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Old 05-17-2005, 08:15 AM   #4
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
Re: Ueshiba + Chin-Na?

Chuck Gordon wrote:
Outside the apocryphal stories of Ueshiba studying Chinese martial arts during his foray into China (addressed in some depth in other forums here and on other boards), the best evidence for any real influence of Chinese martial systems having significant impact on Japanese budo come through the stories about Chin Gempin (see, a Chinese-born physician (or architect, depending on who you read) who shared some tricks of fighting with three ronin (Fukuno Shichiroemon, Miura Yojiemon, and Isogai Jirozaemon) and from which they then developed or amended extant versions of jujutsu that they studied and taught.

I'd venture the opinion that Gempin had some influence on Japanese jujutsu (specifically in terms of kempo, fist methods), but that there's little evidence for direct influence of Chinese systems in any wholesale manner on the Japanese arts.

Another page about Gempin:
The problem with attributing who got what from whom is pretty much obscured by national and personal prides, incomplete records, translators and historians who are not really qualified professionals in research or the art they're expounding on, etc. If you read most of the books by both Japanese and western "sword experts" up until only a few years ago, you'll see that they place the origin of the Japanese sword, its shape, tempering, etc., etc., as a purely Japanese invention. However, in the last few years it's been unavoidably shown that the shape, design, tempering process, etc., came to Japan via China and Korea. The reason this argument on swords can be settled is because some of the original swords still exist that came from China, etc.... i.e., there is hard proof that can't be denied. In other words, the written history and sources we had *up until only a few years ago* was dead wrong.

In the case of martial arts from China and what effect they had on Japanese arts, there is again a strong "national history" and the acknowledgements to Chinese or other nations is usually limited only to the unavoidable. So what we really know about martial arts histories is vague and often suspect. The best approach may be to avoid any favoritisms in terms of history and to try and view Asia as comprised of a number of countries that interacted in different ways during a time when Chinese culture and military dominated the region for a very long time. In turn, Chinese culture seems to have been seeded with many aspects of Indian culture, so that must be considered, also.

What we do know about Japan (and other countries in Asia) is that there is a history of borrowing heavily from China because China dominated that region with the latest technology, art, manufactruing, etc. Japan has borrowed a lot of language, "alphabet", measuring system, hair-do's, clothing styles, shoes, weapons, etiquette, calligraphy, manufacturing techniques, and many other things. The initial impression in the West that Japan and China only interacted at rare times (like the "kami kaze" story) is false... there was ongoing trade, travel, etc., between the countries at all times. If you want to see an indication of the importance of Chinese martial arts in Japanese martial arts, take a look at the picture of Tohei standing behind Ueshiba in 1953 (From Aikido:The Arts of Self-Defense)... it's an absolutely classical photograph done in the approved Chinese manner of student-disciple.

I somehow doubt that Chen Gempin had a temple built to his honor near Tokyo (it's still there) and was mentioned in the "Coversations with Ancestors, Book II" as giving the information critical to the founding of the "ju arts" simply because he taught some people 3 techniques. Right away these histories that toss of Gempin as not having contributed anything substantive are suspect, in my mind. The too-obvious attempt to trivialize Gempin or other influences on Japan should raise a warning flag to anyone really interested in the big picture. And incidentally "chuan fa" (Chinese) or "kem po" (Japanese: same kanji) is a general term meaning more or less "martial arts", not some specific martial art like "Japanese Kempo" which is a punch/kick art. I.e., the original comments about Gempin teaching "kempo" simply means that he taught some undefined type of "martial art".

All the Chinese sources I've seen acknowledge that Gempin was Chinese and that he taught some unknown amount of Shuai Jiao (probably the oldest Chinese martial art, BTW, not some recent upstart as some western judoka "historians" have incredibly claimed) and perhaps some other things to the Japanese. In those days (the 1600's, and even long before that, too), to show foreigners Chinese martial arts was actually a crime against the state.

When it gets down to "chin na" ("qinna", nowadays), I just roll my eyes at the suggestion that Japan developed its own joint locks independent of China and any similarities are just coincidences. In other words, my suggestion would be, to the original poster, that all the joint locks O-Sensei used were known by the Japanese long before O-Sensei was born, but many or most of those joint locks probably derived from Chinese martial arts... but there's no records to prove much of anything.


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