Sunday, December 4, 2011

Understanding Shiroma Shimpan

As I keep working my way through my copy of Nakasone Genwa’s “Karate-do Taikan” I find myself resolving an interesting mystery that I’ve been living through for over 30 years, namely what can we understand from karate’s past about the older way of the hand. All of the books published in the 1930’s are sharing material that had been very closely held about what karate was.

Among my most interesting discovery is a link between the kata ‘Aragaki no Sochin’ of Aragaki Isumu which may be found on YouTube, to the kata ‘Aragaki no Sochin’ described by Mabuni Kenwa in Nakasone’s book and finally the use of karate techniques described by Shiroma Shimpan also in Nakasone’s book.

A number of years ago when I first discovered Aragaki Isumu’s ‘Aragaki no Sochin’ I was struck by the power of his technique and the unique movements he showed. Since that day I’ve found 4 more performances of him showing that kata and uniquely each is different from each other. Logically there may just be multiple versions of the kata, or it may be that he does not share the complete kata in public (a well known Okinawan tradition). Be that as it may, together they provide an interesting insight into a kata performance.

When I first saw it I tried relating it to the Mabuni Kenwa ‘Aragaki no Sochin’ in my copy of Nakasone’s book. I couldn’t read the Japanese but it was apparent that the Mabuni version was similar but many of Aragaki Isumu’s movements were not part of the form. Today the version of Mabuni’s Shito Ryu students remains faithful to Mabuni’s documented version. Finally when Mario McKenna’s translation of Nakasone’s book became available I could read the kata description and the bunkai of it’s movements which he shared. A very good kata but different in many senses.

As to which ‘Aragaki no Sochin’ came first or was the more authentic I have no insight or interest. Both are complete. But it was finally from Shiroma Shimpan use of karate techniques explained in Nakasone’s book, that I have been able to piece together a logical framework explaining the kata. [Note: logic does not mean a ‘real’ relationship, just a relationship that works in understanding karate’s past, IMO.]

One of the underlying principles I define from Shiroma Shimpan was that karate technique could contain extra ‘unseen’ techniques such as following a ‘block’ with a strike from the same hand. I’ve been using similar principles from the teaching of one of my friends Ernest Rothrock for decades and all of my students do too. Shiroma just added an expanded vocabulary of techniques for use to draw on. Nor do I believe he shared everything he knew, but enough to make a serious effort in understanding.

What I’ve been able to piece together was similar techniques are in the Sochin of Aragaki Isumu’s performance. Logically the Mabuni style Sochin might be the ‘base’ form and the Aragaki Isumu Sochin might be the ‘expanded’ form. Finally I realized that the Aragaki performance was close to the techniques of Ernest Rothrock’s ‘Jing-do’ studies. Then the Aragaki performance may be a further example of Shiroma’s principles. One that you can watch in action.

The Aragaki technique application potential are not better than Mabuni’s application. Just different, yet, the potential in understanding may be significant.

There is much more taking place in Aragaki Isumu’s performance than the additional techniques, but that is an other story.

1 comment:

Kyudokan New England said...

Hello Victor,

Sorry for my tardy response and I know that I have a promise that I must fulfill for you and I will soon get it to you.

As far as the Aragaki Sochin we see the ever present double hip twist (ude or koshi) that is ever present in Yuchoku Higa's Kyudokan lineage from Chosin Chibana. The Kyudokan is now in the capable hands of Minoru Higa, nephew of Jintatsu & Yuchoku

Balves Sensei, now living in Canada by way of Uraguay, studied with the Jintatsu Higa and the Higa brothers (Oscar & Benito) that established a huge following of Kyudokan Shorin ryu practitioners. The kata is done a bit slower and the angle that it was filmed at allows for a better view of the opposite side of the kata.

Kyudokan Sochin

As to the Shito ryu version, as you said it is ''just different''. The version IMHO has been modified a bit for modern day tournament performances.