Hebi-Do Kata 1
Earth: Elbow and Knee Attacks
Upon learning the basic moves in a kata, most students assume that it is proper to move to the next kata because the movement in the next kata may seem more intense; they look “cooler,” “snappier,” etc. Use any adjective you wish. Though the moves in Hebi-do kata may appear simple and almost without grace or finesse, the concepts underlying it are the most important you will ever learn. The innate ramifications and esoteric elegance, which will be explained to you during the analysis sections, cause Hebi-do kata 1 to be a full-blown combat form—nothing less, and it must be treated as such. With practice and study, you will acknowledge it as such. If you do not understand what Hebi-do kata 1 is about, there is no way you will ever understand the 2nd, 3rd, 4th ,or 5th , other than the specific moves, or for that matter, any kata.
All concepts and theories of Hebi-ryu karate-do are revealed in this first kata. Understanding the concept is crucial. Then the moves become matter of fact. Hebi-do kata 1 is broken down into sequences that will enable you to put each set of moves together in functional form. It is suggested that you have physical control and understand the idea of each sequence before proceeding to the next. In this manner your actions will flow with ease and grace through the entire form.
Visualization of an actual attack coming in is imperative if you are to understand the realities of practical combat. You cannot normally go into the street and practice on passersby, but you can come to terms with its variations of reality if you start slowly and “see” the attacks coming in. This is very important if you are to get anything at all out of training in Hebi-do, or for that matter, in anything you do. To develop the ability to visualize the attacks, you must start slowly and “see” the attacks coming in as well as visualizing your technique in dealing with them. This takes time, though not that much. It is essential to understand and develop this concept.
Hebi-do 1 begins with a normal front facing stance with the hands in fist form held to the front. Any variations of the opening are acceptable, but they must be in context with the kata philosophy itself. This means that you may start from any position that your particular school requires as long as you can move into the first sequence properly.
This kata is sub-titled “elbows and knees.” When you are able to attack a target with your knees and elbows with ease and sophistication, you will have come to understand the ideas of going into the target and moving forward. As well, attack/no-attack becomes evident in your overall demeanor. Elbows and knees take courage to apply because you must go “into” the target and not permit fear to cause hesitation in your approach. As a result of a proper approach, you will have a tendency to attacker harder and faster, which is always to your advantage.
Inhaling deeply into the abdomen and exhaling forcefully during the entire sequence, attack to the left with an inside middle hammer fist deflection, palm down while using the left leg as a defensive gesture in the event of a kick attack. Immediately execute a lunging right knee and rising right elbow strike. Continue this attack with a right backfist to the face and a stomping right foot to the target’s instep. Execute a left reverse and right lunge punch bringing the left hand behind you as a deterrent to an enemy approaching from the rear. Drop into a left diagonal stance utilizing peripheral vision to the fullest extent with the left leg rearward.
The entire sequence is done as one motion and enables you to develop the attitude of going into the attack. It is essential to be facing directly into the enemy’s face when you make turns and shifts in position. If you don’t do this, you will be off-center and will miss the target of your own attack’s intent.
Keep in mind that the first sequence IS NOT a left deflection followed by a right knee, then a right elbow, then a right stomp, etc. It is done in one continuous movement and is not broken up into smaller segments. In Dojo no Hebi karate, the middle inside deflections are performed with the hammerfist palm down. The small finger side of the wrist is stronger than the thumb side and will avail you more power as you drive in with your attack.
The knee and elbow also serve as deterrents to an enemy’s reflexive defense and is at the same time a penetrating double attack. (Note that the elbow strike comes directly up into the enemy’s jaw and is not executed from the side that can cause you to be unnecessarily exposed to an incoming punch. The knee does not come around in a circular motion. It drives straight in.) The back fist to the top of the head or middle of the face is a natural continuation of the elbow strike prior to the two punches. The stomp nails the enemy’s foot to the ground. The back fist and the stomp are a two-step aspect of your attack done with one exhalation.
