Gojushiho History

Gojūshiho (五十四歩, lit. 54 steps) is a kata practiced in karate. Gojushiho was developed by one of the Okinawan karate master, “Sokon Matsumura” and named it as “Uesheishi” under the fluency of chinese Kungfu. In some styles of karate, there are two versions of this kata – Gojūshiho Shō and Gojūshiho Dai. An advantage of the two versions of the kata is to better master the difficult techniques presented therein, but not without facing some confusion, for many sequences are the same and others only slightly different. The embusen of both Gojūshiho Shō and Gojūshiho Dai are nearly identical. Gojūshiho Shō begins straight off with a wide variety of advanced techniques and, as such, is highly recommended for study. Gojūshiho Dai consists of many advanced open-handed techniques and attacks to the collar-bone.

Gojushiho movement is quite similar with Aikido grappling technique in terms of flowing knife hand or “tate-shuto-uke” or vertical knife hand block. “Tate-shuto-uke” does not resemble other shuto uke which resemble as “block technique”. Rather it was throwing technique in “aiki-jujutsu”. Another “shuto” technique as “shuto-nagashi-uke” or “knife-hand-flowing-block” has become the unique characteristic of Gojushiho because of flowing movement which is not merely interpreted as “block”, but “throw”.

Gojūshiho Shō and Gojūshiho Dai are two versions in Shotokan of the Shōrin-ryū kata called Useishi (54) or Gojūshiho.Shōrin-ryū one of the major modern Okinawan martial arts and is one of the oldest styles of karate. It was named by Choshin Chibana in 1933, but the system itself is much older. The characters 少林, meaning “small” and “forest” respectively and pronounced “shōrin” in Japanese, are also used in the Chinese and Japanese words for Shaolin. “Ryū” means “school”. Shōrin-ryū combines elements of the traditional Okinawan fighting styles of Shuri-te.

JKA Gojushiho Di and sho side by side.

The oft-repeated story about the JKA having to rename the Gojushiho kata due to a tournament mix-up; and Kanazawa Hirokazu, because of his seniority, keeping the original names in his SKIF organisation is without foundation. In fact, Kanazawa is on record as saying that when he formed SKIF he changed the names of the two kata as he felt that the “sho” designation suited the smaller, more difficult, kata better. Kanazawa also mentioned that this kata was introduced into the JKA before its sibling, and this explained why the JKA decided to call it “dai” when they introduced the second Gojushiho into the syllabus.

Comparisons with Useishi  (center) O Sip Sa Bo (top right)

This kata is also practiced in Tang Soo Do and is called O Sip Sa Bo in Korean. And it is said that it also has some influences of Ng Ying Kungfu (Chinese: 五形功夫). Due to its difficulty, this kata is often reserved for advanced students, usually for those who are 6th degree black belts and above.

Gojushiho is also practiced in Goshin Kagen Goju Karate, a modified style of Goju founded by Hanshi Gerald Thomson.

Other Versions of Gojushiho click here