The Kata of Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo
Kata are the formal, solo exercises of karate. Many of the kata date back several hundreds years, and they contain a range of techniques, strategies and principles for responding to commonly forms of inter-personal violence. Kata are an important practice, and their study, along with the practice of techniques from them with partners, forms the basis of karate.
Shorinjiryu Koshinkai Karatedo preserves and continues to practice the various kata passed on to it from senior practitioners of Shorinjiryu Kenkokan Karatedo, including Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka or Hanshi Shunji Watanabe. A short introduction is provided below to the main kata practiced at the Kengokan Dojo is provided below.
Naihanchin means “sideways fighting” or “inside fighting”, and is one of the oldest and most important of the kata of the Shuri-te karate lineage. Naihanchin Sho (“lesser Naihanchin”) is an introductory form that teaches the basic movements of Naihanchin, and the associated strategies and defensive themes. Naihanchin Sho is the first kata learnt at the Kengokan Dojo, and is taught in conjunction with correspending self defence applications. Competency at this kata is required for promotion to yellow belt (8th and 7th Kyu).
Wankan is an old kata, thought to have been an “inner circle” form taught within the Shuri Palace. Its name means “Kings Crown”, and although a relatively short form, it contains an interesting range of techniques, including rapid hand techniques, evasive foot movements and limb control. Competency with Wankan is required for promotion to orange belt (6th and 5th Kyu), along with competency in associated self defence applications from Wankan.
Nijushiho was one of the three fundamental kata (along with Naihanchin and Sanchin) emphasised by the founder of Shorinjiryu. It is a flowing and angular form, and is probably handed down from the lineage of Kensei Anko Azato. As such, the kata emphasises evasion and defence against attacks with a bladed weapon. Nijushiho means “24 techniques”. Nijushiho must be learned competently prior to promotion to green belt (4th Kyu).
Naihanchin Dai is an expanded form of the Naihanchin form, that builds on the same principals learned with Naihanchin Sho. It utilises longer range techniques, and provides an insight into alternative applications, and applications applied at a greater distance. Naihanchin Dai also includes “what if” applications for when an opponent has slipped through your defences. Naihanchin Dai is the core syllabus kata required for progress to 3rd Kyu (Green belt with brown tips).
A very old kata, dating back to the Shuri Palace, Bassai can literally mean “to storm a fortress”. It is a signature kata of the Shuri-te lineage (which includes Shorinjiryu, Shorin-ryu and Shotokan), and was a personal favourite of Master Chotoku Kyan, the principal teacher of the founder of Shorinjiryu, Shinan Kori Hisataka. An intermediate to advanced kata, an understanding of Bassai is required for promotion to 2nd Kyu (brown belt).
The origins of Seisan, which means “13” (Okinawan language), are lost in the sands of time. Forms of Seisan are found in the three core branches of Okinawan karate – Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te, and major versions are traced back to Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura, Master Seisho Aragaki and Master Kanryo Higaonna. The main version practiced in Shorinjiryu Koshinkai is the Matsumura version. We also practice the Aragaki Seisan form in Kengokan Dojo at advanced levels. A knowledge of Seisan is required for promotion to 1st Kyu (brown belt with black tips).
Sankakutobi is a relatively new form, based on the Kudaka (Hisataka) family teachings passed down in the series of Sankakutobi Kumite. The kata form of Sankakutobi was developed by Hanshi Masayuki Hisataka, and is unique to Shorinjiryu karate. It is long and energetic form, and contains many techniques for which the 11 Sankakutobi kumite (divided into three series) provide the applications. Sankakutobi kata and the corresponding Sankakutobi Shodan Ichi kumite are required for promotion to Shodan Ho (probationary black belt)
Another old form, and along with Naihanchin and Nijushiho, one of the three foundational kata emphasised by Shinan Kori Hisataka. Meaning “three battles”, Sanchin emphasises integration of mind, body and technique (shin-gi-tai), breathing and posture. This form of Sanchin is unique to Shorinjiryu, and is required for promotion to Nidan (2nd Dan).
Meaning “fighting to the east”, Chinto is a unique form that imparts strategy for fighting on uneven ground, and for using the sun to your advantage in an encounter. As such, Chinto teaches the practitioner to integrate the aspects of ten (heavens or the atmosphere), chi (earth or terrain) and jin (man). It is an old kata representative of the ti (te) of the village of Tomari. It is believed that Chinto was developed by “Bushi” Matsumura, based on lessons he learned from a shipwrecked Chinese martial artist who resided for a time in the Tomari area.
One of three versions of the Kusanku (aka Kusoku) form practiced in Shorinjiryu karate, Kusanku Dai is the highest level kata practiced in Shorinjiryu Koshinkai, and is studied by Yondan (4th Dan) practitioners. It is believed that the various forms of Kusanku trace their history back to a Chinese military attache to the Ryukyu Kingdom who bore the title Kong Su Kung, pronounced Kusanku in Okinawan language. Among the attache’s students in Okinawa was the master Kanga “Toudi” (Karate) Sakugawa, who took Kong Su Kung’s teachings and created the form now known as Kusanku Dai. Kusanku Dai traced its roots through master Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura to the original form.