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John M Avilla
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Tabata-Ha Rohai

This is the version of Rohai that Sensei Tabata teaches. Based on vids I've watched poking around on YouTube it seems like it is a lot more basic than most versions. So much so as to almost be a different Kata? What do you guys think of it? Also, any ideas on a bunkai for the sequence that follows the forty five degree gedan barai stepping punch sequence? For lack of a better description, the part with the flappy arm movement (I think you'll get it when you watch the vid) BTW, Not me in the vid.

Marc
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"Rohai" seems to be a very popular name for karate katas as there are several different katas that bear that name. The kata in the video is the same as Shotokan's Meikyo.

The technique you ask about is often called Bo-Dori ("stick grabbing") because it looks as if you were grabbing a stick from below and then spin it over. That is perhaps the least likely application but it looks like that's what it does.

It is interesting to see how the Bo-Dori sequence is done differently in the various versions of the kata out there. What's even more interesting is that it seems to be non-existent in Funakoshi's version of the kata:

 

In my youtube playlist for Meikyo I have compiled a few variations of Shotokan style kata performances and a bunch of possible applications for most parts of the kata (in no particular order). Maybe you'll find something there that resonates with you.

 

Take care,

Marc

John M Avilla
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Awesome, thanks for the video links. Tabata is Shotokan though. He was Isao Obata's student. Perhaps Meikyo and Rohai are both used for the same Kata by various students of Funokoshi? Another possibility; although Sensei Tabata's teaching methods are very much in keeping with what Funokoshi taught he has definitely changed a lot of small details. It would not be out of character for him to decide to call Meikyo Rohai and remove or change parts of it.

Marc
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Actually Funakoshi changed many kata names to make them more accessable to the Japanese practitioners. Many of those names he derived from signature moves in a kata or form a kata's overall characteristic.

He changed "Rohai" to "Meikyo". "Meikyo" translates as "clean mirror" and the name refers to the first moves in the kata that look like you're looking into a mirror and then wipe the mirror clean.

But there are different katas that a also called "Rohai", and those bear no resemblence to Rohai/Meikyo as known in Shotokan.

John M Avilla
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So then, is Rohai an Okinawan word originally? I knew Funokoshi changed some of the names but I had no idea about Rohai/Meikyo. This is actually a new Kata for me. Just learned it a few months ago. I stopped training Shotokan formally over ten years ago but I kept learning new Kata for solo training after realizing what some of the movements meant while training JKD, Muay Thai and Submission Wrestling. 

Marc
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John M Avilla wrote:

So then, is Rohai an Okinawan word originally?

Sorry, I don't know whether the word is plain Japanese or an Okinawan dialect.

John M Avilla
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That's cool. I'll search engine it later. That's one of the things I like about Karate; so much opportunity for abject nerdiness, lol. 

Iain Abernethy
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Marc wrote:
there are different katas that a also called "Rohai", and those bear no resemblence to Rohai/Meikyo as known in Shotokan.

Indeed! The relationship between these kata is one that fascinates me. Their connection is far from clear though. The most practised ones would be:

Matsumora Rohai (frequently mislabelled as “Matsumura Rohai” because of people confusing Kosaku Matsumora and Soken Matsumura).

Shotokan’s Meikyo

The Three Itosu Rohai (Shodan, Nidan and Sandan).

They are all quite different, but there are some commonalities.

All the best,

Iain

Matsumora Rohai

 

Meikyo

 

Itosu Rohai Shodan (Wado's Rohai)

 

Itosu Rohai Nidan

 

Itosu Rohai Sandan

Kiwikarateka
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John M Avilla wrote:

So then, is Rohai an Okinawan word originally?

If Funakoshi came up with the name Meikyo it's likely that rohai (or ローハイ、roohai) the original name wasn't Japanese. The fact that it's written in Katakana (Japanese alphabet used mostly for foreign loanwords and onomatopeia) indicates that's it's potentially not Japanese in origin. I'm not able to locate any kanji for the name either which makes me more inclined to belive it is Okinawan in origin. I have no idea where the kata is supposed to have been created but, I would guess it's an Okinawan creation as if it was Chinese it would likely have some kanji associated with it. That's not to say that it can't be Chinese in origin, maybe the kanji are simply lost or were discarded. That said I only spent a few minutes googling this so maybe we have the kanji for them around somewhere.

Iain Abernethy
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Languages are not my speciality, but I understand that “Rohai” is widely accepted to translate as “Vision of a White Heron” and the kanji associated with that is: 鹭牌

鹭 = Heron

牌 = Sign, Brand, Label

Together the characters would be pronounced as “Lù pái” in Chinese and I assume that “Rohai” is simply an Okinawan pronunciation of the same characters. My guess is that the heron is deemed to be “white” because of the influence of White Crane Kung-Fu on some aspects of karate?

