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 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.”
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
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.
Out of personal interest I regularly surf the internet and also read, participate in and contribute in discussions in social media groups. One of the stereotypes found almost everywhere is what I would paraphrase as follows:
Gichin Funakoshi introduced and popularized karate on the main islands of Japan.
Needless to say, it is true that Funakoshi’s move to the mainland and his activities and publications were a milestone of Karate’s development. But did he really introduce Karate to mainland Japan?
In a broader sense, it is hard to argue against it, and why would I anyway? Yet, the verb “introduce” is often understood such as if he was the first to do so. The surrounding stories also imply that he made a deliberate decision to do so. In the end, we want an image of an autarkic person as positive and important as possible.
Yet, Funakoshi was not the first to introduce Karate to the mainland. Neither was it an individual undertaking detached from societal developments of the time, and this is true for Karate as a whole.
In fact, Karate circles — while showing respect at any time — partly appear to completely underestimate the influence of one person. This person is Kanō Jigorō (嘉納治五郎, 1860–1938). Without going into much detail about the sky-high influence and authority of Kanō — not only in comparison to Okinawan Karate persons of the time, but for Japanese Budō and sports in general — in the following I will just list some events which were important for Karate and which are directly or indirectly related to Kanō.
As regards the (first) introduction of Karate to the mainland, already in 1908 six students of the Middle School in Shuri participated in the 10th Youth Martial Demonstrations Meeting (Dai-jū-kai Seinen Daienbu Taikai). There they performed Karate in front of — guess who — Kanō Jigorō, as well as other visitors. This demonstration took place just a few years after Karate had become a compulsory subject at the Middle School in Shuri and in the same year when Itosu Ankō forwarded his “10 Precepts of Karate” to draw the attention of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of War. Kanō at that time was the director of Tōkyō Higher Normal School (Tōkyō Kōtō Shihan Gakkō) under exactly the same Ministry of Education, and this school was the national level pendant of the prefectural Shuri Normal School.
In 1910, on invitation by none else than Kanō Jigorō — ! — six students of the Shuri Middle School and their leading teachers visited Kanō’s Kōdōkan in Tōkyō. For about two hours they gave explanations of Karate, performed Kata, and broke boards in front of Kanō and other high-ranking masters.
May I introduce myself? My name is Kanō Jigorō.
In the following year, in June 1911, a “red vs white jūdō contest” took place at the Shuri Normal School. This “red vs white jūdō contest” (kōhaku-shiai 紅白試合) had been invented by Kanō Jigorō and by 1911 it was already a traditional tournament at the Kōdōkan in Tōkyō. Here it was adopted at the Shuri Normal School in 1911 and this was still during the lifetime of Itosu Ankō.
Motobu Chōki (1870 – 1944) moved to Ōsaka in 1921 and Funakoshi moved to Tōkyō in 1922. It was again none less than Kanō Jigorō who helped Funakoshi on various occasions and in various matters.
A few years later, in 1927, Kanō Jigorō visited Okinawa where he carried out an exchange with Karate persons and also gave a lecture about Jūdō. Among the persons who demonstrated in front of Kanō were Miyagi Chōjun and Mabuni Kenwa, and both performers received Kanō’s praise. It is therefore assumed that Mabuni’s move to the mainland might have been motivated by this meeting with and praise by Kanō.
I believe the above examples should give sufficient reason to reassess the roles of various individuals, as well as the role of institutions, in the process of the spread of Karate to the mainland – and particularly the role of Kanō Jigorō. To give you another incentive to do so: The first jūdō dōjō in Okinawa opened already in 1899 and was thus probably the first martial arts dōjō in a modern sense on Okinawa…
In the board-game of Go, Hon’inbō Dōsaku 本因坊道策 (1645-1702) created the first rank system. It had three ranks only: Meijin (9thdan), Jun-meijin (8thdan), and Jōzu (7thdan). Later this classification was enhanced to include nine dan 段 ranks. At that time there were was no distinction between professional players and amateurs, and there were no kyū ranks – the kyū ranks were only added during the Meiji era. Today beginners in Go who have just learned the game are usually placed at 30thkyū.
BTW, in 1682, the Ryūkyūan Go-player Hama Higa Pēchin played against above mentioned Hon’inbō Dōsaku, and if I am not mistaken, he was awarded rank for his good skill. Since this Hama Higa Pēchin is also considered the creator of Hama Higa no Sai, he would have been the first Okinawan martial artist with a dan rank… albeit in Go.
In August 1883 Kanō, in reference to the game of Go, conferred shodan (1stdan) on two of his disciples, Tomita Tsunejirō and Saigō Shirō, and it was decided that a dan-grade was to be represented by the color of the belt.
The kyū-grades in martial arts, on the other hand, originated the Metropolitan Police Department of Tōkyō, which introduced a kyū-system for Gekken (the predecessor-name of Kendō), ranging from 8th to 1stkyū.
