"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!

Do You Have A Question?

If you have a question not covered in this blog feel free to send it to me at my email address, i.e. "snow" dot here "covered" dot here "bamboo" AT symbol here "gmail" dot here "com"

"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

Reader's of this Blog

Search This Blog

Is there actually an accurate translation of the ken-po goku-i?

Click for larger view.
I wonder all the time which of all the translations are accurate to the kanji passed to us as the "ken-po goku-i." Let me begin by what is provided just for the title, "ken-po goku-i."

Ken means "fist." Po means "law." But doe it really mean that when you look at the kanji. I will use the translation from the AJA tribe which has not apparent kanji characters available for the title. I have one copy of the silk certificate where you can extrapolate the approximate characters but since it is written by hand and the clarity is questionable who can tell for sure.

First, the block and hand written versions in the accompanying graphic have no kanji for the title of ken-po goku-i. In the silk certificate you can see at the far right four characters that would fit the "ken" "po" "goku" "i" translation. Since they are written in what I would call "freehand or cursive style" it is hard to determine the exact characters.

Some may ask the question, "Why bother?" Well, from my perspective if we are to study the system completely we must study the ken-po goku-i but to do that we must find the "correct and accurate" translations of the characters. If you compare these three you can at least determine with some accuracy the block characters to the free hand of the silk certificate and be pretty positive they are the same.

This reminds me of the study of the I Ching, did the translator's get the character to English right?

I have two kanji sites I will use to try and determine the meaning of the characters. Also, I have humbly asked a Isshinryu practitioner who is currently stationed on Okinawa to see if he can get a more accurate translation from the Okinawan Isshinryu practitioners, etc. Petty Officer 2nd Class Andy Sloane, Go-dan Isshinryu Karate-do.

1 - http://www.saiga-jp.com/cgi-bin/dic.cgi?m=search&sc=0&f=0&j=&g=&e=&s=&rt=0&start=1&sid=1256767060_65568
2 - http://translate.google.com/#en|ja|

Another issue is that these characters have more than one meaning when taken separately which also convolutes the translations and overall meaning. Take the character for "heart" which is used  in the Isshinryu kanji as well, it is " 心 ."

1 - heart: 心 = mind, spirit, heart, a soul, a thought, will, a mood, a feeling, sincerity, consideration, sympathy, the core
2 - heart: 心 = heart, mind, core, wick

As can been seen there are several ways to interpret the kanji. Another issue as will be seen is that when you translate the English versions of the kanji translations through the google translation module you find that the characters that are provided in the silk, and other, certificates don't translate to those English versions - none of them.

Note: The thought just occurred to me of another road block to understanding martial systems with my emphasis on Isshinryu and Ken-po Goku-i. Humans, my theory, tend to "stop" when they first perceive an answer they feel is what they are looking for in relation to their experience and understanding to that point. It is the same when reading we come across the very first thing that seems to answer our inquiry according to our perspective and view then we "stop." This may also be why the translations don't gel, we got what seemed like the stuff we seek and never took it beyond that point. My experience to date, a hard lesson still trying to work past, indicates that we need to go beyond our acceptance and seek out more knowledge for that additional knowledge will change our views, knowledge, and perceptions.

Back to the title, ken-po goku-i. The first part, ken, is 拳. I have viewed it in both 1 & 2 to find that it, the kanji character, matches the one in the silk certificate. It means, "fist." The part, "po," has been provided as "law" in most translations. I found in both 1 & 2 the same character as the silk, "法," which means "law" in both.

We can translate the first two title characters as, "拳法," as "fist law." So, this seems to translate to "fist law for ken-po." Yet, does it really. What happens when you put fist and law together in 2. You get, "拳法," which seems to work, in this case. I also reversed the translation in 1 and got back the same, which often is not the case, of "Kenpo."

Here is where things get a bit muddled, the goku-i part in both 1 & 2 don't match to the two remaining characters in the silk version of the graphic so we must do a bit of hunting to find the correct translations. How do we do that? First, what is the English translation found on various sites:

Click for larger view.
a. essential principles or essential points which become, "essential = 必須 and point = 点," no match. As a matter of fact, which adds to the confusion, when the characters are copied and placed in the reverse they translate to "required." Interesting, yes! Essential principles is, "essential = 本質的な and principle = 原理. Neither translate properly and in reverse, "本質的な原理 = essential principles." Do we start to "see" how convoluted it all is and that translations are very difficult if we don't know and understand the author's intent as to the time, place, customs, and beliefs of that person and time and country!

The hand written version has what the author "believes" are the English equivalents but do they, according to the translation of 1, you get:

person 人 - heart 心 - same と同じ - heaven 天 - earth 地

and we can tell immediately that although separately some are verified yet not all and one that does partly has two other characters that are appended, etc. to complete the translation.

If we translate just the English in site 2 we get:

person 人 - heart 心 - same と同じ - heaven 天 - earth 地
blood 血液 - pulse パルス - similar 同様 - sun 日 - moon 月
method 方法は、- hard ハード - soft ソフト - swallows 飲み込む - spit 唾
position 位置 - advance 事前 - pass パス - separate 別の - meet 満たして
body 体 - follow します - movement の動き - proceed 続行 - change は、変更
hand 手 - meet 満たす - empty 空 - suddenly 突然 - enter のように入力します
eye 目 - necessary 必要な - see を参照してください - four 四 - sides 辺
ears 耳 - "should examine" を調べる必要があります - eight は、8つの - directions 方向

Although the core characters, mostly, appear there are still other characters that are added to make the translation work in this site. The first site does not allow for full translations that can be added to this post but if you take a few moments and punch in the English you find some are accurate but have again many other English meanings so which would be correct and/or accurate.

Since I could not find a character for either goku or i I find that the character translation for that part is to be even more "iffy" but maybe Sloane Sensei can provide them from Okinawa.

I took the next graphic from site 1 and find that they "might" be the closest characters using a lot of leeway. They would mean essential points and if they are by some chance correct we get, "fist law essential points," which to my view come close to what I would use as a meaning behind the title of this group of characters.


  1. ummmm,...am I missing something? I'm not sure what graphic your referring to. I've done a fair amount of translations, and without a graphic (to reference to)showing the kanji, any translation would prove to be purely a guess (regardless of which "style" of writing is utilized).

  2. Openhand: apologies, forget to add the graphics. This has been fixed so have at it ... will be interested in your further comments.

  3. uh, your "block" version, has some of the rows transposed....

  4. For the post this really doesn't present me with any issues but thanks for pointing it out.

  5. p.s. just goes to show the convoluted mess it has when different tribes/factions present their own interpretation. This block version didn't come from AJA site but one that had the silk certificate, etc.