“Sign of the Heron” is probably a safer translation of the name; especially when you think of the one-legged postures and wing-like motions in the various kata that go by that name. To me, that all fits together quite nicely.

It’s widely accepted that the kata (and its many variations) comes from the “tomari-te” line, but I’m not aware of anything that solidly identifies a creator of this branch of the tradition. Obviously, it is safe to credit Itosu with the versions that carry his name, and Kosaku Matsumora with the version that carries his name (although it is frequently incorrectly attributed to Soken Matsumura), but as to who or what inspired those variants is far less clear.

Kiwikarateka wrote:
I would guess it's an Okinawan creation as if it was Chinese it would likely have some kanji associated with it.

It is quite common for kata of known Chinese origin to be rendered in katakana. They knew the “name” (i.e. the sound of it) but not the kanji that would communicate to the meaning. Katakana is a little like the western alphabets. If I write my name, everyone knows how to say it, they don’t know what the meaning or origins of my name is from the writing of “Abernethy”. Also, if I were to say my name aloud, people would have a pretty good idea of how to spell it.

Because of the lack of written records for kata, people know the sound of the name, and hence how to render it into katakana, but without the kanji you can struggle to know the meaning. It was these lost meanings that partially inspired Funakoshi to give the kata new Japanese names:

“No one, by now, had any idea how [the names of the kata] had come into being, and people found them difficult to learn. Accordingly, after having transformed “Chinese hands” into “empty hands,” I began to give the kata names that were easier to the Japanese people to use and that have now become familiar all over the world.” – Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do: My Way of Life.

It's therefore a lack of written records that leads to the loss of some kanji for some of the kata names. It could still have a Chinese origin though. For example, we have no kanji for Naihanchi or Passai either, but the past masters asserted these kata had Chinese origins.

Back to Rohai, I think it is pretty safe to assert the kata have their roots in some form of crane kung-fu. We can also posit that those roots were laid down for karate in the Tomari region of Okinawa. It could have been by a Chinese teacher who visited there, or by an Okinawan who had the opportunity to study the system elsewhere and then retuned to Tomari. We have a patchy idea of how it spread along various lines from there, but it’s all far from clear.

It’s the lack of detailed records that simultaneously make karate history so fascinating and frustrating :-)

All the best,

Iain

ky0han
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Hi everyone,

there are other theories with regards to Kanji for Rohai. One theory by Kinjo Akio, also backed by Tokashiki Iken, the Kanji for Rohai were 羅漢 (Arhat or Arhan) which is pronounced Lohan/Rohan in Chinese. In the accent of southern region of Fuchou it would be pronounced Lohai/Rohai which was then used by the Okinawans. Therefore it could be a monk boxing form.

Henning Wittwer has an interesting theory with regards to the Shotokan Meikyo and the three Itosu Rohai forms. Since the Shotokan Meikyo contains movements from all Itosu version he could either created a single form out of those three Itosu forms or Itosu used an original form and developed a new set of three Rohai forms. According to Wittwer there are three arguments for the latter.

1. in his 1922 Kata list Funakoshi mentions five Pinans, three Naihanchis but only one Rohai

2. Funakoshi taught all five Pinan and all three Naihanchi without reducing them into one singe form each 

3. Itosu used orginal forms for the creation of the Pinan and Naihanchi forms before 

Rohai is clearly a Tomari form. It has for example the same end like the Wanshu/Empi (360° turn followed by two Shuto moves backwards). Since Itosu was the successor of Gusukuma of Tomari, it is very likely that he learned an original Gusukuma Rohai, different from the Matsumora version and taught that Rohai to Funakoshi before creating the new set of three Itosu Rohai.

More information can be found in Henning Wittwers Band III (only in German sadly).

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
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Hi Holger,

Thank you for a very informative post. The idea of a “Gusukuma Rohai” being taught to Funakoshi by Itosu, and that being the origins of Shotokan’s Meikyo, has much to support it.

If we take that as correct, we then need to explain why Shito-Ryu does not have that version (Mabuni also being a student of Itosu) but it does have the Matsumora version and the three Itosu versions.

One possible answer to the second part could be that Funakoshi – being quite a bit older Mabuni – learnt “Gusukuma Rohai” from Itosu, but this version had been developed in the three Itosu Rohai by the time that Mabuni studied with Itosu? That would seem plausible to me.

