Article by Emanuel Giordano

Kyan studied with Oyadomari from Tomari. While Kyan often trained with us, I got to know him quite well. During those enbukai [public martial arts performances] he often performed kata such as Chinto, Passai and his version of Kusanku. He was a great expert. Kyan's kata Chinto and Passai were considered unique. He had developed his own interpretation of these forms based on his vast knowledge of the old Okinawan Karate methods. Kyan taught these forms to Taro Shimabukuro who in turn taught them to Seitoku Ishikawa.
Taken from: A Living Legend of Okinawa: Choshin Chibana of Shorin-ryu Karate-do, October 10, 1966.
These are the words of Chibana Choshin sensei relating to Kyan Chotoku sensei. As we will see shortly, this is an important testimony of how Kyan sensei modified and personalized the kata Passai (in addition to Chinto), creating his own version, or rather, three versions, as we will see shortly.
Before starting it is useful to remember that Tomari's versions of the kata Passai derive mainly from Oyadomari sensei (who passed it down both to Kyan Chotoku sensei, and to his grandchildren, who passed it down to Oshiro Chojo sensei), and from Matsumora sensei (handed down to Iha Kotatsu sensei).
We begin our analysis by saying that of the three versions, one has almost disappeared from Okinawa, one is very rare, while the third is the most widespread. For the sake of clarity I will call them versions 1, 2 and 3. I will start with the latter, as it is the most widespread.
It is the version practiced in the Seibukan Shorin-ryu (Shimabukuro Zenryo) and Shorinji-ryu (Nakazato Joen) schools. These two variants, sometimes called “simplistically” Tomari Passai, should actually be called Kyan no Passai, as they derive 100% from this teacher, although they were then customized by their respective schools. Recall that the Kyan no Passai is a customization of the Oyadomari no Passai.
This first version (Seibukan Shorin-ryu and Shorinji-ryu) differs from the other two that we will examine for the presence of some techniques. First of all, the kata does not begin with the usual technique that characterizes the kata Passai (in the photo below represented by Chibana), but begins with a morote-uke. This particular initial technique has already been encountered when we examined Miyagi Hisateru's Passai, which is a school version taught at the Shihan Gakko (teacher institute). Another peculiarity is the presence of the kake-uke / saguri-te technique, performed by advancing three times. This is a common element with some other Passai, such as the Motobu Udun no Passai, the Tachimura no Passai, the Hanashiro no Passai Sho, etc.
A common feature between version 3 and version 1 is the presence of nuki-te performed with the arm outstretched, although the technique has been slightly modified in the Shorinji-ryu school. In fact, as emerges from the technical comparison (which we will complete in the next article), it is very likely that the inverted nuki-te with the back up is a modification of the nuki-te found in the version of the Seibukan Shorin-ryu and in the version 1 (in the photo below represented by Kudaka / Hisataka).
  • "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)