Some data for reflection about the word Dan

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by TSDTexan, May 10, 2019.

  1. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    This research is primarily from open sourced content such as wikipedia. I have modified and edited it a small amount. But this is meant loosely as a guide for your jumping off point if you want to chase after facts.

    If you feel something is wrong or in error, please, cite some references to help a claim of inaccurate information presented herein:

    This is just a loose reference, not to be taken as cannonical gospel. Please enjoy. Thank you.

    content as follows:


    The dan (段) ranking system is used by many Japanese organizations and Korean martial arts to indicate the level of one's ability within a certain subject matter. As a ranking system, it was originally used at a go school during the Edo period. It is now also used in modern fine arts and martial arts.


    Some Dan facts:

    Dan and Kyū ranks are indicated by belt color or by stripes on the belt

    Chinese for Dan is written in Traditional Chinese as 段
    Simplified Chinese 段

    Korean for Dan is written in
    Hangul as 단 and written in
    Hanja as 段


    Japanese for Dan is written in
    Kanji as 段 and written in
    Hiragana as だん

    The system was applied to martial arts in Japan by Kanō Jigorō (1860–1938), the founder of judo, in 1883, and later introduced to other East Asian countries.

    In the modern Japanese martial arts, holders of dan ranks often wear a black belt; those of higher rank may also wear red-and-white and red belts. Dan ranks are also given for strategic board games such as go, Japanese chess (shōgi), and renju, as well as for cultural arts such as flower arrangement (ikebana), Japanese calligraphy (shodō) and tea ceremony (sadō).

    The Chinese character for the word dan (段) literally means step or stage in Japanese, but is also used to refer to one's rank or grade, i.e., one's degree or level of expertise and knowledge.

    In Chinese, however, the same character is spelled duàn, and was originally used to mean phase. Dan is often used together with the word kyū (級) in certain ranking systems, with dan being used for the higher ranks and kyū being used for lower ranks.

    History:

    The dan ranking system in go was devised by Hon'inbō Dōsaku (1645–1702), a professional go player in the Edo period.
    Prior to the invention, top-to-bottom ranking was evaluated by comparison of handicap and tended to be vague.

    Dosaku valued the then highest title holder, Meijin at 9 Dan. He was likely inspired by an ancient Chinese go ranking system (9 Pin Zhi) and an earlier court ranking system (nine-rank system), although lower numbers are more senior in those systems.

    Dan ranks were transferred to martial arts by Kanō Jigorō (1860–1938), the founder of judo. Kanō started the modern rank system in 1883 when he awarded shodan (the lowest dan rank) to two of his senior students (Shiro Saigo and Tomita Tsunejirō). Prior to this, martial arts schools awarded progress with less frequent menkyo licenses or secret scrolls.

    Originally, there was still no external differentiation (by belts or otherwise) between yūdansha ( what we now call black belt ranks) and mudansha (those who had not yet attained a dan grade).

    Different athletic departments within the Japanese school system were already using markers of rank, most notably in swimming, where advanced swimmers wore a black ribbon around their waists.

    In 1907, Kanō invented the modern keikogi (white practice uniforms), and formalized belts in white for mudansha and black for yūdansha to be used with the keikogi

    Ranks in Japanese


    Many arts use between one and ten dan ranks:
    Degree
    1st Dan Shodan
    2nd Dan Nidan
    3rd Dan Sandan
    4th Dan Yondan
    5th Dan Godan
    6th Dan Rokudan
    7th Dan Shichidan
    8th Dan Hachidan
    9th Dan Kudan
    10th Dan Jūdan

    In some martial arts, black belts are worn for all dan grades. In others, the highest grade (10th dan) wears a red colored belt.

    In Jūdo and Shotokan 6th to 8th dan may wear a red and white-patterned belt and 9th to 10th dan may wear a solid red belt.

    There is some variation even within styles.

    Generally, belts do not have markings that indicate the actual dan grade.

    Okinawan styles used gold bars to denote the various masters titles rather than grades after fifth dan. Thus one gold stripe designated Renshi (錬士), two designated Kyōshi (教士), and three designated Hanshi (範士).