We then have the question of how the Matsumora version found its way into Shito-Ryu. There’s some really interesting stuff here: https://ameblo.jp/motoburyu/entry-12229900448.html

The essential idea expressed is that Shito-Ryu appropriated the Matsumora version from Matsubayashi-ryu after WW2 via Teruo Hayashi. Matsumora Rohai was therefore not a kata Mabuni knew or taught (he taught the three Itosu Rohai).

Kosaku Matsumora > Kotatsu Iha > Shoshin Nagamine (Matsubayashi Ryu) > Teruo Hayashi (shito-ryu)

Teruo Hayashi studied under Kenwa Mebuni and, primarily, his student Kosei Kuniba. Later on, he studied with Shoshin Nagamine and it is suggested that this is how Shito-Ryu acquired Matsumora Rohai, Chatanyara Kushanku, Tomari Bassai and Matsukaze (Wankan in Matsubayashi Ryu).

Teruo Hayashi had the role of “Technical President” within the World Union of Karate Organizations (WUKO), which later became the World Karate Federation (WFK). That’s a very influential position. Matsumora Rohai is also a very popular competition kata, and that has no doubt contributed to its popularity in modern Shito-Ryu too.

Shito-Ryu’s Matsumora Rohai and Matsubayashi Ryu’s Rohai are pretty much identical. That would support the idea they both come from Shoshin Nagamine (and not Mabuni).

The Wankan of Matsubayashi Ryu is also pretty much identical to the Matsukaze of Shito-Ryu; however, the Wankan of Shotokan is quite different (the key “commonality” being the front kicks and punches to the rear; although Shotokan hits with the lead hand while the other styles do reverse punches).

So, bringing this all together, here is an initial hypothesis:

1) The Rohai kata have a common source in the Tomari region of Okinawa. Based on various kanji, this unknown common source is suspected to be either crane or monk fist kung fu (both systems are related, and both are referenced in the Bubishi).

2) Both Gusukuma and Matsumora received instruction in Tomari, and this included the “Rohai system” from the aforementioned unknown sources.

3) Two district lines of “Tomari-te” kata developed from both men. We can call these the “Gusukuma-Line” and the “Matsumora-Line”.

4) The Matsumora line was passed down via Kotatsu Iha to Shoshin Nagamine.

5) Teruo Hayashi (shito-ryu) studied under Shoshin Nagamine and from there brought a number of the Matsumora line tomari-te kata into Shito-Ryu. This explains the strong similarities between those kata in the two styles. These versions of the kata did NOT, therefore, come down via Itosu and Mabuni.

6) The Gusukuma line tomari-te kata were passed onto Itosu and from there to Funakoshi.

7) Itosu later revised the Rohai kata (as he did with many other kata), and he taught the three revised versions to Mabuni at a later date.

This would explain why the Rohai (possibly Wankan/Matsukaze too) are different in Shito-Ryu and Shotokan. They have common origins, but different routes of evolution. This all cumulates in the following:  

Shotokan’s Meikyo: The kata is the version of Rohai that Gusukuma taught to Itosu. Funakoshi learns the kata from Itosu, and later renames it “Meikyo”.

Matsumora Rohai: This is the version of Rohai that Matsumora passed onto Kotatsu Iha, who in turn passed it onto Shoshin Nagamine. Both the Shito-Ryu version and the Matsubayashi-Ryu version come from Shoshin Nagamine.

The Itosu Rohai: Itosu later remodelled Gusukuma Rohai into the three Itosu Rohai. These were taught to Mabuni (but the original kata was not taught; or, if it was taught to Mabuni, he did not pass it on).

Wado’s Rohai: Otsuka learnt the first of the three Itosu Rohai from Mabuni. Otsuka labled "Itosu Rohai Shodan" as "Rohai".

What with the name confusions (Matsumora vs. Matsumura), name changes (Rohai to Meikyo), kata revisions, and “style hopping” (Matsubayashi-Ryu kata finding their way into Shito-Ryu; as opposed to being passed down within Shito-Ryu), etc. it’s is no wonder that there is much confusion around the origins and evolution of these kata. The above strikes me as a workable hypothesis though. It does seem to satisfactorily address the historical information we do have; as well as address the differences and commonalities we see in the various versions of the kaya we have today.

Thoughts everyone?

If this hypothesis does have legs, it may also explain why the Wankan of Shotokan is different from the Wankan/Mantukaze of Matsubayashi-Ryu and Shito-Ryu respectively i.e. all are tomari-te kata, but the Shotokan version is of the Gusukuma line whereas the Matsubayashi-Ryu / Shito-Ryu version is of the Matsumora line?

