Some of my commentators have mentioned that they think I'm nuts regarding my grappling naihanchi ideas, and some others have said it is (at least) an interesting idea - worth exploring. What is it that makes me think that naihanchi is mostly about grappling as opposed to kick-punch or some other theme?
First, grappling does not necessarily mean wallowing around on the ground. It means grabbing and holding and pushing and pulling and generally striving in prolonged contact with the opponent. This description pretty much fits naihanchi to a tee.
- Nearly all of the obvious strikes in the kata are performed with the striking limb bent approximately 90 degrees, shortening the range.
- The kicks are all short, fast actions that are most easily interpreted as striking with your knee, stepping on feet, or kicking your opponent's knees. These actions pretty much only ever happen at extreme close range.
- The kata features nearly all closed-handed techniques, which can be treated as punches, but which most authors suggest indicate closing the hand on something - i.e. grabbing.
- ...and, corrolary to the previous point, if you are in range to grab them then they are in range to grab you.
- Most all of the Okinawan kata have at least some common grappling applications (pulling as you hit, maybe a leg throw, etc...) but naihanchi is absolutely rife with grappling interpretations of every single movement in the kata. And this observation holds across pretty much all schools.
It seems pretty obvious to me from the selection of techniques in the kata, that it was designed with close-quarters combat, and with grappling in mind.