What kata did Hanashiro Chomo teach?

Despite the influence Hanashiro Chomo had upon the early development of karate little is known about the kata he taught.

During the Taisho Era Hanashiro Chomo was one of the most respected members of the Okinawan karate community. Whilst Itosu Anko is remembered for introducing karate into the island’s schools it was Hanashiro who mostly oversaw instruction at Shuri’s First Middle School, for which he penned the first book on the art in 1905 titled Karate Kumite. 

Hanashiro Chomo

Karate Kumite was essentially a manual laying out the content and structure of the school karate program and it, or a text like it, needed to be written for the authorities to include the art into the Prefecture’s education program. Yet in spite of Karate Kumite being recorded in the national library system of Japan no copies of the document have ever surfaced. Private enquiries with the families of Hanashiro, Nakadankari and Higa have also proved fruitless, so we are left only with the two page draft notes photographed in Nakasone Genwa’s 1938 Encyclopaedia of Karate.

When considering what kata Hanashiro taught it’s important to keep in mind that he began his training with Matsumura Sokon before continuing for a year with Itosu Anko prior to joining the military. This means that the kata he taught comprised of both those of the school system and older forms from Syuri-ti.

In Nakasone’s book Hanashiro Chomo contributed a chapter in which he presented the kata Jion, but as he never alluded to other forms it has left many to wonder what other kata he taught.

Nakandakari Kanzo, training in the garden at Shuri, Okinawa
Nakandakari Kanzo

The mystery unravels with Nakandakari Kanzo. Although he taught a great many karate-ka of the early twentieth century Hanashiro only passed his full system to one; Nakandakari Kanzo. 

Last summer I visited the Nakandakari Family with my teacher Higa Kiyohiko. Beneath a portrait of his grandfather, riding a horse and dressed in his full police constable uniform with sword at side, Nakandakari’s son expressed that his grandfather was a stern man and expert at fencing. When his son conveyed his intention to learn karate his father admonished him:

“Find a good teacher and stay with him. Do not change around. Do not be fickle.”

From his teenage years Mr Higa also trained privately under Nakandakari Kanzo and studied the kata passed to him from Hanashiro Chomo. In 2010 Higa sensei inherited the successorship of the Hanashiro Syuri-ti style from his master.

In the Spring of this year my teacher afforded me a great honour when he awarded me the title of Kancho and with it, his blessing to teach Hanashiro Karate at my school in England. There are eighteen kata preserved in the Hanashiro lineage as listed below:

Karate Kata of Hanshiro Chomo

  • Naihanchi Shodan
  • Naihanchi Nidan
  • Naihanchi Sandan
  • Pinan Shodan
  • Pinan Nidan
  • Pinan Sandan
  • Pinan Yondan
  • Pinan Godan
  • Passai Sho
  • Passia Dai
  • Kusanku
  • Chinto
  • Chinti
  • Ji’in
  • Jion
  • Jutte
  • Niseisi
  • Seisan

Outside of these forms it is said that Hanashiro also taught Chinshou and Uesheishi but these have not been preserved. However, at Mr Higa’s dojo, a version of Uesheishi from Nakama Chozo is taught who learnt the form apparently from Hanashiro.

The Hanashiro kata offer any serious karate-ka a unique optic to view some of the earliest versions of these forms. This is because Nakandakari heeded his father’s words and never studied under anyone else other than Hanashiro. Thus the style is a faithful preservation of a Taisho Era karate practise and has a number of distinct features.

The Author at Nakandakari Family butsudan

A book illustrating a selection of the forms as well as a  detailed biography of Hanashiro’s life, constructed from extensive research and insights from private interviews, is now in the final stages of production with a projected release date of early 2019.

For information on the style and training opportunities please initiate contact via email in the first instance.