    In the early 2000s, different Okinawan styles started using the stripes to designate individual dan grades above godan.

    Others, including may Uechi organizations, have followed suit, while others have not.
    In many styles shodan implies that the basics of the style have been mastered. At about sandan, the student may start teaching independently but under the supervision of his teacher.
    The license for this level is shidōin (指導員), literally "man of instruction/coaching", which is often translated as "assistant instructor."

    At about the grade of godan, the holder may receive a full teaching license: shihan(師範), literally "instructor/model."

    Traditionally, a holder may open his own school with this license. Many styles also have the separate teaching or "master" grades of renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi.

    Generally, the lower dan grades represent greater knowledge and understanding of the art along with physical skill. The higher the dan grade, the more leadership ability, teaching experience, and service to the style play a role in promotion.

    In modern Kendo, the dan system was recently changed so that 8th dan is the highest attainable rank.

    Unlike Judo, all dan promotion within the All Japan Kendo Federation, International Kendo Federation and its member countries is by examination. Whereas dan grades are awarded for technical ability, there is a parallel shogo system awarding the higher teaching grades of renshi, kyoshi, and hanshi.

    Renshi and kyoshi are awarded by written examination while hanshi by election.

    Although the dan system is distinctly Japanese, it has been adopted by many other martial arts styles.

    The dan system and the well-known symbol of a black belt have been absorbed into common usage to represent a person with above-average or highly trained skills in a particular discipline.

    Chinese martial arts

    Since 1998, the Chinese Wushu Association together with the National Sport Commission and the Chinese Wushu Research Institute has established a graduation system based on nine Duan levels.

    In 2011 the Duan Wei system was changed and a set of style books was issued for duan wei 1-6 exams each level can be examined on preset forms and applications including partner forms the badge has also been changed to include the duan wei number i.e. 1-6.

    Entry level for experienced pracitioners has now been limited to 3rd Duan and below so as to tighten up the rankings.

    Symbol: 段位 Duan Wei "level"
    Beginning Level:
    So-called basic duans for students with some years of experience.

    1. Qingying—yi duan: Bronze/blue Eagle
    2. Yinying—er duan: Silver Eagle
    3. Jinying—san duan: Gold Eagle

    Intermediate Level:
    Middle-level duans are for wushu students/coaches who are able to teach and have between 5 and 10 years wushu coaching experience depending on level applied for.

    Starting from 5th Duan, there has to be proof of a scientific work in wushu research, i.e. publications, DVD, training of Duanwei examined students.

    Sixth Duanwei, can use the title of Master as this is the highest technical grade.
    4. Qinghu—si duan: Bronze/blue Tiger
    5. Yinhu—wu duan: Silver Tiger
    6. Jinhu—liu duan: Gold Tiger

    Advanced Level:
    Advanced level is only awarded to very experienced masters with excellent reputation in Wushu. The person awarded such a Duan is officially allowed to call himself "Grand Master".

    7. Qinglong—qi duan: Bronze/blue Dragon
    8. Yinlong—ba duan: Silver Dragon
    9. Jinlong—jiu duan: Gold Dragon

    The term Dan was used on the badges up to 2005 when the term Duan was then used on the badges, however the term Dan was never used on the certificates of grade, the certificates always use the term Duanwei.

    Korean martial arts

    Some Korean martial art schools use embroidered bars to denote different danranks, as shown on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd danbelts above

    Korean martial arts lacked a grading system up until the Japanese annexation and then occupation (1910–1945) during which a variety of Japanese martial arts were introduced into the Korean school system, most notably judo, karate-do and kendo.

    After the occupation ended, newly emerging martial arts like taekwondo, tang soo do, soo bahk do and hapkido adopted the dan (단, 段) and geup (급, 級) ranks.

    The dan rank system is also used by baduk players. Nowadays, the Korea Taekkyon Association also issues dan ranks to taekkyeon practitioners.

    Someone who has received a dan rank is called a yudanja (유단자, 有段者).
    Someone who has received a "high" dan rank (6th Dan upwards) is called a "kodanja" or alternate spelling "godanja" (고단자, 高段者).

