7. Will the real Jion please stand up.

We have been discussing Gojushiho for a while and there have been a flurry of questions recently. Just to have a minor diversion I have selected a question by Ceci Cheung concerning the kata Jion. We’ll get back to the Gojushiho soon so keep those questions coming. Here is Ceci’s question:

An additional question is in response to the gyo mailing on Better description of 54 (Gojushiho). You mentioned that in the ancient culture, temple bells (Jion) were rung 108 times at the outset of the new year, as a rite of purification. We understand the word Jion as a name to the kata meaning respect for father. Is this the same word but used for 2 different meanings? Or is there a deeper meaning to the word Jion – meaning respect, whether it is to the patriarch or to the god of the temple, or that temple bells symbolize respect and purity?

Ceci wonders which is the real Jion. They both are. Jion is a combination of two Chinese characters; Ji means respect or respect for and On which means the Yang or male principle in the universe. The yang penetrates, surrounds, encompasses all the universe. It is the active principle. With that active principle is a concept of the protective nature of father for his family, his going out to work to provide for it, his willingness to die to protect it. This is one of the Jion, our Jion.

Then there is another set of Chinese characters which when pronounced in Japanese make the sound Jion. These characters, however, mean “temple bells;” like the gonging sound which fills the air with rich vibrations; vibrations so powerful that not only the ears ring but the body shakes. This is another way to write the word-sound of Jion.

One must remember that karate was an oral tradition not a written one and especially not a linear-thinking logical one. The two words are pronounced exactly the same, Jion and Jion, but have different written characters and different meanings. One means respect for father; the other means temple bells. In an oral tradition I can just see students learning from the sound of the announcement “Jion” and responding to the sound with intense feeling, whether that feeling be respect for father or the vibrations of temple bells.

To me the two, Respect for Father and Temple Bells, are not mutually exclusive. Our Jion is Respect for Father, but the kata can be done with the ringing of the bells for Father and, if you remain silent, you will feel the gonging in your soul for your father. I do, for my recently departed father.

Because Jion is not a descriptive type of kata but an intuitive “feeling” type of kata the two different themes easily blend together. Hear the sound of the gongs ringing for the respect you have for your father. It is a powerful set of movements if you use it correctly.

Try this sometime if you desire. Take a tape recorder (not a video) and record the sounds as you perform Jion with all your might in a quiet place. Afterwards for several nights listen to the recording with your eyes shut before you retire to bed. The sounds of the kata, if done correctly, will build your energy. Later record another (preferably more advanced) student while he/she performs Jion intensely in a quiet place. Listen to his/her sounds on the recording for several nights. Listen carefully and you may be surprised at what you really begin to hear.