Introduction
Empi (or Enpi in some styles) means flight of the swallow. The name gives an indication of its performance, which should be fast, light, and bobbing. This is one of the most physically demanding kata, and people with bad backs or knees are going to need to strap up, warm up, and take it easy with this one. There are lots of times in this kata where you'll need to drop to the floor, or rise from a crouching position very quickly, to say nothing of the spectacular jump at the end. Although it only has a count to 31, it has a lot of moves, with lots of them occuring simultaneously. There are very many points to trip up the unwary performer, making this a dangerous kata to perform in tournament. However, performed well, it's spectacular. With its vast range of slow, then fast movements, it's even more challenging to perform in team kata, requiring performers to spend a lot of time working on their synchronisation.



Stances
There are a large number of stances in Empi, including three that you won't have done before. Worse still, there's those pesky back stances waiting to catch you out, and they're even harder this time, because they're in a section that should be performed as fast as possible. There's also a tough one-legged transitional stance, where you're going to need to maintain good balance for quite a long time.

Heiko Dachi Ready stance
Musubi Dachi Feet together, toes out stance
Heisoku Dachi Feet together, toes in stance
Zenkutsu Dachi Forward stance
Kiba Dachi Horse-riding stance
Gyaku Nekoashi Dachi Reverse cat stance
Gyaku Zenkutsu Dachi Reverse Forward stance
Sagi Ashi Dachi Propped stance
Kokutsu Dachi Back stance
Gankaku Ashi Dachi One-legged stance



Strikes
This is the first kata to include punches to all three levels, but none of the strikes are new, nor should they be difficult to perform.

Kake Tsuki Hook punch
Jodan Tsuki Upper-level punch
Gedan Tsuki Lower-level punch
Jodan Tetsui Uchi Upper-level Hammer-fist strike
Chudan Tsuki Mid-level punch



Blocks
Some of this blocks are open to interpretation - one man's back Downward block is another person's GKR block. However, these are the blocks as I see them. Some people say that the ridge-hand block (done during the one-legged stection) is actually a back-of-the-hand block, but it isn't the way that we perform it.

Yoko Gedan Barai Side downwards block
Gedan Barai Downward block
Heisho Uke Back-of-the-hand block
Ushiro Gedan Barai Back downwards block
Haito Uke Ridge-hand block
Shuto Uke Knife-hand block



Kicks
There are no kicks in kata Empi. There are however, numerous knee strikes and arguably, a jumping stomp in which you crush your opponent's throat and testicles.



Sequence:- By the numbers

Start Empi footwork chart start Heels together with your toes apart (musubi dachi). Bow. Return to Heiko dachi.
1
Ichi
Empi footwork chart step 1 Look to the north. With a slight bend in your knees, bring your heels together with your toes touching (heisoku dachi). Place your right fist across your body with the knuckles pressed into the palm of your open left hand. Your wrist should be straight and the back of your hand should face forwards. Your left arm should be partially drawn back to your left side with the palm open in knife-hand shape, palm, towards your body, and the wrist straight.
2
Ni
Empi footwork chart step 2 Keep looking north. Without turning your hip, step back with your left leg and place the ball of your foot about a shoulder-width behind you and the same distance to your left, but with no weight on the foot. Pivoting to the west, bring the heel of the left foot down flat on the ground, whilst dropping to your right knee. Your right knee should be just above the ground, and your lower leg should be facing east to west.

As you drop, swing your right hand down across your body as you would for a Gedan barai. However, the right hand should move directly from its previous position, without first preparing at the shoulder. The block (or sweep) is performed using the outside edge of the wrist, (not the back of the wrist, then rotating as you would normally do a gedan barai). As you turn to perform the block, your left hand closes to a fist, and the fist is drawn to your solar plexus, palm up.

Stand up and sharply turn your hips back to the north, using the momentum to swing your left foot forwards into Heiko dachi. This will be easier to do if you didn't step too far back in the first place! As you turn to the front, return your right fist to its previous position across your body. Place your closed left fist, palm facing upwards, underneath your right fist (just like kata Bassai Dai).

