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One kata for one hour.

A blending of two distinct styles of karate.

I suspect that when it comes to picking a single kata to practice for an hour, not everyone’s first choice is going to be, Hangetsu.

But I like this kata. For one thing, of all the Shotokan katas, Hangetsu is the only one in which we do movements in a manner normally associated with Goju-Ryu karate. This connection to Goju-Ryu resides in all of the hand, and foot movements, from the very first move, to the very last move prior to the rear facing turn. As in typical of Goju-Ryu all of these movements are all done slowly, with audible, deep abdominal breathing, and with tension throughout.

The remaining movements after the rear facing turn are then performed much more quickly, and rhythmically, in keeping with our Shotokan style. This combination of two opposing styles of karate has created for us a kata that is not only unique, but one that is far more complex than it first appears. Like any other kata in the Shotokan syllabus, many years of training are required in order to appreciate all that Hangetsu has to offer.

Now it is not uncommon for Shotokan students studying Hangetsu to occasionally seek additional information on the intricacies of this kata. Aside from the online videos that exist today, many students are also likely to refer to one of two popular karate publications. One being book number seven in the Best Karate series by Masatoshi Nakayama sensei, published in 1981, and Karate-Do Kyohan by Master Gichin Funakoshi, published in 1973. (*)

While the embusen of Hangetsu is the same in both books, some of the stances, and hand techniques are different. I am referring specifically to movements in the latter part of the kata where a series of three pivoting transitions take place, numbered 1, 2, & 3 below.

1. Book Seven:

The first transition starts from a rear facing hangetsu-dachi after having completed two chudan tsukis. Pivoting on the right foot do a large semi-circular motion with your left foot, and your left hand, so as to finish facing forward in kokutsu dachi, and with a left chudan uraken uchi. Stepping across with the right foot, do a left chudan mae geri, land in hangetsu dachi, and immediately do a left gedan barai, right chudan tsuki, and a left jodan age uke.

Karate-Do Kyohan:

The first transition starts from a rear facing hangetsu-dachi after having completed two chudan tsukis. Pivoting on the right foot do a large semi-circular motion with your left foot, and your left hand, so as to finish facing forward in a kiba dachi, and with a left chudan uraken uchi. Stepping across with the right foot, do a left chudan mae geri, land in kiba dachi, and immediately do a left chudan tsuki forward, then keeping your feet in place, turn into the left and face forward in a narrow left zenkutsu dachi, and immediately do a right chudan tsuki, and a left jodan age uke.

2. Book Seven:

The second transition starts from the front facing hangetsu dachi after having completed the left jodan age uke. Pivoting on the left foot do a large semi-circular motion with your right foot, and your right hand, so as to finish facing to the rear in kokutsu dachi, and with a right chudan uraken uchi. Stepping across with the left foot, do a right chudan mae geri, land in a hangetsu dachi, and immediately do a right gedan barai, left chudan tsuki, and a right jodan age uke.

Karate-Do Kyohan:

The second transition starts from the front facing zenkutsu dachi after having completed the left jodan age uke. Pivoting on your left foot, do a large semi-circular motion with your right foot, and your right hand, so as to finish facing to the rear in kiba dachi, with a right chudan uraken uchi. Stepping across with the left foot, do a right chudan mae geri, land in kiba dachi, and immediately do a right chudan tsuki forward, and then keeping your feet in place, turn to the right, and face to the rear in a narrow right zenkutsu dachi, and immediately do a left chudan tsuki, and a right jodan age uke.

3. Book Seven:

The third transition starts from the rear facing kokutsu dachi after having completed the right jodan age uke. Pivoting on the right foot, do a large semi-circular motion with your left foot, and your left hand, so as to finish facing forward in kokutsu dachi, with a left chudan uraken uchi. Open your hand, extend your arm, and kick your hand with a right chudan mika zuki geri, then immediately bring your right foot back, land in hangetsu dachi, and do a right gedan tsuki to the front, with kiai..

Karate-Do Kyohan:

The third transition starts from the rear facing zenkutsu dachi after having completed the right jodan age uke. Pivoting on the right foot do a large semi-circular motion with your left foot, and your left hand, so as to finish facing forward in kiba dachi, with a left chudan uraken uchi. Open your hand, extend your arm, and now kick your hand with a right chudan mika zuki geri, then immediately bring your right foot back, land in hangetsu dachi, and do a right gedan tsuki to the front, with kiai.

Is one way of doing the transitions better than the other?

No.

The footwork in Karate-Do Kyohan is simply different. Therefore it does not flow as easily requiring a slightly different approach, but it clearly illustrates the kata of Master Funakoshi's time.

While Nakayama sensei’s book seven has a much more fluid approach to the transitions, and clearly illustrates a more modern approach to the kata

Remember: “Change is the beginning of something new, so embrace it, and see where it leads you.