Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son

BookCoverPreviewsmBy Aka/Ōta Pēchin Chokushiki (auth.), Andreas Quast (ed./transl.), Motobu Naoki (transl.).

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!!!Translated from Japanese for the first time!!!

“I think it is epoch-making that Quast sensei decided to translate the ‘Testament of Aka Pēchin Chokushiki,’ and not one of the famous historical or literary works such as the Chūzan Seikan or the Omoro Sōshi. … I believe that this translation has significant implications for the future study of karate history and Ryūkyū history abroad. (Motobu Naoki, Shihan of the Motobu-ryū)

Troubled about the future of his only son and heir, a royal government official of the Ryukyu Kingdom wrote down his ‘Instructions’ as a code of practice for all affairs. Written in flowing, elegant Japanese, he refers to a wide spectrum of artistic accomplishments that the royal government officials were ought to study in those days, such as court etiquette, literature and poetry, music, calligraphy, the tea ceremony and so on.

“I highly recommend this new work by Andi Quast … as a MUST BUY book …”

( Patrick McCarthy, foremost western authority of Okinawan martial arts, modern and antique, anywhere he roams)

The author, who achieved a remarkable skill level in wielding both the pen and the sword, also informs us about various martial arts practiced in those days. Translated from Japanese for the first time, from centuries-long puzzling seclusion the state of affairs surrounding an 18th century Okinawan samurai vividly resurrects in what is considered ‘Okinawa’s most distinguished literature.’

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“It is one of THE most important primary sources for truly understanding the unabridgisteeologd history of our arts first hand by a member of the very class of people who spawned Karate in the first place!” (Joe Swift, Karateologist, Tokyo-based)

“I’m sure I’m going to learn and enjoy this book.” (Itzik Cohen, pure-as-can-be karate and kobudo man from Israel)

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5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
218 pages

First Printing: 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1985331037
ISBN-10: 1985331039

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Martial Artists of Ryūkyū – A Legacy by Motobu Choki

motobu_chokiBy Motobu Chōki (auth.), translated with commentary by Andreas Quast

Choki was born into the Motobu Udun – descendants of a royal prince – and raised as a traditional Okinawan bushi. After a long warrior pilgrimage, in which he put practical martial arts to the test whenever and with whomever possible, Choki became both the most celebrated and the most notorious Okinawan fighter ever.

In this text Choki, in vivid details, reports what he has had been bequeathed by the elders about the martial artists and their special skills of the royal capital of Shuri and elsewhere. What was martial art back in Okinawa? The answer might be right in front of you.

This short work originally appeared as a chapter in the book Watakushi no Karatejutsu (My Art and Skill of Karate) by Motobu Choki, 1932.

«Blaming a method is the same as asking for a duel. And so, Haebaru put on full dress and the two met in the hall of Oroku Castle, to settle the matter.»

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5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
54 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1542453462
ISBN-10: 1542453461
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

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Oni Oshiro

BookCoverPreviewIn the era of Old Ryukyu, a legendary warrior of Okinawan martial arts appeared on the center stage of the historical theatre. Due to his unique appearance and powerful physique—reminiscent of a wolf or a tiger—the people of that time called him Oni Ōshiro, or «Ōshiro the Demon.»

Also known as Uni Ufugushiku in the Okinawan pronunciation of his name, he had been variously described as the originator of the original Okinawan martial art «Ti» as well as the actual ancestor of a number of famous Okinawan karate masters, such as Mabuni Kenwa and others.

This is his narrative. Gleaned from the few primary sources available, which for the first time are presented here in the English language, the original heroic flavor of the source texts was kept intact.

«I invoke the Gods, To quake heaven and earth, To let the firmament resound, And to rescue the divine woman—Momoto Fumiagari.»

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5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
94 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1533486219 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1533486212
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

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

by Andreas Quast

King_Wu_Once_Buckled_Cover_for_KindleTHIS is the true story of the seven virtues of martial arts as described by Matsumura Sokon. Considered the primary source-text of old-style Okinawan martial arts, the “Seven Virtues” 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.

This book includes the extremely rare photography of the original handwritten scroll, approved by the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum as well as the owner of the scroll. It also shows the family crest of the Matsumura family, sporting the character of “Bu.”

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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 ever since. Now the ultimate 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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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 ($14.99), Amazon UK (£9.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 14.97), CreateSpace eStore ($14.99), 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.

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.

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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.

Only the highest quality both in content and production: get it now from!

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Does the photo of Itosu Ankō show a different person?

[Here follows my translation of the newspaper article: Arakaki Ryōko: “Does the photo of Itosu Ankō show a different person?” In: Okinawa Times, March 2, 2019, Saturday, No. 25159 (daily issue). Many thanks to Motobu Naoki Shihan of the Motobu-ryu for proof-reading and corrections.]


Does the photo of Itosu Ankō show a different person?

Itosu created the prototype of modern karate. Inspection of photographic materials leads to “correction of facts”.

There is a photograph showing a man considered to be Itosu Ankō (1831-1915), who has been active since the Ryukyu Kingdom era and who has created the prototype of modern karate. As regards this photograph, it was found on March 1st that there is a high possibility that the photo shows a different person. That photo was found in 2006 among the karate-related documents in the possession of a man (now decased) who lived in Kanagawa prefecture at the time and who was a disciple of a disciple of Itosu. Since that time the photo spread widely and came to be considered to show Itosu himself.

Since the photograph is stored in the Okinawa Prefectural Library, and since it was also introduced in exhibits and images at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan in Tomigusuku City, a prefectural official says “We will share the new information in the karate world. If there is a mistake and things point to a person other than Itosu, we have to correct it!”

On March 1st, at a research meeting of the Prefectural Karate Promotion Division called “Okinawa Karate Academy” held at the prefectural government office, Nakamura Akira (45), who is a part-time staff member at the same department and who studies Ryukyu history, identified the person in the photo.

Characteristic of the elderly in the photograph is that he wears a hakama and has a white mustache. Nakamura san confirmed seven other photographs from the same time period showing the same man. Among these, on a graduation photo of 1910 published in the magazine of the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers College (from the possession of the Ryukyu University Library), aforementioned man is described as one “Miyake sensei“. In addition to this, the man was als found in a group photo of members of the prefectural police. As a result of investigating the prefectural police staff records and other materials of the time, it was concluded that the person in the photo is Miyake Sango (1847 – date of death unknown), who was born in Miyazaki Prefecture. After having taken part in the Satsuma Rebellion (an 1877 uprising in Satsuma led by Saigō Takamori), Miyake came to Okinawa and served as a teacher of Gekken (an original form of Kendo) at the Prefectural Teachers College (Shuri) and the Prefectural Middle School (Shuri) as well as at the prefectural police.

In its July 2006 issue, "Monthly Karatedō" magazine (now discontinued) reported about a "major historic discovery". This refers to the above photograph. In its center can be seen a man with a mustache. This man was considered to be Itosu Ankō. At that time, the Okinawa Times also took up the news, but the man with the mustache was now identified as being a different person, namely Miyake Sango.

In its July 2006 issue, “Monthly Karatedō” magazine (now discontinued) reported about a “major historic discovery”. This refers to the above photograph. In its center can be seen a man with a mustache. This man was considered to be Itosu Ankō. At that time, the Okinawa Times also took up the news, but the man with the mustache was now identified as being a different person, namely Miyake Sango.

About Itosu, for a long time there was only a portrait of him in existence. The photo discovery of 2006, which seems to have been mainly identified based on oral tradition, was re-examined by Nakamura san.

