DISCUSSIONS PAGE for the KATA of SHINDEN YŌSHIN RYŪ
Questions on the origin of the kata and their names have always been asked. I will try to shed some light on it, but my own knowledge of the subject isn't really very good. There is a page link below this introduction that has the kata names and their linguistic meanings (I strongly suggest consulting that.) When we were kids the common hype was that these martial arts techniques were ultimately “thousands of years old”. Times have changed and people are more willing to truthfully discuss these subjects. At one time, nobody would have ever dreamed of posting a ryuha's mokuroku to the Internet, but today, it is becoming suspicious if one doesn't. This is really because the schools have been propagating for so long that, really, the techniques are becoming common knowledge by and large. Hence there are as of this date [September 2008] a multitude of mokuroku which have been posted to the net by the Japanese (both Gendai and the older schools.) The new pathways of information have filled in many of the gaps and now we know a little bit more about the subject.
How old are the katas?
As far as anyone knows, the katas seem to be no older than maybe 250 years old (originating back in the 1700's.) In some cases maybe not even that old (a date in the 1800's is possible in some cases.) How can we tell? Some katas have names that were not coined as a language term until the early 1800's. Some katas actually bear names that come from the 20th century (for example, I know of a kata the name is the Japanese word “steering wheel [of an automobile]” and this term was not used prior to the advent of the automobile... so we know that kata is likely 20th century. Lest anyone take these remarks as ammunition and jump the pulpit to claim that our school's kata are 20th century (or worse, 21st century): no such luck. From what other schools practice the SYR kata listed here are about as old as any other. In fact, some of the kata (same name, same or very similar technique) appear in old jujutsu books from the 1940's and 1950's so it ain't like such dribble could seriously be propagated.
Where do the katas come from?
That's a bit more complex of a question. From what we have learned, it seems likely that the katas are all technique patterns developed as of the 1700's primarily for use in the field of police-work and domestic paramilitary applications within Japan itself. I need to point out that there are multiple groups living in Japan other than the Japanese themselves (such as the Ainu, Korean immigrants and etc.) These groups were, until rather recently, strictly controlled and sometimes that was the paramilitary application these arts and techniques saw. Very little battlefield combat considerations seems to have figured in. The katas apparently seem to have been developed as a means of self protection during the line of duty in police work – or in conducting domestic paramilitary occupations of disparate peoples living among the Japanese themselves. Where the kata did not come from: they are most certainly not of samurai origin. It is unlikely that the samurai were ever that nice to a commoner or a combatant (the katas will inflict harm, of course, but the samurai would likely have but killed the foe or apprehended criminal, if that much violence were necessary as the katas demonstrate.) No, the kata did not come from the samurai. What about the sword katas? Please go and read my page on “the Complete martial path”, it explains that Budo does not espouse the old nobility classes – the fact that we have sword katas available to us is indicative of this fact. And no, it's not very bloody likely that the samurai afforded them to us. Necessarily then, the sword kata are techniques developed after the 1700's as the sword became available to the common classes in Japanese society. The sword katas were not originated by the samurai either. The kata were developed as of and after the 1700's for use by non-samurai classes.
What do the kata names mean?
Well, this is one of my favorite subjects. The katas bear striking and unusual names, frequently quite poetic (such as “demon crusher”, ”abomination drop”, “butterfly capture” or “Hill drop”.) The name origins was a fascinating study. Turns out that some of them were known religious terms (associated with Buddhism), others were common language terms, whilst many others were archaic terms that came originally from Chinese language. I had always heard that if one knew how, there was a message encoded into each of the kata sequence names, not unlike the message encoded into the Hiden entries. Now that I know that some of the kata names come from Chinese and are not in use among the modern Japanese – this makes much more sense. It is a fact that many of these kata names, one would not have believed could be a language term but sometimes not only are they, it's actually Sino-japanese idioms (not modern Japanese at all. Chinese language idiomatic terms.) Case in point: in order to decode them as a potential message or statement, one would need to know a hefty amount of Chinese. The following page addresses the subject of the names and meanings in more detail: Kata names and their linguistic meanings
The following page links address the katas per I-den section
Shōden no maki
Chūden no maki ]
Okuden no maki [
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