Tokutei Kata – Gojukai Karate Do
Gogen Yamaguchi Kaiso (Founder of Japan Karate Do Goju Kai Assciation and International Karate Do Goju Kai Association) was a extraordenary Karate Master with a high reputation in and outside Japan. He was a legend already during his lifetime. After his dead he received the honorary title „Kensei“, which means enlighted or wise man. He was indeed a wise man with a strong vision. He lifed a very religious and spiritual life and combined the Karate Do, with Shinto and Yoga. The daily early morning meditation under his pyramide shaped his whole being. Although, he did not teach Karate anymore when he was in his eightees, he still sat in the dojo everyday and observed the training. It must have been around that time, when he originated the tokutei kata.
Kata in General
Originally, kata in general was designed to be used as mind-body training method which one could discipline and strenghten the core elements of karate-do.
Along with the popularization of karate-do, the competition aspect of it drew more people’s attention and due to that, many missunderstand the meaning of the kata. In fact, the kata training is made to enhance themselves, it is not designed to compare oneself to others. This simple and clear information unfortunately does not find so many listeners in our time. Too often, someone concentrate in his early days on competition and stop training after that period. Also there are so many influences from the competition szene, that a traditional karate ka suffers to see, when young students starts to modify katas or to use katas from other styles, just for the sake of winning a competition.
Kaiso Yamaguchi also realised, that many karate instructors stopped there own training, after they started to teach and too many instructors were putting too much emphasis on the competitive aspects of karate-do. That lead to the situation, that also very high kata are already taught to young competitors and the the focus shifted to win competitions and that the teachers hesitated to show there own kata.
In his mind he set 8 Tokutei Kata, 4 Crane Kata (from White Crane) and 4 Dragon Kata (from the Dragon God of Mt. Kiso) Then he grouped them with Heaven, Earth, Dark, Yellow. These 8 Katas are set in a octagon. Each of kata has eigth directions of defensive and offensive techniques.
Therefore Gogen Yamaguchi suggested that Tokutei Kata for Shihan needed to be invented. He found it important to create some kata that is designed for self-training and not for competitions. Those kata are solely taught to a Shihan of the IKGA.
Symbolic Names of the Kata
Kalligraphie is made from Saikoshihan Goshi Yamaguchi
1 Gen Kaku = Dark Crane
2. Chi Kaku = Earth Crane
3 Kô Ryu = Yellow Dragon
4 Ten Ryu = Heaven Dragon
5 Ten Kaku = Heaven Crane
6. Kô Kaku = Yellow Crane
7 Chi Ryu = Earth Dragon
8 Gen Ryu = Dark Dragon
Genkaku is the first of 8 Tokutei Kata. Gen has different meanings such as „Gen“ as it is used within his name „Gogen“, which also means expert. Other explanation of Gen is the nature of Dao, which was explained by Laôtse as the existing beyond time and space, the absolute roots of universe. Genkaku implicate profound and harmoniesed Goju techniques. In Genkaku there are 44 offensive and 44 defensive techniques included.
Chikaku means earth crane. Thus, Chi Kaku literally means hovering crane on earth. This kata enriches the fundamental principles of Goju with 44 defensive and 33 offensive techniques total 77 techniques performed in 8 directions.
Kôryu means the yellow dragon and it refers to strong Goju spirit and great dignity. Yellow is also the color of the soil or sun and could be interpretated as the center. Kôryu is with it’s 99 techniques the longest Tokutei Kata with 44 defensive and 55 offensive, a total of 99 techniques in 8 directions. The dragon itself has also the meaning of not being able to capture and implicate the hidden power of someone. In many asian countries, the dragon is a symbol of luck, fruitfulfness and represent the masculin power of the heaven. The dragon also master the yin and the yang force.
Tenryu, means the heaven dragon which is pursuing the ideal of Goju. Heaven is linked to the space and implicate the absolute oneness. This kata has 66 techniques performed in 8 directions, 33 defensive and 33 offensive tecniques. Saikoshihan Goshi Yamaguchi told me, that his father had the strong vision that the performance of this kata should be done, as the dragon will slovly disapear into the heaven and into the void. Saikoshihan performed this kata just recently in public. He told me, that he had, at the time of composing the Kata to make marks on the floor, in order to be able to keep the orientation, after so many turns of the circular motions.
The last motion of each of Tokutei Kata is also the first motion of the next kata, therefore all the Kata could be done one after the other. While performing the tokutai kata, the shihan can set his own timing and can slightly modify the Kata, as long as the offensive and defensive tecniques do not fluctuate. Only Shihans of the Karate Do Gojukai association are allowed to learn those Kata. It is strictly forbidden to make video, to post videos or to learn those kata per video. Never less, there are already some copies and interpretation from other organizations. It is a shame, that there is no hesitation and no respect of the intellectual property and heritage of the Yamaguchi family.
For those Shihans who deserved in decades of diligent training to learn those katas it is a great heritage, what Gogen Yamaguchi Kaiso and his son Goshi Yamaguchi Saikoshihan gave us and all of us should care very much on that heritage by the daily practice.
Although the Yamaguchi family created with those tokutei kata something very special for Shihans, all of younger instructors or students should realize, what is behind that idea and set back there own idea of kata to it’s original meaning. It is never important to know many kata, rather it is important to learn a kata in its depth.
Gogen Yamaguchi Kaiso also set that the Tokutai Kata have to be invented by the head of the Yamaguchi Family. Goshi Yamaguchi, the present Saikoshihan of the IKGA invented the first 4 Tokutei Kata with his father’s advice and will most likely advice his son Gohei Yamaguchi to invent the other 4 Tokutei Kata.
I have recorded my Kôryu Kata, which can be seen on this website. Since we do not want to spread videos of those katas, the page is locked with a code. A Shihan of the IKGA can ask me for the code: firstname.lastname@example.org