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terça-feira, 9 de abril de 2019

The origin of Sanchin

Okinawa karate does not belong to the Budo culture. It is only to read carefully the writings of Miyagi, Mabuni and Funakoshi, that are dicumentos that preserve the old culture of Ryukyu. There are no principles of Budo there, but some of the ones Sun Tzu (Sunji) exposes in his work Art of War (Bin Fa) summarized in the Bubishi of Okinawa.

The first masters who migrated to Japan were part of a passive resistance to the domination of the island by the Japanese Empire. Ryukyu's martial culture was shaped in Taoism; the Busaganashi symbol - "Genbu" - which frames the Goju-ryu and the Go Kenki school, is a traditional Taoist idol venerated by the navigators of Fujian associated to constellation of the Great Bear, the Emperor of the Night. Miyagi, Mabuni, Funakoshi, Gokenki and others, followers of the Sino-Okinawan tradition, never accepted Japanese acculturation and discreetly rejected the doctrine of Budo. In Japan, karate had a deliberate intention of cultural appropriation, reconfiguring it in a more athletic form that became known as "Japanese karate". This was led by the first Japanese masters, who came from Butokukai, who adopted karate. Since then, there are today to karate: "Okinawa karate" and "Japanese karate."

Okinawa karate has as its older register of real origin a poorly organized collection of martial teachings and medical care in a popularly book known as "Bubishi". This work is apocryphal, probably composed by several authors at different times, and is based on Taoist, not Buddhist, philosophy. This manual belonged to a school in Fujian that was transferred for political reasons to Naha around 1828. All this doctrine is developed around the alchemical doctrine of Dan (the Universal Elixir) and the three Dantians known as Sanguan Santian ("Doctrine of the Three Portals") or simply Santian - "sanchin" in dialect uchinan.

Taoists were very concerned about health and longevity, and believed that this was due to an "elixir of life," and that it was possible to extract this energy from the universe through meditation and certain movements that would connect the mind to the cosmos, potencializing this energy in the body through certain chemicals. The Hsing-I expression had this meaning: "to extract by the mind the essence of things”, the foundation of Taoist alchemy. The essence to be extracted is Dan, the Elixir, which gives life, animation and movement to all things, the "philosophical mercury" of the Arab and European alchemists.

In Taoism it was taught that there were three centers of concentration of Dan in the body - the Dantian - species of batteries that redistribute Dan to the whole body. These Dan are: Xia (lower, vegetative, nursery and reproductive), Zong (middle, thymic, animic) and Shang (upper, coronary, transpersonal, astral). They correspond precisely to the vegetative, animal, and intellectual souls of Platonism. The Santian is energized through breathing, in fact, Taoist meditation is a way of using mind controlled breathing to pump cosmic energy into the Dantian. This was the meaning of the Sanchin = Santian form, an active meditation exercise, but today practiced within a statute completely contrary to the original teaching and purpose. Thus, instead of energizing the Dantian, the current practice of the Sanchin by the Goju-ryu sect exhausts them (which, in fact, is the opinion of TCM physicians), affecting global health in the long run.

This meaning of the Sanchin / Santian was well known to Chinese masters and ryukans in the 19th century, before it was appropriated by not initiated people in Chinese martial culture, who today literally translate Sanchin as "three battles" with equally laughable semantic attributions. Itosu sought to give the karate he created, a new mentality based on technique and ergonomic gains, depriving all Taoist philosophy of art he had created to discipline the restless teenagers of Okinawa. He was aware that he was in a new world, dominated by Western science and mechanization of society, on an island that had only recently come out of the feudal regime. Itosu sought to insert his creation in this new paradigm. The romantic nature man (revived as neurosis by Oyama, Nakamura, Yamaguchi and other solar heroes of the new age of the film media) was replaced by man-machine, cyborgs hauled by super-athletic technologies.

