Nihon no Bōkata

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Nihon no Bōkata (“Staff form of Japan”) is the fundamental staff-fighting exercise in Goshin-Jutsu. While it was originally used as an introduction to bōjutsu, more can be gained from it when the student already has some familiarity with bōjutsu and the kata method of learning. As such, it is usually reserved for intermediate students. When performed correctly, the bō moves fluidly, without stopping between movements.

Directions

[video of Nihon no Bokata, 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. ]

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  1. Slide your right foot back to #5, and drop into left cat stance with a rising block.
  2. Slide your right foot up to an attention stance with a left side block.
  3. Execute a right nami-ashi. Step your right foot to #1, entering a horse stance facing #3 with a downward block.
  4. Chamber the bō under your right armpit, then execute a thrust to #1.
  5. Pull up into a left sleeping crane stance facing #1, with a left side block.
  6. Step your right foot to #8, entering a right front stance facing #1, with a downward diagonal strike to the right.
  7. Quickly look to #5, and execute a left nami-ashi, chambering the bō under your right armpit
  8. Quickly look to #1, and step your left foot to #1, entering a horse stance facing #7, with a thrust to #1.
  9. Quickly look to #5, and execute a right nami-ashi. Step your left foot to #5, entering a horse stance facing #7, with a thrust to #5.
  10. Quickly look to #1. Step your right leg to #6, entering a right back stance facing #1, with a vertical block (left hand on top).
  11. Step your right foot to #8, entering a right front stance facing #1, as you rotate the bō a half revolution to the left hip, a half revolution to the right hip, and execute a downward diagonal strike to the left.
  12. Quickly look over your left shoulder to #5. Step your right leg to #2, entering a right back stance facing #5, with a vertical block (left hand on top).
  13. Step your right foot to #4, entering a right front stance facing #5, as you rotate the bō a half revolution to the left hip, a half revolution to the right hip, and execute a downward diagonal strike to the left.
  14. Quickly look over your left shoulder to #1. Step your left foot to #2, entering a left front stance facing #1 with a left side block.
  15. Step your right foot to #8, entering a right front stance with a downward diagonal strike to the right.
  16. Execute a left nami-ashi, stepping your left foot to #5, entering a horse stance facing #3 with a right low-level strike to #1.
  17. Parry the low end of the bō clockwise.
  18. Execute a right nami-ashi, chambering the bō by shooting your left arm at a 45° angle up into the air, towards #5. Step your right foot to #1, entering a left full-side-facing to #3, with a downward thrust to #1.
  19. Quickly look to #1. Slide your left foot back to #2, entering a right hook stance facing #1 as you change grip on the bō. Hold the bō like a baseball bat, vertically on your right side. The right hand does not move; it remains 2 feet (~60 cm) from the end of the bō. The left hand grasps the middle of the short end of the bō, 1 foot (~30 cm) from the end.
  20. Step your left foot to #6, entering a left front stance facing #5 with a horizontal “baseball swing” to the left.
  21. Step your right foot up to your left foot, entering a transitionalattention stance, raising your left arm to tilt the bō diagonally to your left. Immediately step your left foot out to #6, entering a left front stance facing #5, with a diagonal downward baseball strike to the left.
  22. Quickly look to #3. Slide your left foot to #2, entering a right hook stance facing #5, sliding your hands down the length of the bō to reassume a standard grip for a downward block.
  23. Execute a clockwise parry to #3 with the right end of the bō.
  24. Invert your stance and execute a right nami-ashi, chambering the bō under your left armpit, then step your right foot to #3, entering a horse stance facing #5, with a thrust to #3.
  25. Quickly look to #7. Slide your left foot in to #2, entering a right hook stance facing #5 with a downward block.
  26. Execute a left nami-ashi, chambering the bō under your right armpit, then step your left foot to #7, entering a horse stance facing #5, with a thrust to #7.
  27. Execute a right nami-ashi, stepping your right foot to #5, entering a horse stance facing #7 with a downward block.
  28. Execute a right nami-ashi, stepping your right foot to #6 and entering a right back stance facing #1, with a rising block.
  29. Shift forward to a left front stance facing #1 with a downward block.
  30. Shift into a right front stance facing #7 with a left downward side strike to #1.
  31. Lift your right knee towards #7, then step your right foot to #1, entering a horse stance facing #3 with a right low-level strike to #1.
  32. Parry the low end of the bō clockwise.
  33. Execute a right nami-ashi, chambering the bō by shooting your left arm at a 45° angle up into the air, towards #5. Step your right foot to #1, entering a left full-side-facing to #3, with a downward thrust to #1.
  34. Attention stance. Bow.

