“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)
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.’
“I highly recommend this new work by Andi Quast … as a MUST BUY book …” (Patrick McCarthy, foremostwestern authority of Okinawan martial arts, modern and antique, anywhere he roams)
“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, karate and kobudo man from Israel)
By 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.»
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.
A narrative is a report that adds meaning to, and influences
the perception of events among a target group. It is related to a specific
field (cultural, political, etc.), conveys values and emotions, and is subject
to modification over time. The function of a narrative is to establish and
legitimize a desired truth.
All schools of karate have their own narratives, which establish tradition, lineage, personal relations, technical background (sport, combat, streetfight), a philosophy and the like. Narratives are also used to differentiate one’s school from others, and to highlight one’s own importance relative to others.
In other words, the official narratives of the various
schools almost became the world view of its members.
The narratives of the major karate schools – such as
Shitō-ryū, Shōtōkan, and various branches of Okinawa Shōrin-ryū – were created
and became established during the postwar era, i.e. after 1945. These
narratives are interpretation attempts of the information available at the time,
for instance, the writings, oral traditions, and techniques handed down by a
certain founder. Persons like Matsumura and Itosu are highlighted in various
written and technical narratives to establish and concrete a legitimized or
orthodox tradition. For example, prefixes of famous people were added to kata
names, such as in the case of “Matsumura Rōhai” of Shitō-ryū, which in fact did
not come from Matsumura at all. With more and more primary information being
unearthed, the supporting pillars of many of those old narratives start to
crumble, and not to the particular joy of their votaries.
There is one primary source that was unavailable to any of those who formulated the narratives of the various karate schools in the postwar era. This is Motobu Chōki’s Watashi no Karatejutsu.
The book Watashi no Karatejutsu contains knowledge, firsthand information, and original accounts imparted by Motobu Chōki and printed already in 1932. Why, then, wasn’t it considered by everybody when it was published already in 1932?
Well, the existence of the book was unknown until the 1980s!
In the 1980s, the wife of a deceased student of Motobu Chōki send the book to Motobu Chōsei. This is the only known original edition in existence! The date 1932 is printed in the publication info page in the book. But it has never been published publicly. Motobu Chōsei produced a number of private facsimile reproduction of the book and sent the original back to her. At that time, the book was still unknown to the public.
Then, in 1993, Motobu Chōsei and the Nihon Karate-dō Morobu-kai published an official reprint of the book. There were maybe 200 or 300 of this edition, many of which were given as presents to students or to libraries. Like this, Watashi no Karatejutsu by Motobu Chōki became available to the public for the first time, albeit in a relatively small number.
At some point in time, Motobu Chōsei also gave one of the 1993 editions to Iwai Kohaku (aka Tsukuo). Later, in 2000 Iwai republished the book by himself. At this point in time, it became more widely available in Japanese karate circles.
But Western karate circles also noticed the significance of this book. At first, Joe Swift sent a letter to Motobu Chōsei, showing his interest to translate the book. But Patrick McCarthy also worked on it and published in 2002. While his work is a compilation of all sorts of material on Motobu Chōki, it also contains a translation of Watashi no Karatejutsu of 1932.
In other words, the knowledge, firsthand information, and original accounts imparted by Motobu Chōki in 1932 came to be known in Japan only 60 years and in the West only 70 years after its original publication.
Moreover, the postwar narratives of karate – Shitō-ryū, Shōtokan, the various branches of Okinawa Shōrin-ryū – were created and propagated without knowing or considering the information provided by Motobu Chōki.
What does it all mean?
Simple. It means that Motobu Chōki’s Watashi no Karatejutsu is the most important source to assess and to reinterpret the old narratives of karate schools.
For example, in order to correctly assess and interpret Itosu’s technical tradition, you need to study about Bushi Nagahama, and that you can almost only do by using Watashi no Karatejutsu.
By the way, I am in the process of publishing an English translation of this text in early 2020. Motobu Naoki sensei, grandson of Chōki, and I have been working on this translation for quite some time.
