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KUSANKU KATA

  by

Sensei Don Bohan

            This kata was named for the Chinese military officer Kusanku, who came to Okinawa in 1781.  He was considered to be one of the best and most skilled Chuan-fa practitioners ever to bring his art to the Rukyu Islands.

            In 1786, a young martial artist named Sakugawa, tried to push Kusanku into a river.  When Kusanku stopped Sakugawa with such ease, he realized he was facing a true master of the fighting arts.  After learning that the practical joker was studying the martial arts, Kusanku invited him to come to Kume-mura to study under him.  Sakugawa studied with Kusanku for six years.  Master Kusanku went back to China in 1792, leaving Sakugawa without an instructor, but he told him to carry on the art.  At this time Peichin Takahara, Sakugawa's first instructor, became seriously ill and called him back to Shuri.  Upon his return, Sakugawa learned that his Sensei was near death.  Master Takahara told Sakugawa to name himself "Karate" Sakugawa and teach the art as he had been taught.

            Sakugawa combined the techniques he learned from Kusanku and Takahara and created "Tode", which translates to China Hand.  He wanted to protect the techniques that were taught him by Kusanku, so he combined them into a teachable form and called it Kusanku Kata.

            "Karate" Sakugawa was the instructor of "Bushi" Matsumura, who was Chotoku Kyan's instructor, and who in turn was the first Master instructor of Tatsuo Shimabuku.  It is believed that this is how the Kusanku kata was passed down to the students of Isshin-Ryu.

            Another line of descent for Kusanku Kata was through "Karate" Sakugawa.  Because his Tode is the forerunner of most Okinawan karate styles, he is known as the father of Okinawan Karate.  "Bushi" Matsumura who learned from Sakugawa, taught Itosu Yasutsune in addition to Kyan.  Itosu taught Choki Motobu, which was another of Tatsuo Shimabuku's instructors.  It is possible that Tatsuo Shimabuku learned this kata from Motobu too, even though some think it is unlikely.

            Kusanku has been translated as "Looking at the Sky".  This refers to the first movement in the kata, where the hands and arms describe a circle.  This circle represents the moon, and indicates that the kata was designed to be done at night.

OPENING

1.         Stand in attention stance, feet on line, heels together.  The hands are open with the palms against the thighs.  The eyes are fixed on the opponent and the spine (including the neck) is straight.  Perform the standing bow, keeping the eyes fixed on the opponent.  Bring the right fist (palm up) to in front of the solar plexus and the left hand (open) to in front of the right (the palm of the left hand presses the knuckles of the right).  Lower the hands to in front of the groin.

2.         Bend slightly from the waist.  Bring the hands (open with the fingers together and palms out) to in front of the forehead.   The index fingers and thumbs are touching and form a triangle.  Move the hands in an outward semi-circular motion. Continue the circular motion until the hands are together in front of the solar plexus.  Arms are almost fully extended, fingers point straight ahead, and edges of the hands are together.

** NOTE **: The semi-circular motion of the hands is performed slowly and deliberately with very light Sanchin breathing.  As the hands come together, assume a left hand leading knife hand guard.  The right hand covers the solar plexus, the left in the position of a shoulder block.  Pivot the feet inward to a pigeon-toed stance.  

(A)       The semi-circular motion is a feeling action in an attempt to ascertain the position of the enemy.  

SEQUENCE/BUNKAI

  SERIES NUMBER 1

           

1.         Step to the right with the right foot and to the left with the left foot and assume a deep horse stance.   The hands do not move.  As soon as the horse stance is assumed, pivot 45 degrees to the left in a left forward extended and offset Seisan.  The right hand performs a slow sweeping action from centerline to the left shoulder and then to just outside the right thigh.  The heel of the hand will make contact with any obstruction or opponent that is within range.  The left hand rises to in front of the forehead with the palm pointing out.  The back of the left hand touches the forehead.

2.         Pivot 90 degrees right into a wide offset left forward Seisan, perform the sweeping action with the left hand as described in number 1 above.  The right hand is in front of the forehead with the back of the hand touching the forehead.

