History of Taikyoku Katas

Hidden truths about karate.
Forum rules
You may visit as a guest and read everything. You may register and post messages. I reserve the right to control site content. -- Hanshi Clayton

History of Taikyoku Katas

Postby HanshiClayton » Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:27 pm

I didn’t discuss the Taikyoku katas in Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition because they are even newer than the Heians--- created in the modern period by multiple Okinawan masters--- and have little to tell us about Shuri-te. Certainly the bunkai is a moot issue. These are introductory training katas, pure and simple.

A reference for you: See Patrick McDermott and Ferol Arce, Karate’s Supreme Ultimate: The Taikyoku Kata in Five Rings, iUniverse.com, 2004. This delightful little book is a mad mix of beginner exposition (how to do upblock) and master-level exposition (lots of stuff on Musashi, Japanese language, historical anecdotes, karate controversies, etc.) Along the way they document the five Taikyoku katas of their style, Wado Ki Kai, derived from traditional Wado Ryu.

Aside from being fun to read, the book at one point analyzes the conflicting claims to authorship of the Taikyoku katas. Gigo Funakoshi apparently invented Taikyoku Shodan around 1930 as a beginner kata. Gichin Funakoshi then documented it in Karate Do Kyohan in 1935, and mentioned that there was also a T. Nidan and T. Sandan that differed only slightly from T. Shodan. Then in the 1940’s Shoshin Nagamine and Choki Motobu elaborated the original Taikyoku kata into a set of five, in which numbers 2-5 were, in fact, very different from number 1. That’s what we find in McDermott’s and Arce’s book.

To me, the interesting question is why? Why go to the trouble to generate what is, essentially, a second set of Heians? Interestingly, there might be a reason. Maybe two of them.

(1) Motobu and Nagamine received their Heians (Pinans) from Chotoku Kyan, who drastically revised them to remove the linear techniques from them. In other words, their Heians were quite deficient in hard-style techniques. Motobu and Nagamine may have felt the need for beginner katas that demonstrated linear technique, so they invented some.

(2) We always have to remember that Kyan and Motobu were open enemies of Itosu and Funakoshi, and possibly this was a factor too. It is hard to separate the personalities from the technical karate and teaching issues.

By the way, "taikyoku" kanji are read as "tai chi" in Mandarin. That will be interesting to some of you. (Thanks to Philip Sneyd for pointing that out.)
Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2012, All Rights Reserved.
This forum is supported by the sales of Shotokan's Secret, Expanded Edition
Site Founder
Site Founder
Posts: 298
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:45 pm

Return to Essays about Karate

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Hit Counter by Digits