Okinawan Karate and Fukien White Crane

Discussion in 'Karate' started by Flying Crane, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I know it's well documented that the early Okinawan karate pioneers travelled to China and learned elements of Fukien White Crane. I know as well that the Sanchin kata is a direct adaptation of a form from Fukien white crane.

    Is there anything else in the Okinawan karate curriculum(a) that is directly adopted from Fukien White Crane? Any other kata that are known to come directly from that source?

    I was kinda wondering if Okinawan karate could be characterized as an actual "white crane system", as opposed to simply having been influenced by white crane. If there is more in the curriculum than the one kata, it might support such a thought.

    Thoughts from the karate crowd?

    thanks everyone
     
  2. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    No, I don't think Okinawan karate = white crane. As you've probably surmised it's probably more of a grandchild than anything else with plenty of other influences leavened in, depending on the particular lineage discussed.

    There are some short Hakutsuru kata practiced by some karate-ka which may interest you. Their authenticity can be cloudy... lots of people making claims one way or another about them, but IMO there's not much evidence meeting the usual documentation standards historians require to prove a connection back to Fukien definitively. Lots of circumstantial stories and anecdotes though which is perhaps is par for the course in Okinawan karate as the Ryukyuan people didn't really keep written records of their martial arts.
     
  3. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    IMO some karate probably was partially influenced by some crane related art, but these were mainly the newer styles, such as Goju and Uechi. As far as Shorin(ji) schools are concerned, I have lots of doubts. I don't see much connection between those and the crane arts. Granted, I've only seen the crane styles on video, because they just aren't available here in Finland, at least to the best of my knowledge. I won't comment on all those hakutsuru kata out there, because I have my doubts about their authenticity (and, once again, they aren't really available here).
    The history of the Shorin schools isn't well known beyond mid to late 1800. An example: our school's history goes to Bushi Matsumura and of course his teachers, but do we REALLY know who his teachers were? It is said he studied under Sakugawa and that he also trained Jigen ryu kenjutsu and some Chinese teachers, but did he really? For the most part, we only have word of mouth to go by and we all know how reliable that can be, especially in regards of things that happened long time ago.
     
  4. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Great question, Michael.
    The Okinawans were very formative in their own right with Okinawan ti.
    I have often asked myself the same question, "what was the big draw to travel to China and spend many years there"? It wasn't until the return from China that the name GoJu was given to the system. Go (hard), Ju (soft). I believe that here lies the biggest influence, "power transfer" through the softer aspects of White Crane.
    The Okinawans in their quest to refine an art that could be used in much later years, were intrigued that a fair amount of power could be generated, from a people that were built much differently then the Okinawans.
    To understand the system of White Crane you must understand the Crane itself, as a weak yet powerful bird. As a migratory bird the White Crane can fly very long distances because of the way they coordinate their chest with their wings. Focusing on the center, chest/back area they can generate a lot of power to the wings. Although I am barely touching on it, by observing the way the White Crane generates power, is the essence of what the Okinawans wanted to achieve and incorporate into the Ju aspect of GoJu.


    As Sanchin is the main kata in Okinawan GoJu and one of the first kata taught, it holds a fair amount of significance to the entire art. In the OP you ask is there more curriculum then one kata to support calling it a White Crane system. I would say no, influenced yes. Sanchin was influenced by White Crane, but IT holds the key to the root teachings of Okinawan GoJu.......
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  5. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    If anyone is minded to do the research, they could also look at Tensho and Suparinpei from the Goju-ryu syllabus. Tensho, although a creation of Miyagi Chojun, is supposed to be based upon the experiences he gathered both from his teacher Higaonna as well as his own studies in China. Suparinpei, roughly translated as 108 Hands, is said to be one of the oldest, least altered from its Chinese origins.

    I'd like to know more about the connection between Goju-ryu and Chinese martial arts myself on an intellectually curious level. I honestly think what we call Okinawan Goju-ryu today has diverged substantially from whatever Higaonna and Ryu Ryu Ko taught, but I'm fine with that frankly.
     
  6. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    While looking at Mark Bishop's book, "Okinawan Karate second edition" it mentions Tensho kata. "Miyagi started to take on students and introduced a kata called Tensho which he had adapted from the Rokkishu of White Crane".

    Which makes sense because it is similar to Sanchin in stance and function but contains open hands and circular movements.
     
  7. K-man

    K-man Grandmaster

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    My understanding has been that Sanchin and Tensho are not part of Kaishugata where they are often lumped and I can't remember their specific category off the top of my head but were in fact part of the same crane kata originally. I feel that these two kata are really internal training while the other kata are the fighting forms. Maybe that is why Higaonna, Uechi and Miyagi just took fragments of a larger kata.

    As as to why the early guys travelled to China is probably the same reason a number of us have gone to Okinawa. The Okinawans had Tegumi or Te and it was heavily influenced by Chinese martial art as far back as the 36 Families. There was also the substantial trading interaction with China. Perhaps these guys went back to try and find the source. Perhaps they felt their training was incomplete. No one will ever really know.

    I don't think Goju is really anything like the crane systems in most ways now but it certainly embodies the style and principles of crane. Crane was developed in Fujian province where Mutsumura, Higaonna and Uechi all went to train at different times. You see elements of Crane in Saifa and Suparinpei that are similar to Happoren and Hakutsuru kata.
    Interesting.
    :asian:
     
  8. punisher73

    punisher73 Senior Master

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    Not sure why the crane influence is the one that gets the most press in regards to karate. If you look at what Kanryo Higaonna and Kanbun Uechi studied while in China, there were other influences as well such as tiger/monk and in the case of Uechi ryu, dragon as well.

    As with most things related to karate, whatever the influence it seems that the okinawans took things and then made them their own. (As a caveat to this, I have spoken with some in Uechi-ryu circles that have stated Kanbun kept his training as close to how he learned things in China as possible and most changes were made by his son Kanei after the introduction of karate to Japan, so seeing earlier style Uechi-Ryu done by Toyama Sensei allows us to see a snapshot of how it looked when first taught).

    Either way, it seems that white crane is only one of many chinese influences and may not even be the most influential. I have heard of some white crane katas being passed on in certain family styles or to top students, but now there are a bunch of these "Hakutsuru" katas. Some look very fishy as to their origin and roots.
     
  9. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    My understanding is this: The Ryukyu kingdom was always nominally independent until circa 1880, though since the early 1600s Japan exerted great control. In the 1500s, 36 families moved from China to Okinawan as a sort of cultural exchange. Kung fu, from the roots of what would become the coastal southern styles, was just one such cultural artifact shared, along with many other forms of knowledge. By the late 1600s it had merged with traditional Ryukyuan arts into a proto-karate that would lead to Shorin (the local pronunciation of Shaolin) by the late 1700s. Of course as a sea-trading nation, many other chances for exchanging martial arts ideas occurred, and some of that no doubt factored into what had become Goju by the mid-1800s. At this time what we now call kara-te (empty hand) was written the same way but interpreted as something like Tang-te (Tang, as in the dynasty and effectively meaning 'China', hand); taht is, they even referred to it as Chinese boxing. Most Okinawan karate is arguably about 80% Chinese in origin.

    Uechi is its own special, unique case and he did indeed study in China for many years. Isshin, the fourth of the major modern forms of Okinawan karate, is also something of a special case, being formed in the WWII era.

    Agreed, but we also have to remember that we are comparing modern Crane to modern Karate, but this happened with precursor arts years ago Five ancestor Fist Kung Fu has some stunning similarities to older karate though

    This is my understanding too--and also that the senior Uechi may have only learned 3 of the 4 forms of the Chinese art. (Karate styles with many kata is a 19th century phenomenon--before that 3 or so kata was considered plenty!) Ah well, all this is from memory so take it with a grain of salt.

