A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History Paperback – May 15, 2015

by Andreas Quast (Author)

Paperback edition: available at Amazon US ($19.99), Amazon UK (£12.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 19,25 ), CreateSpace eStore ($19.99), and at online and offline bookstores and retailers, as well as via public libraries and libraries at other academic institutions.

Kindle edition also availableUSUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

Based on his acclaimed previous studies, the author here presents a synopsis of the development of Ryukyu martial arts. The events described herein are all real, that is, they are all historical. Strolling along the chronology of martial arts of Ryukyu provenance, a large number of verified events are not only detailed, but also decorated with dozens of precious illustrations. As such “A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History” is for martial arts practitioners as much as it is for aficionados of history and Asia. It simply provides a pristine ground to stand on for the practitioner who wishes to understand the primordial origins of Ryukyu martial arts.

  • For those who read “Karate 1.0”: this new book here is a synopsis of Karate 1.0 plus the “chronology (Part VII)” without significant changes. It is an easier read without all the reasoning and footnotes, but instead with nearly 80 illustrations to make it more suitable for the general public, and not only academic people.

Among the unique information that cannot be found anywhere else are also some of the illustrations. For instance, there is only one picture scroll that shows the Chinese investiture envoys (sapposhi) and their military retinue. Here, for the first time you might see how famous Kusanku actually might have looked like.

About the Author

The author began Karate in 1994, went to Japan first in 1999 and continuously studied Ryūkyū Kobudō since 2000. Besides, he has seven years straight experience in Jiu-jitsu. He trained with a large number of internationally acclaimed budōka. For close to two years in total he lived and trained on Okinawa, Japan, honing his skills in the dōjō of various prominent masters.

In 2011 he performed Kobudō at the German Okinawan Festival held in Okinawa, which was well received by the German ambassador to Japan as well as the German Honorary Consul to Okinawa.

His unquenchable passion for various martial arts of Ryūkyūan provenance results in regular print and online publications frequently reaching an international audience. With two decades of practical experience, extensive travel, and published research he still considers himself being merely on the verge of understanding Ryūkyū martial arts.

The author is a certified engineer, technical writer, and antiquarian bookseller living in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he continues his training and research.

Product Details (Paperback edition)

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1512229423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1512229424
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.4 x 9.7 inches


Available at Amazon US ($19.99), Amazon UK (£12.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 19,25 ), CreateSpace eStore ($19.99)

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Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art

The most comprehensive study on the parameters of primordial Karate, this work intrigues readers with rich detail and insights into these ancient combat traditions, the pride of Okinawa.

KARATE 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art. Düsseldorf 2013, by Andreas Quast.

cover (4)

Karate 1.0 front cover

  • Pages: xxvii, 502 pp.
  • Language: English.
  • Hardcover binding in green linen material with gold foil stamping, size 8.25″ x 10.75″ (20.95cm x 27.31cm).
  • Full-color dust jacket in matte finish.
  • Inside: black and white printing on cream archival paper (60# weight). White exterior paper (80# weight).
  • Forewords by Patrick McCarthy, Miguel Da Luz, Cezar Borkowski, Jesse Enkamp, Dr. Julian Braun, Soke Leif Hermansson, and Dr. phil. Heiko Bittmann.
  • All copies ship from the United States.
  • Price: $75.00.

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Mabuni Kenwa and the establishment of Shitō-ryū 糸東流

When looking for the origin of Shitō-ryū one will first run into its founder Mabuni Kenwa (1889 – 1952). Kenwa was born in Shuri in 1889. An ancestor of the House of Mabuni during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era was Oni Ufugusuku 鬼大城, who was famous for his valor. Kenwa was a feeblish child. Impressed with the tales of heroic deeds of his ancestor he thought he needed to somehow achieve a robust health and body. In those days, Itosu Ankō was famous in Okinawa. As he lived in Shuri, through the introduction by an acquaintance Kenwa was accepted as a disciple of Itosu’s. This was around 1903 when Kenwa was about 15 years old. From among Itosu’s disciples noted karate practitioners turned out in great numbers, such as Yabu Kentsū, Hanashiro Chōmo, Yamakawa Tōryō, Chibana Chōshin, Tokuda Anbun, Shiroma Shinpan and others. It is said that after having become Itosu’s disciple, Kenwa wouldn’t stop practicing for even one day and even visited his masters house during the strong wind and rain of typhoons, for which he was scolded by his master[1]. Since around 1908 when Kenwa was about 20 – by introduction of his friend Miyagi Chōjun – Kenwa also began to study under Higaonna Kanryō[2]. The name Shitō-ryū indicates these two streams of Okinawa karate.

In those days karate was not as widespread as it is today, and it was also not a time where people could pick a sensei by themselves. In addition, there was no such thing as a dōjō where students could matriculate. It seems that without the introduction of influential friends disciples were not easily accepted. Following graduation from middle school Kenwa entered mandatory military service and afterwards became a policeman. Since he worked as a police detective for nearly 10 years, his study of karate turned out to be of extremely practical value in arresting criminals and similar matters typical for the nature of this kind of job[3]. During this period as a police officer and in addition to being attracted to jūdō and kendō, through his service as a policeman in various places in Okinawa Kenwa also studied karate and bōjutsu from Aragaki Seishō, saijutsu from Tawada, and the bōjutsu of Soeishi-ryū. In this way, by touring around the regions as a police officer, he had the opportunity of learning all sorts of budō[4].

