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Wansu (汪楫)

brown belt 1st stripe (san kyu)
  • Wansu kata translates as “the dumping form.”
Run Time:
45 seconds
Wansu consists of approximately 48 movements

Wansu (汪楫) Kata Tree

Takahara Peichin -- Sakugawa -- Matsumora -- Kyan -- Tatsuo Shimabuku


Wansu has been traced back to approximately 1695, which makes it nearly 300 years old. Wansu is believed that a Chinese martial artist named Wanshu taught a system of movements to a few Okinawan martial artists who later named them Wanshu, after their instructor. Master Shimabuku learned this kata from Master Kyan, who was instructed by Master Sakugawa, who was in turn taught by Master Peichin.

About Wansu (汪楫)

Wansu is the 4th empty hand kata taught in Isshinryu and is required for brown belt first stripe (san kyu). Wansu has multiple attacks and flows from block to counterattack very graceful all while keeping a strong solid stances.

Wansu kata is known for its unique technique known as, the dump, where the opponent is grabbed at the throat with the left hand and hooked between the legs at the forearm with your right hand then picked up and dumped to the floor during the 180 degree turn. Wansu also introduces the "Obi Waza" where the opponent is pulled by the belt with your left hand at the same time you are side stepping and punching with your right hand.

Wansu's symbolic meaning is "karate is my secret." This is shown in the very first move when you step to the right keeping your left hand open and the right hand closed in a fist right before the left does a low body block and the right hand does a reverse punch.

What the karate-ka should learn from this kata is to seize the advantage by changing the ma-ai (the distance between opponents.) This is done during the belt grab that was talked about earlier.

Wansu is defending against 5 opponents and introduces open hand strikes along with knee lifts (hiza geri). It consists of low blocks (gedan barai), open middle blocks (tegata barai), double blocks, grabbing techniques, middle punches, hammerfists, elbow strikes, 2 side kicks (yoko geri), and 2 front kicks using the ball of the foot (Mei Geri). It also makes use of avoiding punches and then, counterattacking, instead of blocking and counterattacking. The stances used in Wansu are: Seisan, Cat, Cross, Zenkutsu, and Seiuchin. Wansu consists of very strong attacks and defensive positions. This kata starts and ends at 2 different points quite a distance apart.

Wansu has 2 kiais. The first one is at movement 18, right hand uppercut as the left hand, palm up, grabs the right forearm and just before the front snap kick. The 2nd kiai comes on the next to the last movement, during a double knife hand strike to the sides (morote shuto uchi).

About Wansu (汪楫):
By: Joe Swift

This kata is said by many to have been brought to Okinawa by the 1683 Sappushi Wang Ji (Jpn. Oshu, 1621-1689). It is possible that it is based upon or inspired by techniques that may have been taught by Wang Ji.

The problem with this theory is that why would such a high ranked government official teach his martial arts (assuming he even knew any) to the Okinawans? Also, Wang Ji was only in Okinawa for 6 months (Sakagami, 1978).

Wang Ji was originally from Xiuning in Anhui, and was an official for the Han Lin Yuan, an important government post (Kinjo, 1999). In order to become an official for the Han Lin Yuan, one had to be a high level scholar, and pass several national tests (Kinjo, 1999). Just preparing for such a task would all but rule out the practice of martial arts, just time-wise. However, assuming that Wang Ji was familiar with the martial arts, the Quanfa of Anhui is classified as Northern boxing, while the techniques of the Okinawan Wansu kata are clearly Southern in nature (Kinjo, 1999).

So, if Wansu was not Wang Ji, just who was he? This is as yet unknown. However, in the Okinawan martial arts, kata named after their originators are not uncommon. Some examples include Kusanku, Chatan Yara no Sai, and Tokumine no Kon. It is entirely possible that this kata was introduced by a Chinese martial artist named Wang. As the reader probably already knows, in the Chinese martial arts, it is common to refer to a teacher as Shifu (let. Teacher-father). Could not the name Wansu be an Okinawan mispronunciation of Wang Shifu (Kinjo, 1999)?

Other schools of thought are that Wu Xianhui (Jpn. Go Kenki, 1886-1940) or Tang Daiji (Jpn. To Daiki, 1888-1937), two Chinese martial artists who immigrated to Okinawa in the early part of the 20th Century, may be responsible for the introduction of the Wansu kata (Gima, et al, 1986). As a side note, Wu was a Whooping Crane boxer and Tang was known for his Tiger boxing. They were both from Fujian.

Shimabuku is believed to have added on several techniques to this kata, such as the side kicks, evasive body movement into double punches, and elbow smash as these are not found in any other version of Wansu known in Okinawa karate.