    Some relevant older threads:

    [h=2]Contributions to Karate. [/h]

    [h=2]Why is karate different from kung fu? [/h]
    [h=2]Why is kobudo not the study of Chinese weapons? [/h]
     
  10. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Just a few minor points to an otherwise excellent posting :)
    I think that those ideas factored into not only to what would become Goju, but also to what would become Shorin
    Actually, the China hand was written with a different kanji 唐手, instead of 空手. However, the early karate was also just called "ti" (or "te", if you prefer the Japanese pronunciation)
    Yes, Isshin is kind of a special case, being part Goju and part Shorin (Kyan Chotoku's Shorin). I seem to remember hearing from my primary source into the karate history something about it not being absolutely clear when Tatsuo Shimabukuro learned Goju, but seems to me that he learned it anyway.
    Yes, good point. Also, the older crane probably did have some direct influence on some older masters, but how much is and what exactly are questions that are, IMHO, impossible to answer with certainty anymore. For example, we know that Gokenki (whatever his actual Chinese name was) taught crane material in Okinawa and he probably had at least some influence on some masters, but I think the major influence was to the precursor arts.
     
  11. Cayuga Karate

    Cayuga Karate Orange Belt

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    Flying Crane wrote:

    Over many centuries, fighting arts in Okinawa have evolved in their own distinctive way. I am not sure how helpful it is to try to shoehorn these complex systems into limiting categories. When we talk of Okinawan systems, we generally include the hojo undo body conditioning common to many systems, the ti “fighting” components such as locking, throwing, pressure point strikes, etc., the variety of native kobudo systems (sai, kama, tonfa, bo, nunchaku and others) and importantly, the kata.

    I don’t find it useful to say that Okinawan karate (including its many components) came from a crane system. What we can do is look at the some of the origins to understand why it is so difficult to make such generalizations.

    Most histories of karate routinely ignore the elephant in the room. Okinawa was a Chinese tributary state right up until the late 1870s. Though the reasons the Satsuma annexed Okinawa are complex, historians generally point to the benefit to Satsuma of controlling the Chinese-Okinawan trade as being the key reason for the invasion.

    While there were periods (particularly between transitions in Chinese rule) where trade was less frequent, for most of the 500 year formal trading relationship, Okinawa sent a convoy of two or three large sailing vessels to the city of Fuzhou every two years. A small contingent of Okinawans would travel to Beijing to pay tribute while the rest of the trading mission (up to 300 Okinawans) would remain in port and exchange goods with Chinese merchants and traders. These trading missions would typically be at port for 4 or 5 months.

    During these stays, the Okinawans (both those in port and those travelling to the capital) would come into contact with a variety of Chinese many of whom might have been trained in combative arts. There was likely at least some occasional exchange of training and fighting regimens. By the 1800s, there was even an Okinawan run training facility in Fuzhou. Bishop remarks that some Chinese military personnel had taught there.

    In addition to trading missions, the Okinawans would send delegations to China to recognize new emperors. This would give the Okinawans additional trading opportunities while at port. It’s worth noting that Okinawa’s best students competed for educational opportunities in China, where they could well have been
    exposed to military as well as intellectual and cultural training.

    In addition to the Okinawan convoys travelling to China for trade and diplomatic purposes, the Chinese also sent a number of diplomatic convoys form Fuzhou to Okinawa to recognize new RyuKyu kings. They were more frequent early on but dwindled in the 1700 and 1800s. (1719, 1757, 1800, 1808, 1838, 1866) (Imperial Chinese missions to Ryukyu Kingdom - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    These diplomatic missions were accompanied by military personnel, tasked with protecting the diplomatic personnel (sapposhi). It is these Chinese diplomatic trips to Okinawa where training regimens in combative arts were most likely passed on to senior members of the Okinawan aristocracy.

    There were likely other sources of combative knowledge. We know of one shipwrecked Chinese sailor marooned in Tomari. This was likely not an isolated occurrence. And Okinawa did send some trading missions to Korea.