    In some Korean schools, most notably in Kukkiwon-style Taekwondo, there is also a poom system in place (품, 品; "pum" using standard Romanization).

    Practitioners who have not yet reached the age of 15 cannot test for a dan rank. For them, there is a system of four poom grades. After they reach the age of 15, their poom-grade can be changed to the corresponding "dan"-grade.

    They also cannot test for 4th degree black belt before the age of 19, because they must stay in 3rd degree for at least 4 years.

    Ranks in Korean

    When numbering the dan ranks, Sino-Korean numbers are used. Common names for the dan ranks are thus:

    Il dan (일단, 一段): first-degree black belt (also known as cho dan (초단, hanja: 初段))

    I dan (이단, 二段): second-degree black belt

    Sam dan (삼단 三段): third-degree black belt

    Sa dan (사단, 四段): fourth-degree black belt

    O dan (오단, 五段): fifth-degree black belt

    Yuk dan (육단, 六段): sixth-degree black belt

    Chil dan (칠단, 七段): seventh-degree black belt

    Pal dan (팔단, 八段): eighth-degree black belt

    Gu dan (구단, 九段): ninth-degree black belt

    Sip dan (십단, 十段): tenth-degree black belt

    For most Korean martial arts, the dan ranks do not go past ninth dan, although on some occasions in some organizations, a tenth dan (십단, 十段) has been issued.
     
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  2. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    It gets even more confusing when your name is Dan. At my school, I was the 2nd Dan to get 2nd dan, and also the 2nd Dan to get 3rd dan. I was the 3rd Dan to get 1st dan, and hopefully I will be the 1st Dan to get 4th dan.
     
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  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Regarding the Chinese methods, I believe that ranking system is relevant only to the Modern Wushu that is largely controlled by the government as a performance and cultural competition method, based on but divorced from the older combat methods. The older fighting methods absolutely do not follow this, or at least it is spotty at best. Some may have jumped aboard or adopted their own version of this, while many (most?) have not. And for those that have, it is not universal for any particular style, unless the style has a small following and is tightly controlled by a family. Those styles that have multiple lineages that have splintered to some degree (probably most styles) would not show uniformity with this. It could be limited to certain specific schools or certain lineages.
     
  4. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    I was looking forward to hearing your take on the data. it confirms my own understanding. PRC ruled and dictated MA is not "kosher" CMA... but it still is CMA. But that is just my opinion. PRC wudang and wushu is pretty and flashy like modern JKA Shotokan national competition kata.... only loosely related to its more functional oriented predecessors.

    i did make it a point to specify the dates they did it.

    its about as orthodox as Hollywood wire-fu. Matrix, bulletproof monk, or anything Jet Li stars in
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
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  5. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    hey dAAaan!? when do you get to be Lt. Dan?
     
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  6. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    If I ever get commissioned as an officer.
     
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  7. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Interestingly, I believe there were only 5 dan ranks initially. I think 6-10 were added later on. One of Funakoshi’s senior-most students refused to be promoted past 5th dan because he stated there were only 5 dan ranks when Funakoshi devised the rank structure. I can’t remember who that was.

    As far as red and white, and solid red belts for high dan ranks go, I’m pretty certain this was also Kano’s doing. The red and white paneled belt was to honor top judoka with Japan’s national colors. Same for the solid red, but at a higher level.

    Trivial information - Kyokushin used to use red belt at 10th kyu (white belt is mu kyu/no rank). Mas Oyama changed it to orange after seeing some high ranking judoka wearing solid red, feeling it was potentially disrespectful to them.

    I’ve also read dan in Japanese can mean tier, in addition to rank. Kyu ranks are mudansha - no rank; black belts are yudansha - ranked individual.

    Initially, living people were rarely, if ever awarded 10th dan. Or even 9th dan. Those were almost exclusively awarded posthumously.

    Most founders of the major karate schools did not carry a specific dan rank. Funakoshi was simply a black belt, rather than 5th dan for example, for quite some time. I don’t know if his own numbered dan rank was awarded while he was alive or not.

