Quando capita di avere degli “spettatori” alle lezioni, quasi tutti, dopo il junbi undo, mi domandano: “Che tipo di riscaldamento è quello che fate?”. Alla mia risposta: “Non è riscaldamento, è karate“, ottengo reazioni che vanno dallo stupito all’incuriosito.
I Junbi Undo (letteralmente “esercizi preparatori”) sono parte integrante del curriculum tecnico (shido taikei) del Gōjū-ryū di Okinawa, ed è sicuramente una delle eredità più importanti che ci ha lasciato il maestro Chōjun Miyagi.
Gli esercizi che fanno parte del junbi undo, così come vengono praticati oggigiorno, sono stati sistematizzati dal maestro Chōjun Miyagi nel periodo compreso tra il 1917 ed il 1926, in quel periodo che è conosciuto come l’epoca d’oro del Naha-te. E’ molto probabile che alcuni esercizi del junbi undo, che in quel periodo veniva chiamato yobi undo, furono sviluppati dal maestro Kanryo Higaonna. Fu comunque il maestro Miyagi che sistematizzò gli esercizi, in base alla sua ricerca personale ed alle conoscenze che aveva avuto modo di apprendere durante il suo servizio militare (1910-1912), svolto presso una unità medica dell’esercito imperiale giapponese.
Nel 1932 il maestro Miyagi scriveva: “tutte le parti del corpo dovrebbero essere esercitate per sviluppare la flessibilità muscolare, la forza e la resistenza. Gli esercizi preparatori inoltre aiutano il praticante a sviluppare le necessarie abilità fondamentali del karate, i katasanchin e tensho.”
In uno scritto del 1934 aggiunge: “… Terminata l’esecuzione dei kata fondamentali, i yobi undo sono praticati nuovamente per rilassare i muscoli, seguiti da esercizi respiratori.”
Infine nel 1936 precisa: “ciascuna parte del corpo deve essere esercitata in maniera sistematica. […] I yobi undo permettono al praticante di imparare i kata fondamentali con maggiore facilità e comprensione”.
Per riassumere: gli esercizi del junbi undo coinvolgono tutte le parti del corpo, cominciando dalle dita dei piedi, fino ad arrivare al collo, agli occhi. La sequenza degli esercizi può variare, anche se alcuni esercizi dovrebbero essere sempre presenti, nel rispetto del principio “dal basso verso l’alto”. Nel corso di sessione di junbi undo possono essere enfatizzati esercizi per la flessibilità, la forza o la resistenza, tenendo conto del programma da svolgere successivamente. E’ importante eseguirli con la giusta concentrazione, “portando la mente nella parte del corpo che si sta esercitando” (nelle parole del maestro Morio Higaonna). I movimenti devono essere abbinati alla respirazione, avendo cura di inspirare ed espirare correttamente, con modalità che permetteranno successivamente una maggiore comprensione nella pratica dei kata sanchin e tensho.
Il link di seguito permette di vedere il maestro Morio Higaonna in una sequenza di junbi undo (il video è stato girato a metà degli anni ’80).
“Il kata è un concetto difficile da comprendere, così per aiutarci a comprendere con chiarezza la sua natura ed il suo posto nella pratica del karate, possiamo paragonarlo ai differenti tipi di caratteri del sistema di scrittura cinese, i kanji.
Nella scrittura di un carattere esiste uno stile formale o stampato che è governato da regole e dimensioni ben precise. Esiste inoltre uno stile libero o manuale che permette all’autore di esprimere la propria interpretazione dei caratteri formali. … Lo stile formale, con la sua forma fissa e le sue convenzioni, rappresenta il kata. Questa tradizione deve essere mantenuta. Lo stile “libero”, con il suo enorme potenziale per le variazioni e libertà di espressione, rappresenta il kumite. Il kumite è la libera espressione del kata. Se ignoriamo il carattere originale e utilizziamo solamente quello libero, alla fine il carattere originale e il suo significato saranno persi. Così è anche per il karate. Dobbiamo sempre considerare il kata come la base della nostra pratica, dal quale tutti gli altri aspetti possono evolvere. Dobbiamo assicurarci di preservare il kata intatto. La conoscenza e l’esperienza dei grandi maestri della storia non deve essere persa.
The exhibition room of Okinawa Karate Kaikan is currently dedicated to Chōjun Miyagi as well as the history and characteristics of Gōjū-ryū.
And we can find very interesting “news”… here the list of more relevant ones in my opinion.