From the above two, the Dai NipponButokukai adopted a combined dan-kyū-system, which it used for jūdō, kendō, and kyūdō.
Kanō Jigorō supported Funakoshi and invited him to present Karate at the Kōdōkan in 1922. Since it was a formal occasion, Funakoshi wore a suit tailored by himself in the fashion of a jūdō suit. Since Funakoshi had no rank at all, on personal instruction by Kanō he was bestowed a black belt from the stock of the Kōdōkan. And this can be considered the beginning of both karate-gi and the dan-kyū-system in Karate.
So the first person in Karate who was given — or awarded — a black belt was in fact Funakoshi Gichin. In the picture below, from Funakoshi’s 1925 book, you clearly see the long jacket with short sleeves. Even the knot of the belt might point to jūdō, since it might have been a fashion at the Kōdōkan at the time – knots in the middle can simply be painful during ukemi and randori, as everybody knows.
The first black belt and dogi in Karate.
BTW, one characteristic of post-1945 traditional Karate appears to be the lack of patches.
Karate-dō developed in Okinawa as an original empty-handed martial art of Japan. Within the process of its dissemination inside Japan, and while it inherited the original spirit of the ancient Japanese martial ways (budō), it developed from combat techniques (jutsu) into a way of self-development (dō).
Besides for learning the martial skills and advancing one’s technical proficiency, budō developed into ways of spiritual development and methods of physical training, encourage a respectful and courteous demeanour, and strive to unify mind, technique and body.
These traditional values and spirit of budō were also inherited in karate-dō and play a considerable role in the formation of the personality of many Japanese who learn karate-dō.
Moreover, with karate-dō presently having spread throughout Japan as well as in countries all over the world, through international exchange it contributed significantly to the realization of world peace, and for nurturing a healthy and promising youth.
Not infatuated in mere technical ability only, and without forgetting that the essence of Karate-dō is based on the spirit of the budō, with high ethical standards we must strive to contribute to the maintenance and development of Japan‘s traditional culture, to emphasize courtesy and notable characteristics as Japanese people, to protect the rules of society, to contribute to society, and to nurture promising human resources who are respected by society.
It is with this hope that we here publish the “Karate Charter of the All Japan Karate Federation” as a basic guideline for the further development of karate-dō.
ARTICLE 1: Objective of Karate-dō
The objective of karate-dō is to forge a strong body, to cultivate one’s character, and to develop promising personalities both physically and mentally through the daily training of mind and body.
ARTICLE 2: Mental Attitude
Those who aspire to practice of karate-dō, in order to maintain its quality and dignity shall endeavor to cultivate the ethical norms that consists of courtesy, sense of justice, morality, self control, and courage.
ARTICLE 3: Practice
When training in karate-dō, practitioners must always act in accordance with the teaching that it “begins with courtesy, and ends with courtesy,” adhere to the prescribed fundamentals of the art, and strive towards the perfect unity of mind, body and technique in accordance to one’s technical proficiency.
ARTICLE 4: Competition
Whether competing in a kumite competition or a kata demonstration, exponents must fully exhibit the three qualities of heart, technique, physique (shin-gi-tai) as resulting from the regular practice. In kumite competitions one must always pay attention to safety, comply with the rules, win with modesty and accept defeat gracefully, and constantly exhibit self-control.
ARTICLE 5: The Practice Place
Do not forget that the practice place (dōjō, gymnasium, etc.) is a place of physical and mental discipline. Practitioners must strive to observe proper etiquette, maintain strict discipline, and maintain a quiet, clean, safe, and solemn environment.
ARTICLE 6: Teaching and Promotion
Teachers should always encourage others to strive to better themselves and diligently train their minds and bodies, while continuing to further their understanding of the technical principles. Teachers must consistently polish their personality with high ethical standards and must be persons respected by society.
In addition, when it comes to teaching, together with building a moderate teacher-student relationship based on a lot of respect and affection, teachers shall endeavor to harmonize strict practice and observation of safety.
When it comes to promotion, promoters shall endeavor to work on developing human resources that are respected by society, irrespective of age, gender, or the presence or absence of a disability, without being biased on technical skill, in a spirit of self-responsibility and fair play, with compassion and kindness for others, always complying with the norms and rules of society, and with a high sense of ethics.
(June 5, 2010)
Japan Karate Federation, Public Interest Incorporated Foundation
It is about a photo which probably shows the important karate teacher Hanashiro Chōmo at a relatively young age, in the year 1904.
Check it out and read the full article. It should be noted that – as usual – there is a certain amount of uncertainty left. However, by placing the article with all sources and explanations online, it allows for a discussion among peers and those interested in this kind of topics. So I hope that in the future more details come to light which either verify or disprove the matter.