Currently, in the “Encyclopedia of Okinawa Karate and Kobudō” as well as in various magazines, this photo is [still] introduced as showing Itosu Ankō. Because of this, Nakamura san shows his will to find a real photo of Itosu by searching for new historical materials and by interviewing people [of the karate world or relatives of Itosu].

Miyake Sango with members of the prefectural police.

Miyake Sango with
members of the prefectural police.

Former president of the Prefectural Art University and teacher of Okinawa karate, Miyagi Tokumasa (79),  said “I agree with the thorough verification. One cannot talk about the history of Okinawa Karate without talking about Itosu. It is necessary to correct the facts.” Tetsuo Yamakawa, section chief of the Prefectural Karate Promotion Division, positively said “As we aim to register Okinawa Karate as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, deepening such academic research will be an inspiration to the karate world.”


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Moon Goddess and Shrine Maidens: Women in Ancient Ryūkyūan Warfare

Note: The following article is composed from three individual parts that first appeared in my out-of-print “Karate 1.0” (2013). 

As an example [of arms and armor found in Shuri castle], an unearthed helmet of Japanese style exhibits ornamental adornments of an original Ryūkyūan design, displaying clouds, moon, sun and stars. [1] This helmet was brought to light in the excavation of the Kyō no Uchi storehouse of Shuri castle, which had been destroyed by fire during a conflagration in 1459 and had been in possession of the royal court for probably sometime prior already. Twenty-nine fragments furnished to the front part of a helmet bowl (kabuto-mae tate-kazari) produced during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era were restored, although their gilding had been destroyed by the fire. The helmet is of three-horn variety (mitsu kuwagata-dai). From the organization and design of the ornamental metal fittings attached to the center (haraidate), and after academic consultations, it was named The Pattern of the Auspicious Cloud, the Sun and the Moon, and the Stars (Zuiun Nichigetsu Hoshimon). Its design had been unraveled as follows:

The Pattern of the Auspicious Cloud, the Sun and the Moon, and the Stars (Zuiun Nichigetsu Hoshimon).

The Pattern of the Auspicious Cloud, the Sun and the Moon, and the Stars (Zuiun Nichigetsu Hoshimon).

  1. the Clouds: according to the characteristic Okinawan belief and ideology of Nirai-kanai, i.e. the paradise across the ocean, a lucky omen brings about a cloud, resembling the Buddhist and Taoist idea of as one wishes. This is expressed by auspicious cloud.
  2. the Moon: the deity of the moon. The moon as a goddess is known as Tsukishiro and is also seen as the personification of Tsukishirono Ōnushi, the Great God of the Moon.
  3. the Sun: god of the sun. The Ryūkyūan idea of Tīda. It is also a representation of the coming into existence of a unified state by means of the regional Anji.
  4. the Stars: standing for the North Star, the Big Dipper, the three stars of Orion and other star-beliefs. The pattern is maybe a representation taken from the large square star arrangement of the Pegasus constellation. Stars are considered in relation to sailing voyages and agriculture.
  5. a Plant: representing a prayer for a good harvest of rice, wheat, and other agricultural products.
  6. the hoe-shaped helmet crest: The origin of the hoe-shaped helmet crest is a deer antler. In Japan, buckhorns were used since antiquity as an ornament for helmets. Deer are considered to symbolize the longevity of a hermit and are also related to Fukurokuju, the tall headed god of happiness, wealth, and long life.

No similar instance of such a decoration design can be confirmed for mainland Japan. On the other hand, products found at the Iri no Azana excavation included fittings and gilded fragments of a helmet decoration of the same auspicious cloud and moon form and size as those of the Kyō no Uchi excavation mentioned above, and besides tuyère, metal shears, melting pots, and casting molds were found. That’s why this armor design should be considered an original Ryūkyūan style design.

Next, let’s think about the user of this Auspicious Cloud, the Sun and the Moon, and the Stars helmet, a hint to which we may find in poems recited in Volume 1 of the Omoro-sōshi.

Omoro-sōshi, Vol. I, Poem 5

The high priestess Kikoe Ōgimi wore a red armor, wore with it a congenial sword at her hip. In the whole country, her praised name resounded, and she had a huge influence on the ruler. As the vanguard, the moon goddess (Tsukishiro) advances, As the vanguard, the shrine maidens advances…

Omoro-sōshi, Vol. I, Poem 25

The Kikoe Ōgimi rises to the vanguard of the battle, proceeds to the battle, and subjugates the enemy; she’s the person with extreme spiritual power…

From the above two song poems, it is easy to perceive that the Kikoe Ōgimi on occasion of holding a ceremony in the court in front of the main palace would make use of a red armor and a sword. Judging on the basis of the above-mentioned Omoro, the Kikoe Ōgimi prior to a battle performed a prayer for being victorious. And this might even have given birth to the Okinawan proverb, women are at the fore of the battle.[2]

BTW, this might surprise you but as regards the ladies in old Ryūkyū, in a 1462 description by Koreans at the court in Shuri it is said that court ladies armed with swords stood ready as the king’s bodyguards[3] and escorted the king. As regards the guards of the castle gates: the eighteenth century work Nyōkan Osōshi[4] recorded that court ladies of the royal palace performed duty as castle gateguards. Therefore “court ladies” and female bodyguards apparently continued as an official post from at least the fifteenth to the eigteenth century.

The above-mentioned Kikoe Ōgimi was the chief priestess of the country and selected from among the sisters of the king. Onarigami, i.e. a sister in whom a divine spirit dwells, protected the country’s king. In the ballads of the Omoro the term Onarigami is used as a synonym for Kuseserikyo, i.e. a mystical person that proclaims the divine will. Comparable to the Japanese Empress Jingū, she tightened armor and helmet and strapped the two swords on to her waist in order to enter the fray. The Nyokan Gosōshi reports that in 1500, i.e. the 24th year of King Shō Shin’s reign, a certain Akahachi from the Yaeyama islands raised the flag of rebellion. Shuri’s divine oracle, a priestess called Chinpē from Kumejima, was sent as a vanguard in order to subdue the gods of that island. And, as the story goes, the gods submitted completely and with that also the soldiers, and thus the island was conquered with ease by means of the participation of the Chinpē in the military service. The Okinawan term Chinpē I believe resembles the Japanese Shinpei, i.e. a soldier dispatched by a god, or a soldier under the protection of the gods.

A similar event can also be found in the Japanese ancient classic Kojiki, and ever since there was the belief that gods of war betake to the battlefield in order to protect their people. Still during the Russo-Japanese War the god of war Hachiman was hailed in the native prefectural shrines, and with a portable sedan-like shrine figuratively carried to war in the dead of the night.[6]

In fact, on January 30, 1932, Iha Fuyū received a letter from linguist Kindaichi Kyōsuke (1882-1971).[7] In the following, the contents of the letter are summarized.

