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Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 7

There is a natural limit to speed and power using linear, "ordinary," mechanics. When I was young, I never worried about this. The answer, to me, was to simply try harder to get better results.

If you are near my age (48), you will have experienced that trying harder is not always the solution -- we have to try "smarter."

When I met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I was dumfounded by his abilities. But he had not magically acquired his skills. He was part of a group that had focused on body dynamics. They too had see what happens when a Karate person ages. Some people settle for mediocrity, but others tap into a virtual fountain of youth. Why?

Shinzato Sensei could show me how to move more efficiently and effectively because he and his sensei had worked on it.

Back to Goju-Ryu. Until I met Shinzato Sensei, I, through my own limitations, was missing something (OK, I was missing a lot). Essentially, I was just trying to kick and punch, even though I could do this in the form of the 18 kata comprising the Matsubayashi-Ryu system. It did not matter what movement I was doing -- shuto, makitei uke -- I might as well have been doing crude punches. I was moving in a crude manner because I had not learned to connect my body and how to "dance" between hard and soft. Again, this was a result of my own limitations. My sensei had tried so hard for so long and yet I could not learn.

Here is some of what Shinzato Sensei taught me: (1) how to generate power using my whole body; (2) how to remain relaxed so that this power would not be wasted or slowed down; (3) how to tighten up for the split second of energy transfer; (4) how to immediately relax and recover a good portion of the power I had generated; (5) how to generate and manipulate waves of power and interference; (6) how to direct power in any direction easily; and (7) how to use this type of power to move from one point to another. As I have mentioned before, the starting and ending points of the movement did not change -- everything in between did.

Did he teach me body dynamics that were derived from Goju-Ryu. I do not believe that he did -- he taught me body dynamics that he had found worked for him.

It should not be suprising, however, that some aspects of the way that I learned to move should be similar to Goju-Ryu. Style is not relevant. Results are relevant. Any successful "style" must integrate hard and soft, and the transitions between the two. At their "root," Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu must have a lot in common. The particular techniques are trivial. An expert in Goju-Ryu could learn to do the Shorin-Ryu kata and an expert in Shorin-Ryu could learn to do the Goju-Ryu kata. The kata are simply templates for learning how to move.

Let me put it this way. I have seen Shinzato Sensei and Morio Higaonna demonstrate slaps. I would not want to be slapped by either to them? And if I were, I don't think that I would be able to distinguish between the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu slap. At their level of body dynamics, a "slap" could knock you over.

I started this series questioning how some aspects of Goju-Ryu body dynamics had become a part of the Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu as I undestand and practice it (which is still very limited). Perhaps I too suffer from the emphasis on style that plagues modern Karate students. But whether you call it Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu, internal or external, soft or hard, cats or dogs, Karate is Karate.

I was wrong to think that Goju-Ryu had become a part of my movement. In fact, what I recognized was commonality of movement that is not style dependent. When you turn on a flashlight, the light is the same, irrespective of the brand of the flashlight. It is not Goju-Ryu light or Shorin-Ryu light, it is just light.

I mentioned my friend Stan Henning who researches Chinese martial arts and practices Hsing-i. When we first me, I demonstrated a combination using koshi. He smiled with a sense of recognition and said, "that's how we move."

How can a Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu student move like a Hising-i practioner? When power is generated in a similar manner, who could they move differently?


Charles C. Goodin