There are various levels and designations of cultural properties of Japan. They may be designated by institutions on municipal, prefectural, and national level, and in a multitude of fields: there are “Tangible Cultural Properties”, “Intangible Cultural Property”, “Folk Cultural Properties”, Monuments, Cultural Landscapes, Groups of Traditional Buildings, “Conservation Techniques for Cultural Properties”, and “Buried Cultural Properties”. All these are regulated in the “Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties” (1950).
For example, many of the various traditional village staff fencing methods (Mura-bō) from Okinawa Prefecture had been designated “Folk Cultural Properties” since the 1980s.
In the field of Karate and Kobudo, the field of designation is “Intangible Cultural Property” (mukei bunkazai), also sometimes referred to as “Intangible Cultural Asset”. According to law this exclusively refers to human skills of high historical or artistic value such as drama (Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki, Kumiodori), music, and craft techniques (ceramics etc.).
It should be noted that there are “Intangible Cultural Properties” designated on national level as well as on prefectural level. While bearing the exact same designation, there is a hierarchical difference. Karate and Kobudo were recognized as an “Intangible Cultural Property” on prefectural level by Okinawa Prefecture in 1997. Since that time Okinawa Prefecture is legally entitled to designate “Intangible Cultural Properties in the Field of Karate and Kobudo.” So far it did so in only 14 cases:
Designation year 1997: Nagamine Shōshin, Yagi Meitoku, Itokazu Seiki.
The next higher level called “Important Intangible Cultural Property” (jūyō mukei bunkazai) can only be designated on national level. Furthermore, when it is a person designated as such, they are informally referred to as “Living National Treasure” (ningen kokuhō). These persons receive a special grant of two million yen a year to help protect their properties.
As these designations are all fixed in a law, the terminology must adhered to at all times with great accuracy and must not be used for someone who is in fact not.
Members of Yanagita Kunio’s “Southern Islands Discourse Meeting” in 1927.
The photo shows three “fathers of…,” namely the father of Japanese native folkloristics, the father of Okinawaology, and the father of modern karate. Moreover, it also shows someone who might be termed the father of karate publications…
Yanagita Kunio 柳田國男 (1875–1962), called the “father of Japanese native folkloristics”
Kindaichi Kyōsuke 金田一京助 (1882-1971), Japanese linguist known for his dictations of Ainu sagas
Iha Fuyū 伊波普猷 (1876–1947), called the “father of Okinawaology”
Funakoshi Gichin 富名腰義珍 (1868-1957), called the “father of modern karate”
Okamura Senshū 岡村千秋 (1884 – 1941), interacted with Kunio Yanagida on Japanese native folkloristics and regional studies, also published many books related to folklore
Uozumi Junkichi 魚住惇吉
Haebaru Tsuyoshi 南風原驍
Kinjō Kaneho 金城金保
Nakasone Genwa 仲宗根源和 (1895－1978), political activist, publisher of books with Mabuni Kenwa, the “Karate-do Taikan” (1938) and others.
Kinjō Chōei 金城朝永 (1902–1955), influenced by Iha Fuyū, particularly achieved results in Ryūkyū language studies
Shimabukuro Genshichi 島袋源七 (1897-1953), researched Okinawan local customs and folklore; the “Shimabukuro Genshichi Collection” of the University of Ryūkyū comprises of 115 volumes.
Members of the “Southern Islands Discourse Meeting”, 1927. From: Naha City Museum of History (Iha Fuyū 100th Birthday Anniversary Commemoration Album, photo 129. Original from: “Asahi Graph,” 13 July 1927 issue).
Well, this year  the tribute ship (kaisen) betook to Satsuma in order to carry out Ryūkyū’s annul tribute payment to Satsuma, the preparations for next years tribute payment, as well as this and that. This is the reason why Shiohira sailed towards Satsuma. Before this, Shiohira often sailed to China in above mentioned position, too, where he visited Fujian 福建 several times and also went to Beijing 北京 two times. In the fifth year of the sexagenary cycle he also went to Edo in Japan with an Ōji (prince) as congratulatory envoy for the imperial proclamation of the new shōgun.
In Fuzhou and Beijing, he also seems to have trained as a Ryūkyūan interpreter (tsūji 通事) and he had good knowledge of the Chinese language.
This year he seems to be 53 years of age, but he looks much older than this.
See the banana fibre top (bashofu 布芭蕉), the underpants (hakama 袴), and girdles wrapped around the waist twice and tied in the front.
His clothes are made from banana fibre (bashofu 布芭蕉) and from cotton, which comes from the various islands [of Ryūkyū], and usually has wide sleeves. He wears trousers (or underpants) which are called hakama 袴. The girdles 帯 are made from patterned satin 綸子, silk gauze 紗, twill weave 綾 etc. They are wrapped around [the waist] twice and tied in the front. The collar is turned inside out (folded), and under the arms or at the sides of the back there are pleats (folds). People from the Ryūkyū main island [Okinawa] make these pleats (folds), but people from the other islands don’t. Well, they wear Ufu-ubi (large belts) at formal occasions. The clothes are similar to the ceremonial costume of Japan (kamishimo 上下着). Formal clothes are worn by the nobility at certain times when attending Court, during an audience with the King, an audience with the fedal lord of Satsuma, or when visiting the castle in Edo [i.e. visiting the shōgun].
