|Asai Sensei performing Meikyo which, along with Wankan and Jiin, constitutes the last three kata taught in Japan (from the standard 26 Shotokan kata).|
The kata Jiin, which means ‘Charity Shadow’ is said to come from Tomari-Te lens of Tode; however, its Chinese origins—like many other classical kata—is unclear at best, and probably seeped in speculation. Irrespective, in addition to Shotokan, other Ryuha/Kaiha have their own respective versions of it. Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei even used a different second kanji (character) in the writing of its name: 慈韻, which translates as ‘Charity Rhyme’. Irrespective of the ‘original’ kanji, it is clear that this name is connected to Buddhism and/or the dominant philosophical ideologies of its origins.
Before I go on, like many kata and karate-waza, I often feel frazzled by incorrect pronunciation of names. Jiin is not a ‘Gin and Tonic’ cocktail (as much as I enjoy them, especially when flying pre-corona... Bombay Sapphire, by the way). The correct pronunciation is like the letter ‘G’ (or saying like “Gee” whiz) followed by ‘Inn”. Can I get a good gin at the local inn? This kata has 35 movements, not 35%, with the kiai being applied on techniques 11 and 35. Warning: with too much 'G and T' one might go on to kiai on all thirty five movements, both bows, and off into the sunset. Oh my, Elvis just left the building...
In regards to the kanji, I feel that Asai Sensei’s naming gives good sense in regards to the continuous movement (morphing actions) that characterizes Jiin when done optimally. That being said, as you see in the title of this article, I tend to use the kanji for ‘shadow’ as this connects to Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s unsuccessful bid to rename the kata 松陰 (Shoin)—Pine Shadow. Regardless of these trivial facts, the two names perhaps put some metaphorical light of how the kata should be performed.
In recent years some organizations and individuals have ceased to formally practice Jiin; nevertheless, while not as popular as many of the other kata, it is still widely practiced amongst senior Shotokan yudansha. Having drinks with Naka Tatsuya Sensei and he came to the subject of Asai Sensei’s kata and then his own innovations. He went on to say that in his personal group, Taishijuku, he also teaches Jiin and 百八歩 (Hyakuhachiho).
Whoever reads this article will know that Jion, Jitte and Jiin are commonly classified as a series of related kata. This is because they share the same opening and closing Kamae (左掌右拳下顎前)—‘sasho uken shita ago mae’; moreover, they share many of the same techniques, themes, and self-defense methodologies.
One thing I personally learned from Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei is that movements nine to eleven are contentious. Like most of you I’m sure, I was originally taught this being three shuto chudan sotomawashi uchi advancing in kiba-dachi. Accordingly, to Osaka Sensei, this is ok, but probably not the original. The older variation, is the same as movements 23-25 in 慈恩 (Jion) and movements five to seven in 十手 (Jitte). To quote him directly: “I’m not sure which is the most ‘original’; however, based on consistency with Jion and Jitte, and other renditions of Jiin in other Shotokan groups and ryuha, it’s most probably teisho”. He also said that in this case “…it can also be an attack utilizing kumade”.
The ‘signature waza’ of Jiin is ‘Chudan uchi-uke doji ni gedan-barai’, which of course is a ‘simultaneous mid-level inside outward reception and downward sweep’. This waza is the first action of the kata and is repeated for a total of five times in Jiin
More importantly four of these times are in zenkutsu-dachi with the uchi-uke being executed with rear arm. This is unique to this kata, yet has some relationship to Kanku Sho and Gojushiho Sho; albeit, their respective rear arm uchi-uke are to the side and, also, utilizing kokutsu-dachi.
In Jiin these waza are delivered once stepping rearward (movement one) in isolation; three times on the spot following defenses followed by combination attacks with tsukiwaza and mae-geri (movements 16, 21 and 30); and turning into kiba-dachi (movement 31).
It can’t go without mention that Niren-zuki appears four times in this kata, three times in combination with mae geri and once directly. These cover all three generic forms of maai: long distance, middle range and infighting. That being said, all of these are adapted accordingly; this, in all oyo, enables fluidity in defense and offense. This, of course, is imperative, as set attacks never come and fixed responses do not work in the mess and intensity of a street fight. In my karate, and from practical experience, I find all of these differing waza are for the infight, which is where all unarmed fighting takes place. But this can be addressed elsewhere on this site.
