To View The Sky; Empty Hand Part 5

Following on from Empty Hand Part 4, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor presents you the with next mighty Kata in order of advancement through the formal Karate gradings.

Kanku Dai is the longest Kata in the Shotokan syllabus, with 65 movements and is the most complex and demanding Kata thus far.

It is the first of two Kanku katas; they do not follow the Embusen or ‘H’ shaped path, like the Heian Katas. Better start getting used to that, beloved reader, they seldom do from this point on.

That’s right, beloved readers, today we learn one of Shotokan karate’s most symbolic Katas. Ganbatte.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa. Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata's naming.

This is a shot of sunset on the South coast of Okinawa.
Perhaps the inspiration for the Kata’s naming.

Kata History

Unlike most of the Kata that have Chinese origins, Kanku Dai was created  in Okinawa, rather than adapted and / or modified from the original Kung Fu as some are.

Before being changed to Kanku-dai, the kata was originally called Kushanku, (the Okinawan mis-pronunciation of Kung Siang Chin), the name taken from a Chinese military advisor who visited Okinawa under government orders.

He  resided  in Okinawa from 1756-1761. Kushanku, also called Kosokun in some styles of Karate, was a master of a variety of Chinese Martial Arts. He impressed the natives of Okinawa, by showing off his combat skills by easily dispatching larger opponents.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Sensei Sakugawa. Mighty in Martial skill and radical of beard.

Okinawa’s top Martial Artist at that time was Tode Sakugawa. Sakugawa was one of the top students of monk and Astronomer Peichin Takahara. Takahara, sent his student to train under Kushanku as he believed him to be the most skilled Martial Artist to ever to set foot in Okinawa.

Sakugawa studied under Kushanku for 6 years. When Sakugawa was 28 years old, Kushanku passed away and from the teachings left to him devised the Kushanku Kata as a way to honour his instructor and in its own way act as documentation of what he had learned from his teacher.

This illustrates the importance of kata, not only are they the most practical method of Martial practice, but they preserve the knowledge of the techniques.

Although the kata is now named Kanku-dai, it is not an abbreviation of Kushanku. It was when Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to mainland Japan he gave the Kata a new, Japanese name of Kanku-dai, which means to ‘to view the sky’. He also changed the names of many of the Kata he taught, to have Japanese names, such as the Passai became Bassai.

Once again our instructor will be that 80-year-old guy that can kick seven shades out of all of you

先 生 金 澤 弘 和

Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa 

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always. And more nice scenery.

Sensei Kanazawa showing perfect form as always.
And more nice scenery.

観空大

Kanku Dai

The Bunkai

As you can see from the Kata, it contains pretty much all the techniques from the Heian Katas. Kanku Dai is where each of the Heian Katas, (Empty Hand Part 2), are derived, so it’s kind of like a compilation-and-then-some-Kata.

The father of the Heian Katas as it were, most Sensei thinking the Kata too complicated to teach to new students broke it down into 5 easier to learn, shorter Katas.

Until next time. Stay tuned for more.

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