Sadly, the new masters, wanting to give a painting of tradition to karate, invented impossible connections and the result was the disaster of the current karate, divided into sects that ignore their real origins. This is very evident in the modern Goju-ryu, now a religious fundamentalist sect. The myth of the hero was incorporated into the Sanchin kata, with its incredible and frightening ibuki, epic muscle contractions, and the future dilation of the ascending aorta, which tragically ended the adventure of the nature man who believed in his supernatural energy.

Contrary to popular belief, kempo / karate was not meant to train warriors, but to keep the body and mind healthy. It was born from the observation of a 14th-century Chinese physician - Hua To - who recommended to the emperor to exercise the population, for he found a great timeless truth: "sedentariness is the mother of all diseases." The best way to engage in exercise motivationally is like dancing or drama, so imitating animal movements and how they fight has generated exercises that have become very popular and stimulated the creation of martial arts in China. In the more general context, this has become a culture of good health and physical disposition for work and for the defense of the property.

domingo, 25 de novembro de 2018

The origin of kata Ryufa

There is an erroneous information circulating on the Internet stating that Akamine learned Ryufa and Kusukun from his friend Seiken Shukomine. This is a serious mistake. Akamine stated that he learned Ryufa directly from its creator, Seitoku Higa, and this is recorded. The photo below shows an annotation made on November 15, 1962, during an examination at ABK. It is written there the following: "Execution of kata 'Ryufa' or 'Rufua' of Master Seitoku Higa - Bugeikan (movements of the serpent) Sergio Yanagisawa and Sadao Saito in the 1st row ...".

This information is also confirmed here.

Both Akamine and Shukomine learned Ryufa directly from Seitoku Higa, who at that time (~1940) was still a senior disciple of Kishimoto. For some reason this kata was discontinued at Bugeikan. Akamine's version is orignal, and Shukomine's, who also learned this kata from Seitoku Higa, revised it to bring it closer to the Passai, the kata that Seitoku would have used as a model for Ryufa. Today this kata is known as 'Passai' in the Gensei-ryu.

(See our post "Ryufa and the dragon hand", and Kusanku in the post about Takemura)

Unfortunately, Ryufa was diffused in some schools that originated from Akamine in a distorted form, since these practitioners did not learn it directly from the master, and the kata underwent several modifications by the hands of others. I realize that many practice a hard and strenuos kata, when it is a light and agile form (the kata imitates a serpent), besides some errors. Akamine extracted his kumite techniques from this kata. Ryufa is one of the most effective katas I know.

domingo, 23 de setembro de 2018

Prisca sapientia

Karate is not what you think. After karate ceased to be regional and internationalized as a sport, the teachings of oral tradition disappeared and were replaced by the myth of the solar hero. And karate became a neurosis. And now we see Marvel superheroes making stunning and hollywood "katas" in competitions, impressive choreographies, but they are just pantomimes. The secret energy of form is lost, and masters are turning choreographers. Competitions are mere spectacles of Broadways.

Kata is not what you think. It is not what it seems to be. Invisible to the eyes are the lines of force that guide the energy of form, it is not the body that creates form, it is energy, and energy has a purpose: it shapes itself into each type of scenario.

To the ancient masters, heaven, nature, and human were integrated into a single cosmos. The body was not what the anatomy books teach, but a pure manifestation of energy: the Cinnabar Field where Shang San Feng, the Emperor of the Night, came down and taught his martial dance swirling on one foot.

A kata was an alchemical caput mortuum, quintessence of dance of a master or an animal in a real combat, dissolved in retort mercury by the fire of our sulfur. This extraction was transferred and precipitated into a kata. The word for this process of spiritual extraction was Hsing-I, which means in the Taoist mystic "inner alchemy."

So it is not the "bunkai" - this tragic fashion that further destroys karate - which explains or creates a real kata. Bunkai is fallacy, fool's gold.