Every night statues of the Hachiman deity are appealed to, praying for Japan’s military success in Manchuria. In addition, formerly in the dead of night, but now at the time from about 9 or 10 o’clock, the theatrical Shintō dance called Kagura commenced. Gods are appealed to in many places, from the prefectural shrines to the village shrines to the Kami-sama in each and every home, and this constituted a considerable number. The Noro, or hereditary caste of female holy women in Okinawa, are just the same as these gods appealed to in prayer of Manchuria. Since earliest times this religious belief had not changed at all and the Hachiman is undoubtedly the same religious belief as that of ancient Ryūkyū. In order to comprehend this, first of all the religious belief called “the deity must subjugate the enemy” needs to be understood. That is, the deity must first conquer the enemy by its divine spiritual power. Only then the Ryūkyūan proverb “Woman are at the vanguard of war”[8]  can be understood in connection with the old custom of temple maidens, the Kikoe Ōgimi, and the holy women below her, as well as the names they are designated with. This is the ancient conception that courageous military commanders would lose all their power by the curse of a sorcerer, the idea of wizardry as a deadly affair, which puts the primitive man in fear and terror.[9] 

Kindaichi thus likened the Japanese protective deity of war called Hachiman to the Ryūkyūan belief in holy women as war heroes. Close perusal of the Omoro poems reveals that there is no lack of descriptions of armed daughters or wives of noblemen, military protection by a tutelary goddess, female shamans advancing as vanguard at the forefront of a campaign, as well as the performance of ceremonies at the palace of the Kikoe Ōgimi with the purpose of spiritually subduing the gods of hostile countries. The moon goddess mentioned in the above Omoro is the tutelary moon goddess called Tsukishiro. She was the guardian deity of the villages (ufusunagami) during the 1st Shō-Dynasty. And still at the end of the Ryūkyū kingdom armor and weapons were displayed in front of the altar in the residence of the Kikoe Ōgimi, as the elderly knew to report still at the time of Iha Fuyū. These were handed down ever since the 1st dynasty and have to be regarded a symbol of the kingdom’s self-image at the time. Ceremonies to spiritually subjugate the enemy prior to a campaign and holy female warriors advancing to the battlefield as a vanguard, took place at the time of the subjugation of Yaeyama in 1500. Iha conjectured that this practice was already in use since the Sanzan era through to the 1st Shō Dynasty, but left this open to some question.[10]

The following Omoro tells about the military campaigns of the time, the ability of the Kikoe Ōgimi to spiritually protect the whole army, and the triumphant return after a campaign:[11]

The Kikoe Ōgimi, the noble lady ruling over the nation, pushed aside the hostile army, pushed aside the hostile army, and the reputation of the ruler and his kingdom shone resplendently. The beloved mistress of the south wind, victoriously returned after her conquest of the island, after her conquest of the country. After conquering the island by cumulated might, the warriors returned home. After conquering the country, numerous keen men, their hearts unified, returned home. After conquering the island, the warriors of each and every ship returned home; after battle, the numerous keen men of each and every ship returned home, and from heaven to earth the echo of their homecoming resounded.

The term ‘mistress of the south wind’ found in the poem is written by using the phonetic ideograms Kimihae, which is a re-corruption of the Okinawan word Chinpē, which in turn is nothing else than Shinpei, or a soldier dispatched and protected by, and equipped with divine authority.[12] In this way the organization of priestesses protected the kingdom as divine soldiers.



[1] Okinawa Kenritsu Maizō Bunka-zai Sentā (2011), II: 11-13.

[2] Winagō ya ikusa nu sachibi「女や戦の先走ぃ」. On the military role of the Tsukishiro and other holy women in old Ryūkyū, see Iha 1938: 319-67.

[3] Joseon Wangjo Sillok , entry 1462, Bo Sugo and Chae Gyeong. Cf. Makishi 2012: 163. 「凡そ王挙動するに、女官剣を杖して侍衛す」(凡王擧動女官杖劍侍衛, 闕内常無軍士, 只於城外軍士更日直宿。)

[4] Cf. Nakahara Zenchū Bunko Gazō Dētabēsu, Nr. 133-135.

[5] Vol. I, poem 5: Shō Shin Ō Jidai no Omoro 尚眞王時代のオモロ, Cf. Iha 1938: 298-99.

[6] Iha 1938: 299.

[7] Living in Iwate Shiwa-gun Hizume chō at that time.

[8] Onna ha Ikusa no Sakugake 女は戰の魁.

[9] Iha 1938: 300.

[10] Iha 1938: 300-301.

[11] Vol. I, chapter 35, as given in Iha 1938: 301-303.

[12] On the military role of the Tsukishiro and other holy women in old Ryūkyū, see Iha 1938: 319-67.

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Shōshin at the tomb of the Teruya family, where Teruya Kishin, forefather of Tomrai-te, taught his disciple Matsumora Kōsaku. Original photograph documented by Andreas Quast at the Kodokan dojo in Naha Kumoji.

Nagamine Shōshin at the tomb of the Teruya family, where Teruya Kishin, forefather of Tomari-te, taught his disciple Matsumora Kōsaku. Original photograph documented by Andreas Quast at the Kodokan dojo in Naha Kumoji.

In 1936 Nagamine Shōshin knocked at the door of Motobu Chōki and was accepted to receive instruction in his unique kumite, fragments of which are still found in today’s “Seven Yakusoku Kumite” of the Matsubayashi-ryū. During social intercourse at that time, Motobu Chōki, Yabu Kentsū, and Hanashiro Chōmo were all unanimously of the opinion that “The kata lose their form in the karate of Tōkyō.” Having mastered the authentic traditions of the kata and wishing to protect and hand them down, once he had returned home to Okinawa, Nagamine opened a full-fledged dōjō in Tomari already in 1937.

In 1940, at the age of 35, Nagamine Shōshin was awarded the title of renshi in karate-jutsu by the Dai Nippon Butokukai. At that time, he was the only person in all of Okinawa Prefecture who held such a title, and the only person among all of the 60 000 Japanese police officers. As of March 1942 there were 23 title holders in all of Japan who had been awarded the title of renshi in karate-jutsu. Besides Nagamine himself, this included Mabuni Kenwa (Shito-ryū), Funakoshi Gichin (Shōtōkan), Funakoshi Gigō (Shōtōkan), and Ōtsuka Hironori (Wadō-ryū).

Shōshin. Original photograph documented by Andreas Quast at the Kodokan dojo in Naha Kumoji.

Nagamine Shōshin. Original photograph documented by Andreas Quast at the Kodokan dojo in Naha Kumoji.

With the end of WWII, as a police officer, Nagamine together with three colleagues became a prisoner of war in Gushikami in the southern part of Okinawa. While living a miserable life day after day, one day he happened to find a book by Funakoshi Gichin in the streets. This encounter once again sparked his tenacity to practice karate. When in 1947 he returned to Naha City, he promptly began to enlarge his residential building to which he hung a signboard saying “Matsubayashi-ryū Dōjō”. In 1951 he began to serve as the head of Motobu Police Station and in 1952, in the rank of a police superintendent, he retired. He was 46 years old at that time.

In 1950 and 1952, Nagamine also wrote the first postwar articles about karate published in Okinawa.

And in January 1953 he opened a one hundred tatami large full-fledged karate dōjō in the center of Naha’s then hospital district of Kumoji and since then devoted himself fully to the instruction and education of karate. Quite successful, I may add.

The former Dojo building in Naha Kumoji. It was a big old wooden house with living quarters for family and students, kitchen, changing rooms, socializing space, dojo itself and so on.

The former Dojo building in Naha Kumoji. It was a big old wooden house with living quarters for family and students, kitchen, changing rooms, socializing space, dojo itself and so on. In the front there was a space rented to an Izakaya named Manmaru Shoten, a wonderful little eat and drinking place run by persons from Miyako Island. Original photo by the author.


  • Dai Nippon Butokukai: Name list of successful candidates in karate-jutsu of the as of March 1942.
  • Gima Shinkin & Fujiwara Ryōzō 1986: 275.
  • Uechi Kan’ei, Takamiyagi Shigeru 1977: 694 – 698.
  • Okinawa Times, July 1, 1976: Introductory article about Nagamine Shōshin.
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Short Analysis of an Unknown Kata of Bōjutsu as Performed by the Late Nagamine Takayoshi, Hanshi, in a Video From the Private Archives of Bill George, Sensei.