The socks (tabi 足袋), straw sandals (zōri 草履), wooden sandals (pokuri 木履) and umbrellas 傘 are all made in the Japanese fashion. In good and bad weather Shiohira used a long-handled umbrella.
There are some interesting points to note here.
First of all, we were able to establish his year of birth. In the above translation we found out that Shiohira Pēchin was 53 years old at the time in 1762. Therefore, and according to old year count, he was born around 1710. In the future you can therefore write Shiohira Pēchin (1710 – ?).
Next, Shiohira Pēchin is described to have went to Edo on official mission in the tsuchi no e tatsu 戊辰. That is, the fifth year of the sexagenary cycle. This can only refer to the year 1748. Such missions were called Edo-nobori, or “Going up to Edo.” According to the text, the occasion was the imperial proclamation of a new shōgun. From the given year we can determine that this was Tokugawa Ieshige 徳川家重 (1712–1761), who had assumed office three years earlier, in 1745.
Furthermore, from other sources we can also determine the envoys. The mentioned Ōji (prince) who served as the Ryūkyūan congratulatory envoy was chief-envoy Gushikawa Ōji Chōri 具志川王子朝利. He was accompanied by vice-envoy Yonabaru Uēkata Ryōchō 与那原親方良暢.
There is more and here it gets a little more complex. See the following three entries.
Also in the year 1748, a certain Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin Seijō of the Ō-clan 翁氏宜壽次里之子親雲上盛成 served as shisan 使賛官 for Nakijin Ōji Chōchū 今歸仁王子朝忠, who went to Satsuma as a congratulatory envoy for the promotion of Shimazu Munenobu 島津宗信 (1728–1749) to Major General of the Left and Right Imperial Guard. (Cf. genealogy of Nakijin Ōji Chōchū 今歸仁王子朝忠 (向宣謨)).
According to the Chūzan Seifu, in 1755 Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin Seijō 翁氏潮平親雲上盛成 of the Ō-clan was dispatched to report about the investiture mission (sappōshi 冊封使) from the Ming dynasty taking place in the summer of the following year. He arrived in Satsuma the following year on 1756-02-30, and returned home again on 04-11.
Finally, for a tribute mission to China in 1757-58, Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin Seijō of the Ō-clan 翁氏潮平親雲上盛成 also appears as Kansha 官舎, or warehouse manager.
Both in the genealogies as well as in the Chūzan Seifu, the person is described as Gisushi Satonushi Pechin Seijō of the Ō-clan 翁氏宜壽次里之子親雲上盛成.
Therefore, the above entries 1. to 3. appear to refer to Shiohira’s younger brother Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin.
However, both the Chūzan Seifu and the genealogies give Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin’s first name as Seijō 盛成, and this is noone else but Shiohira Pēchin (Ō Shiren 翁士璉) of the Ōshima Hikki. So, “Gisushi Satonushi Pēchin 宜壽次里之子親雲上” was an earlier official name of Shiohira Pēchin.
Therefore, equating the data thus generated, Shiohira Pēchin took part in the following journeys:
1748 – went to Edo with chief-envoy Gushikawa Ōji Chōri and vice-envoy Yonabaru Uēkata Ryōchō as a congratulatory mission to new shōgun Tokugawa Ieshige 徳川家重 (1712–1761).
1748 – went to Satsuma with congratulatory envoy Nakijin Ōji Chōchū for the promotion of Shimazu Munenobu (1728–1749) to Major General of the Left and Right Imperial Guard.
1755 – dispatched to Satsuma to report about the Chinese investiture mission (sappōshi) taking place in the summer of the following year . He arrived in Satsuma 1756-02-30 and returned home on 04-11. [This was the investiture mission with which Kūsankū is said to have reached Okinawa!]
1757-58 – tribute mission to China in the function of a warehouse manager (as kansha 官舎).
Prior to 1762 – often sailed to China where he visited Fujian 福建 several times and went to Beijing twice.
1762 – tribute ship to Satsuma (as described in the Ōshima Hikki)
Looking at the above results, it can be said that a more colorful picture of Shiohira Pēchin (1710 – ?) has now emerged.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Motobu Naoki Sensei for his full and benevolent support in clariyfing various difficult issues, as well as general guidance on the translation of various terminology and contexts.
What is the most important point in studying kata?
Wrong question. Because there are at least two.
As for one, in karate [I always include kobudō when using this word] as well as in other Japanese bujutsu, since olden times it was considered the correct way to master one technique or kata thoroughly. This one technique or kata then leads to the understanding of other techniques and kata. In any case, the above refers to the idea that to master one thing thoroughly is to master 1000 things. On the other hand, to simply know a 1000 things is artificial and leads to nothing.
