Preface: The purpose of this article is to inform and preserve the history and background of Sensei Arsenio J. Advincula's kata "Katagwa". This article will also demonstrate the relationship between Katagwa and Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Isshin-Ryu. I first learned Katagwa in 1995. Because I'm in the military, I have had the opportunity to travel and train in a variety of Isshin-Ryu and Isshinkai dojos throughout the United States. What I started noticing during my travels was that students who learned "Katagwa" from Sensei Advincula were falling into the same pattern that I believe many Isshin-Ryu instructors fell into after leaving Okinawa. That is, they were seeing the kata once or for a short period of time and not realizing that Master Shimabuku was modifying the kata's in Isshin-Ryu after they left. Or worse yet, not accepting the changes that were made later on.
Sensei Advincula is doing this same thing right now with his kata "Katagwa". Sensei Advinucula is continually changing and improving "Katagwa". I have not studied this kata longer than other students under Sensei Advincula. Nor do I profess to be an expert on this kata. However, I have continued to diligently train on the bunkai of this kata with Sensei Advincula over the past 6 years. I have also severed as Sensei Advincula's uke for the bunkai of this kata at numerous seminars. This experience, in conjunction with traveling across the United States, has provided me with a broader view of the way students are learning and understanding this kata throughout the Isshinkai community. This is my attempt to capture what I know of "Katagwa", as taught to me by Sensei Advincula, and share it with you.
Sensei Arsenio J. Advincula waited until he was 55 years old before he created his first karate kata. When Sensei Advincula had his Oceanside, CA dojo, he taught Escrima, Combat Judo, Hindiandi, Ryukonkai Kobudo, Isshin-Ryu Karate & Kobudo, Ryukonkai Kobudo, and combat judo. At that time, Sensei Advincula's Hindiandi students had only two empty hand kata to study. Because his Hindiandi students wanted to study more than two empty hand kata, Sensei Advincula created a kata for them to study. The date this kata was created is not specific because it took some time to establish the base line for this kata.
Mr. Zane Legg, one of Sensei Advincula's Hindiandi students from the Oceanside Dojo, returned from a Marine Corps tour of duty on Okinawa in November 1993. Upon his return, Mr. Legg observed Sensei Advincula working on a new kata. Mr. Legg, who studied Uechi-ryu on Okinawa, remembers this because there is a takedown taught in Uechi-ryu's Kanshiwa kata. This take down is similar to the one he saw in Sensei Advincula's new kata. Mr. Legg believed Sensei Advincula's techniques were better than the Uechi-ryu technique. Mr. Legg surmised that this new kata was created from November 1993 to January 1994. Sensei Advincula finished this new kata in late 1994, and first taught it at a seminar for Carol Womack later that same year. This seminar was held at Carol Womack's Gilmer Road Dojo in Longview, Texas. This new kata would ultimately become Katagwa.
The genesis for this kata came from an instructor's selfless service to his students. This kata is a product of over 50 years of martial arts training, teaching, and personal hand-to-hand combat experience. The year 1994 was when Sensei Advincula put the kata together; however, I would argue that Sensei Advincula spent a lifetime perfecting the techniques he learned to make this kata. Because of this, I think the birth date of Katagwa is 1946 when Sensei Advincula first started his martial arts training (ref: Advincula's 40th Isshin-Ryu Birthday, by Cherry Douglas). This kata is a result of all those years of training. A wealth of knowledge and inspiration is contained in Katagwa. As the article name implies, this is a "combat proven kata".
