Shotokan: Unsu

  • Spreading Clouds on the Horizon – From the natural stance, bring the right foot to the left and cross the wrists in front of the chest. Using tension, slowly straighten the elbows until the arms are pointing out to the sides and downward at 45° angles. Expand the chest and contract the back during this motion. Don’t pull the fists back behind your sides. They should go no further than straight out 180° apart. The feet should be touching from heel to toe.       After a pause, bring both hands palms upward under the chin until the elbows touch. Do this quickly at first, and then with increasing tension. You should never stop moving, but come pretty close when your elbows finally touch. Then spread the hands outward horizontally from their palm up position to so that they sweep out to the sides. This is not a circular blocking action with the edge of the hands, even though the hands seem to be vertical sword hands. Rather, extend the hands straight out to the sides, as if you are striking with ox jaw techniques. Do this with an initial burst of speed and then with more tension as you extend. After you reach full extension, wait a second and take in the drama. The arms should be exactly 180° apart so that they form a straight line when viewed from above. The shoulder joints should be at 90° exactly so that the hands are extended in perfect line with the shoulders. Be careful not to have one hand higher than the other.
  • Look Ma, I’m a Gunslinger – Step forward quickly into a cat stance, lowering your body quickly. Bring the hands down and slide them on the thighs as you make two chicken head wrist blocks. The hands should draw large circles that become smaller as you You will look like a crazed combination of a bird and a gunfighter. Your elbows should be inward of your hands, and the fingers should point at a slight angle downward.
  • One finger spear hand – Immediately execute a lower-level pointed finger strike without changing the shape of your hand. Both arms should be very tense in the armpits throughout these three steps with the little circles. When you strike, snap quickly enough that your hand is nearly invisible, and when you bring it back up, it should reassume the tense posture so much that it quivers.
  • Circle Step and Stab – Step forward drawing a circle on the floor with your big toe counter-clockwise. The circle should be about 12-14″ in diameter. Draw the circle on the floor slowly using only the big toe. Move the toe out in front of the right foot, and then up, around, and back into place. Once complete, pause slightly, then make another pointed finger strike. Pause slightly before going onward to the next technique.
  • Still Mr. Pointy Hands – Step forward again, making the mirror image of the previous technique.
  • The Four Directions Punch – Step to the left 90° into a left front stance. without drawing the feet together. As you are moving, execute a vertical sword hand block and rotate the hips to the side. Perform the block in mid air. As your foot lands, throw a reverse punch in synch with the stepping action. Turn to your rear and repeat the action by shifting the right foot over about 2.5 feet as you turn. Turn to your left again, and repeat. Turn around and repeat again. As you perform these four punches and blocks, make sure that the rhythm is even – this is very important. Do not pair the blocks and punches in a 1-2…pause…1-2 sort of timing. Instead, block and punch evenly for the best effect. Pause after the set of 8 have been completed.
  • Drop Kicks – Drop to your right side and forward by not moving your right foot. When you land, you should be on your right elbow and hip with your left palm pressing into the floor. Round kick to the South so that your target is at least even with your head. Snap the kick back very strongly so that there is a very powerful contraction when the heel hits the buttocks on return.                                                                                                                                           Flip over in place, and mirror image the previous technique. Allow a pause after the contraction of the kick return against your hamstring. Flipping over is harder than it looks. Place the left foot just in front of the right shin. Raise yourself up onto both of your hands as you pivot on your left foot, moving your knees to the right. Set yourself down on your left elbow and then repeat the kick from leg’s current position.
  • Spreading Clouds Block – Stand up by pushing off with the hands to the South into a horse riding stance. Some people extend the right leg out and then rise. Others prefer to move the right foot out as they stand up. As you stand up, repeat the spreading hands action of the first technique. Bring the palms upward with the fingers curled under, and as you achieve the stance, start spreading them outward. Be careful to avoid bending forward at any time.
  • Attack Chicken – Powerfully switch feet and assume a front stance. Simultaneously with stepping back, fold the arms across the body. While stepping back forward with the other foot, left chicken head wrist block to the front and right palm heel block to the rear with the hips to the side.                                                                                               Perform the last and this technique together quickly 1-2. Perform a mirror image of the last without pausing such that they both look like one giant four motion technique. (North).