The Facebook page of “Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate – Midwest Honbu Dojo” regularly posts intriguing videos from the personal collection of Bill George Sensei. Since it is a private video collection, in most cases I saw the video for the first time.

Recently a video was posted showing a “Bō kata performed by Nagamine Takayoshi Sensei in the late 1960s.”


I have never seen this kata anywhere in Okinawa, nor by Takayoshi Sensei himself. I asked Bill George Sensei, who – while he remembered watching Nagamine Sensei doing this bō kata – he didn’t remember a name or other specifics. It was too long ago.

I also asked other seniors, but so far no one was able to provide any additional information. Only one person remembered to have seen Takayoshi sensei do a bō kata he has never seen before or elsewhere. While this person wasn’t able to confirm if it was the same bō kata, he for sure remembered that the kick against the bō has been in it. This old expert promised he will look up his notes to see if he finds anything.

In any case, at this point it remains unclear whether this bō kata is a traditional one or if Takayoshi Sensei just played around or created it himself. One point to consider is that it has all components of a well designed kata. Moreover, it does not just draw upon fragments of other bō kata – you’ve got to trust me on this one.


This bō kata has some interesting and unique features, so I took a closer look into its techniques. First of all, this bō kata starts with the bō held on the left side of the body. This is rather uncommon. In fact, I know of only one other Okinawan bō kata that does this, namely Yonegawa no Kon.

Secondly, it has some technical specifics in common with another rather unique bō kata from the realm of the old Matsubayashi-ryū Kōdōkan headquarter dōjō, namely Shiromatsu no Kon. The most striking technical specifics in common are as follows:

  1. The old-style opening.
  2. The hand-change is performed stationary and without rotating the bō.
  3. The way Hikkake (trap&hook) is performed.
  4. The way that Uchi-maki-uke is performed, using both hands and the assistance of the hip. The rear hand actively works to produce a better lever.
  5. The Jōdan-kamae in Neko-ashi with the following Nuki-tsuki.
  6. The Hikkake performed in Ippon-dachi (see end of Shiromatsu).
  7. The Hikkake | Shōmen-uchi | Furi-age | Shōmen-uchi combi two both sides, and the with the stationary hand-change performed in between. This is found both in Shiromatsu as well as in this unknown kata here. In the latter, it uses Hanza, though.
  8. The Furi-age-uchi (upward swing) is done on the shoulder while remaining in Zenkutsu-dachi.

It might well be that the unknown bō kata and its lineage is somehow related to Shiromatsu no Kon. BTW, it is still unknown who developed Shiromatsu no Kon. There are hyptheses abut Kyan Shin’ei and Izumikawa Kantoku as influencers.

Another option is found here: In 1955 a certain Koja Shōshin served as an assistant teacher at the Matsubayashi-ryū Kōdōkan headquarter dōjō of Nagamine Shōshin. There is a photo of Koja swinging a nunchaku and in an interview about the kobujutsu practiced in the Nagamine dōjō, Koja was asked about the origin of his bōjutsu came from, so apparently he taught bōjutsu at the Nagamine dōjo. He answered:

“My bōjutsu teacher is known as Shīshi no Tanmē. The originator of this bōjutsu was the venerable old man Sueyoshi Kōfū.”

I would therefore like to establish the hypothesis that a) the unknown bō kata performed by Nagamine Takayoshi Sensei in the video might have come from Koja Shōshin along the following lineage: Sueyoshi Kōfū → Shīshi no Tanmē → Koja Shōshin → ….

Well, this would be a sensation and thanks to Bill George Sensei there is even a video of it in existence, showing all the steps, directions, and techniques. On the other hand, Takayoshi Sensei might have just played around or created the kata himself. Or …, or …, or … .

So I feel a little in limbo. Since I wanted to start 2019 properly anyway, I created a description of the kata with text and pictures which you can download for free!  You may use it complementary with the video if you like to breathe new life into this kata.


After I had posted the link on Facebook, there was some discussion and exchange about the techniques seen in Takayoshi sensei’s kata. Some said it looks like Tokumine no Kon, some mentioned Kyan Shin’ei, but I maintain that for both these cases the technical features in and signatures of Takayoshi sensei’s kata are more different than not. Also, there is a different feel to it.

However, following the decisive hints made by Steve Mullahy and Jamie Gray, and further message by Walt Young, I took a closer look at the bō techniques of Kina Masanobu. Here follow’s what I came up with.

A video shows a combination of four techniques as performed by Kina Masanobu. The techniques are from the kata Shishi no Kon. It is the same combi as Takayoshi sensei does in his bō kata quite frequently, six times to be precise (see my description of the kata, numbers 9 to 12, 14 to 17, 19 to 22, 24 to 27, 32 to 35, and 48 to 51). Moreover, and as I pointed out before, the order is rather unique, with Uchi-maki-uke followed by Nuki-zuki.

Another unique feature is the left kamae shown by Takayoshi both in the beginning and the end. I thought it is otherwise only used in Yonegawa no Kon but now I was told that Kina Masanobu used the left kamae at least in two kata, namely “Shishi no Kon” and “Tui Sashi Ume no Kon”. BTW, it is interesting to see here that Kina first finishes similar to Taira lineage kobudō, and then quickly corrects back to the “old style”. There is also some Yamanni-vibe in his performance so I wonder how much of an influence Higa Sensei of the Bugeikan might have had on Kina directly or indirectly. In any case, Kina Masanobu is a good example of the new kobudō blend that appeared from the 1960s onwards.

Next, in a kata called “Tui Sashi Ume no Kon”, Kina also does the very unique kick against the bō followed by a nuki-zuki. Takayoshi performs the same technique in his bō kata (see my description, numbers 29 and 30). It is also a technique that is rarely if ever seen anywhere else in this manner.

In summary, there are three distinctive features which connect Takayoshi sensei’s bō kata to the techniques of Kina Masanobu:

  1. The combination of Hikkake / Shōmen-uchi / Uchi-maki-uke / Nuki-zuki
  2. The left-sided start and end kamae
  3. The kick against the bō followed by a Nuki-zuki

Another noticeable feature are the quick&short-out-and-back tsuki, but this technique is actually widespread and found in various bōjutsu schools.

For me, the above three features allow for a technical connection that points – rather than to anything or anyone else – to Kina Masanobu, or his disciples or teachers.

Also to be noted here are the evaluations and observances of some of my seniors. For example, Danish expert Jim Sindt told me he once observed Takayoshi sensei performing a bō kata with that kick against the bō in it, but Jim couldn’t remember if it was overall the same kata as in the video. But he revisited his old notes and found something: At the time when he watched Takayoshi perform that bō kata, Takayoshi did not provide him with any name or background for it. Instead Takayoshi sensei told Jim that he was always experimenting. Jim’s evaluation concurs with the tenor of what other seniors believed: Takayoshi’s bō kata in that video is probably not a specific kata. Rather, he was probably experimenting, or it was Takayoshi Sensei’s own routine and / or a mixture of several kata/techniques.

So, Takayoshi sensei’s bō kata in the video might simply be a kind of “Takayoshi no Kon”.

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The following has taken place: My teacher in Okinawa, a 10th Dan and representant of a world-famous school, scolded me. The reason: I used the terms oi-zuki and jun-zuki as I had learned elsewhere. In this particular school, however, these terms used to mean something different.

Many teachers teach like this:

“I do, and then you see.

And then you do.

And then I see.


