Jitte kata, possible origin?

TenHands

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I have become obsessed - actually hyperfixated - with the kata Jitte recently. It is the first Shotokan kata I learned and is quite honestly my favorite due to its simplicity.

For those unaware, there is a prevailing assumption within Karate that the kata we practice originated from Chinese Kung Fu. So naturally, whenever I obsess over a kata, I go full-on nerd and try to trace its origins as best I can through researching all versions of the kata, the founders of each style that practices the kata, connecting the name of the kata to the names of Kung Fu forms, and so on. Over the years, I have done this with several other kata and came to some hypotheses about their origins:
-Seisan = an Okinawan version of the White Crane form Shi San Tai Bao.
-Nipaipo = an Okinawan version of the White Crane form Er Shi Ba.
-Niseishi = an adaptation of the techniques found in the Bajiquan form Xiao Jia.
-Suparinpei = a compilation of techniques from Varma Kalai, an ancient Indian art whose philosophy lies in the 108 pressure points of the body.
-Useishi = a compilation of techniques from the Southern Mantis form Kai San.
-Sepai = a loose adaptation of the Luohan Quan form Shi Ba Shou.
-Unshu = a kata very loosely inspired by the Yun Shu technique of Tai Chi.

I might make a full kata history thread at some point, but for now, back to Jitte.

A few things need to be considered whenever tracing a kata's history. The most important of these is that kata undergo drastic changes over time. A kata from 200 years ago will not look like the one today, and each lineage will have its own mutation of the original. Not only that, but not all katas are copied directly from Kung Fu forms; in most cases, it seems that individual techniques were extracted from the original Kung Fu form or style and rearranged into an original Okinawan kata some hundred or so years ago. Therefore, we must assume that there is usually no "original Chinese version" of any given kata.

With that being said, I have discovered an interesting form known as Sap Ji, which apparently translates to "ten." For those who don't know, the kata Jitte translates to "ten hands."






Across all versions of this form, a few things stand out:
-An closed-fist salutation similar to Jitte.
-An opening sequence involving open-hand hand positions similar to Jitte.
-Plenty of single and double palm strikes.
-Dual-arm closed-fist blocks (in one version it looks identical to the one in Jitte).

In addition to the visual side of things, it is a historical possibility for a Chinese Kung Fu practitioner in the late 1800s to have traveled to Okinawa and taught this form to the locals. The region in which this form comes from (Southern China) brings further light to this hypothesis.

Could Sap Ji be the origin of the kata Jitte? Any other kata history nerds out there? I can't be the only one.
 
in most cases, it seems that individual techniques were extracted from the original Kung Fu form or style and rearranged into an original Okinawan kata some hundred or so years ago. Therefore, we must assume that there is usually no "original Chinese version" of any given kata.
You have stated the problem pretty well. This is why your obsession will only bring you frustration. In addition to this, there was much mixing of karate styles 100 to 150 years ago, likely with pieces of (already modified) kata being traded back and forth between various masters, so a single kata may have elements of several other kata. This fact makes its lineage very difficult, if not impossible to track. This is true also of bo kata with several of them having many moves in common even across styles.

Jitte is found in kobayashi shorinryu via Itosu>Chibana, but not in Kyan's shobayashi branch via Matsumura. But then, Itosu studied with Matsumura as well. Mabuni's shito-ryu has it and he was a student of Itosu, too. Shotokan has it, Funakoshi being a student of Matsumura's lineage via Azato and Itosu. Even this knowledge sheds little light on jitte's introduction into Okinawan karate as just because Matsumura or Itosu may have known it, they may not have taught it. Many possibilities for dead ends.

To go back to Matsumura's teachers in China takes you to shadowy figures such as Iwah who may have taught him Shaolin Monk Fist. This may be a source of Jitte? So much for the Shuri-te styles.

Jitte doesn't seem to appear in the Naha-te styles such as goju, to'on and Uechi-ryu at all. At least that narrows things down a little. Good luck in your kata history quest.
 
Its definitely an anachronistic kata! Here are a couple of Wado Ryu versions. Wado Ryu, bypassed the filter of early Shotokan development to keep something a bit more like the original Okinawan versions存ort of!


 
One important point is that a Chinese style is not a clear cut singular entity. From my understanding of southern Chinese styles, a single style can be quite diverse. Different villages or specific families can have very different forms than the next village over within the same style. This makes it very difficult to recognize a lineage. Not to mention a form name is just a name and masters across multiple styles would like that name and use it for thier form.
One idea that really helped me in my own archeology of forms was understanding that the Chinese forms are based on concepts and pattern of movement that express that concept. This is very helpful for identifying lineage but its difficult because you would need to know the meanings of the group of movements that constitute a pattern. I'm of a Uechi-Ryu dissent so I can't help much on Jitte. I do know that much of early karate including Matsumura's tode, came from the 32 families that settled in Okinawa.
One other thought I have is that I am pretty convinced that when the Okinawans came knocking looking to learn martial arts the Chinese did not teach them their art but rather a very watered down version. This is another wrench in the gears when trying to place a link between Okinawan and Chinese arts.
 
