Two parts of the kata taken from the two books
Article by Emanuel Giordano
The Shushi no kun / kon kata is one of the most popular Bo kata. There are many versions practiced today, and although most are variations of the Sho version, they are almost always kata elaborated / modified in recent times (second half of 1900).
THE "KORYU" VERSIONS
Koryu simply means "old style" but, as we are about to see, we are actually talking about kata that are not even a hundred years old. Today there are several versions of this kata that boast the title of "Koryu", however there are only two that can be found on written sources (and which at the time were not defined as Koryu...): the version of Miki Jisaburo and that of Taira Shinken.
The first version was taught to Miki Jisaburo by Oshiro Chojo, however it was presented in the book Kenpo Gaisetsu (1930) by Miki. Therefore, we are not sure that the kata is exactly identical to that of Oshiro sensei, however it still provides us with a written proof, full of drawings and descriptions, which certifies how and when this version arrived in mainland Japan. From the research carried out, and from the comparison with my friend Matteo Muratori (https://my2centskarate.com), it seems that today this kata is only more practiced in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinko Kai school, with the name of Shuji Koshiki, as well as, although with various modifications, in the Shotokai, where it is known by the WRONG name of Sueyoshi no kon. I am not aware, however, that it is still practiced in Okinawa.
The second, however, was presented by Taira Shinken himself in the book Karate-do Taikan (1938) by Nakasone Genwa. The description is much more complete than Miki's, and there are detailed drawings for each individual movement, including the trajectories of the stick. Taira sensei also provided some applicative explanations. This version differs in some details from that of Miki, but it also contains some typical techniques that are not found in the more modern versions, and is devoid of the extensive use of tsuki that is done in the latter, here partially replaced by nuki -bo, much more practical and quick. Another interesting note is given by the lack of the ample preparation movement of the techniques, making the kata more realistic, although aesthetically less pleasant. This version is practiced today in an almost identical way (excluding the ending, "mutilated" of two techniques) in the Keio University Karate Association. Furthermore, by examining the Shushi no kun Sho by Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinko Kai (video), founded by Inoue Motokatsu sensei, student of Taira sensei, we can see how this version still contains typical elements of the kata described by Taira sensei in 1938, in opposition to what happened to the version handed down in Okinawa by Akamine Eisuke sensei before, and by several of his students (including his son Akamine Hiroshi sensei) afterwards, full of large preparation movement and tsuki. This is due to the fact that Inoue sensei's Shushi no kun Sho is practically identical to Taira sensei's Shushi no kun Sho, as can be seen from an old video of his, and also to the fact that the kata shown by Taira sensei in the aforementioned video, although different in the final from that of 1938, it still contains the same technical approach.
It is very interesting, however, to note how in both these versions (Miki and Taira) there is a technique that has now disappeared from kata. That is what Miki called neji otosu (twist and drop). This is a hit to the opponent's weapon, or to the wrist that holds it, particularly effective in the Taira version, where it is followed by a quick nuki-bo. In modern versions, however, this technique is replaced by a simple return in kamae or, sometimes, by a chudan-uke.
Two parts of the kata taken from the two books
As for the versions called Koryu Shushi no kun, taught in some Okinawan schools, they are "modern" creations, containing elements clearly taken from the most recent versions, alongside techniques typical of the old versions.
This is not meant to belittle anyone's work, nor to say that Kobudo is ineffective, but it is necessary to understand that Kobudo not only, despite its name, is not an ancient art, but that it has also undergone many variations (as well as a standardization) over the last 80-90 years, most of which occurred from the 1970s to the present. Unlike Karate, in Kobudo it is the Okinawan lineages that have modified more than the Japanese counterpart. In this case, Bo's kata are filled with tsuki (as also highlighted by A. Quast), with larger loads than necessary, as well as simplified compared to the "old" versions.