New Belt, New Kata, New Challenge

Last night I earned my purple belt in Shuri-ryu.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. A lot of new material comes with the purple belt, and several of our higher ranks have told me purple belt is when our karate really starts to come alive. I’ll also learn a new kata called Empi Sho (aka Enpi).

The Shotokan version of the kata is a bit different from ours, but the general steps are the same (reminding me once again that I need to take a video camera to my dojo and post some of our kata). I’ve been watching purple and brown belts run this kata in class for months, and I served as an attacker during another student’s point method interpretation of the kata, so I understand the basics. While I think my green belt kata, Naihanchi Sho, is more interesting, Empi Sho looks like a lot of fun.

However, it brings a new challenge with it: the jump.

About 56 seconds into the video, you’ll see him execute a double palm-heel strike (or so it appears to me) and then perform a 360-degree jump in the air. Our version of the kata includes that same jump, though starting from our style’s signature low horse stance and then landing in that same low stance. Now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase “white men can’t jump,” correct? I am the personification of that phrase.

There’s a saying I heard about karate the other night: “The only time our feet leave the ground is to kick.” Welcome to the first exception. Because we don’t jump, I have not been doing a lot of jumping in my training. We’ve done it occasionally during workouts (mostly to help our existing purple belts’ jumps), and I’ve done a little bit of leg training at home in preparation for this kata myself, but despite huge improvements in my fitness this past year and a half, I’m still a far cry from being a jumper.

I’ve tried a couple of times on my own. While not terrible, it’s definitely not sharp. Also, about every fourth jump or so ends in disaster. I’ll have to make sure to clear some space on the mat when I run this kata so I don’t crush a yellow belt. In the interpretation for the jump, the practitioner is jumping over a fallen opponent; I’m going to have to practice on BOB so I don’t crush a fellow karateka.

The next few months will be interesting.

Assuming I don’t break an ankle.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.


  1. Noah L says:

    I can’t remember for sure, but I believe that the Shotokan version does have a yama-shotei/teisho, as you have said, but since I can’t watch the video here at work, I will have to go off of my memory. The Shuri-Ryu version it is actually yama-nukite (mountain/double spear-hand), then the jump :P. Oh, by the way, jumping over real people in Empi Sho gives you a really good incentive to jump, so maybe you should start off with that to get the motivation going, haha.

  2. Mike says:

    At my size, volunteers to be my jump obstacle would be taking their lives into their own hands. I almost took out the Wife’s curio cabinet at home, which would have been a death sentence as well.

  3. Noah L says:

    Lol, yeah, I can see how destroying the curio would have an adverse effect on your health. I would volunteer to be your jump obstacle, but I’ve been leapt over and landed on enough times by enough people that I’m not too worried. Also, the key to making that jump is to have your left heel touching their body before you jump, that way you have pretty much no choice but to make it or trip.

  4. […] I’ve heard a lot about my new kata, Empi Sho, is that it is closely related to the kata Wansu, if not just another version of the same […]

  5. […] such running it is very different from running a “normal” kata like my other new one, Empi Sho. Where we typically put our full power into our techniques like punches and kicks, we instead […]

  6. […] fact, I’ve been more worried about performing my kata, Empi Sho, tomorrow night than I was about earning the belt in the first place. I get out to Peoria dojo […]

  7. Are there written instructions for Empi? I am having a hard time in class following. The ones on the internet are even faster. Let me know!

    • Mike says:

      If you’re talking the Shuri-ryu interpretation of Empi Sho, then yes, there are, but unfortunately only in the Pinnacle of Karate, as far as I know. There’s nothing online. If you don’t own a copy of the Pinnacle or have access to one, I would simply approach your Sensei or another student and have them break it down so you can take notes. It’s always a good idea to have a notebook in class for just such an occasion.