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Kanku-Dai: Looking to the sky


Kanku-DaiKanku-Dai or the look to the sky is the longest Shotokan Kata ...

With no less than 65 movements, Kanku-Dai is the longest, but it's certainly not the hardest to achieve.

Kanku-Dai is very special for mebut I'll talk about it a little further ...

Kanku-Dai was created to 1760 by a Chinese named "Kung Hsiang Chun" who calls himself "Kushanku" in Okinawa. Kushanku is also the original name of Kanku-Dai, kept by Wado-Ryu. In Japanese, it was also called Kosokun.
Kanku-Dai was one of the favorite kata of Master Funakoshi who called him Kanku which means " the look towards the sky". No doubt because of the 1er movement of the kata which consists in raising the hands in front of oneself "towards the sky" by accompanying them with the look.

Apart from the fact that it is long 65 techniques (by comparison Heian Shodan only has 21!), Kanku Dai is very difficult to achieve for the good and simple reason that it has served largely as a basis for the creation of the Heian. So if you practice your heian regularly, you will have no trouble doing Kanku-Dai. It's a bit like doing different 3 Heian as a result, it's long but not very difficult technically.

Kanku Dai - Technical Description

We will now move on to the technical description of Kanku Dai:

(Description being written!)

What makes Kanku-Dai so special to me?

I particularly like Kanku Dai because it always brings me back to my karate debut. Ah, good?

Yes, you will believe me if you want but Kanku Dai is the very first Kata that I learned, not because I wanted to skip steps, but simply because I arrived at the club in December and that Tonioour teacher was teaching it.

So I learned Kanku Dai before the Heian and to be honest it helped me a lot to learn the Heian thereafter. Well, I do not specifically advise to do this because I think it's better not to grill the steps but here is my personal story. That said, I probably had to peel a little with my white belt (I'll tell you an anecdote about it in the video :-)), but I really enjoyed myself and this is especially important ... to please by learning!

Now it's time for you to put on a kimono and join me on the video. I advise you to warm up well with the ABC of warm-ups and especially to catch your breath, you will need it. 65 techniques is still long 😉

>>> Download the video

That's it, I sincerely hope you enjoyed learning from Kanku-Dai. Do it again very often, it will allow you to keep fit, on the one hand because it makes work your endurance, but also because Kanku Dai, for purely physical work is really very complete.

But for now, before taking a shower ...
leave me a comment below and share this article with your friends. Thank you !

See you soon,

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  1. romuald (2 DAN shotokan) at

    Hello, I come here to tell you that during the explanation, technique by technique, cous forgot the 4 Shutos, just after the Yokos, but that nobody, there seen.
    Good luck and there is more to redo the video.

  2. Hello Bruno,

    Thank you for this article and this video.
    A note, you made a typo in the text on the Chinese master whose kata is native.
    "Name of 'Kung Hsiang Chun' who calls himself 'Kushanku' in Okinawa. Kunshanku is also the original name of Kanku-Dai ... ". First you call him Kushanku, then Kunshanku. It's not too bad, but you can do it correctly, especially since you do not know if the error is on the first term or second.

    Since you talk about the history of kata, suddenly you introduced a little culture. This Chinese master, Kung Hsiang Chun, would have passed this kata to Tode Sakugawa (master of Sokon Matsumura) in the XNIXXth century (between 18-1756, when Kushanku lived in Okinawa). Do you know which Chinese school he practiced? What is the origin of this kata? Have you done research on the subject?

    According to a little research Kung Hsiang Chun is Kusunku in Okinawan (also pronounced Kushanku or Kosokun ... if Kosokun reminds you something: D)

    From what I found:
    At the time, one of the best martial artists in Okinawa was Tode Sakugawa (often considered one of the most important people in the history of modern karate). Tode, which is the old term for karate, was given to Sakugawa as a title in recognition of his talent. At the time, Sakugawa was one of the best students of the monk and astronomer Peichin Takahara. Surprisingly, it is said that Takahara suggested to his pupil Sakugawa to go to train with Kusunku that Takahara believed to be the most skillful martial artist to have come to Okinawa.

    Tode Sakugawa studied with Kusunku during 6 years. Kusunku died when Sakugawa was 28 years old and Sakugawa created the Kusanku kata as a way to honor his instructor and, more importantly, to record what Kusunku had taught him. This illustrates the importance of the kata. Dating back to the 1700 years, there is no written text or film that safeguards the fighting techniques or fighting philosophies of a man who had a great influence on the development of modern karate. However, by studying this kata (in this case, Kanku-dai) we gain a glimpse of the spirit of the last martial arts masters. In Kanku-Dai, we find many circular hand techniques that when combined with powerful hip rotations become a very effective way to escape various seizures of short-range combat. Once we are at a distance, Kanku-dai involves quick support movements, many defensive techniques and postures, and many feints. It is often aimed at attacking an opponent by kicking their guard down to open the targets of the upper body for follow-ups in the form of powerful strikes.

    Although the kata is now known as Kanku-Dai, it is not an abbreviation of the word Kusunku. Okinawa's Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan), when bringing karate to the mainland of Japan, gave kata a new, albeit similar, Japanese name for "Kanku-dai", which means "see the sky ("Kun" - view and "Ku" - sky). He also changed the names of all kata he taught (eg Passai became Bassai, Wansu became Empi etc).

