Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kata Genealogy: How Pinan Shodan became Heian Nidan

The five Pinan Katas were created in Okinawa
By a legendary master called Anko Itosu
(My master's master's master's master).

Only known image of Anko Itosu

They were first known as Pinan
Until Gichin Funakoshi called them Heian, so that the name would sound more Japanese.
He then switched the order up to make them easier to learn.

But in doing so, he confused thousands of students.

Funakoshi Gichin (my master's master's master a.k.a. founder of Shotokan Karate)
So all of that got me thinking...
Could I map out how a single Kata has evolved over time?

A few searches and photo edits later,
I present to you my breakdown of the evolution
of the first three moves of Pinan Shodan.
(I didn't do the whole Kata since I'm practically about to fall asleep right now)

Here is Uema Yasuhiro Sensei of the Shorin-Ryu style:

Here is a representative of the Shito-Ryu style:

Here are Funakoshi Gichin and Hirokazu Kanazawa Sensei respectively of the Shotokan style:

Here is Hironori Otsuka Sensei, founder of the Wado Ryu style:

And finally, a representative of the Kyokushin style:

The founders of Shorin-Ryu, Shito-Ryu, and Shotokan
All studied directly under Anko Itosu.

The founders of Kyokushin and Wado-Ryu were heavily influenced by Shotokan.
Both Wado-Ryu (whose founder was a Jiu-Jitsu expert)
And Kyokushin (whose founder slaughtered bulls with his bare hands)
Are combat orientated.

Notice how the power is generated differently for the first move.
Some styles begin with their hands at the hips,
While others go straight to the technique.

If we pay attention to the crossing of the arms,
we can see a clear progression between styles:

What appears as a cross close to the body in the Shorin-Ryu,
Appears as two distinct techniques in Kyokushin.
The stances also vary significantly between photos.

Another noteworthy difference is the final strike within the sequence.

In some ways this tells us what the previous moves achieved;
How they placed the opponent in a vulnerable position.

In the first three photos, the stances are short,
So the previous moves must have been enough to unbalance the opponent.

The last two styles leap in with a longer stance.
This tells us that the previous moves were of a block and counter fashion, which did not unbalance the opponent.

The two popular interpretations of the Kata are shown below:

The latter leaves the opponent in a vulnerable position, even if not thrown, and may have been the one preferred by Shorin-Ryu.
Whereas the former application is closer to the one depicted by Kyokushin.

As you can tell, there are multiple applications for the same movement.
This idea stems from Minamoto Bujutsu, which taught that all movement is essentially the same.
To read more about the origins of Kata, get this book:

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