Breathing is done as one breath for the entire sequence. The life force, or “ki,” must be focused in order to penetrate the enemy’s defenses and exhalation of the breath must develop into a fierce guttural “kiai” and not a high-pitched scream. The opening deflection to the final lunge punch strike and rear deflection must be done as one continuous move with the appropriate changes in step. The knee, elbow, backfist, and stomp increase the depth and penetration of your attack when executed with resolve and commitment. Consider the possibility of going deeply into the attacker and only using the knee, elbow, stomp, and backfist. The rear deflection with the leg moved into position is an aspect of zanshin, awareness, and should be developed as such.
The entire sequence is done as one continuous move. It is not 2 moves nor is it a 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 combination. All motion must be fluid, quick, and powerful. To develop the power needed to bring off this type of attack, you must practice by adding one technique at a time until the entire sequence is accomplished. If you execute with more than one attitude of attack, your posture, stance, and commitment are wrong.
Make certain you understand what I mean by having proper balance to execute correctly. It is essential to be firmly rooted. If the sequence is not done in one move, then there will be hesitation between movements regardless of your speed and it will show as a lack of conviction in your attack. This example should indicate to you why people complain about kata moves not working. There must be total commitment to the application of the technique. If there is not, then you can practice from now until doomsday and you will never effectively or efficiently use the techniques correctly in combat.
Without changing position, and inhaling deeply after extending the left arm as a low deflection (you have already turned 180 degrees to the left in a crouch), use the left leg for target orientation and move forward with the right leg raised as a kick deflection while executing a right inside hammer fist as a punch deflection. Execute a driving left rising elbow strike and left knee attack continuing into the left backfist and left stomp. Fire a right reverse punch and left lunge punch to finish the attack sequence.
This is a mirror of sequence 1. The rear deflection while crouching considers the possibility of an incoming attack. You thwart a potential intent during the 180-degree turn while maintaining a low stance because you don’t know what level of attack may be coming. This position enables a low, middle, or high defense and will be developed in the improvisation section. The low stance enables you to “spring” into an attack with the help of the left leg. The middle deflection enables you to change height instantly to ward off a high or middle attack.
At this point you have theoretically “killed” two enemies. Continue to practice sequence 1 and 2 as one move until you completely understand their implication. Understand WHY you are making these moves, which is to deal with 2 attacks while changing direction. If you do not practice with the correct attitudes of destroying attacks, then it is foolish to continue with the kata, or for that matter, karate. There is no other reason to practice these martial arts moves.
Form is essential in practice. It enables you to perfect your sense of self during enemy destroying attacks: functioning with correct balance and posture to execute properly. Examples of this are that the feet must always be pointed towards the target and shoulders must never be extended in an attempt to reach the target because you will be firing outside of your range. Approach the target with the torso and synchronize your hips with the steps and strikes.
Remember that karate is not for fighting (in the limited sense of the word) and it is not for self-defense in the manner generally taught and thought about. It is specifically for destroying attacks in combat situations. Contemplation of this attitude will enable you to understand what you are doing. Karate is not a game and it is not a competition form for trophies. It is a “way” of being. There is no other reason to use it. That is why the true warrior does not get into “fights.” Fools fight in an attempt to show off who is stronger and faster. Their egos are small. Develop a big ego and supreme self-confidence through practice, meditation, and visualization. Then approach your everyday affairs with moral self-righteousness and continue to go forward.
Turning 90 degrees to the left in a low stance, execute a left down deflection as an extension of the previous left lunge punch in sequence 2 and snap into a left rising deflection in the manner of avoiding a kick and high punch attack. Continue with a right lunge punch, half step left straight punch, right lunge punch, and a final left lunge punch all in one breath with a powerful “kiai.”
In combat situations you must commit to your attack and focus through the moves you make remembering that kata sequencing is for combat situations. You must follow through with complete devotion to the “moves.” This sequence enables you to accept and release great energy while performing a set of 6 moves as one attack. This develops your ability to chase an enemy in retreat while continuing to go into the attack.
The reason for the halfstep is because when you are chasing an enemy in retreat, you may be moving faster than the target and can become entangled with the target’s body. The halfstep enables you to maintain control of your balance by forcing a redirection of your own intent. You do not always “fight” on a flat surface, so practice of this seemingly awkward step will enhance your ability to proceed over rough terrain as well and eventually will develop into muscle memory. Strive to make your feet flow smoothly.
