Martial Arts History & Influences

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Chris Parker, Oct 29, 2011.

  1. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    John, for crying out loud, there is no attack, there is no discrediting, there is no superiority, or anything of the kind. Anything like that you think you are seeing you are reading into it. Okay? I am talking about correct classification, that is it, end of story. If you think that your system not being Koryu means I think less of it, I have stated on a large number of occasions that that is not the case. Please read what I write, not into what I write, as you keep seeing things that aren't there.

    That said, I do have a question for you. You mention that the videos I posted are proof that Koryu classification isn't guarantee of anything, which I'm not arguing with. But which clip, or clips, did you mean? I'm only asking so I can get an idea of what you see when you look at them.
     
  2. JohnEdward

    JohnEdward 2nd Black Belt

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    I believe it was the last one. Which your comment spurred a thought to include into my comment that Koryus are subjected to change and deterioration over time, for various reasons. Implying the value of history in your view and as Jason pointed out it is only as good as the quality of the koryu. It is extremely difficult to know if that has happen to an art or not. Today with modern technology of recording imagines, we can determine only as far back as say the 1900s if lucky. Some arts go back as far as back as around the 1500s or so. Lot can change over time, and it did in Japan. And there is no way of knowing what exactly. Point being the value of history pertaining to martial arts is only as good as those before us. In the future it will be less difficult from the say the 1900s with the advent of photography. that is what I was getting at.
     
  3. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    I put four clips up there, do you mean the fourth one? That's not a Koryu, it's a bogus, invented, modern, Western "Ninjitsu" school. That was the point, that it claimed the history of the other three, but it's movements were a dead giveaway of it's actual history.

    The first three were all Koryu, starting with Takenouchi Ryu Koshi no Mawari, then Tenjin Shinyo Ryu Jujutsu, and finally Fusen Ryu Jujutsu. If you thought the "Koga Ryu Ninjitsu" one was a Koryu....

    That said, there can be some interesting things found in the world of Koryu. This, for instance, often generates a laugh... but trust me, you would not want to be facing these guys for real!



     
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  4. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Purple Belt

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    I feel like "new history" is a bit of a bait and switch though. Not on purpose, of course. But there's a big difference between knowing events from hundreds of years back and recognizing a basic stimulus-response reaction taking place right in front of you. Retaining information that you, yourself, have just observed is a fairly broad view of history.

    Yeah, I'm familiar with that explanation. And it's true that, if your priority is to preserve the culture and history of your style, these details are important. But, again, from a purely technical performance standpoint, every living practitioner of a given Southern kung fu style could suddenly be rendered blissfully unaware of the above explanation. And it wouldn't change the basic, observable, reproducible fact that broad stances offer stability.

    Again, I want to emphasize that I, personally, like to retain the sort of cultural detail you're espousing. But "I value this" is still different from "this is necessary."

    Does that make sense?

    Good to see you again, by the way, Chris.
     
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  5. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    This is what I was driving at. Well said.
     
  6. JohnEdward

    JohnEdward 2nd Black Belt

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    Often the question is this, how is someone to determine what is or isn't BS. Well one school of thought, which Chris you may agree with, is refer to history, study history, use history. Ok, for those who subscribe to this method, I can't disagree. But the issue you will face is your knowledge is only as you as your sources. Which is the case for any historical research. Now, the alternative is to ask around, or directly ask an authority. You also have the net to find out. To the untrained eye, they don't see the earmarks, or the flaws, etc. It is had for them to determine the authentic from the none authentic and they will go to the art that looks the more legit based on their stereotype or background information. The risk here is you may think your asking someone posing as authority providing wrong or fraudulent information. Either has their benefits and drawbacks, though I personally would rather ask. :)


    Chris I think you are pointing this out, if the videos where shown to those unfamiliar with this school, they would pick the fraudulent as the authentic school. Just based on the videos you presented.
     
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  7. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    Isn't he talking about this in the context of koryu arts? If he is, all the 'trappings' are in fact part and parcel of the whole deal and cannot be left out without changing the system. He's not talking purely about effectiveness or practical usage which is the point you are making about the rationale for a wider stance, regardless of any historical reasoning behind it.

    This from a proud practitioner of gendai arts (karate & aikido), so I have no dog in the fight myself.
     
  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    hmmm... I'm gonna ask my Sihing about this tonight. This explanation seems overly simplistic to me. Rocky terrain or not, you don't need much room for a stance, whether the stance is wide or narrow. I can't belive a region of the country would be so covered in loose gravel, demanding a specific stance to the extent that it would completely dictate stance in a martial system.

