting your left fist to your left hip. Linear kinetic energy comes from partially unloading the fully loaded supporting left leg and from conversion of rotational kinetic energy into radial kinetic energy.

10. Use momentary tightening of all major muscle groups to make the body rigid at the instant of impact in order to achieve maximum energy transfer to the target.

11. Use the extended right foot as a rotation brake to absorb any remaining angular momentum.

12. Plant the right foot to use the right leg as a focrum for a left hand reverse punch or lunge punch attack.

There are potential variations to this turn that start in hips hamni and/or finish in hips shoman.

The following commentary about the 2nd turn in Heian Shodan is an edited version of an email from Sensei Fisher that I received on March 1, 2011:

How I would describe an 180 degree turn is this....From the end position of the previous lunge punch, which is a front stance, use the stored energy in the front loaded leg to propel your CM over the back leg. While at the same time throwing your right arm straight out and 90 degrees to you right side. After the arm has reached the 90 degree position and your CM is over your back foot, which now becomes the loaded leg; as the front leg is now fully unloaded; retract your right arm to your body to capture the angular momentum you created by throwing it out. At the same instant use the backward momentum created when unloading the front leg in combination with the angular momentum captured in the right arm, to spin your hips and rotate on the heel of the new loaded leg 180 degrees. At the MPFLP your loaded leg and upper body will be fully loaded. You unload the energy in the loaded leg and upper body simultaneously and arrive at the critical instant of energy delivery, with a low block.

The 180 degree turn is the most difficult turn to make due to the fact that, the distance covered is 2 full steps. I would like to state as well that, a 180 degree turn cannot be done in the 1/2 second time scale. So as it has been taught in JKA Kata it must be wrong. Because, Kata is Kumite; Kumite is Kata. Therefore in order for that to be true, there must be another another way to make the defense in Heinan Shodan fit the reality of the offense. The problem with the 180 degree turn as it has always been taught by the JKA is that, the turn starts from an impossible position, the front stance. The second problem is that: Do you move 2 full steps towards an opponent who is attacking you with a single step kick?. I think that a more realistic defense against a kick would be to do a 180 degree backward turn and low block that, is not 2 steps towards the kicking opponent but rather, is done away from the opponent by, pivoting on the heel of the already loaded right foot and using a right hand low block. This defense very nicely fits the required technique in the Heinan Shodan story. Thus absorbing his attack in the required 1/2 second time frame and doing away with a defense that does not match the JKA claimed offense.

In other words, instead of moving your CM back over your back leg, you would spin 180 degrees backwards on your right foot, instead of your left foot, which would match the reality of the attacking kick. This defense would change the idea of finishing the Kata at the original starting point. That was never very important in any case and adhering to that idea causes the story of Heinan-shodan to not fit with reality.

When the JKA address this point they say, as Tanaka did the last time he was at Brad Jones Karate-Do, that some moves are just an exercise. That is because the JKA has not been able to make the leap that would rectify the defense in Heinan shodan story to match the claimed offense. Although when Tanaka said this,he was only referring to the much easier done 270 degree turn in Heinan Shodan. The fact that he could not make that turn in time to match the speed of the kick, caused him to say that "some moves in Kata are only an exercise." In his case it was because, when he makes that turn, as is shown in the Best Karate series, he puts all of his weight on the right front foot, thus creating an enormous amount of friction on the 270 turn. Shifting all of the weight onto the front foot, while swinging the back left foot behind him makes it impossible to arrive in time to block a kick and when he does get fully turned, on the block, the right heel slips backwards which prevents transfer of the energy in the back leg and leaves him with only the energy in the upper body to deliver.

What I have done here is first, describe the 180 degree turn which fits the traditional JKA Heinan Shodan story line. I have then given a solution that matches the 2 sides of the Kata and keeps intact the order that the techniques are done in eg. a 180 degree turn with a low block. The JKA has not made the advancements in Shotokan which Nakayama Sensei predicted. I am pretty sure that; when Nakayama Sensei said "Karate in the future will get better with a better understanding of sport science and that will be for the next generation to do", he was thinking that it would be the Japanese who would make the discoveries. They have not and are sticking to the traditional JKA Shotokan.

This web page last updated March 1, 2011.

Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links