1918, at the age of 29, Kenwa established the Karate Kenkyūkai 唐手研究会 at his house as a meeting place. During nighttime practice took place with electric light in the garden. In this year, on occasion of both the Imperial Princes Kuni-no-miya and Kachō-no-miya visiting Okinawa Prefecture, Kenwa demonstrated karate at the Shuri Normal School (Shihan-gakkō). In 1924 he was appointed budō teacher at the prefectural fishery school as well as karate-dō teacher at the Shuri Normal School (Shihan-gakkō). In the same year he demonstrated karate on occasion of the visit by Imperial Prince Chichibu[5].

In October 1925 the Karate Kenkyūkai was reorganized and reestablished as the Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu 沖縄唐手研究倶楽部. It was the first time a private dōjō had been established for the training of younger people. Among the instructors were Kiyoda Juhatsu, Motobu Chōyū, Hanashiro Chōmo, Ōshiro Chōyo, Chibana Chōshin and the Chinese kenpō expert Go Kenki. Mabuni Kenwa and Miyagi Chōjun served as full-time chief instructors. This dōjō was provided with various training equipment (makiwara, sagi-makiwara, makiage, sāshī, tetsu-geta and others) and it was an ideal dōjō for the purpose of karate. In 1927, Miyagi Chōjun and Mabuni Kenwa gave an introduction to karate on occasion of the visit of Kōdōkan director Kanō Jigorō for the dōjō-opening of the “Okinawa Jūdō Blackbelt Association[6]. At that time they both received praise by Kanō, who said “With its freely usable offense and defense, it [karate] is an ideal budō to be propagated extensively in all Japan”[7]. Wouldn’t that have been Mabuni’s trigger to travel to the Japanese main island in order to popularize karate?

Mabuni moved to Ōsaka in 1929 and began to teach karate. Members of the Kansai University jūdō club participated, as well as Sawayama Masaru (Muneomi)[8], who would later become the founder of Nihon Kenpō, as well as several other people. At the time Kenwa did not have his own dōjō, but practiced at his Japanese-style home, a dōjō of the size of six ragged tatami. Mabuni Kenwa also studied Japanese martial arts himself, like Nihon-den Kenpō Shinden Fudō-ryū 日本伝拳法神伝不動流 from Yata Noriyuki 矢田徳幸 and Tenshin-ryū 天心流 from Ueno Takashi 上野貴天心[9].

In 1930 Miyagi Chōjun designated his school of karate by the name of Gōjū-ryū. In the following year Mabuni Kenwa named his own school Mabuni-ryū 摩文仁流[10] and in 1934 he published Kōbō Jizai Goshin-jutsu Karate Kenpō and Karate Kenpō Sēpai no Kenkyū. In the same year 1934 Mabuni opened his own dōjō called the Yōshūkan 養秀館 in Ōsaka. There he used the appellation “Shitō-ryū” for the first time by combining the first characters of both his teachers’ names, Itosu and Higaonna[11]. Five years later, in 1939 Mabuni registered Shitō-ryū as an official ryūha-name with the Dai Nippon Butokukai HQ. Later the same year, with karate also gradually gaining publicity under students, karate clubs were established in each university in the Kansai region and Mabuni established the Greater-Japan Karate Association (Dai Nippon Karate-dō Kai)[12] as the national organization aiming at the education of karate teachers[13].

It was around that time, in 1938, that Mabuni for the first time published a list of his “current kata”. This list names a total of 33 kata roughly categorized according to the lineages they originated from as follows[14]:

Shito-ryu kata list, 1938

Shito-ryu kata list, 1938

Additionally he noted that

“Adding other kinds of kata the number increases. In the Aragaki-ha there are such kata as Nīsēshi, Unshu, and Sōchin. … Of Sēsan there are five or six kinds all together in Naha and Shuri. As for Gojūshiho and others there are also some differences in the Itosu-ha and the Matsumura-ha. [15]

There are some things to notice here. First of all, Mabuni Kenwa does not use a classification according to the highly problematic and inaccurate Shuri-te and Naha-te, as was later done. Instead, that which he referred to as the “current kata” of his system were 33 kata the origin of which were named after the persons he learned them from, namely the “Itosu lineage” and the “Higaonna lineage”. Third, he mentioned other varieties of existing kata, most notably three kata from the “Aragaki lineage”, namely Nīsēshi, Unshū, and Sōchin.

Mabuni Kenwa’s greatest achievement was to make karate widely known on the Japanese main island. In 1952 his life ended in Ōsaka. He was 63 years old[16]. Following Mabuni Kenwa’s demise many offshoots emerged which associated themselves with Mabuni Kenwa and began the multitude of associations that use the name “Shitō-ryū” in their self-appellations.[17]


[1] Mabuni Ken’ei, in: OKKJ 2008: 525.

[2] Mabuni Ken’ei, in: OKKJ 2008: 525–526.

[3] Mabuni Ken’ei, in: OKKJ 2008: 526.

[4] Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 526.

[5] Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 526.

[6] Okinawa-ken Jūdō Yūdanshakai 沖縄県柔道有段者会.

[7] Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 526.

[8] 沢山勝, 澤山宗海.

[9] Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 526.

[10] OKKJ 2008: 170. The author of the OKKJ entry is Yokoyama Masahiko, a shihan under the 2nd soke of Shitō-ryū Mabuni Ken’ei. For this reason he takes a position of orthodox Shitō-ryū, that is, not as progressively sports-oriented as the JKF Shitōkai faction that is involved in the large-scale sportification of all Okinawan kata under the name of Shitō-ryū in the recent 50 years. Yokoyama was the editor and to a degree the ghostwriter of the following influential work: Mabuni Ken’ei (author) and Yokoyama Masahiko (ed.): Budō karate he no Shōtei (Invitation towards Budō Karate). Sankōsha, 2001. 摩文仁賢栄著 横山雅彦編: 武道空手への招待. 三交社, 2001.

[11] Yokoyama Masahiko, Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 171, 526.

[12] Dai Nippon Karate-dō Kai 大日本空手道会. After the war it was renamed to Shitō-ryū’s Japan Karate Association (Nihon Karate-dō Kai 日本空手道会).

[13] Yokoyama Masahiko, Mabuni Ken’ei, in:  OKKJ 2008: 171; 526.

[14] Mabuni 1938: 74. そこで現在する型を大體に於いて系統別にして見ますと、次の通りになります。

[15] Mabuni 1938: 74–75. 等を数えることが出来ます。新垣派には二十四(ニーセーシー)、雲手(うんしゆ)、ソーチン等がありますが、同じ名のソーチンでも東恩納派(今日の剛柔流)の型と、新垣派のとは違いますし、セーサンなどは那覇と首里とでは合せて五、六種類あります。五柔四歩なども糸洲派と松村派によって多少の相違があります。

[16] Mabuni Ken’ei, in: OKKJ 2008: 526.

[17] OKKJ 2008: 171. Watatani & Yamada 1978: 353. It is also said he first named his school Hankō-ryū 半硬流 or half-hard-style.

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The Conception of Kata – Attempt of a Neutral Approach

The term “kata” is found in classical martial arts as well as performing arts (geidō 芸道) of Japan. The conception is not different. In the world of arts, crafts, and craftsmanship there has been a huge controversy about which character is correct for writing “kata”. In Okinawa karate, the same argument was addressed between Nakazato Jōen and Nagamine Shōshin[1]. Due to the limited space here I will skip the important question as regards the character itself and instead attempt to outline the conception of kata as neutral as possible.

The Japanese Theory of Kata

Kata are inventions once created by a master in a specific field of study. They are associated with a practical quality, an aesthetic quality, a normative quality, and a conjunctive quality. Such kata originally existed in various individual techniques, each endowed with a unique meaning. These techniques were then assembled and unified into a standardized, methodical “architecture”. By the fact that a large number of people based their acts, conducts, behaviors etc. upon this methodical “architecture”, such a kata achieved a quasi-official recognition as something being of a distinguished quality.[2]

Just like in the bugei, all performing arts are accomplished by practical skills. Hence practical excellence is admired more than anything else. When studying the performing arts it is first and foremost considered important to learn the respective practical skills under an excellent teacher. However, performing arts aim at acquiring the ultimate skill (waza). That is, they aim at discovering the underlying principles, the inner secrets, or the mysteries of the techniques within the respective art. In other words: Even if studying under an excellent teacher this is something not easily achieved. For this reason ingenious teachers formalized skills (waza) into kata, a fact we find abundantly demonstrated in the secret written traditions of the geidō. Examples for such written traditions recording kata are:

  • Nanpōroku[3] with its various scrolls.
  • Shinkage-ryū Hyōhō Mokuroku no koto (1601, autograph by Yagyū Sekishūsai)
  • Sen’ami 宣阿弥, who noted on a book with secret traditions about the Rikka (tatebana) 立花 style of Ikebana by Mon’ami 文阿弥 (? – 1517) which emphasizes the central axis.
  • Hōjutsu Hidensho 砲術秘伝書 by Inadome Ichimu 稲富一夢 (1522 – 1611)[4], in which methods such as shooting and aiming at targets are shown in detail.
  • Moreover, in manuscripts of secret traditions from various ryū (schools) of kenjutsu in various regions often only kata are found described.

From the above can be seen that the concept of kata transports a law-like and normative character. Kata are about standardized methods restricted by tradition. You don’t just arbitrarily change it.

Shinkage-ryū Hyōhō Mokuroku no koto (1601, autograph by Yagyū Sekishūsai

Shinkage-ryū Hyōhō Mokuroku no koto by Yagyū Sekishūsai (1601)

Such a kata is performing a skill that has been taught by example. Furthermore kata have been developed and performed by past geniuses or masters as the highest authorities in their respective field of expertise. That is, the kata is a specific skillset that was recognized by the majority of people as an outstanding achievement and the most prestigious of its kind. Therefore, referring to what was taught by the master, kata possess a quasi-legislative and normative character. Kata is therefore something that is restricted, restrained, tied to and linked, and confined to exactly those teachings. In the world of practical skills this point is solemnly agreed upon. Conversely speaking, unless kata is a model, a standard, a pattern, or a norm tied to and linked to the teaching of the creator and his lineage of tradition, it does not qualify of being a kata in sense of an art form. It would be a simple mechanical craft, or a mere sequence of movements.

Originally performed as cultural traditions among a few aristocrats in ancient and medieval times, in early modern times various skills became exposed to an enormous number of passersby who began to launch into each of the performing arts. By this development the value and prestige of kata thoroughly increased: the concept of kata achieved authority that was universally recognized and possessed a normative character that was close to absolute. Created by masterful individuals, the kata 型 and distinguished skills they transport became objectified and therefore became independent from their creators. However, due to the high authority of the kata and with its absolutized normative character, the creators of the kata were held in the highest regards by those enthusiasts who followed the respective performing art. The hereditary houses or lineages which handed down such traditions are still highly respected today. Such in case of the important tea master Sen no Rikyū (利休, 1522 – 1591), or the brilliant haiku poet Matsuo Bashō (芭蕉, 1644 – 1694).[5] Likewise, specialists in the art of war also discovered underlying principles, devised idiosyncratic techniques, developed uniform teaching methods and handed them down in the form of kata.[6]

