People familiar with the Niseishi/Nijushiho kata are often curious about the differences between the older and modern versions. There are many versions out there with their own variations, but one sequence in particular tends to be a focal point for speculation: the bit following the “rising block” and elbow strike.

The common modern version goes into a horse stance followed by a high side kick and a hooking punch. To anyone with any practical experience, this makes absolutely no sense. Think about it- If you have just parried an arm that is close enough to strike you, is there really room to throw a side thrust kick into the attacker’s face? And if that kick lands will the attacker still be close enough to hit with a close hooking punch to the body? In the world outside of the courtesies of the dojo, the person throwing the punch will probably not stop after one attempt and wait for you to get a leg up to his chin. Standing on one leg while someone is charging/collapsing into you is an invitation to being spectacularly clobbered. This version of the sequence is a product of the early JKA retooling kata to make them athletic and visually impressive rather than evocative of practical fighting methods.

The older versions tend to offer a sequence that might resemble something more useful to the experienced eye. Harry Cook teaches a version taken from the karate books published by Tokyo University in 1930 and 1933. In this version, the sequence in question involves two hooking parries and a low kick off of the front leg. This affords a more plausible scenario: parry two punches to the face, keep a hold on the attacker’s arms, kick him in the knee cap or groin, finish with a punch to the face or a crank of the neck. In contrast to the high kick version, a kick to the knee cap or groin will slow someone down enough to make the follow up plausible. Historical origins and veracity aside, this sequence makes a lot more sense than the modern one.

I posted a video of this version for some folks who were curious to compare it to the modern ones so I thought I’d share it here too. This video was taken after our 2008 TKRI/Seijinkai Summer Camp. The camera I had on me was pretty cheap so the video is admittedly low quality. Harry was kind enough to demonstrate a few things for me to record after a pretty high-energy class, so the demonstration is rather informal.

I  disabled embedding for this clip, so you’ll have to visit YouTube to watch.