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"Looking away from your opponent" in traditional forms

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In traditional forms-based martial arts, whether they be Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian etc., there is an unspoken rule - a cardinal assumption - that your head should face your "imaginary opponent" at all times.

And when you think about it, this seems to make sense. Almost every analysis (in karate called "bunkai") of traditional forms takes this into consideration.

So, for example, the sideways punches of the karate kata naihanchi/naifunchin are interpreted in a variety of ways - but all of them are consistent with your opponent being generally to your side.

Then along comes the odd form/kata where that rule is broken - for no immediately apparent purpose. The most obvious case I can think of in karate is in the goju ryu kata saifa (see the technique below).


This technique is commonly interpreted in a way that largely, if not completely, ignores the sideways look of the head. Which is fine - and makes perfect sense: there's no reason for app…