Clues from the short entry about “Ānankū”

In his book on kata, Nagamine Shōshin included a short paragraph about the original creator and the characteristics of each kata. This also holds true for the kata Ānankū. Below is a comparison between the English translation and the Japanese original of this short entry. This is not to judge the translation, but rather to show the different nuance when compared to the original text.

English edition (The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do, 1991, p. 164) :

“Ananku. The composer of this short kata is unknown, and the history is comparatively short. Ananku distinguishes itself from the other kata by offensive and defensive skills with the front-leg-bent stance.”

Japanese edition (Shijitsu to dentō o mamoru Okinawa no karatedō, 1975, p. 234):

“Ānankū. This [kata] was created by a past master, but this creator is unknown. The characteristics of this kata are many zenkutsu chūdan-zuki (mid-level thrusts in forward-bent stance). It is a short kata with a straight line as its enbusen (route of martial performance).”

As you can see, there are several issues. For example, there is no such thing in the original as “the history [of the kata] is comparatively short.” Instead, it is said to have been created by a “past master,” or “a master of bygone times.” The master / creator is unknown, as is the point in time it was created.

This is interesting because sometimes people from other schools have tried to make sense of Matsubayashi’s Ānankū. It is claimed that this Ānankū is a creation by Nagamine Sensei himself. I think this claim is without merit. This is because Nagamine Sensei in 1975 wrote that Ānankū “was created by a past master” and that this master “is unknown.”

While Ānankū of Matsubayashi-ryū is short and has a medium level of technical difficulty, it is a unique kata. It includes some signature techniques reminiscent of Chintō, such as the open-handed cross-block, or the rather specific abdomen toe-kick, which was a specialty of Arakaki Ankichi. In any case, while the open-handed cross-block with tow-kick is a snapshot-similarity with Chintō, it clearly has a different entry and exit than it has in Ānankū, and is, therefore, a mere punctual concordance.

Nagamine Sensei did not say from whom he learned Ānankū, but only that it “was created by a past master” and that this master “is unknown.” Could it be that it was handed down by that unknown, past master, and somehow reached Arakaki Ankichi?

BTW, as has been handed down by Sunabe Shozen, there were actually an Ānankū Shō and an Ānankū Dai. This would explain the existence of different Ānankū today. Since Arakaki was the earliest among Kyan’s prominent students (since 1924), and an adult man at the time, he could have learned one of these two versions and taught it to Nagamine Sensei. This version would then be the oldest extant version of Ānankū which otherwise was not handed down within the Okinawa Karate circles. Seen from this perspective, Ānankū of Matsubayashi-ryū would, therefore, not only be unique in technical content and Enbusen, but also in history itself.

The other Ānankū is was created later by Kyan around 1931 for teaching at the Kadena agricultural and fishery vocational school. It would make sense if Kyan developed Ānankū for those school kids because it is a mixture of many other kata. Below I have added the morphological analysis of the kata and the kata where the combos to create this version of Ānankū have been lend from.

  • opening gesture (standard gesture for kata in Seibukan)
  • 1. left Shutō-uke / Neko-ashi-dachi 45° to left front (typical karate, for example, in Pinan Shodan, Kūsankū)
  • 2. right Shutō-uke / Neko-ashi-dachi 45° to right front (typical karate, for example, in Pinan Shodan, Kūsankū)
  • 3. left Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki in Zenkutsu -dachi 90° to the left (as in Seisan)
  • 4. right Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki in Zenkutsu -dachi 90° to the right (as in Seisan)
  • 5. Same as opening gesture (standard gesture for kata in Seibukan)
  • 6. right Uchi-uke left Jōdan-uke (as in Passai)
  • 7. Both-handed mid-level scissor strike (as in Passai)
  • 8. Right choku-zuki (as in Passai)
  • 9. Left Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki / right Mae-geri / Gyaku-zuki (as in Gojūshiho)
  • 10. Right Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki / left Mae-geri / Gyaku-zuki (as in Gojūshiho)
  • 11. Right Mawashi Enpi-uchi (Kūsankū)
  • 180° turn
  • 12. left Gedan-barai
  • 13. Right Choku-zuki
  • 14. Right Uchi-uke, step left foot forward in Bensoku-dachi / right Mae-geri and place right foot to front / right Gedan-barai / left Gyaku-zuki / right Uchi-uke  (as in Seisan)
  • 180° turn
  • 15. Right Shutō-uke (typical karate, for example, in Kūsankū, Rōhai)
  • 16. (right foot back) left Shutō-uke (typical karate, for example, in Kūsankū, Rōhai)
  • End gesture (standard)

© 2020, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Postwar Okinawa Karate and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.