Turn 90 degrees to the right in a low stance using the right leg as a deflection with correct form while delivering a strong right knife hand deflection (deep towards the shoulder of the target) immediately raising and thrusting the open palm into the enemy’s face. Step in with the left knee, elbow, backfist, and stomp. Execute right reverse, and stepping in, left lunge punch dropping the right hand behind you as in sequence 1. Develop a “kiai” from the beginning to the end of this sequence.
In this sequence, as in all sequences, you are driving into the enemy most aggressively. This committed move forces the enemy back so you can protect yourself from an incoming rear attack. The turn to the right must be kept low and must be executed quickly while you maintain awareness through peripheral vision of any possible attacker or attackers coming from the left. Do not forget to penetrate deeply. Do not forget to “kiai.” The sequence is done as in all Hebi-do sequences, as one move, and must be performed with good balance and posture or you will be ineffective and have no balance or poise moving into the next sequence.
Turning 180 degrees left executing a left knife hand deflection as in sequence 4 using the left leg as a deterrent against a possible kick. Continue the penetration as in the last sequence with the left palm and knee. Continue with the right knee and elbow attack into the backfist and stomp. Execute a left reverse and right lunge punch.
The differences in sequences 4 and 5 consider the fact that you will not always execute the same technique even if situations are the same. Maintaining full force and authority is essential throughout performance of kata. You must believe in your actions and execute correct form and balance. Continue to think in terms of going into the attack remembering that you can only “fight” the way that you practice.
The intensity of the attacks in sequences 4 and 5 must indicate your developing intentions growing out of the previous 3 sequences. This is a mental attitude that develops over time based on your will to succeed. It is not a physical exertion. To strain yourself is incorrect in that you begin to lose control, which begins by shallow breathing. Put extra resolve into the kata at this point if you are beginning to tire. Maintain commitment. Do not look for speed, but rather quickness and excellence of execution.
Shift 90 degrees to the left executing a middle palm down defense and extend it into a downward deflection to a low position in the manner of releasing an enemy’s grip on your wrist with the attitude of going forward. Without stepping in, switch leg positions and execute a downward right hammerfist strike as if breaking the enemy’s grasp of your left hand and fire a left reverse punch. Step forward with a right lunge punch, half step left straight punch, right lunging knee and elbow, and finally, a left lunging knee and elbow. Develop a fierce “kiai” throughout the sequence.
The addition of the extra block to break the enemy’s possible grasp of your arm trains you to act instantly to thwart an enemy’s attempt to redirect your spirit. Your endeavor is to break the attacker’s grip with this downward strike. You can also break his wrist and hand if you strike with authority and conviction.
The switch in stance gives you the added ability to “spring” into the attacker with full conviction. You should take care that you do not jump up and come down with your body weight when executing the switch. Always maintain the same height.
The follow through of punches, knees, and elbows has the same intention of chasing the enemy in retreat as in sequence 3. Equal force and intent should be applied when executing technique from either side of the body with either left or right hands and feet.
Step forward diagonally to the left with the right leg and turn 225 degrees to the left while executing left lower (palm down) and right middle (palm up) outside deflections instantly followed by a right front groin snap kick and a charging left lower abdomen reverse and right lunge face punch.
Maintain the attitude of going forward and going into the attack regardless of the direction your body is moving in. This turn is used to develop the agility needed when forced to make awkward moves specifically if you are being rushed from behind. The two deflections are used to protect against a kick and punch attack. Your kick opens the enemy enabling you to penetrate with the two punches that are fired as extensions of the kick. The punches develop the ability to blast the attacker with body punches and no more than 2 should ever be necessary. All of the sequences in Hebi-do 1 are realistic approaches to street situations.
Turning 90 degrees to the right and maintaining a low stance, execute a right lower and left outside middle deflection. Execute a left front thrust kick, middle right reverse and low left lunge punch. Step back to starting position.
Whenever you practice a mirror image technique, care must be given to put as much into it as into the previous sequence. Different parts of the body function differently even when you are doing the same technique. Do not favor one side of your body over the other.
