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Gojushiho Dai and Sho: The Solution of the Confusion

The naming of the Gojushiho Kata differs between associations. Some call the longer Gojushiho Kata “Dai” and the shorter “Sho”. Myths emerged about the reason for this confusion. Some revolved around JKA Chief Instructor Ueki Masaaki. Today, Peter Crawford is going to shed light on the history of this paradox and he is going to give us an answer that seems to solve the Gojushiho Riddle. By Peter Crawford

The Ueki Masaaki Legend

The first time I encountered the legend about Ueki Masaaki mixing up the names of the Gojushiho kata he was performing and the JKA subsequently changing the names to spare his blushes was back at the end of the last century. Rob Redmond, on his sadly long-gone website “24fightingchickens” wrote:

“It is rumored that in a JKA tournament some years ago, a now very high-ranking Ueki performed the Dai kata while accidentally calling out the name “Gojushiho-Sho!” in the last round of competition on National Television in Japan. 

According to this story, the judges were befuddled, since the performance was perfect, about what to do with Ueki and his misnamed kata. Their solution: give Ueki first place, and switch the names of the two kata. So, today the karateka who outrank Ueki generally call the more basic kata Dai. However, most people in the JKA, and the Best Karate series of books refer to the more difficult kata as Dai and the easier kata as Sho. Is the story about Ueki true? Maybe not.”

Despite the obvious caveat, this story gained traction, more often than not masquerading as “the truth”, as people copied and pasted bits of this article into their own websites. Until last year, the Wikipedia article on Gojushiho also presented this story as fact.

The Truth about the Different Naming of Gojushiho

However, the truth about the naming disparity between SKI and the other Shotokan organisations is quite easily discovered. When Kanazawa Hirokazu formed his own SKI organisation after being expelled from the JKA, he decided to change the names around as he felt that the smaller, more subtle kata deserved the “sho” designation so that the Gojushiho pair would align better with Bassai and Kanku. Since then, Kanazawa sensei has been asked many times at seminars and dinners why the SKI kata names are different to everyone else’s. I have heard him recount his decision on a number of occasions, and way back in 2003 Traditional Karate Magazine published an article by David Lewin, a senior with SKKIF in the UK, where he writes the following account of a weekend course he attended:

“One particularly interesting explanation Shihan gave was the reason why on founding S.K.I.F. he swapped the names of the two katas (Gojushiho Dai and Sho around). He explained that as with the Bassai and Kanku katas, the first one studied was usually the Dai form a kata. The Dai form is usually the longer but less complicated of the two forms. The instructors at the JKA were already practicing the JKA Gojushiho Dai form (i.e. the one with the ippon nukite techniques) before the JKA Sho form (the one with the shihon nukite techniques) had even been introduced into the JKA. Once the new form had been introduced, it was clear that the old kata was the more complicated and so should have been the Sho form, and so Shihan swapped the names over.”

Why is the JKA naming “wrong”?

This hopefully clears up the issue of the difference between the SKI kata names and everyone else, but really brings up a larger question. Why is the JKA naming “wrong”? Why is the smaller kata “dai”, and the larger one “sho”?

Kanazawa provides some pointers here too. In his 2009 book “Karate: The Complete Kata”, he provides the following information about Gojushiho:

 “Through Master Kanken Toyama, the kata ‘Koryu Gojushiho’ […] was introduced into the Shotokan style…”

“The author believes that the ‘Sho’ and ‘Dai’ designations […] became reversed at the time of their introduction…”

I find this explanation very plausible. We know for example, that in his 1935 book “Karate do Kyohan” Funakoshi Gichin describes the fifteen core kata of the Shotokan system. Yet, by 1943, we also know that more kata had been added. In 1943’s “Karate Nyumon”, on pages 58 and 59, Funakoshi lists a number of kata that were being studied at the Shotokan, including one “Hotaku” (Hotaku, or “phoenix-peck”, was the name Funakoshi gave to Gojushiho). Both Kanku and Bassai are listed separately as dai and sho, but there is only one Hotaku listed.

Masatoshi Nakayama Introduced Gojushiho Sho to JKA

According to Nakayama Masatoshi, he was asked by Funakoshi to travel to Osaka and learn kata from Mabuni Kenwa. In addition, in Randall Hassell’s book “Conversations with the Master”, Nakayama is quoted as saying:

“Some of the kata have come into the JKA system because Master Funakoshi took me around Japan to visit and pay courtesy calls on some of the other old masters in Osaka, Kyoto, Okuyama and Hiroshima”

and

“…when we visited Master Mabuni, Master Funakoshi told me to learn Gojushiho and Nijushiho so we could study them more carefully. So Master Mabuni taught me these kata.”

We know that the JKA syllabus already contained one Gojushiho kata at the time Nakayama was asked to learn from Mabuni. According to what Kanazawa said, this second kata should be the JKA “sho”. Fortunately, we are able to compare the two Shotokan kata with the versions that Kanazawa claims are the originals.