1928: a copy of an article of Kyoto Imperial University Newspaper (November 1, 1928) about a karate (tode) training session. There also two photos in the article, one of a group training session (all in morote chudan no kamae, sanchin training?), and the other of Chōjun Miyagi in neko ashi dachi / yama uke (like at the end of seiyunchin kata). I never saw these two photos before.. This article is really important because is a written document about the first trip of Chōjun Miyagi in mainland Japan. In the same period there was the meeting with Gichin Funakoshi and Yasuhiro Konishi (see photo below).
1930: copies of three articles about Jin’an Shinzato performance in November 1930 during “The 10th Anniversary Festival of the Establishment of Meiji Jingu”. The event included a martial art kata exhibition and karate was performed together judo and kendo on November 3 and 4 at Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya Public Hall. The articles was published by “Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun” (Nov. 5, 1930), by “Okinawa Asahi Shimbun” (Nov. 11, 1930) and “Hawaii Hochi” (October 16, 1930).
1935: during the tug-of-war held in 1935, Chōjun Miyagi carried out the very important duty “Kanuchibo“, ie helding the Kanuchibo pole that joined the “female rope” with ” the “male rope”. There’s a photo in the exhibition about that matter which is more detailed and enlarged than the known one (see below), where the pole is displayed in almost the full lenght.
1936: of the trip of Chōjun Miyagi in Shangai, we have the commemorative plaque signed by Miyagi and others. There is also a photo displayed at the exhibition with Miyagi seated during a dinner, very similar to the one taken in 1940 at Kyoto (see below), but with a lady in front, together with men in military uniform and jacket – tie.
1940: do you remember my article about the Gōjū-ryū‘s video? You can find it at THE Goju-Ryu video
In the article I stated: “According to Okinawan Prefectural Museum, the photographer, Manshichi Sakamoto, took many pictures during the film and Chōjun Miyagi was in one of the pictures “performing shime on Kotaro Kohama at the Teacher’s College” (as reported in Morio Higaonna’s book). To have more information about the pictures, I wrote to Akiyoshi Sakamoto: he answered me that at the beginning of 2005 they gave all the plates to Japan Folk Craft Museum.
I wrote two times to Japan Folk Craft Museum to have more information about the video and the photos but, unfortunately, I hadn’t receive any answer.”
And the news is…. there the photos! Other than the sanchin shime on Kotato Kohama they displayed:
a smiling Chōjun Miyagi looking at the scene with other operators (you can find a portion of this photo in the brochure of the exhibition);
two more photos of Chōjun Miyagi during sanchin shime;
Chōjun Miyagi supervising the group training of seiyunchin kata;
a student in kuri uke during kururunfa kata;
a student in neko ashi dachi / tora guchi during kururunfa kata;
two students in kururunfa bunkai;
a student during tensho kata;
a student during tan exercise.
To conclude: a terrific exhibition with a lot of material about Chōjun Miyagi and Gōjū-ryū. My hope is that in the future will be available a catalog of the exhibition to have materials to research about…
Chojun Miyagi named his style of Karate-Do “Goju-Ryu” in 1930. From since, Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is spread internationally and now it’s one of the most important styles of karate-do. But respect to other styles of karate-do, there seems to have a lack of material about it in pre-second world war period. There are a number of photos of Miyagi: in my personal research I collected 44 photos. There are 3 manuscripts related to Chojun Miyagi and we can find his opinions in the minutes of okinawan karate masters meeting in 1936.
There were some rumors, as reported by Charles C. Goodin, that a film was shooted of Chojun Miyagi during his visit in Hawaii in 1934-1935, but it has never been found.
And there is THE video. To best of my knowledge, the first written record of this video was in Morio Higaonna’s book “The History of Karate – Okinawan Goju-Ryu” (Dragon Books, 1995).
The video shooted in Okinawa in 1940 and titled “Ryukyu no fubutsu” (Ryukyuan Things) (Black & White / 16mm / 13 min). The video was recorded by Doctor Soetsu (Muyeyoshi) Yanagi. Doctor Yanagi was born in 1889 and lived until 1961, and he is known as the founder of the Japanese craft (mingei) movement that championed the art of the people—the crafts of ordinary use rather than the fine arts. The current owner of the copyright of the video is “The Japan Folk Crafts Museum”.
Morio Higaonna wrote: “In 1940 Doctor Muneyoshi Yanagi, who had been born in Tokyo, brought a group of assistants to Okinawa to research traditional Okinawan culture and folk craft. Among the arts and crafts they studied and recorded were Okinawan karate, Ryukyu buyo (classical dance), yakimono (pottery), kosei bingata (weaving) and shikimono (laquerware).