I reckon that this is the way some were taught themselves in Japan or Okinawa, where they studied martial arts while understanding neither the common language nor the technical terminology, or perhaps only superficially and fragmentarily.

And in this way, as they have somehow learned all their stuff anyway directly from the master, they pass on what and how they learned to their students. And so teachers still pull and push on poor pupils’ arms and everything during what they call “correcting the students.” Well, of course, this does make some didactic sense, yet it is only half the story.

What I am trying to say here is: We need to talk about language.

About common language, which is defined as “valid throughout the language area, understandable to all members of the language community, for general – non-subject-related – exchange of ideas.”

About technical language, which is defined as the “subject-specific communication among professionals” and which uses a terminology that has a particular meaning within a specific branch of trade, profession, arts, sport or academic field and which is standardized and defined in, for example, a dictionary, a glossary etc.

And we need to talk about jargon, which is defined as a non-standard language variety, a special language or a non-standard vocabulary used in a professionally, socially, politically or culturally defined group of people, a particular social milieu or a subculture (“scene”).

Now, which of the three kinds of languages mentioned above do the words used in Okinawa karate and kobudō belong to? Maybe a jargon with an inclination towards a technical language?

On terminology

The beginning of modern karate is usually dated to its introduction into the Okinawan school system shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. There is a lot of hypothesizing and guesswork as regards the differences between antique and modern karate. Only rarely are primary sources used in a way that meets academic requirements. I have already pointed out elsewhere that one of the differences between ancient and modern karate kobudō is to be found in terminology. The loss of complex combative terminologies can be seen on the example of the Bubishi, whose technical terms – although they are supposed to be methods and information handed down personally in Okinawa – have been completely lost. One exception might be a term about which we were informed by Motobu Chōki and which can also be found in the Bubishi. One word only! And even this may just be a coincidence.

There are abundant hypotheses that claim secrecy of teaching as well as war losses as the main reasons for the non-existence of records in general and old terminologies in particular. While both are probably partly true, they are also ex-post arguments which need be considered from other perspectives, such as current self-adulation as well as modern marketing and tourism.

Indeed, new terminologies seem to have come into being together with the standardization of techniques and their teaching since the early twentieth century. At the same time, older terminologies that were neither considered up-to-date nor culturally desirable were probably lost. Even the terminology of Kata names, which are often written in katakana, still causes problems today. It is still often unclear what the names originally meant. As an example, take the name Passai, to whose original meaning there are numerous hypotheses and theories, but no reliable evidence. Thus, it can be surmised that since the early twentieth century, and together with the standardization of techniques as well as their practical applications, significant parts of previous terminologies have become disruptively replaced.

Most terminologies of today’s karate and kobudō are of modern origin, often developed only since the second half of the 20th century. The few ancient terms that we know of from written sources are nowhere to be found in them. Partly terms were simply reintroduced, without an actual personal tradition. In part, antique-sounding terms originating from the regional language were apparently simply invented, or new terms presented as being old.

In any case, the development and modification of terminologies since the early 20th century is well traceable. Begun with Hanashiro Chōmo’s “Karate Kumite” (1905), to the terms used in newspaper articles and finally in the first sparse publication in book form by Funakoshi Gichin, Motobu Chōki, Mabuni Kenwa, Nakasone Genwa and others, to the tide of publications since the second half of the 20th century: Properly utilized, these all allow for a clear view on the qualitative and quantitative development of modern terminology in the field of karate and kobudō.

By the way: Did you receive a complete written terminology as used in your school, possibly illustrated by drawings or photos?

“Pulling” an example

While on the whole there are many overlaps, terminologies often differ depending on the group and the individual. For example, Inoue Motokatsu was probably the first person to ever create a comprehensive terminology of Kobudō from Okinawa. One of the terms he used is hikkake 引っ掛け. On example of this term, the importance of a terminology as exact as possible can be clarified.

Hikkake as a noun can mean:

  • (1) hook; gab;
  • (2) snare; trap; trick (question);
  • (3) {sumo} arm-grabbing force out;

The verb form of hikkake can mean:

  • (1) to hang (something) on (something); to throw on (clothes);
  • (2) to hook; to catch; to trap; to ensnare;
  • (3) to cheat; to evade payment; to jump a bill;
  • (4) to drink (alcohol);

The same combination of characters, read as hikikake 引き掛け, means to hang, or to hang up.

As can be seen from the above multitude of possible meanings: There is a lot of ambiguity in it. In fact, it is impossible to know what hikkake stands for in a technical terminology, except you have been taught what it explicitly means.

Well, our terminologies often typify morphological or functional features of a technique, such as the trajectory, the origin, direction or target of a weapon, or even an allegory. So, after analyzing the technique of hikkake from its morphological, functional, and other content, I first thought the best explanation was probably to be found in the homonymous sumō technique.

In sumō, hikkake constitutes one of the eighty-two match winning techniques (kimarite). It is typically employed during the pushing and shoving phase of a bout. It works as follows:

As a prerequisite, the opponent pushes and shoves forward, either using only one or both his arms. This is what we wanna-be academics call the advantageous dynamic situation. It may naturally occur or it may be willfully created (=provoked).

If he so pushes forward, take hold of his arm with both your hands (kake掛け) and pull (hiki引き) him past yourself. Simultaneously, you skillfully sidestep and make way for him. In this way, the opponent stumbles and falls forward or is thrown outside the ring.

Hikkake is an impact technique rather than a joint lock. You deflect and pull down the opponent in the manner of pulling a rope, i.e. passing it from hand-to-hand alternating. This constitutes the difference to kote-nage (小手投げ; armlock/forearm throw) and tōttari (捕ったり; arm bar throw), in both of which the opponent‘s arm is locked to enforce the technique.

BTW, when talking about terminology, we need to talk about translations, too. Did you receive a translation of the special terminology of your specific school?

Well, in English, the sumō-variety of hikkake is translated as “arm-grabbing force out.” Of course, this is not a literal translation of the word, but the attempt to describe what is done in the technique, using as few words as possible. So it is basically an abbreviation for:

“When the opponent pushes forward, with one or with both of his arms, then grab his arm with both your hands and pull him forward as if you pull a rope, and pull him past yourself while you simultaneously sidestep, and so he is forced to fall onto his face or out of the ring.”

That’s more like martial prose, though.

Everybody will agree that simply saying hikkake is much easier.

See hikkake explained here.

Or here at the very end of the clip.

And here, too.

Anyway, the term hikkake as defined by Inoue Motokatsu for his school of Kobudō has very different features. It neither shares the same technical minutiae as the homonymous sumō-technique described above nor would “bō-grabbing force out” be a suitable analogous English translation.


Let’s google.

“Gyaku hikkake uke … (=defense with the upper third of the Bô behind the left ear).”


Ok, let’s take photos as an aid:

Hikkake shown from all four directions, performed by Inoue Kisho.

Hikkake shown from all four directions, performed by Inoue Kisho (From: Inoue Motokatsu, Ryukyu Kobujutsu Vol. 3, 1982).

Well, by the time it took you to read until here, you would probably have figured out what hikkake means and how it is done by yourself. Its common English translation as “hook block” is good enough, too. Yet, let me remind you that hikkake is just one example from among hundreds of terms and early accuracy pays off later in huge projects. As for me, I want to have a definition of the techniques and concepts related to them.

That is why a terminology is necessary.

And therefore – and while I know some just metaphorically term every technique short and crisp: “kill!” –, below, and I am all too aware of the tragicomic nature of this endeavor, is the first glossar-ish result of my analysis, terminological and otherwise:

Hikkake 引っ掛け: “trap and hang-on.”

Much better than before!

Too long?