    It is important to note the challenges inherent in successful completion of these vital trading missions. In the comfort of our 21[SUP]st[/SUP] century lifestyles, it is sometimes easy to overlook extent of the hardships others have faced over time. There are a variety of factors over the past several hundred years that led to a large migration from the internal Chinese provinces to the port cities where workers might acquire a small boat and take up fishing to feed themselves and their families. Once on the sea, they were preyed upon by pirate communities who would confiscate their vessels and conscript them into their organizations. The largest of these communities in the early 1800s was estimated at 70,000 with 2000 vessels.

    Piracy on the Chinese coast had long been a problem. In the 1500s, the Japanese Wako pirates terrorized Chinese coastal communities and attacked Chinese shipping and diplomatic missions. As a result of the endemic piracy in Chinese coastal waters, Chinese diplomatic missions were accompanied by armed escorts. The 1800 diplomatic mission to the RyuKyu kingdom included a contingent of 200 Fujian Navy men (Swanson 1982).

    We should expect that these military escorts were trained extensively in the combative arts necessary to defend their vessels, and that it is likely that many of these military men would have been skilled in all manner of combat, from weapons to empty hand.

    It is likely that the forms called Kusanku, (Kushanku, Kanku) descend from a military attachee associated with the 1757 diplomatic mission to the RyKyu kingdom. Bishop records that kata Wansu may have come from such a military attachee.

    Funakoshi has recorded the names of four Chinese military attachees that trained Okinawans in combative arts (Iwah, Waishizan, Ason and Kusanku) as well as the shipwrecked sailor noted above.

    How these Chinese influences survive in today's Okinawan combative arts are uncertain. Where we stand on a bit firmer ground is when we move away from a discussion of Okinawan karate, and into the more limited discussion of Okinawan empty hand kata.

    Nagamine mentions that the kata are Chinese in origin, as does Nakama. Funakoshi describes four by name as taught by the shipwrecked sailor (Jutte, Jiin, Chinto and Chinte) Motobu has left us the best record, indicating that many of the most well-known forms are Chinese in origin. (Naihanchi, Passai, Kusanku, Gojushiho, Suparenpei, Seisan, Seiunchin, Chinto, Chinte, Wansu, Rohai, Sanchin). Nakama stated that Itosu’s Pinan are derived from the Channan forms taught to him by a Chinese man. Kyan’s Ananku has been attributed to a Chinese man.

    While the origin of many Goju kata is uncertain, it appears that Higaonna brought back at least Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseru and Suparenpei from his training in Fuzhou. Uechi brought back quite different Seisan, Sanchin and Sanseru from his time in Fujian province some 25 years later. The origins of Ryuei Ryu (and its kata) trace back to training in Fuzhou as well. And we know that the Chinese tea merchant Go Kenki, apparently form Fuzhou, taught several forms (crane forms) in Okinawa to Mabuni and others. Finally, there are a number of quite distict hakutsuru (crane) forms (of unknown origin) that have survived in Okinawa.

    There is more that we know, but not much. We know that there was great secrecy surrounding the transmission of the art in the 180s and prior and that vestiges of this secrecy survived until quite recently. For example, Hayashi has recounted the difficulty he had in obtaining instruction in Ryuei Ryu as an adult. And Funakoshi describes sending his son on a mission to Okinawa to learn a form from an old man who wanted to pass it on before his death. The kata was passed on, but the name of the man who taught it would be something that would not survive Funakoshi’s passing. This fog of secrecy will forever mask the direct links back to the Chinese systems from which the kata descend.

    What remains we are fortunate to have, the Chinese kata that the Okinawans dutifully preserved, handing them down generation to generation. We know that at least some of these kata likely originate from Fujien province. We also know that Crane systems were practiced in this region in the periods that some of these kata were passed on to Okinawans. We can look to these Okinawan and crane forms for similarities and speculate about shared origins and influences.

    That is about the best we can do.

