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Stevenson
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My apologies for not contributing further to this thread - I have been very busy and wanted to wait until I had something more cornet to contribute further.

I believe I have, at least to my satisfaction, found the origin of the name “seisan” or “shisan” for this kata. It’s been an interesting journey, one I haven’t finished yet.

Firstly, I investigated further the idea that a “homophone” could be the reason for a numbered kata to have further meaning. I contacted a friend of a friend, a trained Doctor who is now a Feng Shui master and by a stroke of luck a Fujian chinese. The custom of making homophonic connections with numbers and words is primarily a Cantonese one. In Fujian and most of the rest of China, this is not typical and Cantonese often claim there customs on behalf of all Chinese - something that irritates the rest of China apparently.

Furthermore, while the number four is indeed widely regarded as an extremely unlucky number in popular culture, there is no such aversion to it within martial arts or philosophical and religious teaching. There is a disconnect between its superstitious association and the Taoist philosophies that underpin pretty much all of eastern culture. It’s something I’d like to know more about in due course.

In Fujian, thirteen simply means thirteen. There is no special significance in the number, beyond what I am about to explain, and while number combinations are common in Feng Shui and Chinese astrology, such that they cannot be discounted as a possible source for some names altogether, it is not necessary for explaining the origin of the name “Shisan”.

I tried to find some explanation for the number “13” coming up so frequently in Chinese and Okinawan martial arts, yet with such very different, almost entirely unrelated forms that it is the title of. A possibility might have been the popularity of the “13 classics” as a sort of “equivalent”. I can imagine that might have been the reasoning behind the naming one or two forms, but apart from the fact that it is such common name, it also predates the “13 classics” (popular method of a standardised education) and therefore can’t really be associated with it.

Assertion alert (yes I am asserting the following):

I believe “Shisan” comes from the Taiji basic (and most fundamental) form “Shi san shi”. There is no direct translation for the last “shi”, it is often translated as “techniques”, “postures” or “steps”. Another translation is “dynamics”, but I think a case could be made for it to be translated as “principles”. It’s not really right but it might further understanding.

Shisan is so called because it is made up of the 8 trigrams and the 5 elements which in taiji is the most fundamental framework for their fighting art. The first 4 “directions” are the points on the compass (N,S etc) which correspond to the 4 primary techniques, and the next 4 (NW,SE etc) correspond to the secondary techniques. The 5 elements or “phases” correspond to the the intention one has when moving in a certain direction. The five elements are “Earth, Fire, Water, Metal and Wood”. If you stop for a second you can probably guess intuitively the movements from their element; Earth is for the centre, Fire is forward, Water is back, and Left and Right is metal and wood.

Here is an article that will give a brief overview: http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=131

The “Taiji Fashuo” i.e. “Explaining Taiji Principles” is a book that was probably written around 1875 and a copy made at the same time and attributed to Yang Banhou, part of a famous family of taiji practioners who can trace their lineage for the art through antiquity. It was translated quite recently - 2013 by Paul Brennan. The whole translation is worth reading and is not long. It’s easy to see what ideas have come down to us into karate and what was filtered out (if only partially). I absolutely love some of the turns of phrases and explanations, for example, the importance of “heartfelt sincerity” for kime. Next time I do pad work I will be sure to do it with “heartfelt sincerity”.

The link for the translation is here: https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/explaining-taiji-pri...

A little context - I have been reading Itzek Cohen’s excellent and comprehensive book on Karate history “Karate Unchina-di”. I had not formerly appreciated the extent to which Ryukians were welcomed throughout Asia. From quite early times had regular trade delegations to as far afield as Thailand, and their architecture reflects their eclectic approach to culture, with temples being built in Chinese style with Korean influences, and with some Japanese building techniques. No more so than in Fujian province where they had a permanent trade centre, graves for those unfortunate to have died on the crossing or away on business, and the Chinese even provided them with brand new ships on occasion.

The Chinese had a settlement in Okinawa: Kumemura. A little background:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumemura

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-six_families_from_Min

Yes. That number 36 again. It isn’t supposed to be literal - it is symbolic way of saying “many” in this instance.

My point here is that the influence of ideas from abroad were great, and the ideas in Taiji were common to chinese martial arts. However they may have been reinterpreted, this was the basis and why it was known as “Tang-te” i.e. “chinese hand”.

I think that the reason for the variety of forms that have been given the name “seisan/shisan” is because they had their roots in the fundamental guiding principles, and not in the literal number of steps or techniques. So provided the kata creator thought they would adhering to these fundamental principles as they saw it, then “shisan” would be an appropriate name. Here are some fun quotes from the Taiji Fashou:

“All of the four primary techniques [corresponding to the cardinal directions] and four secondary techniques [corresponding to the corner directions] must be understood. Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing are the four primary techniques. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping are the four secondary techniques. The combining of these cardinals and corners thus positions the trigrams.”

