Current Kata for Saturday Kata Class: Unsu

UnsuOn January 20th, we began working on the kata Unsu (雲手). This is the last in our syllabus kata, so after this we will soon start the cycle over with beginning kata (Tekki Shodan for Advanced and Heian Shodan for Beginner).

The name Unsu means literally “cloud hands.” You can see techniques that look like hands parting the clouds in the opening of the kata. But throughout the kata the sudden changes and shifts and dynamic techniques could also resemble cloud movements in stormy weather. When you break Unsu apart you will see techniques from many of the other advanced kata: small, precise techniques and large expansion and contraction combinations. Unsu features the techniques in a novel way, including more extreme changes from low to high than in most other kata, making it perhaps the most acrobatically challenging of any of the kata. It is considered by many to be the most advanced kata in Shotokan karate.

It’s an irresistible challenge for many tournament competitors, but it’s very difficult to do well. Like the rest of our training, it’s something we can prepare for by learning to do solid fundamentals and working up to it through the other kata.

The most famous example of Unsu done well is Yahara Sensei. An instructional video is here, and his performances in the finals of the 1982-1984 All Japan Championships are compiled here.

Unsu is an advanced black belt kata, but we encourage students of all grades to come to the Saturday kata classes. Even if you won’t practice advanced kata regularly yet, it’s great to begin to learn how techniques can be combined, and the practice in applying techniques is indispensable.

See you Saturday!

At SVSK our Saturday morning kata classes focus on one kata at a time. We typically spend four Saturdays on each kata:

Week 1: Overview/review of the kata
Week 2: Fine points of the techniques and the kata
Week 3: Hands-on practice to understand applications (bunkai)
Week 4: Variations in the kata