Sign of the Times – Chatan Yara no Kusanku

To be honest, I personally like the sport version of Chatan Yara no Kūsankū. I also support “sport” as one of the three pillars of modern budō. But here’s why everyone needs to stop calling “Chatan Yara Kūsankū” a “Shitō-ryū kata.

In some factions of the Shitō-ryū are found a small number of reference kata, that is, extracurricular kata which were added for study reasons at some point in time by some individual. Among these, for instance, are found Ishimine Passai, Koshiki Naifanchi (performed with open hands), or Chatan Yara no Kūsankū. This Chatan Yara no Kūsankū is known today as one of the most beautiful kata for sports competition, yet the modern sportified version has quite a dissimilar feel compared to the original.[1]

As regards the establishment and naming of Shitō-ryū: When Mabuni opened a dōjō named the Yōshūkan in Ōsaka in 1934, he used the name Shitō-ryū for the first time[2] and in 1939 had it registered as an official ryūha-name with the Dai Nippon Butokukai HQ. Later the same year Mabuni established the Great-Japan Karate Association[3] as the national organization for his Shitō-ryū (not to be confused with the Shōtōkan JKA).

Around that time Mabuni for the first time established a list of kata categorized according to the lineage they originated from.[4] The list gives a total of 36 kata as follows:

Itosu lineage (total number 23)

  • Naihanchi (1–3)
  • Pinan (1–5)
  • Rōhai (1–3)
  • Kōshōkun (Dai, Shō, Shihō Kōshōkun)
  • Bassai (Dai, Shō)
  • Gojūshiho
  • Jitte
  • Jiin
  • Jion
  • Chintō
  • Chintē
  • Wanshū

Higaonna lineage (total number 10)

  • Sanchin
  • Tenshō
  • Sēsan
  • Sēenchin
  • Sēpai
  • Sūpārinpei (AKA Pecchūrin)
  • Sansērū
  • (Shi)Sōchin[6]
  • Saifā
  • Kururunfā

Arakaki lineage (total number 3)

  • Nīsēshi
  • Unshū
  • Sōchin[5]

Among these are found three kinds of Kōshōkun (AKA Kūsankū): Kōshōkun Dai, Kōshōkun Shō, and Shihō Kōshōkun. The latter of which was also handed down by Itosu to Mabuni, as is stated in the book.

  • Chatan Yara no Kūsanku was not included in Mabuni’s kata. 

The questions arises:

When, how and by whom was Chatan Yara no Kūsanku added into Shitō-ryū?

Following the death of the founder Mabuni Kenwa in 1952 a lot of things happened to “Shitō-ryū”. To make a long story short, the instructors based in the Ōsaka region and the instructors from Tōkyō region constituted two groups which technically differed from each other and even practiced different variations of kata. After many meetings the two groups came to an agreement: their varying curricula were reconciled and synchronized by means of a majority vote of their senior members. This majority vote was dominated by the Tōkyō group, which had more senior votes than the Ōsaka group. The result of the agreement was that not only terminology and techniques were synchronized and newly created, but agreement was even reached about changes in the kata, although in certain cases these were at odds with the original versions handed down by Mabuni himself. And these results were made into several jointly produced videos. In this way a majority vote decided on the curriculum of Shitō-ryū following the demise of the founder. When in 1964 the Japan Karate Federation (JKF, Zen Nihon Karatedō Renmei) was established, its object was defined as the formulation of a unified standard of Japanese karate[7] and to propagate Japanese-style Karate throughout the world.[8] The above groups of Shitō-ryū joined the JKF and were collectively renamed to JKF Shitōkai.

  • There was no Chatan Yara no Kūsanku included in this group’s kata curriculum.

There were also many other factions in one way or the other associated with Mabuni Kenwa and with “Shitō-ryū”, like the “Tani-ha Shitō-ryū” which was created by Tani Chōjirō (1921–1998) of the Shūkōkai. He was known for his creative, modern methods and his Shūkōkai is considered a quite idiosyncratic style. See him performing “Shitō-ryū” Chintō here (it’s a bit crazy, though).

