Friday, August 19, 2011

Tanpenshu – Untold Stories by Funakoshi Ginchin

Tanpenshu – Untold Stories by Funakoshi Ginchin

Compilation and Japanese to English Translation by Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy

I continue to be astounded that there is so little discussion of the early karate texts and their relevance to current training and instructor development. It is no doubt that these works, that are now available in English and the material they contain actually helps explain training I have experienced and in turn use with my students, are personally relevant to my studies. It is my strong belief more should try and take the same journey I am taking.

I don’t find books on Karate a simple proposition. Most frequently I spend years and years trying to understand their relevance, but that journey is proving worth the effort.

As I continue to find great value in actually reading the books I have acquired and working on what was written I return to my study of the pre 1940 karate literature with these comments on Tanpenshu – Untold Stories by Funakoshi Ginchin ( Compilation and Japanese to English Translation by Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy).

This work covers 15 articles/stories shared by Funakoshi Ginchin, sharing his experiences and knowledge studying the arts of Azato and Itosu and his lifetime of work on those arts. The work is much, much more than an explanation of Shotokan Karate.

I was astounded to find that the first article Okinawa no Bugi (Martial Arts Techniques of Okinawa) was a 3 part article that first appeared in Oknawa’s Ryukyu Shinpo in January of 1914. This would be about eight years before Funakoshi Ginchin traveled to Japan. That makes this article a description of Okinawan Karate about the time Karate instruction was now being made public. Funakoshi Sensei would have been in his 40’s and the description of karate by an established instructor is most telling.

From Part 2 Karate No Ryugi the section on Soshiki-Bunkai: (The Systematic Analysis of Techniques for each Dan) from page 17.

“Once you have learned technique thoroughly which are required for each Dan, you should analyze them. For instance; this movement belongs to this, that one belongs to that etc.”

“After completing this process, start training again using each theory. However, in early stages of training, just relax and focus on learning the order of each technique…”

So we see Funakoshi Sensei describing Dan training. Perhaps it’s more relevant to me because of my time with Sutrisno Tristan whose father taught him Shotokan from his time training in Japan in the 1930’s. For each of the five Dan’s in the Sutrisno family Shotokan system they study entirely different ‘bunkai’ (in the tradition of Shiroma Shimpan another Itosu student) for each kata. Not the way other Shotokan does it as I read, but it seems fully established I a tradition Funakoshi Sensei described in 1914.

From Part 3 Kororoe the section on Relationship Between Karate & Academic Study from page 18.

“The first purpose of training karate is to improve your mind. Physical purpose comes next…

.. It is not possible to become a great martial artist without an education. The serious karateka should study anatomy and physiology, grappling, swordsmanship, horsemanship, archery and strategic tactice, etc. Cross training & study must balance your training in order to master the way. The following works should be considered mandatory reading: Sun Zi’s & Wu Tsu’s books on tactical strategy. “Rikuto Sanryaku” and “Inaka Soshi’.”

Interesting an established Okinawan instructor acknowledges that more than the study of karate is required for fuller understanding for the serious student.

C.W. Nicole in “Moving Zen” did describe how some of his Shotokan Seniors had studied other arts such as Judo, but also described how they suggested his own Judo studies were holding back his Karate training. Whether this highlights a difference of Okinawan training to Japanese Shotokan development, or simply suggests that this was inappropriate for the level of training Nicole was at I can’t say, but it does suggest that the Okinawan’s were open to additional training possibilities.

Funakoshi Sensei is suggesting a wider range than just karate studies is required.

Also from part 3 on Fighting from page 19-20.

“From olden times there has been a valuable message passed on called “Karate ni sente nashi” (There’s no first strike in karate). It has been handed down to this day as an important education lesson for young learners. Without this guidance it’s possible that a contradiction may surface in functional application with things the way they are these days. Preemptive qi control is the more effective strategic deterrent in self-defense. However, if you cannot achieve this outcome right away, then you must seek to achieve the next stage of the confrontation. If and when these concepts are applied in karate, a defender can overcome his adversary by first receiving the attack and then countering. However, the exception to this … “ni sente nashi” theory is precluded when it’s a matter of life and death for out nation, or someone is about to harm or kill one’s parents, wife or children. In the case of street encounters, or even being surrounded by a group of hoodlums, there are many ways to use your skills but I had better not explain such details for young people here & now.”

I see this as part of the underlying education behind Mutsu’s techniques I discussed in an earlier blog post (see footnotes below). Qi control seems to me to be the ability to make the attacker back down without confrontation, and if not plan B or receiving the attack {but not getting struck] and then countering [and actually hitting first].

There is also a different interpretation to this passage. Funakoshi Sensei was an Okinawan but almost a decade later he would share his art in Japan, and there is no question he saw his role as a member of Japan at the same time. The section I’ve highlighted in red is the formal explanation Japan had to their attack on Pearl Harbor beginning WWII. Yes we can and do separate Karate from other thoughts but Funakoshi shows he was thinking about this principle as applied to his countries defense, in much the same way he considered it necessary to study strategy for combat, and Sun Zi’s (Sun Tzu) Art of War was much more than personal combat.

What this does suggest is we always remember the multi-dimensional nature of the seniors, not just that they were Karate-ka. IMO don’t separate true history from the aspects you wish to consider, if that is done you don’t really see the past.

There is much more to the article Okinawa no Bugi but I leave it to the reader to seek their own copy of Tanpanshu and read and learn yourself.

But most interesting is the closing to the article the End note to the series from page 20.

“ On a completely unrelated topic, I’m in the middle of studying bone & joint related exercises from a lying position. If I discover something important, I’ll be sure to let you know”.

Not just suggesting that one must study further Funakoshi Sensei, now talking to the martial public, shared his current study. How rare it is to find this. The only comparable lesson I read about a very senior Daito-ryu stylist in the Aikido Journal a decade or so talking about his current studies where he was focusing on a slight shift when his upper arm was grabbed to straighten the attacker’s elbow allowing his body to then press into their grabbing arm to lock and pass ‘damage’ into the joint.

So we can see what a mid 40’s Funakoshi thought about karate when describing it to the Okinawans.

Tanpanshu contains much, much more to consider but I would like to just select one other section form

Speaking about Karatedo published in July 1935 in Kaizo (Japanese magazine) on page 73.

“For me “Karate ni Sente Nashi” is the principle essence of karate-do. This observation determines that action necessitates response, and that if there is no attack, there’s no need for a defense. If victory is to be certain, then both stillness and movement, like the infinity of yin and yang, must e sensed if you had eyes in the back of your head. A sword cutting the air may be dull like lead, but the iron fists forged in th furnace of karate hold unbelievable killing power. Those who act without thinking, and fight without cause are themselves inviting death.”

” Only a person on the right path, and who’s mastered basic technique, is capable of functional spontaneity, the ability to move at will.”

If you have a copy take it down and really read it, then discuss it widely because Tanpanshu is a solid look at karate in many dimensions.

I will soon have some further comments.

I also wish to thank the McCarthy's, Patrick and Yukio for their continuing most valuable contributions to our martial studies.

The Isshin Concentration Blog posts concerning early books published on Karate

A Glimpse at Bubishi Escape Techniques

There is No First Strike in Karate – the Training

Itosu Anko – New Direction for Toudi

Itosu’S Reflections – The Game is Afoot Watson

Itosu’S Reflections – Watson look for the smallest details

Itosu’S Reflections – It is not BUNK..I say Watson!

Crane Takes Flight

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