Our Hakka family gongfu style is primarily 'Northern' in structure and was brought into the New Territories of Hong Kong by Chinese people migrating from around the Henan area (during the 1600s as the Ming Dynasty collapsed) - but sometimes much further North (my partner's family migrated to the Shenzhen area from Shandong). Our 'Northern Snake Fist' (北蛇拳 - Bei Shi Quan) is comprised of sixty-four movements - which mirror the sixty-four hexagrams (卦 - Gua) of the 'Yijing' (易經) - known as the 'Change Classic' or 'Book of Change' (I Ching) in the West. This text must be studied over many years supplemented by hours of seated meditation and the perfection of 'movement' and 'stillness' when this 'Form' (形 - Xing) is deployed. This is an integrated Form requiring the mastering of the 'external' (外 - Wai) and the 'internal' (内 - Nei) - or 'Zagong' (雜功).
All traditional 'Forms' begin with the practitioner facing 'South' - the area of warmth, good farming land, trade, plenty and controllable borders within ancient China. By comparison, the 'North' can be cold, overly 'hot', suffer from a scarcity of food and peopled by barbarian hordes all seeking to attack, destroy and steal! The 'Snake Form' unfolds on overlapping 'cross' formations - starting toward the 'East', West', 'North' and then 'South' repeating the same techniques - which then adjust into a new set of techniques. The 'cross' alters into 'Southwest', 'Northeast', 'Southeast' and 'Northwest', etc. There are a number of unique movements (such as 'Gorilla Punches the Ground') - but generally speaking the 'cross' (both 'cardinal' and 'ordinal') formation holds true. This section appears to the 'Southwest' and is the first repetition of 'three' performed in this direction. The structure builds-up just as a hexagram does in the 'Yijing':
1) Foundation (first two lines of a hexagram - representing the Broad Earth) - Free Stance - Bodyweight is primarily channelled down through the back leg 'bent' at the knee and into the ground 'rooting' the structure. A 'rebounding' force emanates from the ground and up the supporting leg - spreading through the torso, upper limbs, and non-supporting front leg. This arrangement generates a 'floating' orientation in the front-leg whereby the foot feels as if it wants to 'raise' automatically - and the practitioner must exert 'intention' to keep the toes of the free-foot gently 'touching' the ground. This is in preparation for the 'groin kick' which has its origination in this 'Form'. the foot swiftly travels upwards with the toes turned 'down' and the groin of the enemy is impacted with considerable force. Due to the expert position of the back-leg and pelvic girdle - the front-leg can continuously 'pivot' around the created leverage with very little effort and in a continuous manner - generating huge amounts of force with very little effort. The groin area of the enemy may be struck repeatedly without stopping. Although all this is present and taught as an application to the 'Snake Fist' Form - within the Form itself - the front-foot never leaves the ground. Stance work is generally quite 'high' in orientation - with foot-work premised on 'light', 'short' but 'precise' heel-to-toe steps (involving bodyweight being expertly 'shift' from side to side).
2) Torso (lines three and four of a hexagram - representing Humanity). The torso 'slides' and 'shifts' from side-to-side and 'forward' into newly acquired or 'opened' space. The torso retains a forty-five degree angle as its continuously 'shifts' one side forward and then the other (sixty-one movements in this 'Form' continuously move 'forward' with only three movements taking a step backward). The torso also 'tilts' left and right from the centre-line as movements are executed - creating a moving target that is difficult to hit as it advances. Gaps are created through the intimidation of asserted movement - space which the Snake Form practitioner then occupies by 'stepping' into - thus depriving the opponent of options. This works because the 'Snake' is limited to the lethal 'eye-strike' which must be defended against at all costs! The torso 'slithers' and 'slides' into the space generated through the intimidation of the opponent! Despite moving forward the onus is upon preventing the opponent from generating or landing any powerful or significant blows! The torso shifts left and right - and forward into front-left and front-right! The expert use of footwork establishes and maintains this momentum.
3) Upper Limbs (lines five and six of the hexagram - representing the Divine Sky). In this section the reverse hand is deflecting the opponent's attacking limb down and to the side of the torso. This involves an open-hand with slightly spread finger aligned with an empowered fore-arm and 'pointed' elbow. The alignment and rebounding bodyweight renders this arm as strong and as heavy as a block of concrete and yet as light and manoeuvrable as silk blowing in the wind! The footwork and torso can 'move' around this 'blocking' arm so that direct conflict is avoided and the opponent's natural strength is bypassed by a superior (and deadly) technique. Simultaneously, the lead-hand strikes with the middle (longest) finger to one of the enemy's eyes. The severity of this attack can be varied from 'gouging' to a light 'tap' and every level of vision-disruption inbetween. The Four-fingers can be separated to create a 'double' strike which hits both the enemy's eyes simultaneously with one-hand. The fingers then collapse palm 'inward' (toward the chest) so that a powerful 'back-hand' strike is delivered to the eye and nose area of the opponent. This is followed by the hand suddenly 'closing' and delivering a power short-range punch to to side of the nose or eye structures of the opponent. During training, these blows must be practiced both 'slowly' and very 'fast'!