All the best,

Iain

Nimrod Nir
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Iain Abernethy wrote:
Thoughts everyone?
Plenty. An interesting topic to me, being a Shitoryu practitioner and a fan of karate history.

ky0han wrote:
Since Itosu was the successor of Gusukuma of Tomari, it is very likely that he learned an original Gusukuma Rohai, different from the Matsumora version...

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The idea of a “Gusukuma Rohai” being taught to Funakoshi by Itosu, and that being the origins of Shotokan’s Meikyo, has much to support it.

I'm afraid there is a misunderstanding/mistake around this issue (perhaps also on my part?). I am not aware of any karate practitioner called Gusukama other than Shinpan Gusukuma, who was in fact a student of Itosu, and not the other way around.  Wikipedia pages for both Shinpan Gusukuma and Anko Itosu seem to support my statement:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinpan_Gusukuma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ank%C5%8D_Itosu

Additionally, I'm not aware of any kata called Gusukuma Rohai. But other than using Gusukuma's name, I am ok with the theory so far, of the Rohai kata evolving from two different sources (Matsumora and another source, which we called Gusukuma by mistake).

Iain Abernethy wrote:
If we take that as correct, we then need to explain why Shito-Ryu does not have that version (Mabuni also being a student of Itosu) but it does have the Matsumora version and the three Itosu versions.

A solid point. Maybe this Shitoryu kata list can help with identifying the sources of the different Shitoryu katas (Shitoryu is the "style" with most katas, as Kenwa Mabuni was a kata "collector" and made it a life project to preserve as many katas as possible. A fine and worthy project, I might add).

[ REMOVED JUST IN CASE - Iain ]

[Iain, this is originally taken from shitokai.com, which is currently under reconstruction. I'm not aware of any copyrighting issues, but I thought I should state the source just in case. If this violates any copyrighting rights please remove it.]

As can be seen, there are indeed only the Tomari Rohai (named Matsumora ha Rohai or Koshiki Rohai) and the three Itosu Rohai.

Iain Abernethy wrote:

The essential idea expressed is that Shito-Ryu appropriated the Matsumora version from Matsubayashi-ryu after WW2 via Teruo Hayashi. Matsumora Rohai was therefore not a kata Mabuni knew or taught (he taught the three Itosu Rohai).

Kosaku Matsumora > Kotatsu Iha > Shoshin Nagamine (Matsubayashi Ryu) > Teruo Hayashi (shito-ryu)

This is only one possible route, but not the only possible one. Kosaku Matsumora was also the teacher of both Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan, both of them indeed being also the teachers of Shoshin Nagamine, but also of other students with links to Shitoryu. e.g. Motobu was also the teacher of Kosei Kokuba (sometimes being called Kosei Kuniba), who was Shogo Kuniba's uncle and teacher. Shogo Kuniba also being a student of both Shoshin Nagamine and Kenwa Mabuni. So there are many possible routes. All of those guys trained together and could learn Matsumora Rohai from one another.

In conclusion, apart from the Gusukuma Rohai, which I have a problem with (only regarding its name), the theory seems solid to me.

Regards, Nimrod

ky0han
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Hi Nimrod,

Quote:
I'm afraid there is a misunderstanding/mistake around this issue (perhaps also on my part?). I am not aware of any karate practitioner called Gusukama other than Shinpan Gusukuma, who was in fact a student of Itosu, and not the other way around.  Wikipedia pages for both Shinpan Gusukuma and Anko Itosu seem to support my statement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinpan_Gusukuma https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ank%C5%8D_Itosu Additionally, I'm not aware of any kata called Gusukuma Rohai. But other than using Gusukuma's name, I am ok with the theory so far, of the Rohai kata evolving from two different sources (Matsumora and another source, which we called Gusukuma by mistake).

No there is no misunderstanding. The Gusukuma of Tomari should not be confused with Gusukuma Shinpan, who was indeed a student of Itosu. If you are interested in sources you can find information on Gusukuma the elder in an interview Funakoshi conducted arround 1902 if I remember correctly and that was published in 1914. Patrick McCarthy published an English translation in his book "Tanpenshu". There you can find on page14 the following. Asato lists a lot of Karate Masters here, at position 32 you find the name Tomari no Gusukuma. On page 16 you can read:

Quote:
A Fujian-Chinese from Annan who drifted to Okinawa taught Chinto to Gusukuma and Kanagusuku in Tomari...

Funakoshi himself wrote that Asato Sensei was the successor of Matsumura and Itosu Sensei was the successor of Gusukuma of Tomari. And since they were his teachers with Asato being his main teacher and Itosu a substitute teacher during the time Asato was in Tokyo with the last Ryukyuan King who had to go into exile, only teaching Funakoshi occasionally during that time, I take his word for granted. :-)

I hope that helps. 