The first name Sensei Advincula used for his kata was Goncho. Mark Riddle recommended to Sensei Advincula the kata be called Goncho. Goncho means "Glasses". One of Sensei Advincula's nicknames on Okinawa was Goncho. Obviously, Sensei Advincula was called Goncho because he wears glasses. Sensei Advincula then told me he wanted to change the name again because the Okinawans call everyone who wears glasses Goncho. This name dose not last long and Sensei Advincula changes the name to AJA around 1995. The name AJA comes from Sensei Advincula's initials, Arsenio J. Advincula. In 1997, Sensei Advincula was in Mississippi at a seminar for Mark Riddle. At this seminar Sensei Advincula met an Aikido instructor, who is Italian, and learned that AJA means, "gas" as in human gas. Obviously, Sensei Advincula did not like the idea of his kata being referred to as a "gassy" kata. He wanted a unique name. Sensei Advincula then changes the name to Katagwa in late 1997 or early 1998. Katagwa means "kata man" (kata=kata gwa=man). Sensei Advincula picked this because Master Tatsuo Shimabuku (the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate & Kobudo) called Sensei Advincula Katagwa. Master Shimabuku called Sensei Advincula Katagwa because when Sensei Advincula was on Okinawa, he performed kata at all the Isshin-Ryu demonstrations held by Master Shimabuku. Sensei Advincula's reputation as a kata and bunkai expert grew because of this. Sensei Advincula confirmed this on a 1997 trip to Okinawa. Sensei Advincula spoke to Tokumura, Kensho about this nickname. Tokumura, Kensho verified that Master Shimabuku called Sensei Advincula "Katagwa". Thus, Sensei Advincula decided to use Katagwa as the name of his kata. After finally naming the kata Sensei Advincula changed the order of the kata. What was once called AJA 1 would become Katagwa 2 because it was a harder kata for a more advanced student. AJA 2 is a simpler kata and best used for beginners; so, Sensei Advincula made that one Katagwa 1. The name Katagwa is unique and symbolic in its origin. The name Katagwa coming from Master Shimabuku is appropriate and just another example of Sensei Advincula's commitment to Master Shimabuku.
So, which styles make up Katagwa 1 and 2? I asked Sensei Advincula this question in 1995 and he said "from all of them". Later in 1998 I asked again, "What style had the most influence on Katagwa." He replied, "all the styles I studied". "OK" I said, " I understand, but which one was the most important?" He looked at me and said " What part of ALL don't you understand private?" I was expecting to hear that one had more influence over the others, but it's just not there. When you do the kata you can see all sorts of things Sensei Advincula teaches in each stance and move. Katagwa 1 and 2 come from several styles and both share some commonalties. The basic Seisan stance and applicability are just two examples. Sensei Advincula also incorporates a little Advincula-Do (this is Sensei Advincula's own teachings) in the kata. Some people think this is an Isshin-Ryu kata. Katagwa 1 and 2 are not Isshin-Ryu kata nor are they required for Isshin-Ryu training. In fact Sensei Advincula starts both kata off with a Gung Fu bow so as not to be confused with Isshin-Ryu.
Most kata also have a primary technique they teach. This is also true of Katagwa 1 and 2. Katagwa 1 is primarily patterned off of Seisan kata from Isshin-Ryu Karate with some Hindiandi influence. This is a more basic kata. You learn to punch and palm heel your opponent. As you strike him you close the gap and strike again. Katagwa 1 primarily teaches you to hit and pursue your opponent. Another distinct bunkai in Katagwa 1 is catching a foot. In this kata you catch a kick to the mid-section with the ridge of the hand between the thumb and the wrist. When I first learned this kata, Sensei Advincula taught to catch the heel of the foot with the top of the hand, with fingers loose pointing down and away. By 2001 it had changed. Instead of the fingers pointing down and away, the fingers point down and in with the palm facing you. This is an example of slight modifications in Katagwa 1. The first technique was harder to perform and students often couldn't catch the foot. Sensei Advincula continued to test this technique and decided to change it. I teach both the first and second technique. The new technique taught in 2001 is easier to catch the foot but the first technique was the original. The point is that this kata is evolving. Slightly but steadily. It's important to teach the old and the new techniques of Katagwa. It's also important to explain the reasons for the change.
