Saturday, 15 November 2008

Okinawan -> Japanese -> Korean forms

Some time ago I was researching the origin of the matial art of Tang soo do, particularly the forms we practice (or Hyung) and I came across an interesting thing while training with a local karate club. The teacher is an impressive martial artist called Malcolm Howlett who was trained in (I believe) Goju Ryu and is very knowledgable with an instantly easy rapport. The revelation I made when training with Okinawan and Japanese stylists was that the forms I had taken great care to learn have a strong heritage in the Okinawan forms! I could happily follow a kata class with these guys, even understanding the names of the forms. I believe also that the Korean hyung have vestiges of an older style, that is to say the Japanese kata seem to have evolved in a different way and often the instructor would remark that I would perform an 'older' variant. 

The lineage of Korean karate is often disputed: certain exponents believe it has a pure lineage back to the 3 kingdoms era with no Japanese influence and mostly some Northern Chinese teachings (Northern Chinese kung fu or Mountain style is typified by higher stances, high and jumping kicks). what cannot be disputed though is the similarity between Tang Soo Do's hyung and the Japanese and Okinawan style katas.

Okinawan karate was influenced by Chinese traders who practiced Chuan Fa (chuan meaning 'fist'). The Okinawans developed this into a hard style which they referred to as 'Te' (or fist).  Kara te (originally meaning Chinese hand) was then taken to Korea during the early twentieth century occupation. Note the similarity between Kara te and Tang Soo (China Hand). Of course the nomenlature does not in itself make an argument in itself and it is true that Korean karate is typified by spectacular jumping and spinning kicks with high energy but I believe the structure of the Tang Soo do forms is irrefutably linked to a Japanese and Okinawan heritage.

Okinawan kata Japanese kata Korean Hyung
Pinan Heian Pyong Ahn
Naihanchi Tekki Naihanchi
Passai Bassai Bassai


Rohan Meikyo Rohai
Chinto Gankaku Jindo
Kusanku Kanku Kong Sang Koon
Useishi Gojushiho  
Seisan Hangetsu  
  Jitte Sip Soo

I'll get round to making this look prettier soon!

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