    My method comes from Tibet, and thru Southern China. We use a fairly high, narrow stance in the main, but wide and deep stances are found in our system at various points, to accomplish a task. Our main stancework is designed with a very specific function in mind, and that is the reason for our stances. We develop and deliver technique in a specific manner, and our stances reflect that, because our stances drive our technique. I've never heard that our stances were dictated by terrain. It's always been about how the system itself is designed and how it works, and how technique is developed and delivered.

    My suspicion is that any well designed system would be the same: stances are used that function within the way the techniques are designed.
     
  9. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Purple Belt

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    Well sure. Chris is speaking from a koryu perspective. After all, he has bugei fever.

    ...

    Sorry.

    I don't have a dog in that fight myself, not being a practitioner of any Japanese art longer than three months (college class). But based on the thread title and the fact that this isn't specifically a koryu forum, there's an implication that this applies across the board. Which is the point I might disagree with.

    But let's assume, for a moment, that we are talking about koryu. Then sure, the history of the styles is important to the transmission of (wait for it) the history of the styles. And that's true across the board as well. My understanding of this debate is that it relates to whether or no the history is necessary to convey technical understanding of specific movements.

    If the debate is over whether history is important in a broader sense, then my answer would change promptly. I do want to know (and do know) much of the history of my chosen styles. But that's a different matter.
     
  10. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I think it is clear Chris is talking about koryu systems given the many references he has made to them in his conversation with John. He's also been very forthcoming that he is not talking about combat effectiveness nor intrinsic worth of koryu vs. gendai martial arts. Just the distinctions that make a koryu art koryu in the first place.

    By the way, this has been an interesting thread. Many thanks to the participants.
     
  11. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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  12. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Purple Belt

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    And I've been clear that I'm not talking specifically about koryu but extending those points to the larger context. Chris is fully aware of my lack of involvement with koryu, and my resulting perspective. As is anyone else who's read this thread. I guess I'm not really clear on what you're telling me.

    If the thread were "role of history in koryu arts," I'd have passed right on by.

    No debate there.
     
  13. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I was addressing this line you wrote: "But let's assume, for a moment, that we are talking about koryu." The thread has become about koryu arts - certainly the last two pages with the back and forth between Chris and John, but arguably for longer than that if we read through the entire series.

    Thus, any remarks about art efficacy without historical knowledge are very well and good, but not what the discussion is or has turned into.
     
  14. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Purple Belt

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    And am I to take it that I'm not in a position to shape the progression of the discussion then? I should just stick to where others have taken it?
     
  15. Cyriacus

    Cyriacus Senior Master

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    That would depend.
    The Other Discussion may have still been Active.
    Redirections are best served when the Previous Discussion has been Concluded somewhat.
     
  16. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm, a few things need clearing up here, particularly in regards to what is being discussed, and what's a side issue from that....

    Not really, if the change was a one-off, yeah, but if it starts a new behaviour (new martial art, or branch of that art), then that is specifically the relevant history in that instance that informs the new system/behaviour. That's kinda the point that I'm getting at with the history (the events and personalities that went into the creation and make-up of the art, whether something that happened 600 years ago, or 6 years ago) being important to be understood. In this instance, Scarlett's complaints are the event that alters the behaviour... which might be seen as a metaphor for a change that forms a new martial art or expression (think of it along the lines of the introduction of Judo by Maeda to the Machados and Gracies forming the new art of BJJ, or the transition from the first, multi-style tournaments of the UFC to the MMA format for gaining accreditation and status with the Sporting Commissions giving rise to modern MMA. These aren't basic stimulus-response sets, they are a new event creating a new behaviour/system) which is what I was getting at.

    That's not really the point, though. The stances are the way they are because of the history of that system, whether the awareness is there or not. This may come as a surprise to a great many, but martial systems that only do things due to purely technical efficacy don't exist. They just don't. As I said earlier, these arts don't spring up out of a bubble, they are a product of their environment, which is a part of the history I've been referring to (the "where it comes from" part). Otherwise you might as well teach Wing Chun (narrow, high stances) with wide, deep stances, such as Hung Gar uses, because "it's more stable". Sure, but that's not Wing Chun, and if you're doing things like that, then you don't understand your art enough, which is, well, the thrust of this thread.

    I mean, it also wouldn't change the basic, observable, reproducible fact that broad stances are slower and less mobile, either. Which value does the system hold? Mobility, or stability? Or compromise between the two? On more stable ground, mobility is safer to prefer, however on rockier ground, mobility can lead to falling over, and being killed, so stability is preferred. And, again, that comes back to the history as to which the system prefers.

