Article by Emanuel Giordano

There are two kata which can be called by this name. The first is the Naihanchi of Matsumora-ryu (Osaka), the second is that of Gohaku-ryu (Okinawa). Both schools derive from Iha Kotatsu sensei, who was the teacher of Kuba Nagahito sensei and Nakasone Seiyu sensei. However, the Naihanchi of Gohaku-ryu, according to what was published in Gekkan Karate-do of February 2003 (English translation available in the article “Tomari-te Kata handed down in the Gōhakukai”, A. Quast, 2017), would not derive by Iha sensei, but rather by another student of Matsumora sensei: Nakazato Bokuhitsu sensei. In short, the lineages of the two kata are as follows:
Matsumora-ryu: Iha Kotatsu  > Kuba Nagahito > Yara Choi > Yara Tomohiro
Gohaku-ryu: Nakazato Bokuhitsu > Nakasone Seiyu > Tokashiki Iken
Examining the techniques of the two kata, a premise must be made: the Naihanchi of Gohaku-ryu, as stated by Tokashiki Iken sensei (source), is performed with open hands following a modification by Nakasone Seiyu sensei. Apart from this, the two kata are almost identical. In both of them we start to the left instead of to the right, in both the legs are raised during the crossed steps (less in Gohaku-ryu, more in Matsumora-ryu), and in both the haishu-uke is performed. Other similarities are given by the position (a shallow shiko-dachi), by the fact that when both hands are placed on the same side (after the elbow strike and before the morote tsuki) the distance between the palms is maintained, etc.
Among the differences, however, we find the position of the hand in the first yoko-uke, that is back out for Matsumura-ryu and hammer hand for Gohaku-ryu; the second yoko-uke, which in Matsumora-ryu is similar to that of other schools, in Gohaku-ryu is, on the other hand, performed with one hand, and is similar to a tsuki; in the Matsumora-ryu one looks first to the right, then one starts to the left, while in the Gohaku-ryu one looks immediately to the right; the morote tsuki, finally, in the Gohaku-ryu is performed with the arms almost parallel to the ground, while in the Matsumora -ryu the extended arm points slightly upwards.
These differences may be due to several reasons. Undoubtedly, as often happens, the separate development of the two schools may have led to different technical choices. Even the different external influences may have influenced the development of these kata, in fact the video examined for the Matsumora-ryu is that of Fukuhara Chosei sensei, a student of Yara Choi sensei, but also a friend of Motobu Chosei sensei, as well as a student (for a period) by Uehera Seikichi sensei.
Differences aside, the peculiarities that characterize these two versions of the kata, as well as the common claimed origin, are sufficient to evaluate to proceed to a greater analysis, which is why I contacted Yara Tomohiro, in order to be able to further deepen this research.
  • "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)