Tekki Kata, also known as Haihanchi, is one of the finest forms in the world of the martial arts. It is sometimes called The Iron Horse. As the latter name indicates, it is a horse stance form, and one moves from side to side while practicing it.
The power generated by this ancient Karate form is positively awesome. The horse stance develops the legs, and the tan tien starts to pump up, and one feels the chi power course through the body almost from the get go. It is usually taught around black belt level in such Karate systems as Shotokan.
When I first started training in Naihanchi I would practice while facing a partner and we would have ‘kata races.’ We would mirror each other, and go back and forth,faster and faster while perfecting our moves. Eventually, we would find a speed of movement that one will not see 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 progressed I came across the theory that it was designed for riding a horse. A samurai might lose his weapons while riding a horse, but he could keep fighting while gripping the horse with the leg strength built up by the form. I found this a fascinating concept, but it didn’t seem to ring quite true.
Eventually, I came across ‘Shotokan’s Secrets,’ by Dr. Bruce Clayton. The good doctor claimed that the forms were actually designed for fighting in the Imperial throne room of old Okinawa. This theory actually made more sense than all the others.
Imagine that room: foreign soldiers move forward to capture the king of Okinawa, and the front row bodyguards use the movements from the Pinan forms (Heian katas) to sow confusion. Meanwhile, the advanced bodyguards shift sideways along the rear of the room, and the king is moved through a rear door and to safety. This theory not only made sense when analyzing the movements of the training pattern, but in defining the purposes of all the kata.