The Man

Kūsankū (クーサンクー、公相君) or Kūshankū (クーシャンクー), also known as Kwang Shang Fu, was a Chinese martial artist who lived during the 18th centuryHe is credited as having an influence on virtually all karate-derived martial arts.

Kūsankū learned the art of Ch’uan Fa in China from a Shaolin monk. He was thought to have resided (and possibly studied martial arts) in Fujian province for much of his life. Around 1756, Kūsankū was sent to Ryukyu as an ambassador of the Qing Dynasty. He resided in the village of Kumemura, near Naha. During his stay in Ryukyu, Kūsankū instructed Kanga Sakugawa.

The Kata

Kūshankū (クーシャンク, 公相君) also called Kūsankū (クーサンクー) or Kankū-dai (観空大), is an open hand karatekata that is studied by many practitioners of Okinawan Karate, specifically styles related to Shuri-te. In many styles, such as Shotokan, there are two versions of the kata: Kūsankū-shō and Kūsankū-dai. The name Kūsankū or Kōsōkun (公相君) is used in Okinawan systems of karate, and refers to Kūsankū, a Chinesediplomat from Fukien who traveled to Okinawa in the 1700s. In Japanese systems of karate, the kata has been known as Kankū (translated as gazing heavenwardviewing the sky, or contemplating the sky) ever since it was renamed in the 1930s by Funakoshi Gichin This kata is also practiced in Tang Soo Do as Kong Sang Koon () in Korean according to the hangul rendering of the hanja . Most schools of Tang Soo Do only practice the “Dai” version a handful do practice both the latter and “Sho” versions.

Explanation Video: History and development.

Tang Soo Do
Chata Yara Kushanku

Chatan Yara No Kushanku is considered to be the complete version.

 Chatan Yara no Kūsankū was performed by Nagamine Sensei in 1939, at the opening ceremony of the Dai Nippon Butokukai Okinawa Branch Butokuden. This was also the first known instance in history in which the unique designation “Chatan Yara no Kūsankū” has been used in a written record. At this occasion, Kyan Chōtoku (1870-1945), from whom Nagamine Sensei had learned this kata, was still alive and he was also present during this performance.

3 versions of the Kata side by side

Kūsankū is a cornerstone of many styles of karate. It is characterized by the use of flowing techniques that resemble those found in White Crane Kung Fu; it also has a wide variety of open-handed techniques. In Matsubayashi-ryu karate, the kata is known for its flying kick and its “cheating” stance, which robs the opponent of opportunities to attack by extending one leg along the ground and squatting as low as possible on the other (ura-gamae). One possible bunkai for this technique allows the practitioner to escape a bear-hug from behind by twisting and dropping out of their grasp. The hand techniques that accompany the stance block the head, while allowing for a strike to the groin, knee, or foot. Because of the complexity of its techniques, Kūsankū is the highest ranking and most complex kata in Matsubayashi-ryū, and is said to take more than ten years to master.

Kusanku is often referred to as a “night-fighting” kata, or a form which teaches fighting at night. In reality, the kata is set up in such a manner as to allow continual study of application potential from basic standing grappling and close striking in the beginning, to more aggressive and proactive techniques near the end. Its techniques may be utilized in places with low levels of light but is not exclusively a night fighting form.

In Shotokan karate, Kankū-dai consists of 65 movements executed in about 90 seconds. It is a major form of the kata; its equivalent minor form is called Kankū-shō. Kankū-dai was one of Gichin Funakoshi‘s favorite kata and is a representative kata of the Shōtōkan system. The embusen (path of movement) of Kankū-shō is similar to that of Kankū-dai, but it begins differently. It is a compulsory Shōtōkan kata and of high technical merit. As a result of Anko Itosu‘s efforts, the Heian kata contain sequences taken from Kankū-dai.

Of the eight weaponless kata in Isshin-Ryu, five come from the teaching of Chotoku KyanKusanku is one of these.

Kusanku Kata of Isshinryu

Performed in Competition
Old video footage of Kanku Sho (shotokan)