Kata Series: Gankaku

Gankaku, or “crane on the rock” for its distinct pose that evokes the image of a crane defending against its enemies whilst standing on one leg, was originally called Chintō, a name that belongs to the Shorei style. It is one of the most ancient kata belonging to the tradition, and as such its origins are unknown.

It has been perfected over the years by various masters, and the most recent form was developed by Ankō Itosu. It is a kata that has balance and power at its core. The ability for a karateka to encompass the kime required for the simultaneous yokogeri-uraken whilst standing on one leg is paramount to delivering a good rendition of Gankaku.

The Tale of Chintō

One legend of the kata’s origin relates the tale of a Chinese sailor named Chintō. When his ship crashed on the coast of Okinawa, Chintō was stranded. To survive, he stole crops from a nearby village. Matsumura Sōkon, a master of karate and the chief bodyguard of Ryukyuan king, was dispatched to confront Chintō. In the ensuing fight, Sōkon realized he was equally matched with Chintō, and decided to learn the style and techniques of the stranded sailor. Thus, Sōkon developed what is today Gankaku. Chintō translates to “fighter to the east”, perhaps alluding to its origins of the confrontation between Chintō and Sōkon on the Okinawan coast. It is sometimes said that this kata should be practiced whilst facing eastwards.


 

Gankaku has many advanced techniques: its opening is dynamic, with the exponent pulling his attacker’s hand towards his hip, then pivoting to dislocate the attacker’s shoulder. Its enbusen, or movement pattern, was adapted by Gichin Funakoshi. It consists of a single vertical line, which belies the kata’s incredible dynamism and inherent power.

 


Italian Team: Gankaku at the Final of the 21st WKF Championships

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Kata Series: Chinte

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We practiced Chinte recently during our senior Saturday class. This kata series serves to extend karateka knowledge about this kata, including its history and development.

Chinte is an interesting kata in the overall Shotokan grouping of katas. Its circular techniques, extensive use of shoulders, and various open-hand movements are uncommon in traditional Shotokan kihon practice. Yet Chinte remains a powerful, varied and interesting kata that, whilst often overlooked at competition level, contains a strong blend of unconventional kihon movements and intricate details in its technique and execution.

The kata is designed for self defense at close proximity. Its origins lie in ancient China, one of a few katas imported to Okinawa from that country. This perhaps explains its inclusion of such unconventional movements as the two-finger strike to the eyes, various displays of ippon-ken striking, and wide, circular movements.

Chinte is just as poetic as it is potent. An interpretation of its final closing movements, a series of hops that return the practitioner to the starting position and believed to be included to facilitate competition, is to evoke the image of waves being absorbed by the sand, a symbol of tranquility after the violent storm that is the kata’s torrent of powerful techniques.

The name, loosely translated, means “rare hand” or “unusual hand”, perhaps alluding to the finger-strikes, ippon-ken and round, open-hand circular movements.

Chinte’s blend of traditional techniques with these rare, ancient variations make it an appealing  and dynamic choice if one wishes to break the traditional mould at competition level.

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Kata Series: Jitte

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We practiced Jitte recently during our senior Saturday class. This kata series serves to extend karateka knowledge about this kata, including its history and development.

Jitte has 27 movements, and is practised as a defence against the , a tall, long staff-like weapon used in Okinawa and feudal Japan. It can be roughly translated as “10 techniques”, implying its intention in describing the practitioner fending-off ten adversaries.

The Shotokan style includes one of the few interpretations of the kata as defending against an attack from the bō. There are powerful open-hand techniques, and a multitude of “secret techniques” – techniques adapted from our kihon to describe defence against such a weapon.

Jitte forms part of the Jion kata group. Apart from its name describing the defence against 10 opponents, some believe that the kata is named as such due to its enbusen, or line of movement, mimicking that of a jitte, a specialised weapon used by samurai during the Edo period of Japan’s history.

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Kata Series: Jion

Kata Series: JionJion forms part of the “Jion Kata Group.” This kata group consists of Jion, Ji’in, and Jutte. It is a popular kata choice for competition, particularly because it is a kata that exhibits many of the traditional Shotokan stances:  zenkutsu dachi (front stance) and kiba dachi (horse stance). It begins in the kamae of the left hand covering the right, reminiscent of Chinese boxing, from which it is believed the kata origniated.

Whilst little is known about Jion’s true history, it is believed that these katas began life in Chinese “Gung-fu”, moving towards the Japanese islands and further propagated in the Tomari region, where it was taught as part of the Tomari-te school (a branch of Okinawan martial arts taught in the Tomari village). The island of Okinawa is where modern karate began. These katas are referred to as the “Temple katas” because they are believed to have been practised in the Jion Temple, where martial arts were studied.

Meanings

“Jion” means “Mercy”; Ji’in translates as “Inverted Mercy”; and “Jutte” is “Ten Hands,” its mastery being that the practitioner should be able to face ten opponents.

Significance of Jion

Jion is a staple at competitions and examinations. Jion teaches a karateka rotational movements and directional shifts, characterized by its 45˚ movements at the opening, and linear segments that are broken by sharp 90˚ twists. It is an exceptionally basic, yet powerful kata, possessing a sense of grandeur. Nothing is hidden in the kata; it is honest, and should be practiced with such a spirit. The kata has a significant break-point midway through, where the karateka may, in a sense, recompose themselves in anticipation for the final movements of the kata. At this point, the kata seems to pause, setting-up for the explosive forward-momentum movements that drive the defense to its conclusion.

This is the first part of our Kata Series. Let us know which Shotokan katas you’d like to learn more about by leaving a comment below.

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Kata Series: What is Kata?

Training Course December 2012

In preparation for our new Kata Series feature launching soon on this website, here’s an interesting question:

What is kata?

This quote from SKI founder and director, Kancho Hirokazu Kanazawa, illustrates the essence of kata:

 

“Kata practice is not meant for demonstration, but to help us improve through its study our ability in Kumite and later make a practical application in a real encounter. […] the essence of kata is not beauty of the movement but efficiency in the movement. When the performer can communicate the impression of beauty and power and mainly if the same feeling can be projected if viewed from behind, he may claim mastery of the kata.”

– Hirokazu Kanazawa, March 1982

Our kata series launches tomorrow (Friday) with the first selection, Jion. Comment below to tell us which katas you’d like to learn more about.

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