8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Th0mas's picture
Original form for Shotokan's Hangestsu...?

Hi All

I have just watched Sensei Lemus (of Oneminutebunkai fame on youtube) perform Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura's version of Seisan.... and I noticed it's remarkable resemblance to Hangestsu.

I am aware that Seisan was the original source of Hangestsu but most other version's I have seen do not so closely match Hangestsu or Wado's Seisan form (both of which clearly have a common ancestor). Is it possible that Matsumura's version was the original scource for Hangestsu, especially given that Matsamura was Itosu's teacher? Ultimately I am interested in the comparison from a bunkai interpretation point of view ... and just plain historical curiosity...

I am hoping some more knowledgable members of the forum, might be able to enlighten me..



shadowfax's picture

My training is in Shorin-ryu Matsumura, from Hohan Soken to Fusei Kise. This Seisan video is nearly exactly the way we have Seisan from O'Sensei Soken, with some very minor stylistic differences. I don't know that we can definitively say this was Matsumura's Seisan, but that has always been the teaching in our system. And yes, we are also taught that Hangetsu is directly adapted from this version of Seisan. However, I am not at all an expert on Shotokan, so take that for what it's worth.

ky0han's picture

Hi Tom,

first of all there are several versions of Kata all by the name of Seisan, Seishan, Seshan and whatever else possible transcription there is. Several of them found their way independently on to the small island of Okinawa.

A form with the kanji 十三 (13) was mentioned in the 1867 martial arts programm that was part of an event for the display of ryūkyūan culture for the coronation of the last king of Ryūkyū going by the name of Shō Tai (尚泰). This kata was performed by a man named Aragaki. Then there is a version of Seisan in Gōjū-Ryū and Uechi-Ryū.

According to Nakazato J. his teacher Kyan C. learned a Kata named Seisan from Matsumura. Sakagami R. taught a Kata named Matsumura no Seisan. The Kyan line Seisan and the Sakagami Seisan are similar so it is absolutely possible that Matsumura is one possible line of transmition.

Asato A. a main student of Matsumura also mentioned Seisan in a three part article published in 1914 as a Kata that is suited for building up and strengthening the body and as very effective in regards to self defense. So he at least knew the Kata so well to give his appreciation for it.

So Funakoshi either learned it directly from Matsumura or what is more likely in my eyes from his main teacher Asato. Itosu never taught or at least didn't taught that Kata often. Nakasone G. and Mabuni K. in their book Karate-Dō Nyūmon published in 1938 didn't show Seisan in their Kata list as a Kata of Itosus. Itosu was the karate teacher for the first middle school in Shuri. A former student also listed the Kata that he learned there. Seisan was not among them. So it is unlikely that Funakoshi learned this Kata from Itosu.

I hope that helps.

Regards Holger

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Many of the differences in performance of Seisan are simply down to timing and the individuals interpretation and preference where Bunkai is concerned. When viewing Shuri or Naha - Te versions of the form you can easily see this. The same can be said when we include Aragaki Seisan, an excellent version.

One thing that is fairly consistent is the Embusen.

So far as Bunkai is concerned the opening sequence , in my opinion, considers close quarter grappling, grabbing etc. There are many variations in the different versions of techniques that follow the opening sequence  before we turn into a sequence that considers trapping, sticking, intercepting and redirecting energy. 

I personally view the rest of the form as options to utilise once either of the first two sequence entries have been utilised. 



Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

One thing to bear in mind is that although this is described as both the Kyan version and the Matsumura version of seisan, it is entirely possible that it was passed down via either of them without involvement from the other. Matsumura had many students other than Kyan (Motobu Choyu, Tawata Shinju, Azato Anko etc) and Kyan had many teachers apart from Matsumura (Pechin Maeda, Matsumora Kosaku, Oyadomari Kokan etc) with the relationships between successive generations of both their students crossing and merging in many places. As a kata that predates both Kyan and Matsumura there were pretty likely to be a number of other versions of seisan known and practiced on Okinawa at that time too (e.g. Aragaki seisan mentioned above).

For example, the version of seisan I practice is very similar indeed to this and came from Toma Shian, ostensibly going back through Uehara Seikichi to Choyu Motobu and then Matsumura. However, Toma Shian also trained with another Toma called Toma Seiki who was part of both the direct lineage from Matsumura via Uehara and Tawata Shinju and from Kyan via Shimabukuro Tatsuo. All of the links in these chains almost doubtlessly trained with and learned from many other practitioners with links to other lineages as well, and took on their various influences to different degrees. Azato and Funakoshi would have been in a very similar web of connections.

From a technical point of view it seems to me that the Shotokan Hangetsu is indeed an abbreviated relative of this version but with a lot of influence from the various Naha family versions, especially in the use of sanchin dachi (extended like all shotokan stances though) and tension during the first section.

Th0mas's picture

Thanks for all the comments on this.. It would seem (as is always the case) that things are never as simple as they first appear - which makes it all the more interesting smiley

DaveB's picture

I think the core element of the Shuri siesan is entering the opponent's stance in order to strike while controlling the opponent's defence directly. Most karate is aimed at fairly close quarter combat, but I think that this kata takes things a step closer than karate's usual boxing range. In this range the striker lacks the space to see and block attacks and must rely on controlling the opponent to land blows. This is distinct from grappling in that for the non competitive fighter the aim is always to avoid getting tied up in a one on one struggle and so striking is the preferred way to victory over something involved like a choke. The opening of the kata I think is intended to be applied at angles, inserting the lead foot against that of the opponent (which is explicit in the Yong Chun White Crane form 13 treasures; a strong contender for progenitor of at least the naha versions) . I think that Funakoshi saw that the naha-te Sanchin dachi offered an extra dimension in using the lead leg as it penetrates the opponent's stance, to apply an extra degree of control against the opponent and created the Hangetsu dachi as a result. If you look at any of Funakoshi's original kata, the Matsumura Seito are for the most part the closest match to his versions that you'll find because GF was a student of Azato first and foremost and Azato was a student of Matsumura.

DaveB's picture

As a point of study, this Ryuei ryu version of Seisan is the best contender I've seen for a "missing link" between the Sanchin dachi'd Goju try/Uechi ryu versions and the front stance pattern used in the Shorin schools. SEISAN - Ryuei Ryu: