Article by Emanuel Giordano

Funakoshi sensei modified the Naihanchi kata over time. If we compared, in fact, the kata present in the various books of him, we could notice numerous differences, in particular related to the position used.

The first publication of Funakoshi sensei where Naihanchi kata appear is Ryukyu Kenpo Karate (1922). All three kata appear in this book, illustrated with numerous drawings, and accompanied by their captions. Before talking about these, however, I would like to point out that among the positions described and illustrated in the chapter 足の立方 (ashi no tachikata), the naihanchi-dachi that we find in the book of 1925 does not appear. an image appears that fully recalls, in form and description, a naihanchi-dachi Shorin-ryu, whose name, however, is 三進立 (sanshin-dachi, according to the furigana that accompanies the kanji). The thing is very curious, since the drawing is, as already mentioned, in the place where the photo of the naihanchi-dachi will be found in 1925, and also because there is a theory, according to which, Itosu sensei changed the position of the Naihanchi kata (turning the toes more inward) due to the influence of the Naha-te studied with Nagahama sensei, and of positions such as 三戦立 sanchin-dachi. Furthermore, the description of the position is very similar to what appears in the 1925 book.

Anyway, on page 93 we find the ナイハンチ 初段 (Naihanchi shodan), and the name of the position appears in the description as: ナイハンチ立. The drawing is barely sketched but, fortunately, there is also a small detail of the position of the feet which, as already mentioned in other previous articles, leaves no room for doubt: the feet are rotated inside exactly as in the homonymous Shorin-ryu kata! However, the drawings representing the master performing the Naihanchi nidan and Naihanchi sandan kata portray a different position, with the feet facing outward (what is now called shiko-dachi), and called by Funakoshi sensei 八字立 (hachiji- dachi, i.e. position in the shape of the kanji . Here too, however, a clarification is necessary! In fact, returning to the chapter on positions, we find a hachiji-dachi, but it is different from the one portrayed in this kata, since the legs are straight and not bent. To explain all this, it is necessary to open a parenthesis on Okinawan Karate. From personal experience I have learned that, unlike what it happens in Japanese Karate, in Okinawan Karate, different techniques and positions, which however share distinctive traits, have the same name. In Japanese Karate, on the other hand, there is a tendency to give a different name to every slightest variation. In this case, for Funakoshi, both positions resemble the kanji that identifies the number 8, so they can both be called hachiji-dachi. A possible explanation, however, of what was found with the naihanchi-dachi position described above, first called sanshin-dachi, then naihanchi-dachi, may be due to the same reason. In fact, sometimes a given technique or position can also be identified with multiple names even within the same dojo! An example of this is the ukiashi-dachi position which is sometimes also referred to as nekoashi-dachi (except in schools that practice both positions, see Kyudokan Shorin-ryu and derivative schools).

In the book Rentan goshin Karate-jutsu (1925) we find, as mentioned above, the photograph and description of the position ナイハンチ立 (naihanchi-dachi). However, a change to it is immediately evident: here the feet are almost parallel! Some masters, even in Okinawa, tend to assume a similar position over the years, due to less agility of the body. Could this be the reason for the change made by Funakoshi, or was it a real change due to other reasons? Difficult to say. To complicate everything, however, there are the photos of the Naihanchi shodan kata! Although the position is always named ナイハンチ立 (naihanchi-dachi), it has the feet turned outwards, except in the last photo, where they are parallel. The same position also appears in the photos of Naihanchi nidan and Naihanchi sandan where, however, it is called in the same way as in 1922: 八字立 (hachiji-dachi). One possible explanation may be that the 1925 book shares much of the original text of the 1922 book, and this, however, has caused inaccuracies.

The real cut with the past, however, takes place in 1935 with the publication of Karate-do kyohan, where the position is called 騎馬立 (kiba-dachi), and it almost completely resembles our shiko-dachi. Much broader than the 1935 stance, the stance appears in both the Heian / Pinan sandan kata, and the kata 騎馬立初段 (Kibadachi shodan, formerly known as ナイハンチ初段 Naihanchi shodan), Kibadachi nidan (Naihanchi nidan), Kibadachi sandan (Naihanchi sandan), Jitte and Jion. Also, in the 1941 reprint, the name of the kata is changed from Kibadachi to 鉄騎 (Tekki).

Finally there is the 1943 book: Karate nyumon. In this book, many photos of Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) appear, including the one relating to the 騎馬立 (kiba-dachi) position, even wider and lower than that of 1935, as well as with his feet now almost completely parallel.