The Relation Between Kata and Ryūha

According to various dictionary entries and in accordance with the above, kata are techniques and forms of expression which posses distinctive properties and a special quality and which were created by masters or other outstanding authorities in a specific field of practical skill. Formulated a bit differently, a kata is a form or formality that has been determined by customs, cultural practices, or tradition. It is a custom, a precedent, a convention. Or in yet other words, kata are standardized postures and actions considered a norm, a specific method, a style, a standard, such as in the budō, the traditional performing arts, in sports and the like.[7]

Such kata have to be considered one major factor in the origin of the various complex schools or ryūha, by means of which the arts were taught. In their lexical meaning, the terms kata and ryūha overlap in that they are defined as traditional artistic skills, special techniques, or the craft of a family or a lineage of tradition which employs teaching methods such as secret traditions (hiden 秘伝), instruction by word of mouth (kuden 口伝) and the like[8]. In case of techniques for actual combat, military commanders like Kamiizumi Ise-no-Kami (ca. 1508 – 1577) and Yagyū Munetoshi (1529 – 1606) from the Shinkage-ryū tradition were at the forefront of those who created and handed down prototypical ryūha.[9]

What is a ryūha? Roughly it is a school of an art. According to the monolingual dictionaries Kōjien (広辞苑) and Daijirin (大辞林), the terms ryū, ha, and ryūha are defined as follows:

  • Ryū 流: Techniques (methods, style, a system, patterns, or formulas) in budō, the performing arts (geidō), arts, crafts, handicrafts and the like which are unique to a specific family, to a person, or to a lineage. In addition, it refers to the lineage of this method, its ancestry or line of descent.
  • Ha 派: 1) a group of people that follows the same doctrines, opinions, methods. 2) When used as a suffix it indicates that it belongs to a certain stream or trend, such as in arts, technology, scholarship, religion and the like.
  • Ryūha 流派: Name that combines ryū 流 and ha 派. In general, ryū is the higher classification, and ha is a subclass.

BTW, according to the above, a subclass (ha) cannot re-define its own superordinate class (ryū), nor its contents (kata), without signifying that such changes were made.

The Okinawan Theory of Kata

It is said that karate is a bujutsu whose existence is fully determined by kata[10]. Seen from the perspective of offense and defense, direction, fast and slow, hard and soft etc., the characteristics of kata in karate differ immensely from those in jūdō and kendō and other budō. In the Japanese traditional martial arts such as jūdō and kendō, the kata provide both the external form as well as the content of an already defined technique. In other words, the practical skills are already defined in such a way that they clearly demonstrate the relationship between external form (kata) and technique (waza). Consequently, it can be said that kata here is tantamount with the technique (waza) itself. Moreover, descriptive names are used for individual techniques as well as for complete kata and describe their technical content, such as in the case of seoi-nage (shouldering throw) etc., or nage-no-kata (forms of throws).

Examples from Passai as adapted by Shinzato Katsuhiko.

Examples from Passai as adapted by Shinzato Katsuhiko.

In karate, kata only provides the external form of the technique, but not the content. In other words, the practical skills are not defined and the kata do not clearly demonstrate the relationship between external form (kata) and technique (waza). Furthermore, the names of the kata in karate are ambiguous. For example, Sūpārinpē, the highest kata of Gōjū-ryū, according to a folkloristic view includes 108 kinds of techniques. But besides personal interpretations by seasoned masters these 108 gestures are not specified or fixed. Moreover, and contrary to jūdō and kendō, the names of the kata of karate such as Naihanchi, Passai, and Kūsankū etc. barely allow any conclusion about its technical contents, nor do the names of individual techniques contained therein. It is even impossible to categorize a gesture found in the kata as solely belonging to the categories of offenses or defenses.

Karate in all its parameters is a function of kata.

Karate in all its parameters is a function of kata.

The kata of karate are the theorization of principles and carry a plurality of skills with their meanings hidden behind a high level of abstraction. Each move or gesture within a kata of karate can easily be interpreted as a multitude of applied techniques. And this is the very raison d’être of karate kata as well as their main difference to the kata of jūdō, kendō etc. This is the reason why it is said that karate is a bujutsu whose existence is fully determined by kata. And it is also the reason why it is said that “Karate begins with kata and ends with kata.” By assigning fixed techniques to the gestures of kata, karate will be misconceived for something else and in consequence loses its very raison d’être. The same is true for changing the kata for specific purposes, for example a specific application, or for competitions.[11]

Kihon and kumite (yakusoku, bunkai, oyo etc.) are not individual entities. Instead they are simply inherent elements of the open architecture conception of kata. Karate is not made up of “three k”, but karate in all its parameters is a function of kata.


[1] Cf. Ryūkyū Shinpō, November 8 and 25, 1995.

[2] Takamiyagi 1996: 92.

[3] Southern Record. Purported book of secrets describing the teachings of the tea master Sen no Rikyū 千利休 (1522 – 1591).

[4] Know as Inadome Sukenao 稲富祐直. Inadome-ryū Hōjutsu Hidensho 稲富流砲術秘伝書.

[5] Matsunosuke Nishiyama: Kinsei Geidō no Shisō no Tokushitsu to sono Tenkai 近世芸道の思想の特質とその展開 (Evolution and characteristics of the Concepts of the Performing Arts in Early Modern Times). In: Matsunosuke Nishiyama, Watanabe Ichirō, Gunji Masakatsu: Kinsei Geidōron. Iwanami Shoten, Tōkyō 1972. 西山松之助, 渡辺一郎, 郡司正勝: 近世藝道論 . 岩波書店, Tōkyō 1972.

