Category Archives: History

The Three Lost Shotokan Kata

In tonight’s Monday Night Black Belt class we had a long, interesting discussion over Bassai Dai (which I posted a different blog post about previous to this one). But I wanted to write a quick blog about another topic we talked about briefly. Shihan talked about the three lost kata. Something I never really thought about or heard of until recent.

In the olden days of karate back in the 50’s & 60’s when most of the Japanese masters were introducing karate to America, there were three kata in particular that were often completely skipped, or as Shihan worded it, they were “shelved”. They were the following kata:

  1. Heian Sandan
  2. Chinte
  3. Wankan

Shihan said that these three kata were often skipped over in the olden days. They would do Heian Shodan, Nidan, and then they would just completely skip over Heian Sandan. Among that one Chinte and Wankan, two black belt kata, were often cut from class and hardly ever practiced.

I found this rather interesting. I’ve never had the opportunity to train with most of the masters of the olden days. And to find they skipped kata, especially one such as Heian Sandan for a beginner kata, it’s pretty interesting. I think Sandan is an important kata because of the horse stances in a straight line. That type of sequence is in many black belt level kata and I think the kata should be taken more serious for it.

 

We got into this discussion in the first place talking about the moves in Chinte. For the past five years, I have not been able to explain why a person would block with two fingers. I don’t think Shihan had any better interpretations than I did. Here is a video of the kata for those who have not seen it.

I have heard some pretty radical things about Chinte. Things like simple reasons that “it’s a  gay kata” or it’s a kata designed for women/females because of the finger strikes. Why would you block with your fingers? Where did this kata come from? Why are their hops at the end? It’s almost as if there’s no real answers and I don’t have any myself. Apparently American’s aren’t the only ones that find this kata silly (especially with the “bunny hops” in the end). The Japanese literally skipped over it back in the day.

 

The last one is Wankan. Albeit a beautiful, dynamic black belt kata, it is very short, having only about 20 moves give or take. For that simple fact it was often skipped. In the end, I just found that whole idea interesting. I don’t think there is a reason to skip any of those kata. They are part of the system, they provide good training and insight into other kata. Lastly I think too many people want to learn “the cool kata” and blow past the other ones.

Speaking of lost kata, one I would unofficially add to the list. One kata in particular is missing the kata “Jiin”. Why was this kata skipped over in one of the most common Shotokan books out there? Was this another lost kata of the old masters? I think in an art where we strive for perfection it’s silly to think any kata were ever skipped to begin with, even if people didn’t like them or they were too short.