Gojushiho Dai, an introduction
Gichin funikoshi first renamed the Kata Gojushiho to create a Japanese feel for the Kata then tried to rename the Kata Hatoku after the woodpecker like movements of the hand strikes through out the Kata. Hotaku is the name for the Japanese woodpecker that inhabits much of Kyushu and the other major islands that make up Japan proper. but like many of the renaming attempts that Funakoshi Sensei tried, this did not stick and the students reverted to the older name soon after the attempt to change the names began.
History of Gojushiho Dai
Both Gojushiho dai and sho are very close in presentation, more so than any other sho/dai combinations. They follow the same embusen and virtually are the same timings at points. Gojusthiho Dai is more compact and uses shorter inside tension stances compared to Sho's opposite longer techniques and stances. Compared to the flowing long and graceful movements of the Sho version of the Kata, the Dai is compact and powerful and uses many advanced and difficult hand movmements.
Some references suggested that the Kata came from a form of Kung fu called Phoenix eye fist, but with stronger references saying that it is linked to the Kata Hakutsuru, a white crane Kata. The phoenix eye fist reference does not seem very likely seeing as it does not contain forms that resemble this and the origins of most of the Karate Kata and styles are very closely linked to White crane and little to no information links any styles to the Phoenix eye fist style, known as Yau Kung Mun. Some feel that Hakusuru is a follow up to the original Gojushioho so it would seem that ' 54 steps' is a Fukyuen Kata after all.
For those pointing to the origin in the phoenix eye style they say it originally name was Kaisan and that this form may have been shared with the crane style, to explain its connection in both styles these people say it is a sub style called Black Tiger which was incorporated into the white crane system and lost its independent identity. The Dai version of the Kata is a powerful version of the two with snapping hands and quick pouncing like moves all coming from a coiled like Cat stance. While the Sho version seems to show the grace of the crane in the use of hit wing like arm movements in the blocking and then spearing the attacker.
Allot of sources point to the original Gojushiho or Useishi as being a white crane form however and skip the idea or discard the idea of a link to the Phoenix eye style. The idea of the black tiger style being involved in the creation of this Kata are not discarded. the Black tiger style was a style that was brought into the Crane style and used to balance the systems out. Black tiger was the counter balance to the cranes light and softer movements, bringing a harder and faster style to bear on the new amalgamation. Useishi was the original name of the Kata as it was taught in Okinawa.
The elegance of the Sho Kata is very striking when compared to the Dai version. The first movements is aptly named to convey the elegance 'Ryo Un No Uke' or ' Back of the flowing cloud', which shows that the movements should be smooth and flowing. The modern day Sho is derived from Mabunis interpretation of Ueishi and was more than likely part of the Kata exchange that the JKA had with their Shito ryu hosts at the event that Funakoshi requested with the Shito group.
The modern day 'Sho' is derived from Mabunis Useishi and was more than likely part of the kata exchange that the JKA had with the Shito ryu group. The origins of Useishi seem to be Arhat Boxing or monks fist. This style includes Useishi as one of its forms along with Jitte, Sanchin, Seipai and other familure Kata. Arhat is one of the styles that has had contact wtih the Fukin or Shaolin temple and borrowed from the crane forms found in that area. The Original Gojushiho, Useishi, also appears in the ancient text "the Bubushi" an ancient note book on Kung fu and styles that has been passed down for many generations.
There is often some confusion about which Kata is Sho and which is Dai. Kanazawa Sensei uses the reverse from the Mainstream JKA organization and some groups don’t see two Gojushiho Kata at all but choose to do only one as the original was split into two Katas by the JKA. It seems that the flowing Gojushiho Sho is actually the base Kata that the compact Dai was created from.
Notes on Gojushiho Dai
Gojushiho dai and sho are both taught to Karate-ka normally after they have reached Sandan. The Dai version has shorter moves and shorter stances. The hand techniques are closer to the body and even though the two Kata are relatively similar they do contain different ideas of training. Dai relies on fast short hand movements and transitions from one short stance to the next. Sho is longer and uses the Kokutsu dachi over the Nieko dachi which elongates the movements and feel of the Kata.
Gojushiho dai is the more compact and powerful of the two Gojushiho Katas. Lacking the longer lines and graceful movements that the Sho version has, Gojushiho dai seems to be more of a no nonsense version of the two. The reality to me is that the Dai version simply shows the compressed version of the movements while the Sho version the open version. Both Kata present a very dynamic and challenging form that uses sweeping motions, circular blocking and also direct counters. The explosive movements at the end should be built up to and then the spirit of the Kata relaxes after the final attacking motion.
Gojushiho Sho is somewhat more popular at tournaments because of the longer lines and the more flowing movements. With the duo of Kata one should practice each to take information on how to work in different situations.
Gojushiho dai was never favorite of mine until we learned the Sho version and I saw the flip side of the coin. I can still remember many a sleepless night that we had after Sensei Dingman had us do Gojushio Dai for half a class, my left leg turning from mush into a solid rock and the aches and pains of an unconditioned muscle over used. trying to sleep with the aches and pains was nothing compared to showing up at the dojo and having Sensei call out your name on your way out of the change room and use two simple words to destroy your mood for the class...."James....Gojushiho...Dai" and then it was off to practice before class and test the left legs ability to really get beat on.
Gojushiho dai, In moderation, has become one of my favorite Katas to do now. And watching a good Karateka do the Kata now has even more meaning for me. My advice, practice Gojushiho sho first and when you get it down move on to this Kata and watch for the subtle and not so subtle differences in the Katas. And most of all Enjoy them.