Katagwa 2 comes from Goju-ryu, Isshin-Ryu, Hindiandi Gung Fu and combat judo. Katagwa 2 teaches to step behind your opponent's leg and take him down. Katagwa 2 also uses the "Propeller technique" (predominantly found in Hindiandi and a little in Isshin-Ryu) The propeller technique was named by Sensei Advincula. (Propeller technique = left hand open middle block in/right hand open middle block out and vise versa). Katagwa 2's primary stance is the Isshin-Ryu Seisan stance with the hands open palms facing away, hands level with the shoulders. The elbows are one fist away from the rib cage. From this position the defender can execute all the moves in Katagwa. It looks very natural and it's also very deceptive. The reason it's deceptive is because this stance doesn't look like a stance. It looks like a person just trying to talk to an attacker. You're ready to execute and the attacker has no idea.
On one occasion, Sensei Advincula was returning from his first tour of duty on Okinawa in March of 1960. Sensei Advincula's port of demarcation was at the Treasure Island Navy Base, San Francisco, CA. Sensei Advincula, then a Marine Corps Corporal (E3), tried to break up two different groups of Marines who were fighting at the dock. One of the groups was the returning Marines from Okinawa who were on the same ship as Sensei Advincula. The second group was Marines who had just finished basic training and were going overseas. The group returning from Okinawa wore a Class "A" Jersey wool uniform while those going overseas were wearing civilian clothes. Because of this, it was easy to distinguish between each group. At Sensei Advincula's command to stop fighting, both groups stopped and began gathering into their two separate groups. In the group of Marines wearing civilian clothes, a large Marine, who latter was identified as starting the fight, came toward Sensei Advincula in a Shotokan type kamae and in a zenkutsu stance. He stated that he didn't like NCO's. Instead of telling the opponent he knew karate, which might further provoke the antagonist, Sensei Advincula raised his hands in front of him with the palms facing the belligerent aggressor and stated he wasn't looking for any trouble and just wanted to stop the fight. This only bolstered the ego of the belligerent who threw a reverse middle punch at Sensei Advincula's chest. Sensei Advincula countered and used the propeller technique and kicked his opponent, which knocked him to the ground. While slowly getting up from the ground and holding his groin, the attacker, as if in a tournament, gave Sensei a compliment saying 'good kick.' After getting up and regaining his senses, he again attempted to attack Sensei, but was constantly thwarted. The attacker eventually tired and left, unaware Sensei Advincula was using karate techniques. This experience influenced the basic kamae of Katagwa 2. This basic kamae in Katagwa 2 uses the natural raising of the hands with the palms facing toward the opponent.
Katagwa 2's movements and directions are based on the "Kenpo Gokui" with emphasis on the eight directions. Katagwa 2 also introduces students to Sensei Advincula's famous FLS. FLS stands for "funny little stance". This comes from the Seiunchin stance in Isshin-Ryu. Sensei Advincula uses a lower Seiunchin stance that supports tacking your opponent down but still allows you to quickly transition into Seisan stance to fight another opponent as in the kata Wansu. The Seiunchin and the Seisan stance both allow for the defender to fight multiple opponents in multiple directions. This particular aspect of the kata shows Sensei Advincula's emphasis on, and experience with fighting multiple attackers. Of special note, Sensei Advincula used his Hindiandi and Isshin-Ryu training as a defensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers. One of his primary tasks as a coach was to help teach the defensive lineman how to get past the offensive line as quickly as possible. Sensei Advincula practiced and tested his martial arts skills on these football players. There's a technique in the kata that comes from this experience. The techniques I'm referring to is, pushing your left knee into the outside of your opponent's right knee and pushing his upper torso left with the right palm. This technique pushes your opponent out of your way. Usually the opponent ends up on the ground. Sensei Advincula also uses his vast experience of personal self-defense situations he encountered throughout his military career as a United States Marine.
