The book “My Art and Skill of Karate” presents the technical knowledge and original accounts imparted by famed Okinawa karate master Motobu Chōki (1870-1944). This translation was created in close cooperation with the author’s grandson, Motobu Naoki sensei. It also includes a congratulatory address by the author’s son, Motobu Chōsei sensei, the current head of the school. Moreover, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Motobu Chōki’s birth. In other words, three generations of the Motobu family were involved in this new translation, connecting the history and tradition of karate from the 19th to 21th century.
(Note: The Kindle version does not include the glossary index and only a rudimentary TOC, so navigation is less reader-friendly than in the print version)
In addition to accounts about old-time karate masters in Okinawa, the work features thirty-four photos of Motobu performing Naihanchi Shodan, including written descriptions. Moreover, it includes twenty kumite with pictures and descriptions as well as five pictures of how to use the makiwara.
What makes it even more unique is that the existence of the book was unknown until the 1980s, when the wife of a deceased student sent the book to Motobu Chōki’s son, Chōsei. Until today this edition remains the only known original edition in existence, and it provided the basis for this original translation. This work has to be considered one of the most important sources to assess and interpret karate.
My Art and Skill of Karate (Ryukyu Bugei Book 3), by Choki Motobu (Author), Andreas Quast (Tr./Ed.), Motobu Naoki (Tr.)
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.
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.’
Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son. By Aka/Ōta Pēchin Chokushiki (auth.), Andreas Quast (ed./transl.), Motobu Naoki (transl.).
5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
First Printing: 2018
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 this translation has significant implications for the future study of karate history and Ryūkyū history abroad. (Motobu Naoki, Shihan of the Motobu-ryū)
“It is one of THE most important primary sources for truly understanding the unabridged 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 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)
“I’m sure I’m going to learn and enjoy this book.” (Itzik Cohen, karate and kobudo man from Israel)
In 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.»
This 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, the most celebrated ancestor of karate, they are considered the ethical fountain and technical key to understand what can’t be seen.
This work includes the rare photograph 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.”
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
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense
Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts. By Andreas Quast, 2020.
A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts HistoryPaperback– 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.
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.
After his first assignment to Tōkyō in 1936, Nagamine again had the opportunity to travel to the capital in 1941. This time he was dispatched to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which at that time included the Bureau of Police Affairs, an agency of the Ministry of Home Affairs responsible for the nationwide coordination of police work, and in particularly for the secret police. After receiving in-service training for about a month, and just before his return to Okinawa, he had the opportunity to demonstrate karate at the martial arts practice hall of the Metropolitan Police Department. At that time, Nagamine was the only “Karate-jutsu Renshi” (licensed instructor) among all the police officers in the whole of Japan. On December 4, 1941, an article about the demo was published in the evening edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the most important and most widely circulated newspapers in Japan.
Policeman Karate Instructor – “Secret” (of karate) revealed to the public
At 11 am of the 3rd (of December 1941), Nagamine Shōshin (35), inspector of the Okinawa Prefectural Police Department, who was in Tōkyō for official business, revealed the essence of karate in front of all the department members at the special guards’ martial arts hall behind the Metropolitan Police Department.
Mr. Nagamine is a 2nd dan in jūdō and kendō and the only police officer in the whole of Japan who has the title of karate-jutsu renshi. He is keenly aware that karate-dō is used as a toolkit of acts of violence. In order to popularize correct karate, he took the opportunity on occasion of being selected as a trainee at the police training center last month.
After demonstrating kata in front of the visitors such as secretary-general Akabane of the internal department of the Metropolitan Police Department, the second division chief Yokota Osamu, and staff of the martial arts training section of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, he demonstrated the special skill of breaking with his toetips (ashisaki) and hands three pine boards of 1.8 cm thickness each held by his partner. (The photo shows the demonstration, with Mr. Nagamine on the right)
In early modern Okinawa, that is the era between 1879 and 1945, there was a system called “Customs Improvement Movement.” It was a part of the assimilation policy and included the revision and abolition of Okinawan customs that were considered a hindrance to modernization.
The customs improvement movement consisted of two elements, namely 1. Assimilation and 2. Modernization. Some of the targeted customs were smoothly abolished, while the abolition of other customs failed. For example, the prohibition of going barefoot or the cleaning of roads were considered modern and rational, and not as a forced assimilation, so they were not rejected by the Okinawan people. Tattooing, on the other hand, was one of the few customs that has been successfully revised and abolished, but its abolition too has an element of modernity and rationality to it and cannot be simply considered an assimilation policy, so people understood it. On the other hand, if an abolition of customs was considered unneccesary or unwanted by the people, the rejected it.
Itani argues that early modern assimilation policy in Okinawa has a too short range and that rationalization and modernization of daily life actually has a longer history, ranging from the era of the royal government even to the present. Some of the customs, such as the simplification of important ceremonial occasions in family relationships (such as coming-of-age, wedding, funeral, ancestor worship) or rituals, still in the 21st century remain issues for the improvement of village societies. Therefore, Itani promotes the use of a broader historical range that goes beyond the relatively short period of the customs improvement movement.
As an example, some customs, which were temporarily cut off due to suppression, were revived after 1945 if the people really wanted them. Customs that have not been revived after 1945, on the other hand, had lost the social function that once supported them and consequently became obsolete. This includes customs such as “mō-ashibi” and “uma-dema,” whose premise was “marriage inside a village” and which are limited to the topic of marriage.
NOTE: Sexuality and marriage of young men and women in rural areas was often associated to mōashibi, or enjoying a night in the fields with singing and dancing etc. There were few marriages outside one’s own village, but in that case, alcohol or otherwise the alcohol expense had to be presented to the young men in the woman’s village. This is called “umadema.”
Five educational functions accompanied the occasion of mōashibi and can be ordered as follows:
the function of handing down songs and dances such as mēkata,
the function as an occasion for creative activities,
the function of handing down traditional physical education of the region,
the function of creating a circle of friends, and
the recreational function that creates vitality for tomorrow’s labor.
Number 3, the transmission of traditional physical education, included wrestling (called mutu), a kickboxing-like kind of grappling (called tose), karate, sumo, and bojutsu.
Doubts remain however as to how well the leaders of the customs improvement movement understood their own culture. A point to keep in mind here is that the customs improvement movement was not organized by national or prefectural governments, but by Okinawan young men’s associations (seinenkai) and customs improvement associations, that is, by people somewhere between 16 and 25 years of age.
While customs such as various forms of martial arts had been handed down by the Okinawan young men’s associations, other customs where not. For instance, from the royal government era to the postwar period, there were customs such as “yuta-kōyā” that are still today subject to revision and abolition. The understanding of Okinawan culture by the leaders who worked on the reform and abolition of customs was superficial, proof of which is that the movement did not reach the deep religious nature of the spiritual life of the people.
NOTE: Yuta-kōyā is the act of buying the services of a yuta. This usually requires the judgment of two or three yuta. The client is willing to pay a considerable amount of money to the yuta. There is a long-standing saying in Okinawa, called “half a doctor, half a yuta.”There is also the saying that “men buy prostitutes, women buy yuta.”
For people in the prewar era, the difference between the customary laws of the villages and modern law was not unambiguously clear. In the life of the village (shima) we see the fact that the customary laws were like a melting pot in which tatemae (one’s official opinion) and honne (one’s real opinion), legal regulations and loopholes were mixed together.
In the above sense, Tanigawa Ken’ichi (1972) identified the characteristics of Okinawa as,
“Everything is undifferentiated in Okinawa, and the historical society of Okinawa reflects light at various angles like polyhedral crystals.”
NOTE: The above is part of a study into youth groups in Okinawa and mainly based on: Itani Yasuhiko: Social education as an Okinawan custom seen in the “penalty tag” system of the Customary Laws of Southern Island Villages (Nantō Mura Neihō). Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor in Education. Waseda University Number: New 7911. Waseda University 2018, pp. 153-154.
BTW, since there is almost no material on Tanigawa available in English, I will provide some here.
Tanigawa Ken’ichi (1921-2013) was one of the most important cultural anthropologists in Japan, especially with regard to historical place-name studies, folklore, and Japanese literature.
After attending middle school in Kumamoto, he majored in French literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo.
Tanigawa collected information about the way of life and culture of the lower social classes, traditions, rites and legends that have to do with the coast as a buffer zone between sea and land, between ideas of the afterlife and this world. His specialty are place names. Numerous publications appeared from 1957, initially by Heibonsha. In the 1960s he got into a scholarly dispute with Origuchi Shinobu and Yanagita Kunio (1875–1962).
