New Version of Kata Performed by Sensei M. Ueki JKA
This Kata was one favoured by Master Funakoshi, who often used it to demonstrate the 'new' art of Karate, stating that it contained all of the art's essential elements.
A Chinese envoy Koshokun (Kong Su Kung) who was an expert in Kendo introduced the Kata Kushanku to Okinawa, teaching the original form to a local expert in the Shuri-te style, Tode Sakugawa, and from that stems the current Shotokan versions of Kanku-Dai and Kanku-Sho. Known also as Kwanku, the Japanese name means 'To look at the sky', referring to the opening movement where the open hands come together with the fingers of the right placed on the back of the left, with thumbs touching. The hands are then slowly raised above the head, break apart, and in a circular movement are lowered to come together again in front of the body. As the hands are raised the gaze is directed through the triangular gap formed between the hands.
There is a double significance to this opening movement. On the practical level it can be interpreted as a double rising block and groin defense, on the philosophical level it signifies the concept of form becoming emptiness, and emptiness becoming form, 'Shiki soku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki' and important concept in understanding proper practice. The act of directing full attention through the small triangular space concentrates and focuses the mind, the trivial and unimportant are ignored, demanding that one's whole being is centered on a true perception of reality and calm recognition of what is required to interact properly with this.
As an aside to this, and to offer a comment on how Karate-do can be used as an aid to the disadvantage in society, I quote the remarks of Dirk Robertson a former student, now one of the Federation of Shotokan Karate's instructors who has specialized in working with the physically handicapped:
'If you take the triangle in the Kata and substitute it [with] being handicapped, then one can see where [just as] it is difficult but necessary to concentrate on the triangle, so it is difficult but necessary to accept yourself for what you are ... seeing everything ... as it really is, not as you would like to see it, and taking that with spirit and honesty - the way a Kata should be performed.'
Thus, just as with the able-bodied karate-ka, the Kata are used as a vehicle for self-expression and the development of potential.
The suffix -Dai indicates 'Greater' as compared with '-Sho' denoting 'Lesser', the latter being created by Yasutsune Itosu using the former as a model.