In 2006 I wrote a book about the kata group Jitte (temple hand), Jion (temple sound) and Jiin (temple floor). Today I would like to share some thoughts on the historical development of these three kata.
Regrettably, very little is known about the history of the kata group Jitte, Jiin and Jion. On closer examination it can be seen that these three kata share some similarities:
The three kata thus seem to be related both technically and historically to each other and come from the same source or school. Allegedly, the origin of the kata lies in a Chinese Shaolin monastery called Jion-ji.
On Okinawa the kata for the first time appear in the kata curriculum of Itosu Anko Sensei (1830 – 1915), in whose school the kata are said to have played a minor role. Unfortunately, it is not known how these kata found their way into the karate of Itosu Sensei. Which theories are conceivable?
Did Itosu Sensei's teacher Matsumura Soken Sensei (1797-1889 or 1809-1901) already know these kata and was he responsible for their transmission? At least Jion could be a kata Matsumura Sensei was familiar with. Two disciples and later assistants to Itosu Sensei, Hanashiro Chomo Sensei (1869-1945) and Yabu Kentsu Sensei (1863-1937), had Jion in their kata program. Both are known to have not greatly appreciated the changes that Itosu Sensei made, for example the group instruction, the development and introduction of the Pinan kata, and the associated transformation of martial arts into physical exercise.
As we know, the kata Jion was one of Hanashiro Sensei's favourite kata. Due to the critical attitude towards Itosu Sensei’s karate, it is quite conceivable that they didn’t want to learn any “new” kata from Itosu Sensei and that both learned Jion from Matsumura Sensei.
The kata Jion can also be found in Toon-ryu by Kyoda Yuhatsu Sensei (1887 - 1968). Kyoda Sensei learned this kata from Yabu Sensei. Although Kyoda Sensei's main teacher was Naha-te master Higashionna Kanryo (1853 - 1915), from whom he learned the kata Sanchin, Seisan, Sanseiru and Peichurin, Kyoda Sensei must have seen something special in the kata Jion or in Yabu Sensei, otherwise he would have not incorporated the kata in his “small” Naha-te based kata curriculum.
Sells (2000) suggests that the kata came to Itosu Sensei via a master of the Tomari-te lineage named Gusukuma, but a master named Gusukuma is not found on any of the popular Tomari-te charts.
Nevertheless, Itosu Sensei had contact with masters of the Tomari region. He and Matsumora Kosaku Sensei (1829-1898) had been training together around 1873 and he could have learned the three kata from Matsumora Sensei in addition to Wankan, Wanshu, Wandou and Rohai. On the one hand, however, this theory contradicts the fact that Jitte, Jiin, and Jion kata can’t be found in Tomari-te, and on the other hand, Kyan Chotoku (1870 - 1945) should have integrated the three kata into his kata curriculum. Kyan Sensei not only studied under Matsumora Sensei but also under Oyadomari Kokan Sensei (1827 - 1905) and Maeda Peichin Gichio Sensei (1826 - 1890). If Jitte, Jiin, and Jion were actually Tomari-te kata, then it's surprising why Kyan Sensei should not have learned these set of kata. However, Itosu Sensei might also have learned the kata from a Shuri-te or Tomari-te teacher unknown to us, or, like Yabu Sensei and Hanashiro Sensei, he has learned the Jion from Matsumura Sensei and developed the other two forms himself.
In the preceding paragraphs, we discussed some possible theories about the early history of this kata group, and we were able to see that many details can’t be clearly reconstructed today.
Jitte, Jiin and Jion have survived in the schools of some of Itosu Sensei’s students. Today these kata are trained among others in the following schools: Shito-ryu by Mabuni Kenwa (1888 - 1952), Kobayashi-ryu by Chibana Choshin (1885 - 1969), here only the Jion, in the Shudokan by Toyama Kanken (1888 - 1966) and Shotokan by Funakoshi Gichin (1868 - 1957).
