All genuine Chinese gongfu (family) lineages possess a TCM (folk) prescription for 'Iron Fighting Wine'! These pages written in Medical Chinese ideograms are highly valued and treasured - even though they possess a number of different (but related) names - all variants of theme! As we value Traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu - this bottle is heading to a very good and esteemed Instructor of that martial art living in the UK! Brewing and bottling Dit Da Jow is a family affair that involves an element of profound spirituality.
The above is a video on Bili Bili designed for Goju Ryu practitioners in China (or Chinese language speakers around the world). Essentially, Chinese language subtitles have been affixed - with Okinawan-Japanese concepts (cultural interpretations) translated into Chinese philosophical terms. This was uploaded on September 7th, 2022 - but I have not encountered it before. The direction of breathing is explained (stating there are two methods) - with 'kime' (決め) emphasised. This is written as '决定' (Jue Ding) in the Chinese language.
决 (決) = jue2 (ki) - certainty, dredge and kill
定 (め) = ding4 (me) - steady, fix and stabilise
Interestingly, within Buddhist philosophy the Chinese ideogram '覺' is also catalogued (within modern Pinyin) as 'jue2' - and is related in structure to '决' (jue2) which is used above in 'kime'. This means the ideograms share a common root and depicts a related meaning. Whereas '决' (jue2) suggests a mind-enforced control over the body - '覺' (jue2) refers to the achievement of 'enlightenment' through the mind 'waking-up' - a state achieved only through following the utmost disciplined paths of bodily control. Perhaps the two variants of these ideograms are related. I would suggest this is the case on the grounds that '定' (ding4) - the second ideogram used within 'kime' - is also used to translate the Sanskrit term 'Samadhi' - which refers to a method of 'fixing' the awareness of the mind in one place (preventing the surface mind from moving about without control) - and thereby achieving a permanent 'stillness' of mind (which allows for the perception of 'emptiness'). Again, the physical body is subject to the utmost discipline (through the Precepts as taught in the Vinaya Discipline).
The breathing is 'Daoist' in nature and involves a basic filling-up of the dantian with qi (inward breath into the lowest area of the pelvic girdle) - which is then redistributed throughout all the regions of the body (through the outward breath). The retained tension 'pulls' the qi into the dantian - and the maintained muscle tension 'extracts' the accumulated qi into the extremities (both breaths meditated by the awareness of the mind). The 'advanced' breathing is only hinted at and involves the microcosmic circulation of the qi. Qi is breathed into the dantian - which triggers the flow of qi up the Governing Vessel (which runs through the spinal column) and over the top of the head to the upper palate of the mouth. The tongue touches the upper palate with completes the circuit between the Governing Vessel and the Conception Vessel - which starts in the tongue, flows down the front of the body and through the grown and around to the perineum - where the Governing Vessel begins. The Sanchin breathing strengthens and maintains this Daoist breathing.
This Japanese technique is written using two Chinese and one Japanese ideogram - with all three ideograms being routinely used in the Japanese written language - and two ideograms ('1' and '2') being used in the Chinese written language:
腰 - Japanese - Koshi (Chinese: yao1) = waist, hips and midsection
投 - Japanese - Na (Chinese: tou2) = throw, blend, redirect and reject
げ - Japanese - Ge = down, low, depth and ground
Interestingly, with regards the ideogram '腰' (Koshi) - both the Japanese and Chinese language dictionaries give an identical (and exact) physical location. Therefore, 'Koshi' represents the 'waist' (or the anatomical 'space' between the hips) situated toward the front of the body - whilst the back of the body corresponds 'Koshi' to the 'small of the back' or the 'lumbar' region. Although neither dictionary mentions the centre of gravity of the body - or the 'lower dantian' (both situated three-inches below the naval) it seems clear that such a 'special' area is implied. I think this assumption receives support as 'Koshi' is also used to refer to the 'kidney' area - perhaps slightly higher than the lumbar a 'cold' area significant within traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine.