(A)       From pigeon-toed stance step with the right then left foot to horse From horse stance, pivot 45 degrees left From the off-set Seisan, pivot 90 degrees right direction of orientation during series pigeon-toed stance direction of pivots position of feet in horse stance position of feet in off-set Seisan-Dachi.

3.         From the left sweep, perform a left shoulder block.  Bring the right hand to the right hip.  Raise the left foot two to three inches off of the ground and stomp it back down.  (NOTE: Do not move the body and keep the leg stiff during the stomp.) Pivot 90 degrees to the left into a wide offset Seisan and punch with the right hand toward center-line (Diagram 1, arrow indicating direction of orientation.) 

BUNKAI: 1-3

 

(1)            On the first sweep you are still feeling for the opponent

(2)        On the second sweep you make contact with him it is important to keep the sweeping hand outside of the thigh.  Combined with the slight lean of the body, and the foot stomp you deceive the opponent(s) as to your exact location.

(3)            The left shoulder block may serve several purposes: 

(A)       If it is a block, you stop his right punch or grab, pivot and strike him with the right punch.

(B)       You may parry with the right and strike the opponent in the face with the left hand, shift out of the line of attack with the 90-degree pivot and finish him off with the right punch.  You may also grab the opponent's arm with your right hand, performing an arm break with the left hand, shifting out of the way of a second opponent by using the 90-degree pivot and punching him with the right hand.

4.         After the first punch, perform a right shoulder block, the left hand returns to the left hip.  Perform a stomp with the right foot and pivot 90 degrees to the right into a wide offset Seisan with a left hand punch.  BUNKAI: To number 3 applies.

5.         After the left punch, perform a left shoulder block and foot stomp with the left foot.

(A)       After punching the opponent in number 4, the next opponent grabs your left shoulder, you grab his wrist with your right hand and break his arm with a left arm bar.  The stomp is to distract any additional opponents you may have to the rear.

 

SERIES NUMBER 2

1.         After the left foot stomp, step to the centerline with the left foot and turn 180 degrees to the right assuming a right cat stance.  Stack the right fist on top of the left fist and execute a left elbow to the rear.  Perform a right back fist and right snapping sidekick with the ball of the foot.  Position of feet prior to step Direction of step Position of left foot on elbow Position of right foot in cat stance with heel slightly raised

(A)       The left elbow is a finishing move for the opponent in series number 1 (5).  The next opponent has grabbed you on the right shoulder from the rear.  Your turn and pivot to cat stance disengages the hold (NOTE: As you step to cat stance, you pivot away from the opponent.) The back fist is designed to act as a feint (an uncommitted attack) and the kick hits him in the groin.  

2.                 After the kick, set the right foot down just off of the main kata line, by setting down off line you are not stepping directly into an opponent to the rear.  (Remember, you are not sure where the opponents are so you step at angles and always indirect of the direction you intend to move.) After stepping with the right foot turn 180 degrees to the left.  Step with the left foot to left forward Seisan.  At the same time, sweep with the left hand in a semi-circular fashion from the outside of the right shoulder to in front of the body (arm is almost fully extended) to guard position in front of the left shoulder.  As the sweep is made the right hand assumes a shuto guard in front of the solar plexus. 

(A)       After kicking the last opponent, turn 180 degrees and search the area for future opponents with the left hand sweep. You are feeling with the feet as well as the hand.

 

SERIES NUMBER 3

1.         Step forward with the right foot to a right forward Seisan-Dachi and perform a sweep with the right hand.  The left hand assumes a guard in front of the solar plexus.

2.         Step with the left foot to left forward Seisan and repeat the sweep with the left hand.

3.         Step forward with the right foot to right foot forward Seisan and raise the right hand palm up and open, to in front of the right shoulder.

4.            Maintaining right Seisan, slide forward and perform a right body level punch.

(A)       In number 1 and 2 you are still searching the area with the hand /foot sweeps. In number 3 you make contact and slide forward with a punch. (NOTE: The right hand raise in number 3 can also be an upward palm press block that disengages any grab or punch.)

SERIES NUMBER 4

1.         Turn 180 degrees to the left, stepping with the right foot, to a left forward Seisan stance. Bring the left hand in an arc in front of the body to the left hip and them immediately perform a left hand punch at body level. 

