August 31 marks the 52nd anniversary of the passing of Kyoda Juhatsu sensei. On that day I will keep Kyoda sensei in my thoughts as I practice the kata he passed on through Kanzaki sensei and now Ikeda sensei.
From time to time Kanzaki sensei would recollect to me about his time learning Tou’on-ryu from Kyoda Juhatsu in the 1950s and 1960s. He shared some great stories, but often he would tell me how much of an influence Higaonna Kanryo had on Kyoda. I don’t doubt this as there are many anecdotes and much circumstantial evidence to support this. One only has to look at the name of Kyoda’s style Tou’on-ryu [東恩流] which uses the first two kanji of Kanryo’s last name, Higaonna [東恩納]. However, I think there is more going on in that name than meets the eye.
Nepai was once an obscure kata in the Karate world but over the decades it has become common-place. I find the increase in the number of Nepai Karate kata that you can view on the internet baffling but the main reason I think this was is because Nepai was retained by very few Okinawa Karate styles. The only two that I am aware of were Mabuni Kenwa’s Shito-ryu and Kyoda Juhatsu’s Tou’on-ryu. As the story goes both men learned it from Go Kenki during their involvement in the Karate Study Group. Go Kenki, as we all know, was the Chinese tea merchant and supposed crane boxer who immigrated to Okinawa at the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps other students involved with the Karate Study Group may have been familiar with it, but as far as I know they never passed it down.