Karate Kata: The Translation from Pinan to Heian


What does a Karate Kata mean? It’s a dance, it’s a book of techniques, it’s a method for controlling and teaching large numbers of people without the need for data. It’s zen, it’s one thing at a time, it’s a belt arrangement system.
It’s a recent invention that dates back two thousand years…and it shows you exactly and precisely and where to place them clodhoppers you call feets. It’s data arranged out of order in a set sequence. Whatever they are, do them long enough and you will know Karate.
Well, maybe. Maybe not. After all if Gichin Funakoshi is to be believed, Karate is changing and changing…here is his direct quote.
“Hoping to see Karate included in the universal physical education taught in our public schools, I set about revising the kata so as to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago [this book was written in 1956], and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.”
The classical Kata attributed to Gichin Funakoshi are called Heian. This writer learned, from a lineage other than the Japanese, Karate forms called Pinan. And there were distinct and stark differences between the two.
The Heian are violent, forward stancing, explosive, in your face, one punch one kill. The Pinan have focus in the fist, work out of the more defensive back stance, modify the explosion exactly to the work being performed, are subtle and polite, and believe in getting along with your fellow man.
Of course, my bias holds, the Pinans are better. They were created before the young turks of the Japanese college system altered them for tournaments and power and fighting and power and glory and power and…well, power. The Pinans were created before lust was in vogue.
Of course, that said, this writer’s bias taken into account, one can modify the forms back to the way they were. All one has to do is adjust the angles and modify the mind. Ahh, modify the mind…perhaps it is not possible…but one can hope.
If you would like to view the original Pinans, maybe even take a free Karate lesson, try Learn Karate Online.

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