Go & Ju

I was rereading Otsuka Tadahiko’s Goju Kensha book series the other day and was impressed again by their content. I was struck by the many similarities in pedagogy the books described in relation to the Goju-ryu and Tou’on that I learned. One thing that I found interesting was Otsuka’s classification of kata into Go and Ju (strong and flexible). The “Go’ kata according to Otsuka were: sanchin, gekisai-sho, sesan, sanseru and pechurin. The “Ju” kata were everything else.I found it interesting that the “Go” kata were essentially what Kyoda taught and what I believe to be the four core kata of the Nahate system as taught by Higaonna Kanryo. So it made me wonder if the “Ju” kata were what Miyagi introduced to “soften-up” the Kume village boxing he and Kyoda learned from Higaonna. This is something that I have speculated on for a very long time, but have never reached a satisfactory answer. Indeed, perhaps Miyagi was the “inheritor” of the Nahate system and learned these additional “ju” forms from Higaonna Kanryo. I suppose we will never know definitively.

Depending on which view you take, it could also be that coming from a primarily “Go” system, Kyoda felt a need to add Nepai, a more “ju” kata (and one Miyagi didn’t add, assuming any adding was done by him). I asked Kanzaki sensei about Nepai on several occasions and he agreed that it was technically different from the four primary Nahate kata and that it was much softer in execution, but he was not sure why Kyoda decided to learn and include it in his syllabus. However, he was adamant that Higaonna Kanryo did not teach this form.

As for Jion, where that one fits on the hypothetical go—ju scale I can’t really say. However, if I go by what Kanzaki sensei had told me through the years, then Jion would be a “Go” kata as he classified it as a Shorei kata. Therefore it would be consistent with Higaonna’s other forms (as they appear in Tou’on-ryu) which he also classified as “Shorei”. I won’t get into the classification of Shorei vs. Shorin, as I have said my peace on this topic in an article in Dragon Times (1).

Personally I think that Kyoda reviewed and modified his kata as was quite typical with many teachers of his generation. He was an innovator and had a strong understanding of pedagogy because of his teaching background. It is my assumption that he felt that he could improve the ideas and methods of his teacher (much like Miyagi Chojun) in a more rational basis. If nothing else he unified the performance of the Higaonna kata, and added the Kanyu version of Sesan, Gokenki’s Nepai, and Yabus’ Jion. My guess is that he could have done so and maintained a very real belief that he had preserved and passed on the true core of his teacher’s karate, as his dedication was obvious (2).

(1) As an aside, in my limited view, Jion is the ultimate boxing kata – simple, brutal and direct.

(2) As evidenced by Kyoda’s choice of the name of his style of Karate-do.