His “Collection of the Historical Biographies of the Simple People” (published 1973) comprises 20 volumes, the “Compendium of Japanese Folk Customs” (1986) comprises of 14 volumes. In 1981, the city of Kawasaki set up an “Institute for Research into Japanese Place Names,” of which he became the director and from which he received an award in 2008. From 1987 to 1996 he taught at the Kinki University of Osaka, where he directed the anthropological institute.
He has also written novels such as “Umi no Murubushi” which was made into a drama on NHK in 1988 with appearances by Ogata Ken, Ishida Yuriko, and Orimoto Junkichi.
He is highly praised for his achievement of the “Theory of the Development of Literature in the Southern Islands,” based on songs from Okinawa and Kagoshima as a source of Japanese literature. He has received several academic prizes for research achievements, including one in 2001 for his Tanka collection. In 2007 he became a “Bunka Kōrōsha” (“person with special cultural achievements; it is an honorary title combined with a government annuity).
Tanigawa Ken’ichi is the eldest of the Tanigawa brothers, including the poet Tanigawa Gan, the oriental historian Tanigawa Michio, and Yoshida Kimihiko (formerly: Tanigawa Kimihiko), the founder of The Editors’ School of Japan. His eldest son is Tanigawa Akio, an archaeologist and professor at Waseda University.
Posted inMisc|Comments Off on On a characteristic feature of tradition in Early Modern Okinawa (1879-1945)
Am 08. November 1995 las ich in dieser Kolumne Herrn Nakazatos Artikel “Kata 型 oder Kata 形? Erwägungen über die Konzeption des Okinawa Karate”, ich bin jedoch bezüglich Herrn Nakazatos dort formuliertem Standpunkt gegensätzlicher Ansicht.
Herr Nakazato vertritt die Meinung, dass das Schriftzeichen für die kata des Karate “kata 型” ist. Als Grundlage seines Standpunkts führt er an, dass in Okinawa für die kata des Karate seit alten Zeiten her das Schriftzeichen “kata 型” verwendet worden ist, und nicht “kata 形“. Aus welcher Literatur dies stammen soll wünscht man sich zu erfahren.
Als nächstes führt er die Verwerfung des Schriftzeichens kata 型 und dessen Änderung zu kata 形 an, was vom Japanischen Karate Verband (JKF) in einem Rundschreiben bekannt gegeben worden sein soll. Dieses Rundschreiben wurde jedoch vom japanischen Ministerium für Erziehung und Unterricht veröffentlicht.
Als Vergleich mit dem erwähnten Vorgang der Änderung des Schriftzeichens zog Herr Nakazato Sprichwörter heran, nämlich “eine Verordnung jagt die andere”, bzw. “ein Befehl vom Morgen wird am Abend widerrufen”. Bereits vor zwanzig Jahren jedoch schrieb ich in meinem Buch das in Frage stehende Schriftzeichen als kata 形, und folge dabei auch heute noch keinesfalls blind den Meinungen anderer Leute.
Ferner zog Herr Nakazato die japanischen Wörterbücher Kōjien und Kokugo Jiten heran, woraus er entnahm, dass kata 型 die Standardmethode zur schriftlichen Angabe in den kämpferischen Weg-Künsten (budō) und den darstellenden Künsten (geinō) u. Ä. sei. Demgegenüber beschreibe kata 形 hingegen a) die äußere Erscheinung einer Form, b) die äußere Form im Gegensatz zur deren innerer Substanz oder Funktion, c) eine Form im Sinne einer Formsache, einer Formalität, einer äußeren Form.
Ich ermittelte dazu selber sorgfältig in Wörterbüchern, denen ich entnahm, dass kata 形 standardisierten Verhaltensformen und Methoden in den kriegerischen Künsten (bujutsu) und bei Aufführungen (engei) entspricht, während es sich bei kata 型 um eine oberflächliche, sich an die Form haltende Angelegenheit handelt, bei der die charakteristischen Merkmale aus der Form selber stammen und bei der kein individueller Charakter o. Ä. vorgesehen ist.
Mit anderen Worten, wenn kata 型 des Allerwichtigsten entbehrt, für was für eine Sache soll ich es dann halten?