    Right. I really want to clear something up here. I want everyone to listen carefully to this, because I don't think it's been listened to for the last, oh, 9 pages or so.

    AT NO POINT HAVE I ESPOUSED, SUGGESTED, RECOMMENDED, INSISTED, DESIRED, INSTRUCTED, DICTATED, DEMANDED, CLAIMED, OR BELIEVED THAT ANY DEGREE OF CULTURAL DETAIL IS REQUIRED.

    Seriously, I think I've said a number of times now that the degree of understanding and knowledge of the history of the system is entirely relative to the system itself. And the vast majority of it comes simply through training the system. When you train in Judo, you don't start wondering where all the roundhouse kicks are, or three sectional staff work, and if someone asks you about them, you say that they're not a part of Judo. If asked why, the answer would be "it's a Japanese grappling system that comes from old Jujutsu systems". I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Judo practitioner that wasn't aware of this part of the history. Do they need to know which systems gave which part of Judo's syllabus to it? No. But they do need to understand why Judo is made up the way it is (throwing primarily) instead of another way.

    That's it.

    Other areas, such as Koryu, need a lot more. But they are their own case, really.

    So when it comes to "necessary", yes, it is necessary. Otherwise you have Judo schools with three sectional staff classes, roundhouse kicks, and Bat'leth...

    Does that make sense?

    Good to see you too, Stuart.

    Right. So, if I read you correctly here, John, you're saying that you learn by being educated, and if you're not educated, you should ask those who are? Okay, not sure if I see the relevance, but okay...

    Oh, and what to look for when checking for BS is to look for congruence both internally and externally with contemporary examples.

    I sincerely hope that no-one looking for a traditional Japanese system would be caught out by the example I put forth. The number of gigantic red flags, issues, inconsistencies, errors, incongruence in action and claims are beyond funny. Honestly, I chose those videos because I felt it was patently obvious which one was the odd one out there (the old "one of these things is not like the other ones..." song)...

    If anyone else thought the "Koga Ryu Ninjitsu" group were a legit system based on comparrison with the three Koryu systems it claimed to share contemporary history with, let me know, and I'll happily point out everything wrong with that clip so you don't get taken in in future.

    No, I'm not talking specifically about Koryu excepting in the conversation with John in order to clarify where he was getting his ideas on them from. So while I'm not talking about effectiveness or practical usage, I am when it comes to that being the reasoning for such an aspect as the stances... depending on that being the reason in the history of the relevant system, of course.

    Take, for instance, your karate and aikido training. Both arts have very different approaches, very different concepts, and very different ideas (there is certainly some cross-over, but by and large, they are very different, in some ways complimentary, systems). Those different concepts, approaches, and ideas are a direct product of each of those arts history. In order to understand why your karate moves the way it does, as opposed to the way your aikido moves, you have to have some understanding of where it came from, and the different path it took to your aikido to come to the expression it now has. And that can be as simple an understanding as "Well, karate came from the striking systems of China to Okinawa, and then were introduced to Japan. Aikido, on the other hand, came from a grappling Jujutsu system in Japan", with other aspects added in for increased richness. The more you understand about the history of each, the better each will be, as the similarities and differences will be clearer to you, and far more obvious in your training of each.

    Yeah, it was very simplistic. I could have gone specific and discussed the histories of Hung Gar versus the histories of Wing Chun if I wanted to give a more detailed and specific example, but it was a broad strokes example to illustrate a point. That said, the terrain in which a system was prevalent, or active, absolutely would influence it's physical expression, starting with the stances.

    Terrain is only one possibility, Michael, and a single, simple example at that. Other influences include the armour used, any other typical clothing worn, any weapons used, whether it's designed for indoors or outdoor use, social customs of the time and location, other martial systems encountered, preference for striking or grappling, and so on. But to terrain, it can be far more influential than you may realise... boxing stances and MMA stances are different for a couple of reasons, and one is that the competitive surface of a boxing ring is firmer than an MMA ring, as the MMA ring needs to cushion falls and takedowns far more, which slows the footwork, and means the stance will get wider (which is also a result of the included grappling range in MMA, by the way). In fact, that's one of the reasons that Royce (and other grapplers) did so well in the initial UFC contests... the strikers weren't used to the slower surface, had too narrow stances, and couldn't get the purchase and speed they were used to. The grapplers, though, were used to it, and had stances that worked with the surface.

