As this Sunday I’ll be entering a Kata event in a tournament in Ipoh, I decided to polish up my kata. The organizer specifically requested that the contestants perform Shotokan katas, do there is no dilemma in it for me. I have previously decided on several katas, Jitte, Hangetsu, Wankan, Unsu and Sochin as my main choice, with Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Dai, Enpi and Tekki Shodan as back-up. I wanted to do kata that are not so prominent in tournaments, so relegated Unsu and Sochin (so over popular in kata events) as back-up and fixed on my two favorites Jitte and Hangetsu. Wankan is a secondary choice. It is a short and sweet kata, but do require some technical credibility to perform. Like Jiin, it is often said as the forgotten kata of Shotokan, and in reality, almost extinct in most Shotokan Dojos. The late Nakayama Sensei did not include it in his best selling book series ‘BEST KARATE‘, although it is included in the 26 Shotokan katas. But this is probably due to his untimely death. I have learnt 2 versions on the kata. The first is the Kanazawa version. The Kanazawa version has the two opening moves in neko-ashi-dachi, with a slight step in the first move. The older version, one practiced by JKA, JKS & KWF the said two moves are in kokotsu-dachi. The rest of the kata then proceeds to basicly the same for the rest of the kata. It all comes down to personal preference I guess. Kanazawa Kancho has his katas influenced or rather flavoured by his interest and research in Goju-Ryu, and has Shotokized (my own word) several Goju katas. Personally I liked the older version, so I’ll stick to that one.
Wankan was the first kata I practised this morning. I picked up this kata from Naka Sensei in the early 2000’s, and was surprised I remembered all the techniques. The hardest component of Wankan for me is the timing, because it has both fast and slow elements. It is particularly interesting for me because pairing of gedan-sukui-uke and gedan-teisho-uke not found in other Shotokan kata.
Jitte or Jutte was the kata I worked on next. Micheal Lim Sensei taught me this kata before he crossed over to Kasuno-Ha. I was a 6th kyu at the time. This kata is said to be the counter-bo kata and has interesting moves such as the one legged-crane stance and the bo-uke (sorry… I forgot the proper names for them). This is a kata that requires it’s performer to have good if not excellent body coordination as it requires a lot of hip twists.
Hangetsu is my favorite kata, and one I’m sure to perform at any tournament I’m in. This kata was taught to me by my former instructor, Vince Choo Sensei. I remember that this kata was practiced alongside the Aragaki Seisan kata in my old dojo. This is because hangetsu is derived from the older Seisan kata. Though much shorter than the original Seisan, this kata poses several challenges (for me at least) such as the hangetsu-dachi (a variant of sanchin-dachi). This stance cannot be too wide for it makes movement difficult, and cannot also be too small (sanchin-dachi).
I ran through Unsu next a few times. This long kata is a favorite in competitions as it is very pleasant to watch, especially the 360 degree jump. As the tournament I’m going to is a Shotokan tournament, I’m sure I’ll see it perform many times.
Before finishing up, I practiced Seibukan katas Fukyu Ichi, Fukyu Ni and Passai. My students are grading in 2 weeks time, and I am worried. They are not at their expected level of competence. I shared my worry with my wife, and wondered if it reflects my teaching capability (or lack of). She said that I am too strict in my expectations, and that they are doing just fine. I have 6 students (including my own kids) going for 8th kyu, and they should know their Fukyu Kata Ichi by heart, but still make silly mistakes, wrong stances, etc. Should I just cancel the grading and reschedule? It would not be fair then to some who are ready. I have a few white belts who would shame their seniors by their sheer tenacity in training. I wish everyone of them the best of luck in their grading.