    Chojun Miyagi of Goju Ryu was awarded a black belt by either the emperor of Japan or one of his council. Miyagi did not award rank to any of his students, feeling that that could only come from whoever gave him his black belt. After his death, Miyagi’s students promoted him to 10th dan and promoted each other accordingly. The only one who can claim to have been given a black belt by Chojun Miyagi is Meitoku Yagi. Chojun Miyagi’s family gave him Miyagi’s belt and gi, officially recognizing Yagi as Miyagi’s successor. Yagi stayed that Miyagi was devising a dan system and criteria, but passed away before he finished it.

    Just some random and trivial information I’ve collected in my head from reading the inter webs when it’s quiet around here and I’ve got time to lay down and veg out.
     
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  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have an old book on Japanese martial arts, given to me by my brother when I was young, sometime in about the early to mid 1980s. I don’t recall the title or author, and it is packed away somewhere right now as we are preparing to move so I cannot look at it easily.

    In that book is a photo of Yamaguchi wearing a red belt. Was Yamaguchi a student of Miyagi?
     
  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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  10. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    Gichin Funakoshi was 4th dan as issued by the DNBK... GF recieved his 5th and higher dans posthumously.
     
  11. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    Briefly, not even.a year... and the "Cat" Yamaguchi later claimed to be Miyagi's successor. But Miyagi never chose a successor, in writing.

    Although, he did give his obi to a individual. In some circles that was all that was needed, but later on a written document was required to confirm the successor.

    With the passing of Nobuo Ichiwawa, Ichikawa... he had already made it clear who he had chose prior. The reading of his will stipulated the same individual, and had his belt and issued the title Hanshi to his successor.

    56636457_1159889520838466_2193237706971021312_o.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  12. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Yamaguchi studied under Miyagi briefly. Length of time varies according to sources. Yamaguchi studied under some of Miyagi’s students, Miyagi visited Yamaguchi a few times in Japan, and Yamaguchi visited Miyagi a few times in Okinawa. So how much total training is a bit sketchy too. Miyagi did however appoint Yamaguchi as the head of Goju-Ryu on mainland Japan. I haven’t seen anyone contest that one.

    Yamaguchi visited Meitoku Yagi several times after Miyagi’s death to further his understanding and training of Miyagi’s kata, as Yagi was reportedly the only student to learn every Goju-Ryu kata in the syllabus from Miyagi.

    I think Yamaguchi was part of the group that gave Miyagi his posthumous rank and ranked each other.

    So yeah... a lot of stuff without any concrete answers :)
     
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  13. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I’ve never heard Yamaguchi claimed to be Miyagi’s successor. Many did, and it makes sense that he would’ve too, as he was appointed head of Goju-Kai in Japan. I guess you could say he was the only one officially appointed to anything by Miyagi.

    Eiichi Miyazato was allegedly voted to be Miyagi’s successor by the senior students. If this is true, then how come students who voted for him also claimed they were the successor?

    It’s just all very odd. And no one’s going to ever figure out what actually happened. It happens quite a bit when no one is formally and publicly named. Look at Kyokushin and all the nastiness after Oyama’s death. Last I heard there was still stuff going through the Japanese court system. And Oyama died in April of 1994, 25 years ago now.
     
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  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    That's interesting - I didn't know about the 5-dan limitation. In the NGAA, for a long time, there were only 5 dan ranks. Instructors trying to compete (in the business sense) with higher-ranked folks at other schools asked Bowe to add more ranks (he was 5th dan). He added a 6th dan, but didn't move himself. It was probably more than 30 years later he finally stepped out of the ranks (literally, declared he had no formal rank - wouldn't promote himself to 6th) and promoted someone else to 5th dan.

    I had always assumed that 5th dan was just as high a rank as Bowe had achieved (he was promoted by Nara, who took over leadership after the death of the founder, and who retired sometime later, leaving Bowe as the de facto leader of the art), so that was the top rank. Perhaps there never was a rank above 5th in NGA.
     
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  15. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Depending on when NGA was started and what the general MA culture/climate was like back then, it’s quite possible that 5th dan was the highest.

