Making Henshuho No. 1 Work

Sakamoto-Sensei demonstrates block for Henshuho no. 1.

Henshuho no. 1 is a disheartening way to start the sequence of 28 self-defence moves developed by Dr. Chitose, the founder of Chito-Ryu karate. It is, arguably, the hardest of all the defences to make work.

Done traditionally, the defender ducks under the attacker’s high punch, applies a high block on the attacking arm, near the armpit, pushing the attacker back. The attacker reacts  by pushing forward. The defender takes advantage of  this forward momentum by grabbing behind the attacker’s shoulder and pulling him down while applying a foot sweep, for the takedown.

This sounds good in theory. And to be truthful, I did see O-Sensei make it work like this. However, for most of us the technique falls apart at a number of junctures. First, Dr. Chitose was a short man, even for an Okinawan, with short leg proportions in relation to his body trunk size.

It may have made sense for him to duck beneath the punch but the long-legged Wonder Bread generation often gets punched in the face trying to do this.

And then using the block to rock the attacker back doesn’t always work. Sometimes the attacker isn’t sufficiently unbalanced, or they don’t “cooperate” by pushing back after the block, making it difficult to apply the foot sweep effectively.

Often the attacker doesn’t get thrown or, if they are merciful, they will roll for you, so you don’t look so bad.

Last October, Sakamoto-Sensei came to Canada to conduct a series of clinics. He demonstrated his approach to making the Henshuho moves work. For no. 1, he starts not by ducking but by blocking the incoming punch (see above).

The block isn’t an ordinary jodan-uke. Sakmoto-Sensei powers it by dropping his weight (which is different than squatting) and blocking along the centre line. Deflecting the punch this way starts to unbalance the attacker.


Rather than moving right under the punch, Sakamoto-Sensei moves to the outside of the attack.

In the second image, you can see that Sakamoto-Sensei passes to the outside of the attack, instead of ducking under the punch and risking getting punched in the head. You can see that with his left hand he strikes to the body.

Sakamoto-Sensei believes that all throwing and joint-locking bunkai should be set up with a strike, even if they are not there explicitly in the traditional moves.

Rather than apply a foot sweep, Sakamoto-Sensei attacks a nerve/acupuncture point above the ankle with the inside edge of his toe and foot.

Rather than trying to apply a foot sweep, Sakamoto-Sensei uses the inside edge of his foot and big toe to slice across a nerve and acupuncture point a little above the ankle, on the inside of the attacker’s leg.

The attack is very painful, so the attacker is easy to guide to the ground, if they don’t just collapse outright.

To do this slicing foot technique, Sakamoto-Sensei has spent a lot of time practising on the bases of bamboo trees. He is able to disable an opponent with this technique alone.

Following is a video of the informal session, with Evan Bray acting as the lucky uke.

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