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 would practice while facing a partner and having ‘kata races.’ We would mirror each other, and go back and forth, building our speed and perfecting our moves. Eventually, we would find a harmony of motion that one will not see in many martial art patterns.
When I asked my instructor about it, he said it was designed for fighting in rice paddies. The footwork enabled one to grip the ground no matter how muddy. The sideways motion paralleled the earthwork in the rice paddies, where other foot patterns would result in loss of footing.
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.
In time, I happened across the book ‘Shotokan’s Secrets,’ written by Dr. Bruce Clayton. The good doctor claimed that the kata were actually designed for actual fighting in the Imperial throne room of old Okinawa. This theory at first seemed odd, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made.
Imagine the scene: invading troops attempt to capture the king of Okinawa, and the front row troops use the movements from the Pinan forms (Heian katas) to create confusion. Meanwhile, the advanced bodyguards move sideways across the back of the room while the king is hustled through a rear door and to safety. This theory not only made sense when analyzing the specific movements, but in the historical and psychological sense, too.
What the truth is will be debated as long as Karate is taught. Of course, it doesn’t matter as long as that fabulous form generates good, old fashioned ‘chi power’ by the bushel. Call it Naihanchi, Tekki, or just the Iron Horse, this is one Karate Kata that is good for the ages.