But the other important point in studying kata seemingly disproves the first one, and vice versa. The point is that the kata ARE the basics, and that cumulation of their practice leads to… the free use and combination of techniques. Some great master said this but I forgot who it was. In any case, it means you ought to study a lot of stuff. For example, in kobudō, everytime I learned a new kata was the point in time when the previous kata disclosed to me. Today, when asked, I also count iai /battō / kenjutsu under karate, just to simplify my life. Naturally, outsiders — and insiders as well — have no clue what I mean by saying karate.
So my personal syllabus is made up by too many kata to mention. But I am only good at one or two, maybe.
Point one and two simply mean that you can and probably should study whatever quantity of kata, techniques, and even martial arts as you like, as long as you thoroughly mastered at least one. So it is no contradiction at all that some say that 3 kata are enough, while other swear 60 kata are barely sufficient.
Know a thousand, but master one thoroughly.
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It would be a mere rethorical question to ask if historical Ryūkyūan combative methods were influenced by the outside world. Notwithstanding, somehow this seems to be a weird question. One of the persistent beliefs making Ryūkyūan combative methods so likable is the notion of their perceived immaculate conception, so to speak, unrelated to serious topics like soldiers, or war. While Chinese influences are considered fully acceptable, Japanese influences prior to 1879 already blow a breach through the atomic lattice of the community.
But what about 19th century Western influences?
Already since the middle of the 17th century the top-ranking official (karō) of Satsuma sent numerous directives to Ryūkyū pertaining encounters with Western ships. As a result, Ryūkyū was strategically aligned to act and represent itself towards foreign visitors in prescribed ways. Ryūkyū’s uncertain position within the complex system of shifting powers at that time can be detected in the narratives of Western visitors. The Ryūkyūan perspective, on the other hand, is reflected in numerous entries in the Kyūyō and the genealogies. These events, especially those of the 19th century, are quite important to understand Ryūkyū’s significance for the Japanese national order, which parallel to these events became more and more unstable. Consequentially, the Western advances of the 19th century had major repercussions on security-related issues in the kingdom. In fact, it probably had major repercussions on the very characteristics of the combative methods of Ryūkyūan design.
Western interest in Ryūkyū became forcefully renewed from around 1800 until the 1850s, when the Western powers–while spreading out at the Chinese coastal areas–tried to break open the isolation of Japan. The first eye-witness report of a Western encounter with Ryūkyū after Wickham and Adams (1614/15) is given by Jean-François de Galaup de la Pérouse, who made land near the island of Yonaguni on May 5th, 1787.
From the beginning of the 19th century the Napoleonic wars led to a decline of European activities in the Far East. But early in 1816, Basil Hall was appointed commander of the Lyra, a small sloop equipped with ten cannons. Together with the frigate Alceste of Captain Maxwell, they reached “the Great Loo-Choo Island” (Okinawa) on September 16th, 1816, and let go anchor in the harbor of Naha. In his narrative Hall provides the first Western note on “karate” (“a boxer’s position of defence”).
One of the Ryūkyūan officers, “a man of dark and peculiar aspect,” was fitted by the British of Hall’s squadron with the nickname Buonaparte, “so named because he was suspected of being the most inclined to keep us at arm’s length.” On his return journey from Okinawa to England, on August 13th, 1817, Basil Hall entered St. Helena, where the real Napoleon I. Bonaparte lived in exile. He reported that Napoleon was most astonished by the information that the Ryūkyūans did not possess weapons.
In the following years the picture created by Hall and members of his fleet portraying Ryūkyū as a weaponless country was relativized. In 1819, on the basis of the travel accounts provided by Hall, Maxwell, and Clifford, a certain Amicus concluded that “Both sides were acting an artificial part” and that the observations of the voyagers were “very limited, and whatever lies the people of Loo-choo chose to tell, the English had no means of detecting them,” pointing to the circumstance that the Ryūkyūans declared that they “had no weapons, not comprehend the use of a weapon, nor had an occasion for the infliction of punishment.”
One of the chief objects of Beechey, who stayed in Naha from the 11th to the 25th of May, 1827, was to inquire into the “supposition that the inhabitants of Loo Choo possessed no weapons, offensive or otherwise.” Inquiring about the weaponry on Beechey’s ship, a Ryūkyūan official inquired,
“Plenty mans, plenty guns! What things ship got?”
“Nothing, ping-chuen” [bīngchuán兵船, man-of-war].
“No got nothing?”
“Plenty mans, plenty guns, no got nothing!”
Anytime foreigners reached Okinawan waters, such inquiries were made, and without doubt forwarded to Satsuma.
Later Beechey was told by a mandarin, and several other persons, that there were both cannon and muskets in the island; and one of the interpreters distinctly stated there were twenty-six of the former distributed among their junks. According to Beechey, the fishermen and all classes from Naha were familiar with the use and exercise of their cannon, and the Ryūkyūans were particularly interested in the improvement from matchlock to flintlock. Elijah Coleman Bridgman, publisher of The Chinese Repository, in 1837 also noted that military weapons and various modes of punishment were prevalent in Ryūkyū.