Regards Holger

Edit: P.S. please don't consider Wikipedia as a valid source of information on Karate ;-)

Iain Abernethy
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Nimrod wrote:
I'm afraid there is a misunderstanding/mistake around this issue (perhaps also on my part?). I am not aware of any karate practitioner called Gusukama other than Shinpan Gusukuma, who was in fact a student of Itosu, and not the other way around.

As Holger, has already pointed out, there was a Gusukama who was a teacher of Itosu. I’ve not got my books with me, but I recall Funakoshi references him in “Karate-Do Nyumon” if you have a copy. As Holger said, Funakoshi does state that Itosu was primarily a student of Gusukama of Tomari. Because of that strong connection, it does seem to be eminently plausible that Gusukama was the source on any tomari kata passed onto Itosu. The suggestion that was the version that was passed on to Funakoshi, and that the three Itosu Rohai are a later reworking of that kata, also makes sense when you compare the kata and look at the timeline; especially, when you consider Itosu’s proclivity for revising kata.

Nimrod wrote:
This is only one possible route, but not the only possible one. Kosaku Matsumora was also the teacher of both Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan, both of them indeed being also the teachers of Shoshin Nagamine, but also of other students with links to Shitoryu. e.g. Motobu was also the teacher of Kosei Kokuba (sometimes being called Kosei Kuniba), who was Shogo Kuniba's uncle and teacher. Shogo Kuniba also being a student of both Shoshin Nagamine and Kenwa Mabuni. So there are many possible routes. All of those guys trained together and could learn Matsumora Rohai from one another.

It is worth noting what Shoshin Nagamine is quoted as saying in the article linked above (https://ameblo.jp/motoburyu/entry-12229900448.html):

“The martial art of the venerable old gentleman (Matsumora) was inherited by Yamazato Giki, Kuba Kōho, and Iha Kōtatsu. Particularly master Iha Kōtatsu, as the Karate trainer of the Tomari student council, handed down the martial arts of the venerable old gentleman (Matsumora) to the many of the young people of Tomari. I myself also inherited from the master (Iha) the Tomari-te of Passai, Chintō, Wankan, Rōhai, and Wanshū...” - Nagamine Shōshin: Shijitsu to Kuden niyoru Okinawa no Karate, Sumō Meijin-den. Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, Tōkyō 1986, pages 72–73.

So Nagamine himself gives Kotatsu Iha as the source for the Matsubayashi Ryu version of Rohai. He does not credit Motobu or Kyan as the source. That part would therefore seem to be cut and dried. Teruo Hayashi was not the only Shito-Ryu practitioner to study with Nagamine of course. What we can be confident about is that Nagamine is the source of Shito-Ryu’s Matsumora Rohai (Not Mabuni). Teruo Hayashi is one confirmed, and very influential, connection, but you are right that there will be others too.

All the best,

Iain

Don Daly
Don Daly's picture

Very informative comments that I would not disagree with at all, however, I would like to add a description from my youtube playlist on "Roots of Lo Hai (No Pae) Hyung" which included the Korean versions of Rohai drawn from Kanken Toyama's Shudokan style. This description touches on a couple points not yet mentioned.

The names Lo Hai (Lo Hi) and No Pae, come from the Chinese, Lù pái 鷺牌, meaning Heron Shield. The original Lo Hai / No Pae hyung may have been from the Northern Shaolin Black Crane (1) style that uses snake, ancient bird, and some tiger techniques (2). It is thought that the name "heron shield" comes from the initial motion of the form which imitates how the wings of the heron (or egret) shield the water from sunlight. This action of shielding, or shading, the water eliminates the sun's glare enabling the "vision of the heron" in viewing fish.

The original form was probably taught to Tode Sakugawa (Kanga Teruya) during one of his many official visits to Beijing (3) where there were "Black Crane" specialists (4). The oldest version of this kata in Okinawa, called Matsumora Rohai, was passed down from Kishin Teruya to Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari (5).  Anko Itosu learned this version, but changed it, dividing it into three shorter, different Rohai katas. Gichin Funikoshi reworked Itosu's Rohai katas, combining them into one, more symmetric version that he called Meikyo (Bright Mirror).

Kanken Toyama's version of Rohai seems to have been a version of Matsumora's Rohai reconnected with its Chinese roots. His version of Rohai, called No Pae (Heron Shield) in Korean, was passed down by his Korean student Yoon Byung-In to Chang Moo Kwan, Kang Duk Won and Pa Sa Ryu styles. Master Toyama's other Korean students Yun Kwe-Byung (Ji Do Kwan) and Kim Ki-Whang influenced the version that Hwang Kee (Moo Duk Kwan) further developed and called Lo Hai (Korean transliteration of Rohai).

