Origins of the Pyong-Ahn Forms

The Pyang-Ahn series of forms originated with the Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate system. Known originally by the name Pinan, they were developed by the Okinawan master Yatsutsume Itosu, better known as Anko Itosu, for the Okinawan public school system. Because Itosu considered most kata (forms) too difficult for the public school curriculum, he developed five new forms and introduced them to students at the rate of one per year. The forms were developed from a pair of kata called Kusanku and Channan. The Channan form has been lost to history, while Kusanku is still practiced in some karate styles.

Itosu was one of Gichin Funakoshi’s instructors. Funakoshi incorporated the Pinan forms into his Shotokan karate system under the name Heian. The new name is a Japanese word meaning “peace of mind” or “peace and tranquillity.” The word was chosen to demonstrate a philosophy of being confident in one’s karate abilities. The thought was that if one mastered each of the five katas in the series, peace of mind would be gained.

The forms were most likely introduced to Korea during the Japanese occupation of that nation during the first half of the 20th century, a period when Japanese martial arts were very prominent among Korean practitioners. The name was changed to Pyang-Ahn, which is Korean for “peaceful and confident.” The series has since become a standard part of the Tang Soo Do style of Korean martial arts.

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