3
San
Empi footwork chart step 3 Look sharply to the east. Pivot on your left foot and step your right foot out into Zenkutsu dachi facing east. As you do so, perform a full Gedan barai with your right arm.
4
Shi
Empi footwork chart step 4 Look sharply to the north. Extend your right arm straight out to the north slowly. Sharply retract your right arm to chamber at your right side, and swing your left arm around in a fast, shoulder-height Kake Tsuki. The punch should finish with the punching hand level with your right shoulder, and the left elbow should be bent to a right angle. The left upper arm should extend out straight from the shoulder. Use the momentum of these two arm movements to swing your right leg and hip forwards so that you end up in Kiba dachi facing north.
5
Go
Empi footwork chart step 5 Step your left leg in and forwards into Zenkutsu dachi. Careful that you don't make the stance too wide! As you step into stance, perform a Gedan barai.
6
Roku
Empi footwork chart step 6 Perform a head-level Gyaku tsuki with your right arm.
7
Shichi
Empi footwork chart step 7 Open the right hand and perform a small semi-circular movement as though grabbing behind the neck of an opponent. Pull the right hand towards your right knee and lift the knee to strike (hiza uchi) an opponent in the sternum, thrusting your hips forwards to extend the reach of the knee.

Drop your right foot to the floor two-shoulder-widths in front of the left foot. Draw the left foot up beside the right in Reverse Nekoashi Dachi. As you move into stance, drop down into a crouch. The heels of both feet should be off the floor.

As you drop, punch with the left arm at groin-height. Because you're in a crouch, this should mean that your left arm is extended straight out from the shoulder. At the same time, draw your right hand up beside your left ear with your palm open and facing towards your head in a back hand block (heisho uke). The middle of your palm should be level with your ear.

8
Hachi
Empi footwork chart step 8 Continue to look north. Rising to the height of Zenkutsu dachi, step your left foot back two shoulder widths, placing it in line with the right foot. Rather than standing up, then stepping back, you should rise up diagonally backwards, with your back straight, but at a 45 degree angle in line with your right leg. Your hips should be facing south-west, with your left knee bent and your right leg straight. This stance is called reverse forwards stance (gyaku zenkutsu dachi).

As you move into stance, perform a back Gedan barai using your right hand. The block should finish up with your fist approximately in line with your right knee.

Look south sharply. The second you finish the first block, you should step your left foot one shoulder-width east into Zenkutsu dachi facing south. At the same time you should turn your body south whilst raising the left hand to the right shoulder in preparation for a Gedan barai. Immediately perform a Gedan barai to your front (the south) using your left arm, turning your hips back off to the south west as you do so.

The two blocks should be performed as fast as possible, and the interval between them should be as short as possible, whilst still performing each properly and setting each stance correctly.

Be careful not to shorten the stance as you move from Gyaku Zenkutsu dachi into Zenkutsu dachi.

9
Ku
Empi footwork chart step 9 Perform a head-level Gyaku tsuki with your right arm.
10
Ju
Empi footwork chart step 10 Repeat step 7 but facing south.
1
Ichi
Empi footwork chart step 11 Repeat step 8 but facing south.
2
Ni
Empi footwork chart step 12 You should be in Zenkutsu dachi facing north, having just performed a left-arm Gedan barai. Open your left hand. Draw your left leg in so that your knee is raised at waist-height and facing north-east, with your foot close to your right knee Gankaku Ashi Dachi. Your hips and body should be facing the same direction. At the same time perform a head-height inside Kake uke with your open left hand. You should finish with your left upper arm pointing in the same direction as your left leg, Your left upper arm should extend horizontally from your shoulder, with your elbow bent to a right-angle upwards, and your palm should be facing you. You should still be looking north.