A kata is history, a moment extracted and stored in a small pill to be used at the right time. He only tells us: "use me in such and such a situation and my power only acts in two or three steps; if you use me correctly the Wa will be restored." Put another way, an algorithm that says: "Such a situation can be solved in 2 + 1 steps." If you think of "bunkai", you break the Wa, your mind becomes confused, and the kata is not realized. You should not think about kata, he guides you when you are in Cinnabar Field.

It is for this reason that the ancient katas - the true ones - are very short, only 2 + 1 actions. This can be clearly seen in the short versions of Unsu, Naifanchi, Sanchin, Wansu (Shimabukuro Taro), Sochin, Seisan (Hanashiro Chomo) and a few others that come from a very distant time. They are pure philosophical gold.

sexta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2018

Unsu: the minimax kata

Unsu is a very old kata. It is simple and short but very efficient to teach the practical principles of Naha kempo. Personally, I think it's much better to teach it to students after Sanchin because it gives them a real fighting skill. I think it's much better than the Gekisai, who to me are just kihon.

The version below was transmitted by Choyu Motobu (the "master in the shadows" of Miyagi) and still taught today in the old Goju / Naha-te schools. André Mucci, 5th dan, performs the kata.

Some Shikan-ryu (Akamine's Naha-te style) katas






quinta-feira, 31 de maio de 2018

Principle-Driven Skill Development In Traditional Martial Arts

Russ's book has a peculiar characteristic: it is unique. In fact, it is a reference for anyone who wants to penetrate the essence of karate and qualify for the teaching of this art, now almost forgotten by the new generations. Among other things, Russ redirected his experience in Karate and Chinese Martial Arts to teach the new generation the principles. But he did not seek to invent but to reveal the secrets tested and endorsed for centuries among the ancient founders. In this way, Russ Smith positions himself as a leader in the long chain of those who hold the Art on.

quarta-feira, 16 de maio de 2018

"Shikan-ryu" - The Akamine Karate

Among the masters of Seiichi "Shikan" Akamine we have Kanki Izumigawa, Higa Seiko (in the Izumigawa dojo), Seitoku Higa and Kanken Toyama (who awarded him the 8th dan by AJKF (All Japan Karate-do Federation). Akamine was an assistant to Izumigawa, but founded his own dojo (which was called "Shikan", name given by Izumigawa), in which Shukomine, his great friend, also taught. Along with Shukomine, Izumigawa and Toyama, Akamine gave demonstrations throughout Japan. He came to Brazil in 1957 at the invitation of the Okinawa Association of Brazil to teach his karate. 

Akamine called his style informally "Shikan-ryu," because he was not the Orthodox Goju-ryu, but a combination of effective techniques and Naha-te (Izumigawa/Higa lineage) and Shuri-te (Kishimoto/Higa Seitoku's lineage). His kumite system used open hands and nekoashi in quick, elusive attacks. Today, followers of Akamine changed his style by Orthodox Goju-ryu, and I believe we are (Shoreijikan) the only ones who follow the original system, as a legacy of the former ABK (Brazilian Karate Association) during the Akamine period (1958-1964). 

I am the second generation and was taught in the Shikan's system by Moritoshi Nakaema, Iwao Yokote, Tsuniyoshi Tanaka, Nelson dos Santos, all Akamine top disciples who integrated the first generation. 1957-1964 (I started in 1964). At that time, Akamine taught the kata that he found the most important, besides Sanchin: Seipai, Ryufa, Azato-no-Kusukun. As part of the Goju-ryu, he taught Sanchin, Gekisai Ichi and Ni, Naifanchi, Saifa, Seionchin, Seipai and Ryufa to the shodan level (all other katas were taught above this level). He had his own version of Tensho. Akamine was also a kobudo master and taught this art to few people, of whom I knew only the great masters Yoshiide Shinzato and Nelson dos Santos (who passed to me the Shikan-ryu bo-jutsu), both already deceased.