Gedan-uke, Mamori, Hikkake, Gedan-barai, etc.pp. – Variations in Bojutsu techniques

When looking at old footage, or if you have practical experience, you know there are several variations in the performance and characteristics of the same movement in different schools. Also, from written descriptions, there are different names used by different schools for the same technique in the same kata. From this it is easy to understand that different schools had a different tactical understanding and practical interpretation of the techniques, and also a different analytical capacity.

The technique in question is well known in every Okinawan kobudo school.

  • Taira Shinken himself simply called it gedan-uke (deflection on the lower level).
  • Inoue Motokatsu called it hikkake (hanging block, from left to right), harai-uke (sweep deflection, from right to left), and also sometimes mamori (defense) without further determination and which can be like hikkake, like harai-uke, or straight foward on the center line.
  • Akamine called it gedan-barai (lower level sweep).
  • Matayoshi Kobudō – I was told – calles it gedan harai-uke [lower level sweep deflection]).

I actually don’t know the names used in in Kongo-ryu of Sakagami, in Ryōkonkai of Iha, and in Yamanni-ryū, but I guess they might be slightly different as well.

Also, in the practical interpretation, in Okinawa, you often see a straight confrontation, that is, it almost all happens on one straight line back and forth. This is reminiscent of the kumibo of the various theatrical village bojutsu. Did you know that the very term “kumibo” comes from theatrical village bojutsu? Even though kobudo dojo interpret things in a “martial sense,” this old characteristical performance on one-line coming from village bojutsu was obviously adopted by kobudo dojo. Before the war, it must have been almost the only way ever practiced. In short, and while everybody takes great care to talk about it a lot, there is little to no real tai-sabaki, tenshin, etc, but simple attack, block (!!!), counter etc. This of course shows the limits of the tactical analysis of the kata. It seems it maintains and continues the old interpretation of uke as a “block,” instead of a “deflection.”

© 2023, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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