The following chart is intended to summarize the previously discussed:
A comparison of the techniques
Kosa Dachi – Gedan Juji Uke (from Jion)
Hanashiro Chomo and Gichin Funakoshi perform the same technique of Jion. However, it is noticeable how the techniques have changed. Hanashiro Sensei performs Morote Gedan Tsuki. The same technique is performed by Funakoshi Sensei as Gedan Juji Uke (Cross Block).
Nekoashi Dachi – Morote Soto Uke – Mae Geri – Tsuki (from Jiin and Jion)
The Morote Soto Uke of Gichin Funakoshi is very „exact“. The movements of Hanashiro Chomo are on the other side more realistic and his fists reminds us to the movements of the 19th century western boxers.
Zenkutsu Dachi – one hand Soto Uke the other hand Gedan Barai (from Jiin and Jion)
The illustrations show the initial movements of the Jion (Hanashiro) and the Jiin (Konishi). Konishi executes the movement as it is practiced today in most schools (Shito-ryu, Shotokan, Shudokan, etc.). Hanashiro Chomo generally performs the Kata much more combative. From the point of view of self-defense, it makes more sense to make kata more combative than to focus solely on a clean and stylized execution of the techniques.
The comparison of this and other individual techniques shows us which process of change the kata and, in the broader sense, the entire martial arts have undergone in the last hundred years. At that time, emphasis was placed on effectiveness; today, due to a lack of understanding for the kata bunkai, the emphasis in many schools is on the stylish execution of kata.
Jitte, Jiin and Jion in Shotokan
When Funakoshi Sensei began teaching karate in Japan in 1922, he taught a total of 15 kata, subdividing kata into Shorei or Shorin kata. It is interesting to see how he associated the kata Jitte and Jion in his books in 1922, 1925, and 1935.
The table shows that the he clearly assigned Jion to be Shorei-ryu, the kata Jitte, however, 1922 and 1935 the Shorei-ryu, 1925 but the Shorin-ryu was assigned. At that time Jiin was not part of Funakoshi Sensei's official teaching program.
This different and obviously wrong assignment - all kata start with the Shaolin greeting and the techniques of all three kata whites clearly on a Shorin origin - shows us that Funakoshi Sensei had not been aware of the origin of the kata and that he did not recognize Jitte and Jion as part of a kata set.
Jitte, Jiin and Jion in the Shudokan Dojo
Although Toyama Sensei did not present these three kata in his books, these kata have been preserved in some of his students' schools, as shown in the table below.
It is perhaps interesting that Higa Seitoku Sensei (Bugeikan) also had the Jion in his very extensive Kata curriculum. Higa Sensei, born in Nahama in 1921, gave the first public karate demonstrations together with Toyama Sensei in Japan in 1940. In 1945, Toyama Sensei awarded him the Shihan Menkyo. Although Higa Sensei expanded his knowledge with many masters of Okinawan Karate, the contact with Toyama Sensei was always very strong. Even after Toyama Sensei’s death Higa Sensei visited many Shudokan Embukai meetings in Japan. In 1951, Higa Sensei went back to Okinawa. There Higa Sensei also studied under Chibana Sensei and under Nakama Sensei. Higa Sensei could have learned the Kata Jion from Toyama Sensei, but also from Chibana Sensei or Nakama Sensei.
The last few paragraphs have shown that the kata group Jite, Jiin, Jion has also spread among the students of Toyama Sensei and that the Jion for many masters was a very important kata and that Jion is the most widespread kata of the kata group.
Further information can be found in my unpublished book on Jitte, Jion and Jiin (2007) and in my book "The Kata of the Shudokan", planned for the year 2022.
In this blog I would like to answer some of your questions about the book. In addition, there are a variety of photos and interesting stories that have not found entry into the book. Furthermore, the blog should serve to give you new historical insights immediately, so you do not have to wait for the second edition of my book.