    And I think a lot of organizations who award rank after 5th dan for stuff like contribution to the art rather than technical ability and technical improvement are probably a reflection of that 5 dan structure in a sense. Many schools don’t have a formal syllabus after 5th dan, meaning 5th dan has a complete knowledge of the system, and subsequent ranks are honorary in a sense. Promoting past 5th dan in those arts is tied to teaching and bringing students up to high levels (hopefully not just promoting too many people to too high of a rank to inflate your own), adding to the body of knowledge, improving the way it’s transmitted, spreading the art, etc.

    A great example is Nadashi Nakamura during his Kyokushin days. He was quite young when Mas Oyama promoted him to 7th dan. I’m not sure of his exact rank when he came to the US, but he had the Shihan title. He came to the US in April of 1966, which would’ve made him 24 years old. By the time he got here, he’d done so many things to spread Kyokushin already:

    He fought (and won) in the famous Japan vs Thailand match, bringing Kyokushin national and international visibility.

    He was chief instructor at the honbu in Tokyo.

    He had been sent around Europe and Australia and New Zealand to spread Kyokushin.

    He taught at US military bases and at colleges.

    He was considered the best Kyokushin teacher in the world, and many felt he was Oyama’s natural successor. And he was one of the best practitioners from a technical standpoint. He was one of the first handful of Oyama’s students to complete the 100 man kumite.

    He was the first sent to North America to head the North American Kyokushin branch.

    That’s contribution to the art of I’ve ever seen it. I don’t know his exact rank in Kyokushin when he came over, but he was 7th dan when he left Kyokushin in 1975/76, so he would’ve been 33~35 at the very oldest. I’m quite sure he had complete knowledge of the syllabus, earning whatever rank would be attached to that, and earning subsequent ranks for his contribution to the art and organization. Mas Oyama doesn’t come off as a guy who handed out ranks to just anyone either :)

    Side note: He is currently 9th dan and reportedly said he will never accept a 10th dan while he’s alive, reason being that he’ll never stop learning. I’m not sure who exactly promoted him to 8th and 9th dan, but I know it was from a Japanese MA committee/community. He doesn’t talk about it and doesn’t list it anywhere. His bio simply says he’s a 9th dan and highlights his accomplishments without mention of who and when he was promoted to any rank. I got the Kyokushin 7th dan info from Kyokushin sources.
     
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  16. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    i concur.
     
  17. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    In his autobiography, Yamaguchi puts these words into Chojun Miyagi's mouth:

    Ô"Mister Yamaguchi, you are well qualified to be the successor of Goju school karate. I have nothing more to teach you."


    Thereby, we are led to believe, Yamaguchi was designated as Miyagi's successor in Goju ryu. At least, according to the Cat... who did make the claim after Miyagi passed away.

    Was Gogen Yamaguchi lying? ... i doubt it.
    Was anyone else also well qualified... with nothing left to teach? Yes, I am sure of it.

    But Chojun shunned the practice of issuing blackbelts or dan grades. Therefore there never was a clear line of heirachy.... or succession.

    Chojun Miyagi believed that bringing dan grade rankings to karate would splinter it into competing factions.

    At a dinner party in 1942, a group of Japanese practitioners tried to bribe Miyagi into awarding them black belt ranking. Not only did Miyagi refuse to do it, but the whole episode infuriated him and he left Japan to never return. He never awarded any belt ranking to anyone in his lifetime, nor did he ever claim one.

    Miyagi stated:

    “I believe once dan ranks in karate are awarded, it will inevitably lead to trouble. The ranking system will lead to discrimination within karate and karate-ka will be judged by their rank and not their character. It will create ‘inferior’ and ‘superior’ strata within the karate community and will lead to discrimination between people.”


    (Perhaps Miyagi should be remembered as a prophet rather than a karate master).

    He died in 1953 and dan ranking in Okinawan karate did not occur in until 1956, three years later, and only then after the founding of the Okinawan Karate Federation.