“ Embrace the eight trigrams as you step through the five elements. Techniques plus steps equals eight plus five, amounting to thirteen, naturally expressed as the Thirteen Dynamics, known as the Eight Gates & Five Steps.”

"The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us. You must first understand that they are based in these four terms: perception, realization, activation, action. [These four terms amount to “moving with awareness”….]" - OODA loop anyone?

“First strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself.”

For your body’s posture, how could your waist and headtop be ignored? Neglecting either, all your work would be in vain. Waist and headtop are to be exhaustively studied for your whole life.”

"The civil quality is the inner principle. The martial quality is the outward skill. Those who have the outward skill but lack the civil principle will be consumed by reckless glory. “

“Cultivation of the civil quality is internal. Cultivation of the martial quality is external. “

This eight technique song concerns the eight trigrams with its four primary and four secondary techniques." A mere thirteen dynamics is not a lot. But however many there might be, if their standard is not maintained and if the position of your waist and headtop is misplaced, you will end up sighing with woe.” - LOL... :)

“Work first at training gross movements, then finer details. When the gross movements are obtained, then the finer movements can be talked of. When the finer movements are obtained, then measures of a foot and below can be talked of. When your skill has progressed to the level of a foot, then you can progress to the level of an inch, then to a tenth of an inch, then to the width of a hair. This is what is meant by the principle of reducing measurements.”

“Once your genuineness in identifying energies reaches all the way to the point of the miraculous, at such a level you will thereafter be mindful in every activity – whether it be walking, sitting, lying down, running, eating, drinking, or even going to the bathroom. By this means, your achievement will go from middling to great.”

The three doctrines [Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism] are not different schools, for all that each of them discuss is a matter of the Grand Polarity which runs through everything, centered and everlasting.”

I wish for the next generation of students to examine the theory in the Book of Changes [I Ching] within themselves and that it be continued by succeeding generations. That would be a good thing.”

---

My final thought - it’s important to note that these philosophical ideas are merely a framework, in much the same way that kata is. You can make all kinds of nonsense about kata and these philosophies which can seem quaint and fanciful to our modern western eyes, is no different. But in there are some gems of understanding and it at least answers some of the more esoteric mysteries of our art.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

I want to quickly touch on the Goju-ryu issue Iain keeps coming back to.

Iain, I have tried to explain all throughout the thread that Taoism - ie Taoist ideas is ubiquitous throughout Eastern culture. By saying that these principles is "at the heart" of Goju implies making a special case for it - but it isn't. Our modern karate developed rather recently - post Meiji and a lot of the ideas that underpin karate came at a time when Japan was moving toward a prejudiced view of Chinese culture - this is the reason for renaming "Chinese Hand" to "Empty Hand". But it was "Chinese Hand" at some point and blended in with home grown ideas. Its also the reason why the heritage and the philsophies are downplayed.

You surely are not contending that karate was not influenced by Chinese martial arts?

It was quite common that young men with the right opporutntities went to China - specifially Fujian province to study, and often study martial arts. Higoanna was one such and came back with a style that grew into Goju. The name Goju itself comes from a line in a poem that was itself consistent with Taoist ideas. Chojun Miyagi followed in his teachers footsteps and ALSO travelled to Fujian province where the ideas outlined in the Taiji Fashuo were common throughout chinese martial arts. So to understand what influenced Miyagi and Higoanna, you have to understand what the ideas were current and important.

The katas chosen for Goju are utterly consistent with these ideas. Pretending there is no historical basis because nothing has been written down is to ignore the evidence right in front of you. Just read up a bit on what the Toaist ideas and the "Book of Changes" are about and the records about the arts that both these men would have been exposed to were about and you can see very very clearly. Suparenpei was renamed from the kata "Pechurin" and the reasoning is obvious. "Tensho" was created for equally obvious reasons. Why was the kata Suparenpei renamed to something that has such profound signifiance in eastern cultures? If those ideas were being ignored why bother renaming the kata? Given the signifiance of 18 and 36, why not rename those katas as well so they didn't correspond to such significant numbers in philosphy they were ignoring?

Let me put this another way; what ideas do you suppose Higoanna and Miyagi were ignoring to come up with katas and a system that arbitrarily and coincidently looks like it was drawn directly for Taoist martial art principles?

Marc
Marc's picture

Stevenson wrote:

“Embrace the eight trigrams as you step through the five elements. Techniques plus steps equals eight plus five, amounting to thirteen, naturally expressed as the Thirteen Dynamics, known as the Eight Gates & Five Steps.”

That is a great post, Stevenson. Thanks for pointing to the sources. I will read into this.

