Mississippi Isshinryu Karate
Backgrounds, biographies, pictures and insights of Shimabuku's Isshin-Ryu

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Kusanku 公相君

     Often described in Isshin-Ryu as a "night fighting kata," this form was passed down from Kyan Chotoku to Shimabuku Tatsuo. Interestingly enough, no references to night fighting are found in the primary references coming out of Japan and Okinawa, leading this author to conclude that such interpretations were contrived to fit movements that are not very well understood.

In the year 1762, a tribute ship sent to Satsuma from Ryukyu was blown off course during a storm, and ended up landing at Tosa Province in Shikoku, where they remained for a month. The Confucian scholar of Tosa, Tobe Ryoen (1713-1795), was petitioned to collect testimony from the crew. The record of this testimony is known as the Oshima Hikki (literally "Note of Oshima", the name of the area of Tosa where the ship had ran aground). In this book, there is some very provocative testimony by a certain Shionja Peichin, describing a man from China called Koshankin, who demonstrated a grappling technique (McCarthy, 1995; Sakagami, 1978).

It is commonly accepted that this Koshankin was the originator of the Okinawan Kusanku kata, or at least inspired it. However, there are several unknowns in this equation. First of all, was Koshankin his name or a title, or even a term of affection towards him? Second, if it was a title or term of affection, what was his real name? Thirdly, what martial art(s) did he teach, and how do they differ from the modern karate kata of Kusanku? Most of these questions are still being researched by this author and others.

For now, suffice it to say that Kusanku is a highly important kata in the Okinawan martial arts, and has spawned many versions over the years. Some of them include the Kusanku Dai/Sho Itosu Anko lineage styles, the Chibana no Kusanku of Shudokan, the Takemura no Kusanku of Bugeikan and Genseiryu, the Kanku Dai/Sho of Shotokan, the Shiho Kusanku of Shitoryu, and the Yara no Kusanku of Kyan Chotoku lineage styles, including Isshinryu. Of course, there are numerous others as well.

Kyan Chotoku is said to have learned Kusanku in Yomitan under a certain Yara Peichin (Nagamine, 1975; 1976). It is unknown at this time whether there is a familial relationship between this Yara Peichin and the Chatan Yara who is believed to have studied under Koshankin during his mid-18th century visit to Okinawa.

*from The Kata of Okinawa Isshinryu Karate-do: An Informal Discussion on their Possible Origins by Joe Swift


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