So as we are on the eve of saying goodbye to 2021, I thought I would, as has become the norm, share some thoughts and reflections of 2021. For the most part, 2021, at least on a global scale, appeared to be a repeat of 2020, except this time we knew Covid-19 was here; perhaps we had naively thought it would disappear by the summer?
On a political, global scale, I remain cautious. Activities in Ukraine, the South China Sea and Hong Kong continue to be a matter of concern globally. Likewise, the ravages of Omicron, although less severe than previous incarnations, continue to wreak national health care systems. Sadly, even in such dark times, the poor, most notable in the developing world, continue to fall far short of the developed world in accessing vaccines. When will the penny drop? We are all in this TOGETHER!
While some leaders dither, lives are being unnecessarily lost to Covid and those impacted by its repercussions. Likewise, a general malaise on the part of some does appear to be hurting the ability of health care workers to make an impact. So, wear a mask and wash your hands; at least, if nothing else, it will help decrease the spread of other contagions, thus creating some breathing room for our health care workers. Besides, there are some very fashionable masks out there ;-).
Today also marks the anniversary of George Nkencho; an Irishman shot at the hands of Garda. While the facts of the case remain unknown, they remind us of our collective responsibility to explore and expect complex answers rather than seeking a simple solution. Why the Garda shot and killed an unarmed man remains unclear. However, unlike other places, the family and guads continue to work together to resolve this shooting both recognising that the death of this young man is complex and in retrospect unnecessary. As Irish people, we know only too well the role unchecked power and profiling played in our collective history. As a nation, we must hold ourselves and those who represent us to the highest level of respect and competence.
Also in a political vein, the ongoing re-discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada is serving to highlight not only the plight of First Nations but how poorly educated the general population is regarding them. I recall as a young researcher visiting the `Fluffs and Feathers` exhibition at the Iroquois museum and being struck by the sobering realisation that for many, First Nations exist in a myth. They are not permitted to exist as complexities within the present.
As a former employee of DINAD and a First Nation, I witnessed firsthand the challenges such nations face. I saw how often nepotism, ill-conceived policies and sometimes downright disregard played out nationally and at the Band level made equity such a pipe dream for many.
Residential schools are a complex topic and simply placing them as an outgrowth of racism fails to understand and accept the depth and complexity of the issues at the heart of this grim past. What is needed is a deep commitment to mutual respect and listening. And yes part of this discussion MUST BE holding each other to account for failing to do so infantilizes both. Only with mutual respect, can the ongoing truth and reconciliation process serve as a bridge to rightfully return native people to their central place within a modern, multi-ethnic nation. However, the federal government spending 100 Million (CD) to fight land-claims it agreed to under this commission does not bode well. Perhaps the funds could be better spent in improving clean water supply and health care on reserves and native communities across the country? Likewise, holding band councils to the same standards of financial regulation as other local or national authorities may enable broken and divided societies to heal.
This year proved to be one of a few hits and many misses on a personal level. My health has continued to spiral in the wrong direction, albeit at a slower pace. Despite my attempt to correct a botched surgery, hip issues and lack of mobility are impacting lifestyle and well-being. Also living with acute Diverticulitis - which I may add is not so cute at all has made me feel rather sorry for myself on more than one occasion. Fingers crossed with ongoing work 2022 will see this trend reversing itself.
The trip to Okinawa to research Chinen (Chitose Tsuyoshi) was a highlight, meeting his great-grandson the best of all possible outcomes. The support of many senior karate people in Okinawa, Japan and North America for this endeavour was heartwarming and energising. What was not welcome were the angry voices demanding me not to write this history for to do so would detract from the Chitose legend. As I have said here and in other places, I firmly believe such views to be grounded in at worst self-promotion or at best a sense of misplaced loyalty.
The history of Chinen is one of the Okinawan people bereft of tinsel and rose-coloured glasses. The challenges Chinen, and by extension, the Okinawans faced as they sought to make their way in an unkind world needs to be told - for it is a celebration of the spirit of the downtrodden.
Thanks to ongoing conversations with senior instructors, the year has also been fruitful as my understanding of Budo, especially Kobudo and Karate, continued to evolve with age and retrospect. The enigma of Okinawan video continues to be a well, I drink from consistently.
Personally, the major highlight of 2021 was making contact with some folks from my past. It brought peace of mind which I had not known in a long time.
