Thursday, August 3, 2017

Kusanku Kata and Night Fighting

When I learned Kusanku Kata from Charles Murray it was explained that certain of the movements were for night fighting.


1. The opening circling hands could mean making a circle like the moon.

Also a reference to the Bubishi code “the blood circulating is like the sun and the moon”.


2. The section where stomps were being made to the ground, could mean distracting noise made in the dark, to your rear, could draw the opponent to the sound allowing you to strike them in the dark as they moved toward that sound.


3. The section where you are moving forward with the knife hands, done slowly is use of the movement in searching out an opponent when you are in the dark. Then when you feel their arm, you explode with the following movements to complete your defense.


4, The section where you drop to the floor means when the moon appears and your opponent might see you, instead you drop to the floor, turning your head both ways, seeking the opponent. Then you explode up and change directions and continue searching. When the enemy is seen you explode from the ground and take the fight toward them.


from the Kusanku kata of Charles Murray 1980
All of which seemed most reasonable when they were explained to me.
As the story went one evening while suddenly waking up from sleep, Shimabuku Tatsuo realized that the movements in Kusanku Kata might be used for night fighting.
And perhaps that was what occurred, Certainly there is evidence that Shimabuku Sensei did the kata just this way.
Of course there are detractors who do not believe this story. Considering the use of Kusanku Kata for night fighting a fantasy.
Let’s take a step away.
A short 100 years ago, karate training was done most private, in the instructors back yard, or at a location in the forest. And logically the training would have been done at night for the most part.
Inhabiting that low level light environment, would have been something the Okinawan was used to at that time.
No one can tell me what was experienced in training on Okinawa, except by inference, prior to the time electric lighting was introduced, and that time probably had much to do as anything with how karate transmission took place. To my best knowledge there is no record as to what actually happened in those days.
At one time I read some Oklnawan instructor’s advice. Though I have not been able to find it since.
As the story went the instructor explainedif beset by toughs at night,
hide in the brush. When they couldn’t find you sneak after them quietly.
Then if they waylaid anyone else, you could attack them from behind.”
An interesting solution.
Low level lighting intensity in combat has always been a concern for militaries since antiquity. There is every reason to believe Okinawan gave advice to their students for such situations too. That those ideas might be applied to kata is within acceptable possibilities.
That does not mean the only use for those kata techniques was for fighting only in specified situations. Strictly speaking all kata technique can be used in the day or the night. Rather it was the device of employing a kata as a mnemonic to share specific lessons the instructor believed in.
One Okinawan group, the Kashiba Juku, does something similar. They approach all of their kata 3 diffeent ways. One for ‘normal’ practice, one for use of the techniques in ‘drunken’ practice, and one for the use of the techniques to be used for ‘night or low level lighting’ combat situations.
Apparently the dream of Shimabuku Tatsuo was something not outside the Okinawan experience.
There are also thoughts that there was an Okinawan version of Kusanku for day fighting and one for night fighting, I believe that idea originated when a talented West Coast kata champion, Steve Fischer, back in the 1980s would compete with a version on Kusanku the Moo(night) kata, and another Kusanku the Sun (day) kata. I remember reading about him in the karate magazines of those days. I expect that was more for branding two different Kusanku versions for competition, and in time gave rise to the idea of Kusanku night fighting.
There is sound reason, IMO, to continue this practice.

from the Kunanku kata of Young Lee 2004

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