I've been reading this tread with great interest. Thanks to everybody who contributed their ideas and arguments.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Stevenson wrote:
I want to quickly touch on the Goju-ryu issue Iain keeps coming back to.

I don’t keep coming back to it :-) I am mealy responding with counterpoints to the points you have made.

You stated there was a strong link because of the name, the creation of Tensho, the numbers, etc. I think there is more logical explanations for all of that.

Stevenson wrote:
You surely are not contending that karate was not influenced by Chinese martial arts?

Of course not. But you are asserting at all Chinese martial arts have Taoism at their core because Taoism was strong cultural force. That’s not the same. It’s an assumption you have not been able to prove.

It’s like saying the sword fighting skills of medieval Europe must have Christianity at their core (the most efficient way to cut people down being what was at their core). As we’ve already discussed, I don’t feel you can make such assertions without evidence. You simply say that is “must” be the case because Taoism was so important. Well, if it must have been the case there would be strong evidence for it … and there’s not.

You feel what you have is sufficient. I don’t see it as being sufficient. We therefore hold different positions.

Stevenson wrote:
"Tensho" was created for equally obvious reasons.

I don’t think it is at all obvious that it was created it line with Taoism … to give the “yin” to Sanchin’s “yang”. I think the evidence suggests it was created because of the hand positions found in Article 20 of the Bubishi – a book we know was hugely influential on Miyagi – so he made a kata to encapsulate them. The fact that kata is called “turning palms” also makes it obvious what his intentions were. Nothing to do with Taoism.

It is also known that the Sanchin of his teacher was open-handed and “softer”. So now that Miyagi is doing Sanchin closed-handed and with tension, you may want to make up what is lost combatively with a softer open-handed kata.

There’s no need to assume Tensho was created because of some arbitrary philosophical dictate. It was clearly done for combative reasons. The name and the Bubishi would support that view.

You are also contradicting your previous post when you said:

Stevenson wrote:
But the Gekisai katas and Tensho were created by Miyagi - long after the deeper connections with Taoism/Buddhism were lost or held less sway.

So, on the one hand you are saying Goju was formulated “long after the deeper connections with Taoism/Buddhism were lost” but then you also say, it is “drawn directly from Taoist martial art principles”.  You can’t have it both ways.

Stevenson wrote:
Given the signifiance of 18 and 36, why not rename those katas as well so they didn't correspond to such significant numbers in philosophy they were ignoring?

This takes us right back to the start. You take the numbers that fit with the theory, and ignore the ones that don’t. I’m not suggesting they should have renamed all the kata so they don’t tie in with Taoism! There’s a paradox there by the way :-) What I am saying is that some do match and some don’t. And that’s undoubtedly because Taoism is not the central force at work here; it simply does not work.

If your theory was right, then all of the number kata would tie in and that would be very strong evidence in support of your position. The fact they don’t is very strong evidence against it.

The other very strong evidence against it is that they wrote “steps”. I have to assume they meant to do that and it was indeed steps they were counting. Again, I see no need to jump beyond that and point to Taoism especially when it does not work across the piece.

You’ve presented a number of different theories as to what “13” could mean (“death kata”, the 13 classics, and now the one above ... and with the new one I assume you no longer subscribe to the first two?), but you seem very reluctant to consider the most obvious “steps”. That’s what they wrote and I don’t see why you feel the need to ignore that and chase several alternate theories. For me, I’m sticking with view that is the most obvious, most logical and that has the most historical support. Steps.

As an aside, it has been recently suggested to me that when you compare all the different versions on Seisan (13) there are thirteen common movements; and it could be that those common movements were the Seisan that Aragaki demonstrated with other versions evolving from there. I’d need to look into it further before I could comment in favour or against, but it has not been mentioned in the thread yet so I thought I’d include that suggestion. What is clear is that Arakaki considered the “13” to be related to steps.

Stevenson wrote:
Let me put this another way; what ideas do you suppose Higoanna and Miyagi were ignoring to come up with katas and a system that arbitrarily and coincidently looks like it was drawn directly for Taoist martial art principles?

It does not look like it was drawn from Toast principles to me at all. That’s your assertion; not mine. I’m genuinely not seeing it and I don’t think there is evidence for it.

For your argument to have merit, you’d also need to look beyond Goju to all the other forms of “Chinese hand”. If Taoism / Buddhism / Numerology was so ubiquitous then it was inevitably going to saturate all combative systems that arise from China. What is the evidence for that in the “Shuri-te” line?

We do know that one of the key players in that line, Anko Itosu, distanced karate from religion and philosophy stating that there was no connection. This undermines your assumption that because Taosim / Buddhism were widespread in Chinese culture that it must also be central to the combat arts that originate from there. Your whole argument is based on that assumption and it's certianly not the case for Itosu's line; he explicitly said so.

