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Gedanbarai and gedan oizuki in Taikyoku

One of the tools I use for practicing and teaching karate-do kihon (basics) is Taikyoku (The Universal kata), also known as kihon kata. Taikyoku is sort of just a template into which you can put various kihon to practice them. I practice and teach Taikyoku in three forms, similar but not exactly the same as Funakoshi’s Taikyoku shodan, nidan, and sandan. I call my versions Taikyoku gedan (low-level), chudan (mid-level), and jodan (hi-level).
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In Taikyoku gedan, the blocks are gedanbarai (low sweeping block) and the strikes are gedan oi tsuki (low lunge punch). Once you get the basic form of the thing and know where to move your feet and hands, the question always arises, “What is the target? What am I blocking and where am I striking?”
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Gedanbarai is often interpreted as a low block used to sweep a kick aside, but you can also consider it a hammerfist attack to any low-section target. It can also be interpreted in a grappling sense as grabbing some high-section thing (like hair), twisting, and jerking it downward. The gedan oitsuki can be a punch into groin, bladder, or kidneys of a standing opponent, or a punch to virtually any target on a downed opponent.
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I take a broad view of the motions at this fundamental level of the game. For instance, In this photo, can you tell if he has just done gedanbarai (low sweeping block) or gedan oitsuki (low lunge punch)? No, you can’t because they both end up in virtually the same position. You can’t tell from the ending position what path the arm took to get there. Thus, this general-purpose motion/position can be used for a lot of different things.
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So, Taikyoku gedan is a kata that is all about two ways (sweeping or punching) of getting your arm into this low position. That’s all there is to it – right? (Warning: watch out any time someone says, “all there is to it” or “just do…” Also remember, Funakoshi titled this exercise the ‘universal kata.’)
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5 comments:

  1. Just found your blog for the first time and I'm very impressed with the quality and content of your posts. I love the idea of a universal kata as a training tool , it has endless possibilities! Our initial training kata is Shihozuki which is basically the gedan barai block followed by chudan oi zuki in four different directions with emphasis on look, prep, turn. I'm only just starting to realise now how important these basic kata moves are to learning more advanced kata (I'm a 4th kyu). I'll be revisiting your site for more tips!

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  2. Thank you! I'm so glad that you found Mokuren Dojo and have gotten something out of it. Keep on coming back and leaving comments so I can tell when I hit a home run and when I am off-base ;-)

    Some of the TKD guys do a kata (chonji) that is similar in concept to shihozuki:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1usXzVAehg

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  3. Nice sign-post!

    This post reminded me of a segment of this clip wherein another "universal form" is shown. I had practiced something very close to that "universal form" before but without being told -- or twigging to -- its universality. On re-examination I started finding all sorts of cross-connections with other stuff that I "knew".

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  4. Previously, I'd only ever been told of the basic block-punch that kihon exhibits, but since chancing schools in 2007, and particularly over the last 6-12 months of my training, there has been a big emphasis on thinking outside the square with my learning of kata applications. This was an excellent and simple post that demonstrates there is often much more to kata than what you see at first glance :)

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  5. First of all, I find this to be very interesting in general and very enlightening. I'm just unsure about where you say that after gedanbarai and gedan oitsuki the position is exactly the same. The way my sensei taught us, after a gedanbarai (given that it is a block) the torso should be oriented at 45 degrees, that is with the chest facing front and right if you executed a left gedanbarai, like the karateka in the photo above. On the other hand, after an oitsuki of any level, the torso should be facing squarely in front. Kindly correct me if I am wrong, or perhaps misunderstood.
    Thanks, regards, and keep up the good work!

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