Without dropping your arm or knee, or moving your supporting foot, slowly turn your body and your arm to the north. Once your left forearm is in front of you, your head turns with your body so that you are always looking straight at your left wrist. Continue rotating your body and knee until you are facing west. As you turn, you should keep your left foot right next to your right knee.

Once you're facing west, step your left foot down so that you are in horse- riding stance (kiba dachi) with your body facing north. Your left arm should still be raised at shoulder height to the west, and you should be looking west.

3
San
Empi footwork chart step 13 Look sharply to the north-west. Drive your right knee forwards to the north-west, bringing your right foot in tight behind your left knee Sagi Ashi Dachi. As you do so, pivot your right forearm 180 so your fist is palm downwards. Swing your right hand in a semi-circle outwards away from your body, then bring it back in, pounding the base of your right fist into your left palm. Both hands should meet at solar-plexus-height about a foot in front of your body. As they do so, kiai.
4
Shi
Empi footwork chart step 14 Look sharply to the north. As fast as possible, place your left wrist under your right armpit. Your left hand should be open, palm upwards, just extending beyond your right armpit. Rotate your left forearm 180 degrees, and as you do so bend your left wrist so that your left palm faces to your right. At the same time, step your right foot back down two shoulder widths to the east of your left in Kiba dachi.

Now slowly extend your left hand forward in a straight line as far as it can go, keeping the palm facing east. At the same time, retract your right fist into chamber at your right side. Turn your left palm north, and move your left hand to the west until it is in front of (but lower than) your left shoulder. This movement is called a Tate shuto uke, or sometimes a sword-hand block.

5
Go
Empi footwork chart step 15 Perform two mid-level punches (chudan tsuki) to the front in quick succession - right hand then left.
6
Roku
Empi footwork chart step 16 Look west. Turn west and step your left foot out in Zenkutsu dachi. At the same time perform a Gedan barai using your left arm.
7
Shichi
Empi footwork chart step 17 Perform a head-level Gyaku tsuki with your right arm.
8
Hachi
Empi footwork chart step 18 Step forward into back-leaning stance (kokutsu dachi) with your right leg, performing a right-arm Shuto uke. At the same time, the open left hand should be brought palm up to the solar plexus.
9
Ku
Empi footwork chart step 19 Attempting to keep your body in exactly the same place, step your right foot backwards until it is beside the left, then step forwards with your left foot into Kokutso dachi facing west. At the same time, perform a Shuto uke with your left hand, drawing your open right hand to your solar plexus palm up.
10
Ju
Empi footwork chart step 20 Without turning your hips or shoulders at all, perform a fast Chudan gyaku tsuki using your right arm. Ensure that you punch as far in front of you as possible without turning your hips at all. At the same time, retract your left fist to chamber at your left side.
1
Ichi
Empi footwork chart step 21 Keeping your elbow up, lift your open right hand to your left ear, and extend your left hand at mid-level, palm up, in preparation for a Shuto uke. Step forwards with your right leg into Kokutso dachi, performing a Shuto uke with your right arm. Retract your left hand, palm up, to your solar plexus.
2
Ni
Empi footwork chart step 22 Turn your head to the east looking over your left shoulder. Raise your left hand to your right shoulder in preparation for a Gedan barai. As you do so, move your left foot, one shoulder to the north. Pivoting sharply on your toes, twist your body so that you are in Zenkutsu dachi facing east, with your body and hips facing south-east. At the same time, complete a strong Gedan barai with your left hand, taking care to pull your right arm back strongly.
3
San
Empi footwork chart step 23 Perform a Jodan gyaku tsuki with your right arm.
4
Shi
Empi footwork chart step 24 Repeat step 7 but facing East.
5
Go
Empi footwork chart step 25 Repeat step 8 but facing East.
6
Roku
Empi footwork chart step 26 Open your right hand with the wrist bent back at a right angle, and the palm facing forwards. Lower your right hand as far as it will go, then in a circular motion, raise the hand from beside your right leg, up in front of you until it reaches chest height, with the palm facing upwards, and the elbow bent to a right angle. As the hand swings forwards, turn your hips square, and slowly retract your left hand to chamber by your left side.
7
Shichi
Empi footwork chart step 27 Look sharply north. Step your left foot in beside your right, keeping low, with both knees facing north-west. As you do so, turn your right hand over 180 degrees and press it down powerfully until it's at belt-height. At the same time, raise your left hand, palm up, to chest height. Both arms should be the same distance away from you and about 18 inches to 2 feet in front of you. They should be a shoulder-width apart from each other.