Herr Nakazato schrieb auch verschiedene Erörterungen bezüglich der Richtigkeit von kata 型 und kata 形 im Zusammenhang mit der Nihon Kendō Kata (Die kämpferischen Formen des japanischen Kendō) und der Nihon Jūdō Kata (Die kämpferischen Formen des japanischen Jūdō). Diese Nihon Kendō Kata und Nihon Jūdō Kata wurden im Jahre 1911 auf Anfrage des Ministeriums für Erziehung und Unterricht gegründet, von verschiedenen Schulen der Schwertkunst (kenjutsu) und der unbewaffneten Kampfkunst (jūjutsu), die noch aus der ausgehenden Tokugawa-Zeit stammten und damit einen großen Beitrag zur Leibeserziehung an den Schulen leisteten.
Kürzlich teilte das Ministerium für Erziehung und Unterricht dem Japanischen Karate Verband (JKF) gegenüber seine Besorgnis mit, dass die kata des Karate-dō und des Kobudō keine kata 型 seien, sondern kata 形, was beim Training zu berücksichtigen sei, und des Weiteren, dass die Kreise des Karate und Kobudō Japans dabei seien, das Herz (kokoro) als die Essenz des Kriegerischen (bu) zu vergessen und stattdessen den philosophisch-moralischen Pfad (dō) popularisieren. Dies sollten wir uns in aller Bescheidenheit zu Herzen nehmen.
Zurück zum Hauptthema: Der allerwichtigste Grund, weshalb ich nicht kata 型, sondern kata 形 verwende, liegt in dem Schriftzeichen kata 形 selbst. Dieses Allerwichtigste liegt in dessen Bedeutung, sich durch Anstrengung zu entwickeln, während es einen Rückschritt bedeutet, das Herz (kokoro) zu verringern. Das Schriftzeichen kata 型 transportiert dieses Gebot nicht.
Wörterbüchern entsprechend handelt es sich bei kata 形 um charakteristische Merkmale, die daher stammen, dass man sich an die Form hält, was keinen individuellen Charakter beinhaltet. Dies ist nicht das Allerwichtigste an sich, sondern nur eine Angelegenheit, die sich aus dem Allerwichtigsten ableitet. Bei der Kopie eines Buches beispielsweise ist die physische Kopie lediglich substanzieller, materieller Herkunft, welche den wichtigsten inneren Teil, die Seele, nicht wiederzugeben vermag. Bei der Kultur der Überlieferung der verschiedenen Arten der Kriegskünste handelt es sich um dasselbe Prinzip: Nur aus dessen korrekter Weitergabe, unmittelbar durch einen Meister, und mit einer aus dem körperlichen Kontakt herstammenden Erkenntnis kann ein unverfälschtes Original erneut entstehen. Das Original ist keinesfalls durch Worte oder Schriftstücke lehrbar. Im Zen werden auch die Ausdrücke “furyū monji” (Erleuchtung kann nur durch unmittelbare Kommunikation von Herz zu Herz unterrichtet werden) und “kyōge betsuden” (Übermittlung von Lehren ohne Abhängigkeit von Sutras oder anderen Schriften, d. h., von Person zu Person) gelehrt. Diese Ausrücke bedeuten, dass ohne den Kontakt von Herz zu Herz eine unverfälschte Unterweisung nicht möglich ist.
Entsprechend sollte man sich auch in der Unterweisung in der traditionellen Kultur Okinawas auf die historische Tatsache besinnen, dass die Vereinheitlichung der japanischen kriegerischen Künste (bujutsu) hin zu den jetzigen kata 形 der kämpferischen Weg-Künste (budō) die Quintessenz der modernen japanischen Kampfkünste (budō) auf eine höhere Stufe erhob. Dies ist die versteckte Logik hinter der Argumentation des Ministeriums für Erziehung und Unterricht. Die kata des Karate und Kobudō von Okinawa sind nicht kata 型, sondern kata 形. So lange ich lebe werde ich das Schriftzeichen kata 形 beibehalten und lege mit festem Herzen das Gelübde ab, mich mit aller Kraft der Schaffung des prächtigen Mekka des Karate und Kobudō von Okinawa zu widmen.
Beitrag (Nagamine Shōshin), Naha-shi Makishi 3, 14, 1 Präsident des Seikai Matsubayashi-ryū Karate-dō Renmei Vizepräsident des Okinawa Karate-dō
Tsuboi was born in Onikoshi, Katsushika District, Shimosa Province (today’s Ichikawa City in Chiba prefecture) as the second son of a farmer.