How about just “trap ’n’ hang”? As in Guns ’n’ Roses? Brilliant, but we’re already starting to obscure the etymology here, so let’s be more careful. Also, it sounds Texan, at least to German me.

Least I forget: As I noted in October 2003, Inoue Motokatsu defined hikkake not explicitly as a blocking technique – which is still THE popular English translation for uke-waza (terminology wink wink!)–, but as an interim technique (chūkan-waza 中間技), which besides hikkake itself also includes techniques such as gyaku hikkake (“reversed trap ’n’ hang”), tai-sabaki (“tactical positioning of body and weapon”), or harai-uke (“low-sweep parry”). These interims techniques are then continued to osae-hazushi (“press’n release”), maki-otoshi (“twist ’n’ plunk”), kake-hazushi (“unhook”), and so on.

Well, I remember a fencer who once taught me:

“There are a few important techniques in fencing, maybe five or six, which you must study diligently. Once you become proficient, you don’t think about what technique to use in which situation, but the techniques just appear as either opportunity or necessity arises. It is natural.”

It is just now that I notice he didn’t use any technical terminology in that sentence.

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“Kungfu in a Karate uniform”

Considering the transformation from old Karate 唐手 to the Karate 空手 of today, Kinjo Hiroshi in his last book wrote that:

“Karate 空手 has become something which only in appearance is reminiscent of (old) Karate 唐手. Strictly speaking, (today’s) Karate 空手 has become something like the forms of Chinese Kungfu.”

While there is probably a variety of noble and not-so-noble reasons for this, I have to agree that in many instances Karate has become a kind of ‘Kungfu in a Karate uniform,’ something user-defined, school-defined, association-defined, self-perception-defined, wishful-thinking-defined etc.pp. It’s ME (US) and MY (OUR) intents, aims and wishes – or nothing! Examples for this are found in world dominating organizations like WKF, or among the Okinawan schools, as well as among the Western Karate movements and in countless individuals, all of which have been inventing and reinventing various Karate cultures since the 1950s and 60s – including sportive, combative, philosophical, physiological, quasi-medical and other cultures as well as businesses and mixes of any parts thereof.

Therefore Kinjo Hiroshi concluded that “… In its current form, there is no way around it that Karate 空手 is being criticized and dismissed by the circles of scholarship and logic.”

Let’s agree for a second and assume that logic is not the strong part of Karate. Let’s assume instead that the strong part of Karate is that everyone can define their own set of premises as logical explanations to describe their activities. Also, let’s assume that an unknown number of these explanations probably constitute a so-called false premise, i.e. an “incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism.”

As can be read at Wikipedia,

“However, the logical validity of an argument is a function of its internal consistency, not the truth value of its premises.”

For example, here’s syllogism 1 that involves a false premise:

  • If there was violence in Okinawan society, Karate was used as self-defense. (premise)
  • There was violence in Okinawan society. (premise)
  • Therefore Karate was used as self-defense. (conclusion)

Was Karate the only self-defense? Was Karate only a self-defense? Okinawans trained applied self-defense, not kata? Only Okinawans knew Karate? Karate always existed in Okinawan society?

Here’s syllogism 2 that also involves a false premise:

  • A self-defense against violence named Karate existed in Okinawan society, just as self-defense against violence existed anywhere else. (premise)
  • A self-defense named Karate existed in Okinawa. (premise)
  • Karate is the same as self-defense anywhere else, at any time. Kata doesn’t matter. (conclusion)

Would it also mean that if you only train WKF Kumite Karate, you know the original self-defense named Karate? It is both Karate, isn’t it?

Or here’s syllogism 3:

  • If it is Sport-Karate, it is not useful as a self-defense. (premise)
  • It is Sport-Karate. (premise)
  • Therefore Sport-Karate is not useful as a self-defense. (conclusion)

Would you agree?

Cosmic Booknews

A rather weird presentation of Karate in Western pop culture media. Image source: Cosmic Booknews


Here’s syllogism 4:

  • Okinawan self-defense techniques were taught in the form of Kata. The names of persons were affixed to the name of the Kata. (premise)
  • Self-defense techniques were taught in the form of Kata. (premise)
  • The person named in the Kata existed and taught these techniques 300 years ago. Since that time there was an uninterrupted personal tradition of these techniques until only recently the techniques have been adapted for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (conclusion)

The problem is, such arguments are logically valid, but quite demonstrably wrong, because their first premise is false (or too narrow, or fractional) – Okinawans may also have used different self-defense such as Jujutsu, or Kenpo, or Tijikun, Karamuto. Also, a sports Karate woman can probably defend herself successfully in the streets.

However, as Wikipedia explains,

“A simple logical analysis will not reveal the error in this argument since that analysis must accept the truth of the argument’s premises. For this reason, an argument based on false premises can be much more difficult to refute, or even discuss, than one featuring a normal logical error, as the truth of its premises must be established to the satisfaction of all parties. Another feature of an argument based on false premises that can bedevil critics is that its conclusion can, in fact, be true.”

In the online discussions I have followed there were also cascading sets of right and false premises mixed together, which makes it even more disadvantageous to even start a discussion.

Since it appears to me that the above is the exact reason why we have so many discussions about Karate online, logic would urge us to NOT participate in them. Instead, we should continue to do Karate as we see it. That is, as our very own “Kungfu in a Karate uniform.”

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Here Commences the Fencing with the Staff

Within the fencing traditions of the staff, we find a written entry in the manuscript Cod.Hs.3227 of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany. This manuscript dates from around 1390. It is the first work which documented the fencing theory of Johannes Liechtenauer. On fol. 78r is found the following self-explanatory text on “fencing with the staff.”

[78r] Here Commences the Fencing with the Staff

He who wants to learn fencing with the staff should first know and note that a proper staff should be twelve spans long [somewhere between 1.80m and 2.40m]. And the fencing with a staff is derived from the fencing with a sword. And just as one fences with the sword, so he should also fence with the  staff. And the principles that belong to the sword, such as audaciousness, quickness, stratagems, intelligence, etc, also belong to the staff.”

About 20 years later, Fiore dei Liberi published the Flos Duellatorum (1409 or 1410). Fiore had studied unter German fencing master Johannes Suvenus (Johane dicto suueno), whom Fiore himself described as his principal teacher from among all of the many German and Italian masters he had studied with during the late 14th century.

The places of Fiore’s activity– Udine, Padua, Pavia, and Ferrara – at that time belonged to the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, which can be said to have begun with Otto the Great (Italian: Ottone il Grande) – German king from 936, Italian king from 951, and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 – and lasted until 1806.

While Fiore himself might not be considered a significant master in the evolution of fencing in Central Europe, he did prepare one of the first illustrated fencing books which shows a potpourri of techniques derived from the eminent “German” and “Italian” fencing schools of that era. Besides the regular armed or unarmed fight on foot or horseback, Fiore also covered topics such as the bastoncello, or plays of a short stick, such as shown below and bearing the description:

With a short staff I bind your neck, And if I fail to bring you into the ground, you can consider yourself lucky.”

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program. Translation by Colin Hatcher.

Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program. Translation by Colin Hatcher.

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Okinawan Samurai — The Painting of Guan Yu, God of the Martial Arts

While working on “Okinawan Samurai,” Motobu sensei and me discovered a painting with a specific significance to martial arts. The painting was originally in the possession of Aka/Ōta Pēchin and is described in his ‘Instructions’ to his only son and heir. Later it got into the possession of a Satsuma samurai, a descendant of whom presented it to Baron Ie Chōjo (1881–1957). From there, directly or indirectly, the painting reached the collection of Higaonna Kanjun, who in turn presented it to a museum in Okinawa.