Although 腰 (yao1) is prevalent within Chinese martial arts (used to counter an opponent through penetrating their technique, blending with it and redirecting it) - 'Koshinage (腰投げ)' is a 'distinct' Japanese physical interpretation not found in China. When the Chinese government took Sō Dōshin (宗道臣) [1911-1980] to a Japanese Court in the early 1970s (an event covered in one of Donn F. Draeger's books on 'Modern Budo') - part of the evidence accepted by this Court that his style of 'Shorinji Kempo' ('Shaolin Gongfu') was NOT of Chinese origin - is that nearly all of its techniques include 'Koshinage' (the BBC chose to omit this Court verdict in its 1980 'Way of Warrior' series). Cooperation of this type is a Japanese cultural development - and is not found in China's traditional arts - even though the concept is present (and used in a different manner). However, I would note that the use of squat-kicks is found in Chinese arts and are used in exactly the same manner as this documentary suggests - although our Hakka style places a great deal on toughening the legs to take continuous impact (similar to Muay Thai fighters in Thailand) and keep effectively moving. The only Karate-Do style I have encountered that has squat-kicks is Goju Ryu.
Whilst listening to the (1967) Jimi Hendrix album entitled 'Fire' - I thought I would make a copy of two Goju Ryu Karate-Ka displaying what is called 'Online Kata'! This involves an elaborately designed Kata being disassembled and applied in a straightforward 'one-on-one' self-defence situation. Generally speaking, Kata are multi-dimensional entities designed as a militarised response to multiple attackers coming in from all different directions. Online Kata condenses this down to just a single defender and a single attacker - with both changing roles when the sequence is completed. As can be seen, the blows are delivered with full-power - whilst safety is assured by each blowing landing an inch or two before the intended target area. The arms and legs are making full-contact with regards to 'blocking'. This is pure 'bone-on-bone' full-power conditioning. If the blows landed - then damage would certainly arise - although at this level the body-conditioning is of such a high standard that it would be limited only to the robust surface structures. Those who have mastered the 'internal' - are able to 'pierce' the conditioned outer areas (like a sharp metal knitting-needle) - so that a concentrated force is directed straight into the central nervous system and the neural pathway. The only way to counter this high level of power is to a) experience it within a strictly controlled environment, and b) learn to accept this incoming force and pass it 'through' the body' so that it does not congregate in the central nervous system. In the above example, this is probably happening in the limbs of the practitioners themselves - with the bones being made strong through a combined and integrated 'external' and 'internal' interaction. On a practical level, within a self-defence situation it is preferrable to harness the erratic technique of the aggressor and channel it into a more conducive frequency of aggression - a frequency that can be easily controlled, diverted and negated.
These ideograms are written in Old Chinese Script - but pronounced using Japanese and Okinawan language.
[square] brackets = Chinese pronunciations
(round) brackets = Japanese-Okinawan pronunciations
a) 補 (Ho) = [bu3] - increase, aid, repair, supplement, mend, compensate and nourish
b) 助 (Jo) = [zhu4] - help, support, augment and assist
c) 運 (Un) = [yun4] - transport, carry, utilise, revolve, buoyancy and fate
d) 動 (Do) = [dong4] - move, act, alter, momentum and touch
It seems that the four ideograms are deployed using two couplets:
1) 補助 (Hojo) = supplement and auxiliary [Buzhu]
2) 運動 (Undo) = sporting and competitive vigorous movement [Yundong]
The following is a contemporary webpage from Taiwan (auto-translated into 'English' entitled '法規內容-教育部運動發展基金補助各級學校運動團隊作業要點') continuously uses the term '補助運動' (Hojo Undo - Buzhu Yundong) - which is used exclusively to refer to 'supplementary sporting exercises':
Regulations (Content) - Ministry of Education - Sports Development Fund - Subsidies for Main School Team Sports - At All Levels
The inclusion of the terms 'buoyancy', 'touch', 'transport', 'momentum' and 'fate' - all suggest an 'internal' management of the 'external' (physical) body (through the attainment of an 'effortless momentum'). Therefore, although this term is common-place in China - the mastery it refers to is certainly not common-place. On the one-hand, a man or woman might train to win a Gold Medal or World Title - but these achievements (as important as they are for the 'Nation') only fall inside the 'external' component of this term. On the other-hand, Karate-Do Styles such as Goju Ryu exemplify the principle of the 'internal' superseding the 'external' - even though a lifetime must be spent subsumed in the 'external' whilst attempting to understand this relationship and transition into the infinitely powerful 'internal' position. Of course, ultimately, both the 'external' and the 'internal' integrate into a perfect, functioning 'whole' - as can be seen during a perfect execution of a Kata.
