Article by Emanuel Giordano

In this period, speaking with Matteo Muratori (, I learned of a particular version of Motobu Choki sensei's Naihanchi, described with great precision in a story written by one of his students. So I decided to start a search to find any evidence of this particular version in other sources.
Browsing through the texts in my collection, I found the Naihanchi in question in the book Nyumon Shinsho Zukai Karate Nyumon Shindo Jinen-ryu (1956), written by Konishi Yasuhiro. In this book we find, preceded by a short introduction, the photographic sequence, complete with descriptions, of the first half of the Naihanchi shodan kata, performed by Motobu sensei. In the introduction, among other things, Konishi sensei explains that this was the kata in which the aforementioned master excelled, who fortunately was able to pass it on to posterity. This version differs from that presented on other occasions by Motobu sensei due to the absence of two techniques: the second namigaeshi and the second yoko-uke. This detail makes it one of a kind, as we will see shortly.
The absence of the second yoko-uke is a typical feature of some versions of the Naihanchi kata (Tachimura, Ishimine, Hanashiro, etc.). Although this technique is not present, the hands are not simply brought to the side, but perform a particular movement, which in practical application turns out to be a grip on the opponent's arm with a consequent joint manipulation technique (Tuidi / Tuite). In the most popular versions, including the other version handed down by Motobu sensei, a yoko-uke is performed first, and then the hands are brought to the side. I would like to emphasize that, despite this difference, the application is unchanged, at least in the Shorin-ryu Shidokan, a school I belong to. In fact, the sequence "yoko-uke - hands on the side", although in the kata it is performed with two distinct techniques, in one of its applications it turns out to be a single fluid movement, suitable for the execution of a joint manipulation. There is a theory according to which originally, this particular part of the kata, was performed as in the version presented in this article, and that the introduction of the second yoko-uke was a simplification designed to allow easier learning of this form from part of the new practitioners. However, as mentioned above, this modification has not taken anything away from the kata, as the application has remained unchanged. Indeed, it is necessary to clarify that, in reality, it is a technical enrichment, since in this way further applications of the sequence in question have been introduced, which have flanked and not replaced the "original" application.
What makes this version unique, however, is the complete absence of the second namigaeshi, which is also reflected in the text quoted at the beginning of the article. As can be seen from the attached images, this is not a mere "editorial" choice, the aim of which is not to occupy too much space in the book, since photos and descriptions relating to "minor" details have even been included, such as the mere rotation of the head (photos 8, 13, 19, 22 and 24). 
This version of the kata is therefore different from the one presented in other photographic sequences by Motobu sensei, making it in fact a second version attributable to him. The lack of the second yoko-uke unites this form to other versions of this kata, but the lack of the second namigaeshi makes it, at the moment, unique, distinguishing it from the other versions.
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)