One of Mabuni’s top disciples was the Japanese budōka Sakagami Ryūshō (1915–1993). He was of great aid to Mabuni in spreading Shitō-ryū. Sakagami opened his own Shitō-ryū dōjō in 1940. Following the demise of Mabuni Kenwa in 1952, however, Sakagami created what he referred to as the Itosukai and never again used the name Shitō-ryū. Since Sakagami was Mabuni’s senior student – and notwithstanding his new appellation of Itosukai – his method influenced numerous followers of Shitō-ryū. Even practitioners of Shōtōkan were influenced by Sakagami’s methodology and adopted kata of Shitō-ryū, which in turn they assimilated to the principles of their own style. The Kata Unshū as noted earlier as a part of the Mabuni’s curriculum in 1938[9] was nowhere to be found in Funakoshi’s original books from 1922, 1925, or 1935. Mabuni learned Unshū from Arakaki Seishō, a famous expert of prototypical Naha-te, and the same is true for Sōchin. Wouldn’t this suggest that Shōtōkan used Shitō-ryū’s Unshū to create and assimilate Unsū? And if so, is Shōtōkan Unsū as well as its secret applications therefore an “invented martial art”?

Arakaki’s three kata of karate were also featured in Sakagami’s encyclopedia of kata, published in 1978.[10] In this work Mabuni’s kata-framework is clearly visible. A few kata were not included, while others were added, such as Matsumora no Rōhai. But in Shitō-ryū the same kata is referred to as Matsumura no Rōhai. Because of this there is some confusion as to whom created this kata, Matsumura Sōkon or Matsumora Kōsaku. It was like this: Sakagami learned this kata from both Yabiku Mōden and Mabuni Kenwa. When he established the Itosukai, and while there are slight differences, he handed down the same kata under the name of Matsumora no Rōhai. But it is the same kata and the same lineage.[11] This was the original Rōhai, of which there was only one version, not three.[12]

Sakagami’s encyclopedia of kata also included Matsumura no Passai. This version was handed down by Matsumura Sōkon’s best disciple Tawada Shinboku to Chibana Chōshin. As Chibana was – just like Mabuni – a student of Itosu’s, and as both were members of the famous Okinawan “Karate Research Club”[13], Mabuni probably learned this version from Chibana.[14]

  • In any case, Chatan Yara no Kūsanku was not featured among the kata explained by Sakagami as being part of the curriculum

Another important lineage somehow associated with Mabuni and “Shitō-ryū” is the Motobu-ha Shitō-ryū, or actually Seishinkai. The Seishinkai was created by Kuniba Kōsei (1901–1959) who was the landlord of the dōjō bearing the same name. This dōjō originally had been a branch dōjō of Mabuni’s Shitō-ryū. Classes were usually taught by Okinawa-born Tomoyori Ryūsei (*1905), who had studied under both Miyagi Chōjun and Mabuni Kenwa and established the Kenyū-ryū, using the character “Ken” from Kenwa Mabuni’s first name and “Tomo” from his own name (in the reading of “Yū”) to form Kenyū. When after Mabuni’s demise Kuniba separated his dōjō from Shitō-ryū, many of the older Shitō-ryū instructors are said to have refused to recognize him. Kuniba then traveled to Okinawa and had himself written a certificate by the famous Nagamine Shōshin of Matsubayashi-ryū which authenticated his style with the appellation of “Motobu-ha Shitō-ryū”,[15] a claim which would probably be rejected by the actual Motobu-ryū. Kuniba’s adopted son Kuniba Shōgō (1935–1992) also studied Matsubayashi-ryū under Nagamine Shōshin.[16] Hayashi Teruo from Ōsaka was also a student of Kuniba’s Seishinkai. Hayashi Teruo and Kuniba Shōgō were featured in the movie of the lurid title “Budo – The Art of Killing.”