Notes

The step back in step Movement 1 is a small step; just far enough to enter a cat stance.

Movements 11 and 13 are identical; they just face different walls. Students have difficulty with these movements because their upper body and lower body must operate on different rhythms. The lower body is a two-count movement (leg in, leg out) while the upper body is on a three-count movement (block left, block right, strike). Both the upper body and lower body must also be synchronized to finish at the same time for an effective strike. To make it easier, some students will make a “kayaking” motion instead of full side blocks. Do not do this. If you do not learn to block, you will be injured; it’s that simple.

The “baseball” strikes of Movement 20 and 21 cannot be performed with a standard kiai. Your regular kiai is too weak for such a brutal move; it will make your kata cold, dry, and expressionless; it makes it into an obligation instead of an opportunity. Brutal moves need a brutal kiai. However, this should not exceed 150% of your normal kiai intensity; anything past that is counterproductive since it shifts your focus away from the strike.

Bunkai

An opponent, armed with a bō approaches from #1, and immediately attacks with a downward strike and a horizontal strike to your left side, both of which you quickly block (Movements 1-2). Step in an press down on the opponent’s lead hand to push it out of the way (Movement 3) to create an opening for a thrust (Movement 4). The opponent attacks again, with a horizontal strike to your left side, which you block (Movement 5) and counter with a downward diagonal strike to their right temple (Movement 6).

However, in a classic pincer maneuver, the battle with opponent at #1 was just a diversion for the attacker approaching from #5. Trapped, you stun both attackers with thrusts to the solar plexus to buy time (Movements 7-9). The attacker at #1 is the first to recover, attacking with a thrust or horizontal strike your right side, which you wedge aside with a vertical block (Movement 10). The opponent at #1 quickly attacks with horizontal strike to your left and right side, which you block and counter with a downward diagonal strike to their left temple (Movement 11). The attacker at #5 recovers and attempts a similar attack, and meets a similar fate (Movements 12-13).

The opponent at #1 attacks again with a horizontal strike, which you block (Movement 14) and counter with a downward diagonal strike to their right temple (Movement 15), and follow up with a strike to the side of their knee (Movement 16). Since their damaged knee can no longer bear weight, they must shift their weight to the other side. Hooking the end of you bō in the crook of their broken knee, you sweep their leg out from under them with a parrying motion (Movement 17). Unable to stand, they cannot evade your finishing blow to their groin, solar plexus, or throat (Movement 18).

The opponent at #5 recovers long enough to assume a guard, expressing further hostile intent. You reciprocate (Movement 19) and quickly vanquish them with punishing, powerful blows to their left floating ribs (Movement 20) and their left temple (Movement 21).

Additional opponents approach from #3 and #7. You assume a standard grip and a transitional posture, so you can move to counter either threat (Movement 22). The opponent at #3 attacks with a thrust, but you redirect their attack (Movement 23) and counter-thrust (Movement 24). Seeing the gravity of the situation, they drop their weapon, go home, and rethink their life. As such, they are not to be pursued; they to be spared.

The opponent at #7 holds their ground, standing in a right fighting stance. You reassume a transitional posture, so you can quickly move to counter their threat (Movement 25). You thrust at their solar plexus (Movement 26), but they step-slide to their right, and attack with a horizontal strike to your right side, which you block (Movement 27). Capitalizing on the momentum, the opponent steps their left foot to #8, turns toward you, and attacks with a downward strike, which you also block (Movement 28). The opponent tries to smash the side of your knee with a low side strike, but you counter it by performing the same move (Movement 29), resulting in a clash. Reaching your rear leg up and over, you stomp down on the opponent’s bō, disarming them (Movement 30), and quickly countering by striking the side of their knee (Movement 31). Since their damaged knee can no longer bear weight, they must shift their weight to the other side. Hooking the end of you bō in the crook of their broken knee, you sweep their leg out from under them with a parrying motion (Movement 32). Unable to stand, they cannot evade your finishing blow to their groin, solar plexus, or throat (Movement 33).