    Over the years, a lot of symbolism has also been brought into this kata. For example, the final movement of the kata where the arms describe a large arc symbolizes Yin and Yang or the shape of the moon. Since there are no written records of this kata, much of its mystery has been lost. Studying his lineage from the beginning was the work of Master Tatsuo Shimabuku.

    Shimabuku was deeply devoted to Taoism and Zen Buddhism, many believe that the majority of metaphysical explanations began with him. In addition, the creator of the kata (Sakagawa) also formed largely under the Astronomer Takahara. Therefore, it is possible that Sakagawa appreciated the combination of the principles and fighting techniques of Kusanku (who was in the military) with the astronomical symbolism taught to him by Takahara.

    another explanation:

    If you have other info I'm interested ...

    Another thing, little question, what is the two hands in the air of the beginning of the kata forming a triangle? Why a triangle? What bunkai on this movement?

    Thank you in advance and congratulations for your video


    • Hello Jack,
      Your comments are always a pleasure. Frankly, thank you for all the details on Kanku-Dai's story. Personally I had only done a little research just to introduce my article but I confess not to be keen on history. Your contribution is all the more appreciated.
      Concerning the hands in the air at the beginning of the Kata, I was given as an explanation (in any case a plausible explanation) to use the hands as a sunshade: Your opponent is against the light (the sun or the moon ...) and you place your hands as in the case before you looking at the opponent through the hole.
      Why a triangle? I do not know but I'm sure you'll enlighten me.
      Bunkai: One can have for example on a seizure at the neck, a striking face with both hands passing between the arms of the opponent. Then you move sharply to force him to let go of his seizure ...

      A +

      • Hello Bruno,

        Not practicing Kankudai, I do not know anything about kata except what is on the net. I thought that through your senpai and sensei you would have more info.

        Regarding the hands, I'll tell you that I do not know anything about it. I had heard that the explanation for protecting oneself from the sun was a translation error (which happens when a non-practitioner does the translation).

        In fact in Japanese the phrase "As if we protect ourselves from the sun" and "To protect ourselves from the sun" is about the same and only the context makes the difference. In this case one must be practicing to grasp the difference.

        At the time when Kankudai was shown in France, I do not know which master Japanese had come, but it was Gilbert Gruss who had welcomed him, and during the course, the interpreter who was not practicing has made the mistake, which remained. And that's why sun protection would be a mistake. I put this conditional, because not practicing this kata (and shurite schools), I'm just telling the story I heard by the fireside. So info or intox, I do not know more.

        As the name of the kata: kankû = 観 空
        It can indeed be understood as "look at the sky", but also "look at the void" or "have the appearance of emptiness". According to the kanji, I do not think it means "look at the sky" in the sense of "lift your head and look up", but rather "look at the sky, this empty space", "look at the void", "do body with emptiness ", etc.
        But this is only interpretation on my part ^^ '

        From what I read, Nakayama sensei in his book "Dynamic Karate" explains that the opening is symbolic and represents the attitude of the kata, the modesty in karate. We look through the opening formed by the hands and we see the sky, and we realize how small the world is compared to the sky. What is an image to show us that we are forever a pupil, not only in karate, but a student of the world.
        According to Anglo-Saxon sources, many psychologists have analyzed the opening sequence of rising hands, with the head following the small triangular shape created by the position of the hands. He has been implicated by many that the importance of focusing our attention by this form allows us to block the mess and distractions of the world, and to see the world, us and our karate for what it really is. . Other sources show the change between Okinawa karate as becoming a Japanese karate, with the representation of Mount Fuji (triangle formed by the hands).

        The opening sequence of this kata has long been studied by all who love it, and with karate instructors, psychologists and martial art historians, many ideas have been projected about the meaning of this sequence. Putting aside the debate, it could simply be more valuable to do this sequence, and appreciate it for what it means to us, and what it gives us to our karate.

        Frankly I do not know, I have no answer, just a lot of discussion on the internet about it.

        But what I remember is the phrase: "It could just be more valuable to perform this sequence, and appreciate it for what it means to us, and what it gives us to our karate. "

        Thank you for the bunkai I see the idea.
        If we dissociate the symmetry side, could we not see a key there? I do not know, huh? I ask myself the question (on a seizure, or a blow to the face). One hand will wrap the seizure or attack, while the other hand pushes towards the opponent's face to blind him and focus on something else then pushes the shoulder of the attacking hand to stretch his elbow and lock the key by winding?
        I like the idea

        Thank you for your answer.

        See you soon

  3. Hello Bruno!
    First of all, thank you for creating this site, I do not think I'm the only karateka to have been helped by your advice.

    I am currently learning kata that are not my level (I know Kanku Dai and Bassai Dai, I learned Jion and Hangetsu this month with the book you recommended). Do you think it's bad for me to learn so much in such a short time?

  4. good luck bruno your classes really interest me except that I am a little big it is too late for me, I am looking for practical lessons for my children of 6 and 8 years who are beginners in karate do. thank you

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