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!
‘I was born in Naha City during August 1919 (Taisho 10) and I am the eldest son of Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953) - the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My father taught me how to use my ‘hands’ (手 - Te) and ‘feet’ (足 - Ashi) during every moment of the day! He taught me where to ‘walk’ on the road, pavement or path – and where to place my awareness to stay safe! In a similar vein – he taught me how to hold an umbrella properly so that it looks innocuous but is really a ‘weapon’ that can be used in self-defence! For the Miyagi Family – Karate-Do was not only practiced in the ‘Dojo’ - but training of the mind and body continued throughout the entirety of our lives! My father – Miyagi Chojun – was a very popular person and knew many interesting and important people! He often told me about the famous people living in Okinawa - including military personnel and literary figures - who had come to live and work in Okinawa. Due to his wide range of associations, my father was well read, well-educated and took a general (and specific) interest in many different and varied subjects. As my father took me everywhere with him when I was young – I also met these people and often witnessed (and absorbed) the discussions as they unfolded! This is how my father ensured that I had a well-rounded education premised upon practical experience and intellectual stimulation! This is how I started the development of my mind and body and developed a sound foundation in the understanding of Karate-Do! I also understood exactly how my father thought about life and his general attitude toward Karate-Do! His personality clearly shone through during these interactions!
As my father – Miyagi Chojun – believed that travelling expanded the mind, he advised me to travel to Kyoto and enrol for the Summer in a Martial Art College and study ‘Kendo’ (剣道). He respected Kendo and was very enthusiastic about me learning a different martial art! Indeed, through me experiencing Kendo training – I gained a far deeper understanding of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! My eyes were opened to a far broader view. I particularly benefitted from the Kendo technique of ‘Kakari Geiko’ (掛かり稽古). These are the techniques within Kendo which involve the development of a sound ‘defence’ - coupled with a penetrating and devastating ‘attack’. I used this experience (and knowledge) gained through my Kendo training in my later development of Goju Ryu Karate-Do! Shifu (師父) - we always referred to Miyagi Chojun by the respectful Chinese language term of ‘Master-Father’ - put a great emphasis upon ‘Preliminary Exercises’ (予備運動 - Yo Bi Un Do) that both ‘warm’ and ‘strengthen’ the bones, ligaments (joints), muscles and tendons! As these exercises are so demanding and arduous to perform and repeat – the ‘mind’ is fully developed as it is ‘calmed’ and ‘stilled’ over time! I took this crucial element of Goju Ryu Karate-Do training and developed it further so as to progress the Style. I developed what is referred to as ‘Hard-Soft Body Manipulation’ (剛柔体操 - Go Ju Tai Misao)! This is sometimes referred to as ‘Goju Body Mechanics’.
This is a development within Goju Ryu Karate-Do that all of our students a) learn and b) perform – at the beginning of each public training session held in a Dojo. (The same situation applies to closed ‘private’ lessons where groups of students are training in a Dojo). Miyagi Chojun always followed the same training habits as his teacher Higaonna Kanryo (learned in China) - which involved the performing of the ‘Sanchin’ (Hourglass), ‘Shiko’ (Horse-Square) and ‘Nekoashi’ (Cat) Stances as ‘warm-up’ techniques. Miyagi Chojun was very strict when teaching these stances and would shout very loudly at the beginning of a training session to encourage the flow of energy and attentiveness of a student! The stance work teaches how to drop the bodyweight correctly, how to stand ‘still’ (rooted to the spot) and how to project the rebounding force forward and back correctly. Whilst practicing kata, Miyagi Chojun stated that each Kata possesses various (inherent) characteristics - such as how to stand, how to use the hands, how to use the legs and feet to kick correctly and how to move in any direction properly amongst many other important attributes. I was told to think carefully about what the concept of each individual Kata meant - and how each individual movement within each Kata should be accurately interpreted and performed.
A defining aspect of Goju Ryu Karate-Do is that ‘distance’ is rapidly closed from ‘far’ to ‘near’ in a manner that exposes the opponent to danger whilst keeping the practitioner (traversing the ‘distance’) safely protect (through a superior technical positioning). This means that although there are variations and contradictions within the Kata movements of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – the emphasis is always upon ‘closing’ the distance and engaging the opponent with effective (and devastating) close-quarter-combat. The opponent is inundated and overcome with a variety of rapidly deliver and perfectly timed (powerful) martial interactions – involving the effective movement of the arms, legs and torso, etc. The movements, although ‘attacking’ - are delivered in such a manner that ensures the Goju Ryu Karate-Do practitioner is ‘safe’ whilst inhabiting the quiet ‘centre’ inherent within each set of movements. Quite often, words do not convey the totality of the defining principles of Goju Ryu Karate-Do – but words do serve an important supporting role in the teaching process. Obviously, individuals will understand what is said and taught to them according to their age, maturity and level of experience. This is why an effective teacher understands this and applies the teachings of Goju Ryu Karate-Do according to the level of awareness that a student brings with them into the Dojo. After-all, a good teacher is able to produce an equally good and effective student.
When Master Miyagi Chojun passed away in 1953, I (Miyagi Takashi) was recognised throughout the Miyagi Clan in Okinawa as the true ‘Inheritor’ of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do ‘Lineage’. This is the ‘Family’ lineage which is separate and distinct from those other numerous ‘lineages’ transmitted ‘outside’ the family. The ‘Family’ transmission represents the ‘internal’ lineage – whilst all the other transmissions are representative of the ‘external’ lineage. This does not imply that one transmission is better or worse – but rather merely ‘different’. In the ‘Name Temple’ the pictures and the urns holding the cremated remains of the Miyagi Family are obvious for all to see (stretching back hundreds of years). I am part of this ‘Family’ transmission – whilst all those sharing in the ‘external’ transmissions have their own ‘family’ lineages that are separate and distinct (and all equally valid in their own right). Furthermore, it used to be that the ‘internal’ (Family) transmission was only taught (privately) within the family – whilst the ‘external’ lineages were public – but today, generally speaking, ALL ‘lineages’ are publicly taught to anyone who wants to learn. As for myself, I developed the ‘Komeikan’ (‘Transmitting Brilliance Training Hall’) during my time living in Tokyo to teach Goju Ryu Karate-Do (from 1951 onwards) to the general public as the only representative of the Miyagi Family. I have conveyed the teaching of my father – Miyagi Chojun – in a logical and correct manner, whilst also adding my own understanding. This is a process of evolution encouraged by both Higaonna Kanryo and Miyagi Chojun. Tradition is protected and conveyed through a process of continuous and relevant improvement.’
Japanese Source Article:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.