[6] Uozumi 2013: 6. Takamiyagi Shigeru, in: OKKJ 2008: 209–10. With references to: Matsunosuke Nishiyama: Kinsei Geidō no Shisō no Tokushitsu to sono Tenkai 近世芸道の思想の特質とその展開 (Evolution and characteristics of the Concepts of the Performing Arts in Early Modern Times). In: Matsunosuke Nishiyama; Watanabe Ichirō; Gunji Masakatsu: Kinsei Geidōron. Iwanami Shoten, Tōkyō 1972. 西山松之助, 渡辺一郎, 郡司正勝: 近世藝道論 . 岩波書店, Tōkyō 1972.

[7] 広辞苑第六版「かた(形・型)」. ブリタニカ百科事典「型」

[8] ブリタニカ百科事典「型」

[9] Uozumi 2013: 6.

[10] Shinzato 1996: 267. 空手は型あっての武術です。

[11] Takamiyagi Shigeru, Shinzato Katsuhiko in: OKKJ 2008: 209–22. Shinzato 1996: 268–93.

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King Wu Once Buckled On His Armor: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts

by Andreas Quast

Coming soon!coverImage

Considered the primary source-text of old-style Okinawan martial arts, the “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts” are admired for their straightforward advice. Handwritten in the late 19th century by Matsumura Sokon, the most celebrated ancestor of karate, they are considered the ethical fountain and technical key to understand what can’t be seen.

Matsumura himself pointed out that the “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts” were praised by a wise man in an ancient manuscript, a manuscript that has remained obscure and undiscovered ever since. Now the source of this wondrous composition has been discovered and verified. Presented and explained here for the first time, it is not only the source of Matsumura’s “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts”. In fact: it is the original meaning of martial arts per se.

5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
80 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1523685981 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1523685980
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

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Tachimura no Naihanchi

Translator’s Introduction

Right now our friend Ulf Karlsson is on the plane back to Sweden. He just spent several months of practice and study in Okinawa and Japan. While there he also had the chance to meet with Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū and Motobu-udundī, who is a distinguished researcher. After meeting Ulf, Motobu Sensei published an article on the Motobu-ryū Blog about their meeting and specifically about the old-style kata called Tachimura no Naihanchi. The following is my translation attempt (with permission to do so), so all mistake are mine alone.

Tachimura no Naihanchi

by Motobu Naoki

This Sunday we were visited by karateka Ulf Karlsson from Sweden. Mr. Karlsson is a disciple of Higa Kiyohiko Sensei (Sōke of Seidō-ryū Shinki Kobudō and Shindō-ryū) and for many years has been practicing Kishimoto-dī, ie the of Kishimoto Sokō Sensei. In addition, Mr. Karlsson is not limited to the practice of Kishimoto-dī, but has also been studying the history of karate in general. Boasting a knowledge of the history of karate that puts Japanese karateka to shame, our conversation extended over a long time. Moreover, I could also watch him performing some of the kata of Kishimoto-dī.

There are heroic tales (buyuden) of Kishimoto Sokō Sensei from both Shuri and Naha. He was a disciple of Bushi Tachimura, a member of the warrior class (shizoku) of the Ryūkyū Kingdom era. Before Higa Kiyohiko Sensei’s father Higa Seitoku Sensei studied under Uehara Seikichi Sensei, he studied karate from Kishimoto Sensei.

There are several kata that have been handed down by Bushi Tachimura. One of them is Tachimura no Naihanchi. Since Mr. Karlsson himself has published a demonstration of it on Youtube I think those who study the history of karate in detail have seen it.

Tachimura no Naihanchi has a considerably different flavor than the common Naihanchi of the so-called Itosu-lineage. As it is not of the Itosu-lineage it also seems to be a valuable kata of a historical karate.

Information about Bushi Tachimura are scarce. The following description is found in the newspaper article “Okinawa no Bugi” (Ryūkyū Shinpō, 1914) about stories told by Asato Ankō, written by Funakoshi Gichin under his pen name “Shōtō”:

“It is said that Kyōahagon Uēkata, Urasoe Mayamado, and Shabe Uēkata (the progenitor of the present Gushikawa in Akabira Village) were famous warriors [bushi] from Okinawa’s earliest antiquity. These may serve as examples [of the inheritance of martial arts amongst bujutsu experts].

Everyone should know that the term ‘Karate’* originated from ‘Karate Sakugawa’ from Akata Village. Jūdō in Okinawa commenced with Tachimura from Tōbaru Village (today a manor of Shinzato-gwā), who trained in Kagoshima at state expense. His father, it is said, was a student of ‘Karate Sakugawa’. And here we can clearly see that karate was already developed when Jūdō was not yet introduced in Okinawa.”

Tōbaru Village is today’s Naha City Shuri Tōbaru-chō. The fact that this was where Bushi Tachimura lived shows that he was a member of the Shuri warrior class (shizoku). Not only can the name Tachimura be seen noted as a karateka in above-mentioned article, but considered chronologically the person corresponding to “Bushi Tachimura” might also have been his son, who went to Kagoshima (Satsuma) to study jūdō (I think this actually refers to jūjutsu).

I do not know if Tachimura no Naihanchi was handed down within the lineage of Karate Sakugawa ― it is first of all unclear if Karate Sakugawa had Naihanchi  ― but it appears to be a kata that branched off at a relatively early stage when compared to Naihanchi of the Itosu-lineage. This is because the part of the movements with open hands are not seen in the Itosu-lineage. Motobu Chōki testified that a long time ago Naihanchi was executed with open hands. In addition, in the beginning it [Tachimura no Naihanchi] does not move to the right direction as done in the common version, but it moves to the left direction, which also appears to be a feature of Koryū or old-style Naihanchi. The Naihanchi of Motobu-ryū also first moves to the left.