Turning your hips fully to the north, step forwards with your right leg into Zenkutsu dachi. As you do so, turn both hands over 180 degrees, and powerfully raise your right back up to chest height, and press your left down to belt height.

8
Hachi
Empi footwork chart step 28 Step your left foot slowly out in Zenkutsu dachi. At the mid-point, when your knees are beside each other, your knees and hips should be facing north-east, and your hands should still be in exactly the same position. As you reach the mid-point, turn your hands over, then slowly and powerfully press your right palm down to belt level and raise your left palm to chest height.

At the same time, continue moving your left foot forwards into stance, turning your hips square as you finish. Your hip and hand movement should finish at the same time, with your hips lending power to the arm-breaking action of your hands.

9
Ku
Empi footwork chart step 29 Step your right foot slowly out in Zenkutsu dachi. At the mid-point, when your knees are beside each other, your knees and hips should be facing north-west, and your hands should still be in exactly the same position. As you reach the mid-point, turn your hands over, then slowly and powerfully press your left palm down to belt level and raise your right palm to chest height.

At the same time, continue moving your right foot forwards into stance, turning your hips square as you finish. Your hip and hand movement should finish at the same time, with your hips lending power to the arm-breaking breaking action of your hands.

10
Ju
Empi footwork chart step 30 Step a shoulder-width forwards with your left leg, then the same distance forwards with your right, landing in Kokutso dachi. As you step into stance, perform a Gedan barai to the north using your right arm. At the same time, retract your left fist, palm up, to your solar plexus.
1
Ichi
Empi footwork chart step 31 Step a shoulder-width forwards with your right leg, then the same distance with your left leg, landing in Kokutso dachi again. As you step into stance, open your right hand in a grabbing shape, palm facing forwards and fingers down and slowly extend your hand at groin height. The left should also be opened in a grabbing shape, palm facing forwards, but this time the fingers are facing to the east. The left hand is extended at throat-height, and both hands are about 18 inches in front of you. They should both be moved into position slowly but purposefully.
2
Ni
Empi footwork chart step 32 Swing your shoulders, then your hips in a 180 degree circle to your left, so that you are facing south. As you do so swing your arms around at shoulder height. As you find yourself nearing the end of the turn, bring your right leg through, using it to take off into a spinning jump, which continues in the same direction of rotation. The jump should end up facing north, two shoulders south of where you started. You should jump as high as you possibly can. In mid-air, your feet should be tucked up tight underneath you, and you should be raising your right arm in preparation for a Shuto uke.


You should land in Kokutso dachi with your right foot in front, performing a Shuto uke with your right arm, with your left hand open, palm up, by your solar plexus.

3
San
Empi footwork chart step 33 Step back with your right foot into left-foot-forwards Kokutso dachi, performing a Shuto uke, with your right hand open, palm up, by your solar plexus.
4
Shi
Empi footwork chart step 34 Bring your heels together by drawing your left foot back beside your right, with a slight bend in your knees. Place your right fist across your body with the knuckles pressed into the palm of your open left hand. Your wrist should be straight and the back of your hand should face forwards. Your left arm should be partially drawn back to your left side with the palm open in knife-hand shape, palm, towards your body, and the wrist straight.
End Empi footwork chart end Turn your toes out, so that your feet face north-east and north-west, with your heels still together (musubi dachi). Bow. Return to Heiko dachi.

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