Kūsankū also called Kankū-dai, is an open hand karate kata that is studied by many practitioners of Okinawan, Japanese and Korean karate. In many karate styles, there are two versions of the kata: Kūsankū-shō and Kūsankū-dai. The name Kūsankū or Kōsōkun is used in Okinawan systems of karate, and refers to a person by the name of Kūsankū, a Chinese diplomat from Fukien who is believed to have traveled to Okinawa to teach his system of fighting. In Japanese systems of karate, the kata has been known as Kankū (translated as gazing heavenward, viewing the sky, or contemplating the sky) ever since it was renamed in the 1930s by Funakoshi Gichin.
Kūsankū is a cornerstone of many styles of karate. It is characterized by the use of flowing techniques that resemble those found in White Crane Kung Fu; it also has a wide variety of open-handed techniques. In Matsubayashi-ryu karate, the kata is known for its flying kick and its “cheating” stance, which robs the opponent of opportunities to attack by extending one leg along the ground and squatting as low as possible on the other (ura-gamae). One possible bunkai for this technique allows the practitioner to escape a bear-hug from behind by twisting and dropping out of their grasp. The hand techniques that accompany the stance block the head, while allowing for a strike to the groin, knee, or foot. Because of the complexity of its techniques, Kūsankū is the highest ranking and most complex kata in Matsubayashi-ryū, and is said to take more than ten years to master.
In Shotokan karate, Kankū-dai consists of 65 movements executed in about 90 seconds, and symbolizes attack and defense against eight adversaries. It is a major form of the kata; its equivalent minor form is called Kankū-shō. Kankū-dai was one of Gichin Funakoshi’s favorite kata and is a representative kata of the Shōtōkan system. The embusen (path of movement) of Kankū-shō is similar to that of Kankū-dai, but it begins differently. It is a compulsory Shōtōkan kata and of high technical merit. As a result of Anko Itosu’s efforts, the Heian kata contain sequences taken from Kankū-dai.
The following article (article & video embedded below) breaks down and demonstrates using video footage one particular section of the Kata, showing possible applications. Kanku-Dai Bunkai: Strikes into Neck Crank (video)
Kushanku / Kanku-Dai Bunkai: Strikes into Neck Crank (video)
The sequence begins by controlling the enemy’s arm and pushing it across. It is important to keep the enemy’s arm high (i.e. the karateka’s arm position should be similar to the kata) in order to open up one side and to prevent the enemy launching an effective strike with the other hand by making it difficult for them to turn inward. At the same time an open-hand strike is delivered to the enemy’s kidneys (or base of skull in the Shotokan version).
A kick is then delivered to the shin. While the kick is often higher in the kata, it is important to remember that in application low kicks are more effective. The kata then instructs us to strike the base of the enemy’s skull with the forearm and then pop the arm forward to add impact to a rising strike the face.
The chin and top of the head is then gripped as the body drives upward to aid the finishing neck crack. It should go without saying that this is a very dangerous technique and the neck should not be actually cranked in practise (notice how I let go). It’s also important to remember that trying to attack the neck like this is unlikely to be justifiable in anything but the most extreme of circumstances and is presented here solely for information purposes.