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Garry Lever has posted an excellent discussion on the roots of Goju Ryu over at the Goju Kenkyukai blog. This is one of the more sober looks at the history of any karate group out there. Karate in general suffers from the effects of unnecessary myth-making and mysticism; as a result the histories of different practices and individuals are badly garbled and left open to some pretty silly stuff. I think Garry hits this one head on- forget trying to pin down direct sources and secret transmissions; it’s more likely that Goju Ryu has it’s roots with a bunch of guys who knew a few things about fighting skills, getting together in the park to train. Hmmm…now why does that seem so familiar?
Mario McKenna has posted some very salient observations on the growing trend of slapping dubious historical connections and illustrious names together in order to sell a place/school as “the” origin of this type of karate or that. Give it a look for a very clear-headed perspective on the recent effort to increase tourism in Fuzhou by hyping it up as the birthplace of Goju Ryu.
When people start comparing karate styles, there is often some confusion about the function of kiba dachi (referred to as the “horse stance”) and shiko dachi (open legged stance). These comparisons often overlook function as a distinguishing factor and focus more on aesthetic details, or rehash arbitrary stylistic dogma. Although the two look somewhat similar, the postures lend themselves to different applications and contexts of usage.
Generally speaking, kiba dachi is found in the Shorin family of kata. The Naihanchi series make extensive use of it. In appearance, it looks much like a high squat position: legs straddled a bit wider than shoulder length, toes facing forward, knees bent, butt dropped behind the ankles as opposed to in front, torso erect, slight posterior pelvic rotation. The depth and length of the stance varies from group to group, but there’s no point in making it so low and wide that your lower back hyper-extends (the dreaded “shelf butt”), or your knees collapse inward. Some sources, such as Motobu Choki, advise that twisting the hips towards one leg or another in this kiba dachi forms the fundamental stance for free-engagements.
At the end of this summer’s TKRI/Seijinkai Gasshuku, Robert Miller charged me with a mission: to figure out a way to make a kongoken out of parts found at the hardware store and document the process. I’ve made all sorts of training equipment for myself and for the dojo out of a mixture of concrete, duct tape, logs and items scored through dumpster diving, so making a kongoken seemed like the next logical project. Our dojo will definitely benefit from having one around, but Bob’s ulterior motive was to provide Chopper (his student, my teacher) with a conditioning tool that he could use safely following an upcoming knee surgery.
By now most of our readers know that TKRI is affiliated with Harry Cook’s Seijinkai Karate-do Association. Below is a link to an interview with Harry that Shaun Banfield conducted and published on the Shotokan Way e-magazine.
SB) Of course, you also became an English teacher in Japan. Did you get time to train at many of the major dojos, and how would you describe training in the ‘heartland’?
(HC) My plan originally was to train at the JKA, but Terry O’Neill told me to go and see Higaonna. Once I had seen him I didn’t feel the need to bother with any of the others. I did train at Kanazawa sensei’s dojo every now and then but to be honest they were doing basically the same things I had been doing in the UK. I dabbled with a bit of sword and jo but the bulk of my training was at the Yoyogi Shurenkai dojo of Higaonna sensei. In most dojos training physically demanding, and some instructors are without any doubt racist bullies; they take advantage of foreign students and batter them while claiming they are teaching them budo. It is nonsense. I stress that this was a minority. Higaonna sensei was never like that; we got bashed yes, but everyone did, it was a natural part of the training.
Click here to read the rest.
Senior Goju Ryu exponent An’ichi Miyagi sensi passed away on Monday April 27th. Miyagi sensei was one of Chojun Miyagi’s last and most notable students. As a teacher he produced a legacy that includes Goju Ryu maestro Morio Higaonna. Our sympathies go to his family and students.
Friday June 26, Saturday June 27, and Sunday June 28, 2009
Ferrum Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Three days of training and fellowship at the scenic and secluded mountainside Kitterman Farm and TKRI-VA headquarters in Ferrum, VA
For more information and a schedule of events for the weekend click here.