Developing Kata Performance
Kata is a series of moves forming sequences that comprise a simulated combat scenario. The full kata should take no longer than 30 seconds. Strive for this basic time goal and eventually bring the time down to approximately 20 seconds. Keep working towards the goal of no time and no space. In a perfectly performed kata, the starting floor position should always be the same as the ending position, and though this takes considerable practice, it is possible, and you should strive for this aspect of execution. Eventually, you will want to execute the entire kata without moving more than 3 feet in any direction. This is the ideal, at which time you will have become enlightened of purpose.
Hebi-do kata 1 is described in a series of eight sequences. The objective in learning any kata is to compress the activity of movement and, at the same time, enable you to become more effective and efficient. To make the kata easier to deal with, begin with the moves in sequence 1 first. When these moves become one action, then proceed to the moves in sequence 2, etc. When all of the sequence transitions are smoothly executed, then execute the individual sequences 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 into 1 sequence using correct “ki:” breathing, posture, and balance. Do this until the entire kata is performed as one combat meditation experience. This is the only way to perform kata.
To further illustrate this idea, sequence 1 + sequence 2 become 1,2 and both then become 1. This means you practice 1+2 separately, combining them into 1 sequence. Then, 1 (1,2)+3 = 1,3 = 1, after 1+2 become 1, add 3, eventually making 1,2,3 = 1 sequence. This approach continues until you have 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 = 1. The idea is to bring the kata under full control by incorporating the different sequences into an actual battle meditation. I break Hebi-do kata 1 into three sections at an early level of training by executing sequences 1,2,3, then sequences 4,5,6, then sequences 7,8. The ultimate aim of kata is to perform with authority and correct attitude the entire kata as one combat meditation while completely understanding the reason for each of the tactics in the sequences. It is essential to do this, otherwise you will simply be flailing your arms and legs around trying to imagine that you are in control when in actuality you are not. Breathing and utilization of correct rhythm will enable you to execute to the end of the kata without loss of breath or control.
Improvisational Development for Kata
Once you are proficient with the sequences, they should be incorporated into a daily training schedule to increase proficiency of technique. This enables you to use specific technique from the kata in various simulated combat scenarios. This is how style, technique, and self-defense concepts develop. Visualization is an essential requirement for work in this format.
The way to develop improvisation is to do the entire kata as explained without stopping while executing variations of sequence format. As an example, though the kata is broken into eight sequences in the order of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, each of these sequences can be used in any order, i.e., 1,3,6,4,7,8,5,5,4,6,3, etc.
By working the sequences in a random pattern, the student becomes able to use the techniques in any order and does not have to rely on a specific set of attacks in a given situation. Improvisation can last as long as you can last and will certainly enhance the ability to work in any direction with any combination. When you finish with improvisation, the original kata should be repeated in the prescribed form. For maximum performance, endeavor to end the kata as close as possible to where it began. It is most important to use ONLY moves from the kata without bringing in moves from other kata and thereby losing control. An additional result of practicing in this method is to get full control of the actual moves and being able to use them in so-called “self-defense” situations. Additionally, improvising kata takes on a meditational aspect that increases the student’s awareness of his or her individual “warriorness.” It is suggested that once the sequences are controlled and the practitioner is fluid in motion, music be used to enhance the pleasure of kata performance.
Variations of Technique
After a period of time, the student will feel comfortable with the prescribed moves both formally and improvisationally. At this time it is suggested that variations be brought into the exercise. Instead of practicing with the down deflection as in sequence 3 and 6, rising deflection technique might be employed. The idea is to get totally familiar with the entire gamut of possibilities within the structure of the kata. For example, there is no roundhouse or side kick in the first kata, but they can be used where kicking is called for, though they should not be used indiscriminately as this will only cause a loss of focus on the goal of the kata itself. It is vital to use only the movements from the kata, even though you are using variations in deflection, punch, and kick combinations.
Do not permit yourself to lose control with unnecessary amounts of punches, kicks, etc. If you use seven or eight punches in an attacking technique, it is because you didn’t execute the first one properly. Maintain the goal of completely understanding the kata. You will find that “street self-defense” becomes matter-of-fact when it must be used.
Once all of the above is understood, and the student functions with ability, sequences should be practiced as definitive attacks, offensively and defensively, and with a partner if possible. Attacks should be executed with exactness. In this manner the student instinctively learns to use the techniques taught by the kata. Individual sequences should be practiced in one-step, semi-free, and free-style format.