Sean Adrean of the UCSD and Redlands Dojo sent in the following comments regarding our kata Shihohai:

“I would also like to add an observation that I made about Shihohai that I found to be really cool. As I was doing the kata, I noticed that two punches are directed in and two punches are directed outside of the box that we create with our feet. It made me think that both external and internal components help to define our box. I guess that the external world and the internal world could affect our box in an infinite number of ways, since my mind just conjured up about ten possibilities.
Well I guess it is time to do drugs sensei.”
(this reference to doing drugs is a reference to Sean’s current study of pharmacology at medical school and not to the use of illicit street drugs!!!)

Shihohai is very modern creation. It was created by Dr. Chitose in the 1950s. Chitose was rather a renegade practitioner but one with deep psychological understanding of strategy, tactics, techniques and human nature. His creations generally reflect steps far in advance of society. For such advancement he was really not understood by his peers during his lifetime and neither were his creations. Many contemporary martial arts masters chucked him into the flamboyant-vulgar martial arts category. Only a few (Sensei Richard Kim was one of them and Sensei Al Kahalekulu was another) pierced Chitose’s shield and saw the genius of the man and his created forms.

In the case of the created form of Shihohai we are blessed with a multifarious set of symbols spanning time and geography. Witness a few of these illusions all of which appear in the physical movements of the kata at at least one place…

1. the four corners of the Pillars of Hercules which supported the ancient’s sky. (Mid East and Europe 2000-4000 years ago) (Dr. Chitose knew western history and mythology)

2. the Shihohai Celebrations of ancient Japan’s kuge and religious celebrations (1500 years ago)

3. our modern compass with four cardinal directions and its capacity to aide us on our way (do) during navigation

4.the very enigma of the word Hai, meaning “Yes” but also meaning “reflections” (indicating thought, intuition, sight, sound and other senses) and how very complex the issue of “yes” really is (in contrast the word Iie meaning “No” is quite a weak word)

5. the outward punches/inward punches as symbols of defiance of social restrictions (mores) and inward psychological restrictions (filters and boxes)

6.the very power of the word Ho which means corners but also means stars indicating the height of the sky, the lights of the sky, the mysteries of the sky, the emptiness of the sky (kara in kara-te).

7. and shi, a word meaning four but also meaning to slay, or to kill your enemy (with the further ramifications that the real enemy lies within us in Shihohai and is not a person beyond our own limits. We are not killing somebody else, we are killing our own prejudicial limits.)

Now if you can synthesize all this into one unified intuitive grasp…I want you to be my sensei, effective immediately.

The creative genius of Dr. Chitose will be debated within the limits of many modern martial artist’s four-cornered boxes for decades to come. And yet if Chitose were alive today he would say to them something illusive but nevertheless right to the heart, such as this quote from one of his favorite American poets T.S. Eliot:

“And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worthwhile,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball,
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”–
If one, setting a pillow by her head, Should say:
“That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

And, again, the masters would scratch their heads thinking this man had no clue, when in reality it was they who had no clue. Chitose put even the masters right in the middle of the box they could not see and so would not escape.

He was a genius…
And Shihohai is his creation…