I think this tread has been thorough and there is more than enough information for readers to make up their own minds. I also now suspect the posts are so long and so repetitive that very few will read them.

You have your position and I have mine. I find your arguments far from convincing. You find my counterarguments likewise. Probably best to leave it there as further posts are unlikely to add anything new and, as much as we may enjoy the back and forth, we can be pretty sure that hardly anyone is going to read this far (a "well done" to those that have! :-)). I’ve also enjoyed the information on Taoism and numerology, so I thank you for that. However, I remain entirely unconvinced that there is the strength of connection you are asserting in the various theories you have put forth. Arakaki has them say "steps". I don't think we have the evidance to say this great master, who was there at the time, should be ingored and that we know better.

All the best,

Iain

Marc
Marc's picture

Stevenson wrote:

The “Taiji Fashuo” i.e. “Explaining Taiji Principles” is a book that was probably written around 1875 and a copy made at the same time and attributed to Yang Banhou, part of a famous family of taiji practioners who can trace their lineage for the art through antiquity. It was translated quite recently - 2013 by Paul Brennan. The whole translation is worth reading and is not long. It’s easy to see what ideas have come down to us into karate and what was filtered out (if only partially). I absolutely love some of the turns of phrases and explanations, for example, the importance of “heartfelt sincerity” for kime. Next time I do pad work I will be sure to do it with “heartfelt sincerity”.

The link for the translation is here: https://brennantranslation.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/explaining-taiji-pri...

That's a very interesting text. Thanks for pointing to it.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Of course not. But you are asserting at all Chinese martial arts have Taoism at their core because Taoism was strong cultural force. That’s not the same. It’s an assumption you have not been able to prove.

There is a saying in Chinese - A Nobleman is a cuficiansim in office and a Taoist in private. I think the problem here is what you view as "being at the core". I have absolutely been able to prove, at least as far as it is possible to prove anything in history, that Taosim is utterly integral to chinese martial arts and provides a framework around which they understand the world more generally. The evidence is overwhelming. But don't just believe me - it's probably best to discuss this with chinese martial artists - exponents of Tai chi and other forms. It's beyond all doubt the extent to which it informs their world view - particularly historically and especially in the martial arts.

It’s like saying the sword fighting skills of medieval Europe must have Christianity at their core (the most efficient way to cut people down being what was at their core). As we’ve already discussed, I don’t feel you can make such assertions without evidence. You simply say that is “must” be the case because Taoism was so important. Well, if it must have been the case there would be strong evidence for it … and there’s not.

Well, chirstianity was a strong motivator and justification for a lot of western history. But the difference here is that chirstianity is a relgioin and Taoism is a philosophy. Taoism is also a lot older. And I have given you a lot of evidence and pointed to even more - I just don't see why you are ignoring it.

I don’t think it is at all obvious that it was created it line with Taoism … to give the “yin” to Sanchin’s “yang”. I think the evidence suggests it was created because of the hand positions found in Article 20 of the Bubishi – a book we know was hugely influential on Miyagi – so he made a kata to encapsulate them. The fact that kata is called “turning palms” also makes it obvious what his intentions were. Nothing to do with Taoism.

But Iain, the Bubishi ITSELF is consistent with Taoist principles. The very first line in the Bubishi precepts for Quanfa establishes the Taoist view - to become one with heaven and earth or 108 - where 1 is heaven, 8 is earth and 0 is the ever changing void (everything and nothing) of tai chi out of which all existence supposedly flows. I realise that seems all very "use the force Luke", but in a practical sense that simply means "mushin" or from the zen perspective "karate is zen in motion".

This takes us right back to the start. You take the numbers that fit with the theory, and ignore the ones that don’t. I’m not suggesting they should have renamed all the kata so they don’t tie in with Taoism! There’s a paradox there by the way :-) What I am saying is that some do match and some don’t. And that’s undoubtedly because Taoism is not the central force at work here; it simply does not work.

No - I do NOT take numbers that fit the theory and ignore the ones that don't.

Iain, when I started this I was trying to make sense of the theory of numerology as being the basis for the naming of the katas in Goju. It was relevant because of the infromation we were given regarding Seisan. But I knew nothing more other than a little about the I Ching.

It turns out there are multiple reasons, which I pointed out, as to why a kata maybe numbered a certain way. What it almost NEVER is, is a simplisitic represntation of the number of steps. Kenwa Mabuni created a kata and simply gave it the number of the year of it's creation.

