Ichi no Hebi
Ichi no Hebi (“First [Movement] of the Snake”) is an extremely dynamic kata. Its tempo, elevation, and level of force all drastically change from moment to moment, each requiring a fluid transition. In addition, this kata is an extremely strenuous leg exercise; it forces students to develop exceptional lower body strength and flexibility. Ichi no Hebi is a visually stunning kata with interesting bunkai.
Because of its complexity, Ichi no Hebi is reserved for advanced students.
- Form the Eye of Heaven. Lower your arms until they are horizontal at your sides, with palms facing down. Rotate your arms inward to reform the Eye of Heaven an arm’s length away, at chest level. Pull the Eye of Heaven into your chest, and lower it to waist level with ibuki breathing.
- Execute a right nami-ashi and clench your fists, pulling your hands to your shoulders (with palms facing #1). Step your right foot out to #7, entering a horse stance facing #1.
- Keeping your elbows fixed, rotate your forearms in a full-circle to the outside, ending in a double chūdan uke, with even harder ibuki breathing.
- Rise your center up and rotate your forearms inside, rubbing your knuckles together, and enter a wider-than-normal (i.e., double shoulder-width) ready stance with your knuckles facing #1.
- Quickly look to #3. Step your left foot out to #6, entering a right hook stance facing #1 with a downward-fist block to #3.
- Step your right foot to #8, entering a deep left back stance facing #3, with your hands by your right ear.
- Shift into a deep right front stance facing #3, rotate your arms 215° backward, striking the opponent’s groin at #3 with a left kakutō uchi, followed by a right tiger claw (palm facing upward) beneath it. Immediately pull straight back into a deep, left back stance with a tiger claw guard. Ibuki breathing is performed throughout this movement.
(Movements 5-7 will be referred to as a right snake movement; a left snake movement has the directions reversed.)
- From this low position, slither as in Futatsu Mae to #7 and execute a left snake movement to #3.
- Twist up into a left walking crane stance facing #5 with a Chugoku-te guard.
- Execute a right side kick to #3. Upon re-chambering, step your right foot to #2 and perform a left snake movement (see Movement 7).
- Quickly look to #5. Slide your left foot out to #2, entering a right hook stance facing #5. Cross your hands over your chest, with your right arm on the inside, and each palm touches the opposite shoulder.
- Slide your right foot to #3, entering a horse stance facing #5 with a double outside shutō block.
- Shift into a left full-side-facing with a left rising shutō block and a right downward pressing block.
- Rotate your right arm 270° in a large clockwise circle. Execute a right makikomi shutō to #5 with ibuki breathing.
- Slither as in Futatsu Mae to #1, and execute a right snake movement to #5.
- Execute a right leg sweep to #5. Upon re-chambering, step your right foot to #6, and enter a right back stance facing #1 with your hands crossed over your chest; your right arm is on the inside, and each palm touches the opposite shoulder.
- Shift into a left front stance with a double outside shutō block.
- Reach behind the opponent’s head at #1, and pull it down into a right knee kick. Immediately drop into a left sachin dachi with a double outside palmheel strike (with wrists touching) to the top of the opponent’s head, with nogare breathing.
- Quickly look to #7. Step your right foot to #6 and execute a left snake movement to #7.
- Step your right foot back to #3, entering a left extended hook stance with a right cross-body block.
- Lower yourself until you are almost kneeling; however, your right knee remains one fist width above the ground. Slowly execute a right downward elbow strike inside of a left rising block, ending with your right fist in front of your face.
- Step your left foot out to #2, entering a left back stance with a right rising block.
- Step your right foot out to #4, entering a right front stance to #4 with a left ude uke, while keeping your eyes fixed on #7
- Shift into a left front stance facing #7 with a right uraken uchi.
- In one graceful movement, circle your right arm 270° clockwise to your right hip, and slide up to a left hook stance with double palmheel strikes; a left rising palmheel strike to the opponent’s left shoulder, and a right rising palmheel strike to their left hip.
- Grab their belt and lapel, and pull your arms in.
- Step your left foot to #3, entering a left front stance facing #2, rotating your hands 180° counter-clockwise to execute a mountain punch to #2, throwing the opponent.