At any rate, at the present time research into the history of karate in overseas appears to sprout with zeal. Because foreign karate researchers have less of a bondage to the rules and traditions of the Ryūha (schools) and since their history of academic research is older than in Japan, they seem to thoroughly investigate the history of karate with more passion than most Japanese. Incidentally, Mr. Karlsson also fluently talked in Japanese.


*Translator’s Note: As can be seen from his later works, Funakoshi equates Tōdī and Karate, both written as 唐手. However, in the case of Sakugawa it has to be pronounced Tōdī, a word that doesn’t exist in standard Japanese and which has a different meaning than the homonymous Karate 唐手 as used by Itosu and others. Because Funakoshi used it as “Karate” in his text, for the reason of consistency it was used throughout this translation, while in fact it should read “Tōdī ” in case of Sakugawa and also his era.
Ulf Karlsson: Tachimura no Naihanchi.

Ulf Karlsson: Tachimura no Naihanchi.

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To Osu, or not to Osu: it is not a question

Since my colleague Andrzej had heard I was doing karate, every now and then he would “Osu” me in the Kyokushinkai fashion. That was always perfectly ok with me, I actually thought it was funny. All has been said about what Osu means, how it evolved etymologically, where it is used and where not. I also have a somewhat decided opinion about “Osu”, and it has historical reasons.

So here’s my take on “To Osu, or not to Osu”.

The “Society of Martial Virtue of Greater-Japan” (Dai Nippon Butokukai) was established in 1895. It was the year of Japan’s victory against China, ending millennia of cultural and military hegemony of the “Middle Kingdom”. The purpose of the Butokukai was to promote the Japanese bujutsu and to galvanize them with the “martial spirit” of Emperor Kammu (reigned 781 – 806) into an ideology of a Japanese spirit (wakon 和魂), later propagandized by Japanese nationalists as “the brave, daring, and indomitable spirit of Japanese people” and as one of the key doctrines of Japanese militarism. The construction of the Hall of Martial Virtue (Butokuden) was completed in 1899 close to the Heian Shrine in Kyōto and branches of the Butokukai were established throughout the country. Every year in May the Butokukai held its Festival of Martial Virtue (Butokusai), which was were Okinawa karate first appeared in Japan.

Main gate of the "Dai Nippon Budo Senmon Gakko".

Main gate of the “Dai Nippon Budo Senmon Gakko”.

In 1905 the Butokukai opened a private training institute in Sakyō, a district of Kyōto. It became known as the Dai Nippon Butokukai Budō Senmon Gakkō, or the “Specialized School for Budō of the Society of Martial Virtue of Greater-Japan”. Built and managed by the Butokukai, the school served the training of bujutsu-instructors – mainly kendō and jūdō – who were active in regular school education. The purpose of this institution was the same as that of the Butokukai, ie the practice of bujutsu and the cultivation of a samurai spirit. A main focus in the education of the bujutsu-instructors for higher school education was the study of the Japanese language and of classical Chinese texts. This was deemed necessary to ensure that the students who practiced the bujutsu were also able to theoretically study and understand them.

The Senmon Gakkō was considered as one of the best institutes for the training of martial arts instructors in the country. Admission was granted without exception to the male gender only. A minimum necessary rank in budō had to be achieved, too. In the event of failure to achieve this rank the university degree was denied. In kendō the students in the first grade were only allowed to practice kirikaeshi (diagonal strikes to the head alternating from the left to right). In the second grade they were only allowed kiri-kaeshi and kakarigeiko (fierce repetition of techniques in the chord). Jigeiko (free fight, without scoring) was allowed only in the third and fourth grade. Strong basics and spirit was emphasized. Techniques included even grappling and brawls and other techniques unknown to modern kendō. Training was ferocious, including fatalities.

Once a month an “Evaluation Meeting” took place, hosted by the students of the fourth grade. The third and lower grades had to listen to their “sermons” and exhortations for around two hours while kneeling in seiza. In case of failures in everyday life or elsewhere, such as failing to show courtesy or satisfactory submissiveness, they were physically chastised. A pronounced sempaikohai-relationship with its hierarchical pecking order was a serious matter in this school’s tradition. Graduates of the school received a state license as middle school teachers without having to have completed a proper teacher training course or the accompanying examination.

From the 1920s to the 1930s budō witnessed a rapid growth, however, just as a bone in the skeleton of Japanese militarism. While militarism, colonialism, and imperialism were clearly visible already for decades, war escalated from the Manschurian Incident (1931) into the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Pacific War (1941-1945) as part of World War II. Budō as well as the Butokukai as the most prestigious and influential institution became closely associated with ultranationalism and “Emperordom”. Japanese martial arts grew during this time primarily because they were a cog in the ideological machine of national mobilization.

With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the General Command of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces dissolved the Dai Nippon Butokukai and banned the teaching of budō in schools and universities. The Senmon Gakkō was renamed to “Kyōto Specialized School – Department of Humanities and Literature” (!!!), but closed its gates after the last graduation ceremony in January 1947.

It was the Senmon Gakkō where the salutation “osu!” was born. It is the gross residue of an obsolete male language, bordering to the obscene, and the expression of an ideological budō closely related to ultranationalism, militarism, and imperial megalomania.

To “Osu”, or not to “Osu”: for me it is not a question.


