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                                                                                           by GARY GABELHOUSE
Okinawan Karate, is basically a family of regionalised martial-arts systems developed largely from the schools of Chinese boxing that originated South of the Yangtze River in China.  These Southern Chinese Boxing systems originated in Guangdon, Guangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang.  These boxing or Quan Fa variants included the Cantonese family styles of Hong, Li, Liu, Mo and Cai, as well as older versions of what are now Choi Lei Fut, Hung Ga, and Wing Chun.  Over the centuries, the Southern schools of Chinese Boxing were exported to the Ryukyu islands of Okinawa, carried on the same ships that carried thirty-six Chinese families in 1392--Chinese who were destined to become high-ranking Ryukyu officials into the 19th and early 20th Centuries.  The Chinese Boxing styles of Fujian were traded right along with the agricultural goods of the Ryukyus.  Prior to 1609, the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) were a long-time Chinese Trade State--up until the Satsuma Invasion and Japanese subjugation (1609).  However, the Satsuma Invasion was an invasion in name only.  Basically, the Japanese wished to also benefit from open trade with China.  But since China required that all its trading partners become Chinese Trade States, the Japanese could and would not openly trade with China.  The subjugation of the Ryukyus by Japan was executed so that the Japanese could make use of a loop-hole in Chinese Trade, and have the Trade State of Ryukyu ALSO be a Subject State of the Hideyoshi Shogunate.  The Okinawan merchants were used as the middlemen of trade between Japan and China.
One of the Fujian, Crane Boxing styles, was taught by Xie Zhong Xiang (the mysterious Ru Ru Ko) to a Ryukyuan merchant, Higashionna Kanryo.  Higashionna is thought to have had exposure to other Fujian styles, as well--what with his possible training at the Kojo dojo in Fuzhou, his training with Zheng Li Gong, and Wei Xinxian in Fuzhou, or training under Aragaki and the Kojo families in Kumemura near Naha.  According to my research, I contend that Higashionna predominately learned crane-system forms from Ryu Ryu Ko.  His prior and subsequent studies both in Okinawa and Fuzhou introduced forms and techniques from other animal-systems.  Hence, Higashionna's kata or forms had a strong crane core, with other animal styles contributing their forms and techniques.  Higashionna's student, Miyagi Chojun, according to my research, and the research of others, significantly changed the nature of Higashionna's Chinese forms, and began to teach the contemporary kata of what is now Goju Ryu Karate-do. In my analysis, Goju-ryu is more Miyagi Chojun’s personal interpretation and expression of the teachings of Higashionna Kanryo.
Fāng Qīniáng
Ling Shixian
Kwan Pang Yuiba Xie Zhongxiang
(Ryu Ryu Ko)
Higashionna Kanryo Miyagi Chojun
Miyagi Chojun spent his life studying the fighting arts of China, and the endemic Okinawan Te or Bu. During his wide-ranging studies he came into contact with many Chinese systems, including Fujian White Crane boxing, Tiger boxing (Hu Quan), Monk Fist boxing (Lohan Quan) and most likely, Five Ancestor fist boxing (Go Cho??).  It is no surprise to me that given his study of many styles of Chinese boxing, that those styles are reflected in Miyagi's kata of Goju-ryu. All kata in Okinawan Karate-do include many of the same strikes, blocks, kicks, grabs, chokes, throws and immobilization techniques. However, kata tends to have a unique signature with regard to body mechanics (posture), energy utilization (breath) and projection (ki), etc. These aspects in conjunction with the intent of the kata, form the signature of each of the Goju Ryu kata--and sheds some light on their origins.  The kata created, changed and supplemented by Miyagi includes the signatures of other animal systems other than the main-line crane kata that were the legacy of the kata learned and taught by Higashionna.
The publisher of my second novel, PROPHETS REBORN, also published the book by Hokama Tetsuhiro, Okinawa Karate-do Kobudo no Shinzui. Naha, Naha Shuppansha (1999).  In this book, Hokama lists six (6) ways to analyze Okinawan Karate-do Kata.  Two of the six means of analysis concerned the "religious and spiritual principles inherent within the kata," and the "metaphysical or transcendental aspects of the practice."  Another means of kata analysis, according to Hokama, was by studying the kata for its "implied movement of...animals."  
The analysis of animal movements found in modern Goju-ryu kata can provide clues and logic constructs that helps one determine the developmental origin of the Goju form itself. The movements of THE FIVE ANIMALS has long been held as "significant" in the fighting systems of China and Okinawa.  The Five Animals of Southern Styles include: The Dragon; Tiger; Leopard; Snake; and, Crane.
