Gankaku - 1 of 3 Bird Katas
The kata Gankaku (meaning “Crane on a Rock”) is said to have been developed by either Master Sokon Bushi Matsumura (1796 - 1889) or Yasutsune Itosu (1830 - 1915), however it is unclear exactly who created the kata as both masters were alive at the same time. It is possible that both masters created this kata together.
The name “Crane on a rock”, gives us an insight as to how the kata applications should be performed and where. The movements within the kata closely resemble the bird. The use of the cranes ability to effortlessly stand on one leg comes into play in the kata frequently and the movement of the bird’s wings is also mimicked.
In Shotokan Karate, every kata has a theme behind it, whether this be numbers, animals, places etc. Although some of the themes may not be quite so easy to see at first, after training and research their deeper meanings become clear. The theme to this kata is unusual in that it does not take place on the ground. The Embusen is the same as that of the Tekki kata, but instead of moving from side to side, this kata move forwards and backwards in a straight line.
The theme for this kata is stairs. It was developed so that we could safely defend ourselves from an attack on a staircase, allowing us to defend against opponents lower and higher than ourselves. Using the upper body when we are lower than the attacker and the lower part when we are higher. Once we have reached an even level or an open space, all parts of the body are used once more to defend.
This kata requires a lot of balance, posture, concentration, outside thinking and quick reactions. It is a favourite for most competitors at competitions, as it can showcase all elements mentioned above.