In 1866, he entered the Kaiseijo of the Edo shogunate to study English. The Kaiseijo was an institution for western sciences established in 1862 and is one of the forerunners of Tōkyō University. 1871 he was among the first few graduates (at the then-called Daigaku Nankō). Since July the same year, he served as a teacher at Tōkyō Normal School (now the University of Tsukuba). While working as an interpreter for the physical education teacher George Adams Leland (1850-1924), who came from the United States in 1878, he studied physical education and learned about the importance of physical exercise. In 1878, he became a teacher at the Taisō Denshūjo (National School of Gymnastics, 1878-1886), also founded by Leland as an institution for the education of physical education teachers.
1886, the Tōkyō Normal School absorbed the National School of Gymnastics, and from 1886 he served as an associate professor at the Tōkyō Higher Normal School. In 1885, he published a play instruction book for children, “The Method of Outdoor Games” (Kogai Yūgi-hō), together with Tanaka Seigyō, a graduate and teacher at the National School of Gymnastics. This book introduces about 21 games. In 1887, he published “The Method of Regular Gymnastics” (Futsū Taisō-hō). In it, Tsuboi proposed a theory of physical education that combines rationalistic light exercise (regular physical exercise, futsū taisō) and naturalistic play, and discussed the necessity of adding physical exercise as a compulsory subject at school. Since 1890 he served as a professor at Tōkyō Higher Normal School and Tōkyō Women’s Normal School (now Ochanomizu Women’s University), and the Physical Exercises Institute of the Physical Education Association of Japan (now Nippon Sport Science University). In 1896 he assumed office as the director of the Tōkyō Higher Normal School football club founded the same year (now: University of Tsukuba Football Club).
In 1900, he studied abroad in England together with painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) and composer Taki Rentarō (1879-1903) and returned to Japan the following year. He brought back official table tennis equipment from England, from which modern-style table tennis originated in Japan. In 1903, he wrote a preface to “Association Football” published by his student, Nakamura Kakunosuke (1878-1906; the founding father of Japan’s soccer). This year he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 5th Class. In 1909, together with Japanese physical educator Kani Isao (1874-1966), Tsuboi introduced dodge ball competition to Japan for the first time under the name of “enkei deddobōru” (circular dead ball). In the same year, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette, 4th Class and retired as a professor of Tōkyō Higher Normal School and Tōkyō Women’s Normal School. In April 1922, he became the honorary principal of Tōkyō Women’s Physical Exercises Academy (now Tōkyō Women’s College of Physical Education) but died in November. His grave is located in the Shinjoji in Bunkyō, Tōkyō. In 2006 he was entered into the Japan Soccer Hall of Fame.
One of the very few technical terms of old-style karate still currently handed down in Okinawa is kōsā. The original designation koza changed over time and was mostly forgotten or simply replaced by modern Japanese terminology, namely by the terms ippon-ken (one-knuckle-fist), shōken (small knuckle), or keikōken (rooster-beak fist). That is, kōsā is a strike with the proximal interphalangeal joint of the index finger.
The first reference to kōsā in both printed letters and photography is found in Motobu Chōki’s book “My Art and Skill of Karate” (1933) as follows:
How to clench the one-knuckle-fist (ippon-ken, kōsā) In Ryūkyū, since ancient times, the method gripping the one-knuckle-fist has become habitual even without words of explanation. How the one-knuckle-fist is clenched in accordance to its specific rule, and as is often done since childhood, is shown in the photo (Motobu Chōki: My Art and Skill of Karate, p. 16).
According to the above, kōsā is an original old-style technique of karate widely known and practiced in Ryūkyū (Okinawa) since ancient times.
BTW, Motobu wrote kōsā in katakana syllabary, so the original meaning is unknown.
When looking into the etymology of kōsā, it might refer to a term that also appear in the Bubishi handed down in Okinawa. In the dialect of Fuzhou, this term is pronounced kau tso. It means as much as “spiking with the jujube date,” or “knocking with the jujube date.” As such it seems to be a designation that draws an imaginative analogy of the appearance of the Jujube date with the body part that mainly constitutes the technique of kōsā – i.e. the proximal interphalangeal joint of the index finger.