So in closing, this is my metaphor for this year is/was:
One is never sure how a pebble cast in a pond and its ripples play out.
Apologies for a rather lengthy absence - between work and budo the Fall seemed to disappear.
As I again take up the work on the early years of Chitose I thought I would share a translation of a work by his top ranked deshi Major Inomoto-Masaru. Intomote-sensei was a direct student of both Chitose and Akamine sensei, and currently is one of the top ranked swordsmen of the All Japan iaido federation. I was fortunate enough to be his student between 1998-2009, of which six years were directly under his instruction in Kumamoto (2003-09).
During these years Inomoto-sensei wrote and shared a number of ideas regarding budo with his students. Out of respect for Inomoto-sensei I have never shared or translated these pieces, however I believe the article below is `ok` to share as it helps reveal his thinking regarding Sanchin kata.
Indeed my decision to share this article was due to a recent conversation with my friend Mr Joe Swift. Over a recent chat Joe and I were discussing how we both believed the whole range of motion in a given technique should be given attention and not just its start and end point. As you will see below, this was an idea which was first planted in me by Inotmoto-sensei.
If you have done an internetsearch for `Sanchin Chito Ryu` the black and white video you will inevitably find is Inomoto Sensei.
The Sanchin I learned from Inomoto-sensei, while having the exact same embusen of the mainstream Chito version, was far more pliable in the limbs that I had previously learned under Higashi-sensei and Chitose-Jr. Such softness of technique is the bedrock of Inomoto Sensei`s Jikishi Ryu approach to Chito Ryu and Kobudo.
Inomoto sensei noted the body should be rooted like a tree, but the limbs, especially the arms should remain soft, like branches that blow and whip in the wind. This version also had many close quarter interpretations and was not focused on only developing a strong body. Below is a short piece of Inomoto-sensei`s thoughts on Sanchin. My thanks to my son, Aodhan and Joe Swift for helping with some of the finer points of the translation.
As these instructions were meant for direct students, Inomoto Sensei left some key words out. In an effort to add clarity I have added some words to help with the articulation of his teaching. To this end, this is not a word for word direct translation, as such a translation would miss key, background principles which were implied, but not written. To this end any misleading information herein, are a result of my translation and in no way detract from the ideas of Inomoto-Sensei.
興武館 館長 井野元 勝
Concerning the Three Elements of White Crane.
When we discuss the notion of the `middle` in karate/martial arts we are actually referring to the inside of the body.
Sanchin seeks to cultivate the strengthening of the internal organs, chi, and chakras through focused muscle contraction, tendon/ligament development/enrichment, and the utilization the power of correct breathing.
Such cultivation is learned through the practice of the Sanchin kata (aka three battles).
What is the meaning of the word "joint" within the White Crane System?
A special, but often missed aspect of training the Sanchin system, and by extension, the white crane is the role of joints. However, what do these joints refer to? It is important to be mindful of the sets of joints within the human body and your train, explore and understand Sanchin. Herein, the word "joint" refers to the three joints of the legs (hip, knee, and ankle) and the three joints of the hands (the three joints of the hand are the shoulder, elbow, wrist).
Moreover, there are also the joints of the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and hips. The meaning and significance of utilising joints are gained through practising the "White Crane Joint Method".
It is important to pay attention to the intricacies of each motion, not just those on the surface. Focus on all aspects of the motion, not just the start and endpoints - that is what are the potentialities of the technique as it moves through its range of motions from its starting position, to its ending position.
The meaning of "搖".
In the White Crane system and thus Sanchin "搖" means "to shake".
Therefore, when faced with an enemy's attack at close range, the fighter will quickly twist his body to face the attacker, evade the attack, and unbalance the attacker. This twist motion also has the additional benefit of utilising the rotational power of the joints to generate power while simultaneously attacking multiple places at once, which we first learned in Seisan’s "13 steps" kata. Another means of thinking about Seisan kata is rather than simply thinking of it as 13 steps, expanding your consideration to seek to master the 13`shakes` or twisting kata. Mastering Seisan forms a bedrock to unlocking Sanchin.
NB+Jikishin Ryu Karate-do and Okinawa (Ryukyu) Kobudo incorporate all three of these elements.
All three elements are incorporated in Jikishin Ryu karate.
The more you train, the more you will understand.
Signed: Masaru Inomoto, Director, Koubukan
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan