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Thread: Meaning and origin of hass˘ 八相

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    Default Meaning and origin of hass˘ 八相

    Hello all,

    This post is about language as well as Arts. That's why I post here because hass˘ (no) kamae is not specific to my art. Fell free to move it if inappropriate.

    Believing that a better understanding of the Japanese names and concepts words is helpful in understanding, practising and teaching the Art, we started to built a glossary of terms.
    This glossary, by showing the Japanese writing of terms and basically explaining the meaning of them (ie kanji), provide a better understanding of those words, we believe. I must specify that I'm not myself a japanese speaker.

    As for the kamae, if the meaning of chűdan, gedan, j˘dan is for example crystal clear, I tumbled on hass˘ (八相).
    In short, why has˘ is called hass˘?!
    I browsed some literature, but many definition of how you do it, very few to none about why that writing and that name. I specify also that I have an answer to the advise "ask your Sensei" So:

    A - Is there a consensus on writing 八相?

    What would be the "reading" of those particular kanji for the understanding of the meaning of hass˘?

    B - What is the meaning or interpretation in the different arts?
    I'm already aware of the "eight direction" interpretation. Is there a consensus on that also?

    I'd be glad to have thoughts of "armed" and "unarmed" exponents, and of koryű as well as gendai, about the interpretation and purpose of hass˘ in their home Art.

    Thank you

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    Great question - I'll hazard a guess, a strawman to get this started.

    As you start off, the term 八 'hachi' = eight is sometimes used in Japanese to depict perfection, a uniformity seen from many angles. A 八方美人 'happ˘ bijin' is an 'eight-direction beauty', a woman considered beautiful from any angle, with perfect symmetry and proportion.

    In the sword arts I practice, it is seen as not too offensive, not too defensive, a balanced position from which you can attack or defend relatively equally well without exposing yourself. (But, what do I know....)

    I'd always assumed that this had something to do with it but now I'll ask around and see.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
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    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

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    The orthography for the "hasso" of kami-hasso and shimo-hasso is borrowed from a Buddhist phrase referring to the eight phases of the Buddha's life. This is probably a stand-in for a homophone meaning "start out," or "send forth."

    --Dr. Karl Friday, Legacies of the Sword, p.72 (footnote)
    This passage offers an interesting tidbit. Not having the kanji in front of me I have no idea if the kanji that Kashima Shinryu uses for "hasso" is the same as in other arts or if Dr. Friday's thoughts on the meaning of the term are Kashima Shinryu-specific.

    I seem to recall a detailed entry on hasso in the budo glossary (encyclopedia, more like) that Dr. David Hall is working on, but I don't have access to that at the moment.
    David Sims

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    Quote Originally Posted by DDATFUS View Post
    This passage offers an interesting tidbit. Not having the kanji in front of me I have no idea if the kanji that Kashima Shinryu uses for "hasso" is the same as in other arts or if Dr. Friday's thoughts on the meaning of the term are Kashima Shinryu-specific.

    I seem to recall a detailed entry on hasso in the budo glossary (encyclopedia, more like) that Dr. David Hall is working on, but I don't have access to that at the moment.
    The kanji Dr. Friday is referring to here are "八相", which is a common way of writing "hasso(u)". The homophone he is referring to is "発送" (send out) or "発走" (start out).

    Another way of writing it is 八双. This was a kind of decorated hinge. Here's an example. One theory is that it is so named because the elbows form the kanji for "eight" 八.

    In Shinkage-ryu, it is written 撥草. The first character normally has a meaning of "break up, open up, sweep upwards", and in Shinkage-ryu materials is often used to write "harau", which means "to sweep", or in a weapon sense "make a sweeping cut". Thus the two characters above, in a Shinkage-ryu idiom, mean "sweepingly cut the grass". Because from hasso you can make a big cut across your body, you can cut right to left all the down, and then bring the sword back up to a gyaku-hasso and cut all the way down left-to-right. Repeat as necessary, and you have a kind of wheel action going that would turn up the grass. According to historical accounts, Yagyu Munetoshi's son Muneaki (Munenori's older brother) used this technique to cut down 18 men before being shot and killed.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, ■onne he Št gu­e gengan ■ence­ longsumne lof, na ymb his lif ceara­. - The Beowulf Poet

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    In Mahayana Buddhism, there is the Noble Eightfold Path. This is the doctrine describing the path (the Way) to the end of suffering, which is achieved by doing all the right things.

    Viewed very generally, the Eightfold Path means taking (and holding, come what may) the middle ground in all things.

    八正道
    (rōmaji: Hasshōdō)

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    Along the lines of what Josh R. wrote, one explanation I've seen (for hasso where the sword is held at a 45 degree angle) is that the sword and saya form the character for "eight", turned on its side.

    Josh Lerner

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    The angle of the arms in hasso no kamae describe the number 8 or 八. That is, neither exaggeratedly sticking out horizontally, nor pressed in against the body almost vertical, but relaxed and naturally falling at about that angle.

    That, for me, is the prosaic meaning anyway.

    b

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    Hello all and Happy Holidays!