BTW, I explained this etymology already in the 2016 edition of “Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat” by Patrick McCartyhy Sensei, but only a few people seem to have noticed. The question remains why so little Okinawan terminology has been handed down if there was an actual uninterrupted personal instruction over generations.
Below, Paul Enfield Sensei shows kōsā applied to the Makiwara. The Enfields – Paul and Michelle – are among the top authorities for applied Okinawa karate and makiwara and other practices:
The photo taken recently (2019) by my friend Akuseru Hainrihi shows the “Ryū-jin Gyōretsu no Zu” 琉人行列之図, or “Illustration of the Procession of Ryūkyūans (to Edo).” These processions were called EDO-NOBORI.
This EDO-NOBORI took place in 1850. In that year, prince Tamagawa Chōtatsu (1) and Nomura Uēkata Chōgi were dispatched to the shogunate in Edo by King Shō Tai as gratitude envoys for his enthronement. The procession comprised of ninety-nine participants. They carried the usual red Muchi-bō, spears and dragon halberds, which were mostly ceremonial. Also as usual, a large number of Satsuma forces accompanied them. I placed yellowe circles in the pic where you can see both Ryukyuan as well as Satsuman weaponry.
The red circle in the top says “Itosu Pechin,” and there is also one “Asato Satunushi.” Because these are names of famous person in karate history, this spurred some interest.
I first published about the 1850 embassy first in the 2006 IRKRS Journal and later described the procession in my “Karate 1.0” (2013). Here’s an excerpt:
“Following the Shimazu invasion of 1609, Ryūkyū was placed under suzerainty of the Satsuma fief and the shogunate government in Edo. On one hand, Ryūkyū was now obligated to send congratulatory envoys (keigashi) for the appointment or succession of a new Shōgun in Edo. On the other hand. in case a new king of Ryūkyū inherited the throne, a gratitude envoy (shaonshi) for the recognition of the new king was sent to Edo. These trips were called Edo-nobori, or “going up to Edo”. They generated a possibility of cultural exchange between Ryūkyū and Japan. The orders for dispatching both these types of envoys were issued by Satsuma, which also controlled and managed every little detail of the entire journeys. Between 1634 and 1850, there were eighteen such Edo-nobori.”
About weaponry during processions to Edo, also check this:
In the bōjutsu tradition of Taira Shinken, we find a rarely seen pole weapon: the Kushaku-bō 九尺棒 (ca. 273 cm long staff). Early sources do not mention it but say that
“The Okinawan bō is either Rokushaku (ca. 182 cm) or Sanshaku (ca. 90 cm) long: the first represents the method of the short pike, the other is the method of the sword” (Okinawa Issen-nen Shi 1923: 333).
Only in 1964 Taira Shinken wrote the following (Taira 1964: 15):
“No clear indications are found in literature as regards the manner in which kobudō originated. Many of the kata bear the names of the masters who designed them. Originally, there were a considerable number of kata for every kind of kobudō – that is, for every single old weapon and the methods associated with them. However, due to poorly developed systems of practice, and because teachers forgot some kata towards the end of their lives, and also for other reasons, it can today no longer be clearly verified how many kata actually once existed. Therefore, the following supplement lists the kata that still exist today in Okinawa.”
Among the well-known kata provided in that list, we also find “Kushaku-bō”.
On an unnumbered leaf of Taira’s book we find a photo entitled “Various old weapons”, on the bottom of which the Kushaku-bō is found:
Finally, there is a description in chapter 4 (Taira 1964: 42), saying “The staff called Bō in Okinawa is called Gùn in Chinese [from which the Okinawa Kon derives]. The Kon can be roughly classified into three kinds: Sanshaku (about 90 cm), Rokushaku (about 182 cm), and Kushaku (about 273 cm).”
What more can be said about it?
In a posthumously published bequest of Taira is found a paper specifying the “Types of Practices in the Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai” (Taira 1997: 195-98). There, categorized under “Other weapons”, is found the following entry:
• Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō) (九尺棒（突キ棒）
In other words, an addition to the name has been made by adding “Tsuki-bō” (thrusting pole) to it. Therefore, the representative offensive technique of the Kushaku-bō appears to be thrusting. For a weapon of its length, this makes absolute sense. It may be compared to the European pike, the Japanese Yari or the Wing Tsun long-pole. Indeed, later it became generally accepted that “Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō)” belonged to the kata that derived their name from their most characteristic technical feature (see OKKBH 1994: 41; Nakamoto Masahiro and Tsuha Kiyoshi, in OKKJ 2008: 302).
