Article by Emanuel Giordano

In recent days, the article “Kāmi nu Kū Dance and Koryū Motobu Passai” by Motobu Naoki was published. In this article we have examined a very rare and probably ancient kata, preserved thanks to a dance typical of the Nakaoshi district of the Nakijin village. Summarizing what is expressed in the above article, the kata derives from the Nakazato brothers, who studied Karate (Toudi) during their service as guardians at the Motobu family, in Shuri. This type of service was abolished in 1879, along with the abolition of the Ryukyu Kingdom, so it can be deduced that the Nakazato brothers studied Karate (and presumably this kata) before this date, and that they could not have studied with Choyu and Choki Motobu, who were too young at the time.
Before moving on to technical analysis, it is necessary to add two things to this premise:
1- this is not the only Passai kata preserved thanks to the village festivals. In Okinawa the performances of Karate, Kobudo and Mura-bo (fighting with the stick typical of the Okinawan villages, transformed into “dance”) are very common during these festivals, and sometimes they preserve some goodies. Nishihara no Passai is preserved in Nishihara (Shuri) village, and Shimabuku no Passai is handed down in Shimabuku village. Although they are sometimes performed in time with the music, these two kata have not been transformed into a proper dance, as was the case with the kata in question.
2- the history of this kata is yet another element in support of the thesis that we have been pursuing for several years. The kata Passai does not originate from Tomari, but from Shuri.
Although Motobu Naoki has already made a first analysis of this kata, I believe that four eyes are better than two, so I would like to report my observations below. However, in order to avoid repeating the same things already said, I will dwell more on the most peculiar parts, and I will skip over those already examined in the article “Characteristics of Koryū Motobu Passai (1)”, namely the semicircular movement, the namigaeshi and saguri-te. To be as clear as possible, I am attaching some comparative photos and a video to this article (https://youtu.be/Dtfz0sYl6V8).
-The first thing to note is the sequence of techniques performed after the first 180° tai-sabaki. Normally this part of the kata involves two chudan-uke (Itosu no Passai), or a chudan-uke and a jodan counterattack with the arm not extended (performed with closed hands in Matsumura / Tawada no Passai, and open hand in Oyadomari no Passai, in the Motobu no Passai and in other versions). Here, instead, a right chudan-uke and two chudan-tsuki (direct punches) are performed. There is another Passai in which a similar sequence is performed: the Kyuna no Passai currently preserved by the Shubukan Shorin-ryu school. Here too, however, there are some differences: in Kyuna no Passai the defense is a tate-shuto, moreover the sequence is performed on the right and on the left (taking as a reference the starting position of the kata performer), while in the “Koryu Motobu no Passai” it is only performed in the opposite direction to that of the first technique. Either way, the similarity is evident.
As mentioned above this sequence is performed only once, while in most kata Passai it is repeated in two, three or four different directions. This can be a feature of the kata, or a mere artistic choice to improve the dance.
-After this sequence, however, there is a technique typical of the Passai deriving from the Motobu family. In fact, the performer turns back to the front, and hits with his right arm stretched over the left (see photo). This technique is also present in the modern Motobu Udun no Passai (although performed in kosa-dachi) and in Nakamura Shigeru's Passai of Okinawa Kenpo. The latter Passai, in accordance with what was stated by the same school, would derive from the teachings of Motobu Choyu sensei, although I believe that this is only partially true, as some parts are missing in this kata.
This technique is not present in any other version of the kata Passai, although there is an exception. The Tachimura no Passai performed in the Gensei-ryu school has the same technique (although some karateka execute hastily it, examining a slow execution it is possible to notice it), but the homonymous kata of the Bugeikan school does not have it. Normally the differences between the two versions of the Tachimura no Passai are dismissed by asserting that that of the Gensei-ryu has been modified in mainland Japan, while the Okinawan one of the Bugeikan is more similar to the original. Normally I would agree with this thought, however I do not deny that this detail is noteworthy, and that it creates perplexity.
Returning to the technique in question, it is preceded by a low semicircular movement, which seems a contraction of the technique present in almost all the kata Passai. I refer to the technique that is “used” to hook and lift the opponent's leg (see photo two). This may suggest that a part of the kata has been cut, then joining two originally separate movements.
-At the end of the sequence of seguri-te, which in other versions of the Passai are replaced by shuto (gedan or chudan), or by gedan-barai, there is a kick. In this kata the kick is frontal and not lateral, followed by a horizontal morote-tsuki. Looking at the third photo attached, it is possible to notice how the sequence is identical to that of the aforementioned Kyuna no Passai. In fact, although also in other Passai the frontal and not the side kick is performed (Matsumora no Passai, Itosu Passai Sho handed down by Gusukuma, Hanashiro and Mabuni, Kyuna no Passai, Nishihara no Passai, Soken Passai Sho and Dai), in none of them the practitioner also performs morote-tsuki before turning 180°.
-Usually, after the kick, one turns around and performs either chudan-shuto, or saguri-te, followed by a double jodan-uke, a double hammer punch, and a right tsuki. However in the video the practitioners turn 180° and instead perform a double open hand technique (see fourth photo) and three right-handed chudan-tsuki.
-The rest of the kata seems to respect the canonical sequence, albeit with minor differences. Noteworthy are the three horizontal morote-tsuki, also present in other Passai (Ishimine no Passai, Itosu no Passai Sho in the versions of Miyahira, Gusukuma, Hanashiro, Funakoshi and Mabuni, Matsumura / Tawada no Passai, Oyadomari no Passai, Matsumora no Passai, Asato no Passai (Shubukan), Shimabuku no Passai, Soken Passai Sho), although performed here in three different directions.
It seems clear that there are differences between this kata and the current Motobu Udun no Passai, however there are also several points in common. Assuming that the history of this form is true and correct, this would mean that the two kata are the result of modifications occurred to an original form common to both. It is difficult, however, to understand which of the two is closer to the original, just as it is difficult to understand whether these differences are due to a greater similarity to the old version by one of the two forms, or to an external influence of other versions of the kata Passai. In fact, the common parts between the “Koryu Motobu Passai” and the Kyuna no Passai should not be underestimated. The fact remains that it is still a “discovery” that enriches our knowledge of the kata Passai.
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)