With the help of Kubura Yoshiko, staff member of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, we were able to track this piece of art and also received permission to use it in “Okinawan Samurai” – see the full two-page depiction on pages 26-27. In this way, we were extremely lucky to be able to reunite portions of Aka/Ōta Pēchin’s heirloom.

Well, the painting shows two persons: Guan Yu standing on the right with a sword, and a person sitting with a scroll in his left hand. It is unknown who the seated person is.

Guan Yu (–219) was a military commander of the State of Shu Han and blood-brother of Liu Bei in the historical novel ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms.’ Perceived as a fearsome warrior famous for virtue and loyalty and regarded as a god of war and martial arts, he is so popular even today that he can be found anywhere from souvenir shops to Chinese take aways to computer games. Most of the time he is depicted holding a long-handled sword known as a guandao.

Guan Yu, as shown in a Google picture search.

Guan Yu, as shown in a Google picture search.

The Tensonbyō shrine complex for the Heavenly Cannons and Statues in Kume village, Okinawa, is dedicated to the supreme deity of Chinese popular Taoism, which is said to have been introduced to Okinawa by the so-called 36 families of Kume. This supreme deity refers to Guan Yu. His alias, Kantei Ō 關帝王, literally ‘Monarch of the Frontier Post,’ points to his role as a protective patron who secured the country’s borders. On the name plaques still found today in the Tensonbyō shrine complex in Kume village he is revered as Tenson Kantei 天尊關帝, from which the shrine derived its name.

Guan Yu shrine in the Tensonbyo, Kume village, Okinawa. Photo by the author.

Guan Yu shrine in the Tensonbyo, Kume village, Okinawa. Photo by the author.

BTW, albeit a Chinese deity, Guan Yu was also worshiped as the guardian deity of the king of Ryūkyū. It may therefore be considered no coincidence that the Tensonbyō was situated right beside the Gokokuji 護国寺, the ‘Temple for the Protection of the Motherland’.

Finally, Guan Yu is also known as the ‘Saint of War’ (wu sheng 武聖), which is complementary to Confucius, who was known as the ‘Saint of Culture’ (wen sheng 文聖). At this point we can actually see that an original concept of bunbu 文武 (the civil and the military realms, civil and military affairs, scholarship and art of war) existed in Ryūkyū since olden times.

So, maybe the unidentified person in the painting is meant to represent Confucian scholarship, while Guan Yu represents the martial arts. If so, the painting shows an original concept of bunbu 文武. See the painting in “Okinawan Samurai” on pages 26-27.

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Shirotaru no Kon (5) – Name, Lineages, Variants


The name of the kata is usually written in kana as 白樽の棍. In standard Japanese this is pronounced “Shirotaru no Kon.” In Okinawan dialect it is pronounced “Shiratarū nu Kun” シラタルーヌクン.

Otherwise the name is also sometimes written in kana as 白太郎の棍. In standard Japanese this is pronounced “Shirotarō no Kon.” In Okinawan dialect it is pronounced “Shiratarā nu Kun” シラタラーヌクン.

For convenience of the reader, I will simply continue to refer to it as “Shirotaru.”

It should be noted that Taru 樽 has been an Okinawan childhood name (warabina) for centuries. Tarō 太郎, on the other hand, is a mainland Japanese male name.

In any case, the kata varieties under both the names “Shirotaru no Kon” and “Shirotarō no Kon” without any doubt are of a similar lineage. The change in kanji from Taru 樽 to Tarō 太郎 must have taken place at some time during the transmission in different lineages. However, in the prewar era, there are only written sources that write Shirotaru 白樽. I suppose that the kanji Shirotarō 白太郎 are the more modern variant, probably chosen to distinguish the kata and/or its lineage for whatever reason.

Variants and Lineages

Well, the most difficult topic is that of variants and lineages of Shirotaru no Kon.

Kata Different from Miki

Kyan Shin’ei

A version of Shirotaru no Kon was handed down by Kyan Shin’ei. Since there is an old film of him performing the kata which is available on Youtube, this version is relatively well-known.  Since Kyan was among the most important teachers of the Matsubayashi-ryū, within which he also taught kobudō, this version of the kata is especially widespread among Matsubayashi-ryū dōjō and its spin-offs. Recently this version has been made available on Youtube within the efforts of the 2018 Okinawa Karate International Tournament. Here we can see Tamaki Tsuyoshi performing this same kata. The only difference to Kyan’s version are three additional techniques at the end. BTW, here the name is given as Shirotarō no Kon 白太郎の棍.

Izumikawa Kantoku, Shirotaru no Kon. Courtesy of Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū.

Izumikawa Kantoku, Shirotaru no Kon. Courtesy of Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū.

Well, Kyan had joined the karate club of the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ College (Okinawa-ken Shihan Gakkō) in April 1927. Kyan became a student of Ōshiro Chōjo at that time, so there is a chance that he could have learned Shirotaru from Ōshiro Chōjo. However, his version is different from that of Miki. While there might be multiple reasons for this, it is also said in oral tradition that Kyan’s version of Shirotaru no Kon came from Izumikawa Kantoku (1905–1977). Izumikawa served as an assistant instructor of Ōshiro Chōjo in both karate and kobudō (OKKJ 2008: 385–86, 407). Together with Kyan Shin’ei, Izumikawa was a also a student of Kina Shōsei (OKKJ 2008: 414).

Well, according to Ulf Karlsson, Kyan’s version is close to the version handed down in the Bugeikan. Higa Seitoku of the Bugeikan learned Yamane-ryū bōjutsu from Chinen Masami and was the only person who received a shihan license by Chinen Masami.


The Ryūkonkai was established in 1981 by Iha Kōtarō, who had learned kobudō from above-mentioned Izumikawa Kantoku (OKKJ 2008: 309, 629). Therefore, the Ryūkonkai version of Shirotaru no Kon should be the same as that of Kyan Shin’ei, however, it slightly differs. In fact, when studying it closely, it seems to be the same version from the same source, just abbreviated at various points: there are things missing when compared to Kyan’s version. Here are some observations:

  • The intro is the same (sec. 05-012), but then Iha left out the right side combo seen at Kyan and instead steps forward with the left foot to perform the left hand combo.
  • Iha also does not perform the gedan uke and gedan nuki-zuki seen at Kyan.
  • During the last combination towards the front, Iha has some techniques less than Kyan.
  • The last lane (towards the back direction) is basically the same.

Of course, and just as in case of Kyan Shin’ei, the Ryūkonkai version is also different from Miki. It is not only clearly visible in the intro section, but also in that throughout the kata neither Kyan nor Iha perform the ippon-dachi sunakake as well as the jōdan-nuki of Miki’s version.

As a resume, I would say that Iha’s version is the same as Kyan Shin’ei’s, it is just abbreviated at various points, and also leaves out the signature technique of gedan-uke and nuki-zuki. But it clearly is of the same origin as the version of Kyan Shinei, just hard to see for non-experts.

Kishaba-ha Yamane-ryū

Today two versions of Shirotaru no Kon can be found and are practiced within the bōjutsu curriculum at the dōjō of Taira Yoshitaka, Hanshi. One is the above-mentioned version of Kyan Shin’ei, and the other is the version by Kishaba Chōgi (safety advice: turn volume down). This kata is said to have been handed down by Chinen Masami, but it is quite different from that of Higa Seitoku of the Bugeikan, who also learned from Chinen Masami and received a teaching license. For this reason, there is an oral tradition that “only Sensei Kishaba knows all kata of Yamane-ryū.”