That Goju is highly influenced and can be said to be drawn from Chinese martial arts, which in turn adheres to Taoist ideas or at least uses them as a framework is in turn in no doubt. A good clue to that is that Pechurin was renamed 108, the name Goju itself is based on a Taoist idea taken from a text that also adhering Toaist ideas. The addition of Tensho as a compliment to Sanchin is itself consistent with Taoist principles, and the inclusion of Seisan and Shisochin, not to mention Sepai and Sanseryu, means that the Taoist themed chinese martial arts from which they were drawn were not rejected - even at a time when prejudice against Chinese culture was developing.

I'd add - when you are looking at Chinese history you can see how far adherents will contrive things to match Taoism, and auspicious numbers. For example, a famous Tai Chi master who "discovered" there were "18" vital pressure points. He then expanded it to "36" until finally he realised there were in fact "108". I mean - come on. But Goju, in particular, is very consistent with Taoism, from the naming of katas, to the general philosphy that is used to teach it. What in Goju is NOT consistent?

I can only think that by asserting that I am asserting "Taoism at its core" you are over-stating what I am saying. It's influence is undeniable and yet you appear to...by suggesting that somehow the principles of Taoism are incompatible with practical martial arts. But it isn't the case.

Sun Tzu is a highly regarded philsopher of martial strategy employing taoism in his thinking. Lao Tzu is regared as the master of opposites and Sun Tzu the master of their application.

If your theory was right, then all of the number kata would tie in and that would be very strong evidence in support of your position. The fact they don’t is very strong evidence against it.

I think this is really the main misapprehension of yours we are labouring against. It does not follow that if my theory is right then all of the number of kata would tie in. I have been at great pains to explain why it would not throughout these posts.

 The other very strong evidence against it is that they wrote “steps”. I have to assume they meant to do that and it was indeed steps they were counting. Again, I see no need to jump beyond that and point to Taoism especially when it does not work across the piece.

Another problem. "Steps" is not an accurate translation. Seisan, Sepai, Sanseryu, Suparenpei, are all at various times had the addition of "hands". If you assume the translation is literal, then you are going to be misguided. With Chinese, esp traditional Chinese, you have to be cautious about translations into English. It can be translated as "dynamics" and in my opinion (my own little opinion) it would aid understanding for it to be translated as "principles".

You’ve presented a number of different theories as to what “13” could mean (“death kata”, the 13 classics, and now the one above ... and with the new one I assume you no longer subscribe to the first two?), but you seem very reluctant to consider the most obvious “steps”. That’s what they wrote and I don’t see why you feel the need to ignore that and chase several alternate theories. For me, I’m sticking with view that is the most obvious, most logical and that has the most historical support. Steps.

 The "death" kata theory is Gavin Mulhollands - or at least endorsed by him. I consider him to be as authoratitive source as anyone and at the very least reasonable. It's why I wanted to find out a little more about the idea of naming katas with numbers and what the significance was. There is some basis to the theory - the number 4 in popular eastern culture defintiely means death and is extremely unlucky. They definitely do combine numbers in Feng Shui and Chinese astrology in this sort of manner. So it is at least credible.

However, the extended use of number combinations is a Cantonese phenomena, and the 13 - death link is not obvious there. Also, the superstition against the number 4 is evident in popular culture only, it does not have any connection to how the number is used in Taoist, Buddhism or Confucianism. So having really looked into it I rejected it. But while I was looking into it I came across the 13 classics. Well the number 13 had to come from somewhere, and the forms that were called that were all different in the number steps, possible techniques, and so on, many utterly unrelated to one another (though obviously some are) and even if they all did come from one orginal form it still didn't explain the significance of the number. Maybe it was a reference to the 13 classics?

Nah.

Apart from trying to find any evidence of that and failing, the 13 classics became such at around the time of the first instances of the use of the term Shisan for a form so while still maybe possible it just didnt seem liekly. It's while I was learning of the earliest versions of Shi san shi, that I came across the translation of the Tai chi Fashou. This explains perfectly where the number came from, and why there are so many different forms given the same name. It's simply the creators understanding of the principles, not the form itself.

For your argument to have merit, you’d also need to look beyond Goju to all the other forms of “Chinese hand”. If Taoism / Buddhism / Numerology was so ubiquitous then it was inevitably going to saturate all combative systems that arise from China. What is the evidence for that in the “Shuri-te” line?

That's a very good question. I have done quite a bit of research, so I have a perspective on this from that, but to be definitive (as far as it is possible to be) would require very specific and detailed research.

The picture I have from the various historical sources, is that Ryukyu had extremely good relations with China, in particular the Fujian province, where emissaries and delegations would frequently go. The Satsumas were also extremely keen for this to continue, because they were somewhat at odds with Edo...I digress... People showing talent in Te would get the opportunity to travel there and study Chinese boxing as "advanced studies". They then came back and what they learnt would blend with local pracitses and evolve into it's own thing, based on the needs of the time, and practises from other regions. The Ryukyans were extremely pragmatic - they were at a cross roads and had to balance between various cultural forces. They absorbed culture and ideas from everywhere, from Korea, China, Japan. So the longer the influence was seperated from the original source, the more it was altered by the contemporaneous conditions.

