Something 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 kata. However, the way we run it in Shuri-ryu, there are only a couple of movements they have in common. They share a block/strike combo and have a morote (double) technique near the end, but for the most part it’s hard to see why they’d be labeled sister kata.
Then I recalled some of the varations of Wansu I’ve seen on YouTube, such as this one:
The embusen, or step pattern, through the majority of the kata is almost identical to our version of Empi Sho. Now I can see why they’d call them versions of the same kata.
It’s strange that the two interpretations of Empi could diverge like that, yet the idea that they are (in essence) the same kata as Wansu would persist. I think it’s a good example of how karate as a whole is a living, breathing, evolving entity. A master dies, his students start changing things (or they remember things differently). Those guys die, and their students start changing things (or they remember things differently), and so on.
The core is there. The physical movements change, but the philosophy persists.
It’s strange when you consider how karate — and most all martial arts, for that matter — pride themselves on tradition.
Or maybe I’m still too much of a rookie to expect otherwise…