    -Cayuga Karate
     
  12. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    These are both wrong. Pinan kata were formed by taking moves from other kata, such as Kusanku, Chinto and Jion, maybe also Wansu or Naifanchi. As for Ananku, yes, I know it has been (falsely) attributed to some mysterious Taiwanese instructor, but it is, in a sense, exactly like Pinan: put together from pieces from other kata Kyan knew. It can be thought of as an introduction into Kyan's karate. Even Kyan's own students did something similar, they broke apart the kata they knew, selected techniques, maybe modified them a bit to better highlight their own thinking about what's important and then put them back together in a new format. Sunsu by Tatsuo Shimabukuro, Wanchin by Zenryo Shimabukuro and Ananku by Shoshin Nagamine

    Here is a brief comparative breakdown between similar individual movements in the kata Ananku and other Sukunaihayashi kata

    1.Shutouke, with sliding forwardPassai
    2.Shutouke, with sliding forwardPassai
    3.Chudanuke-renzoku zukiSeisan
    4.Chudanuke-renzokuzukiSeisan
    5.Return to shizentaidachi
    6.Jodanuke, chudanuke same time, ryotetettsui, oizukiPassai
    7.Chudanuke- renzokuchudanzuki – maegeri – chudanzukiSeisan
    8.Chudanuke- renzokuchudanzuki – maegeri – chudanzukiSeisan
    9.HijiuchiPassai
    10.GedanbaraiWansu
    11.OizukiPassai
    12.Chudanuke, lift leg, maegeri, gedanbarai, chudanzuki, chudanukeSeisan
    13.Shutouke, by sliding backward.Wansu
    14.Shutouke, by sliding backward.Wansu
     
  13. Cayuga Karate

    Cayuga Karate Orange Belt

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    I wrote:
    Timo S responded:


    I find these kinds of discussions most intriguing. Let’s review one at a time.

    Pinan Origins

    Chozo Nakama was born in 1899 and would have been around 16 at the time of Itosu’s death. Bishop spoke with Nakama prior to his passing in 1982 and recorded the following:

    We can all speculate on the origins of the Pinan kata, but we should all respect Nakama as an informed reliable source.

    Ananku Origins

    Regarding Ananku, Bishop writes that Kyan learned it “from a Taiwanese who visited Okinawa (another claim is that he brought this kata back with him as a souvenir of a trip to Taiwan)"

    What I find interesting among many karateka is an eagerness to attribute the creation of kata to Okinawans. This is despite the historical record that kata had Chinese origins. In the case of Ananku, the past is indeed murky. And if there is no documentation to support a Chinese origin of the form, then the conclusion drawn is that it must be Okinawan. But that is not necessarily the case. Kyan openly attributed the origins of 6 of his 7 open hand kata. Gojushiho and Seisan, they came from Matsumura, Passai, from Oyadomari, Chinto, from Matsumora, Wanshu from a student of Matsumora, Kusanku from Yara. All of these are described by Motobu as being Chinese in origin. Kyan's Ananku is less will attributed.

    In conducting research for his seminal text Okinawan Karate, Bishop traveled across Okinawa interviewing aging karateka. For his research on Kyan, he interviewed Joen Nakazato and Shoshin Nagamine. By the time of his interviews Zenryo Shimabukuru had passed away, but he did interview two top students Katsuhide Kochi and Zenpo Shimabukuru for information regarding their styles, their kata, as well as their recollections of Chotoku Kyan.

    Bishop wrote the above based on what he learned from the students of Kyan. He apparently was not told by Kyan's students that Ananku was Kyan's own creation, for if he had been so instructed, Bishop would have most certainly would have included it in his text. We can all speculate why Kyan might have neglected to mention that this kata was learned from a Chinese person rather than an Okinawan. Those familiar with the history of the time should have no difficulty in recognizing the growing Japanese animosity towards the Chinese that was in full force throughout much of Kyan's later life. It was in 1936 that the Japanese sent a contingent to Okinawa to officially change the name of Okinawa's combative systems from Chinese hand to empty hand. It's plausible that amidst this "Japanification" of Okinawa that Kyan might have chosen to downplay the origins of this Chinese form.

