Saturday, January 13, 2007

Passing comment

Chad made a sort of passing comment yesterday as we were discussing various judo textbooks. He said "Did you notice that Mifune 'rewrote' the gokyo in Canon of Judo?" "Nope," I said, and we went on. But that is just the type of comment to make my INTP act up, so today I dug out my copy of Kodokan Judo, which has the 1920 gokyo (throwing syllabus) in it and Canon of Judo, which has Mifune's (1960) interpretation of the gokyo. Sure enough - they're vastly different. How'd that slip past me these years?
This picques my interest because of a conversation I've been having with several of my betters about the rationale behind the gokyo. Why are kyo1 throws grouped together and why are they generally taught before kyo2 throws, etc... I've made the point that practically nobody teaches the entire gokyo and fewer instructors still teach it in the order that it is presented - but still I've wondered for a long time now if we're losing something by not teaching it in the order that it was handed down to us from Kano through the Kodokan.
But now this. Mifune, one of only a handful of men to ever earn Kodokan's 10th Dan rank, had his own gokyo. This suggests several possibilities:

  • Mifune might have been missing the point of the gokyo along with the rest of us.

  • Mifune might have known something that the other brainiacs at the Kodokan didn't.

  • The order and groupings of the gokyo might actually be arbitrary and meaningless.
None of those really feel like a satisfactory answer to me...


  1. I wouldn't venture to guess that Mifune didn't grasp the material, but I also wouldn't say that the other people at the Kodokan didn't see whatever it is he seemed to have discovered either. Karl's made a lot of progress in Aikido that wasn't origionally there. It doesn't mean he's right and the other older stuff is wrong. I'd say look at Mifune's spin on it, and at the older kata. I doubt either is wrong or right, just different interpretations.

  2. I'd agree with you, but it is not just a different interpretation of the same kata (if you count the gokyo as a kata). It is a completely different set of moves in a different order.

    Since 1920 for the most part there has been this idea that the gokyo was a special thing. THE way that judo is taught. Toshiro Daigo in his book says the mere existance of the gokyonowaza is proof that Kodokan favors throwing techniques over ground grappling techniques. The very act of grouping techniques into groups suggests that the moves in each group share something that is missing in other techniques in other groups.

    If the gokyo were arbitrary then they might just as well have said "Kyo 1 is defined as any two hand throws and any three foot throws and any three hip throws." But what happened is Kano and some of his braniacs said, "There is something special that deashi, hiza, sasae, ukigoshi, osotogari, ogoshi, ouchigari, and seoinage have in common that makes them different from other groups." I don't know what that something special is, but the mere fact that they are grouped the same way since 1920 suggests that that something special exists.

    But then Mifune comes along and changes the groupings (not really in the case of Kyo1, but in the others), which suggests that he had something different to say about these techniques. Of course he had the knowledge and the right to teach judo the way he wanted, but there is some knowledge encoded in the groupings that is different (not wrong - just differsnt) between Kano and Mifune and I think it would be interesting and educational to understand it.

  3. Well, the other possibility, somewhat similar to what John is saying, is that Mifune had a different rationale for grouping them together. Not related to his or others understanding the grouping or not, but rather seeing different relationships for pairing them togther.

    For instance, junana is essentially entering techniques where uke and tori's centers converge. Owaza are separating techiniques. Given that one possible explanation for the gokyu organization is frequency of possible attack/likelihood of success, perhaps Mifune saw another dynamic going on that he thought was preferablly to organize around. Not that the other instructors didn't know this necessarily, but that Mifune liked his way better.

    Now, as you say, WHAT that difference was would be HIGHLY illuminating I would venture.

    "Gugekh" - word verification - the sound one makes when having a choke hold applied to him.

  4. Pat, go back to the comments on Chad's blog and read my explanation. I am certain that when we take a look at the timeline, it will make better sense :).


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