Training feels more like it used to at the moment, I’ve got loads of new stuff to learn, it really reminds me of being a lower gup grade and having to take loads of new stuff on. At the moment I’m trying to load my brain (and muscles) with a combination of Naihanchi Ee Dan, Jinto and Joong Jol (Yuk Roh Ee Dan).
I always love the challenge of trying to take a new form on board and to learn it from start to finish. Refining it and making it look good always take time and come later, but remembering the sequence is the first step, and with some forms it comes much easier than others. Naihanchi Ee Dan went in easily enough, because it’s a small number of moves which are just mirrored (note: whenever I say I know a form here, I mean I know the sequence of moves, being able to perform it well is a whole other story!), some of which are straight out of Naihanchi Cho Dan. Over the past week or so we’ve been learning Joong Jol and so far I love it. I think over time it’s going to be one of my favourites. I’ve just about got the sequence in my head now, but there’s still quite a bit open to adjustment as we find a happy medium between how the Moo Duk Kwan originally taught it, and what’s being taught now.
That leaves me with Jinto (Chin To, Jin Do, Gankaku in Karate), a form which – if I’m honest – I’ve never been a fan of. I’m not sure what it is about it, but the times previous that I tried it I didn’t enjoy it, and I never really enjoyed watching it either. In a way, this is what will mean that I spend a lot more time with this form than any of the others. When I like a form I’ll practise it a lot, obviously because I enjoy it, but some tend to get neglected in comparison. Chil Sung Il Ro is a great example, I’ve never really liked it in the past (although I am warming to it more now), so I would seldom put the extra time into it that I should have. Jinto however I’m determined to crack. It’s taken me a relatively long time to memorise the sequence but I think I’m there now, it’s a strange form in as much as there’s very little repetition or mirroring, not like the vast majority.
When I learn a new form, I like to find out as much as I can about it, but this is much easier to do with some forms than others. Take Chil Sung and Yuk Roh for example, being relatively young forms, and having very limited exposure to styles other than Soo Bahk Do, there’s very few places to go to find out about them. Jinto is an absolute goldmine however, being a very old tode/karate form with a lot of history, most of it anecdotal of course, which is always the most fun. Even the meaning of the name is disputed, but I know what I believe in terms of its origins. In Chinese (China being the form’s origin) and Okinawan, the closest translation is something like “fighting to the East”. This came as a surprise to me, as I’ve always thought of it as being ‘the crane form’, and the crane stances in it obviously point to an origin in Chinese White Crane style kung fu, but it seems we have our old friend Gichin Funakoshi to thank for a lot of that.
Funakoshi is rightfully thought of as the father of karate in Japan, as he was instrumental in bringing it to the country from Okinawa and founding Shotokan. One of the more famous changes he made was the change from Pyung Ahn/Pinan to Heian, and personally I think a lot of the changes around this time were due to the bitter rivalries between Japan and its neighbours. Anti-Chinese sentiment was rife during Karate’s formative years, hence the change of Kanji used to write ‘kara-te’ from ‘china hand’ to ‘empty hand’. Funakoshi changed the name of Jinto/Chinto to Gankaku, changing its meaning from something like ‘fighting the East’ to ‘crane on a rock’. It’s an obvious choice to make, as it made it far more socially acceptable, and it was instantly recognisable as to why to anyone who saw the form.
The story about the stranded pirate/sailor who defeated Matsumura Sokon with the form is a nice one, but I can’t really see it being any more than that – a nice story. There are other changes of course, like the fact we now perform it on a very North-South path, whereas originally it was diagonally, but that’s what makes it so interesting. A form with some history, a lot of stories and a lot to read about and to make my mind up about. This is the learning part of Tang Soo Do that I absolutely lap up. Whether or not I ever nail those crane stances, that’s another story.