Chinto (Gankaku) Kata, History & Bunkai - Article & Video on history

The history of the is kata, like many, has a good degree of vagueness/speculation around its transition time to Okinawa and the commentary in this article which is more deeply articulated in the video, is based on a consensus of my readings, training the kata in Japan and talking with Karate Historian Hanshi Sells, who is the author of Unante. So in pooling all of this, my comments attempt to stay more on the side of probability rather than stating this or that actually occurred.

It appears the kata was most likely spread to shito ryu, and other lineages via Sokon Matsumura (1809—circa 1902). In particular the historical notes point to him having learnt this from a  Chinese sailor who was possibly shipwrecked on Okinawa. But it has been pointed out to me that this Chinese figure, who is referred to Chinto or Anan (with both names of course linked to 2 differing kata) likely taught a small number of other karate masters of the 1800s and its spread through Okinawa may in fact be via more than one just Matsumura.

Some Okinawan research that emerged in the last few years through Hanshi Sells also suggests another translation of Fighting to the East as a name that may be related to Chinese origins via a “fighting towards the rising sun” lore being something more noted as Chinese and NOT of Okinawan origins. Hanshi Sells has also suggested that any physical form links to China for the kata are essentially gone.

     鎮東 - Chinto - Fighting to The East                             岩鶴 - Gankaku - Crane on a Rock - Shotokan modified version

This Chinto (Gankaku) 50min video walks through 2 shito-ryu versions and discusses the relationship to Shotokan's gankaku. It has demonstrations of the shito-ryu from multiple people at a full power pace, walk through and bunkai variants. 

Click here to download the full 50min Chinto Video - $19...           

The kata is performed by Jason Armstrong, 7th dan, Greg Story Shihan (6th Dan), Nick Lukich Sensei (4th Dab) with bunkai performed by Renshi Jason Griffiths (5th Dan), Garry Edwards Sensei (5th Dan) & Sensei Greg Scovell (4th Dan). Heritage is covered & the video demonstrates the kata full power, walk through & bunkai.

Jason Armstrong Shihan with John Sells
Hanshi, 8th Dan (student of Fumio Demura & Kenzon Mabuni) prior to a training session on Chinto in 2016.

In regards to Shito-ryu, its spread is from Matsumura to Itosu Ankoh and then Kenwa Mabuni the founder of shito-ryu. Of course Itosu Ankoh was the sensei of Shotokan’s founder Funakoshi and it was Funakoshi who made his version and renamed it Gankaku for the style now known as shotokan.

The story of the kata's heritage I have just outlined appears to have had its chain of information firstly via a newspaper article around 1900 where Itosu Ankoh was interviewed, the article was then further spread via a quote of this source through a book by  Zenryo Shimabukuro sensei, and then from Shimabukuro sensei’s book these origins were then further popularized through an article placed in Black Belt magazine some decades ago written by the late Richard Kim sensei.

It seems that a, today there are different variations as different masters have got their hands on it and added their spin. As we discuss in this video, some of the kata look quite similar on the surface but in this kata’s case some of the variants cause the bunkai contexts vary quite dramatically even within Shito-ryu. We also look at the classical bunkai overlap with modern day street fighting statistics and their medical outcomes from emergency department and police records.

Image: Matsumura sensei of the 1800s. As a related note, see a in depth article we have on our website by karate historian Hanshi Sells on Shimabukuro sensei...

Gichin Funakoshi changed the name of the kata to Gankaku 岩鶴  which means “Crane on a Rock” and this name is exemplified by a 3 times repeating stance within the kata, additionally the name aligned Funakoshi’s karate to have a Japanese name, something he did to a large degree for acceptance of karate within the main islands of Japan as it was a new art in the region & Okinawan practices were viewed as primitive for lack of a better way to define the mindset. The originally kanji are more often translated as “fighting to the east” and it is that translation that Shito-ryu uses with links to the rumoured stranded sailor..

In our Shito-ryu curriculum, it is a kata that is not something focused on by any and certainly not too often seen done or known by ranks below sandan.  Chinto is one of the hardest kata in our style to perform given its crane stances and the the a tempo which most often aims to display rapid combination flow leading into and out of those stances.  The timing of these difficult parts of the kata can of course can be personalized such that the crane stance sections do not flow so quickly and work the kihon of technique within the form, and there is a reasonable assumption that one may eventually make the section flow rapidly after having settled in on the kata as a primary choice after a few years.

Such breaks in timing can be used within kata as gradual learning progression but also as a combination of Kuzure ‘崩’ and Henka ‘変化’, and can be related to such terms as “yaware” and the the Okinawan term “ijiki”. While these terms may often be part of Shu-har-ri we see as people travel along a path towards mastery and technique evolution they are also implemented in ways that promote learning. In a Japanese dojo, Kuzure can mean to ; collapse,  or break apart  and  Henka ‘変化’ means; change or variation. Henka is a term we often use for bunkai variants. In comparison Yaware translates to slowly or passively, while the Okinawan term ijiki implies lively, fast and snapping. I am a big advocate of personalization of kata tempo performance to bring soul in kata and work different bunkai themes or emphasize certain biomechanical themes & individual over a lifetime of study may use these differences reflecting their own journey or exploration of key themes in different phases of training.

Image: Funakoshi Sensei, the founder of Shotokan & creator the Gankaku - a modified Chinto.

Regardless of the henka around the kata and its timing, a core theme is balance and like we have articulated in other resources on kata (e.g Seienchin &  Bassai Dai), kata often do have physical themes that match their names. However, for shito-ryu & Okinawan arts using Chinto as the title the name, it is not tied to a physical theme. With Funakoshi’s renaming of the kata to Gankaku, it can be argued there is a indirect link to the name & the balance required in core parts of the kata stances.

Full length Video on
 Chinto Kata & Bunkai 

The kata is performed by Jason Armstrong, 7th dan, Greg Story Shihan (6th Dan), Nick Lukich Sensei (4th Dab) with bunkai performed by Renshi Jason Griffiths (5th Dan), Garry Edwards Sensei (5th Dan) & Sensei Greg Scovell (4th Dan). Heritage is covered and the video demonstrates the kata full power, walk through and bunkai (50min).

Google+ Post/Blog on Chinto & Gankaku