Wikipedia is a wealth of sagely advice – much of it misleading, incomplete and out of context. For instance, the author dealing with the ‘Tai Sabaki’ page - states that the usual interpretation of Tai Sabali in the West which involving ‘evasion’ is ‘wrong’. However, if an individual can ‘read’ Chinese and/or Japanese ideograms – it is obvious that whatever this concept is - ‘evasion’ forms a central aspect of it. The author in question does not fully comprehend the entire concept of Tai Sabaki and is attempting to join the two ends of an idea together whilst omitting a (vast) theoretical centre-ground!
1) 体 (Tai) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘體’ (ti3) = ‘body’
This is related to a body (comprised of - and structured by - its internal bone structure) which is augmented in the physical world through musical rituals (involving drumming) and the adornment of jade of jewellery. The body is enhanced by the placement and alignment of its inner structure and the means (rituals) through which this body traverses the outer world. That which is ‘detrimental’ is avoided and that which is ‘nourishing’ is embraced. There is an implication in the Japanese language that ‘体’ (Tai) refers primarily to the trunk and the abdomen – and only secondarily to the limbs. It is the ‘centre’ of the body which has priority over the ‘periphery’ of the body.
2) 捌 (Saba) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘捌’ (ba1) = Disentangle
This ideogram - (in its Chinese interpretation) can mean ‘eight’ - an alternative form of ‘八’ (ba1). A ‘hand’ which expertly uses a ‘knife’ - cuts through the flesh and bones of a fish so that it is separated into ‘eight’ clean parts (probably a generic term meaning ‘many’). There is also the central idea of ‘disentanglement’ - so that no unnecessary error (or resistance) is met. This is because ‘entanglement’ means ‘hindrance’ - and the skill referred to here involves the ‘avoidance’ of such self-imposed difficulty. Evading ‘resistance’ is the correct path that leads to such a skill. The blade of the knife skilfully feels its way around (and along) the natural contours of the bones – and does NOT cut directly (at right-angles) into the bone-structure at any time. There is a ‘going with’ rather than a ‘going against’. This ideogram is the central element of this Karate-Do principle - and probably means slightly different things within the various styles which make use of it.
3) き(Ki) - Japanese Equivalent of Chinese ideogram ‘幾’ (ji3) = Skill
There is an indication of ‘quantity’, ‘measurement’ and ‘refinement’ within Japanese language dictionaries. The suggestion is that the correct manipulation of exact amounts is a great skill which has to be mastered in any successful avenue of life. This idea spans both the material and the spiritual world! An individual can carefully follow the established criterion laid down by those who have gone before – or if such an individual possesses the correct (and right) amounts of psychological insight and physical strength – then they might set out on their own path and become an inspiration for those who are to come!