- Quickly look to #1. Pull up into a left sanchin dachi and catch a kick at waist level. Your right hand is on top. Execute this movement with nogare breathing. Rotate your hands 180° clockwise, and pull them up to your solar plexus. Lift and point your knee to #8, then execute a stomp kick to #1.
- Quickly look to #2. Step your right foot to #7, and execute a right snake movement to #2.
- Shift into a deep left front stance facing #2 with a right outside shutō block.
- Shift into a deep right back stance facing #2 with a left pressing block.
- Shift forward into another deep left front stance facing #2 with a right four-fingered spearhand strike, pulling your left hand into your right armpit.
- Slither as in Futatsu Mae, stepping your left foot to #5, and execute a left snake move to #2.
- Shift into a deep right front stance facing #2 with a left outside shutō block.
- Shift into a deep left back stance facing #2 with a right pressing block.
- Shift forward into another deep right front stancefacing #2 with a left four-fingered spearhand strike, pulling your right hand into your left armpit.
- Step your left foot to #3, entering a left front stance facing #2, striking an opponent with a simultaneous left backfist strike to their bridge_of_the_nose and a right tate tsuki to their solar plexus or abdomen.
- Step your right foot out to #1, entering a right front stance facing #2 with a right rising block.
- Step your left foot out to #3, entering a left front stance with a left cross-body block.
- Step up to a left walking crane stance facing #2 with a Chugoku-te guard.
- Execute a right side kick to #2, with an especially hard re-chamber, which acts as a right nami-ashi to #4.
- Step your right foot down to #3, entering a right front stance facing #4 with a downward X-block.
- Grab the opponent’s ankle, and pull back into a left cat stance facing #4, pulling your hands to your hips.
- Quickly look to #6. Invert your cat stance, and step your left foot to #7, entering a left front stance facing #6, with a downward X-block.
- Grab the opponent’s ankle, and pull back into a right cat stance facing #6, pulling your hands to your hips.
- Shift into a left sleeping crane stance facing #5, shooting your right arm out to #7. Rotate your right arm 270° clockwise, in a large straight-armed circle in front of your body. When your right arm reaches its zenith, begin to raise your left hand up to a throat-level palm-down spearhand guard. The ending position looks like the photo below:
[photo of this strep from the front and side]
- Switch to a Chugoku-te guard (both palms down) with ibuki breathing. Rotate clockwise, to look over your right shoulder to #1.
- Step right your foot to #6, entering a right back stance facing #1, with a left outside shutō block.
- Shift into a left front stance facing #1 with a left pressing block.
- Execute a right outside shutō block, immediately followed by a right grasping block.
- Shift up to a left sleeping crane stance facing #1, a with left ridgehand block. Pull your right hand to your right hip, palm up.
- Execute a right front kick.
- Upon re-chambering, briefly enter an attention stance before sliding your right foot out to #7, entering a horse stance facing #1 as you slap the opponent’s arm with your right hand. Then, grab their arm or sleeve with a left grasping block.
- Execute a right uraken uchi as you pull your left leg up into a right hook stance, facing #1.
- Execute a right nami-ashi, and step your right foot to #7, entering a deep horse stance facing #1. Push the opponent’s knees apart, and grab the inseam of their pants, then pull your hands to your hips for a Mittsu Mae takedown.
- Assume an attention stance. Goshin-Jutsu bow.
Please note that this kata covers lots of space. Rather than starting in the center of a ring, start from a point two large steps to the left (#3), and one large step back (to #5), as shown in the image below:
[modified points of harmony]
The Eye of Heaven in Movement 1 is the opening movement from Yottsu Mae Undō no Karatedō.
Do not kneel in Movement 21. While the almost-kneeling position is excruciatingly painful at first, it develops leg strength.
When people accidentally hit a wall while performing this kata, it is usually when they execute the side kick in Movement 41. Please be careful when performing this move.
Pay extra attention to Movements 48-52; students have had great difficulty remembering this series.
Movement 1-3 is a breathing coordination exercise.