Goju Ryu Kakie (2010)
I was thinking about your comment regarding 'Kakie' and its relating to 'hanging', or 'to hang', and thought I had better check the accuracy of my 2010 article. As I know next to nothing about Japanese script, I cannot remember where I acquired the Japanese 'かきえ' text that I used as a contextual blue-print - particularly as there was nothing like the digitalised dictionaries and encyclopaedias that are available online today!
I accessed a number of Japanese language texts regarding Karate-Do today, and found this interesting extract (although Wikipedia must always be checked for accuracy):
'Today's Karate-Do is a martial art that focuses on striking techniques, but Okinawa's ancient Karate-Do includes 'Control Hand' (取手 - Qu Shou) pronounced 'To-ui-Tī' or 'Tori-Te'（トゥイティー、とりて) in Okinawa - and 'Hang Hand' (掛手 - Gua Shou) pronounced 'Kaki-Ti' or 'Kake-Te' (カキティー、かけて) in Okinawa. These elements of the older Okinawan Karate-Do include grabbing, holding, and controlling the opponent's joints in preparation for throwing.'
What is interesting to me, after reading this, is that in gongfu this very principle is termed 'Qinna' (擒拿) - which I term 'joint relocation'. Master Chan Tin Sang used to say that 'if you know how a joint should normally move - then you know how a joint should 'not' move'! Furthermore, '擒' (qin2) also means to 'arrest' and 'constrict' - in other words, to 'stop' the opponent moving by taking away their options! As regards '拿' (na2), this means to 'seize' and 'grasp', etc!
With 'Hang Hand' (掛手 - Gua Shou) mentioned above, the ideogram '掛' (gua2) refers to the act of hanging or suspending. It can also mean to 'wear', 'arrive at', to 'divide' and to 'end' or 'terminate' an activity. The question is 'why' does this ideogram mean all this?
Left Particle = 扌(shou3) - this signifies a left-hand.
Right Particle = 卦 (gua4) - refers to a trigram or hexagram in the Yijing (Change Classic) - the act of 'divining' and the agency of 'change'.
Therefore, 卦 (gua4) is comprised as follows:
Left Particle = 圭 (gui1) - a ritualistic (pointed) jade object used when addressing the emperor! This is made by doubling the ideogram '土' (tu3) which symbolises 'earth' or 'clay' being worked on a potter's wheel!
Right Particle =卜 (bu3) - the act of 'divining' through integrating the 'cracks' derived by placing a hot poker on an ox scapula or tortoise shell (plastron). This is the historical basis of the 'Yijing' or 'Book of Change' (I Ching).
This would suggest that '掛' (gua2) derives from the skilled action of an Official or Minister (who served the King - the only person in ancient China who was allowed to access the divinatory 'oracle'). This Diviner used his left hand whilst 'separating' and 'dividing' the tortoise shells and/or ox scapula - probably 'hanging' or 'suspending' them up - whilst the right-hand held the heated metal rod which was applied to the sacrificial object. The King asked a question (which was written down by the Diviner), the hot poker touched the shell or bone and the rising smoke carried the message up to the divine sky! The answer was received through the various 'cracks' and 'patterns' manifest in the shell or bone - which only the Diviner could interpret. As these questions, received patterns and answers were all collected and sorted - the basis for the 'Yijing' or 'Book of Change' was formed.
In 2010 I used the Japanese (Hiragana) text:
かきえ = Kakie
In the above Japanese Karate-Do page the following ideograms are used to express exactly the same idea:
1) カキテ = Kakite - this is written in 'Katakana'
2) かけて = Kakete - this is written in 'Hiragana'
As there are a number of variations of the same ideograms within the Japanese language, the first two ideograms I used in my 2010 article are identical with today's findings and match these expressions. Placing the ideogram I used first in each section, this is how they compare:
1) 'か' (Hiragana) is the same as 'カ' (Katakana) = 'Ka' - but in Japanese this means 'mosquito'! In my 2010 article I thought this might have been a Japanese rendering of the much more likely Chinese ideogram of '力' (li4) - which stands for 'power' and generated 'force' - given the nature of the Goju Ryu exercise under discussion.
