Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Lesson from Jion

Chomo Hanshiro

This morning I was thinking about what older kata performance may have looked like and then I remembered the article “An Outline of Kata Jion” by Chomo Hanshiro (b 1859 d 1945) from the 1938 “Karate-Do Taikan” of Nakasone Genwa. (Translated into English by Mario McKenna). Nakasone’s book contains actual photographs of Hanshiro performing many of the kata techniques, a detailed description of the kata movement and a section describing some of the kata movement’s application potential.

Hanshiro’s Jion includes many unique features such as containing defensive stances leaning away from the attack and more importantly all of the strikes are to the head.

Those strikes to the head are what made me think of Jion. Where most kata use striking to the center of the opponent’s body the fact Hanshiro’s Jion went to the head seems to make a statement about the more important target for Jion’s creator.

The current versions of Jion closest to Hanshiro’s description are those done by the Kyudokan.

Here are several you tube versions especially at different angles to more fully show the technique movement.

Kyudokan Jion

Kyudokan jion

Kyudokan Jion

Then to allow you to see how the kata changed in Japan you can look at the Japanese Karate Association (Shotokan) and Shito Ryu versions. Note how the strikes dropped to the center of the opponents body.

Old JKA Jion

Shito Ryu Jion

Of course those changes don’t make the newer versions less valuable, just ones with different application potential.

I like the idea that some of the older kata were to strike to the face. Then again all of the other strikes to the midsection of the body don’t preclude their use to the face either.

The most telling comment by Hanshiro Sensei comes at the end of his article.

“This concludes the basic explanation of the kata Jion. Budo is a living thing; naturally there are thousands of different applications and variations for each technique. However, for the sake of brevity I have limited my introduction of the kata Jion to a simple explanation of how to perform the kata and the meaning behind the technique it contains.”

It’s safe to say the elders of karate didn’t just have technique, but they had a true belief in the scope of their art too.

Note if you want to get the full article you need to get a copy of Mario McKenna’s translation. You can find information about it at Translations by Mario McKenna The book I’ve been using is “An Overview of Karate

This is the first English translation of Genwa Nakasone's 1938 Karate-do Taikan. It is one of the most comprehensive books published during the golden age of Karate-do. The book contains chapters of a veritable who's who of Karate-do luminaries including: Shiroma Shimpan, Hanashiro Chomo, Mabuni Kenwa, Otsuka Hironori, and Taira Shinken. The book is richly illustrated and goes into detail about Karate-do history, philosophy, techniques and kata.

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