Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Question of Tessen Kata


There are a great many video of individuals doing Tessen kata, and impressive looking forms at that, The thing is I doubt the Tessen was an Okinawan weapon, rather a Japanese weapon.

First let us look at one of those forms,

A version of the Shuri Ryu form Go Pei Sho using the fan.


Certainly looks impressive. Nor would I imply this is easy to do with skill.

I believe however the fan being used is more a heavy weight Chinese version of a fan.


And in the Chinese systems there are a variety of different weighted versions. Those for modern WuShu competition are extremely light to allow faster technique to be pleasing for the eye.


A more tradition Chinese use of the fan might look like this form.

Shaolin Steel Fan Demo



Notice the fan is used more with the motion of his form for effectiveness, where the Okinawan fan form he stops and flips the fans open and closed often, more for visual effect than serious fan use, IMO.


From my understanding on the Japanese battle field it was carried by the more senior combatants, who were probably running the battles. There was likely more than one type, but those used were to be used against swords trying to slice their heads off, They were much more durable, some even solid fans used as iron shields in fan shape, IMO


Of course is is also interesting that I cannot locate anyone from traditional styles using the Tessen either. In that I stand open to being corrected.


In all likelihood looking more like the above.


Over time change happens, but the reason change occurs is important to understand. Change just for dexterity exercise or for exciting completion is not bad, just different. But change does not equate to the original was something was used.


The more time moves forward the more things change.


Victor Smith said...

Tory Ellarson has shared a great amount of information about fans in Okinawa, Japan and China which makes it easier to realize what was being used as fans historically.
He has agreed to share that information here, we all gain from this knowledge.

Tory Ellarson It's an interesting question that's been brought up here a few times.
So far no one has mentioned there being any extant traditional fan sets being taught in any previous discussions on the subject.

All I can add is that fans were standard part of a gentleman's attire in Okinawa just like anywhere else in East Asia and the idea of using a fan as an implement of self defense was widespread across East Asia as was the creation of fans made to double as defensive items was also widespread across East Asia.

So we can guess that the idea was well known in Okinawa since we know it was well known everywhere else and like everywhere else some people probably owned fans intentionally reinforced as to be able to double as self defense items if needed.

Victor Donald Smith I do not doubt the fans were carried or used, I just don't believe they were used as shown in the forms of today, more creative flights of fancy. The use of the fan in the older version of 'kung fu' demonstrated their use more in tune with the bodies motions. But times change 'kung fu' became competition Wushu, which does not equate to how they were originally used. How they were originally trained, assuming their use was covered by training, IMO, has yet to be established.

Victor Smith said...

Tory Ellarson Well I think it's obvious that neither the first form nor the second supposedly traditional Chinese set have relation with how fans were used in either respective country or any other for that matter.

The western Kempo set done with a fan doesn't really need commentary, the Chinese set is mostly a bunch of basic Jian techniques and a few generic Shaolin looking poses tossed in.
Basically one is a modern western kempo hand set done with fans and the other is very basic straight sword set done with a fan.

Neither of them really has much purpose or practical value and the Chinese set shouldn't be used as an example of how the fan was used in Chinese martial arts any more than the kempo set for how it would be used in Okinawan martial arts.

The fan was one of the few things an Okinawan gentleman would always have on them.
The use of fans differs little from the use of other short stick like objects. Given that you and other people have no problem with these being taught in Okinawan martial arts it's strange to have a problem with the one short stick like object that would actually be carried by all upper class Okinawans. Especially when that short stick like object is also something commonly used as a weapon in every East Asian culture and also commonly manufactured specifically for said purpose.

So no there are no forms and it's questionable if there if there are even any fan specific methods taught in Okinawa that actually predate the 20th century.

But despite the lack of forms I tend to think the likelihood of fans actually being taught in at least some lineages in Okinawa in the 19th century or before are a lot higher than a lot of the highly questionable borderline nonsense weapons that are accepted as traditional and are widely taught in Kobudo schools in Okinawa today.

There aren't really a whole lot of fan forms passed down in China either, sure they exist and in a decent variety from all across China. But given the range of practices and cultures and sheer number of styles practiced in China there aren't really a whole lot of them.
Most of the traditional teachings regarding the use as a fan that are passed in Chinese and Japanese martial arts are simply direct methods of application with out any solo performance set accompanying them.

Then again much of the extant older Chinese fan forms are either based on empty hand methods of the school often with some influence from traditional performance arts.
Unlike something like swords or spears, fans don't really need special methods of handling and use.

Victor Smith said...

Tory Ellarson All that aside what I just said about their use in Okinawa is clearly my own supposition.

As I stated it is just what I find likely, to be more clear I find it very likely, almost certain that the concept of using fans as a weapon was known. Following that I find it highly likely that at least some lineages had some basic instruction in using them as a weapon of personal defense.

This doesn't mean they actually taught fan kata and I wouldn't say it is likely or unlikely that they did.

Everything I just stated is my own inferences based on my own knowledge of the place of fans in Okinawan culture and their place and use as a weapon as well as the types of methods taught with them in the countries neighboring Okinawa.

You are 100% correct that we don't actually know and unfortunately we have no real evidence to go by regarding the possible uses of fans as weapons in Okinawa.

I should also say that I'm not trying to argue with you. I think it's great that you pointed this out.

Unfortunately there is a whole lot in Okinawan Kobudo that has no evidence or has clear evidence of being modern creations but is simply accepted without thought.