Hajimete Undō no Karatedō
Our first kata, Hajimete Undō no Karatedō (“Beginning Exercise of the Empty-Hand Way”), consists of a simple and straightforward evade-block-counter combination, which is repeated five times. The real benefit though, is that it is a easily-digestible introduction to the kata method of learning. Once you have been taught how to learn, our jobs will become much easier. As such, this is required of all beginning students. The first few kata we teach are comprised of large, exaggerated motions. This is intentional, because it highlights the body mechanics needed to generate power.
[video of Hajimete, performed fast and slow, viewed from cameras at #1, 3, 7, 5. Be sure that you take up the whole frame. A lot of our old kata videos are from too far away, and it hides some detail. ]
- Perform the Goshin-Jutsu bow.
- Quickly look at the opponent at #3. Step your right foot to #8, briefly entering a right front stance facing #1, and crossing your arms in front of your chest, with your right arm atop your left. Snap your hips in order to turn sharply into a right back stance, facing #3 with a left cross-body block.
- Drive forward with the hips, entering a left front stance with a reverse punch, followed by a front-foot punch.
- Quickly look to #1. Pull your right foot up into a left cat stance, and place both fists on your left hip (right atop the left).
- Step your right foot to #8, twisting into a right front stance, facing #1, with a right cross-body block. Execute a reverse punch, followed by a front-foot punch.
- Quickly look to #7. Pull your right foot up into a left cat stance, and place both fists on your left hip (right atop the left).
- Step your right foot to #6, twisting into a right front stance, facing #7, with a right cross-body block. Execute a reverse punch, followed by a front-foot punch.
- Quickly look to #5. Pull your right foot up into a left cat stance, with both fists on your left hip (right atop the left).
- Step your right foot to #4, twisting into a right front stance, facing #5, with a right cross-body block. Execute a reverse punch, followed by a front-foot punch.
- Quickly look over your right shoulder to #1. Pull your right foot back into a left cat stance, sharply pulling both fists to your right hip (left atop the right).
- Step your right foot across your body to #6, twisting into a right back stance, facing #1, with a left cross-body block. Drive forward with your hips, entering a left front stance as you reverse punch, then front-foot punch.
- Pull your right foot up into an attention stance, and Goshin-Jutsu bow.
The left foot never moves off of its starting point at any time; it merely rotates about that one point, as though it were held in place by a single nail.
Movements 4-9 are just repetitions of Movements 2-3 while facing different walls.
A common mistake is to have oddly-shaped stances. This is because the students, being new, are still learning the basics of stancework. They will step too narrow, or too deep, into their stances, compromising their balance. Remember to picture yourself in the center of a square. When you want to face a wall, always step towards a corner. When you want to face a corner, always step towards a wall. To make things simpler, this kata only requires you to face walls, so you should only step towards corners. When practicing, we recommend having a friend give you a sideways push each time you assume a stance. If you stumble; you need to change the distance or angle of your step.
Another common mistake is raising your center when pulling your foot up into into a cat stance. When done properly, your head never raises or lowers; so practice in front of a mirror when possible. Remember, if it feels comfortable, then it’s wrong. Kata should be a hard leg workout. Tall and/or gangly students will have a harder time with this move than their shorter and stockier colleagues.
[video of raising up into cat stance, then stepping out. Then another video of doing it right.]
One especially dangerous common mistake is turning while in mid-step on the very first movement. Granted, this is intrinsically faster, as you are making one movement instead of two -- but this speed comes at a great cost. There is no power behind the initial block, because the rear leg floats uselessly in the air, rather than adding its strength and power to the block. In addition, you can’t step and turn at the same time. Try it -- you won’t step into position -- you’ll fall into it. You’ll be momentarily standing on one foot, with your center-of-mass beside -- and not above -- your base. Cutting corners compromises your stability, and you’ll only train yourself to be a poor fighter. Instead, do things properly, and develop the skill to survive.
As stated earlier, the crux of this kata is a simple evade-block-counter combination. The simplest interpretation of the opening move is that an opponent, standing to your left, attacks you with a right pursuit punch. You step off of the line of attack, and then using all of your leg, hip, and arm power to block their punch (Movement 2) before counterattacking with two punches (Movement 3). These punches are typically directed at the solar plexus. Attacking the short ribs or floating ribs is also an option; ideally, the first punch breaks the opponent’s ribs, and the second punch drives the bone shards into their organs. This combination is then repeated against other attackers from other directions, attacking with pursuit punches as well. In the simplest interpretation, the second (Movement 4-5), third (Movement 6-7), and fourth (Movement 8-9) attackers all throw left pursuit punches.
Working on these movements with a live partner in place of the Grey Man will help cement these applications in your mind. When you feel comfortable with this combination, repeat the same motions against various different attacks, such as grabs. This will help you see the movements of the kata in a new light. Learning karate isn’t enough -- you must understand it. When playing around with your partner to find new applications to kata movements, you are free to make small tweaks as needed, provided that you remain true to the general spirit and feeling of the kata. If you can’t tell what a kata’s general spirit or feeling is, then keep practicing, and let it reveal itself.
Pulling up into a cat stance is important, because besides working your legs, everything must come in before it can go out, otherwise, there is no power behind the motion. By pulling your foot in, you can step out again, and exploit the built-in 7-3 evasion in each step, bolstering your defense. Likewise, by pulling your hands to your hips, can be interpreted as a rear elbow strike to an attacker who is (unsuccessfully) trying to sneak up behind you.
Finally, before turning to the left in Movement 11, we look to the right, before stepping to the left. These "head fakes" are one hallmark of our style. Since your body will not follow your head or eyes, your movement will momentarily confuse your opponent, distracting them long enough for you to enter a solid stance and defend yourself. (Granted, this trick will also confuse you at first -- but that’s nothing that training cannot fix.)