Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Origin of Empi Kata Discovered!

We have been aware for some time that both Empi Kata and Mawashi Kata, with their linear embusen, repetitive movements and lack of turns, are not traditional kata but rather basic drills that were used as kata by our Sensei when he initially built his system's curriculum; however, the exact origin of these drills has eluded us.

Until now!

Sensei Julie Keil, 4th dan in Kobayashi Shorin-ryu and chief instructor at her dojo in Midland, Michigan, recognized our Empi Kata as one of the 14 kihon, or basics, of Shito-ryu karate, which she studied briefly in the past. Shito-ryu is a Shorin-ryu offshoot that was developed in the 1920s and 30s by an Okinawan karate master in Japan.

Kyoshi Neil Stolsmark of Waukesha Wisconsin, 7th dan in Kobayashi Shorin-ryu and world-renowned martial arts instructor, also recognized Empi Kata as a basic line-form drill, although he could not recall exactly where he had seen it before.

The precise origin of Mawashi Kata remains a mystery, but clearly neither it nor Empi Kata are traditional kata; both were entry-level fundamental drills that were added to our curriculum as kata.

Our Empi Kata is not to be confused with the traditional Empi Kata, a 350-year old form called Wanshu whose name was changed in the 1920s by Gichin Funakoshi to Empi (meaning "Flying Swallow," and not "elbow"). This kata is a much more complex, black-belt level kata that does not appear at all in our curriculum but which is common in other Okinawan styles, particularly Shotokan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Karate Kata Name Changes

After thorough research into the matter, including a discussion with Kyoshi Neil Stolsmark, 7th dan in Kobayashi Shorin-ryu, student of Shugoro Nakazato (10th dan in Okinawa), and one of the highest-ranking instructors in the Shorin-ryu Shorinkan, we have decided to change the names of two of our karate kata:

Shinto Kata will henceforth be known as Chinto Kata. This kata, which is practiced in many Okinawan and Japanese karate styles, was named after a Chinese sailor called Chinto, who came to Okinawa and became a great fighter there. "Shinto" is a Japanese religion, and has nothing to do with budo. There is no "Shinto Kata" in any other Okinawan karate style.

Bassai Dai will henceforth be known as Bassai Sho. In most karate styles that practice the Bassai kata, there are two of them: Bassai Sho ("the lesser Bassai") and Bassai Dai ("the greater Bassai"). The kata we have been calling Bassai Dai is actually Bassai Sho in Kobayashi Shorin-ryu and other systems; Bassai Dai is a variation of this kata, but is one that is not a part of our karate curriculum.

I am unsure exactly how or where these errors in nomenclature first occurred, but it is necessary to correct them, I believe, as we become aware of them in our continued effort to improve our karate-do through research and study with high-ranking instructors in sister sytles.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Sensei Noah or Sensei Carol, or visit our Ask Sensei link.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Congrats to Sue Brocchi, who tested for her 3rd kyu brown belt in kobudo on January 7th 2009.

Great job! O mede tou!