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Issue: Popular, often abridged quotes by famous karate persons are found on the internet in English translation. Often neither the translator nor the source is named –> it is impossible to verify or to deny the authenticity. Due to its easy availability, such quotes exponentially snowball on the web (social media) by copy&paste reference. Moreover, there is a trend to combine individual quotes in chains of reasonings.

Observation: Often such quotes are used to proof a specific reasoning, for instance historial, technical, or otherwise. To test such reasonings, samples of quotes used thereto have been compared with the original Japanese-language texts. It turned out that most quotes are defective both in wording, content, and/or context. Consequently, when used as either a standalone argument or as serial argument, the conclusion constitutes one ore more classical fallacies.

Restriction: Quotes might be translated wrong, abridged, or out-of-context. Notwithstanding even wrong arguments can arrive at true conclusions. People are also entitled to their own opinions.

Counter: The conclusion might accidentally be correct, but is based on a defective derivation. In the end, in the case of such quotes the derivations are constructed to proof an already established conclusion: basically, that a punch in the face is a punch in the face, which can hardly be denied. One should be allowed to ask, however, why then the need for karate, for black belts, and for history quotes?

Solution: Raise awareness. Critical reevaluation of translations. Generally promote an open attitude to discard established theories when shown wrong.



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An almost unknown colleague and student of Chōjun Miyagi: Gushimiyagi Hōhitsu

By Andreas Quast and Humberto Nuno de Oliveira

It will always be difficult and questionable, given the manifest impossibility, to indicate the “totality” of Master Chōjun Miyagi’s students throughout his life. Unfortunately, in the face of the large number of students that the Master may have had it seems that the very attempt is doomed to fail – especially when taking into account the many students he had at his various educational responsibilities in the schools of Okinawa and at the Police Academy. For this reason the personal relations will surely be too many to research and investigate in the attempt to provide safe and comprehensive data. Moreover, many short termed students will surely have had a merely functional relationship with the master, one which plainly will not raise them to the status of what we consider a personal disciple.

Usually analyses are based on one’s own personal knowledge and sometimes on personal relations, so they are neither comprehensive nor exhaustive, but only the result of readily available data. It should be noted that no one can seriously claim to know the actual number of Miyagi’s students, either dead or in some cases still alive, which may legitimately be considered to be of his Gōjū-ryū-lineage, and in this sense can even make flow other lines of students of his students, causing the Gōjū-ryū-lineage to be predominantly much more dynamic than static and tendencially impossible to define. This situation, strangely, is valid for both the early and the late stages of the Master’s life. Hence, there are always the same persons who are frequently mentioned, while others almost inevitably remain overlooked.

The same problem is also true for the students of Kanryō Higaonna; in the Naha-te lineage we are used to hear about Jūhatsu Kyoda, Chōjun Miyagi and Seiko Higa. But there were many more students that did not just disappear following Higaonna‘s death.

The purpose of this article is to bring to general attention an important character who was already a student under Higaonna and seems to have accompanied almost the entire life of Chōjun Miyagi.

From among the disciples of Kanryō Higaonna few have possibly ever heard about Yoshiteru Ikemiyagi[i] and Hōhitsu Gushimiyagi. Nevertheless, together with Chōjun Miyagi himself these two were commonly referred to as the “Three Castles” or “Three Strongholds”[ii] of Gōjū-ryū. Judging from this they were surely relevant and obviously close students.

Here we will bring to the light some relevant aspects of Hōhitsu Gushimiyagi´s life. Gushimiyagi Hōhitsu (gushi宮城芳弼) was born in Naha in 1892. Four years younger than Master Miyagi, they were both fellow disciples under Higaonna.

Miyagi Chojun Death anniversary, December 8, 1955.

Miyagi Chojun Death anniversary, December 8, 1955.

Gushimiyagi was a skilled Budōka in the art of Karate, specifically that of Naha-te and of Gōjū-ryū, and is described as a specialist in Sanchin and Sēsan katas. Regarding Sanchin he always told listeners that “Unlike the average Sanchin, Higaonna Sensei’s Sanchin was very excellent!” By his enthusiasm in practicing martial arts under Higaonna he gained the confidence of the master. When Higaonna’s health became more fragile Gushimiyagi was entrusted with taking personal care of his Sensei, probably in Higaonna’s older years when Miyagi took him home.

After Higaonna’s death, Gushimiyagi faithfully protected Higaonna’s last will (legacy, bequest) and continued to support Miyagi Chōjun as a patron. As is generally known Seiko Higa (six years younger than him) also continued to receive martial art instruction from Miyagi.

Besides his zeal in the martial arts and friendship towards Miyagi, Gushimiyagi was a skilled calligrapher, and a lifelong student of the art of calligraphy or shōdō. Being an accomplished calligrapher it is said that he always carried brush and ink with him when taking a walk outside .

The celebrated Arakaki Ryūyū 新垣隆優 of the “Okinawa Calligraphy Association”[iii] was his disciple in calligraphy; he was also the son of Miyagi Chōjun’s first martial arts teacher Arakaki Ryūkō 新垣隆功, and father of Arakaki Shū’ichi 新垣修一, who was a disciple of Miyagi Chōjun, since 1951, in his twilight years.

After the end of the World War II Gushimiyagi regularly frequented Miyagi’s home in Tsuboya, Naha. He called Miyagi his “big brother ‘pine tree’[iv], chatting for long hours about martial arts and classical music and a variety of other things and obviously calligraphy. When Miyagi asked Gushimiyagi to tell a story about calligraphy, Gushimiyagi told:

“When writing a straight horizontal line with a brush in calligraphy, you don’t just write a straight line. You write it while breathing from the tanden[v] with a breathing method which is similar to that of Sanchin. It is also not merely that simple, but you write with brush, breathing, and mind[vi] in harmony”.