  • Left Reverse Ridge Hand – From the right side chicken head wrist strike with your left hand behind your left buttock, pull the right hand back sharply as you swing the left hand around strongly with a synchronous hip rotation to front. Throw a left ridge hand strike to the temple with the left hand. Some people bend the hand at the wrist away from the target, and some people point the hand straight forward as if it were a stabbing action. Be careful that the arm swings away from the body, this is supposed to be a round strike, not a thrust. Many people simply stab with this hand formation, but this particular shape for the hand doesn’t work for that type of action.
  • Left Front Snap Kick – Raise your knee up into your chest and front snap kick to your chin level. Snap the kick back strongly as you pivot on your right foot, the support leg, and turn clockwise. As you pivot, outside block to the high level with your right arm strongly with your foot off of the floor. Keep the support knee in the position it was in during the kick. As you set your left foot down, reverse punch with the left fist. The timing for this entire sequence is 1…2..3.4.
  • Repeat the Last Sequence – Turn to the North 180° pivoting on the rear foot and repeat the ridge hand, kick, block, and punch as a mirror image of the previous four motions. The timing for the four techniques in both cases is 1…2..3.4.
  • Back to Square One – Stand up by pulling the front foot back to your rear foot into the both-arms-down-and-out posture of the beginning of the kata. Assume this posture with increasing slowness and increasing tension by crossing the arms at the wrist in front of your chest and slowly lowering them while pulling them out to your sides.
  • Feint and Stab – Turn to your left 45° angle and step forward with the left foot only one half step without any speed, but not in slow motion. Raise the left arm upward in a sword hand slowly gently. As you raise the left hand, the right hand should be in a sword hand as well pointed downward to the floor fairly close to the body. Bring the right hand up and the left hand down, both in sword hands as you begin to step with the right leg. They should pass each other palms inward. Step forward strongly with the right leg and punch from a high handed position downward to the lower level – a sort of dropping punch. The timing of these actions is 111…2.3.
  • Dirty Fighting – Together as one technique pivot on your feet in place and punch/block to the lower level to the rear without any chambering action, and then pivot back around to where you were to punch to the front again with 1-2 rhythm. Make sure you snap your head in each direction quickly for maximum effect.
  • Grab and Pull – Turn to the rear and assume a unmovable stance by shifting the left foot over. Make a slow left-handed vertical sword hand block as you begin shifting the foot and complete the second half after the foot is firmly planted. The block should decelerate as you progress through it until finally you are moving very slowly and with great tension. Don’t let the block come to a stop, however, and then move to the next action. Bring the right hand up next to the right ear in an open hand as if you are about to throw an open-handed outside block or sword hand strike.  Instead you’ll bring it in a round trajectory down behind you and then scooping up in front of you as a palm heel strike. Fold your fingers in as you bring the hand around it’s path. Rotate the hips to the front strongly in synch with  this action. Fold the fingers of the left hand in as well and pull the left elbow into the body a little closer as you bring  the left and right palm heels together. This action should look as though you are grabbing someone’s arm in your left hand and then adding your right hand to the pull as your left arm pulls them in.
  • Front Thrust Kick – The only front thrust kick in Shotokan Karate kata is right here. Bring up the right knee under the arms while leaving their palm heels touching, then thrust front kick to the knee level strongly as you bring the hands back in fists to your right waist in a cup and saucer action with the left fist on top. Kiai on this technique.
  • Two Punches – As you retract the kicking leg’s knee into your chest, punch with the left hand quickly from the cup and saucer position you were making before. As you step forward into a right front stance, punch with the right hand strongly so that the foot lands as you focus the punch.