During Bowman’s stay on Okinawa in 1840, he was once informed by an alarmed principal that “a number of bad men had arrived, to get all the people within the inclosure, and on no account to allow any one out, as he could not be answerable for their safety.” The visitors were described as “Tokara men,” which was the usual Ryūkyūan description of Satsuma samurai towards Westerners.“A short distance, about 100 yards from our enclosure,“ wrote Bowman, “the Tokara men had collected, and evidently several of them men of rank; they were all armed; every man had two swords and a matchlock, or bows and arrows. […] These men were evidently soldiers; each wore a dark-blue handkerchief tied around the forehead, and differently dressed to the Ryūkyūans. I should say they amounted to between three and four hundred in number.”
In a letter of the year 1850, Bettelheim described his discovery of a Japanese garrison quartered in Naha, with “Japanese soldiers engaged in cleaning and polishing their fire-arms.” Some years later John M. Brooke, naval scientist and educator, for the year 1859 noted that “The fathers told us that in their rambles they frequently met Japanese soldiers wearing two swords; that they had seen them with their own eyes and there could not possibly be a doubt of the facts; that the reason we never encountered them was that they concealed themselves the moment we approached them.”
The above are just a few examples of a corpus of evidences that render it completely impossible to pretend as if the shōgunate in Edo and the daimyō of Satsuma had been unware or indifferent towards the Western advances in the 19th century. Ryūkyū, it appears, acted as a clandestine outpost and gathered intelligence for Satsuma, and Japan.
The 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot storming the Amoy forts during the 1st Opium War.
When talking about old-style Ryūkyūan martial arts, it should be remembered that neither Japan, nor Satsuma, nor Ryūkyū was cut off from the outside world in terms of intelligence. Quite on the contrary. They were very much aware how from the mid-18th century to 1840 the British East India Company emerged as the world’s largest drug dealer. China under the Qing was unable to stop the import of opium and slithered into the First Opium War (1839–42). Defeated by the modern army of the British Empire with relative ease – artillery in place, an hour of bombardment, infantry charge with bayonets mounted – the decline of the once unlimited Chinese hegemony in Asia was launched, gradually deadening China’s scope to that of an informal colony of Western powers.
The Treaty of Nanking (1842) made Fuzhou one of five Chinese treaty ports completely open to Western merchants and missionaries. You remember that Fuzhou was the place where Ryūkyūan martial arts are said to have come from largely, and that it was the place of call for all Ryūkyūan ships to China. As British captain Belcher termed it, the Ryūkyūans supposed that “as we had punished the Chinese we were masters of the world.”
Lovell Pattern 1839 Infantry Musket, 0.75-calibre with socket bayonet, standard Brtish weapon during the First Opium War. From: Felton, Mark: China Station: The British Military in the Middle Kingdom 1839-1997. Page 105.
Meanwhile, in Japan, it was Takashima Shūhan 高島秋帆 (1798–1866) who, from 1840, following the outbreak of the Opium War in China, appealed to the shōgunate government in Edo to reinforce Japan‘s military capabilities. When Takashima in 1841 had the first Western style gun corps of Japan openly perform, Western-style bayonet fencing was also demonstrated for the first time. Takashima had studied the techniques from the Dutch in Nagasaki, which also points to Japanese translations of written Dutch textbooks, which was standard procedure back then.
Qing China’s decline was further marked by the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) and the Second Opium War (1856–1860), which were accompanied by a reorganization of the Qing military. These events, naturally, resulted in a shift of the Japanese and Satsumese perspective towards Western visitors to Ryūkyū, too. Their significance was increased by the fact that many of the Western vessels were straightforward warships manned with big guns and guard under arms, all officers wearing swords, and the marines equipped with bayonet rifles.
Since Hall in 1816 Western ships entered Ryūkyū ever more until the 2nd half of the 19th century. This illustration shows the American squadron under Commodore Perry at Shureimon. Many of these ships were warships and sabers, bayonets, and arms drill an everyday view for the Okinawans.
During all the visits of Western powers since Hall in 1816, military drills at sea and ashore were ubiquitous. During Perry’s visit, the marine and howitzer divisions were usually landed for drilling purposes at the level plains at Tomari, which were normally used to dry salt from saltwater. In May and June 1853, during Perry’s first visit to Okinawa, there had been military drills on every ship and on shore each day after the squadron came in. On the day following the Shuri Castle visit, a full-dress review of auxiliary craft was held in the harbor. “Seventeen boats, fully equipped and armed, and five of them carrying twelve and twenty-four pounders’ were paraded for the Okinawans to see.”
