Iain Abernethy Discusses the Meaning of Pinan

Iain Abernethy (author of various books on Kata Applications, martial techniques and mental strength and guest on Episode 009 of The Applied Karate Show podcast) has released the latest episode in his series of podcasts.

This epsiode discusses The Meaning of “Pinan”.  The name of a very popular series of beginner to intermediate kata, created by Anko Itosu, Pinan (pronounced Heian in Japanese) is generally literally translated as “Peaceful Mind”.

Clearly Iain is not a believer in this translation, and for good reason.  Firstly, its quite clear that the word “Mind” is not represented by either of the kanji in Pinan.  The first kanji – Pin or Hei (å¹³) – means peace, while the second – An (安) – can mean easy, cheap or tranquil.  So a more correct translation might be “Peace and Tranquility”.  This would be a very good explanation in finding a Japanese translation of the word Pinan.

Cleverly, Iain has realised the obvious that most of us haven’t necessarily considered – that Okinawans at the time of Itosu’s creation of the Pinan kata (late 19th or early 20th century) didn’t necessarily look to Japanese literature in naming things.  Instead, they looked west to China, an empire who had a massive influence on the tiny kingdom of Okinawa for centuries.  So Iain has looked for a more Chinese translation.

I won’t spoil the ending here, so please listen to Iain’s podcast on The Meaning of Pinan.  Its somewhat controversial, but a very thought provoking discussion.

I don’t think it really matters if Iain is right or wrong on this one.  What matters most is that he has taken the time to build a hypothesis, and has found logic to support it.  This type of thinking is important in the martial arts, as it gives us a chance to try to “get inside the minds” of the originators of our discipline, and thus gain a greater understanding of our art.

One thought on “Iain Abernethy Discusses the Meaning of Pinan

  1. Hi, Great little snippet about the translation or meaning of ‘Pinan’. It sort of baffles me though that it translates to ‘peaceful mind’ or ‘peace & tranquility and the ancients that used the term found a need to practice martial arts to a high standard.
    Obviously there was a need for it & I guess I should read more into it.
    Keep up the good work, PP…..

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