Below are technical notes for the various types of stepping in Taido’s unsoku.
The Eight Steps
Let’s go over some points for executing the eight steps of unsoku happo.
So-soku is an advancing step for narrowing the distance to the target. Since it moves closer to danger, its very important to begin with a solid face cover. Likewise, the punch should be strong and direct to prevent the opponent from attempting to control your step. Notice that so-soku terminates in neko ashi dachi, with one leg supporting most of the weight. This allows the unweighted foot to move quickly for changing directions or initiating an attack.
In-soku is the reverse of so-soku. It is used to gain distance quickly. Here again, a cat stance is employed to maintain mobility after the motion. Also be aware that the outstretched soete helps to keep the advancing opponent at bay. In-soku is probably the least-practiced and most underestimated of all the unsoku movements, but when understood correctly, it can be employed to good effect in jissen.
Ka-soku is an advancing step which is practiced in two forms. The irregular hensoku version will be discussed below. Ka-soku begins similarly to so-soku, but continues beyond the strike. There is no break in the motion at this point – only a change of direction. The initial strike can be used to illicit a defensive response from the opponent. Then there is a sidestep to circumvent the defense and move towards an opening. The angle of the final step can be adjusted toward the target. This entering step is not the end of the movement, but should be used to initiate the appropriate sotai. Therefore, the direction and speed of the final step are vital to the execution of the technique.
Gen-soku is inverse to ka-soku and is used for retreating from attack. Like ka-soku, gen-soku has an alternate version. The key point is the small step which is used to initiate movement and get away from harm as quickly as possible. This is a retreat into a cat stance from which the unweighted leg can move to whichever direction is most advantageous. Gen-soku’s effectiveness in jissen is due to the fact that it is not a backwards escape which invites further aggression, but a strategic escape which retreats to a more-defensible position. As with ka-soku, the final step should lead directly into sotai.
Ko-soku is the most basic, and most used of Taido’s unsoku. The purpose of ko-soku is to maintain control of your angle and position relative to the opponent. In ko-soku the angle is altered with respect to your back foot.
Ten-soku is similar to ko-soku, though not as easy to understand or employ. Where ko-soku adjusts the angle at a safe-feeling distance by turning about the back foot, ten-soku adjusts the angle by turning about the front leg, often within inches of the opponent. Though it appears to have limited application, ten-soku is useful for entering an opponents attack and changing the angle to favor your own attack from within. Like in-soku, ten-soku should be studied and its applications explored to find new ways of controlling the opponent.
Tsui-soku is a very fast lunge and strike, often confused with untai no tsuki. Tsui-soku does not move up and down, so it is not an untai technique. It lacks the power of untai, but can be nearly twice as fast and is useful for taking advantage of a fleeting opportunity. While tsui-soku is not a viable option for seriously attacking, it can be used to break a combination or thwart and oncoming attack.
Tai-soku is a used for returning to genten after an attack. Don’t neglect to practice returning from techniques. Tai-soku primarily removes you from engagement distance after an attack. This reduces the opportunity of counter attack by the opponent and allows you to apprise the situation from a relatively safe distance.
As mentioned above, there are alternate versions of both ka-soku and gen-soku. In America, these are referred to as hensoku, or irregular footwork, because they don’t return to genten. In Japan, I usually here them referred to as “oyo no kasoku” and “oyo no gensoku.”
In either step, the object is the same as the original version, but the movement is altered to cover the greatest possible distance and be adjustable to the situation. In both hensoku moves, it is important to remember that the final kamae is not the end of the motion – it should lead into the body movement of a technique.
Here they are:
In the major difference between hensoku ka and ka-soku is that the hensoku version doesn’t step back after striking. Instead, the motion continues forward at an angle. This is for chasing a retreating opponent.
Be sure not to stop in the punching position. Shift your momentum to retain the forward pressure advantage. Likewise, don’t step forward with a weak punch and expect an opponent to react defensively. It’s your job to make him move by stepping forcefully with a strong punch.
Here again, the step is altered to move further. Where gen-soku steps back to nekoashidachi before moving sideways, hensoku gen takes a full step backward before angling back. The final step includes an overstep and correction that stretches away from the oncoming attack and adjusts to the appropriate angle into the final kamae. As a counter to hensoku ka, hensoku gen is for retreating quickly from an aggressive opponent.