Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chibana Chosin Sensei DVD Review

Recently, there was a DVD released showing footage of Chibana Sensei performing kata. This DVD was made using footage taken by Clarence Lee, who visited Okinawa in the late 1960s. I purchased this DVD and what follows is the review I placed on Amazon.com.

It is great to see this footage of Chibana Sensei finally released. It is unfortunate that this footage was taken so near to Chibana Sensei's death (footage is actually from 1968). It is my understanding that on the morning this footage was taken, Chibana Sensei was so ill his wife had to help him put on his gi. This is testimony to his pure strength of will in performing the kata with that much dedication and focus.

There is other footage of Chibana Sensei doing the Patsai kata in 1962, but it is not publicly available. The difference between this Patsai kata footage and Mr. Lee's footage taken in 1968 is rather striking, as the 1962 film displays Chibana Sensei’s legendary power, strength, and efficiency for which he was widely respected.

I will limit my critique to clearing up some historical inaccuracies from the video.

Chibana Sensei's name is Chibana Chosin or Choshin, not Chosen. I am not sure why they chose to write "Chosen".

Chibana Sensei’s hometown was Torihori, not Toribora. Spellings of his hometown such as Toribora or Tottori-cho are inaccurate.

Chibana Sensei was not born to a modest family nor did he work the fields as a boy to support his family's livelihood. His family was nobility from the pre-Meiji era and was extremely successful in the sake business.

It is my understanding that the senior students of Itosu Sensei (Yabu Kentsu, Funakoshi Gichin, Hanashiro Chomo, etc.) were all teaching at the public schools by the time Chibana Sensei started tutelage under Itosu Sensei. Itosu Sensei's senior students did meet to have training sessions periodically after Itosu Sensei's death. It would probably be a stretch to call Funakoshi Gichin a "training partner." Chibana Sensei always referred to Funakoshi Sensei as his sempai. That being said, Chibana Sensei's training with Itosu Sensei was probably more personal because of the Chibana family’s relationship to the Itosu family through marriage.

Chibana Sensei did not pass away on 16 October 1969, he passed away on 26 February 1969.

Miyahira Katsuya was not appointed successor by Chibana Sensei, he was voted in after Chibana Sensei passed away, despite Chibana Sensei’s wish for his grandson to become the atotsugi (successor).

Chibana Sensei never used “Kobayashi” to refer to his karate. While it can be pronounced that way, it was meant to be “Shorin” as tribute to the Shaolin temple (Shorin is the Japanese/Okinawan pronunciation of Shaolin). However, he believed strongly that Shorin Ryu was largely Okinawan and purposely modified the first character from the Chinese “Shao/Sho” so it would retain its originality.

Despite all this, nothing can take away from the fact that this is genuine footage of Chibana Sensei. I only rated this three stars [of five] because I was disappointed with the other content and general presentation.

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