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Thread: In Search of: The Kata of Te

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Default In Search of: The Kata of Te

    Gentlemen & Ladies, If I may direct you below a question asked by one of my yudansha Rafael Guiterrez M.D.

    Is there any evidence that Te (pre-karate Okinawan Bugei ) had or did not have Kata?
    Thanks again for sharing your wisdoms and knowledge regarding the questions above.
    Prince Loeffler
    Shugyokan Dojo

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Manchester, UK
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    Default Te

    Hi Prince
    This could be a Zen riddle, akin to "if a tree falls over and there's nobody there to hear it..."
    If someone in Okinawa is practising Kata, then wouldn't they be practicing Karate?
    Rather like asking, did anyone in Japan practice with a sword before the advent of Kenjutsu?
    So I guess it depends what you mean by "Karate". I assume you're not talking about Funakoshi/Mabuni/Miyagi era Karatedo (empty hand) and you're talking about Karate/Tode/Toshu.
    In that case, we know that instructors such as Matsumura, Aragaki, Higaonna and the Kojo family trained in Fujian and with teachers like Anan/Chinto, Ason and Iwah, and brought back Quan such as Seishan, Useishi, Niseishi, Jutte, Sanchin, Peichurrin.
    These Quan became Kata.
    But did anyone practice Quan/Kata in Okinawa prior to the Kojo/Iwah influx of Shaolin type Quan? I believe there were two forms practiced in Okinawa prior to these.
    Those forms are Wansu and Kushanku.
    Wansu may have been practiced as early as 1683 in Okinawa (if we accept that Wansu was introduced by Wang Ji) who was a contemporary of Hama Higa (not to be confused with the later Matsu Higa). So early Te practitioners like Hama Higa and Takahara Peichin could have had access to this kata.
    The second kata Kushanku was taught to either Tode Sakugawa, Chatan Yara or both of them. According to Richard Kim, Sakugawa (in addition to training under Takahara) also trained with Wang Zong Yue who practiced a forerunner of Taiji Quan.
    Now since Wansu and Kushanku could be considered Chinese imports, they are essentially Kara Te not Te.
    Did anyone in Okinawa practice Kata before this?
    I'd say not.
    Okinawan folk dances did share similarities with kata (according to Higaonna) in terms of footwork but I believe Quan/solo empty handed kata are a uniquely Chinese phenomena. By that I mean a single practitioner performing a set sequence of percussive techniques and moves representative of throws/locks etc. This type of Shadow Boxing seems to me uniquely Chinese.
    For example look at the Koryu Jujutsu schools, as best I can work out all of their kata are two-man sets.
    Okinawan styles distinct from Karate (Motobu family etc) seem not to use solo routines either.
    So, in my humble opinion the long answer is "if they're doing Kata, they're doing Karate. Because all Kata originated from Chinese Quan."
    Short answer, no.
    [the above was written off the top of my head without consulting citations and reflects only my opinion, please be gentle and don't flame me!]
    Best wishes
    Simon Keegan 4th Dan

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