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Wansu 汪楫

    This kata is said by many to have been brought to Okinawa by the 1683 Sappushi Wang Ji (Jpn. Oshu, 1621-1689). It is possible that it is based upon or inspired by techniques that may have been taught by Wang Ji.

     The problem with this theory is that why would such a high ranked government official teach his martial arts (assuming he even knew any) to the Okinawans? Also, Wang Ji was only in Okinawa for 6 months (Sakagami, 1978).

     Wang Ji was originally from Xiuning in Anhui, and was an official for the Han Lin Yuan, an important government post (Kinjo, 1999). In order to become an official for the Han Lin Yuan, one had to be a high level scholar, and pass several national tests (Kinjo, 1999). Just preparing for such a task would all but rule out the practice of martial arts, just time-wise. However, assuming that Wang Ji was familiar with the martial arts, the Quanfa of Anhui is classified as Northern boxing, while the techniques of the Okinawan Wansu kata are clearly Southern in nature (Kinjo, 1999).

     So, if Wansu was not Wang Ji, just who was he? This is as yet unknown. However, in the Okinawan martial arts, kata named after their originators are not uncommon. Some examples include Kusanku, Chatan Yara no Sai, and Tokumine no Kon. It is entirely possible that this kata was introduced by a Chinese martial artists named Wang. As the reader probably already knows, in the Chinese martial arts, it is common to refer to a teacher as Shifu (let. Teacher-father). Could not the name Wansu be an Okinawan mispronunciation of Wang Shifu (Kinjo, 1999)?

     Other schools of thought are that Wu Xianhui (Jpn. Go Kenki, 1886-1940) or Tang Daiji (Jpn. To Daiki, 1888-1937), two Chinese martial artists who immigrated to Okinawa in the early part of the 20th Century, may be responsible for the introduction of the Wansu kata (Gima, et al, 1986). As a side note, Wu was a Whooping Crane boxer and Tang was known for his Tiger boxing. They were both from Fujian.

     Shimabuku is believed to have added on several techniques to this kata, such as the side kicks, evasive body movement into double punches, and elbow smash as these are not found in any other version of Wansu known in Okinawa karate.

*from The Kata of Okinawa Isshinryu Karate-do: An Informal Discussion on their Possible Origins by Joe Swift

 

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