Other notes follow the same tone, such as “Early this morning the marines went ashore under Captain Slack’s order to drill.” Commodore Perry actually had an interest to extend over Ryūkyū “the vivifying influence and protection” of the U.S. government, least some “less scrupulous” nation–he was thinking about France, Russia or Britain–might “slip in and seize upon the advantages which should [have] justly belong[ed]” to the Unites States. While the U.S. government showed no interest in a too tight intricacy with Ryūkyū, general and division exercises of great guns and small arms, with artillery and infantry drills were ordered by the commodore to be carried out with increased diligence, and bayonet-rifles, fixed ammunition, cutlasses, and ball cartridges were paraded on the island.
Bonham Ward Bax (1837-1877), Captain of the British gunboat HMS Dwarf, was in Okinawa in 1872 “saw no guns or soldiers there”, but noted that each time Ryūkyūan officials came on board they would examine the Western ships and guns. You may rest assured that this was was no coincidence.
Admiral Guérin and French marines embark at Tomari in November 1855.
1874, three years following the establishment of the Imperial Japanese Army, François Ducros of the Armée de Terre Française was invited as a “gymnastic instructor” (taisō kyōkan 体操教官 – taisō or gymnastic referred to military drill) to the Toyama Army Academy 陸軍戸山学校, where he first introduced Western style fencing and bayonet practice. The French used the “Fusil Modèle 1866”, better known as the Chassepot rifle, and this was also used in Japan. It weighed 4.635 kilograms and with its Yatagan bayonet it had a length of 1.88 m.
Kenjutsu Kyohan, Part 3 (bayonet fencing), 1889.
At that time, the use of the bayonet in Europe over the last 200 years had changed warfare. Hundreds of Western publications were published in the 19th century alone (see, for instance: Thimm, Carl A.: A Complete Bibliography of the Art of Fence etc., London 1891). In Japan, after Ducros had left the shores of Japan, in 1889 the “Textbook of Fencing” (Kenjutsu Kyohan 剣術教範) was compiled outlining the official Japanese military method of swordsmanship. This textbook was divided into three parts: 1] kenjutsu, 2] guntō-jutsu (saber), and 3] jūkenjutsu (bayonet).
In 1894 the Japanese Imperial Army began to use the straight-edged Type 30 sword bayonet and continued to do so until 1945. It was designed to be used with the Arisaka Type 30 Rifle. Mounted with the bayonet, the Arisaka Type 30 Rifle had a length of 1.680 millimetres and weighed 4.65 kilograms.
Other than the spike bayonet, which was limited to thrusting actions, the above noted sword bayonets allowed slashing and thrusting.
Of course the Western bayonet rifle had an effect on Ryūkyūan Bōjutsu!
To what extent, if any, did the Western bayonet rifle had an effect on Ryūkyūan Bōjutsu?
From ” ‘National Gymnastics (国民体操法),’ otherwise known as the ‘Method of Military Drill’ (兵式体操法),” 1896. You can see here that the term “gymnastics” (taisō 体操), which was abundantly used in connection with Karate instruction in Okinawa, was closely related and actually derived from and meant military drill (heishiki taisō 兵式体操).
In Europe, with the advent of the bayonet rifle, the use of all sorts of polearms like the pike and others dramatically vanished. By the early 19th century, the bayonet rifle was standard equipment of all European armies. Hundreds of textbooks were published from early 19th century through to the early 20th century. For fencing, various adaptions were uses. One was a small metal disc fitted to the point of a real bayonet. Later systems with spring mounted rods fitted inside the (look-a-like) barrel were used. However, since the early the 19th through to the early 20th century, a “Fechtstange” (fencing staff) was used. According to Constantin Balassa (Fechtmethode, 1844), the “Fechtstange” of course had to have “the length of a rifle together with bayonet.” Their use as a safe tool for practice fights was continued without interruption until the beginning of the 20th century (See, for instance: Turnvorschrift für die k. u. k. Fußtruppen. Kaiserlich-königliche Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Wien 1903. Abteilung IV. Bajonettfechten. §18. Allgemeine Bestimmungen.)
Now, when in Okinawa in 2009, with permission of Nagamine Takayoshi I recorded an unpublished handwritten book by Nagamine Shōshin. In it is found a page describing the details of an interview of Nagamine with Chinen Masami at the latter’s home. The interview took place on May 14th, 1967, at Shuri Tōbaru town, 2, No. 6, home of Chinen Masami.
In the interview is noted the kata called Yonegawa no Kon米川の棍. It was created by Masami’s grandfather Chinen Masanrah 知念真三良 (1840–1922), the retrospectively designated founder of Yamane-ryū bōjutsu 山根流棒術. Pronounced Yunigwā no Kon im the Okinawa tongue, the techniques of this kata are mainly performed with the left hand leading. For this reason, it is also called Hidari-bō 左棒, or left-sided Bō. It is a complex choreography and includes a large number of practical techniques. On the left-sided performance of Yonegawa no Kon, it is noted in the interview that:
“The left-sided posture was Chinen Masanrah’s interpretation of the left-sided posture employed in Jūkenjutsu (bayonet fencing).”
