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Class Notes – Koku

June 14, 2013

This is it.

This is the lesson I have been working towards, especially over the past few months. Ever since I planned out my general lesson goals for this year, this is the point I KNEW I had to bring you people to.

Koku 虚空

This kata is simple.

1. Opponent punches, you do a soft block.

2. Shuto the opponent’s punching arm. We call such attacks on the punching arm or hand ken kudaki.

3. Opponent kicks with lead leg.

4. Block the kick with the your knee/shin. This is called keri gaeshi.

5. Drop the opponent, back facing you, into your shikanken or boshiken.

What does this teach?

Some of the lessons this sequence teaches includes:

  1. Giving the opponent an attractive target, within reach, to control the opponent’s next move. Koku literally means “false space”.
  2. Moving to the outside of the opponent’s attacks, whether punches or kicks, to keep yourself safe and to make your opponent vulnerable.
  3. Getting used to attacks at different levels. Don’t get so caught up with dealing with an opponent’s punches that you get nailed by kicks, or vice versa.
  4. For the attacker, you are learning to keep going if your initial attack fails. If you ever have to attack someone, you need to be committed enough to your goal that one setback doesn’t confuse you.

What does it take?

In order for this lesson to really mean something, we spent weeks trying to get you to have attacks that count. If your kicks are so inaccurate that they would miss, or if they are so weak that your opponent actually laughs after you hit him, you are not ready to train in this sequence in class. Why? Because your training partner doesn’t get to train against proper attacks.

If your movement on either the attacking or defending is not smooth, powerful enough or balanced, you need to go back into the sanshin no kata. I personally do not believe the sanshin no kata are meant to be realistic combat exercises or drills. I believe that they are essentially conditioning exercises, meant to strengthen your legs and train you to move in a balanced way as well as get you used to moving your whole body to generate force.

So practice every move carefully. Watch for your feet, your knees, your spine. If you are starting the movements from shizen no kamae it should feel as if you are sitting down into the stance. And when you step forward you should imagine yourself sitting on a chair with wheels, rolling forward in a smooth and level way. That will give you an idea of what your overall movement should be like.

Once that kind of movement is a habit, apply it to all the other stuff we do in class!


After a while, you could see variations coming out. Instead of blocking with the leg, for example, some blocked the kick with the hand. Instead of the final strike, you could grab the ponytail or the collar of the gi and drag the opponent down. Or you could use your knees to attack the leg after you have dropped your opponent in front of you. Or you could do what one of the senior students did, grab my kicking leg and raise it up to dump me unceremoniously onto the ground…

On second thought, don’t do that one, unless you know your partner is skilled enough to not be seriously injured by it. That is the problem with being the teacher, every student assumes I am ready to deal with anything! 🙂

I didn’t really emphasize those variations in class because I wanted you all to get the basic form correct. The basic form has the most training value, because it is more difficult than the variations. A good kata (like this one) allows all the other movements and variations to flow forth out of it. And that is why I’d rather you work more on the basic form for now.

With that said, we will move on to variations eventually. So I’d like to just round up this lesson’s class notes with some videos of how other people have done the same kata. Study them to see what is different, and, more importantly, see what remains the same.

Here’s a better version

I like this one, but I won’t move like this. It would just look so weird on me. 🙂

Here it is with a hanbo. Nasty, ain’t it? 🙂

And this is how Hatsumi Soke does it.

OK, that’s enough vids for now. Don’t expect me to find that many example vids the next time I do class notes. See you at the next lesson!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)

From → bujinkan

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