The Original Gojushiho Names are reverse

Toyama Kanken published details and photographs of his “Koryu Gojushiho” in his 1956 book “Okugi Hijutsu Karate Do”. His kata is clearly the smaller kata which, according to Kanazawa, was introduced first.

The current Shito-ryu Gojushiho can, therefore, be viewed on YouTube and is obviously the larger kata that was introduced to the JKA second and given the “sho” designation as a result.

Hopefully this information clears up the mystery of the inconsistent naming, and will kill off the somewhat bizarre “competition myth” once-and-for-all!

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Ayano Nakamura: The New Queen of Kata

Ayano Nakamura is the new queen of Kata and a amazing Karateka

Ayano Nakamura belongs to the most gifted karateka of her generation. She has won the All Japan Championship kata title several times. But not her athletic achievements make her the “queen of kata”. For her, karate is a means for self-cultivation and -development. Therefore, karate is more for her then a martial art. It is budo. By Dr. Christian Tribowski

Karate starts and ends with courtesy. It´s important to observe courtesy and compassion in your heart.

Ayano Nakamura

Ayano Nakamura: The Kata Prodigy

On the first glimpse, Ayano Nakamura appears to be an average twenty-something Japanese woman. That is to say, if one does not know Ayano, she can be easily underestimate. Her humbleness and reserved behavior create such impression. But behind her inconspicuous facade hides one of the most successful and most extraordinary Karatekas of the world.

Ayano Nakamura on the Facebook page of Kuuyuukai Dojo where she trains. The picture is an advertisement for Karate Stretching.

Like no other, she has dominated the JKA Individual Kata competitions for the last five years. Among her victories are:

  • 61st JKA All Japan Karate Championship, 2018
  • 60th JKA All Japan Karate Championship, 2017
  • Funakoshi Gichin Cup 14th Karate World Championship Tournament, 2017
  • 59th JKA All Japan Karate Championship, 2016
  • 58th JKA All Japan Karate Championship, 2015
  • JKA 1st Asia Oceania Junior, Senior Karate Championship Tournament, 2015

By doing so, she took over the reign as Queen of Kata from Miki Nakamachi, who paused her competitive career for a longer maternity leave.

Secret of Ayano Nakamura: Mental Strength

To understand what makes Ayano Nakamura´s style so special and so successful, one only has to watch one of the plenty videos of her on Youtube. Her katas are characterized by very crisp and sharp techniques. Once on the Tatami, she carries an aura of true fighting spirit. But this does not come for free. Therefore, it requires tremendous effort to reach such a stage. In an interview for an All Nippon Airways (ANA) promotion video she revealed her rigorous trainings regime. So, to execute an excellent kata, one has to understand it. But:

“We have to practice them before we can understand them.”

Therefore, only a vigorous kata training leads to deeper insights.

Moreover, it also generates an other effect that Ayano Nakamura deems as highly important: an increase of mental strength. For her, this is one of the most relevant aspects when it comes to competitions. Without mental strength success is unthinkable. But why is that the case? Ayano Nakamura explains:

“It has a lot to do with mental strength. You must have a clear image of your goal.”

Everybody, who watches the following video about Ayano Nakamura at the JKA All Japan Championship 2018, can see that in practice. Above all, she she maintains an unprecedented precision and focus throughout all her katas. In short, she displayes all characteristics of a true Queen of Kata.

Ayano Nakamura´s Value of Shotokan Karate

However, Karate means more to Ayano Nakamura. It is more than mental strength, kata, and competitions. It is an ethic and a way to civilized behavior. She explains:

“We try to always exchange greetings and respond to others properly.”

Therefore, Ayano Nakamura takes the etiquette within a Dojo very serious. In her understanding, moral behavior and acknowledgment of others must be learnt. They do not emerge by themselves. Karate actively fosters this attitude. Both aspects combined – mental strength and a morally attitude – build the core of her Karate. She expressed this conviction in one of the most beautiful sentence ever said about the true nature and value of Karate:

“Through Karate, we learn compassion and the courage to overcome obstacles.”

Karate-Do Representative for All Nippon Airways

We already mentioned Ayano Nakamura´s interview with ANA. In 2017, ANA launched a new marketing campaign called Dou: Is Japan Cool? The campaign assembled eight masters of Japanes martial arts (Judo, Kendo, Kyudo, Iaido, Karate Do) and arts (Sado, Noh Theater, Nihon Buyo, Shodo). Ayano Nakamura represented Karate-Do. Above all, she did an excellent job. ††

Her work as a Karate-Do representative for ANA created to major results. Firstly, is the above mentioned video interview. Secondly, comes result with a more extravagant artistic twist. ANA produced with all representatives of the Japanese arts 4D video, as you can see below. These videos are also used on the ANA campaign website as a technical study of the karate motions.

  • The picture shows Ayano Nakamura as representative for Karate Do in the All Nippon Airways campaign: Dou: Is Japan Cool?
  • The picture shows a 4D animation of Ayano Nakamura.

In conclusion, we are pretty sure to see more stunning projects of Ayano Nakamura in the future.