    Yes, but the question then comes into how the techniques are designed. For instance, in my systems, one of the schools, Kukishinden Ryu, has a naval history, so the kamae (postures) are wider, giving stability when on a boat. It also has a history of armoured combat, so the kamae reflect this additional weight being present (their form of "hicho" [flying bird] kamae, which typically is a single leg posture, just features the feet brought closer together). And, once again, that comes down to the history of the system.

    Oh, come on Stu, that was awful man....

    Just don't do it again, yeah?

    Absolutely right, this is far from Koryu specific. They will have a far greater emphasis on their personal history than other systems, but that's about it. And honestly, it's easier to get the histories of Koryu systems in order to see the development, the influence of other systems and so on, in order to make the points, but, once more for emphasis, every art is the product of it's history, and to understand the art is to understand the history of it, as without it, there is no art. But, again, that does not mean that everyone needs to know, by rote, every detail in the history, formation, and development of their art, and all related systems, but they do need to have an understanding of what makes their art what it is. And that understanding is in the history.

    Er, except I'm not. They have been used as demonstration examples, and to make points, and there has been some focus in regard to the information and views coming out about them which was rather inaccurate, to say the least, but that's it.

    Here's the catch that may have been overlooked. The history of a particular system may indeed be it's efficacy in the arenas it exists in. MMA, certainly, as well as BJJ, have their entire history based in the efficacy and demonstrable effectiveness and applicability within their competitive arenas, which is what has helped shape them into what they are today. Tez, for example, while saying that the history side of things may not be exactly what she is into all of this for, is the first to come forth and correct the history on the development of MMA as it stands today. Just because that history is recent, and primarily competitively based doesn't alter the fact that that is it's history, and that is what defines and influences the system known as MMA itself.

    In other words, the history of MMA is based in the continued development of training and technical approaches designed to give better success in the field of MMA competition. It has a history of doing that, and that history is what makes MMA what it is (stemming originally from the multi-style contests, where strikers and grapplers began cross-training in the other ranges in order to generate success, leading to MMA training as it exists now).

    Stuart, your position is, if not better than most others, then at least as valid as any to shift the conversation to any expression of the topic that you see is relevant. Not that I think any here could stop you...
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    I'm confused, Chris.

    Initially, as in, after the first 50 or so posts, I was under the impression that this was a discussion about it being necessary for a student to understand the history in order to properly execute the technique. I remain unconvinced, largely as a direct result of what I see occurring in BJJ every day.

    Now, it seems, Chris, that you are saying that the history of an art permeates the techniques so that a student benefits from the history in a passive way, even if they don't take an active interest. That the techniques are what they are as a result of the history. If this is the case, I guess I thought this was self apparent. I mean, who would suggest otherwise? For literally any thing, you can point to a series of events and influences that culminate in a moment in time. I am who I am because of where I've been. BJJ is what it is because of its history.

    As others have said, if this has become a discussion about a specific subset of Japanese martial arts, I'll duck out.

    But if it's about martial arts in general, there are arts taught where, sure, the history of the art influences the instruction, but not in any active manner. Once again, in BJJ, techniques are shown for which no name is given, and as you move from one school to another, different techniques are taught in different ways with different names. The history of the art, while surely being present underneath the instruction, has no overt place on the mats.
     
  18. JohnEdward

    JohnEdward 2nd Black Belt

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    I am not clear Chris with you augmentation style. When trying to discuss something with you, it doesn't seem you will go past elementary initial repudiation. There is no developing the discussion beyond that. I find it difficult to carry a conversation with you that isn't on the edge of developing into an ad hom rodeo. I think what I said was pretty clear and straight forward. I express my opinion that my choice is to ask around instead of taking the historical route to find out information.
     
  19. JohnEdward

    JohnEdward 2nd Black Belt

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    Asking around to check the authenticity vs. historical avenues for verification of authenticity.

    If I go over old ground I apologize. I have learned in my lifetime the power of word of mouth, to ask those who are legitimate experts or those in fields of those most qualified. Others rely on acquiring that knowledge (for sake of argument) prevuing historic information and doing scholarly research and study. Personally, I am a person who practices a historic Japanese martial art (aka koryu) within that field I my process for legitimacy if I care to, I will ask around and do a bit of research. My art of jujutsu is pretty small and I know who is, and who isn't generally. Now if I was to venture outside of Japanese koryu jujutsu, say into Japanese koryu sword, I would then my process on the historic side would follow what makes an art a koryu. If I was to into say, another countries arts, my process would be the same, sculpted by the criteria of what makes a legitimate art.