2.         Step forward with the right foot and turn 90 degrees into a deep horse stance and deliver a right twist punch downward. T Direction of punch Orientation of front body Direction of left foot pivot Position of feet on punch 

(A)       An opponent has grabbed you from the rear on the left shoulder. The sweep with the left hand pushes the opponent's arm away and the left punch drives him back.

(B)       You continue to pursue the opponent and step and turn 90 degrees so that the punch can be delivered with maximum power.

3.         Pivot on the ball of the left foot 90 degrees to the left, as the pivot is made, slide the right knee to behind the left knee.  You are in a left leading cross stance - as the stance sets, perform a left sweep across the forehead and a right shuto at neck level. Follow the shuto with a right front kick. 

4.         Turn 180 degrees and drop to the right knee with the left foot forward and execute a left shoulder block. Stand up and perform a right then left punch.

(A)       An opponent has grabbed your left shoulder-you pivot and grab his arm with your left hand and strike him in the throat with the right shuto. The right front kick doubles him over and the 180-degree turn is a shoulder throw. You stand up and perform the two punches to a second opponent.

5.         After the last punch, pivot on the ball of the left foot and slide the right knee to behind the left knee in a left foot forward cross stance with a left sweep block to in front of the forehead and follow with a right shuto at neck level. Kick with the right foot and turn 180 degrees and drop to the right knee with the left foot forward. Stand up with the right then left punch.

(A)            Number 3 and 4 applies.

 

SERIES NUMBER 5

1.         Look 90 degrees to the left, step 90 degrees right into a left foot forward cat stance and stack the hands left over right on the right hip. Perform a left back fist and left front kick.  Take one long step and drop to the left knee and perform a right elbow strike--the elbow slaps the palm of the left hand.

2.         Look 180 degrees over the right shoulder.  Turn 180 degrees to the right into a right foot forward cat stance with the hands stacked right over left on the left hip. Perform a right back fist and right front kick. Take one long step and drop to the right knee and perform a left elbow strike--again the elbow slaps the palm of the right hand. (Mirror image of #1)

??3 & 4  

5.         Upon completion of sweep from left Seisan, step back with the right then left foot to horse stance along the main kata line.  Raise the hands over the head with the palms facing inboard.  Bring the elbows together and snap them along centerline to a chest level "X" block with shuto.

(A)       On the last sweep (left hand) an opponent grabs you in a chokehold from the front. You step back along the main kata line to unbalance him and perform the "X" block to break his grip. The fingers may also rake his eyes as the disengagement is performed.

6.         Pivot 90 degrees to the left on the ball of the left foot. As the pivot is completed, slide the right knee to behind the left knee into a left leading cross-stance. Deliver a right shuto to the neck, the left hand is brought across the forehead. Follow the shuto with a right front kick.

7.         Place the right foot down and slide the left foot behind in a right leading cross stance. You are now 90 degrees to the right of the main kata line. As the stance sets, perform a left then right hammer fist strike at rib level. 

(A)       After the "X" block breaks the chokehold, a second opponent punches from the left, you block his punch with the left hand pivot and strike his neck with the right hand. This strike is followed by a right front kick that doubles him over.  The hammer fists are directed to the ribs and act as a finishing move.

8.         Step back along the main kata line with the left foot to right foot forward Seisan and perform a right shoulder block followed by a left then right punch at chest level.

(A)       After striking the opponent in number 7, another attacks with a left punch from behind that opponent. The right hand blocks and he is hit by the two punches.

 

SERIES NUMBER 6

1.         Turn 180 degrees to the left into a left forward cat stance and stack the fist (left over right) on the right hip. As the stance is set perform a right elbow to the rear. You assume the stance by stepping along the main kata line with the right foot and sliding the left foot to place to make the cat stance.

(A)       After punching the opponent in the last series, you finish him off with the right elbow to the rear and step away from any attack that may be coming from the rear.

2.         Step forward with the left foot to a horse stance and perform a left hand back fist. Open the left hand and slap the palm of the left hand with a right crescent kick at head level. As the kick is executed, turn 180 degrees and drop to the ground in a position that resembles a push up. The left leg is fully extended to the rear; the right knee is pulled up into the right armpit. Look to the left then to the right. Remaining low, pivot on the hands 180 degrees to the right, the right foot is moved behind. Look right then left.