Add to that the general move away form Chinese culture toward the end of the 19th Century and the obvious link is broken and what you have is vestiges. So some names of katas may have survived, and the inclination toward naming a kata with a number also remains. Modern katas probably have no direct link to Taoist ancestry at all. I have done some research on some of the other kata names, Gojushiho and Neiseishi in particular and there are a few others that show some links. I don't think I need to defend the notion that they were extremely keen on numerology though by now surely?

In order to understand the name of kata, you probably need to do it on a kata by kata basis. You'd have to find out a bit about the creator. For example, the founder of Isshin Ryu was extremely mystical and offered his services as a diviner as well as a karate master. But he was really into anamism - I'd bet some of his esoteric ideas might turn up in the karate left to us by him.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Stevenson wrote:
I just don't see why you are ignoring it.

I’m not ignoring it, as the tens of thousands of words I have written in this thread make clear :-)

I have read the arguments put forth and I do not agree that we can point to Taoist based numerology as the source for the name "seisan". I don’t find it a convincing argument for the reasons started previously in the tread.

You take the view an alternative view, and that’s fine.

Stevenson wrote:
It's influence is undeniable and yet you appear to...by suggesting that somehow the principles of Taoism are incompatible with practical martial arts. But it isn't the case.

My position is not based on the view that Taoism is incompatible with practical martial arts. That is neither a view I hold nor have expressed. My position is as I have stated.

Stevenson wrote:
Another problem. "Steps" is not an accurate translation. Seisan, Sepai, Sanseryu, Suparenpei, are all at various times had the addition of "hands". If you assume the translation is literal, then you are going to be misguided. With Chinese, esp traditional Chinese, you have to be cautious about translations into English. It can be translated as "dynamics" and in my opinion (my own little opinion) it would aid understanding for it to be translated as "principles".

The character Arakaki had them use in 1867 was “步”. “Steps” is therefore 100% actuate. People can check for themselves if they are in any doubt. It would therefore be inaccurate to say it was inaccurate :-) The character means “steps”.

The first written reference to Seisan was “十三步”and that would translate as “13 steps”. Just as in English, that can mean “13 foot movements” or “13 stages”. I am not aware of anyway that it can mean “dynamics” or “principles”.

We are never going to agree on this one. And that’s fine. I am 100% happy with my position. You are 100% happy with yours. That’s an acceptable end to the thread. We have also presented the two side of the argument in great detail. That’s very valuable and there is lots for readers to ponder on and explore. I don’t want to ruin a good thread with endless repetition of points already made. I therefore can only refer to previous posts.  

I have written this post simply to clarify my position as presented in your last post. I don’t want any confusion arising if people have not read my posts and have skipped ahead to the end:

1) I am not ignoring. I am reading, engaging and disagreeing.

2) My position is based on the evidence alone. Not any predisposition to Taoism.

3) The translation presented was accurate and people can check the meaning of the character “步” for themselves.

Thanks once again for the great contribution. While we don’t agree, no one can say we have not thoroughly explored the topic! I’m also sure that your arguments may well win a few converts, but I personally am not one of them.  

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Well, thousands of words on this topic and I realise we have missed one of the number kata out!

Nipaipo (二 十八 歩) which translates as “28 steps”.

So the“number names” we have are:

Seisan (13)

Seipai (18)

Niseishi (24)

Nipaipo (28)

Sanseru (36)

Gojushiho (54)

Suparimpei (108)

Something of an oversight there!

All the best,

Iain

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi Iain. Not wanting to be pedantic, but I would have thought Nepai, rather than Nipaipo would be more accurate. Regards

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Mark,

Mark B wrote:
I would have thought Nepai, rather than Nipaipo would be more accurate.

I’m not sure what you are driving at? What accuracy are you questioning?

The kata is definitely called “Nipaipo”. The kanji for that is “二 十八 歩”and it would translate as “28 steps”. The last character (歩) is the one meaning “steps”. It would be pronounced as “Ho” in Japanese and “Po” by the Okinanwans (same as “Pinan” vs “Heian”).

The kata “Nipaipo” is said to be Mabuni’s take on a crane form he learnt from Go Kenki. It’s widely practised in Shito-Ryu and has gained recent popularity as a competition kata. Some cool bunkai too and I have some videos to share on that soon.

 

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Nipaipo (二 十八 歩) which translates as “28 steps”.

Mark B wrote:
I would have thought Nepai, rather than Nipaipo would be more accurate.

The name of the Shito-Ryu karate kata is definitely Nipaipo (“28 steps”) as stated.

