In both Monday and Wednesday's class Sensei has been teaching us the Rohai kata. This kata has been re-introduced to our syllabus since we became part of the new SSK organisation. Though it is part of the 1st kyu grade syllabus sensei has decided to teach it as a whole class kata (senior class) regardless of which grade we are.
This is an interesting kata and quite different to other katas I have learnt. Rohai means 'white heron', 'vision of a crane/heron', 'emblem of a heron' or 'birdlike' which is a very apt description of its characteristic stance: sagiashi dachi (one-legged crane stance). It is a very aesthetically pleasing kata to watch with its variation in pace, fast hand movements and the 'heron' or 'white crane' stance done in conjunction with the 'viewing the sky' hand movement. It is a kata that demonstrates both grace and power.
In fact it has not been too difficult to pick up the basic steps for this kata - though I am far from performing it with any style or technical accuracy. The spinning crescent kick at the end will take me a long time to master!
I didn't realise until I started researching this post that there are several versions of this kata. The version we are learning is the Matsumura Rohai version. It is claimed that Sokon Matsumura learned it in Tomari, and then created his own personal version. He then passed it down to a few selected students who were members of his extended family including Nabe Matsumura, a grandson. Nabe Matsumura taught his sister's son, Hohan Sokon, Sokon Matsumura's great-grandson. Apparently Hohan Sokon taught three versions of rohai but creation of these forms is accredited to Itosu who was a student of Matsumura. These three forms are called rohai shodan, rohai nidan and rohai sandan and are taught in the shito ryu style of karate.
In Shotokan the kata Meikyo is practised which is based on Itosu Rohai. The Korean style Tang Soo Do also have a version of Rohai, based on Matsumura Rohai. Finally in Shoalin Kempo they practise a kata called Stature of the crane also based on Matsumura Rohai.
Here is a video of Matsumura Rohai:
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