Sep 20

Iain Abernethy: 6 Principles of Kata

For the second time this year, I trained with one of the best applied karate proponents in the world.

Dave Hawkey, Iain Abernethy and Adam Bockler pose for a picture

Mr. Hawkey, Mr. Abernethy, Mr. Bockler

Mr. Iain Abernethy made one of his few U.S. visits to suburban Kansas City last weekend to teach applications/analysis – bunkai, if you will – for several karate katas, including the Pinan/Heian series, Naihanchi and Bassai. Our students may recognize Naihanchi and Bassai, but the Pinan/Heian katas are not included in Shuri-ryu.

This time was different for several reasons.

First of all, Mr. Hawkey made the journey with me. He and I have worked privately over the last year or so, often employing and referencing Mr. Abernethy’s books and ideas in attempting to decode our forms.

Secondly, I volunteered myself to be Mr. Abernethy’s uke. What does that mean, you ask?

It means for the duration of the seminar, I felt first-hand what his techniques felt like. When we split off to work with our partners, I felt like I was able to help mine better understand the technique because I was able to comment on my body positioning to let them know if they had the technique properly applied.

Finally, I was able to record around 8 hours of footage for my personal media library – in other words, you won’t see any videos on YouTube (for now, at least). Mr. Abernethy has asked for a copy of the footage, which he may upload at a later date.

Mr. Abernethy is not necessarily concerned with techniques. Instead, he teaches principles. If you’ve read his books, you’re likely familiar with these:

  1. Whenever you take a stance, that represents where the body weight should be.
  2. The non-striking hand is either telling you where he is or getting limbs out of the way.
  3. Your angle is wherever you’re in relation to your attacker.
  4. Kata was designed for civilian combat – actual self-defense – and not a consensual fight between people.
  5. Kata teaches things in order – as the form progresses, so do the movements ideas.
  6. The karate of old is holistic – in addition to striking, it also teaches throwing, choking, strangling and more.

This list of principles appears to be an evolution of the four principles he professed earlier this year in Chicago. Perhaps since this was a repeat visit to Kansas City, he expanded on the ideas from his first few times there (April was his first visit to Chicago).

Mr. Abernethy will return to the States in May 2014 to once again teach at Enso in Chicago. I would highly encourage any serious karateka to attend make plans for that weekend.

Thank you to Mr. Dan Kennedy for organizing the event, thank you to the partners that helped me try to work some of these principles and techniques, as well as the other martial artists I had the chance to connect with, and thank you to Mr. Abernethy for a jam-packed weekend of karate.

As a result of attending this seminar, my plan is to incorporate these principles into Metamora Martial Arts in order to teach even more effective martial arts and self-defense.

View more photos on Facebook via Lenexa Karate

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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