Is it the list of “number kata” below the translation that caused the confusion? Did you think I was saying the translation for “28” (i.e. missing off the end of the kata name and talking just about the number) is “Nipaipo”?

In that list I simply put the associated numbers in brackets. For example, I did not include the translation of “歩” in Gojushiho, or the Shotokan alternate for Niseishi (“Nijushiho”) i.e. I just put “24”and “54” and not “24 steps” and “54 steps”. That’s also what I did with Nipaipo in the list (although I did put the full translation "24 translation" in the text). I also stuck with the modern convention of not including “歩” for Seishan … despite both Aragaki and Itoman including the character “歩” when transcribing the name i.e. “13 steps” as opposed to just “13”.

As I say, the stated translation is definitely right; as is the kata name. I'm therefore unsure where you feel I have been inaccurate?

Did you miss the full translation and think I was saying “ho” / “po” part was part of the number? The “24” part is indeed “nipai”, but it’s not the name of the Shito-Ryu form because the “po”/ steps / 歩 part also needs included.

Doe that help clarify? Or have I misunderstood what you were driving at?

All the best,

Iain

Mark B
Mark B's picture

All I'm saying is the correct name of the form is actually Nepai. That would most likely have been the name as Go Kenki taught it. Didn't Mabuni change the name to Nipaipo? It doesn't really matter, I thought I'd mention it. Nepai is one of the select kata I practice. I've got some nice application templates myself which I should record soon. I also practice the Aragaki versions of Seisan and Niseishi, and Naihanchi (of course). The Nepai I practice compliments the other 3 forms nicely to create some nice exercises incorporating elements of all 4 Where appropriate. I probably need to get recording. Regards, Mark

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Mark,

Mark B wrote:
All I'm saying is the correct name of the form is actually Nepai.

I don’t see how you can say that.

Mark B wrote:
That would most likely have been the name as Go Kenki taught it.

There are a number of versions of the kata out there, all with variations on the name of “28 steps”, and none of which can show themselves to be the same as Go Kenki’s version. That version is lost to us.

Mark B wrote:
Didn't Mabuni change the name to Nipaipo?

No. Firstly, there was not really a name change. Secondly, Mabuni’s version is his own creation based on Go Kenki’s teachings. Mabuni did not claim to have passed on a direct copy of the kata.

As regards the name. There has been no change. It’s the same. It’s like saying “aeroplane” and “plane”. Both are correct. One is just a shortening of the other.

Arakaki wrote “Seishan” as “十三步”” in 1867; as did Itoman almost 70 years later. The character for steps (“po” / “ho”) is there, but people still say “13” / “Seishan” and not “13 steps” / “Seishanpo”. It was clear Arakaki was referring to “13 steps” when he had them write the name down, but it’s still OK to say “13”. You see this with other kata too i.e. “54” vs “54 steps” and “24” vs “24 steps”. Some styles include “steps” in the name; others don’t.

Back to “Neipai” / “Nipaipo”, it is clear from all sources that “steps” are what is being counted, but some say so (“28 steps”) and some don’t (“28”).  So, there is not a change of name; it’s just whether you use the “full name” or the “contraction”.

I’ve just done a quick YouTube search for Nepai, so we can compare differences. This is the first one that came up:

 

Is it this version of “Neipai” you practise? If so, Patrick McCarthy is clear the “28” refers to “steps” (see the title at 31 seconds, and what he states at 57 seconds). So, you can say the “short title” of “28” / “Neipai” or the “full title” of “28 Steps” / “Nipaipo”. Mr McCarthy does not include the “steps” in his preferred pronunciation though (he does include both names in the title) … which is smart seeing as he wants to contrast the version he is presenting with Mabuni’s version (which does include the explicit mention of “steps” in the name). However, he is clear it is 28 “steps” that is being counted; so it is not incorrect to say so.

Not sure if this is the same as the McCarthy version? Or your version?

 

It’s worth mentioning that Hirokazu Kanazawa also teaches what he believes to a “very original” version of Nipaipo and he goes with the name “Nijuhachiho”; which is “28 steps” in Japanese (“Nipaipo” being Okinawan for “28 steps”).

It’s clear these Neipai / Nipaipo / Nijuhachiho variations are all part of the same family and have commonalties, but they are still quite different.

In an interview, Hirokazu Kanazawa stated that he learnt Nijuhachiho from a Master Inoue. Kanazawa says that Inoue’s karate was a “very original style” and that Inoue was reluctant to teach it. However, following an introduction from a mutual friend, Inoue said he would teach Kanazawa the kata (just three times). Kanazawa incudes the kata in his association’s syllabus because, “Nijuhachiho is a very original kata. lt gives us history and also many different techniques that we do not have in the 26 Shotokan kata.

