Tekki Kata, also known as Haihanchi, is one of the best forms in all the martial arts. Many people refer to it as The Iron Horse. As this name indicates, it is a horse stance form, and the karateka moves from side to side while performing it.
The power generated by this Okinawan Karate form is absolutely awesome. The deep stance works the legs, and the tan tien starts to pump up, and one feels the chi power course through the frame almost from the get go. It is usually taught around black belt level in systems such as Kyokushinkai.
When I first learned Naihanchi I most enjoyed facing a partner and having ‘kata races.’ We would mirror motion, and go back and forth, building our speed and fine tuning our moves. Eventually, we would find a harmony of motion that is not available in many martial art patterns.
When I asked my sensei about the form, he claimed it was designed for fighting in rice fields. The footwork enabled one to grip the ground no matter how muddy the earth became. The sideways motion worked along the earthwork in the rice paddies, where other foot patterns would result in a trip or stumble.
As my studies continued I came across the concept that the form was designed for riding a horse. Even if a warrior lost his weapons while riding a horse, he could keep fighting while gripping the horse with the leg strength built up by the form. I found this a fascinating notion, but it didn’t ring quite true.
Eventually, I came across the book ‘Shotokan’s Secrets,’ by Dr. Bruce Clayton. The good doctor claimed that the kata were actually made for combat in the Imperial throne room of old Okinawa. This theory actually made a tremendous amount of sense.
Imagine the scene: foreign soldiers attempt to capture the king of Okinawa, and the front row bodyguards use the movements from the Pinan forms (Heian katas) to create confusion. Meanwhile, the advanced bodyguards shift sideways along the back of the room, and the king is hustled through a rear door and to safety. This theory not only made sense when analyzing the movements of the training pattern, but in the historical sense, too.
What the real truth is, of course, will be argued as long as people learn Karate. Of course, the point is moot as long as the kata builds that good, old fashioned ‘chi power’ by the trainload. Call it Naihanchi, Tekki, or just the Iron Horse, this Karate Kata is designed to build the kind of Power Karate is renowned for.