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Kata Corner - Tekki

This content is taken from the book, Kata, The Folk Dances of Shotokan by Rob Redmond

The Tekki kata are three unusual kata in the Shotokan system. Originally Tekki were referred to as the Naihanchi. Naihanchi can be written in many ways including one way that means "in the middle of the battlefield." Naihanchi were given the new name of Tekki by Funakoshi to replace the Okinawan name. Other styles still practice these kata under the name Naihanchi. Unlike many of Funakoshi's other attempts at renaming kata, this new name took hold and became commonly used. The new name, Tekki, is composed of two kanji characters. The first character is Tetsu, and it means "iron" or "steel." The second character is Ki, and it means "ride on a horse", "equestrian", or "knight." Iron Knight, Steel Knight, Steel Horse Riding are all valid interpretations. The Okinawan name is written in Nagamine's "Essence of Okinawan Karate-do" using a kanji for han that I cannot locate even when I search Chinese dictionaries. Kanazawa writes the name in three ways. The two ways above, and with katakana which are used to write foreign words. The two words above both begin with "nai." Nai means "inside" or "inner." The hanchi part is different between the two. The one on the left is "walk + progress." The one on the right is more complicated. The middle kanji means the land that is between two rice paddies. The last means battle or war. A battle on a narrow walkway of dirt between rice paddies? I am tempted to conclude that all ways of writing this word are being reverse engineered by these authors and that no one really knows how to write it - not even the Okinawans.

Equestrian Karate The fact that the horse riding stance is used throughout these kata may lead one to believe that the kata is symbolic of fighting techniques that would be used by a horseman in combat. Are the techniques supposed to be used from the back of a horse? The Tekki were considered very important by Funakoshi. In many of his texts, he refers to years of training in the Naihanchi kata. Since there is so much emphasis on stepping sideways, the knees are thought to be strengthened through practice of the Tekki kata. Also, the sideways movement of the legs has been found to be quite beneficial to people with knee problems. Therapists are frequently recommending side to side knee training exercises to people with bad knees. Also, the horse riding stance itself is very beneficial for strong knee development. Perhaps Funakoshi's love of the kata paid him some benefits.

The Source The Tekki kata are thought to be much older than the Heian kata. There are three Tekki, and number two and number three (Nidan and Sandan) are thought by some to have been created by the inventive Itosu Yasutsune. The first Tekki kata is often credited to Matsumura Sokon of Tomari City, Okinawa. However, no one can really be sure, since no real records exist to confirm or deny this story.

Runts of the Litter The Tekki kata are a little repetitive and contain some unusual hand techniques. Although when asked most karate experts will agree that practice of the Tekki is very important, in reality few Karate experts ever train the Tekki kata with any diligence at all. The Tekki are seen as runts in the kata litter in today's karate, and they merit little more than token practice among many.

Applications Gold Mines Do not skip over the Tekki as though they are unimportant. I cannot fault anyone for having such feelings about Tekki, since none of the keepers of Funakoshi's legacy have passed down any reasonable Tekki applications to their students. The Tekki kata contain training in many techniques and combat sequences which are quite effective and necessary for a thorough understanding of hand techniques. Finding these techniques is quite a feat, because the side to side stepping usually manages to disguise what is really going on. Schmeisser's Rules for reverse engineering kata applications indicate that anytime your feet cross, you are actually supposed to be pivoting in place. The corners have been removed from the Tekki, and the kata's actual directions unfolded into a giant straightline. Once folded back into a box shape, the Tekki are a fascinating study of shifting, turning, and brutally crushing techniques which allow the enemy no quarter. The Tekki are hair pulling, knee stomping, genitalia squashing, throat crushing action from start to finish. In fact, the finish can be interpreted more deeply than simply two punches to the side. Instead, you can grab your opponent's head, pull it to your hip to smash his nose, then reverse your grip and throw his head away. This could potentially crack someone's neck because their head will twist violently against their neck. Note: do not actually do that to someone that you do not wish to see buried in a graveyard.

Tekki are more than a simple exercise in brutal combat. They also offer several keys to understanding basic techniques. The return wave kick which appears in Tekki Shodan is very educational for foot sweeping and throwing leg movements. Any good foot sweep has three components: the angle of attack, the sideward sweeping action, and the lifting component. The return wave kick has all three of these components, though that isn't how I would use it in combat!