Hayashi began training jūdō during the war years in 1940, and in 1945 he began his study of “Motobu-ryū” and “Shitō-ryū” at Kokuba Kōsei’s Seishinkai.[17] In order to further create space for his own interpretations, Hayashi separated from Seishinkan around 1970. Together with earlier mentioned Sakagami Ryūshō, Hayashi affiliated with the Nippon Karate-dō Rengōkai and Hayashi learned many kata from Sakagami’s Itosukai. Hayashi’s interpretation is known today as “Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū”. In the perception of Donn F. Draeger in the early 1970s, Hayashi was one of the most brilliant exponents of karate on the (then) modern Japanese scene, a disciple of Kokuba Kōsei and an expert technician of Shitō-ryū in his own right who decried the lack of combative realism in modern karate and considered the overemphasis on the use of empty-hand techniques – that is, of kata – a serious mistake that keeps karate from being fully a form of combat.[18] However, while the style uses the appellation “Shitō-ryū” in it, according to Kenwa Mabuni’s son Mabuni Kenzō (1927–2005), Hayashi’s style cannot be directly associated with neither Shitō-ryū nor Mabuni Kenwa. Hayashi’s style was also labelled an accumulation of methods of karate and kobudō with kumite techniques at its core.[19]

It was in 1957 when Hayashi went to Okinawa. Many stories surround this but what we do know is that he studied Matsubayashi-ryū under Nagamine Shōshin[20] and karate and kobudō under Nakaima Kenkō of the Ryūei-ryū. [21] As is stated on this website:

Upon returning to Japan, Hayashi continued his study with Kosei Kuniba. … Before Master Kuniba passed on, he asked Hayashi to run his organization . … Honoring his Sensei’s wishes, Hayashi became President of the Seishin-Kai organization in 1959.

In other words, Hayashi spent a maximum of two years on Okinawa.

See an excerpt of Chatan Yara no Kūsanku performed by the late Nagamine Takayoshi in 1980 and short application by the late Makishi Yasuharu.

Nakaima Kenko, 4th generation of Ryuei-ryu. From: OKKJ 2008.

Nakaima Kenko, 4th generation of Ryuei-ryu. From: OKKJ 2008.

Hayashi was also a member of the executive board of Taira Shinken’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai.[22] In fact he was the director for the Kansai region around Kyōto and Ōsaka. Other members of the board were Sakagami Ryūshō as director for the Kantō region around Tōkyō, Mabuni Ken’ei (son of Mabuni Kenwa), Kuniba Shōgō (the adopted son of Kuniba Kōsei of the Seishinkai), as well as Inoue Motokatsu as director for the Tōkai region south of Tōkyō. The latter was closely related to Fujita Seiko, who also taught another famous Shitō-ryū character, namely Iwata Manzo. Inoue and Fujita connect to another important character, namely Konishi Yasuhiro (1893–1983), close friend of not only Seiko Fujita and Shinken Taira, but also of Mabuni Kenwa. What we see here is some of the main characters that shaped the form and direction of karate as a budō in the postwar decades.

Hayashi Teruo 1964. in: "Ryukyu Kobudo Taikan" by Taira Shinken.

Hayashi Teruo 1964. in: “Ryukyu Kobudo Taikan” by Taira Shinken.

Pursuant to this background, Hayashi Teruo’s style included various kobudō of both Ryūei-ryū and Taira Shinken, plus indirect influences from the Motobu-ryū as well as the Shitō-ryū, plus many of his own ideas, as well as kata from Ryūei-ryū, including Heiku, Annan, Paiku and others. Actually Hayashi named his style Kenshin-ryū in 1961using the character “Ken” from Nakaima Kenkō’s first name and “Shin” meaning “heart” to form Kenshin. 1964 he became president of the earlier mentioned Motobu-ha Shitō-ryū Seishinkai. In 1971 he separated and with the establishment of his Nihon Karatedō Hayahi-ha Shitō-ryū Kai, of which he assmued office as both president and sōke, his previous style’s name Kenshin-ryū came to be used for his kobudō only. During all that time he was also heavily active in the JKF.