So, according to Chinen Masami, the left-handed Bō-kata called Yonegawa no Kon, which was created by his grandfather, was devised or adapted to the bayonet-rifle fencing of the time, therefore holding the Bō like a bayonet-rifle with the left hand forward. Looking at Chinen Masanrah life dates (1840–1922; or otherwise 1842–1925), this completely corresponds to the era of Western visitors to Okinawa, Western bayonet fencing introduced to Japan, and Western bayonet fencing as an indispensable part of infantry tactics.
In 1874, when François Ducros began teaching French style bayonet practice at the Toyama Army Academy, Chinen Masanrah was 34 (32, respectively) years old. In 1889, when bayonet fencing was showcased in part three of the “Textbook of Fencing” (Kenjutsu Kyohan), Chinen was 49 (47, respectively) years old. During this time and afterwards, the Japanese Imperial Army used sword bayonets, which allowed for slashing and thrusting. Yonegawa no Kon includes a lot of strikes, as well as eighteen tsuki, and four nuki-zuki which – if the bayonet theory is correct – refer to strikes with the butt end of the rifle.
Soldiers of the Kumamoto Garrison with bayonet rifles (jūken) in front of the Kankaimon front gate of Shuri Castle. Following the Ryūkyū Shobun, the Kumamoto Garrison had been sent by the Meiji government and was lodged inside Shuri Castle.
A technique found at the very end of Yonegawa no Kon is a backwards jump, which is also found in Western textbooks with the command “Jump – backwards!” as described in Austrian textbook of 1903, the same year when later aikidō founder Morihei Ueshiba enlisted in the 37rd Regiment of the 4th Division in Ōsaka, where, due to his skills with the bayonet he was nicknamed the “King of Soldiers.”
Moreover, Okinawan soldiers like Yabu Kentsū and Hanashiro Chōmo and all served as infantry men in 1st Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). At that time the standard infantry rifle was the Murata rifle, of which there were three models of sword bayonets (Type 13, Type 18, and Type 22), or the Arisaka Type 30 Rifle with a Type 30 sword bayonet. Fencing (gekken 撃剣) performed at various school festicals at the Shuri Middle school and elsewhere since 1905 might have included jūkenjutsu. In July 1909 the Ryūkyū Shinpō reported about jūkenjutsu showcased at the memorial service for soldier killed in action, and in November the same year about the jūkenjutsu tournament held in Shimajiri District commemorating the imperial rescript.
Detail of the Chassepot Fusil modèle 1866 with bayonet. Photo from: www.deactivated-guns.co.uk
Yonegawa no Kon, therefore, might be said to have been created by Chinen Masanrah around the late 19th or early 20th century. This does not even slightly contradict with the technical contenct of Yonegawa no Kon, nor with the age of Chinen Masanrah, nor with anything else shown above, particularly not with Chinen Masami’s own words, that the left-sided bōjutsu is nothing but Chinen Masanrah’s interpretation of jūkenjutsu (bayonet fencing).
It should be added that in Okinawa, there is an oral tradition relativizing the Western influence. It claims that Yonegawa no Kon originally was performed in a right posture and states:
“Apparently, since a certain time bayonet fencing (jūkenjutsu銃剣術) spread. Since guns are usually fired from the right shoulder, the left foot and left hand are in the front and the posture of the bayonet rifle in jūkenjutsu is also a left-sided posture. In this way the techniques of Yonegawa no Kon were changed from a right to a left posture, to be used as fighting techniques against the left posture of bayonet fencing.”
While it acknowledges an influence of bayonet fencing on Yonegawa no Kon, it ignores most of the facts established earlier in this article. To begin with, bayonet fencing did not spread simply at a “certain time”, but Bayonet charges were considered most important prior to and especially since the time of Napoleon. In fact, by the first half of the 19th century, it was a standard of infantry all over the world. Bayonets were not only clearly visible in Okinawa since the early 19th century, but also on the Asian continent (Opium War etc.), and only lost their importance after WW I. The fact that Yonegawa no Kon was created by Chinen Masanrah allows for its creation since the late 19th century at earliest, and even the early 20th century at latest.Without any doubt, Chinen Masanrah was active during the “bayonet years.” The official adoption of bayonet fencing in the Japanese Imperial Army since 1874 and the fact that Okinawan soldiers almost exclusively served as infantry men speaks volumes. And all the rest of it. In other words, this relativization of Western influence within Okinawa’s own oral traditions might emphasize its own bona fide self-perception. The idea that Yonegawa no Kon originally existed as a right-sided kata and only later was changed to the left, would first of all require some positive evidence to be taken into account. If no such evidence appears, Yonegawa no Kon can and should be considered to have been an excercise specificly designed for bayonet-related practice.
In any case, below find a video of Yonegawa no Kon. You might now consider the techniques for or against the bayonet rifle. Moreover, bayonet fencing was also devised to function against sword and cavalry.