Kata is the foundation of the art of Karate, in the same sense that a good background in mathematics is essential training for and engineer. To a layman, Kata would appear to be no more than a series of beautiful and graceful movements of blocking, punching and kicking. In fact however, Kata is the medium through which the student communicates his attitude, his weaknesses, and his strengths. This enables the instructor to guide the student’s development carefully and meaningfully.
Kata is very demanding. It requires the ultimate in balance, power, speed, concentration, breathing, and a proper blend of confidence and humility. These are some of the important inputs of the character building which should be a part of every human being’s early training. In the Shorin-ryu Karate system, great emphasis is placed on Kata. However, it should be understood that the concept and necessity of self-defense is not ignored or de-emphasized. It is our experience and the experience of generations of Okinawan Karate masters that true self-defense is possible only after serious training in the above mentioned demands of Kata.
The kata of the Kiyobukan reflect the essence of the Matsumura, Itotsu, Chibana lineage. The kata are taught with strict adherence to the legacy as it was taught to Nakaza Sensei.
In North America we introduce Fukyu and Taikyoku kata to help new students develop strength and coordination necessary for the traditional Shuri-Te lineage kata.
Sokon Matsumura taught Anko Itotsu Passai Kata. It is believed that Matsumura was taught Passai by his instructor, Sakugawa. If oral history can be dependable Sakugawa was believed to have learned the Passai Kata in China. The floating hand techniques are very similar to the movement of Tai Chi Chuan. There are other similarities in the shifting of body weight in light stances. Matsumura taught Passai in the village of Tomari. Passai was a favorite kata of the Tomari-Te masters. There are three known versions of Passai; Shimabuku Pasai, Itosu Passai and Matsumura Passai. Today there are two major versions of Passai that exist and they are called Passai Sho which is ltotsu Passai and Passai Dai which is Matsumura Passai.
The kata Chinto is surrounded by one of the most famous karate stories of Okinawa. Old legend said that a shipwrecked Chinese martial artist named Chinto lived in the hills of Nago. During the night hours he would use the cover of darkness to raid the farmers' chicken huts. All attempts to capture him failed. The villagers confronted Chinto several times. Each time he overwhelmed them with his martial art skills. The local officials deemed the problem too large for them to handle. The help of the most famous martial artist of the time was enlisted. Sokon Matsumura, karate teacher and chief of the royal guard of King Sho was sent to capture Chinto. When Matsumura and Chinto had their first confrontation, Matsumura was not able to capture him. Matsumura, being a master of martial artist, was intrigued by the skill of Chinto. After a time of playing cat and mouse hunting games, the relationship between the two developed to one of concern and respect. Chinto was befriended by Matsumura and Chinto taught him his art. Matsumura perfected the art taught him by Chinto into the kata "CHINTO" as he developed this kata.
This kata (54 Steps of the black tiger/crane) is the most advanced kata of the Shuri-Te branch of Okinawan Karate. In the native tongue of ancient Okinawa the Kata was called Useishi meaning 54 step. Recorded history takes the development of Gojushiho before the time of Matusmura. It combined more of the Chinese Ch'uan Fa elements than any other Kata. Techniques of several systems of Ch'uan Fa are united in this kata. Master Itotsu took great pride in the way Choshin Chibana performed this kata and encouraged him to spend much time with Gojushiho. Thus there are many people who would like to call there version of Gojushiho unchanged. This simply is not true. The Gojuishiho practiced by most systems today was prefected by Choshin Chibana using the crane technique taught to him by Master Itotsu. Mastery of Gojushiho means mastery of Karate-do for it included the fast and slow, the hard and soft and a range of circle theory techniques.
The Kihon Kata are basic form drills done in a straight line pattern moving forward on offense and backward on defense. The word Kihon means basic.
The Fukyu Kata introduces the concept of defending all sides. Defense movements are at 90-degree turns and 180-degree turns. The Fukyu Kata teaches defense of central ground. The word fukyu means fundamental.
"H-Pattern" Katas. Taikyoku Ichidan, Taikyouku Nidan, and Taikyoku Sandan are credited to Master Funakoshi, a student of Anko Itotsu.
History shows that Naihanchi Kata had its origin in Chinese Shaolin Ch'uan Fa. Naihanchi kata was done in both Shuri Te and Tomair Te and a version of Naihanchi can be found in the early Japanese Shorinji-Kempo which came directly from China to mainland Japan. Also the word Naihanchi sounds very much like its Chinese equivalent DAI PO CHIN. Naihanchi kata stresses the developement of the KI (center life force). Strong lower body movements are developed while the action of the upper body in maintained. The side to side movements strengthen the legs. The back must be kept straight and the shoulders down so that the concentration can be kept in the HARA-physicai and spiritual center of the body. In days of old these were the first kata taught to new students and the only kata taught for three of four years. Almost all the ancient masters performed Naihanchi kata in the same manner as it is performed today.
When Anko Itotsu was commissioned to teach karate in the public school his first students were all elementary age boys. Master Itotsu found Naihanchi kata difficult to learn and enjoyed by children of that young age. In his dilemma to develop a easily understood pattern he took the basic "7-pattern" of Kusanku and double it to make the "I" or "H-pattern" which formed a fortress about its performer. The pinan kata are practiced unchanged in all systems of Traditional Karate. Although mainland Japan prefers the name Heian, the pattern remains the same as the traditional Okinawan Pinan Kata
The details of a military envoy of the Imperial Court of China named Kusanku are recorded in a book of Poems called Oshima Hikki (Diary of the large Island), written by Tobe of Tosa village. Legend says that Kusanku befriended a resident of Shuri called Shionja. Shionja had lived in China and studied with Kusanku there. Shiuonja was very happy to find Kusanku in Okinawa when he returned home in 1784. Tobe Sakugawa was known to have studied with Kusanku when Sakugawa was in his late twenties. The fact that Kusanku was passed on by Sakugawa to Matsumura makes one think that the kata was also practiced in China because Sakagawa went to China after studying with Kusanku. Master Itotsu developed what we know today as Kusanku Sho and Kusanku Dai. However it was his student, Choshin Chibana, that is credited with refining these kata. The Kusanku practiced throughout the world all are based on the Kushanku Sho and Kusanku Dai taught by Choshin Chibana.