Peter Gold, who teaches the 8:00 class at Redlands Dojo wrote to me about the Kosokun Dai. I answer his question by reference to several other kata including Kosokun Sho, Kosokun Shiho Sho, Kosokun Shiho Dai and Junihoshi. Do not be disturbed that I handle these kata as if they were one. That “one” is universal and intentionally tied.
Although a deeply second phase subject I have chosen to discuss this subject openly so that anyone who is so inclined may peruse the issue of this complex kata as far as desired. If I go just a bit too far for your interest forgive me, but this kata delves into the universe, a place that may well be not only stranger than we comprehend but stranger than we can comprehend.
• Jeff Hansen in the 8:00 class asked me the other night what I thought was a very good question. The question is whether Kosokundai can only be performed correctly one day of the year or can it properly be performed in reference to the sky all year round? After stammering a bit, I told Jeff that the kata can properly be performed throughout the year, but it only matches up to the stars standing alone one day of the year. The rest of the year there is another kata that is used to correctly align the kata with the stars.
• Can you please address Jeff’s question?
I would be happy to respond. First of all let’s look at what Kosokun is. It is a map called in the western world a planisphere. It is the mirror image of a western planisphere in that you hold the planisphere up to view the sky in the western world but in Takahara’s world you look down on the ground to see the image. The difference, I find, is quite striking and causes consternation among a few.
Once the concept of the reversed planisphere is accepted the next issue is when is Kosokun correctly aligned. The answer is that it is correctly aligned only one instant in the year, but this is because of Takahara’s explicit demands on the Kosokun series as a universal-awareness-attachment. The instant I refer to for Kosokun Dai is as the Sun crosses the local meridian on the longest day of the year or about June 21. At that instant Takahara believed that the cosmos changed. The northward advance of the Sun was over. The sun would retreat into the south from that instant onward, hence he chose south for the direction to face for proper performance of the kata. So, TO DO THE KATA PROPERLY ONE HAS ONLY ONE INSTANT IN THE ENTIRE YEAR TO PERFORM THE KATA; this is about noon usually on June 21 and the correct direction is south (where the sun is if you are above 23 ½ degrees north of the equator, and the direction in which the sun is to retreat after your performance of the kata). This is only an instant, like our brief lives in eternity.
Knowing the unlikeliness that anyone can learn much from a kata performed once a year Takahara continued to exploit universality and our relative position in the cosmos. In addition to the three other Kosokun kata Takahara created a fabulously unusual kata of the Chinese Zodiac called Junihoshi. Junihoshi is a shugyo kata. It is absurdly difficulty to perform with any degree of accuracy. Its enbusen is circular. The perimeter of the circle acts as a framework to attach the four Kosokun in relative position to each other (90 degrees from each other). From the top looking down and going clockwise if we begin at Kosokun Dai (noon) the order is Kosokun Shiho Dai (sunset), Kosokun Sho (midnight), Kosokun Shiho Sho (sunrise). So far not too impressive, eh?
Well, the framework of Junihoshi rotates 1/365 of a circle each day and has as its anchor several (12) sectional stars. These sectional stars attach the framework of the Kosokun to the sky by being the anchor itself. Let me see if I can explain any better. The four Kosokun kata are permanently and inexorably attached to the round framework of Junihoshi without ever changing. They are welded in place. And Junihoshi is welded to the universe by the placement of the stars in the sky. All is well. All is one.
The Junihoshi is tied to the sky by the positions of the 12 sectional stars. These are reference stars. In other words, the 12 sectional stars demand that Junihoshi fit to the sky in one way and one way only. The dog star (Sirius) is the brightest star in the sky. It is near the meridian at midnight about December 21 of any and every year. Sirius has been in that same position at midnight about winter solstice (December 21-23) for many centuries.
The position of Sirius at that time locks in the Sirius Symbol (Dog) in the kata Junihoshi. And Junihoshi locks the direction of the Kosokun. There is only one instant for the performance of each Kosokun. When Sirius crosses the meridian at midnight it will always be near the winter solstice. Kosokun Sho is performed that instant. All is right in the universe.
Ten days later Sirius crosses the meridian four minutes earlier than midnight. Junihoshi aligns to Sirius; Kosokun Sho aligns to Junihoshi. To perform Kosokun Sho relative to the universe the karate-ka must adjust the direction or the time of the kata’s performance. This is a mind-blowing experience for a non-astronomer. The kata Kosokun (the four-plex) rotates about on the ground tied to the rotation of the sky by 1/365 of a circle every day. Revolution #1.
The universe is constantly moving. We are on a ship sailing in constant motion blown by the winds of the world and the universe. All is well. All is one.
As if that were not enough the Earth rotates every day. This causes the Junihoshi to rotate much faster than the yearly progression. The Junihoshi is tied to the sky. The sky rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours or 15 degrees per hour. Junihoshi rotates 15 degrees per hour as well, tied inexorably to the sky. Revolution #2.
The karate-ka captures one of the twelve-sectional stars in vision, identifies it and moves to the corresponding position in the kata Junihoshi. The framework of Junihoshi then stabilizes the position of the Kosokun with reference to the universe (universality). The master begins AT THAT SPOT. Junihoshi freezes the universe for an instant. Kosokun (any) may be performed. The map is drawn. The master is frozen in the web of the universe for an instant and an instant only for the universe is moving ever onward. The kata has been done correctly by pattern, sky and time, but it has not fit into the winter solstice until the kata is done at midnight when Sirius crosses the meridian. This is a prerequisite of winter solstice.
Now, a karate-ka may follow the progression of Junihoshi and Kosokun (any) around the circular planisphere any day of the year and any (dark-time) minute of the night. The karate-ka may perform the kata correctly in alignment with the universe at any time the karate-ka can nail down Junihoshi. But this is only practice.
Kosokun Sho is not only a midnight kata. It is the winter solstice kata. In order to fit into the grand theme (farmers planting rice in 1750’s Okinawa and the rice sprouting in accordance with the season and hence guaranteeing a harvest) the winter solstice is far more important than the star map, and far more important than facing the correct direction to align the star map to the universe. THE CORRECT TIME AND ONLY CORRECT TIME to perform Kosokun Sho is when the Dog Star is directly south of the performer exactly half way between sunset and sunrise (we call this midnight). This is the time of the winter planting. Kosokun Sho has done its duty.
Although the karate-ka may do the kata correctly aligned to the sky on any night of the year (or the expert may do the kata at any time of the day) by following the rules of alignment of Junihoshi, the kata does not “come alive” except at its one specific instant. That is the window to view the sky.