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!
Respect To 102-Year-Old (Japanese) Shuri Ryu Karate-Do Master - Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) (b. 1920] (17.8.2022)
Sensei Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) was born on the 25.2.1920 - and as of 2022 - he is currently 102-years-old! Although he currently holds an 8th Dan Black Belt Grade - he gave-up wearing the White 'gi' uniform and coloured belts years ago as he focuses to an ever greater degree on the 'Chinese' spiritual and physical roots of the martial art he tells everyone should be known as 'Chinese Hand' and not 'Empty Hand'! His Dojo is open twice a week for two 24 hour stints - where students can walk in and out as they please. (During its 'closed' days, individuals and groups can attend through arrangement)! Sensei Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) does not teach all the classes (which are often directed by Sensei Masahiko Ando 8th Dan) - but can often be seen wandering in and out in a natural manner - very different to the average Japanese Dojo.
At the conclusion of training, for instance, the teacher often sits with his students sharing a meal and a cup of tea with them - food that he has prepared himself! He describes his Karate-Do as being premised upon perfecting the following attributes:
・Concentrating unified power whilst performing and landing each technique.
・Unified power in generated within and expressed through the outer body.
・Karate is about gathering unified breathing power - and not brute strength.
・It is a martial art that includes throwing and joint-locking techniques.
・Okinawa Kobudo includes the weapons of Sai, Nunchaku and Bojutsu, etc.
Shuri Ryu karate-Do is a traditional fighting system formed in Kyushu before the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) - which combines Okinawan Shuri-te (Shuri-Hand) and various elements of old Japanese martial arts. As is typical with many Okinawan martial arts - Shuri-Te has both Chinese and Okinawan influences. By combining these influence with Japanese fighting arts - a more all-round system was produced. This is the martial system that Yoshitaka Inokuma (猪熊佳孝) has taught at the Hasshokan Dojo for more than half a century - where he has established a temple for storing important historical objects and documents relating to the theory and practice of the martial art of Shuri Ryu. This Dojo is located Japan's Kagawa Prefecture, situated within Takamatsu City. Shuri Ryu involves the alignment of the bones and joints, as well as the alignment of the mind, body and environment! The must become calm, expansive and all embracing - whilst the bodyweight drops through the aligned bones and joints before hitting the ground and rebounding upwards - creating a massive counter-force which is transitioned around the body through 'will-power' and 'intention' - so that it can be emitted through the relevant (attacking) anatomical weapons. The Shuri Ryu practitioner is 'still' and perfectly 'centred' - and yet can move with a surprising speed and agility whilst applying an explosive power which is enhanced by a profound relaxation of body and mind! By breathing deeply and fully all these attributes fall into place and the centre of gravity is 'dropped' - ready to stabilise, move and evade, or 'explode' with a surprising force!
Chinese Language References:
Japanese Language References:
For about a six-month time period between 2005-2006 - myself and a number of Chinese friends would get into a car and drive the three and a half hour journey from Sutton in South London - to Hereford to train with Sensei Tony Smith 5th Dan of Goju Ryu. At some point in all this activity, Tony Smith invited us to a martial arts symposium in Birmingham held on one Sunday (I think in Summer). This had hundreds of people attending, all demonstrating their own particular martial arts and this is exactly where I had the honour to meet (and talk) with Sensei Frank Johnson 6th Dan. Although my family style is (Chinese) Hakka Gongfu - Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) instructed me to explore other styles whilst travelling around the country as a young student. This is where I encountered 'Southern Karate-Do Wado Kai' - and where I trained under Sensei Alan Bound 1st Dan (1983-1984). I was told that this was a lineage emphasising a return to the principles of 'traditional' Wado Ryu! This why I was very interested in talking to Frank Johnson as I believe Wado Ryu is a very advanced and sophisticated style emphasising the highest level of 'internal' awareness and development. Wado Ryu is like Taijiquan where exact positioning and timing is used - coupled with the use of dropped (and rebounding) bodyweight - which replaces the need for forceful muscle contractions (which wastes and depletes the available 'external' energy). Obviously, muscle-contractions can be used - but only when required rather than as a matter of habit. When I shook Frank Johnson's hand - and put my arm around his shoulders in 'thanks' for him signing my book - I sensed immediately the advanced state of his mind and body. This is an ability following years of advanced Taijiquan 'Pushing-Hands' practice - and the need to quickly assess anyone who walks into our training hall!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.