When taken as an integrated whole – the martial principle of Tai Sabaki (体捌き) suggests that the physical body (its central core and not just its periphery) is skilfully used (manipulated) in a combat situation so that there is no direct conflict between the defender deploying this technique - and an attacker ignoring this technique. Tai Sabaki (体捌き) is NOT just the skilful movement of the arms and legs in ‘protection’ of the central core (the torso). Tai Sabaki (体捌き) is a ‘centre-out’ technique that requires the core and periphery to work in concord. Strength does not clash with strength. The ability to assertively ‘give-way' is the key to this technique. Indeed, when the timing is perfect - ‘giving-way’ becomes far stronger than the momentary strength associated with a dramatic (but short-lived) show of strength! Giving-way, at its highest manifestation, not only ‘absorbs’ and ‘nullifies’ ALL incoming power – but when performed correctly, generates the basis for ‘greater’ power to be produced that is not reliant upon linear (muscular) strength – but rather the ‘circular’ movement associated with the structures of the bones and joints! The bodyweight ‘drops’ into the ground through the shaft of the (aligned) bones and rebounds upwards through the centre of the bone-marrow – producing a seemingly endless supply of ‘muscle-free’ power! As this power is greater than that associated with the muscular ‘tension’ of thuggery – the defender occupies a unique time-space frequency within which the attacker cannot access (or penetrate) regardless of the willpower exhibited. The linear attacks cannot land on an object continuously moving in perfectly timed circles. Once such a level of mastery is achieved – the defender can decide the level damage perpetuated upon the attacker depending upon circumstance. Should the body of the attacker be temporarily or permanently disabled? Should the body of an attacker be only (gently) nullified as if in play? Someone who has mastered Tai Sabaki (体捌き) possesses all these choices. This is why the Wado Ryu Style of Karate-Do posits the highest ideal of a defender possessing the ability to prevent damage to both their own body AND the body of the opponent! An ideal of the highest nobility!
Dear Tony (Sensei)
Exactly - well said. As you already know (these are really 'Notes' to clarify my own understanding - as I know you know) - real combat is fluid and requires an instantaneous adaptation. My view is that this ability stems from years of experience endlessly repeating the same movement - or patterns of movements (in a disciplined manner) - whilst participating in sparring (or various other types of fighting) - where all this ingrained activity comes out (due to necessity) and manifests in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways!
Usually, simplicity prevails over the complex in such situations defined through 'immediacy' - and much of the modern 'Bunkai' is so very intricate and diverse that I doubt any of it could be realistically applied in the few seconds required to nullify an attack AND take away an opponent's ability to effectively respond. (Whilst holding one of their arms - the opponent still has a head, one arm and two legs free to respond - more than enough to be effective).
When I think back to training with yourself in Hereford and Cardiff (and the Tensho Kata you demonstrated in Sutton) - I remember your weight being firmly 'dropped' (rooted) whilst you also seem to 'float' - like a cork bobbing about on the surface of the water! This manifestation is continuous and effortless whilst being retained whether you are standing still, moving (in any direction) or even sitting down.
From this foundation your arms and legs are 'moved' depending upon the Kata, Basic or exercise being demonstrated. I suppose what you are saying is that modern Bunkai focuses too much upon the movement of the arms and legs - but tends to by-pass (or 'ignore') the need to be 'rooted' and to 'move' properly from this root.
What you say about Miyagi Chojun's attitude toward 'Bunkai' is typical of traditional Chinese gongfu. Many Masters will know one or two 'favourite' applications of the various Form moves - but will always teach that each Form movement has hundreds (or more) applications that should not (and cannot) be limited to a single interpretation.
This being the case, where does the concept of 'Bunkai' come from within Karate-Do? Certainly, there are old photographs of Goju Ryu 'Disciples' in Okinawa applying Kata movements as self-defence - quite often as Miyagi Chojun is looking on. As far as Southern Chinese gongfu concepts are concerned - I am not familiar with the term '分解' (Fen Jie) - which in Cantonese is pronounced 'Fan Gaai' and in Hakka 'Fun Ge'.
However, there are some dialects of Hakka (not that spoken in my family - but in villages further North) - which pronounce '分解' as 'Bun Kiai'. Within the Fujian dialect - '分解' is pronounced 'Hun Kai' or 'Pun Ke', etc. This seems to morph quite naturally into the Okinawan-Japanese 'Bun Kai' - and would suggest the concept spread (linguistically) from South China to Okinawa. Of course, this might not be the case and could suggest the experience was developed in Okinawa (as part of the transmission process) and 'reflected' in the adoption of appropriate sounding 'Chinese' terms.
