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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?

Check it out there

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.

Nahate Heresy

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.

Kiba dachi

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.

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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.

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My posting of the comparative Goju/Uechi versions of the Seisan kata has prompted the following comment:

“The Seisan version you do is the version Higaonna Morio started teaching in 1977 after he left the Jundokan and hooked up with Aniichi Miyagi. It’s not the Seisan done by the Jundokan (or Higaonna Morio before 1977) Check versions done by Miyazato on Youtube.”

For the sake of comparison, let’s do exactly that!  Below are several clips showing Miyazato in the 1980’s, Miyagi in 2003, and Higaonna in 1975 and again in the 1990’s,  performing the Seisan kata.  If, as the commenter stated, Higaonna changed the kata after leaving the Jundokan in 1977, there should be an appreciable difference between his 1975 version and the more recent one.  Likewise, there should be a difference between Miyagi’s version and Miyazato’s. If you can spot an appreciable difference (beyond age-related factors) among these  renderings or time periods, please share!

Here is Miyazato Eiichi of the Jundokan in 1983:

Morio Higaonna in 1975  (Seisan begins at 1:04):

Morio Higaonna in the 1990’s:

Morio Higaonna’s teacher, An’ichi Miyagi in 2003:

Today I ran across a very useful clip in which the Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu versions of the Seisan kata are performed side by side, sequence by sequence:

The Seisan kata has become a major preoccupation of my practice in the last two years. It exists in practically every major school of Okinawan and Japanese karate, and may well be among the oldest of the extant kata. When I learned the Goju version, I didn’t see much resemblance to the Hangetsu form that I was familiar with; but after working through some application scenarios the commonalities began to stand out like beacons. This led me to learn the Uechi version of the kata for further comparison. I find that the Goju and Uechi versions complement each other extremely well, and the Hangetsu version seems to reflect a composite of the Naha versions. Harry Cook describes the dominant theme of the kata as “take no prisoners,” and I have to agree: circular deflections, mangling of windpipes, uppercuts, aggressive throws and stomping of knees and ankles can be mapped all over the place. If you are familiar with one version, give the others a look and see where they lead you.

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Ryuei-ryu Seisan

Goju-ryu Seisan

Uechi-ryu Seisan

Shito-ryu Seisan

Shotokan Hangetsu

Wado-ryu Seisan

Seibukan Seisan

Isshin-ryu Seisan

Kyudokan Shorin-ryu

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.

sensei_anichi

An interview with Morio Higaonna about his teacher is available here.          More information about An’ichi Miyagi sensei is available here.

When?
Friday June 26, Saturday June 27, and Sunday June 28, 2009

Where?
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

Who?
Instruction by Harry Cook (Seijinkai/ISOK), Elmar Schmeisser (ISOK), and yours truly (TKRI/ Seijinkai).

With supplemental instruction provided by:
David Campbell–TKRI-VA Chief Instructor
Randy Simpson–Ferrum College Chief Instructor

Participation is not limited to TKRI,  Seijinkai, or ISOK affiliates.
Register today (all the cool kids will be there).

For more information and a schedule of events for the weekend click here.


"Try to see yourself as you truly are and try to adopt what is meritorious in the work of others. As a karateka you will of course often watch others practice. When you do and you see strong points in the performance of others, try to incorporate them into your own technique. At the same time, if the trainee you are watching seems to be doing less than his best ask yourself whether you too may not be failing to practice with diligence. Each of us has good qualities and bad; the wise man seeks to emulate the good he perceives in others and avoid the bad."
Funakoshi Gichin

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