    My teacher (Dr. David Hall) translated a few short passages from Yamada Jirokichi's book on Shinkage-ryu. In one of the translated passages Yamada sensei describes the first set of kata called Hojo along with all of the reiho. The first kata in the Hojo is called Hasso. I don't have the translation handy to quote it but it is laced with neo-Confucian/Daoist terminology. What I think is of some interest to this thread is that the text describes hasso as an in (yin) kamae. At the beginning of the Hojo the two swordsmen jockey for more advantageous kamae before closing the distance. Uchidachi takes wakigamae to start while shidachi takes jodan. Before they move in closer, uchidachi goes up to jodan described as a yo (yang) kamae while shidachi drops his sword to hasso. At this point both swordsmen would step forward and cut and shidachi wins by aiuchi . This could cause a bit of a mess with the large bokuto we use, so in the kata the uchidachi ends up stepping back out of maai and the kata is further played out. Before studying Jikishinkage-ryu I would have never really thought of hasso as an in-kamae, but I guess it is compared to jodan?

    Best regards,
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    Well, FWIW, what is typically called "hasso" is called "In-no-kamae" 陰之構 in "Katori Shinto-ryu: Warrior Tradition". There is no "Yo-no-kamae" mentioned. Using "in" as another term for hasso is sometimes seen in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, as well. Comparative linguistics is always dicey with koryu, but what we could be seeing is a remnant of Shinto-ryu terminology (since Kamiizumi Hidetsuna studied Shinto-ryu) appearing in later forms of Shinkage-ryu, with attendant reinterpretation/innovation (kufuu).
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, ■onne he Št gu­e gengan ■ence­ longsumne lof, na ymb his lif ceara­. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Hi Josh,

    Interesting. I agree comparing terms from one ryu to another is dicey at best. I'll go out on a limb here and make some speculations based on casual observation. I have to say I don't know very much about Katori Shinto-ryu so I may be speaking out my @#%$ here. From what I've seen of Katori's In-no-kamae it looks like a slightly higher version of Itto-ryu's In-no-kamae (http://www.digital-bushido.org/me/ke...ryu_kamae1.jpg or http://ejmas.com/tin/2009tin/tong12/innokamae.JPG). Both ryu hold the sword almost vertical and the left arm is across the body. I know in Itto-ryu it is called In-no-kamae because the left hand is held across the body in a way that doesn't really allow for power generation with the left hand thus it is seen as weaker (http://www.koryu.com/photos/gamoono1.html). Yo-no-kamae on the other hand (no pun intended) is held on the opposite shoulder and it is easy to generate power with the left hand. Katori has a unique power generation method so I don't know if holding the sword this way really makes a difference. At any rate Katori's In-no-kamae looks different to me compared to most forms of hasso I've seen. As for the heiho behind it... I have no idea. A friend of mine studies Katori Shinto-ryu under Sugawara sensei's line so I'll ask him next time I see him.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    As usual, I'm not disappointed by the quality of exchange here. Thanks everybody for insights and clues.

    The interpretation based on 八 as a symbol of perfection, through balanced middle-ground is most pleasing, and my personal favourite.
    I like to consider kamae as a whole sort of gestalt body/weapon(mind?) thing (still refering to kanji meaning!) rather than only weapon or arms position.
    It would moreover fit much more in the practice of naginata, where the visual similarity between kanji and arms position is less obvious! That similarity didn't obviously jump to my mind for that reason, but now it makes sense.

    The discussion about in/yo kamae from taoist point of view is also interesting, considering the usual kamae categorisation on a defensive/offensive spectrum.

    I'd like to get advice from Karate/Shorinji Kempo exponents, since the conversation revolved mostly around the sword. I make the guess that it's the same, after all, isn't the sword everywhere ?!

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    Hi Hughes,

    I'm woefully ill qaulified to comment on the meaning of kanji but from a purely visual perspective the 八 symbol loosley resembles the arm position in Shorinji Kempo's hasso gamae. The hands are shoulder height resembling holding a basketball. The idea is to encourage an attacker to target chudan because of the percieved obstruction to jodan.

    Interesting discussion, hope this helps.

    regards
    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    Great question - I'll hazard a guess, a strawman to get this started.

    As you start off, the term 八 'hachi' = eight is sometimes used in Japanese to depict perfection, a uniformity seen from many angles. A 八方美人 'happ˘ bijin' is an 'eight-direction beauty', a woman considered beautiful from any angle, with perfect symmetry and proportion.

    In the sword arts I practice, it is seen as not too offensive, not too defensive, a balanced position from which you can attack or defend relatively equally well without exposing yourself. (But, what do I know....)

    I'd always assumed that this had something to do with it but now I'll ask around and see.
    Just reviving an old thread. I like the above explanation best.

    I have also asked people about this and I think it is a bit like shiho-nage of Aikido. Shiho in Japanese means four directions, but in Japanese that actually means - any direction. So, I think Hasso is similar - a kind of neutral stance from which you can easily move and defend or attack in any direction. It is a little more passive that say Jodan, so it is more inviting of attack, so therefore is slightly more defensive in nature. Some schools raise the sword above the head before cutting (which is slower - hence more defensive I guess) and I have seen other schools initiate the cut from the Hasso position.

    I have also heard it said that you can cut in any direction from Hasso but I discount that as you can do likewise from other positions. I like the idea that you can move freely. I had never heard it was so named due to the position of the arms representing the kanji for hachi 八 - but you never know. Jyuuji-nage in Aikido is so named - cross arm throw - as the kanji for ten represents a cross.

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