Doctor Yanagi also vistited Kumejima and other islands, recording his research both in writing and on film, and later published a book about Okinawan culture. Having great respect for the Okinawans, he was instrumental in introducing their culture to Japan.
Four students of Chojun Miyagi demonstrated the art of karate for Dr. Yanagi’s group, a demonstration that was recorded on film. In 1982 Dr. Yanagi’s son brought this film to Okinawa and presented it to the Shuri Museum. About one year later the Museum held a special festival for one week in which the film was shown every day. I went six times during that week to view this piece of history”.
According to the catalog of the 2003 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, where the video was shown,
“shot primarily on location in the towns of Itoman, Shuri and Tsuboya, these pre-war film present the landscape of Okinawan daily life and introduce the arts and crafts of each locale. The film offer glimpses of uminchu (fishermen)’s expressions, traditional architecture, popular cuisine, funeral parades, the atmosphere of bustling markets, and traditional crafts such as Tsuboya-yaki pottery and Bashofu cloth. These work show that the representation of local scenery and folk art, which at first glance seem to be artless “slice of life” pieces of culture, in fact manifest the spirit of the era”.
This are the information about the video, as reported in the catalog:
Supervisors: Yanagi Soetsu, Shikiba Ryuzaburo
Photography, Editing: Ikai Suketaro
Sound: Tojo Kenjiro
Music: Yanagi Kaneko, Yamauchi Yoshiaki
Titles: Serizawa Keisuke
Planning: The Japan Folk Crafts Association
Production Company: Dainippon Bunka Eiga Seisakusho
Source: The Japan Folk Crafts Museum
The description in the catalog don’t write about the karate scene. It lasted about 60 seconds and it included a portion of Tensho kata, a portion of Kururunfa kata, a performance of makiwara, tan,ishi sashi, nigiri game and chishi exercices, a performance of chishi exercise, a portion of a group performance of Seiyunchin kata.
The location of the demostration should be the yard of Okinawan Prefectural Teachers College (Okinawa Kenritsu Shihan Gakko). In that period Chojun Miyagi taught also in Naha Commercial High School, in Okinawa Prefectural Police Academy and in the garden of his house in Wakasa-machi, Naha.
The students of Naha Commercial High School used a karate uniform with a badge, and that badge don’t appear in the uniforms of the students in the video. Also, according to Okinawan Prefectural Museum, the photographer, Manshichi Sakamoto, took many pictures during the film and Chojun Miyagi was in one of the pictures “performing shime on Kotaro Kohama at the Teacher’s College” (as reported in Morio Higaonna’s book). To have more information about the pictures, I wrote to Akiyoshi Sakamoto: he answerd me that at the beginning of 2005 they gave all the plates to Japan Folk Craft Museum.
I wrote two times to Japan Folk Craft Museum to have more information about the video and the photos but, unfortunately, I hadn’t receive any answer.
“a portion of Tensho kata”
It’s not known who performed the kata. According Tetsuhiro Hokama, an Okinawan karate master, he could be Juhatsu Kyoda. Juhatsu Kyoda (1887-1968) was senior of Chojun Miyagi, he began his learning with Kanryo Higaonna few months before Miyagi, at the very beginning of the 20th century. Chojun Miyagi created Tensho kata in 1916 – 1924. Kyoda didn’t teach Tensho kata to his students, but he introduced them to the techniques of Rokkishu, very similar to the tecniques container in Tensho kata, but not formalized. It is claimed that both Miyagi and Kyoda based their creation on a chapter of the Bubishi. There are also rumors the performer was an ex-school principal (as Kyoda) by the name of Tamanaha, but there is no confirmation.
“a portion of Kururunfa kata”
The kata start from heiko dachi position. According to some researchers, Chojun Miyagi changed the kamae position at the beginning of each kata sometime during the war. After the 1945, the kata began by assuming a musubi dachi position with hands crossed in front of the tanden, and not in heiko dachi with the fists drawn to the side of the body, like in the video.
a performance of tan exercise”
We don’t know who was the performer of the tan exercise, but, according to some rumors, he could be Chojun Miyagi in person. If the rumors are true, the video is the only media material with Chojun Miyagi performing hojo undo.
“a performance of tan,ishi sashi,chishi and nigiri game”
The student with the chishi should be Sogen Sakiyama Roshi in his youth, now the zen master of Okinawan International Zen Center. Sogen Sakiyama was born in 1921 and began his training in Buddhism in 1949. In 1940 he had 19, and he was and is related to karate circles from then until now.
“a portion of group performance of Seiyunchin kata”
About 30 people in the same yard of the other parts of the video performed a portion of Seiyunchin kata.