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Rohai Kata Meaning

Legend says this kata was created by a master in ancient times, and handed down by martial artists of the Tomari Region. Rohai has a very long history but it is not known who this ancient master was. More importantly, Rohai is another extant Tomari-te form, passed down by Kosaku Matsumora.(1) Translated, Rohai means "vision of white heron". Rohai develops continuous rhythm in technique, which is the foundation for quick and powerful combinations. The kata's signature movement of stepping back and blocking on one leg is reminiscent of this title. Rohai develops continuous rhythm in technique, which is the foundation for quick and powerful combinations. Rohai is the first kata in Matsubayashi-Shorin-ryu, which focuses upon these kinds of advanced combinations and movements, and is therefore a significant leap from all preceding forms. It is characterized by many tenshin waza (body transfer techniques), and makite (wrapping hand) or kakushi-ashi-geri (hidden kick) conducted while dodging an attack from the opponent.(2) Such motions have a very light touch. Originally there was just one kata, with no 2nd or 3rd Dan. Anko Itosu later took this kata and developed three kata from it: Rohai shodan, Rohai nidan, and Rohai sandan.(3) In modern Karate, some styles teach all three kata (such as Shito ryu). However, other styles employ only one of them as a kata (such as Wado ryu, which teaches Rohai shodan as Rohai).

Gichen Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan, redeveloped and renamed Rohai nidan as Meikyo, which means "polishing a mirror". It is known that Meikyo was devised from Itosu’s earlier kata Rohai nidan; however, parts of Meikyo clearly refer to parts of Itosu Rohai shodan and sandan as well; so, we believe that Meikyo is a re-creation and compilation of all the Itosu Rohai kata. Who is directly responsible for the creation of the kata is not clear. However, since Funakoshi is credited with renaming the Rohai kata, it is likely that it was he or his son Yoshitaka who produced the Meikyo version. Itosu’s version of Rohai may have been loosely based on the Tomari-te version of Rohai which is often referred to as Matsumora Rohai. This kata (Matsumora Rohai) bears only a weak resemblance to either Meikyo or the Itosu Rohai and has more similarity with Gankaku (Chinto). However, it should be studied both as a contrast with Itosu Rohai and a comparison with Gankaku (this comparison is planned for a future seminar). Rohai means “Sign or Emblem of a Crane.” Ironically, crane stances are absent from Meikyo; but, they appear in Itosu Rohai Shodan in a form somewhat different than the hooked foot crane stance of Matsumora Rohai or Gankaku. In Itosu Rohai Nidan, a similar but lower stance, the kosa dachi (crossed stance), is used. In Itosu Rohai sandan, there are no remnants of the crane stance per se.

1) http://www.shorin-ryu.com/kata.html
2) http://www.wonder-okinawa.jp/023/eng/008/002/003.html
3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rohai