It is than with no surprise that in the well know photo of Chōjun Miyagi’s memorial in 1955 Gushimiyagi is seated to the right of Chōjun Miyagi’s picture held by his son Ken. A prominent place for a prominent collegue, student and friend.

Gushimiyagi Hōhitsu passed away in 1966 at the age of 74.

Miyagi Chojun Death anniversary, December 8, 1955. (magnification)

Miyagi Chojun Death anniversary, December 8, 1955. (magnification)


[i] Ikemiyagi Yoshiteru 池宮城喜輝 (1886 – 1967). Later changed his name to Ikemiya Yoshiteru. Ryukyu classical musician (Nomura-ryū), politician, organized the Okinawan performing arts study group in the Kantō region. Active in conservation and restoration Okinawa historic sites and appointed to the expert committee of the Ryukyu Government Cultural Property Protection Committee. Wrote the book, Ryūkyū geinō kyōhan : Ikemiya Yoshiteru chosakushū.

[ii] San-gusuku 三城. Obviously alluding to their shared name part of gusuku 城, or castle. It could also be interpreted as the “three strongholds“. We remember that Miyagi’s name in Uchinaaguchi (Okinawa native language) was Miyagusuku. Their friends Gushimiyagusuku and Ikemiyagusuku .

[iii] The Okinawa Shōdō Kyōkai 沖縄書道協会 was established in 1941. Cf. Davinder L. Bhowmik. 2008. Writing Okinawa: Narrative acts of identity and resistance. New York: Routledge, p. 28.

[iv] Okinawan: Machū Yacchi マチューヤッチー(松兄).

[v]丹田, a focus point for internal meditative techniques, usually below the navel.

[vi] kokoro 心: also spirit, or heart.


Higaonna Morio and Kadekaru Tooru. In: Takamiyagi Shigeru, Shinzato Katsuhiko, Nakamoto Masahiro Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten, Tōkyō: Kashiwa Shobō, 2008., p. 426.

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Bunkai and “knowing”

Karate is never about the limited boundaries of “knowing”, but rather about developing each and every case as new.

During my study of mechanical engineering, there was no task and no test you would do without having a formulary with you. And the formularies were huge. Later, even at a level of being able to freely solve complex questions you wouldn’t trust what you know or what you have experienced.

Kata are formularies.

You use them to solve ever changing given cases (szenarios), and not to assign a given case (technique) to it.

You use given formularies to develop a machine, not vice versa.


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Friedrich Schiller: Der Handschuh


Vor seinem Löwengarten,

Das Kampfspiel zu erwarten,

Saß König Franz,

Und um ihn die Großen der Krone,

Und rings auf hohem Balkone

Die Damen in schönem Kranz.


Und wie er winkt mit dem Finger,

Auf tut sich der weite Zwinger,

Und hinein mit bedächtigem Schritt

Ein Löwe tritt,

Und sieht sich stumm

Rings um,

Mit langem Gähnen,

Und schüttelt die Mähnen,

Und streckt die Glieder,

Und legt sich nieder.


Und der König winkt wieder,

Da öffnet sich behend

Ein zweites Tor,

Daraus rennt

Mit wildem Sprunge

Ein Tiger hervor.

Wie der den Löwen erschaut,

Brüllt er laut,

Schlägt mit dem Schweif

Einen furchtbaren Reif,

Und recket die Zunge,

Und im Kreise scheu

Umgeht er den Leu

Grimmig schnurrend;

Drauf streckt er sich murrend

Zur Seite nieder.

Und der König winkt wieder,

Da speit das doppelt geöffnete Haus

Zwei Leoparden auf einmal aus,

Die stürzen mit mutiger Kampfbegier

Auf das Tigertier,

Das packt sie mit seinen grimmigen Tatzen,

Und der Leu mit Gebrüll

Richtet sich auf, da wirds still,

Und herum im Kreis,

Von Mordsucht heiß,

Lagern die greulichen Katzen.


Da fällt von des Altans Rand

Ein Handschuh von schöner Hand

Zwischen den Tiger und den Leun

Mitten hinein.


Und zu Ritter Delorges spottenderweis

Wendet sich Fräulein Kunigund:

»Herr Ritter, ist Eure Lieb so heiß,

Wie Ihr mirs schwört zu jeder Stund,

Ei, so hebt mir den Handschuh auf.«


Und der Ritter in schnellem Lauf

Steigt hinab in den furchtbarn Zwinger

Mit festem Schritte,

Und aus der Ungeheuer Mitte

Nimmt er den Handschuh mit keckem Finger.


Und mit Erstaunen und mit Grauen

Sehens die Ritter und Edelfrauen,

Und gelassen bringt er den Handschuh zurück.

Da schallt ihm sein Lob aus jedem Munde,

Aber mit zärtlichem Liebesblick –

Er verheißt ihm sein nahes Glück –

Empfängt ihn Fräulein Kunigunde.

Und er wirft ihr den Handschuh ins Gesicht:

»Den Dank, Dame, begehr ich nicht«,

Und verläßt sie zur selben Stunde.

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Anleitung zur deutschen und französischen Umgangssprache, 1841

„Der Stock. Le bâton. –

Der Fechtstock.  Le bâton à deux bouts. –

Mit dem Stock fechten. Jouer du bâton. –

Das Stockfechten lernen. Apprendre le bâton.“

Aus: Adler-Mesnard: Anleitung zur deutschen und französischen Umgangssprache. 1841. S. 143.

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