(A)       You sense an opponent is in front of you. You attack with a left back fist that is blocked and subsequently grabbed. The crescent kick is designed to break his grasp.  You drop low to avoid any further attacks and by staying low you can ascertain the position of any further attackers.

3.         Stand up and step forward with the right foot to a right foot forward Seisan and perform a right shoulder level block followed by a left then right punch.

(A) The block may also be a back fist followed by the two punches.

4.         Pivot on the right foot and turn 180 degrees to the left into a left forward cat stance. As the stance is assumed raise the hands (open and palm up) in an outside arc. The left hand comes to rest, palm up, on the left thigh and the right hand comes to rest, palm up, on the right hip. This is a clearing action.

5.         Step right over left into a right leading cross stance, as you step perform a left to right low level open hand parry with the left hand, simultaneously perform a right cross body spear hand at solar plexus level.

(A)       You parry a left kick with the left hand and deliver a spear hand to the opponent's ribs.

6.         Spin 360 degrees to the left on the right foot ending up in a left forward Seisan stance and perform a left low-level block.

(A)       After the spear hand in number 5, you spin around this attacker and block the next attackers low kick. The spin may also serve as a take down to the first attacker. You have deflected the kick with the left hand, his leg is trapped on the left hip with the leg extended. If the opponent does not fall he may be struck with the left hammer fist.

 

SERIES NUMBER 7

1.            Perform a left hand back fist and left foot front kick to 45 degrees left. Step off the main kata line 45 degrees left and perform a right elbow from left foot forward elbow. The elbow slaps the left palm.

(A)       An opponent has grabbed you from the left, 45-degree angle, the kick doubles him over and the elbow finishes him off.

2.         Step 90 degrees to the right into left forward Seisan-Dachi.  Perform a right hand face level palm heel strike and a left hand groin level palm heel strike.

3.         Step 45 degrees to the right into horse stance and perform a right hand low-level block and a left hand back fist at head level.

(A)       In number 2, an opponent has grabbed your left shoulder. The step with the palm heels knocks him off the mound. He does not fall, but attempts to grab you again with his right hand. You grab his right wrist with your right hand and lock his elbow across your chest. The back fist with the left hand strikes his face as the right hand breaks his arm.

4.         Step forward with the left foot to the main kata line and assume a horse stance. Perform a left then right hand hammer fist to the ribs. Follow with a right "X" block in front of the chest.

(A)       After breaking the opponent's arm in number 3, the next opponent grabs you in a bear hug that does not lock your arms. The hammer fist loosens his grip enough to break his arms at the elbow from underneath with the "X" block.

5.         Pivot on the right foot and turn 225 degrees to the right into a right foot forward Seisan with a right over left low level "X" block. Step back with the right foot to left forward cat stance and pull the fists, stacked left over right, to the right hip. Execute a right-left double jump kick and land in a left foot forward Seisan stance with a right over left low level "X" block.

6.         Step 45 degrees to the right into a right foot forward Seisan and perform a right shoulder block followed by a left then right punch.

(A)       After breaking the arm of the opponent in number 4, you spin to avoid a kick that is coming at you from the rear. The "X" block stops the kick. The step back extends his leg so that the first jump kick can go underneath the kicking leg. You jump past the opponent and kick at a second opponent who is standing behind him. This kick is blocked and the opponent counter kicks. The "X" block stops the kick. By stepping 45 degrees to the right, you may throw the opponent who has kicked at you and stop the left punch of the last opponent. The two punches finish him off.

 

CLOSING

1.         Turn 180 degrees to the left, as you step into left forward Seisan stance. Perform a left hand sweep with the left shuto. 

2.         Step forward with the right foot to right foot forward Seisan and perform a right hand shuto sweep.

3.         Step back with the right foot and assume the attention stance. Bring the hands to in front of the solar plexus. The right fist is in front of the solar plexus with the palm of the open left hand is against the knuckles of the right.  Lower the hands to in front of the groin and pivot the toes inward to pigeon toed stance. Step with the right foot to a relaxed stance with the fists in front of the thighs.  Return to the attention stance and perform the standing bow.

  

 Copyright 2003 Wayland's Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do, LLC

 


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