Kata, bunkai, tegumi… (4)

LETTER 4. – About Hakutsuru kata.

Michael , you are right about Matayoshi teaching a Hakutsuru kata. The name is Kakuken. Even though he reserved the kata for some of his senior kobudo students in that he did not teach karate at all in his dojo. His comments still stand, ” the crane is for your health and not for killing like Okinawan karate “. Whenever you and Rand come down to Atlanta for a visit I will get the taped interview out and show it to you and let you make your own interpretations as to what he is meaning. Since I have known Matayoshi for many years I think I know when he is serious and joking. He was not joking.

Second, the reason for my question to him about the Kakuken was that I knew that he had not taught it to many people and that the popularity of the “crane” was growing in the USA. I asked him why so many people were now coming out with crane kata. He said ” everyone trying to be somebody. If crane was so good for fighting then Okinawans would have kept. Not made Uchinandi.” He then proceeded to demonstrate on the tape the crane movements and the bunkai that I asked him about.

Third, I did not learn the Kakuken from Matayoshi sensei. I learned this kata in 1969 from a gentleman by the name of Tomagusku. He had no students and practiced on his own. He lived in the same village that I did and knew that I was a serious karate person. He knew my teacher and respected him. After watching me for sometime without my knowledge while I practiced at home on my makiwara he volunteered to teach me his kata. He informed me that the kata came from Go Ken Ki and that he had studied it before the war. I learned the kata and kept it all these years. I left Okinawa in 1971 and returned in 1975 and could not find Tomagusku or his niece who had been our maid. They had moved from the area and with my limited language skills at the time I could not find them. Over the ensuing years I have demonstrated this kata to many Okinawans and have gotten no response from them as to it’s authenticity until I demonstrated to Matayoshi sensei. He proclaimed to me that the kata came from Go Ken Ki. Until many years after I learned the kata I had no idea who Go Ken Ki was. After Matayoshi sensei verified that the kata was bonafied I then began in earnest to research the history. I found that Go Ken Ki only had one kata. I also found out that if Matsumura had a white crane kata it would have been similar to the one Go Ken Ki had. I also found that Go Ken Ki taught at the Okinawan Kenkyu and that he did not teach the entire kata but the concepts of the kata. Many Okinawans that trained at that time on a limited basis picked up bits and pieces and apparently have created many forms with a crane flavor.

Yes, some of the Shorin Ryu kata have a crane flavor to them such as; Passai, Gojushiho and Kusanku but they do not have the crane power. The Okinawans developed their own power for these kata. Personally I find the crane power contradictory to the Okinawans method of making power. I find just as Matayoshi sensei said, “crane is for health and Okinawan karate is for killing.” Sorry for the long winded response. I never thought thirty years ago that any of this would have any value. I kept the kata because it makes me feel good and is good to warm up with. I am amazed at the interest in something that the Okinawans do not consider important. Maybe we have missed something. I am glad I kept the kata.


Dan Smith

E-mail response from Cyberdojo. Mr. Dan Smith is Vice president: International Okinawan Shorin Ryu Seibukan Karate Assn. 

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