Traditionally, each of the Five Animals were associated with unique, physical, and metaphysical characteristics that were exhibited or exemplified by the principles and techniques found within the style. The DRAGON was believed to cultivate the spirit of the practitioner, and emphasised fluid movement without force or strength. The TIGER was in direct contrast, and movements and techniques were aggressive, and hard. The Tiger Boxing styles were believed to rely heavily on isometric and isotonic exercises to achieve Tiger Boxing mastery. The LEOPARD, much like the tiger, used strong and aggressive movements--but with more of a quick and guarded nature. The SNAKE was associated with the cultivation of Chi / Ki and personal energy. Snake systems focus on breathing in addition to flexibility and strength. The last of the Five Animals was the CRANE. Movements of the crane were associated with swiftness and flexibility. Training in these "Crane" movements were believed to strengthen the body’s tendons and ligaments.
Recent efforts by martial-arts historians Kinjo Akio, and Tokashiki Iken have also shed some light on how the names of Chinese animal-styles align with the names of Goju kata.  They (Kinjo and Tokashiki) contend that Goju-ryu kata are significantly derived from Fujian, Animal boxing systems. They argue that the current names of Goju-ryu kata have been Okinawanised from their original pronunciation in the Fujian dialect, with the kata's true meaning (and hence, clues to their origin) having been lost over generations of translation.
In his 1936 article, “Ryukyu Kenpo Toudi Enkaku Gaiyou,” and specifically in a section of that article titled: "Kenpo Torai ni tsuite" (On the origin of Kenpo)  Miyagi names the following animal styles of Chinese boxing as being inherently linked to the Kaishu Goju Ryu Kata: Tiger Boxing; Snake Boxing; Dog Boxing; Crane Boxing; and, Lion Boxing.
Since Higashionna learned a core group of Crane-based forms, and supplemented those with forms from other animal systems, and since Miyagi also studied numerous Animal-based quan during his visits to Fuzhou, it makes sense to me that the original eight Goju Kata of the art coined as GOJURYU KARATE-DO, is an amalgam of Fukien animal systems, with a strong Crane-system core: 
SANCHIN Three Battles Crane Boxing (Open Hand Version)
SAIFA Crush - Break Crane (& Lion) Style Boxing    
SEUINCHIN Control - Pull - Suppress Hawk Style Boxing
SANSERU Thirty-Six (36) Crane Style Boxing
SEIPAI Eighteen (18) Dragon Style Boxing
SEISAN Thirteen (13) Crane Style Boxing
SHISOCHIN Four Direction Battle/Suppress Mantis Style Boxing
SUPAREMPAI 108 (Steps) Crane Style Boxing
Sanchin or Saamchien as taught to Higashionna and as was likely taught to Miyagi was performed with open hands, and displayed the nukite and wing-oriented techniques of the Fukien White Crane lineage.  The embusen of the kata was changed by Miyagi.  As well, the "energy generation" of the kata was changed by Miyagi's closing the hands into a fist.  The mawashi uke finishing techniques retain possible Lion/Tiger boxing elements (Tora Guchi).  Of course, many Buddhist-based quan contain the mawashi uke mudra.
Of all the Goju-ryu kaishu kata to be passed down, only Saifa appears to have retained it’s original pronunciation in Fujian dialect.  Saifa is pronounced the same in Fujian as it is in Okinawan Hogan.  Among the Southern systems in Fuzhou there were a number of boxing systems named as “Lion boxing."  These include, among others, Lion Form boxing, Golden Lion boxing and Lion boxing. Several elements of Lion boxing can be specifically seen in Saifa such as the double hiraken strike and mawashi uke. The double hiraken strike, according to Kinjo and Tokashiki, represents the pouncing and pulling action of the a lion’s front paws pulling down it’s prey, while the mawashi uke, although often thought of as the mouth of tiger (Tora Guchi), can also be interpreted as the mouth of the lion as well. Also, the stomping actions of kata Saifa could represent the powerfully regal steps of the lion.
This kata is known as Seinchin, Seiyunchin Seiyonchin or Seianchin in Okinawan dialect. The pronunciation of this kata in Fujian dialect is Chaiinchin. Both Tokashiki and Kinjo believed that Chaiinchin is derived from the fighting movements of the hawk with is movements of the wings and talons. Although a relatively rare form of Chinese boxing, Hawk boxing is still practiced in some areas of Fuzhou and on the island of Taiwan. According to Kinjo, two movements in Chaiinchin are characteristic of Hawk Boxing: The opening movement of the kata in which the hands and arms are extended outward, with the practioner in shiko-dachi--the body turned to a forty-five degree angle. This movement is meant to represent the hawk stretching its wings before engaging its prey; and,the hooking grab and nukite techniques which represent the hawk's talons as they grab and tear its prey.