    I fell into my old school jujutsu martial art, and the previous other martial arts I took. But am going to focus on jujutsu to simplify my discussion here. At the time, all jujutsu back then was taught in that frame. BJJ didn't exist in this country nor was I aware of it. If you want jujutsu outside that koryu frame, that traditional Japanese feel, you had go and do Judo. The alternative to that was Hapkido, or Chin-na, or the local karate club at the YMCA teaching self-defense moves - not a complete program. And the stress of something being authentic didn't exist. That criteria was based on the instructor looking and playing the part, or the instructor being the part. And if you got caught up in a school that made you think twice after awhile, or you heard your school was full of B.S. you dropped and move to another school. Basically, over time you found out which was the best school in your area. I think that still is a pretty viable way of doing things.

    But, some people enjoy the historical process, in terms of a koryu learning Japanese, scrutinizing the lineage, pouring over documents, and documentations etc. Verifying all information set by the established criteria of what defines a koryu. That is fine.

    I study also Taichi. I personally lacked any knowledge of it, but I had experience in knowing what constitutes a good knowledgable instructor and what doesn't. I used that as my criteria and what was my needs and goals for taking up Taichi. I didn't know Chen, Yang, Wu etc. from each other. I had no historical background (which turned out to be more politically important than anything), and I ended up doing Yang style, from a pretty good and knowledgable instructor. Not based on the style but based on the instructor for legitimacy. The most significant historical factual information to pass through my hands is that Yang was derived by Chen style. I was curious to see Chen style to see the original form that Yang style was based. It was a good experience. It provided a different way of looking at my Yang style. Helped understand the root of my movements and it was improved my understanding of my moves, and show me more about the changes and developments that differentiate Yang style. Honestly, that is much clearer of an area than it is from between different Yang teachers teach in what I term the as the core form. It isn't standardized like say Shotokan Karate where katas are standardized which is much more helpful in legitimacy, and authenticity. In Yang Taichi there is a lineage but it doesn't have a strong arm to standardize Yang Taichi. Taichi is principle based for health and exercise and not combat. Also, being principle based that is what is emphasized and not standardized movement that are in a organized structure. Let's not get persnickety and point out that I am wrong based on JKA vs. all the others associations modifications to kata and all the minutiae. In my experience, in this case, historical information wasn't very useful in legitimacy for me.


    I don't say hey, my way is right abandon the historical process. No. But I find asking around, and a bit of research does just fine in finding out about legitimacy.
     
  20. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't intend to make a big deal out of this point, so I'll just add a few comments and leave it at that.

    I absolutely do believe that environment and circumstances can have an impact on how a system develops and what its techniques end up looking like. Your example of a system trained while wearing armour is a good one, that weight and cumbersomeness of the armour will have a big impact on what can and cannot be considered and done. But if later generations training in this system do not continue to train with the armour, I suspect the system itself will change dramatically because the practitioners will no longer have the practical perspective of wearing the armour. Without the armour, the training methods may not make much sense.

    However, I believe it is tempting to see this more broadly than is realistic. Going back to my own method, that was developed on the Tibetan plateau...we train with big, circular and sweeping techniques. It is tempting to say, "the big open spaces of the Tibetan plateau allowed for such techniques to develop", but I don't think that's it. Regardless of the big open spaces, I still need only a small space to practice big sweeping movements. A space a few feet by a few feet would do it. I am sure the crowded environment of Hong Kong would still offer me plenty of space to train my system. Infact, the system did end up in Hong Kong, and thrived there. Hong Kong is not so crowded to preclude such training methods. Everyone from Hong Kong does not do Wing Chun as an adaptation to the crowding. People are not literally shoulder-to-shoulder.

    The thing is, those big sweeping movements that we practice do not ultimately represent our fighting technique in action. Rather, they are a training method designed to develop a method for delivering a powerful technique. It is just a tool to get you there. When you use the technique to fight, it is much smaller movement, but we have learned to develop the kind of power that our system is built upon. But the big movement teaches you to do it, and once you develop that skill, the same power can be used with small movement. So our system is not really a system of big, sweeping techniques. It is a training method that uses big movements as a tool, that become small movements in actual use.

    What this tells me is, somebody in the distant past (circa 14th century) figured out a method for training how to develop a certain kind of power. The method made sense, and it was perpetuated. I think it's coincidental that it happened on the Tibetan plateau.

    I don't discount the possibility that terrain and region may have had some influence on this, but I think it's not so much as people sometimes want to believe.123
     
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