    I find it useful to review sources and draw conclusions. Motobu and Funakoshi name specific kata as Chinese in origin. Nagamine and Nakama state the kata are Chinese. Nakaima (Ryuei Ryu), Uechi and Higaonna all travelled to China and brought back Chinese forms. I am not sure that any of the surviving histories show a mix of Okinawan and Chinese origin of the kata. We do see Itosu modifying Channan kata for at least some of the Pinan, and perhaps bringing together movements of other Chinese forms for some of the Pinan. We should recognize that he was trying to give middle/high school young men a grounding in the Chinese forms so prevalent across Okinawa, but in a simplified standardized way organized so that young men could learn them quickly. If he chose to borrow movements from common Chinese forms practiced in Okinawa, then many would still view the sequences as Chinese in origin, which is the subject of the thread, the origins of Okinawan karate.

    Certainly by the 1930s and 1940s we do see some potential Okinawa innovation. Mabuni is credited with creating some kata. Shimabuku of Isshin Ryu created one. It always possible, however, that these kata were handed down much like the secret kata passed on to Funakoshi’s son (noted in my previous post on this thread). That wouldn't be surprising at all. By the late 1940s, there were scores of old Okinawan men whose sons were lost in the great Okinawan holocaust of WWII, and it would seem to me only natural that some may have sought out prominent karateka of the day to pass on their old family kata, with the stipulation that the source of the kata remain a secret. This type of practice could also explain (though at an earlier time) the origins of the Naha kata that apparently were not taught by Higaonna (Seiunchin, Saifa, Kururunfa, Shisochin, Seipei).

    I have no evidence that these kata are Chinese in origin. However, whenever someone claims that a form is of Okinawan origin, say for example, the Pinan, or Ananku, what might be helpful is to cite a source. If there is no source available, then perhaps one could admit that we really don’t know one way or the other.

    -Cayuga Karate
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
  14. TimoS

    TimoS Master of Arts

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    Oh, sources, eh. Well, for Ananku, let me ask you this, who do you think knows more about Kyan's karate, a person who once interviewed some masters OR the people who have trained (some for decades) and continue to train in Kyan's karate? And do you think that it's just a co-incidence that ALL the sequences in Ananku can be found from the other kata Kyan taught? Or that we don't know who this supposed Chinese master was when all the other teachers are known? Written sources about historical karate, especially reliable ones and ESPECIALLY Okinawan are so rare to be just about non-existent. Karate was transmitted via kata, the Okinawan masters didn't have the school scrolls like the Japanese did.
    Also, it isn't unheard of that the masters have gotten some detail wrong. E.g. there is a widespread misconception that Kyan was Itosu's student (which he wasn't). Only one of Kyan's students made this claim: Shoshin Nagamine. All the others said that no, Itosu wasn't Kyan's teacher and the same was said by none other than Chibana himself and as Itosu's "heir apparent", you'd think he would know.
    As for the Channan/Pinan, how about Choki Motobu? Or maybe Hiroshi Kinjo? Or maybe once again analysis of the kata sequences and comparing them to other kata? Read e.g. this. BTW, personally I find it funny that all those modern day instructors who claim to teach Channan seem to be westerners. No Okinawans, not even Japanese.
    As for are kata originally Chinese, yes, obviously some of them are, but many have been created by Okinawans themselves. Seisan most likely is one of those that are originally Chinese, as is Sanchin. Passai, Gojushiho (or Useishi, as it was originally called), Wansu, Chinto, Naifanchi, to name a few, well, if they are Chinese in origin, there sure doesn't seem to be anything resembling those in China anymore or I'm sure we'd already know. Maybe they are Okinawan in origin, based on what whoever created those had learned during his lifetime. Maybe they just took the idea of long(ish) solo forms from Chinese. Who knows? Unless someone is able to construct a time machine, we'll never know for sure.123
     
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