Maybe this is true. However, I still can’t escape the feeling that – while being based on older versions – Kishaba’s Shirotaru is a creatively enhanced version. Maybe it is even a mix between something like a version close to Miki’s plus Kyan Shin’ei’s version plus X. This would not at all be astonishing, because Kishaba Chōgi was active among many persons of the Matsubayashi-ryū and even performed Matsubayashi-ryū kata (the video shows Fukyu-gata Ni, not Gekisai Dai Ichi).

One interesting point is that – while it is the version most different from Miki, mostly an simply due to it’s length – it has the abbreviated first left lane found in Miki’s written description. There are many other things to note but I just leave it like that.

Taira Shinken lineages on Okinawa

The Shirotaru no Kon of the Taira Shinken lineages of Okinawa was handed down by Yabiku Mōden (Cf. Ko Taira Shinken Senshi etc. 1976). This means the lineage of the kata is Chinen Sanrā – Yabiku Mōden – Taira Shinken.

This version is distinctly different to Miki’s version in various places, but has also many similarities. The combis are similar and here we finally find the ippon-dachi and sunakake combi as well as the jōdan-nuki of Miki’s version.

In this version, there is also the pronounced “Shirotaru no kamae” both at the beginning as well as at the end. This lacks in the other versions.

In any case, it remains a version different to that of Miki.

The Same Kata as by Miki


Shirotaro no Kun Dai as described and depicted by Inoue Motokatsu is the same kata as Miki’s version (Cf: Ryūkyū Kobudō Chūkan, 1974, pp. 274–309). This version probably came from what is called Kakazu-bō in Tomigusuku. There, four students of Chinen Sanrā handed down four Yamane-ryū kata which were found in the dōjō of Akamine Eisuke. It is possible that Miki’s version is the same version as had been handed down in Akamine Sensei’s Shimbukan school. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to learn this kata or see it performed, but I saw a photo series of the techniques. But I have learned the old-style version of Shūshi no Kon from this school and – while a few parts are missing – it is the same version as that of Miki. After all I do not know whether Shirotaru no Kon was actually practically handed down in Shimbukan and if so, if it is technically complete.

In any case, this would be an explanation for how the kata reached into Inoue Motokatsu’s curriculum.


Some branches of the Shōtōkai also practice Shirotaru no Kon. This version is also clearly of the same origin as Miki’s version. An interesting thing is that they pronounce the kanji not as Shirotaru, but in alternative spelling as Hakuson. Miki also called the kata Hakuson no Kon…

In the Shōtōkai it is said that their bōkata came from Funakoshi Gigō (1906–1945), who went to Okinawa upon his father’s suggestion one or two times each year to update and learn from Ōshiro Chōjo. This is a little difficult to prove.

BTW, Miki and his co-author Takada were at the Tōkyō Imperial University. Funakoshi Gichin was a teacher there. However, when the students began to ask questions Funakoshi could not answer, and they started to experiment kumite with protectors etc. it is said that Funakoshi didn’t like it at all and because of that finally left his karate teaching job at the Tōkyō Imperial University due to conflict with Miki and his co-author Takada (Mutsu) Mizuho. So this is an extremely difficult topic for students of Shōtōkan.

ShushiIn this connection, Shōtōkai’s version of Shūshi no Kon is also exactly the same as described by Miki. At second 0:28 they even make a step described and shown by Miki, which however I think is simply a mistake. No other version of Shūshi no Kon does this, only that of Miki and the Shōtōkai.

Because of the above, there are actually a number of possibilities.

  • Ōshiro Chōjo actually taught the same version to both Miki and Funakoshi Gigō.
  • Miki made a mistake and all who learned from him or the book did the same mistake.
  • Someone on the mainland learned the kata from Miki.
  • Someone learned the kata from a student of Miki.
  • Someone learned kata from Miki’s book, but couldn’t tell, because Miki was a renegade. So a legend was invented.

It should also be noted that these bō kata are NOT found in Shōtōkan as a whole, but only in certain branches of the Shōtōkai

To be fair, I’ve been told that the book “Karatedō Nyūmon” says that 5 bō kata were practiced at Shōtōkan: Shūshi no Kon, Sueyoshi no Kon, Matsukaze no Kon (created by Gigō), Sakugawa no Kon, and Shirotaru no Kon.

Well, the “Karatedō Nyūmon” is a posthumous compilation of writings, personal notes and records from the bequest of Funakoshi Gichin. I therefore ordered the book to see what has been said exactly, and by whom. The reason is that – as far as I know – Funakoshi himself did not mention Shirotaru no Kon etc. in any of his own books.

Biblio (excerpt)

  • Nakamoto Masahiro (1938-): Okinawa Dentô Kobudô. Gairyaku to Shurite-Kei Karate Kobujutsu Tetsujin no Keifu. Yuishuppan 2007. 仲本政博:沖縄伝統古武道。概略と首里手系空手古武術達人の系譜。ゆい出版, 2007。
  • Matsuda Mitsugu: The Ryūkyūan Government Scholarship Students to China, 1392-1868: Based on a Short Essay by Nakahara Zenchū, 1962. In: Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 21, 1966, pp. 273–304.
  • Okinawa no Bunkazai (Cultural Properties of Okinawa). Ryūkyū Seifu Bunkazai Hogo Iinkai (Commission for Protection of Cultural Properties of the Government of the Ryūkyū Islands), 1964. 沖縄の文化財。琉球政府文化財保護委員会。1964。
  • Ko Taira Shinken Senshi Nana Shūki Tsuitō. Karate-dō, Kobudō Enbu Taikai. Taira Shinken Den. Shusei: Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai. Kōen: Zen Okinawa Karate Dō Renmei, Ryūkyū Shinpōsha. 11. October 1976, 2 pm, Naha City Hall. 故平信賢先師匕周忌追悼。空手道、古武道演武大会。平信賢伝。主催: 琉球古武道保存振興会。後援:全沖縄空手道連盟、琉球新報社。
  • Shimabukuro Gen’ichirō (1885–1942): Ryūkyū Hyakuwa. Okinawa Shoseki, Naha 1941. 嶋袋源一郎:琉球百話。沖縄書籍、那覇1941。
  • Nohara Kôei: Okinawa Dentô Karate „Te (Tî)“ no Henjô. „Te (Tî)“ wo Shirazu ni „Karate“ wo katarukare. Kyûjô Shuppan, Nishihara 2007. 510 Ss. 22cm. Erstausgabe. 野原耕栄:沖縄伝統空手「手」Tiyの変容。「手」Tiyを知らずに「空手」を語ることなかれ。西原:球陽出版2007。
  • Okinawa-ken Karate-dô Rengôkai (Pub.): Okinawa Karate Jinmeikan. Naha, Okinawa-ken Karate-dô Rengôkai 1993.
  • Takamiyagi Shigeru et. al.: Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten 2008.
  • Miki Jisaburô (1904-1952), Takada Mizuho (1910-1987) (gemeinsame Hrsg.): Kenpô Gaisetsu. Nachdruck. Ginowan, Yôyu Shorin 2002. 284 Ss,, 22cm. Anm.: Erstausgabe Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Karate an der Kaiserlichen Universität Tôkyô, 1930. 三木二三郎、高田瑞穂(共編):拳法概説。復刻版。宜野湾:榕樹書林2002。284 Ss., 図版8 Ss., 22cm。注記:初版:東京帝國大學唐手研究會1930。ISBN:4947667710。
  • Inoue Motokatsu. Ryukyu Kobudo vol. 2, 1974.
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