Naihanchi Bunkai Drill

Flow Drill

This is a flow drill I developed to cover an application for every movement in the kata, based on the idea that your attacker can defend against your techniques, and any individual application can be taken out and drilled separately. The drill is really just intended to be a flow drill that covers the entire kata, but it is also semi-live in that there are several sections where the uke can attack with either side or from odd angles, and they can resist or block as they see fit. It isn’t a fully live drill, of course, since tori and uke are working specific techniques, but I think it’s a decent introduction to the idea. Ideally, I see this drill as being an “entry level” partner drill that can become more and more live as you get more comfortable with the techniques.

The scenario starts with someone grabbing you and threatening you. The first movements of the kata are used a pre-emptive strike in this drill, where you grab your attacker’s head and strike it–in the demonstration, I simply punch the face, but you could backfist the nose or use small-surface strikes like ippon-ken on kyusho targets. From there, I lever the head down into a knee strike, and shovel kick the attacker’s knee.

The second part of the drill is when you have failed to pre-empt your attacker, or failed to stop them with your pre-emptive strikes, and they let go of you with one hand to start punching. You deflect and trap the punch beneath your arm and use that hand to slap the back of their head while elbowing them in the face. Just like the first technique, the strike (elbow, in this case) can be thrown as many times as necessary.

Gaining Control

The third part of the drill is when you have done one of the first two parts (I only demonstrate this off of the second part of the drill in the video, though) and your attacker blocks and clinches with you to prevent you from hitting them more. From there, you grapple with your opponent (normally I like doing this randori-style, plus strikes) until they try to make space to start hitting you again, at which point you drag their pushing arm across your body into hiji osae gatame (elbow press lock). That lock can be used to control the attacker, dislocate the joint, or simply bring their head level down, and then you can follow up with hammerfists or punches to the head/neck.

After that, we have the attacker breaking free of the lock or withstanding the strikes to the head and firing back with a punch from their free hand. Tori responds by blocking, then twisting the arm into hiji dori garami (elbow grip lock–that’s what we call it, anyway) and striking kyusho targets in the cervical plexus or side of the neck/head. This is a section where I’m looking into changing the attack, specifically, but it will take some experimentation. Right now, I’m thinking that uke grabbing the punching arm to control it might fit better.


From there, should uke break free from the lock we transition into a hammerfist across the jaw, which also serves to jam any punch from uke’s free hand (whether it’s coming or not). I didn’t do a very good job of showing that in the video–we’ve been beating up on Brent (my uke) a lot lately for demonstrations, and I didn’t want to keep knocking his head around, so I ended up leaving it out. From there, if there is contact with the uke’s punching arm we roll it over into a cross-body armbar (shown in the video). If the uke didn’t throw a punch, I do the same motion as a hammerfist to the side of the head/neck in conjunction with a sweep (not shown in the video).

If uke escapes the lock and stands up, tori pulls them off balance and then grabs or strikes the neck/head to throw uke over tori’s leg. The pull to disrupt balance is very judo/jujutsu/aikido-ish, and isn’t absolutely necessary to making it work, but I wanted to include the concept. The pulling motion can also be used to deflect a punch or grab downward away from the face. The throw, itself, is really hard to match up precisely with the kata when you’re being nice to your partner–the arms end up much lower. When I’ve done this full-speed it matches up perfectly, but the fall is pretty rough. The arm coming across the body the way it does also serves to jam any punch uke might throw.

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By Noah LegelNoah Legel on Facebook Visit author's website

Noah Legel has been training in martial arts since 2006, and holds rank in Shorin-Ryu (Iikyu), Shuri-ryu (Sankyu), and Judo (Gokyu). In addition, he has training in Okinawan kobudo and Japanese Shinkage-Ryu Iaijutsu, and cross-trains with other martial artists whenever possible. He currently runs his own blog, Budo no Kaizen, and is a frequent contributor to the Okinawan Karate-do Institute and offers great insight from the Non-Black Belt perspective.

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