Wankan (Japanese: "King's
Crown" or "Emperor's Crown") (also called Okan) is
an ancient kata practiced in many styles of karate. Not much is known
about the history of this kata. It originates from the Tomari-te school
and in modern karate is practiced in Shorin-Ryu, Shotokan, and Matsubayashi-ryu.
It is often considered an advanced kata, despite its brevity. Karate
master Shoshin Nagamine considers wankan to be his favorite kata.
The characteristics of this kata are its elegance combined with powerful
movements of attack and defense sequences. (2)
Wankan is thought to be one of the oldest Kata still practiced to
this day, having been handed down in Ryukyu royal family for many
centuries as a family Kata. (3) In fact, the name of the Kata literally
means "King's Crown" or "King's Victory", a reference
to the royal significance of the Kata.
Wankan is representative of the Shorinjiryu system and is thought
to have been introduced to Kudaka Island and then the Tomari region
by a Chinese kempo pratitioner who may have used the name Wankan as
his own. Wankan's Chinese origins lie in the Hakkyoku ken system of
Kempo. Currently, there are several forms of Wankan practiced in different
styles of Karatedo. The form taugh in the International Budo Institute
is Kudaka No Wankan signifying that it was the original form introduced
to, and further developed on Kudaka Island, one of the homes of the
The main teaching emphasis in this Kata, is the pursuance and attainment
of the ultimate state (of becoming king) by bringing together all
of the aspects of the self. If this is achieved, the opponent becomes
a secondary consideration.
Wankan is also known by the alternative name Matsukaze, meaning "pine
tree wind" suggesting that one should be strong but flexible
in the face of adversity, like a pine tree a top a mountain facing
fierce winds. Accordingly, all movement is in the forward direction,
reflecting that one shoudl always aim to achieve one's position, whether
it be in relation to Karatedo, life, health or success.
Matsukaze has an alternative translation, referring to the jugular
vein region of the throat, one of the body's most vital points. In
fact, all attacks in this kata are focused on the body's three most
vital points - the jugular vein (matsukaze), the solar plexus (suigetsu)
and the groin (kinteki). By focusing on these three points the significance
of economy of motion is understood. This is an expression of the saying
“saisho no chkara saidai no koka o eru” (the smallest
effort leads to the greatest result).