I do know that much of early karate including Matsumura's tode, came from the 32 families that settled in Okinawa.
While it's possible that a few of the Chinese who settled in kume village knew MA, they were not for the most part aristocrats or military so it's not to be assumed there was any significant passing on of quan fa to the Okinawans. To my knowledge there is no record of such a fact.

Matsumura, who was a warrior, did spend time in China and studied MA there (on a professional level) and brought back several kata to Okinawa. (see below)
One other thought I have is that I am pretty convinced that when the Okinawans came knocking looking to learn martial arts the Chinese did not teach them their art but rather a very watered down version
It's likely that this is true to some extent. It is equally likely that the Okinawan masters who studied in China edited what they had learned to better fit in with Okinawan MA. I'd guess a combination of both.
This is another wrench in the gears when trying to place a link between Okinawan and Chinese arts.
We know of a number of strong links but there is much detail we don't know. Such info was not recorded for our convenience. Quite a lot of documents were also lost in the massive destruction Okinawa suffered at the end of WWII.
 
-Dual-arm closed-fist blocks (in one version it looks identical to the one in Jitte).
I'm guessing that this is the position with the upper arms horizontal out to the sides with the lower arms vertically held up in a right angle to the upper arms: l_o_l (o=head). It is one of the signature positions of jitte kata. This position is illustrated in the Bubishi as a kumai to draw the opponent into attacking and is described as an arhat (monk fist) Shaolin boxing technique. This style along with white crane derivatives are thought to be the two main kung fu contributors to karate.
 
While it's possible that a few of the Chinese who settled in kume village knew MA, they were not for the most part aristocrats or military so it's not to be assumed there was any significant passing on of quan fa to the Okinawans. To my knowledge there is no record of such a fact.
I'm not sure about this. From everything I read this is pretty much accepted knowledge. There is even a park in Okinawa dedicated to the 32 families as the birth place of okinawan karate. It's said it's the park where they used to train. And if the Chinese were or were not aristocracy is not relevant. That's not how Chinese arts developed, every class in china had access.. It would have been the okinawans who learned and brought the training into the upperclass.
 
I'm not sure about this. From everything I read this is pretty much accepted knowledge. There is even a park in Okinawa dedicated to the 32 families as the birth place of okinawan karate. It's said it's the park where they used to train. And if the Chinese were or were not aristocracy is not relevant. That's not how Chinese arts developed, every class in china had access.. It would have been the okinawans who learned and brought the training into the upperclass.
I don't doubt there's a park dedicated to Okinawa being the birthplace of karate, but is it in Kume village and connected to the 32 families? I haven't been to Okinawa. I only base my statement on them not being a significant contributor to karate's development on having read various sources written by karate masters/historians (Nagamine, McCarthy and others) none of whom stress this possibility. I guess there may have been some transmission as I said but have never read anything that it was a notable contributor to Okinawan karate.
 
I'm not sure about this. From everything I read this is pretty much accepted knowledge. There is even a park in Okinawa dedicated to the 32 families as the birth place of okinawan karate. It's said it's the park where they used to train. And if the Chinese were or were not aristocracy is not relevant. That's not how Chinese arts developed, every class in china had access.. It would have been the okinawans who learned and brought the training into the uppercla

I don't doubt there's a park dedicated to Okinawa being the birthplace of karate, but is it in Kume village and connected to the 32 families? I haven't been to Okinawa. I only base my statement on them not being a significant contributor to karate's development on having read various sources written by karate masters/historians (Nagamine, McCarthy and others) none of whom stress this possibility. I guess there may have been some transmission as I said but have never read anything that it was a notable contributor to Okinawan karate.
4min, 45 sec. He specifically called it out. My mistake. it's referenced as 36 not 32.
 
4min, 45 sec. He specifically called it out. My mistake. it's referenced as 36 not 32.
The monuments Jessie showed in the video do not reference karate - just one noting the 36 families and the other just naming the park. Not sure where Jessie got his info or to what extent he fact checked it. The fact remains that there was much trade contact between China and Okinawa for centuries and some MA info may have been transmitted but there is really no way to say to what extent. Okinawa also was a trade route from Indonesia and the Philippines with possible limited MA influence.