    This is the autobiography in which the first quote (where Gogen allegedly quotes Miyagi ) can be found.

    s-l400.jpg
     
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  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    One interesting thing in the NGAA (and elsewhere in NGA where the 5/6 dan system still rules - some have gone to a 10-dan system), is that there's no technical curriculum beyond 2nd dan. I suspect that's because Bowe was 1st dan when he left Hokkaido. The curriculum we have after 1st dan is probably related to what he learned before leaving, and all his promotions after that (he received 2nd dan promotion remotely shortly after his return IIRC) were for building his program and getting other instructors out there in the US. So that "contribution to the art" part starts at 3rd dan. That's really why I did away with the multiplicity of ranks. I dropped the "dan" term, but essentially have either 2 or 3 dan rankings (if I ever award any of them), depending how you look at it.
     
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  19. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    The more I think about it, the more I feel like maybe Miyagi didn’t want an official successor. I’ve read stuff elsewhere along the lines of what you’ve posted, and it makes me think he didn’t want a Goju organization with a hierarchy, ranks, et al. Rather, perhaps he just wanted his students to pass along karate as he did.

    I don’t think he wanted a set curriculum, but rather individualized training (that doesn’t mean only one student taught at a time). He didn’t teach everyone the same katas nor did he teach everyone the same kata the same way even. I think the only kata every student who stuck around long enough to learn a kata was Sanchin (he didn’t teach that until the student had 2-3 years of training under him). And he taught it differently to different students during the same era, ie “you do this this way, and you over there do it that way.”

    If he didn’t have nor really want standardized kata, nor a standardized curriculum, why would he want an organization headed by a single person?

    Looking at it this way, Miyagi telling several people “I’ve taught you all I can, now go teach others” had to have meant run your own dojo and do your own thing.

    But the monkey wrench in this is that he developed Gekisai Dai in order to standardize things across the different schools. I can’t remember who he worked with on this though. He called it Gekisai Dai, and the other gentleman called it Fukyu kata (that never gets old).

    Couple that with Yagi’s claim that he started thinking rank structure but didn’t finish it when he died, and perhaps towards the end he thought there was in fact something to standardizing karate in Okinawa instead of a bunch of teachers teaching their own style. Or maybe he was just helping with standardizing things for grade school curricula. Maybe he thought give the school children a standardized course in karate, then have them train however they want afterwards. This was the time karate was beginning to be taught in schools as part of physical education.

    Who knows?
     
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  20. TSDTexan

    TSDTexan Master of Arts

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    History of the Kata:
    Essentially, the two Fukyugata are “Pinan equivalents” in that they were designed to be summation of the karate that went before. They are very new kata (made in the 1940s) and were created by Shoshin Nagamine (Matsubayashi-ryu) and Chojun Miyagi (Goju-ryu) at the request of Gen Hayakawa (governor of the Okinawa Prefecture) via the Karate-Do Special Committee.

    The idea was to create standardised kata that would cut across all the various streams of karate, that were suitable for novices, and would provide a common grounding in the basics of karate.

    The Pinans had been in existence for some time, but they were considered to be a summation of “Shuri-te” line alone (quite rightly) and hence were lacking the “Naha-te” side of things.

    Shoshin Nagamine made the first kata (Fukyugata Ich) and Chojun Miyagi made the second kata (Fukyugata Ni).

    Matsubayashi-ryu still practise them both.

    Fukyugata Ni remains part of Goju-Ryu but under the revised name of Gekisai Dai Ichi (normally the first kata taught in Goju-Ryu).

    Chojun Miyagi later went on to teach a second version of the same kata, which is largely the same, but with the addition of the circular hand motions common to other Goju kata.

    This revised version of Fukyugata Ni / Gekisai Dai Ichi is called Gekisai Dai Ni (normally the second kata taught in Goju).

    The name “Fukyu” (普及) translates as something like “universal”, “popular” or “widely spread”. So the name of the kata matches the intention behind their creation.

    The revised name of “Gekisai" (撃砕) translates as “Pulverise” or “Attack and Destroy” which would seem to be more reflective of the intent of the applications; as opposed to the former name which reflected the “political intent” of the kata.

    Source: Iain Abernethy.... but this is something my own research agrees with.
     
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