Hello, Seizan! Good to hear from you. And thanks so much for your thoughts.
Does anyone perrforming/teaching this form know the real names of the techniques (rather than "twisty shoken thingies, splashing hands or petting the shi-shi puppies, etc.)?
Wow! Don't you love questions like that one?
If anyone ever asked me something like this in class about the style of Kanbun we all teach, I would have an answer grounded in my own personal opinions on the matter.
One thing I really HATE about how some teach this style is this very obsession with naming things - particularly when something is lost in the translation.
For example, why on earth does anyone call an uke a "block"??? Uke translates roughly as receiving something. Blocking implies a very passive activity. Okinawan karate as I have learned it has no "blocks." When "receiving" an attack one is quite capable of expressing "displeasure" with the gift. The fight can in fact end with this first reception.
My philosophy becomes all the more compelling when viewing the "groin strikes" followed by "circles" in Seisan, or even early versions of "circles" (later removed) in Itokazu's Seichin. These aren't blocks or even receiving techniques by any stretch of the imagination of someone who understands the combat nature of the choreography. They are quite literally maiming and/or killing techniques.
As I am want to say, they are just circles.
One thing I appreciated about Yang style tai chi when I learned it and (for a while) practiced it was the completely non-martial nature of the names used for techniques in the choreography. There was a reason for that. If we follow Patrick McCarthy's philosophy that martial choreography is nothing more than the study of human movement, then our minds are left with many more martial possibilities. What is yin in one situation very well may be yang in the next.
But anyhow... interesting question. I could go on, but the next question you share creates a better segue for that thought.
Does anyone performing/teaching this form know what the techniques do - how they are used - have developed a basic sort of bunkai for each "new" technique?
I can't speak for others, but... I have!!!!!!! If you've been in this martial choreography business long enough, the movements speak to you the way squiggles on a page of sheet music must have spoken to Mozart. You no longer see the squiggles, but rather hear and feel
the music. And yes, I have come up with many martial applications or bunkai from these martial movements.
At Winterfest I was teaching the form in what really is a very short period of time given the immense body of knowledge that must be passed along. In order to help create mental mnemonics or "coat hooks" that hopefully will help the student remember what I've taught, I show how the sequences work with a real person. After watching me do this for about a day and a half, Fidele Cacia asked "Who taught these to you?" I actually had to stop and think about it. No... Simon never taught me ANY bunkai to the form, and he never led me to believe that he was taught any. But to me
the applications I was suggesting were so obvious that I've never given it much thought. In fact... in my book the energy flow that Seizan suggests cannot happen without some understanding of what you're doing. Only in the context of working with an individual whose body responds to the various pokes and grabs can you see the importance of escaping what George calls "karate by numbers" and move into a realm of natural movement. Without that flow one isn't capable of entering the many windows of opportunity which present themselves in a "martial sentence" of techniques.
If Shuu Sensei knew 17 different animal systems, which one did this come from - did each system have its own Suparinpe?
I do know that I see tiger (hand), crane (on the rock) and dragon (stepping) in this form. I also at times feel mantis. Oh and there are definitely snake techniques in the form! But that's just my own personal experience with the choreography.
How does the modern "Uechi-ized" version compare today with the "non-Uechi-ized" version taught in China today? Not the version Simon showed/taped years ago while still learning it, but the finished, polished, fluid-moving form that is shown or taught by the Chinese teachers?
As an engineer and now computer programmer who is "detail oriented", I used to obsess about things like this. I remember once asking a question about the final 3 turns in Sanchin while two Uechi masters were on stage (at Endicotte college). They didn't immediately answer. Instead they began to talk with each other in Japanese. I finally got an answer that was so lacking in content that I (much later) realized that the question itself was flawed.
In the book of Bill (danger, danger!!!!), it is just choreography. The individual breathes life into it, and not vice versa. I now ENJOY the myriad martial nuances I see expressed even in the simplest of forms. It's like listening to two individuals play the same piece of music, only quite differently. Each must bring their own abilities and ideas to it. Not allowing for personal variations means creating situation after situation of non-optimal expression. And this calculus-trained engineer cannot fathom a world where system optimization is not performed. To use language we carefully chose in my last job where we were building mathematical models to predict risk, the model had to be "tuned and tailored" to the context in which it was to be used. A well-designed model has BOTH distinct form AND this kind of flexibility. And so does a good piece of music. And so does good martial choreography.
But it goes beyond this.
Simon Lailey spent a good deal of time telling me how there was variation in the form both within the school in which he was taught and over time. And this variation happened right in front of the eyes of the instructor. Sometimes he looked and nodded. And sometimes he was visibly upset enough to get up, shuffle over to the center of the room, and express his thoughts with martial movement.
Simon also would stop while teaching the form and say "Here you do whatever you want. I'll show you what *I* like doing here." I kid you not! It is I who has frozen "something" in a moment of time so that it could be gotten on film and shared with whomever wants to see it. (See elsewhere on this site.) What I do is my own thing. But Simon has seen me do the form the way I do it, and I don't get much in the way of complaints. So my form is what it is.
If for no other reason, that very activity (which Simon at first was uncomfortable with) is a reason to believe that the Fuzhou Suparinpei I teach is A Suparenpei and not THE Suparinpei that Kanbun allegedly saw. Even if this is of the same lineage
, there is no way that significant change could not have happened over time.
If you've spent all your life in Okinawan karate, you might not appreciate that. There is an Okinawan way.
If you understood the genius of the great Chinese martial masters, you would know that they sometimes choreographed forms for individual students. That's the Chinese way the same way that "jamming" is the way of jazz musicians. You experience and appreciate the moment, and don't expect that moment to be the same ever again.
George once got a contingent of Chinese martial masters over on Thompson Island for a week. One crane master in particular showed this "jazz musician" genius. He did have a "vanilla" way he taught his form. But when it came time actually to demonstrate it, he did it differently every single time
. Like a good jazz musician, he worked within the structure but was able to express variations on the theme at will. It was nothing short of stunning to see.
I recall seeing a later, several-hours-long video some years ago that shows a greying but far more powerful Simon being put through his paces by a senior student. The form was taught exactly the same way time after time, session after session - at least it seemed so to me, and my eyes are not exactly untrained... Overseeing all was a very old but incredibly spry Guo Sifu, who was often an active participant in the training.
If such a video exists, I of course would love to see it.
It's been a while since I've been able to contact Simon. If ever we are able to meet up again, I will ask him about this. I'm sure he'd readily share what he has - even if it is for a price. (A guy deserves to make a living after all...)