The Kanazawa / Inoue “very original” version of “28 steps”  

 

Mabuni’s Nipaipo, Kanazawa’s Nijuhachiho and McCarthy’s Neipai (assuming it is the same as the one in the video above; they start the same) are all quite different. Can we say which is closest to Go Kenki’s “Neipai”? I don’t think we can because we don’t have a “pure” version of Go Kenki’s “Neipai” to contrast them with. The Go Kenki version is lost to us.

It’s also clear the kata variations goes by a number of names. I don’t think we can say one is “correct” or “more correct” than the others. After all, all the names used refer to “28 steps”.

This leads us to the second point.  Mabuni did not pass on the kata unaltered, but made his own kata based on Go Kenki’s methods. Mabuni did prefer to include the explicit “steps” for his version, so it makes sense to go with that when referring to that specific kata. It would not be incorrect to do so.

Did the mysterious Inoue pass as unaltered version on to Kanazawa? Despite the assurances he did, I doubt it because that generally not how kata works. This want for “purity” seems to be a very modern thing. Irrespective, it would be right to refer to that version as “Nijuhachiho” though. I can’t see how we can say the “ho” in the name is incorrect?

As Jesse Enkamp observed, the version of Nipaipo most commonly practised in Okinawa is Mabuni’s version, and “Nipaipo” is the name it goes by there: http://www.karatebyjesse.com/3-remarkable-karate-observations-from-okinawa-here-we-go-again/

Mark B wrote:
All I'm saying is the correct name of the form is actually Nepai.

You can say “28” / “Nepai” in the full understanding you are referring to the number of “steps” when saying “28”. Or you can actually say “28 steps” / “Nipaipo”. We could also pronounce the same name the Japanese way as “Nijuhachiho”. All are correct. I don’t think we can say “Nepai” is the “correct name” and all others are wrong. They are essentially saying the same thing.

There are a number of different versions of this form. When referring to the most commonly practised Shito-Ryu karate kata of “Nipaipo”, I think it makes most sence to go with the variation of the name it most commonly goes under; and that was preferred by Mabuni as the creator of that version.

If we go with the lesser practiced Inoue / Kanazawa version of “Nijuhachiho”, then I think we should again go with their preferred name for it.

Same with the McCarthy version. If the preferred variation on the name is “Nepai”, then go with that.

They all mean the same thing and the variations make it clear which one we are referring to.

Mark B wrote:
It doesn't really matter

I agree. I would not say that missing out “steps” is “more accurate” or “ the "correct name” though. They are all correct.

Mabuni and Kanazawa are not incorrect when including “steps” as all sources agree that is what the number refers to.

Mark B wrote:
I've got some nice application templates myself which I should record soon.

I look forwards to seeing them. I filmed quite a bit over the weekend on bunkai for the “Mabuni version” which I will share soon. Probably warrants its own thread, but here is some stuff for the Inoue / Kanazawa version that I filmed last year:

 

All the best,

Iain

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

and while we are at it. Kanazawa also shotokanized the Suparimpei (108 in Uchinaguchi) into Hyakuhachi Ho (108 steps in Japanese).

Regards Holger

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Hi Iain. The version I practice is the Patrick McCarthy Nepai, which the short clip you posted refers to. It's interesting to note that although there are loads of differing versions (albeit with many similarities) Patrick McCarthy says this version is related to the version which is mapped out in the Bubishi. I suppose that's not too surprising as the Bubishi version I'm referring to is of course translated by Patrick McCarthy. He does say however that he did receive instruction from a decendant of Go Kenki, which is interesting. Of course this doesn't mean that the version he teaches, and which I practice is "the" version, but it is an interesting point nonetheless. I'll look forward to seeing your Nipaipo stuff, I'll try and get some Nepai stuff done on Monday :-) All the best. Mark

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

ky0han wrote:
Kanazawa also shotokanized the Suparimpei (108 in Uchinaguchi) into Hyakuhachi Ho (108 steps in Japanese).

I think this makes sense has Shotokan has always used an exclusively Japanese nomenclature. One notable exception would seem to be Kanazawa’s Seipai (18), which has retained the name “Seipai” and has not became “Juhachiho”. Although I notice in the video below that Kanazawa has used the Kanji  “十八” (18) as the name for the kata and he has not used katakana for “Seipai” i.e.” セイパイ”

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Mark,

Mark B wrote:
The version I practice is the Patrick McCarthy Nepai, which the short clip you posted refers to.

Thanks for clarifying. It’s nice to be able contrast the three versions.

Mark B wrote:
I'll try and get some Nepai stuff done on Monday :-)

Great! It will be nice to contrast the bunkai as well as the solo forms too. Should make for an interesting thread!

All the best,

Iain

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