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Rohai - a kata of grace and power

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:13pm
In both Monday and Wednesday's class S ensei has been teaching us the Rohaikata. 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: sagiashidachi (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 MatsumuraRohai version. It is claimed that SokonMatsumura 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 NabeMatsumura, a grandson. NabeMatsumura taught his sister's son, HohanSokon, SokonMatsumura's great-grandson. Apparently HohanSokon 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 kataMeikyo is practised which is based on ItosuRohai. The Korean style Tang Soo Do also have a version of Rohai, based on MatsumuraRohai. Finally in ShoalinKempo they practise a kata called Stature of the crane also based on MatsumuraRohai.

Here is a video of MatsumuraRohai:

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