Mississippi Isshinryu Karate
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Response to question about by Kusanku Sai
by A.J. Advincula


--- In, "Ian Johnston" <qayak@y...>
> Sensei,
>  An interesting question came up on another list. The question is:
> why did Shimabuku chose Kusanku as the basis for a sai kata?
>  Did he ever mention anything to you about it?
> Ian

Ian, good question. Your question "why did Shimabuku chose Kusanku as the basis for a sai kata?". According to Maekawa (Major Mike), who started in 1951 with Shimabuku Sensei, stated that Kyan no Sai was already taught when he started with Shimabuku. When I started on December 1, 1958, Shimabuku was teaching Kusanku sai kata with kicks. Later when I returned to Okinawa on January 2, 1961 as a civilian, Shimabuku took the kicks out of Kusanku Sai. I asked him why he took the kicks out and he stated that before he had incorporated sai into a Karate kata so kicks were used. Later he said he was now emphasizing kobudo so the reason he took the kicks out because it was now kobudo.

This process is not new with Okinawan instructors. Tokumura Kensho Sensei is known for his karate but in the past few years has been creating kobudo kata. Tokushin No Tekko and Tokushin No Eku. Iha Kotaro Sensei a kobudo instructor is starting to teach more karate and as stated before created a short stick kata after seeing my escrima videos.

Maekawa Sensei also told me that you could use kobudo weapons in any kata and started to show the first part of Kyan No Sai stating Seiunchin kata.

Kusanku in my opinion is just as good as any kata to use because of its unique characteristics. It is one of the reasons and knowing what
Maekawa told me and because Shimabuku did it with sai that I created my own Kusanku kama and Kusanku sai. And as all who have seen these kata know, I also took liberties at the end adding traditional kama or nunchaku techniques.

Kusanku sai has some of the following techniques:
Used for either day or night.
Double outward blocks from a double hold
Upper and lower simultaneous blocks blocks (Kusanku dachi)
Middle extended block or strike (Kihon)
middle block middle punch (Kihon)
Overhand upper strike (Basic kihon taught in all kobudo)
Kamae or middle extended blocks (as a block taught in all kobudo)
Middle thrust (Kihon)
Upper cross strikes or block (Kihon)
Kneeling stance side block
Middle rising thrust unique to Isshin-ryu
Kneeling back sai strike
Crossover upper strike (Chinto dachi)
Double lower level block evasive (hook stance) found in other sai kata and Wansu)
Middle outward block (Basic kihon block taught in all branches of kobudo)
Cross step middle punch (Found in other kata
Down extended block
Double punch in Seiunchin stance
Lower extended block in Seiunchin stance
Middle level cross strikes in Seiunchin stance upper cross block (Kihon)
Sai throw most probably a modern concept
Double middle punches
Upper and lower simultaneous blocks in Seisan stance (Found in Chatan
Yara No Sai only in a Seiunchin stance)
Over head block and cross and back strikes
Double inward punch in Seiunchin stance (Also Found in Kyan No Sai and
Chatan Yara no Sai)

Almost every technique in Kusanku sai can be found in different styles and branches of kobudo. Other kobudo kata have kneeling and ducking techniques but so far I have never seen the low ground stance we use for silhouette someone.

When I first started kobudo with Iha Kotaro Sensei after Shimabuku Tatsuo Sensei died in 1975, he asked if I knew any kobudo. When I replied yes, he asked me to perform some kobudo for him. I did Tokumine No Kun, Hamahiga No Tuifa, Kusanku Sai and a Nunchaku basic form. He jumped on me about my bo and nunchaku and never said anything about my sai or tuifa. First you have to know Iha Sensei to understand what I just said. You never do it right for him.  Never!  While I studied with him since 1975, I feel that our sai and tuifa techniques are equal and to tell the truth better as I was taught by Shimabuku Sensei. The moving and  placing of the thumb behind the blade shaft was taught to me by Shimabuku Sensei and the use of blocking allowing the opponents weapon to slide into the guard was taught by Shimabuku Sensei. Iha Sensei does not teach this and one thing I never liked was locking two sai together to block a bo. While this technique is strong, it always reminds me of two stag being locked together and then starve to death because they could not break free after locking horns. If it happened when I locked my sai together I would end up like the two dead stag.

Another thing about Kusanku sai is its use in low or limited light.  While fighting in these situations was taught in other martial art in both Japan and China, Shimabuku Sensei was first on Okinawa to incorporate and adapt a kata for this purpose. So Kusanku Sai created by Shimabuku Sensei was first created so he could have more kobudo besides Kyan No Sai and Tokumine No Kun. While Shimabuku Sensei never took Kyan No Sai out of his teachings as he had done with Seiunchin, Naihanchi and Wansu, many just forgot it. Plain and simple. But the good thing is that Shimabuku added parts of Kyan No Sai to the end of Kusanku Sai. So even if you never learned Kyan No Sai, if you practice Kusanku Sai, you are doing several movement of Kyan No sai.

Again about your question "why did Shimabuku chose Kusanku as the basis for a sai kata" he didn't. Kyan No Sai was. It was the entry level basic sai and Kusanku Sai became the advanced level. After he learned Chatan Yara No Sai it became our middle level kata and is taught in most of the different kobudo styles or branches. A kata that can teach specific techniques used for night fighting is a plus. While most of the kobudo weapons are ancient weapons and may never again be used in combat, let me remind you that the San Diego police use a modified Nunchaku and many police departments use the PR 24 or modified Tuifa. Another note, the ASP or collapsible club came from the Jutte or a variant of the sai.

Understand karate and weapons go together. The weapon dictates the stance and posture. When doing bo kata we in Isshin-ryu, Uechi-ryu, and Goju-ryu or any style that uses a higher stance as their primary stance have to modify these stance to use the weapon. We have to use a diagonal seisan when using a bo or eku.

When it comes to sai, tuifa, tekko or other weapons that are held in each hand, then our Seisan stance is great and basic karate techniques are very similar to the use of these weapons. Remember that in the case of short range weapons used in each hand, you are using basic karate techniques but using the weapon to block or strike with.

Westerner's are often confused as to oriental postures or kamae. For example a Samurai armed with a katana in many case faces you fully and in stance very similar to our seisan stance.

See  > <.  Look at the kamae and stance. Now in western type fencing with a foil or epee is quite

See > <

Now the Samurai is using a two handed sword and needs both to use. His weapon is use for both cutting and thrusting so he is forced to face head on to properly use his weapon to his advantage. Now the fencer using foil or epee has a weapon primarily for thrusting. His stance and posture is primarily for thrusting and moving in and out or forward or back plus his posture makes for a smaller target and when he attacks,  extends reach.

Now while Samurai and western fencers for the first time meet, for sure both will think the other isn't standing in a correct fighting guard. Wrong!

I have heard so many say that we in Isshin-ryu don't know our kobudo. I think because we stand we stand in seisan stance which is different then their lower zenkutsu stance. Kobudo is as old as Shorin-ryu and naturally the stances and postures will look more like Shorin-ryu.

While Iha Sensei kept correcting my bo and put me into his zenkutsu dachi, when I do Isshin-ryu bo kata I revert to a half facing seisan stance. As to my Kusanku sai kata I perform for him, he never said a word.


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