I just found this article after a short search:

["History of the 36 family village in Okinawa

"I was asked by one of our members to quickly review the cultural exchange done at the Kumemura village with the 36 families and the Okinawan people. First let me say that it is a bit overstated in some cases that the cultural exchange was the most important point in Karates development.

"Now a distinction has to be drawn here that many people dont do宇he people that came from China and Korea more than likely knew NOTHING of martial arts. The business envoy from shipping companies and the government officials and scholars were more than likely educated men that may not have been high level government officials but they were not interested in fighting or the fighting arts."]

The MAIN point is not if some Okinawans learned kung fu, but what was the source of the kung fu that led to karate development. There may be other articles claiming the Kume settlement as the source of Chinese input leading to karate, but from the high-level sources I've read, it is not "accepted knowledge," only a theory the top guys put limited importance on.

The main "accepted" theory seems to currently be that Okinawan royally sanctioned and martially trained personnel such as Sakugawa, Matsumura Sokon, Seisho Arigake, and Hiagonna Kanryo went to China in the 1800's, spoke the language and formally studied with established schools and masters and brought back Chinese MA knowledge. While there may have been other avenues for CMA coming to Okinawa, it was these guys that brought the CMA that was incorporated into what we now know as karate. This is the historical version I choose to believe in as well.



 
The monuments Jessie showed in the video do not reference karate - just one noting the 36 families and the other just naming the park. Not sure where Jessie got his info or to what extent he fact checked it. The fact remains that there was much trade contact between China and Okinawa for centuries and some MA info may have been transmitted but there is really no way to say to what extent. Okinawa also was a trade route from Indonesia and the Philippines with possible limited MA influence.

I just found this article after a short search:

["History of the 36 family village in Okinawa

"I was asked by one of our members to quickly review the cultural exchange done at the Kumemura village with the 36 families and the Okinawan people. First let me say that it is a bit overstated in some cases that the cultural exchange was the most important point in Karates development.

"Now a distinction has to be drawn here that many people dont do宇he people that came from China and Korea more than likely knew NOTHING of martial arts. The business envoy from shipping companies and the government officials and scholars were more than likely educated men that may not have been high level government officials but they were not interested in fighting or the fighting arts."]

The MAIN point is not if some Okinawans learned kung fu, but what was the source of the kung fu that led to karate development. There may be other articles claiming the Kume settlement as the source of Chinese input leading to karate, but from the high-level sources I've read, it is not "accepted knowledge," only a theory the top guys put limited importance on.

The main "accepted" theory seems to currently be that Okinawan royally sanctioned and martially trained personnel such as Sakugawa, Matsumura Sokon, Seisho Arigake, and Hiagonna Kanryo went to China in the 1800's, spoke the language and formally studied with established schools and masters and brought back Chinese MA knowledge. While there may have been other avenues for CMA coming to Okinawa, it was these guys that brought the CMA that was incorporated into what we now know as karate. This is the historical version I choose to believe in as well.
I'm sorry, I am not sure what position your trying to put forward. You lost me. It is possible your thinking my position is something it's not.
Let me restate :
I was speaking only of the shorin- ryu styles that can be attributed to Matsumura Sokon. In relationship to the ability to trace roots of a form. Like many karate masters Matsumura leaned what I will call Ti,(which is different then Te or Tode) which had been on the island for a few hundred years. The 36 families arrived somewhere around 1400. This is what many believe is the source of Ti.
Did the okinawans go to China to learn martial arts in the 1800 - 1900's , yes of course. No one can argue against that. However the common styles of karate are not a Chinese Quan system but rather a reflection of it.. My position is that the earlier style of Ti ( not to mention okinawan wrestling as well) was blended with the more modern Tode by osmosis if nothing else. All that being said I do not think it was a primary influence but rather secondary but would have it's effects on the kata.
 
I'm sorry, I am not sure what position your trying to put forward. You lost me.
My position is simply that the Chinese in Kume village were not a major contributor to what we now call karate.

Chinese influence from Kume, China itself, and perhaps SE Asia and Philippines could have contributed to the native Okinawan MA over the centuries and formed its background.

This generic non-systemized MA (ti, of which little is known) was combined with the Chinese arts learned by Okinawan warriors/officials during their study in China (Matsumura, Higaonna and a few others) and brought back to Okinawa in the early-mid 1800's to early 1900's, where it underwent further development into early karate.

It's believed that Matsumura brought kata such as seisan, nahainchi, Kusanku, passai and others. Most were not imported intact but were merely representative of the styles' elements. They were then further modified to varying degrees by succeeding masters.

Karate is the result of several layers of influence and modifications.

I hope this is clearer and represents a viewpoint we can both share.
 
Wonderful,
We could dig deeper into a few minor points but in general I would say we are in agreement.
 

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