  • Within some schools related to Hayashi, here and there Chatan Yara no Kūsankū is found, albeit a modified version. Hayashi did inlcude certain kata of Matsubayashi-ryu into his curriculum, like Tomari no Passai and Rōhai, which were not related to the Mabuni Kenwa syllabus of Shitō-ryū.

A student of Hayashi in “Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū karate” was the late Inoue Yoshimi (1946–2015). In 2004, as a direct descendant of “Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū”, Inoue established “Inoue-ha Shitō-ryū”.

Naturally, while Hayashi Teruo followed his own very eclectic way, Inoue Yoshimi, as a senior coach of the JKF national coach for kata competition, continued Hayashi’s eclectic collection of kata – though skinned of Hayashi’s combative approach as well as of the classical weaponry – in the JKF Shitōkai. Inoue’s students – he had around 130 affilated dōjō around the globe – include a number of kata world champions which have aroused some interest and amazement, such as Atsuko Wakai, Rika Usami, Hasegawa Yukimitsu, Antonio Diaz, and many others.

  • All of these performed a Chatan Yara no Kūsankū, in fact the singlemost awesome kata that “Shitō-ryū” has.

Did they know its origin?

So far a fundament of some facts, but most importantly new questions have been etsablished. I thought it was possible that Chatan Yara reached in Shitō-ryū by Hayashi Teruo, but although Hayashi included Matsubayashi-ryū into his syllabus, there is no final proof that Chatan Yara was among it.

Anyway, at the moment there is a roughly relations as follows:

  • Kuniba Kōsei (Seishinkai) → allegedly “certified” by Nagamine as “Motobu-ha Shitō-ryū” → Hayashi-ha Shitō-ryū”  → Inoue-ha Shitō-ryū” → Olympic KARATE to be?

In the end it seems that “Shitō-ryū” is not Mabuni’s karate anymore, but rather a mindset of haphazardly and self-righteously following his perceived idea of collecting and lumping together whatever there is. These developments MUST be seen in connection with the standardization of karate, the rather recent abolition of the JKF Shitei-kata sets I and II, the announcement that from now on ALL kata from “traditional styles” are allowed for sport tournaments, and finally with the aim of the JKF and the WKF to make karate an Olympic sport.

The appellation of “xyz-ha Shitō-ryū” has thus become somewhat an empty cliché, a hollow phrase which stands for nothing else but sport karate, and personal fame.

Not only are there people who think that Chatan Yara no Kūsankū is an actual kata of Shitō-ryū. In fact, everybody thinks so.

Apply facepalm here.

Over a period of more than 50 years it was one of the best kept secrets of the karate world were Hayashi acquired Chatan Yara no Kūsankū. World champions, sōkes, dōjō around the world, national karate federations, world referees and world karate federations – and millions of little kids – never knew what they were dealing with.

And that’s why everyone need to stop calling Chatan Yara no Kūsankū a kata of Shitō-ryū!!!!

In a letter to the JKF about the malpractice of putting kata of traditional Okinawan Karate through the meat grinder of national standardization, Nagamine Shoshin – on behalf of the Karate Federation of Okinawa Prefecture – wrote in 1982:

At this year’s National Athletic Meet we received a great shock. These appointed shitei kata were not only borrowed from us, but were also in a completely miserable condition!

The standardized kata of the JKF have become more beautiful these days and are not completely miserable anymore. And as I said in the beginning, I like the sport version of Chatan Yara no Kūsankū and also fully support “sport” as one of the three pillars of modern budō.

But… when the actual origin of a kata of karate becomes its only secret, and people start believing things which are plain wrong (not even talking about the technique here), then things are moving along a completely wrong oneway track. Even a Wikipedia article needs correct citation of sources. Why not the national body of karate in Japan? What sort of role model is that supposed to be?

