Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Friday, August 03, 2012

Shisochin...what four?

Hokama book
Many years ago, in a country far, far away...I'm thinking of this because I saw a discussion of Shisochin recently...Anyway, at the time I was sitting in Matayoshi Shinpo sensei's dojo with a number of other students from the States, when Hokama Tetsuhiro sensei came by. Not so unusual, I suppose, since he had trained kobudo with Matayoshi sensei. This was just after he had written his first book on the history of Okinawan karate. He had a stack of books with him, which he brought in, very generously autographed, and gave to us. I think we actually bought them, but it was certainly worth it. The pictures are great, though I still can't read it!

Later, on a walk back after visting the Shuri museum with him and Matayoshi sensei, we had an opportunity to ask Hokama sensei about the meanings of the different Goju-ryu kata names, among other things. I wish we had been savy enough to ask more meaningful questions, but we were relatively young in age and experience. Anyway, I remember Hokama sensei saying that he believed Shisochin got its name form the four-direction palm strikes, since there were four of these techniques and they were done first to the south, then to the north, then west, and finally to the east.
A plausible explanation, I suppose, but I have since come to think that the kata was called Shisochin (four direction fighting) because it shows responses to attacks from four directions--from the front, the back, and the sides. Certainly most of the other classical kata of Goju-ryu show a variety of ways to respond to attacks from the front and sides, but Shisochin seems to me to show a response to an attack from the rear--not such a common scenario in Goju-ryu, I think--though I don't subscribe to the idea that the over-the-shoulder "punch" is an attack to the rear. Rather, I believe, the movement of the arms simply shows a release from a rear bear hug attempting to pin the defender's arms to his sides. The dropping motion of the body along with the rear thrust of the hips facilitates this release. The counter-attack, however, is in the turn around into the final position. The upper left arm of the defender's release grabs the attacker's head on the turn around, while the defender's right hand drops, first attacking the groin and then bringing the attacker's left arm up while bringing the attacker's head down with the left arm. The final position is in cat stance (neko-ashi) to show that the knee is brought up into the attacker's head or face. The end. Of course, I could be wrong.

The interesting thing, however, is that this bunkai or analysis of kata takes into consideration not just some aspects of the moves in kata but all of them--the hands, the feet, the body, the directional changes, etc. I hate it when someone calls it bunkai and it doesn't match the kata?! Call it something else. Flights of fancy (or experimentation) are fun and even often instructive, but if kata is a tool to remember how to do techniques, then bunkai should show how those same techniques are applied, shouldn't it?
Something similar to Shisochin technique just before the turn from the Bubishi.

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