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Bunkai -- Three's

We often see sequences of triple movements in kata. In Pinan Nidan, for example, there are three jodan uke (high blocks) done in sequence toward the front and three jodan tsuki (high punches) done toward the back. There are three chudan shuto uke (middle knife hand blocks) done toward the front in Pinan Shodan. Threes are common in many kata. Why is this?

One explanation is that these represent important techniques that should be repeated for practice purposes.

Another explanation is that the three movements should be interpreted differently. For example, the first two jodan uke in Pinan Nidan may be high blocks but the third might be a rising strike under the attacker's jaw. For any sequence of three identical movements, the first two are usually interpreted the same but the third is interpreted differently.

Triple movements also present opportunities for body mechanic exploration. The first movement, for example, might be emphasized (somewhat fixed), but the second and third might flow together.

There is also another explanation. Each movement actually represents a range of movement. A jodan uke, for example, is not only a high block, but a downward block, middle block, high block, and all levels in between. The jodan uke, then, is like a wild card. We practice the kata with three jodan uke, but should be able to execute all blocks in the wild card range (low to high).

There are no simple kata -- only simple views and explanations. Each kata contains a wealth of information if we are willing to look carefully.


Charles C. Goodin