References: (1) http://www.shaolin.com/b_crane_martialarts.aspx    (2) "Black Crane kung fu." Shaolin Gung Fu Institute. Shaolin Gung Fu Institute. 25 Jul 2007    (3) From the article of Savvas P. Mastrappas in the 6th issue of the “To Monopati tou Polemisti” (The Warrior’s Path) magazine: (Translation by Dimitris Petrakis)    (4) From article on the internet about black crane style that I as yet cannot find again. Sorry.    (5) www.msisshinryu.com/history/tomari-te,  Matsumora and Oyadomari were also disciples from two local masters, Kishin Teruya (1804-1864) and Giko Uku (1800-1850). From Teruya they would learn Passai, Rohai, and Wanshu, and with Uku the kata Naifanch.

Best wishes to all,

Don Daly

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Don,

Quote:
The oldest version of this kata in Okinawa, called Matsumora Rohai, was passed down from Kishin Teruya to Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari (5).  Anko Itosu learned this version, but changed it, dividing it into three shorter, different Rohai katas. Gichin Funikoshi reworked Itosu's Rohai katas, combining them into one, more symmetric version that he called Meikyo (Bright Mirror).

You are claiming that Itosu learend the Matsumora version. Can you back that up with a source? Even your source (5) gives the following information:

Quote:
However, most of the Itosu knowledge came from a Tomari master called Gusukuma and from the Naha master Nagahama, and not from only Sokon Matsumura. Gusukuma was a disciple of Annan (see below) and of Jion, a budist monk, who learned the kata of the same name. Aparently, Gusukuma to Itosu Naifanchi I & II, Rohai, Wanshu and Chintei, and from Jion he would the personal form of this later, Jion, and two Sai kata, Jitte and Jiin, that he adapted to empty hand kata.

Sadly that article doesn't provide any sources for its claims that there was a monk by the name of Jion and that Jiin and Jitte were Sai kata.

The theory that Funakoshi formed a single form that he called Meikyo out of the three Itosu Rohai is possible but unlikely. It is more likely the other way arround that Itosu formed his Rohai trinity out of an original form. See my post #11.

Regards Holger 

Don Daly
Don Daly's picture

I am not saying there was not a Gusukuma version, but the source claims that Matsumora's Rohai came from Kishin Teruya who I believe was a student of Macabe, the student of Tode Sakugawa. This "original" version was passed down by Kishin Teruya to Kosaku Matsumora and to his close friend Master Oyadomari.  Kanken Toyama was from the Oyadomari clan and his version may be from the Oyadomari linage.  I believe Master Toyama was Itosu's top assistant in his later years, and after that also learned several kung fu styles in Taiwan before moving to Japan.

I look forward to your informative replies.  Best wishes to all.

Don Daly

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Don,

Thanks for the contribution to the thread. I think we need to be careful to differentiate between hypothesis (lots of that in this thread) and known fact (far less of that). We also need to be clear what we basing all hypothesising on. There needs to be something to guide it.

Don Daly wrote:
The oldest version of this kata in Okinawa, called Matsumora Rohai, was passed down from Kishin Teruya to Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari (5).  Anko Itosu learned this version, but changed it, dividing it into three shorter, different Rohai katas.

In the above quote, you state, “Anko Itosu learned this version, but changed it, dividing it into three shorter, different Rohai katas.” That sounds like a strong assertion of fact. While it is a fact there are three Itosu Rohai, can we be similarly certain that those versions are based on the Matsumora version? I’m not aware of a solid source that tells us Itosu learnt the Matsumora version. Holger obviously hasn’t either, which is why he asked for the source of that assertion?

If there is not such a source, all we can say is that Itosu learnt a version of Rohai. We don’t know for certain which. We can then hypothesise as to what we feel is most probable, while being ever careful to avoid asserting any resulting hypothesis as fact. We therefore have three main possibilities:

1) Itosu learnt the Matsumora version; and that was the basis of his three Rohai.

2) Itosu learnt a Gusukuma version; and that was the basis of his three Rohai.

3) Itosu leant another version; and that was the basis of his three Rohai.

All three are possible, but we have to ask what is most probable.

To me, Itosu’s Rohai have much more in common with Shotokan’s Meikyo than they do Matsumora Rohai. It therefore strikes me as being more probable that Matsumora Rohai is not the source material of the three Itosu Rohai, but that is does have some connection with Shotokan’s Meikyo.

We know Rohai is a “Tomari-te” kata, and we know Gusukuma of Tomari was a primary teacher of Itosu. It is therefore more probable Gusukuma is the source of the kata as opposed to an unknown third source.