Inoue Motokatsu – one of Taira’s leading disciples – also mentioned the Kushaku-bō, providing us with another contextual perspective (Inoue 1972: 1-2):
“When speaking of Ryūkyū Kobudō, it is generally noted that in the Kobujutsu of Okinawa training is carried out with both long and short weapons. If, by way of example, one speaks of the type of weapon one trains with, then the Kun, the Kushaku-bō, and the Sanshaku-bō belong to the long weapons.”
Nakamoto Masahiro also mentioned it in his list of “Kata of Bōjutsu Preserved in Today’s Okinawa” (Nakamoto 2007: 92), and there are more and more works that adopt it.
As shown above, the term “Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō)” appeared in various literary sources since Taira Shinken wrote about it in 1964.
The term also appears otherwise, such as in this kata list once written by Akamine Eisuke (–> see pic 3). Actually, in the new Shimbukan dōjō of Akamine Hiroshi sensei, a Kushaku-bō wrapped in a soft case leaned on the dōjō’s front side between at least 2010 and 2012 ( –> see pic 4, featuring Akamine sensei doing Sai kata). I never saw it being used, though and it is unclear to me whether it had actually been handed down intact or if it is a broken tradition (jitsuden 失伝).
I’d like to note that research about kinds of Okinawan bōjutsu appears to be a cumulative matter, with ever more kata and ever more weapons added to the syllabus during the recent century. As shown in the beginning of this short work, the Okinawa Issen-nen Shi (1923: 333) just spoke of two kinds of Okinawan bō, namely either Rokushaku (ca. 182 cm) or Sanshaku (ca. 90 cm). Forty years later, Taira Shinken roughly classified three kinds of bō as Kushaku, Rokushaku, and Sanshaku. A little less than fifty years later the general consensus had expanded again, saying that “the kinds of bō can be divided into the following lengths: ca. 91cm, ca. 1.21m, and ca. 1.82m. In addition, there are special lengths of ca. 2,42m and ca. 2,73m” (OKKJ 2008: 317).
And by this we get to one of the core issues of Okinawa kobudō: While the term kobudō in Japan is clearly defined and strictly reserved for old martial arts established prior to the Meiji Restoration (1868), in Okinawa, there is no such differentiation. Instead, the term “kobudō” in Okinawa is used for all kinds of weaponry, kata, and practices without any distinction being made as regards their tradition as being old kobudō (pre-1879), modern kobudō (1879-1945), new kobudō (post 1945, even though they incorporate older techniques), creative and fiction kobudō, festival and entertainment kobudō, “karate kata with kobudō weapons”, or even any ad-hoc performance made up on the spot. Like this, the arsenal of weapons and techniques in Okinawa kobudō grows and grows and grows, sometimes things are forgotten and instead new developments are added, and it is getting more and more difficult to differentiate between them and to categorize them according to a date of actual establishment and the actual source.
And just like in this case of the Kushaku-bō, every time we attempt to analyze a specific matter related to Okinawa kobudō, we sooner or later approach the core issue that the term “kobudō” for Okinawa has never been clearly defined.
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Note the calligraphy in the upper middle of the photography. It shows the phrase “a handless man boxing” (無手人行拳), read from right to left. The phrase was taken from “The Quiet Hermitage”, a Chinese collection of 100 Zen Buddhist theoretical problems (Koan). The phrase in question is found in No. 48, where the issue of “Vimalakirti’s Non-duality” is related to. It uses the comparisons of „a handless man boxing“ and „a tongueless man speaking.“
Apparently, here it had been interpreted in a Karate sense as “a bare-handed (unarmed) man boxing.”
This reflects the early 20th century ideal and is an educated selection.
The photograph was taken at the Tokyo residence of Funakoshi Gichin in 1936 to discuss the then forthcoming publication of Nakasone Genwa’s new book, “Karate-do Taikan” (1938). The photo was later published in “Karate-do Ichiro” (1956) by Funakoshi Gichin. The persons in the photo are, from left to right: Toyama Kanken (Shudokan), Otsuka Hironori (Wado-ryu), Shimoda Takeshi (Funakoshi’s disciple), Funakoshi Gichin (Shotokan), Motobu Choki (Motobu-ryu), Mabuni Kenwa (Shito-ryu), Nakasone Genwa (Karate researcher), Taira Shinken (Ryukyu Kobudo).