For truth’s sake here’s the part of its origin from where it began to reach to the arenas and electrified audiences at the KARATE domes of the world.

Chatan Yara no Kūsankū

From December 1931 to April 1936 Nagamine Shōshin was assigned to the Kadena police station as a prefectural law enforcement officer. During that time he studied directly under Kyan Chōtoku. He recalled that Chōtoku in his later years taught the village youth in karate and also gave lessons at the Kadena police station and at other places. What we do know according to Nagamine’s own words is that he deeply studied Chōtoku’s favorite kata Passai, Chintō, and Kūsankū. In fact, Shōshin had learned these kata already earlier from Chōtoku’s top student Arakaki Ankichi as well as by Shimabuku Tarō. This was karate network learning. According to the dates given, and although slight variations might be possible, Shōshin learned these kata for more than ten years. It is probably from this experience that Shōshin said that it takes at least ten years to master Kūsankū.

Chōtoku often talked to Ankichi about Chatan Yara and his Kūsankū. This we know because Shōshin was told about this directly by Ankichi and preserved it in his writings. According to it, the Kūsankū tradition was the principal vehicle through which Yara transmitted the secret applications of karate to Chōtoku. Chōtoku in turn taught it to Ankichi, who taught it to Tarō. Nagamine in turn learned it from each Chōtoku, Ankichi, and Tarō. This is the version known today as Chatan Yara no Kūsankū.[23]

Later other Okinawan students of Kyan also inherited the same kata, namely Shōrinji-ryū (Nakazato Jōen), Isshin-ryū (Shimabuku Tatsuo), and Seibukan (via Shimabukuro Zenryō).

Chatan Yara no Kusanku, performed at an advertisement party for 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Chatan Yara no Kusanku, performed at an advertisement party for 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.


[1] OKKJ 2008: 252.

[2] OKKJ 2008: 171, 526.

[3] Dai Nippon Karate-dō Kai 大日本空手道会. After the war it was renamed to Shitō-ryū’s Japan Karate Association (Nihon Karate-dō Kai 日本空手道会).

[4] Mabuni 1938: 74–75.

[5] This derives from the following text: „Adding other kinds of kata the number increases. In the Arakaki-ha there are such kata as Nīsēshi, Unshu, and Sōchin. The same name Sōchin [he means Shisōchin] is also a kata in the Higaonna-ha (today’s Gōjū-ryū), but is different to that from the Arakaki-ha. Of Sēsan there are five or six kinds all together in Naha and Shuri. As for Gojūshiho and others there are also some differences in the Itosu-ha and the Matsumura-ha.“

[6] He writes Sōchin, but means Shisōchin.

[7]「日本の空手道に統一的な秩序をもたらす」. See:

[8] Draeger 1974: 136

[9] Mabuni 1938: 74.

[10] 坂上隆祥:空手道型大鑑.日貿出版社1978.

[11] It is without doubt the same origin as the Matsubayashi-ryū version. See the Matsumura Rōhai of Shitō-ryū here:

[12] Cf. Nagamine 1976: 248: 原形は一つであって二段や三段はない。

[13] Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu, see

[14] OKKJ 2008: 250. In 2009 a five edition set called “Itosu-ryū Karate-dō Taikan” was published featuring all the karate kata of the Itosukai. See

[15] Fraguas, Jose M.: Karate Masters. Schlatt-books, Distelhausen 2008/09. pp. 293, 299-302.

[16] Black Belt, June 1993, p. 36.

[17] BRD 1978, entry on Kenshin-ryū.

[18] Draeger 1974: 135.

[19] BRD 1978, entry on Kenshin-ryū.

[20] BRD 1978, entry on Kenshin-ryū.

[21] Draeger 1974: 135. BRD 1978, entry on Kenshin-ryū.

[22] Taira 1964: 24–27.

[23] See

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