An opponent from #3 attacks with a right front kick, which you evade and deflect (Movement 4). The opponent follows up with a left pursuit punch, which you evade and attempt to counter (Movements 5-7), but the opponent push-slides back to evade. The opponent attacks with a right pursuit punch, repeating the process on the other side (Movement 8). The opponent attacks again with a left pursuit punch, but you draw the opponent in (Movement 9) to being struck in the solar plexus with a side kick, as a lead this kata’s signature move: a “Monkey Steals the Peach”-like groin grab-and-yank (Movement 10). Undaunted, the opponent grabs your lapels or tries to strangle you. You attempt to evade this attack (Movement 11), and break out of it as soon as it is applied (Movement 12). The opponent immediately responds by grabbing your wrists, but you off-balance them and split their energy (Movement 13), before pressing their wrist against their other wrist to free your right hand for a makkikomi-shutō to their throat (Movement 14). The opponent launches one last ditch attack, which you evade and counter with another snake movement (Movement 15) before dumping your injured opponent with a leg sweep (Movement 16).
You quickly turn to face a new threat from #1 Movement 16) who grabs your lapels or tries to strangle you. You quickly break free (Movement 17) and knee the opponent in the face, before compressing their neck vertebrae, resulting in a crippling spinal cord concussion (Movement 18).
Another opponent attacks with a right pursuit from #7, but you duck their attack and counter with a snake movement (Movement 19). Angered by being struck the testicles, the opponent lashes out, and attacks with a left pursuit punch, which you evade and block (Movement 20). The opponent follows-up with a lunging right haymaker, which you evade and duck (Movement 21). Further infuriated by your show-off moves, the enraged opponent rapidly advances, attacking with a left and right pursuit punches, both of which you evade and block (Movements 22-23) before stunning the opponent with an uraken uchi (Movement 24) long enough to setup a hip toss (Movement 25-27).
Surprisingly, the second attacker has regained their composure, and attacks with a front kick to your abdomen. Since you were taken by surprise, there was no time to evade. Instead, you tense your abdominal muscles and drop into sanchin dachi to absorb the impact. By grabbing the opponent’s ankle, their balance is compromised and they cannot re-chamber their kick. Twisting their ankle forces the opponent to flip or topple to escape injury. Since their leg is in the way, you must reach around the opponent’s leg before breaking their spine with a stomp kick (Movement 28).
A new opponent attacks from #2 with a left pursuit punch, which you evade and counter with a snake movement (Movement 29). Enraged, the opponent quickly attacks with left and right punches, which you block (Movements 30-31) before attempting to crush the opponent’s throat with a four-fingered spearhand strike (Movement 32). Unwilling to learn from his mistakes, the opponent continues to attack, which is met with a similar response (Movements 33-36), except that you follow-up by closing in with a simultaneous backifist strike and tate tsuki, to the bridge of their nose and their solar plexus (Movement 37). The opponent throws left and right punches as he tried to create distance, but you block these attacks as you close in (Movements 38-39) before incapacitating them with a well-timed side kick (Movement 40-41).
During the previous battle, another attacker has had an opportunity to sneak up on you from #4, attacking with a roundhouse kick, which you check by quickly turning your re-chamber into a nami-ashi (Movement 41). The opponent re-chambers and quickly re-attacks with a front kick, which you trap with an X-block (Movement 42), which sets up an ankle break (Movement 43). The original attacker regains their composure and attacks with a front kick from #6, only to meet a similar fate (Movements 44-45).
Channel into your misspent youth spent watching Shaw Brothers and Cannon Films productions to make a bizzare, animé-like victory pose to win hearts and minds and you survey the scene for any signs of lingering resistance (Movements 46-47).
The attacker whom you recently side-kicked has recovered, and tries to sneak up behind you, attacking with a right punch from #1. However, you see this coming, and evade and block the attack (Movement 48). The opponent immediately counterattacks with a left punch, which you divert with a pressing block (Movement 49), then quickly grab their wrist (Movement 50) to setup ikkyō, driving the opponent midsection into a knee kick (Movement 51). To keep your crumpled opponent from falling on top of you, you need to clear off by pushing them away with a front kick (Movement 52).
Another attacker has regained consciousness, and attacks with a right pursuit punch from #7, but you evade and close in, countering with a slap-grab-uraken combination (Movements 53-54), However the opponent evades with an outside 7-3, and attacks with a right punch. However, you duck this punch, and take them out with a Mittsu-Mae takedown.