In 1995 I asked Sensei Advincula why he chose the moves he did when he created Katagwa 1 and 2. Sensei Advincula replied. "Because all the moves in Katagwa are combat tested, they work." Sensei Advincula, being in the Marine Corps and having served one full tour of duty and two partial tours in Vietnam, has had multiple opportunities to implement self-defense techniques. Sensei Advincula has used all the moves in Katagwa 1 and 2 in real situations. In fact, in 1961, while in Okinawa, Sensei Advincula used the choke found in Katagwa 2 (technique from Combat judo which he studied in 1946) so effectively the Okinawan authorities told Sensei Advincula to leave the Island and not return. Later, Sensei Advincula would re-enlist in the Marine Corps and civilian authorities could not stop his return.
Another example of Katagwa's continued evolution and development was in May 2001. Heather Zeigler, a student of Sensei Advincula's from the Oceanside Dojo, and I were at a seminar in New Jersey. Sensei Advincula was asked to do Katagwa 1 for the group. Heather and I both new the kata and were perplexed when Sensei Advincula asked Sensei Glen Wargo, the senior instructor, "Which version of Katagwa 1 do you want to do?" Heather and I only knew one version. We certainly had never heard of multiple versions. Come to find out, there are three versions of Katagwa 1 and only one version of Katagwa 2. It's interesting to note that there are three stars on the Isshin-Ryu Megami. One meaning of these three stars is the # 1. One as in "One Heart Style". Katagwa 1 has three versions, which equal one. I believe this is symbolic of Isshin-Ryu's influence on the kata. As I said earlier, both the kata are being slightly modified. What I want the reader to take away from this is that Sensei Advincula is teaching three different versions of Katagwa 1. All three versions use the same pattern, but differ in the types of middle blocks and strikes used. One version uses only punches and hard middle blocks. The other two versions use a combination of palm heel strikes, punches, and open and closed middle blocks. Students who learn this kata must be diligent to determine which version they are learning. The key to this story is that the environment exists in which two different students can learn Katagwa 1, but learn a different version of the kata. However, both these versions would be correct.
How could this environment be created? Sensei Advincula has often told me that Master Shimabuku changed and modified his kata over time. Unless you kept doing the kata with Master Shimabuku, you would miss the modifications. Sensei Advincula continued to go back to Okinawa to study in Master Shimabuku's dojo. Since I first learned Katagwa in 1995, I have seen Sensei Advincula make slight modifications to the kata. I started seeing the slight modifications and noticed that some students were only getting snap shots of the kata. This started to cause students to question each other and debate the correctness of these different Katagwa kata's. I have seen this in several states and find it similar to what happened to Isshin-Ryu after Master Shimabuku died. I confirmed with Sensei Advincula that this is what he's doing and that this is what Master Shimabuku did. So readers beware, these kata will continue to be modified as long as Sensei Advincula is alive. It's incumbent upon us as students to understand this kata and learn the modifications. Don't get me wrong. I understand students will always discuss bunkai and techniques. This is a good thing. But we in Isshin-Ryu and Isshinkai must do our very best to preserve the teachings of Sensei Advincula. We must learn from history. We must not allow controversy to surround this kata. We in Isshinkai can reduce this controversy by being aware of and understanding the beginning and background of this kata. It's our duty as respectful students.
Finally, Sensei Advincula created Isshinkai after Tokumura's Okinawan Isshinkai, to preserve the teachings of Master Shimabuku. Those of us who have come to follow Sensei Advincula were searching for the truth in Isshin-Ryu, and would eventually become members of Isshinkai. I have seen many different schools of thought on Isshin-Ryu even within Isshinkai. Katagwa must be beyond that. The common fabric that binds us together in Isshinkai is Katagwa. No matter what our upbringing was in Isshin-Ryu, Katagwa is Sensei Advincula's kata, and it should only be modified after the original version or versions are taught. This will preserve Sensei Advincula's teachings.