Sanseru, Seisan and Suparempei (known as Soparinpai in Fujian dialect) were kata with origins in Crane Boxing styles.  These precise origin(s) of these three kata are speculative, but likely include a number of schools of the Crane styles: Ancestral Crane (Zong He Quan); Feeding Crane (Shi He Qan); Whooping Crane (Ming He Quan); and, Flying Crane (Fei He Quan).  Researcher Kinjo Akio argues that these kata belong to the Ancestral Crane (Zong He Quan) lineage originating in Yong Chun village, and were passed on to Higashionna Kanryo not by Ru Ru Ko, but by Zheng Li Gong from Yong Chun City, Fujian. This is the same Yong Chun village where Fang Qi Niang, the founder of Southern White Crane Fist, was said to have lived. Other researchers and martial-arts historians contend that these kata were, instead, handed down to Higashionna by Aragaki Seisho--a noted Monk-fist and Crane boxing master who lived in Kumemura, near present-day Naha.  Still others feel that Higashionna learned this kata from the Kojo clan who were also of Kumemura.  Regardless of the precise origin(s), there are many techniques within these kata which are certainly Crane style in origin. The sukui-uke (scooping block) found within each of these three kata, according to Kinjo, is named after the scooping action that emulates "the crane scooping a fish from the water."  This technique is used to quickly arrest the opponent, and to "throw" or cause the attacker to fall to the ground. The necessary power to throw the attacker from such a close-in position, is often taught to include “shaking jin." Shaking jin refers to sudden and explosive movement of the torso and waist in conjunction with a solid stance--a mimic of a crane as it ruffles its breast feathers before an attack.

Both kata Kururunfa and Seipai are, acccording to Kinjo and Tokashiki, based in Dragon Boxing, as they both emulate the movements of the dragon--emphasizing light and fluid movements that do not at all focus on physical strength. According to Kinjo and Tokashiki, the opening sequence where the practitioner steps back into a shiko dachi, and extends the right arm outward and straight in front is meant to represent the protruding tongue of dragon. Kururunfa is referred to as Gorunfa in Fujian dialect and exhibits more Dragon-like techniques than Kururunfa. The beginning movements of the kata--and the sokuto-geri mimics the dragon as it kicks off of the ground or off the surface of the water as it takes flight. Also, the dragon’s tail striking the water (lower palm-strike) are found in the kata, and the sequence of escape techniques at the end are distinctively dragon and are very similar to chi-gong exercises which also emulate the Dragon style found in the opening sequences of Five-Animal (Five Element) form in Hung-gar Quan’fa.
SHISOCHIN...According to Kinjo Akio, Shisochin, or in Fujain dialect Shisauchin, is representative of the movements of Cricket or Mantis forms. The opening kamai and nukite in Shisochin mimic the mantis' hooking and killing its prey. The forward stance with the arms extended is said to mimic the Cricket or Mantis spreading its wings.
What Higashionna learned from his first teacher, Aragaki Seisho in Naha, Okinawa was most-likely Crane based due to Aragaki's teacher, Wei Xinxian, being from the Crane lineage.  The core of what Higashionna learned when he lived in Fuzhou was most likely also based on the Fukien White Crane system, as his enigmatic teacher, Ryu Ryu Ko was from a White Crane-system lineage (Kwan Pang Yuiba).  Higashionna also received instruction from the Kojo dojo in Fuzhou, and later in Okinawa from Kojo Tatei.  It is therefore, somewhat likely, that Higashionna learned techniques and forms from Fukien systems other than Crane systems.  Subsequently, and after Higashionna's death in 1915, Miyagi went to Fuzhou and studied not only the crane system taught to Ryu Ryu Ko's students, but also was exposed to many other Fukienh, animal-style quan.  Hence, the art passed on by Miyagi--Goju Ryu Karate-do--and its eight basic kata, likely represent an amalgam of Fukien, animal-boxing quan, retaining a strong Fukien White Crane core. 
This hypothesis is based only on the analysis of Goju kata from the perspective of only the animal styles that appear to be emulated in the kata.  Other analysis, including the Buddhist vs. Taoist nature of Goju Kata, and/or the means of chi/ki generation will be developed in future articles of...CURIOUS THINGS.