On the surface, Jiin has no particularly difficult waza; that being said, it is an advanced kata and contains a lot of high level karate as elucidated in the aforementioned point (alluding to actual self-defense applications). Besides 'the shadowing of movements' in Jiin, perhaps this is what its name is alluding to? Who knows!
In traditional Shotokan schools, it is not taught until after attaining Shodan at the earliest. Usually, however, it is not practiced until at least Sandan. Under Asai Sensei’s direction, the last three of standard 26 Shotokan kata taught are Meikyo, Wankan and Jiin
An interesting point, which is expressed by many senior instructors (the real old boys) here in Japan, is that “…the 'Funakoshi Gichin Sensei version of Jiin', with the exception of tachikata (stances) is the oldest rendition of this kata”. The versions practiced by Shito Ryu, for example, are more modern versions. Of course, this is not giving a ‘one up’ to Shotokan but, rather, elucidates that different masters had different ideas. And more than this, via their karate history, extensive research and training, they developed their own karate paths.
I’d like to wrap up on an interesting point. Some of the most senior Shotokan Karateka here in Japan, say that Jiin was Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s favorite advanced kata. Nevertheless, as everyone knows, it was not included in his ’15 core kata’, which I think raises many questions. One theory, in regards to this, is that the 15 core Shotokan kata, are for the masses. Those who were deemed to attain an elite level may have been taught the more advanced kata. Whether this is true or not, it is possible, in light of Japanese culture—especially at the time—and subsequent events (in regards to the expansion of the official Shotokan kata).
Irrespective of all the points that I’ve put down for you here, I hope that this article better helps you understand and practice Jiin. Okay, on to an overview! Osu André Bertel.
Yoi (Heisoku-dachi) Sasho uken shita ago mae
1. Hidari chudan uchi-uke doji ni migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi.
2. Migi jodan sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).
3. Hidari jodan sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni migi sokumen gedan-uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi).
4. Hidari jodan age-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
5. Migi chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
6. Migi jodan jodan age-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
7. Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
8. Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
9. Migi teisho migi sokumen chudan yoko-uke (Kiba-dachi).
10. Hidari teisho hidari sokumen chudan yoko-uke (Kiba-dachi).
11. Migi teisho migi sokumen chudan yoko-uke (Kiba-dachi)—KIAI!
12. Chudan kakiwake-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
13. Migi chudan mae-geri keage.
14. Uken chudan oi-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
15. Saken chudan gyaku-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). Note — movements 14 and 15 are ren-zuki.
16. Hidari chudan uchi-uke doji migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
17. Chudan kakiwake-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
18. Hidari chudan mae-geri keage.
19. Saken chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
20. Uken chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi). Note — movements 19 and 20 are ren-zuki.
21. Migi chudan uchi-uke doji hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
22. Kaiten-shinagara migi kentsui uchimawashi uchi (Kiba-dachi).
23. Kaiten-shinagara hidari kentsui uchimawashi uchi (Kiba-dachi).
24. Migi kentsui uchimawashi uchi (Kiba-dachi).
25. Hidari chudan tateshuto-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
26. Uken chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
27. Saken chudan maete-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi). Note — movements 26 and 27 are ren-zuki.
28. Migi chudan mae-geri keage.
29. Uken chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
30. Migi chudan uchi-uke doji hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
31. Hidari chudan uchi-uke doji migi gedan-barai (Kiba-dachi).
32. Hidari gedan-barai (Kiba-dachi).
33. Chudan kakiwake-uke (Kiba-dachi).
34. Saken chudan choku-zuki (Kiba-dachi).
35. Uken chudan choku-zuki (Kiba-dachi)—KIAI! Note — movements 34 and 35 are ren-zuki.
Naore (Heisoku-dachi) Sasho uken shita ago mae.
Time to head to the dojo for my daily self-training and, if the wife allows (after returning home), I just might just enjoy a glass or two of not Jiin, but Bombay Sapphire (with some tonic water, and fresh lemon, lime or the legendary OITA KABOSU). Train hard and enjoy life. OSU!
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).