History Of Taigyoku Shodan And Taigyoku Nidan
Karate was originally only taught to one or two carefully selected students and as such, the student would often spend years training in one single kata (under the careful, practically personalised tuition).
In the 1900’s, a number of Okinawan masters feared karate would die out and thus decided to introduce it to the public (including the school system). When this occurred, students were taught numerous kata in a brief period.
To combat a potential drop in standard and frustration of a beginner, Yasutsune Itosu (instrumental in introducing karate to the public school system) cut a number of kata into smaller pieces, creating five ‘Pinan’ kata, putting the techniques into a H-shaped pattern. This provided beginner students with ideal training before tackling the longer, more detailed kata.
When Itosu’s student, Gichen Funakoshi, moved to Japan and created the karate style known as Shotokan, he changed the name of the ‘Pinan’ to ‘Heian’ (a Japanese name) and then chose to further simplify these kata by creating three Taigyoku kata (translated as ‘first course’ or ‘basic ultimate’). These followed the same performance line as the Pinan/Heian kata yet contained simpler techniques. Like his instructor (Itosu), he did not abolish any kata, but added these kata to help beginners train their body and mind for more advanced kata.
This proved a massive success, as students were able to develop their basic karate techniques while moving through in stances, turning and pivoting. It also served to build their confidence and memory to tackle the more slightly difficult.
His success was noted by other karate styles (such as Goju), who shortly after adopted five of their own Taigyoku kata. While these were technically different, they still followed the H-shaped embusen (performance line). Today, almost every karate and Taekwondo (a style that came from karate) organisation use the Taigyoku kata for their beginner students.
GKR’s First kata (Taigyoku Shodan) is taken directly from the Shotokan style, which incorporates the long forward stance (zenkutsu-datchi), lunge punch (oi tsuki) and downward block (gedan barai).
GKR’s Second kata (Taigyoku Nidan) however is completely unique. No kicks exists in any Taigyoku kata, however Kancho Sullivan, realising the importance of developing a fluency between kicks and punches, introduced a front kick into Taigyoku Nidan.
Taigyoku Kata: Summary Points
Taigyoku kata were developed by Gichin Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan) as a method of simplifying kata for beginners and preparing them for more difficult kata.
This principle proved so successful, soon after practically every other karate and Taekwondo style adopted his Taigyoku pattern, creating their own Taigyoku kata.