  • Ride’em Cowboy! – Look to the left 120° and step into a horse riding stance while down blocking strongly. Fold the arms as your right foot passes your left, and then block strongly in time with the foot landing on the floor. Without any pause whatsoever, look to the left and fold for a left inside block with the right hand in a ridge hand shape. Shift to the left six inches by raising the left foot and pushing off with the right foot. Throw a high level inside block using the ridge hand surface to block with as you shift. Your elbow should finish at shoulder height and be at a nice 90° angle. Without any chamber at all, look to the right and step with the left foot across into a new horse riding stance with the left foot in front. Block down with the left sword hand in a large arcing action over the head. Look to the right, and as you shift in that direction as above make a high level inside ridge hand block. Shift in place 6 inches as you block. In the same breath as the block, throw a punch with the left hand so that the elbow is nearly straight (don’t use a hook punch). Turn at the waist to throw the punch.                                                                                                               The timing of these four actions should be 1-2..1-23 and they are very quick and choppy actions. Beware of collapsing your horse riding stance with all of the shifting. Push those knees outward and keep the stance in a strong arch.
  • Sweeping Hand – Turn to the left and assume one of two stances: Either a rooted stance or a back stance with the left foot in front. Which stance you use seems to be a matter of preference sincee even the most famous kata competitors from Japan seem to change which stance they use from time to time. Best Karate Vol. 11 shows an unmovable stance, but Yahara also performs this from a back stance on some instructional videotapes. Take your pick. Also, you can either use a back hand block with the hand in the shape of a sword hand, or you can use a vertical sword hand block for the hand technique. Whatever you do, be careful to decelerate the block as it reaches it’s destination, but never let it finish. You’ll do the following kick and jump right away.
  • Laredo Tornado – Jump into the air off of the left foot. Right crescent kick into the left hand as you push off with your left foot. Your going to turn 360 degrees, but only the last 180° with actually be in the air. Your left arm will be pointing to the rear 180° through the turn before you get off of the ground. The kick is for the most part complete when you jump. When you jump, pull both knees and feet up tightly into the body so that you make the rest of the jump in a little ball. Extend your limbs again only as you near the ground.                                                                                             To do the jump at a good height, you need to remember several key points. Try to kick the hand but you’ll never reach it if you do the kick right. Make the motion of the kick pull you 360 degrees around and over in the air. This is not a horizontal action, but more of an “over the top” action. You don’t rotate in the horizontal plane, but rather at an angle as the Earth to the Sun. Think of a basketball lay-up leap off of the left foot.                                                                As you land, extend the rear leg as if back thrust kicking, but only at the last second, then land on the right foot and left foot with the hands palm down on the floor pointing in a triangle. The rear leg is supposed to be a back thrust kick. Do not actually try to back thrust kick unless you are pretty good at the jump already – you’ll get hurt. You can do the back thrust kick, but it hurts the height of the kick and ruins your chances of getting a good solid landing with all four points touching the floor at the same time. The landing looks sloppy if you land one foot or hand at a time.                 Caution: Repeated practice of this technique on a hard, unforgiving surface such as a concrete slab will result in a right knee that pops and crackles when you are young, and then no longer works when you are over 40. Be very selective about what type of surface you do this jump on. Sprung wood or dirt is best.
  • The Lawnmower Man – After a brief pause, step forward with the left foot, and back hand block with left and right hands turning them in a circle until the left hand is at the left waist and the right hand is in front of the right shoulder. This technique is extremely difficult to describe in text, but here’s an attempt.                                                         From the U punch, hook the back of the left hand using the back side of the palm heel posture. The right hand does the same. Move both hands clockwise, keeping the palm heels facing into the center of the circle your hands are describing in front of you. Once the hands are vertical with the right on top in front of the face and the left on the bottom in front of the belt knot, they are really facing to the sides now. Rotate your wrists so that they are back-end leading again as you continue around this circle of doom one more time. This time, the palm heel backside blocks (otherwise known as round blocks) never make it back to the vertical position. Instead, pull them to your sides as you draw the circle a second time. The left palm heel is drawn at the left waist, the right is drawn over-hand style at the right shoulder.                                                                                                                                                                 Step forward a second time and repeat the action in mirror image.
  • Upper Block Reverse Punch – Pivot on the right foot, turn sharply 180° and put the left foot over into the front foot position of a left front stance. As you pivot, focus the rising open hand that precedes all upper level rising blocks. As you reach the halfway point of this transition focus a left rising block upper level in mid-step. As you step down, reverse punch with the right hand and kiai. The timing of the entire single step is 12–3. Finish by returning to the both-armsdown-and-out posture of the beginning of the kata.


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