Old School Karate: Kebanashi

If you look at some versions of Karate kata you can see remnants of the older techniques used before the emergence of Karate into the public school system in the early 20th century. Bo-geri (棒蹴り) is one such technique that has been mentioned by Motobu Naoki in his blog, but another example of an older technique is ‘kebanashi’ (蹴離なし). This refers to delivering a kick (蹴り), but unlike modern Karate, not pulling it back (離なし) and instead letting the foot ‘fall’ to the ground. This is how the kicks are done in the Tou’on-ryu version of Sanseru and Sesan kata, which contrasts to the Goju-ryu versions of the same kata. As an aside, I have seen ‘kebanashi’ translated as ‘snap kick’ on the web, but this strikes me as strange. Since they don’t provide supporting kanji, so its hard to know why they translate it that way.

At any rate, when I first learned this way of kicking in Tou’on-ryu I struggled with it at first because of my Goju-ryu background. I was too used to snapping the kick out and quickly pulling it back. Kanzaki sensei immediately noticed and in his usual direct way (sensei did not mince words), told me my kicks were ‘poor.’ When I first learned Sanseru kata, the kicks never felt right because I was kicking the air and there was no resistance. That coupled with my Goju-ryu habit of pulling the kick back meant that I was looking at a long, steep learning curve. The same problem came up when I did partner work as it was impossible to do the kick at 100% and get the proper feedback. My solution was to bury and old tire in the back yard of my house and practice the kick using it (much to my wife’s shock). But it worked, and my kicks (at least in my eyes) improved and felt stronger.

Outside of Tou’on-ryu, I’ve only seen this method of kicking done in older versions of Niseishi (Nijushiho), so perhaps it was a technique unique to old Nahate, but this is just speculation on my part. Below you can see examples of ‘kebanashi’ from Niseishi.

Okinawa Kenpo Niseishi Nakamura Shigeru

Wado-ryu Niseishi Otsuka Hironori