2) 'き' (Hiragana) is equivalent to 'キ' (Katakana) and directly related to 'け' (Hiragana). Whereas my 'き' and the above 'キ' carry the sound 'ki' (and can mean 'ki' energy, wood, tree, spirit and origin, etc), the ideogram 'け' is pronounced 'Ke' and means 'hair', 'fur' and to 'divine'. In my 2010 article I though this might represent the Chinese ideogram '手' (shou3) or 'open hand' - which is often used to signify 'mastery' through 'control'.
3) I used the ideogram 'え' (Hiragana) which is pronounced 'E' and means to 'gather', 'meet' and 'turn'. The examples above use 'テ' (Katakana) and 'て' (Hiragana) both pronounced 'Te' and although used to imply an 'open hand' in the above Japanese text, more specifically these ideograms are used to refer to 'doing something' or 'an act in motion' which might or might not involve the use of the hand. Either way, my thoughts in 2010 was that this should represent the Chinese ideogram '元' (yuan2) - referring to the 'origin' or 'root' of a thing. (It is interesting that the reading of 'origin' in this section 3 does match an alternative meaning found in section 2 above - where 'き' can also mean 'origin' - as if a hidden meaning was accidently stumbled upon)!
In 2010 I was working from the idea that Higaonna Kanryo was being taught Chinese terms in the Hokkien (Fujian) dialect - which were then written down in the various alphabets used in Japan! As it stands, the Japanese interpretation of 'Kakie' (in whatever version) reads something like the 'mosquito that lives in the woods is doing something (possibly with his hand)!' Of course, this could be prosaic and refer to the irritating to and fro (backwards and forwards) movement of the mosquito as it moves with endless 'ki' energy, around an opponent that seems flat footed and stationary - like a tree!
Looking up '掛手' (Gua Shou) I found this Japanese language article which mentions Kakie as also being found within Sumo Wrestling (fed through the auto-translator):
Therefore, '掛手' (Gua Shou) in the Chinese language should read in the Japanese language as:
掛 = 'Ka', 'Ke' or 'Kai' (it seems both 'Ka' and 'Ke' and used simultaneously)
手 = 'Te', 'Ta', or 'Shu'
掛手 = 'Kake-Te'
This Japanese language page also uses the (Hiragana) variant of 'かけで' to describe this activity - which reads 'Ka Ke De' and translates as 'to over come an obstacle!' This is interesting, as the change of character at the end generates a coherent sentence - whereas the three other examples quoted above:
1) カキテ (found today)
2) かけて (found today)
3) かきえ (used in my 2010 article)
In and of themselves, do not carry any particular or coherent meaning. Although, my 2010 variant keeps translating as 'calligraphy' - but this could imply the hidden meaning of skilfully moving the hand to manipulate the environment! All in all, I think this new data immensely increases our knowledge of this Okinawan cultural activity! Even though it was not available to me in 2010, nevertheless, my reading of the characters is sound and I like the theoretical approach - which I think was the product of your knowledgeable input and the outcome of our long discussions about the history of Goju Ryu!
With regard to the Chinese-Japanese term '掛手' (Gua Shou) 'Hang Hand' - I have just remembered to check the Hokkien (Fujian) pronunciation which is:
1) 掛 = 'Koa', 'kui' and 'khoa'
2) 手 = 'chhui' and 'sui'
This looks like:
Hang - 掛 (gua)
掛 - Japanese = 'ka-ke'
掛 - Hokkien = 'koa-kui' or 'khoa-kui'
Hand - 手 (shou)
手 - Japanese = 'te' or 'shu'
手 - Hokkien = 'chhui' or 'sui'
It looks as if we might be getting somewhere. This would imply, in my view, that Higaonna Kanryo had the Chinese concepts written down (in Chinese script) which he brought back to Okinawa from China, which were then transcribed into similar looking Japanese characters - but Japanese characters that have completely different meanings to the Chinese text they were copying! This fits in with the secrecy that used to exist between styles with only close disciples being told what the Japanese characters really meant in the original Chinese language script (which was probably lost over time). When the Japanese script was encountered without the guidance of the original Chinese script - the meaning was lost. I believe that if a person can read Chinese script - then they can 'see' the original meaning in the Japanese characters:
Then かきえ looks like 力手元! But we also now know that:
かきえ (and its variants) = 'Kakie' or 'kakete' in Japanese phonetics and 'khoakui-sui' in the Hokkien dialect! Whilst my '力手元' (Li Shou Yuan) or 'Power Hand Origin' reads in Hokkien as:
1) 力 = 'lek', 'lat' and 'liak'
2) 手 = 'chhiu' and 'sui'
3) 元 = 'goan'
All grist for the mill!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.