We also know Funakoshi studied under Itosu. Shotokan has a Rohai (Meikyo), but it does not contain the three Itosu Rohai. It therefore seems more probable that Itosu passed that Rohai (later renamed Meikyo) onto Funakoshi before the development of the three Itosu Rohai. It would also explain why Shito-Ryu has the three Itosu Rohai, but nothing that resembles Meikyo (Mabuni learning from Itosu later).

None of this is close to being certain, but, for me, the balance of probability points to the “original Itosu Rohai” being distinct from then Matsumora Rohai, and the “original Itosu Rohai” having connections with both Gusukuma and Shotokan’s Meikyo.

Itosu learning Matsumora Rohai strikes me as far less probable, so it would not be my favoured hypothesis. However, if there is a source for that assertion, then everyone would be on board. Without such a source, it strikes me as unlikely.

Don Daly wrote:
The original form was probably taught to Tode Sakugawa (Kanga Teruya) during one of his many official visits to Beijing (3) where there were "Black Crane" specialists (4) …

We’d need to explain why that was probable? In the absence of solid sources, we can’t say where Matsumora learnt his version of the kata from. There simply isn’t the evidence to trace Rohai before Matsumora. I’d therefore prefer to say we simply don’t know because we have no evidence to guide us either way.

People like to fill the gaps and the internet has a bad habit of making martial conjecture into “fact”. If we are not careful, people will be saying “The kata was brought back from Beijing by Tode Sakugawa” as a “factual” statement when there is no evidence for that. I don’t think it is even something we can hypothesise about because there is nothing of substance to guide us in that hypothesising.

Don Daly wrote:
The names Lo Hai (Lo Hi) and No Pae, come from the Chinese, Lù pái 鷺牌, meaning Heron Shield …

… It is thought that the name "heron shield" comes from the initial motion of the form which imitates how the wings of the heron (or egret) shield the water from sunlight. This action of shielding, or shading, the water eliminates the sun's glare enabling the "vision of the heron" in viewing fish …

… Kanken Toyama's version of Rohai seems to have been a version of Matsumora's Rohai reconnected with its Chinese roots. His version of Rohai, called No Pae (Heron Shield) in Korean

Those are indeed the characters used to write Rohai. The second character can be read as “shield”, but, as discussed, it can also mean sign, brand, label, shape, etc. It could be the shielding action, but it could also be the other “non-shield” crane-like actions. I see no reason to single out the shield and discount the other crane-like motions, so I’d personally go with “sign of the heron” or “shape of the heron” (possibly even “form of the heron” or “heron form”) over “shield”.

“No Pae” does strike me as being very similar to Matsumora Rohai; which is what you would expect because No Pae is a reworking of the older karate kata. Someone is sure to get these mixed up and assume the “Chinese looking” version is older! I therefore hesitate to post it … but I will because it’s interesting.

READERS: TO BE CLEAR, THIS IS A MODERN KOREAN REWORKING OF THE MUCH OLDER KARATE KATA!

Click "play" and then "Watch this video on YouTube"

 

Thanks for the contribution to the thread!

All the best,

Iain

Don Daly
Don Daly's picture

Iain,

You have made some very good points.  Yes, all my information on this topic has come from the internet.  I hope these sources can be further "mined" for information and perhaps further substantiated or refuted.  I brought them up to bring them to everyones attention, and hope that they can be further explored by others with an investigative mind.  Thank you.

Best regards,

Don Daly

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Don Daly wrote:
I hope these sources can be further "mined" for information and perhaps further substantiated or refuted.  I brought them up to bring them to everyone’s attention, and hope that they can be further explored by others with an investigative mind.

Thanks for rising these things and making them available for discussion. There’s lots around this we will never know, but it can still be valuable (and fun) to discuss and see what we feel is more or less probable. Thanks once again for the contribution!

All the best,

Iain

dhogsette
dhogsette's picture

What an amazing thread! For what it's worth, I showed the characters for Rohai to my Chinese wife, and she translated it as liu pai: heron sign, or sign of the heron. I asked if the pai character can mean shield, and she said yes, but for the modern Chinese reader, "sign" (like a stop sign) immediately comes to mind. (BTW, bai is "white" in Chinese, and uses a very different character than pai used in Rohai or liu pai, though some may suggest that a modified "bai" character is part of the more complex pai character...)

As we know, Chinese characters often have many contextual meanings, rooted in historical, cultural, and geographic contexts, and that's what makes it so poetic and rich. I was originally taught in Matsubayashi that Rohai meant wing of an egret (white heron), but Nagamine does not specify a translation in his book The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. Anyway, I prefer the openness and flexibility of "sign of the heron," and I love the contrasting yet complementary soft and explosive movements in this form (at least how it's done in Matsubayashi-ryu). 