I would agree fully with Miyagi Chojun - as I teach our family gongfu in just that way. Yes - if asked I can easily explain the purpose behind this or that movement - but it is only through 'practicing' each movement until the human awareness and perception penetrates its fully and its multitudinous (and 'empty') essence is found - that the 'movement' itself is totally comprehended. I was always taught that the ability to sit for long periods of time in cross-legged meditation is the highest expression of all gongfu Forms.
On the other hand, a 'Master Chan' in Malaysia (a 'relative') focused all his life on perfecting just one Form movement - which involves the grabbing hold of a single (attacking) front-kicking leg - and 'breaking' that leg around the 'knee-joint'. He would apply a downward fore-arm (elbow) strike (whilst shifting into a back stance) across bamboo sticks thrust at him by students until one, two or three sticks could be easily broken! Whilst sparring, he would attempt to 'goad' an opponent into 'kicking' whilst skilfully avoiding all over incoming blows. Needless to say, the jungles of Malaysia had a number of permanently 'limping' former opponents!
This is a 'PS' to my earlier 'Gyaku Tsuki' article regarding the Karate-Do 'Lunge Punch' or 'Leading Forward Punch' (追 い 突 き). The last two Japanese ideograms (突 き- Tsu Ki) we may take as read. Therefore 'Oi' (追 い) can be read as follows:
a) 追 (zhui1) - Japanese Kanji (ou) = chase, follow and pursue
b) い (I) - Japanese Hiragana = 'to do' (verb) as in '追い払うこと' (Oi harau koto) or to 'drive something away'
This seems to suggest that an 'Oi Tsuki' is a leading punch which (fluidly) follows the movement of an enemy target (similar to - but not identical with - a Western Boxing 'Jab') - and is used to 'drive' the opponent away! There might also be an implication that this punch 'follows' the opponent and then is 'driven' through their centre of mass using immense 'penetrating' power!
Within the Wado Ryu Karate-Do tradition 'Oi' (追 い) is replaced with the Chinese ideogram '順' (shun4):
1) 順 - Japanese Kanji (also written as 'じゅん') and pronounced 'Jun' - meaning 'order', 'sequence' and 'obedience'
The Chinese ideogram '順' (shun4) is comprised of two constituent particles:
i) Left-hand particle = '川' (chuan1) - river, flow and direction
ii) Right-hand particle = '頁' (ye4) - head, top and beginning
Therefore, the use of '順' (shun4) within the context of a 'Jun Tsuki' - refers to a 'leading' (as 'head' equals 'forward') and 'penetrating' punch (like a torrent of rushing water hitting and overcoming an obstacle) which follows closely the movement of the opponent. However, as with all these concepts - a play on words might be in operation. It could be that a continuously 'flowing' punch strikes at the spiritual and physical origin of an opponent ('driving' through their literal and metaphysical centre, so-to-speak) - thus rendering them useless and unable to respond.
This is interesting when assessing the 'reverse punch'. The (Japanese) Karate-Do term (逆突き) seems to be spelt in English as 'Gyaku Tsuki' and 'Gyaku Zuki' - I have even seen this term presented as 'Giaku Zuki' - the latter in a Japanese language dictionary. This is what I can find:
a) 逆 (ni4) - Japanese (gyaku) - reverse, contrary and opposite
b) 突 (tu) - Japanese (Tsu) - thrust, stab and suddenly (abruptly) move
c) き(ki) Japanese Hiragana ideogram - type, theory, tree, wood and indicator
With regard to the Hiragana 'き' (ki) ideogram - in Katakana it is expressed as 'キ' (ki) - an ideogram used to transliterate foreign terms into the Japanese language - particularly those of Southern Min origin. This concept seems to mean 'reverse thrust type' or 'reverse thrust technique'.
Goju Ryu Self-Defence
However, as there may be a play on words in operation here, it could be that 'gyaku tsuki' means that the power of this technique is gained through the agency of 'moving quickly' - and then 'suddenly stopping' stock-still - perhaps 'solid' and 'unmovable' like a 'tree'!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.