6. Kata and Creators

Erik Altman posed a question to me that took me most of this week to complete. It is a big question. There is no single source for this information, in fact, just about every source has different answers to the question. Here is Erik’s question.

One question popped into my head…Certain kata draw me in more than others, and I definitely have favorites. I was wondering where can I find a list of the creators of each of the 54 kata? I’m interested in seeing if my fav’s might have been created by the same masters, then learning more about them, specifically. (A bit like finding multiple books by a good author.) can’t answer the question completely because either I don’t have all the information or it is buried someplace in my notes where I missed it.

Before I go on I need to explain that karate has little positive history. It has a tradition which is more mythological than historical. The “history” of karate is an oral tradition passed from sensei to deshi for countless generations. Depending on who a person talks to the oral mythology of that school is expounded. What is truth in the history of karate? No one really knows although there are a lot of people who are quite adamant that their particular history is the truth. The following is the mythological-history of the creators of kata which we at Aoinagi Karate accept, as passed to us by Mr. Kim and Mr. Kahalekulu. Is it 100% correct? I really don’t think so. Is it close? I think so. Enjoy!!!

Suparumpei = Higashionna (adapted from Fukien China Peichurin)
Seiunchin = Higashioona (adapted from China) (Naha-te)(c1900)
Sochin = Arakaki Seisho (Tomari-te)(c1900), Funakoshi (Shotokan)(c1930)
Chintei = Matsumura (Shuri-te) (c1840)
Chinto = Chinto (Shuri-te) (c1840)
Pinan = Gichin Funikoshi (and Itosu Yasustune) (Shuri-te) (1903-1907)
Naihanshi = Matsumura (1,2)(c1840), Itosu (3) (c1880)(Shuri-te, Kosho-ryu)
Rohai = Matsumura (c1850), Itosu (Shuri-te)(c1880)
Empi = Birdman Macabe (Tomari-te)(c1800)
Kururunfa = Higashionna (Naha-te)(c1900)
Unsu = Arakaki Seisho (c1890), Nakayama (c1960)(Tomari-te, Shotokan)
Kosokun = Takahara (Shuri-te) (c1750)
Jion = Oyadomari Jion (Tomari-te) (c1890)
Jiin = Oyadomari Jiin (Tomari-te) (c1890)
Jitte = Itosu (Shuri-te adapted from older form in Tomari-te)(c1880)
Juroku = Kenwa Mabuni (Shito) (1916)
Aoinagi = Kenwa Mabuni (Shito) (1915)
Seipai = Higashionna (adapted from Fukien China) (Naha-te)(c1890)
Matsukaze = Matsumora Kosaku (Tomari-te) (c1850)
Bassai = Matsumura (Shuri-te)(c1830)
Annanko = Itoman Bunkichi (didn’t appear till 1926)
Shisochin = Higashioona (Naha-te)(c1900)
Kensei = Mitose (Kosho-ryu)(Probably ancient in the Mitose family)
Nijushiho = Arakaki Seisho (Tomari-te)(c1880)
Tenshin = Miyagi + Mabuni (1920) (Tensho = Goju; Tenshin = Shito)
Chito = Chitose (Chito-ryu)(c1950)
Seisan = Chatan Yara (Naha + Shuri-te)(c1700)
Sanseiryu = Higashionna (Naha-te)(c1900)
Saifa = Higashionna (adapted from Fukien China) (Naha-te)(c1910)
Gojushiho = Matsumura, many others (Shuri-te, although Naha claims it)
Chintoshi = Chinto (c1840)
Shihohai = Chitose (c1960)

Again, I must reemphasize that this is not a positive and definitive list. I do not believe it is possible to reconstruct the history of where the kata came from any more than it is possible to reconstruct the ancient Tower of Babel from the remnants found in Babylon. We only have a fragmentary oral tradition. We do not have truth. But if anyone else tells you they have the truth, don’t believe them; they only have the truth as they WANT to see it (just like us).

Now let’s examine Erik’s feeling of liking of certain forms, his “favs.” I guess we all migrate towards certain kata. Perhaps it is within the creation of the form, which Erik is looking for or perhaps it is within us. Certain forms have a light and airy feeling like Empi. Other forms have multiple difficult turns like Oyadomari Bassai. Still other forms are heavy and powerful like Bassai Dai and Seiunchin. Perhaps kata that fit our personal self-image is what we migrate towards. If a kata is a self-portrait of the performer why wouldn’t our selection of a favorite kata be based on our own self-image?

What is your favorite kata?