Best

David

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

dhogsette wrote:
What an amazing thread!

Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed this one. These set of kata do fascinate me and I think the opaqueness of their connections is part of that fascination. No firm answers, but this thread has certainly given me much to ponder and some new avenues to explore.

dhogsette wrote:
For what it's worth, I showed the characters for Rohai to my Chinese wife, and she translated it as liu pai: heron sign, or sign of the heron. I asked if the pai character can mean shield, and she said yes, but for the modern Chinese reader, "sign" (like a stop sign) immediately comes to mind.

Interesting! Thanks for sharing that.

dhogsette wrote:
I prefer the openness and flexibility of "sign of the heron,"

Me too. I’d previously gone with “vision of a white heron” because that was the “name” I first learnt the kata under. However, I think the tread (confirmed by the guidance of your wife) has convinced me to shift to “sign of the heron”. I think that is both more accurate linguistically, and it’s a nice fit for many of the postures in the kata.

dhogsette wrote:
I love the contrasting yet complementary soft and explosive movements in this form (at least how it's done in Matsubayashi-ryu.

I get that! It’s not a core kata for me, but I fully get the attraction :-)

All the best,

Iain

Ian H
Ian H's picture

Great thread!  

I know the Chito-ryu version which ... even moreso than most Chito-ryu katas ... is totally unlike the other versions out there.  I will attach below the "best" youtube version of this kata available.  (There are almost none out there, so it's basically this or a grainy, jittery, half-body-shot 8mm tape transfer from the early 80s.)

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Interesting! I’m not familiar with the kata of Chito-Ryu. Not sure how reliable this is, but Wikipedia says of Chito-Ryu’s Rohai that:

“ … is a kata completely different from those in other styles, and it seems to be Chitose's own creation. It borrows from Fujian White Crane with movements similar to the Chitō-ryū Niseishi. It is a mix of closed fisted and open-handed techniques with a one-kneed stance at the very beginning.”

There are Sho and Dai versions, and both seem to be radically different from any others I’ve seen. Possibly new kata, made by Tsuyoshi Chitose relatively recently, to encapsulate crane style motions? The name “sign of the crane/heron” is then selected and yet further confusion is thrown into the mix?

Do others know of any other information relating to the origins and development of the Chito-Ryu version?

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Iain, sort-of off on a tangent. 

This thread is indeed fascinating. I've also enjoyed similar discussions on Matsukazi, Tekki and so on. 

I know time is precious. But I do wish you'd put all of this in a book. A book on the history and purpose of each kata (or group of kata.) Much of this is conjecture but we can admit to that and still propose sound theories. At the moment there's no single easy-accessible repository for all of this. I'd love to own a book, especially on Kindle, where I could look at a chapter on a kata similar to this here thread.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
… I do wish you'd put all of this in a book. A book on the history and purpose of each kata (or group of kata.) Much of this is conjecture but we can admit to that and still propose sound theories.

I’m not sure I’m the right person to write such a book. My other concern is the way the martial arts community tends to work in practise. We can clearly state that something is conjecture, but such things nevertheless have a bad habit of becoming “fact” very quickly. Oft stated things like “the three Naihanchi were once all one kata”, “kata are intended to be maps of pressure points”, “Sanchin is really a sai kata”, “The pinans are a forgotten kata called Channan split into five sections”, and so on are all examples of this.

Martial artists as a whole don’t like gaps in their history, and they don’t like uncertainty, so they plug the gaps. Thoroughly debunked notions like, “karate was a system developed to help the unarmed peasants of Okinawa resist their samurai overlords” are still widespread because they appeared in books decades also. It’s an historical mess and I don’t want to be guilty of making it worse by sharing historical conjecture in what is perceived to be an authoritative format. There’s been a lot of that already and I believe it is damaging to karate.

Discussions on the web don’t have the same perceived authority of books, readers can directly challenge such that everyone can read those challenges and alternative views, and if new information comes forth they can be immediately amended. I therefore think the web is the right place for groups to knock these ideas back and forth. I’m personally not so keen on the idea of individuals putting them in print.

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Tau wrote:
… I do wish you'd put all of this in a book. A book on the history and purpose of each kata (or group of kata.) Much of this is conjecture but we can admit to that and still propose sound theories.

stuff

OK. Points taken. The app then? For people who are already invested in this way of thinking. Just for a sense of organisation of the information. Then if new information comes to light it be editted, removed, updated and so on.