Friday, 24 December 2010

Joko issei, nisei, sansei, yonsei & gosei

Joko literally translates as `always practice’ and issei, nisei, sansei, yonsei and gosei means `first to fifth generation’. In actuality these are not koten-gata (ancient/classical forms) but rather, like the more fundamental Junro, were engineered by Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei. They are a result of Asai Sensei’s research at the Japan Karate Association and target of pressuring karateka to make more fluid/smooth transitions "by force".______

One question many people ask, just as I asked Asai Sensei, is why he labelled these five kata by `generation’. The answer he provided was rather fascinating but still to this day I don't understand what he meant due to my limited Nihongo. Sadly, I cannot directly quote what he said, but it was something like “these kata technically reflect five distinctly different generations of karate-do”. Another thing he once said at a group dinner was that “Joko-nisei was influenced by Gogen 'The Cat’ Yamaguchi of Goju-kai”. He continued by saying "he and Nakayama Sensei had extensively collaborated with Yamaguchi until 1987 (when Nakayama Sensei died) then Asai Sensei by himself until Yamaguchi Sensei's death in 1989 {hence many people incorrectly refer to Asai Sensei as `The Cat'. Asai Sensei always said "there is only one cat in karate, and that is Mr. Yamaguchi of Goju-kai"}. In this same conversation he also stated his desire for the Joko to become mandatory kata, much like the Junro series, this was his dream and only IJKA followed this.


JOKO-ISSEI: First and fore mostly Joko-issei is a perfect transformation and advancement of Junro-shodan, even though it was created before Junro-shodan! It incorporates the core techniques in the ‘first generation of karatedo’. This kata proactively promotes smooth transitions, which is the key theme in this series of formal exercises. Asai Sensei admonished that he “intentionally designed all five Joko kata in a disjointed manner to force fluidity.” This point should be kept in mind at all times when practicing any of the Joko kata.

JOKO-NISEI: Joko-nisei as mentioned above features many Goju techniques, thus very circular, giving this kata a feeling of Okinawan karate. Needless to say, also `obviously circular' are the two mawashi geri found in this kata, which Sensei explained “were accepted as being orthodox technique during this period of karate’s development”. Nevertheless, Asai Sensei taught all karate as circular, including linear techniques, as this is natural!

JOKO-SANSEI: Joko-sansei trains gyaku-hanmi (reverse half-facing position) which took the use of hip rotation to the limit. This was more emphasised than in previous generations and led to superior power. Joko-sansei kata is second to none in the development of gyaku hanmi and this is something Asai Sensei was very enthused about telling everyone!

JOKO-YONSEI: Joko-yonsei reflects the integration of long, middle and close range techniques. This mirrors the penultimate period of karate under the late Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei and the unified JKA (Japan Karate Association). Several of Keigo Abe Sensei’s favoured techniques are featured, which Asai Sensei told me prior to his passing in June of 2006; and also about `the Yahara influence' on Joko-gosei.

JOKO-GOSEI: Joko-gosei `the fifth generation kata’ was influenced by the developments of the JKA (Matsuno group). Attacks such as tobi kaiten uraken are featured and several other moves of switching the legs and delivering techniques. This is typical, especially the style of uraken-uchi, of Mikio Yahara Sensei’s karate who at that time was Asai Sensei's Assistant Chief Instructor .

I am unfamiliar with many of things which Asai Sensei said about Joko, and for club members who have asked me, especially those present when Asai Sensei made these statements, you literally know as much as I do. It would be interesting to know more about Gogen Yamaguchi Sensei and the different generations of karate techniques. Quite simply I never took the initiative to ask Sensei about the Joko series and while I was learning them with everyone else, I was also preoccupied with several other kata and techniques that Asai Sensei was teaching me privately. However, in the spirit of Asai Sensei, and karate as an art of physical training, such historical matters are clearly trivial next to practice itself. My advice is for members to follow Sensei's example and practice all five Joko kata with above mentioned key objectives in mind. And who knows, perhaps in the future, via karate historians, the gaps will be filled._________

Please note: This article was originally published in our dojo shimbun (club newsletter) in December of 2006. However the supplementary photographs have been added from after morning practice on December 21st, 2010.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2010.

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