(2 person forms)

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Embu (2 person kata) were (and still are) a staple training method of Chinese boxing systems (where they are called "dui da quan"). Unfortunately this vital training method has been largely lost in modern karate which instead places too much emphasis on unrealistic "dojo" and sport competition sparring.

It is important to remember that kata and its bunkai are the essence of karate, and tenshin (evasion) and tai sabaki (body movement) are, in turn, the essence of bunkai. This is an important facet of karate that has been long neglected and, in some cases, forgotten.




Hironori Otsuka, in his book 'Wado-Ryu Karate' wrote:

"It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practised sufficiently, but one must not be 'stuck' in them. One must withdraw from the kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms of training."

The Chief Instructors of the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts, Kancho Nenad and Shihan Dejan Djurdjevic have spent the last 15 years researching evasion and footwork with a view to distilling every type of footwork or evasion inherent in each kata. When confronted with how to teach and practise these techniques they realized that it would be beneficial to "package" them in a way that was fluid and easy to remember. This in turn lead to the development of the embu. The embu form part of the ongoing research by the Kancho and Shihan.

There is an embu for each kata and each embu comprises approximately 18 to 26 moves and has been designed so as to be capable of being practised solo or with a partner.

While the embu are derived from existing kata they necessarily depart from their structure, retaining only the essence. This is consistent with the theory that new training drills must have an added dimension or else they are simply a pointless variation of an existing sequence.

Unlike the "old" 2 person forms of Gekisai dai ichi and -ni kata practised in many Goju schools today, the embu are "circular", ie. there is only one sequence of moves, the attacker starts midway through the sequence so as to partner a person who has started at the beginning of the sequence. This enables the embu to be easily remembered and practised, whereas it is difficult and time consuming to remember 2 different sequences, one for attacker and one for defender.

The other notable characteristic is that the embu do not attempt to repeat the kata exactly. Rather they package the tenshin or taisabaki with the relevant kata techniques. It is pointless to simply repeat the kata with a small variation. Accordingly while the embu look a little like the kata when practised solo (see the Seiyunchin embu), the techniques are performed with the bunkai footwork and sometimes in a slightly different order. As 2 person forms, the embu look more like actual fighting than kata.

The more junior the kata, the more the 2 person embu will look "formal" or stylised. This is because the kata bunkai is, necessarily, more basic.

The circular form of the Muidokan embu means that they can be practised by a student without a partner. By changing the starting foot, the mirror image can be practised for added benefit, although this is not vital. Limiting the embu to a maximum of 18-26 counts (total of both sides) means they can be easily remembered. This allows the student to concentrate on practising the techniques rather than remembering the sequence. Sequences are, after all, simply a means to an end.

Shisochin embu

Sanseiru embu (solo)


Fukyugata embu

Gekisai embu

Saifa embu (solo)

Naifunchin embu

Seiyunchin embu (solo)

Seiyunchin embu