The calligraphy was brushed by Yashiro Rokurō (1860–1930, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and Navy Minister). In a memorandum, Tokuda Antei mentioned Yashiro as follows:
If I remember correctly it was in my 5th year at middle school [i.e. in 1910] when famous rear admiral Yashiro visited our school and he was astonished by our amazingly developed physique and he said that at some point in the future he will try to have it [karate] adopted by the central government.
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In Japanese martial arts, including Okinawa
Karate, the personal lineage of instruction is of utmost importance. It is so
important that it is considered a standalone criterion for the authenticity of
a person and his style.
Sometimes technical expertise is assumed
simply because a person has a specific personal genealogy. On the other hand, a
personal lineage is sometimes assumed simply because a practitioner has
excellent technical skills. However, technical expertise and personal lineage
are not necessarily causal. What remains is the utmost importance of being able
to date back a personal lineage to a founder, or otherwise as far as
However, there are frequently technical and
genealogical inconsistencies, or otherwise different information about a lineage,
depending on whose story you hear or read. Such cases have been the topic of
many discussions for decades now. Usually it is a “proxy bout” in which people
belonging to one or the other group involved argue about who is right and who
is wrong. All kinds of arguments and sources are used, such as hearsay of the
kind “Sensei xy said….,” or “I have heard that….,” etc.pp. Then, there are
interviews, sometimes translated to English. Then there is comparative analysis
of techniques, references to books, personal experiences, and many others. Among
these arguments, there is one that is regularly missing. Namely, that a person
cannot state who his teacher was. This is so obvious, it hurts.
Why would a person not be able to claim a teacher’s name in his official CV? There are some personal reasons, such as they got mad at each other, or there was a fight. Or a student became progressive and self-important or earned a lot of money, but his master didn’t approve. A person might never want to think of or mention another person’s name for such reasons. For example, a teacher and a student have been together for many years. The student moves to the US and becomes famous and earns a lot of money, but he changed the techniques to suit his target audience, and also grades himself – lets say – 8th dan, while actually he was only 4th dan. His sensei disapproves and gets mad at him. How could the student explain that he simply changed the techniques to his likes? He cannot. Instead, he withholds certain genealogical informations, for example, from whom he actually learned the techniques; Because then everybody could easily compare and see what has been done. At the same time, he creates a narrative. Back home he finds some other people who are also unhappy with the situation, so they form a group with common objectives. This is easy to understand and probably happens all the time.
Or a person uses a specific term from one sensei – Ti, Tomari-te, Tuidi etc. – for a certain system of techniques, but sensei disapproves and tells him “I only taught you 1/3 of it!” So that person, because he already told everybody he is original heir, has to look for a story that explains it without mentioning that teacher.
But there are also formal reasons, and here we need to remember we are talking about Japan, or Okinawa. There are unwritten rules. A person might be “released” or expelled from a school for various reasons, often profane. Maybe he didn’t pay fees. Maybe he withheld income from karate teaching that was supposed to go to the association. Maybe he demanded a higher dan. Maybe he attacked the sensei. Maybe he was convicted of a crime? Here’s the point: If the person is expelled in a semi-formal or formal way and for whatever reason, he cannot use the name of the sensei anymore. He cannot claim “I have studied with sensei XY for 20 years,” even if it is true. Since his livelihood is at stake – and since he certainly will not stop doing karate every day! – he has to find a solution to continue, a story or narrative which might be completely or partly true. But neither the sensei (or dojo / association) who kicked the student out, nor the student himself will ever discuss this publicly. It is probably considered an impertinence in Japan, it is a taboo. At best, there are “rumors.” But in the West, we don’t think that way. Therefore, especially in social media we often openly discuss such matters. In the eyes of Japanese / Okinawans, this might be considered impertinent. But for us it is rather normal. It is a cultural difference.
Like that, we have seen this issue for decades, where Japanese / Okinawans invent new names for kata and styles, create the wildest genealogies, rename things and seek teachers to support them, grade them and lend their name to the cause, team up with other “rogues” etc. just to evade their Japanese cultural obsession with genealogy and personal tradition. And to bypass the issue of being basically prohibited to use the name of a certain teacher or school within their genealogy.
If this issue is better understood, the online world will be a better place.