Okinawa Kobudo is presented as an almost ancient martial art originally meant for combative purposes. In contrast to this, there are the numerous traditions of Mura-bo (village bojutsu), which are considered non-combative entertainment which developed from older, combative kobudo. Unsurprisingly, this hypothesis almost exclusively comes from kobudo circles.
Here are some things to consider. First of all, kobudo is a modern term which came into use only in the 20th century. Second, how did they train bojutsu in Okinawa 150 years ago? Staff fencing without protective equipment inevitably means injuries, including irreparable ones. That is, if you have technique, aggression, and dynamic. That’s why they invented bogu (armor) in kendo hundreds of years ago to allow for real strikes in practice. Maybe bojutsu people on Okinawa practiced yakusoku style, i.e. exchange of techniques in prearranged order. This is a distinctive characteristic seen abundantly in Mura-bo (see video below). It is also known from Japanese old-school kobudo like kenjutsu, jojutsu, naginatajutsu etc., where two-person drills are an important part of the didactics (see video further down). Did they only practice individual kata in Okinawa, without partner practice? Or did they practice friendly bouts with light weapons under controlled circumstances and no intention to injure, like in the video of Juego de Palo at the end of this article? In any case: The lack of even the tiniest hint to the existence of protective equipment in Okinawa begs the question: How martial or combative was it really?
Well, as I said earlier, Okinawa Kobudo is presented as an almost ancient martial art. There are, however, strong indactors that kobudo went through a process similar to karate in the early 20th century. It is possible that kobudo, just like karate, has intentionally been developed into a bujutsu from less militant/combative, cultural traditions of Okinawa. Or, how academics call it, from traditional pastimes.
Even before modern sports were transferred to Okinawa, there was a traditional athletic culture that used physical exercise as a medium. That is, a specific athletic culture has had been handed down in Okinawa in the form of traditional events since before the abolition of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. The traditional athletic culture was handed down by young men’s groups (called niseyuri) who
“participated in the villages’ local self-government, customs, and management of agricultural produce, in monitoring against theft and robbery, in fire prevention, checking travellers, in watching over unmarried daughters (mijarabi ミヤラビ), and they were involved in events such as a tug of war.” (Maeshiro 380-81)
Against the backdrop of the government’s military encouragement policy after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), above-mentioned niseyuri groups became increasingly active within the new movement of the “young men’s associations” (seinenkai 青年会), which were – however – controled by the prefectural authorities.
Here are just two from among dozens of examples:
On October 26, 1907, karate, jūjutsu, gekken (kendo), sumō, and footrace were performed as sideshows after the end of the general meeting of the Shimajiri County Young Men’s Association.
On August 18, 1909, karate, bayonet fencing, gekken (kendo), and sumō were performed as sidewhows after the end of the general meeting of Goeku Village Young Men’s Association.
Like this, karate was performed together with armed foot race, ping-pong, judo, gymnastics, long distance running, rope skipping, “two person three leg” race etc.pp.
Well, in 1909, the Ryukyu Shinpo newspaper published a survey about recreational pastimes made by the Shimenajiri County Young Men’s Associations, which recommended the following:
Things that already exist and which should be promoted:
1. Horse riding
3. Tug of war
5. dragon boat race
6. Traditional weight lifting (bo-ishi = chiishi)
7. Apparatus gymnastics
Things that exist, but which should be ignored:
1. Samisen (or sanchin; three-stringed Japanese or Okinawan lute) 三味線
2. Amateur theatricals
3. Kushiyukui (Formerly an annual event in Okinawa held on April 4th of the lunar calendar. In the villages, people brought treats such as pork dishes and started a feast.)
Things that exist but should be prohibited:
Mō-ashibi (A custom that was once widely used in Okinawa. It is a gathering of young men and women in the fields and the seaside, eating and drinking, and interacting mainly with singing, mainly in the evening and late at night.)
New things to encourage:
2. Fencing (kendo)
4. War songs
6. Chanting recitation of Chinese poems (especially to accompany a sword dance)
7. Band; orchestra
8. Athletic meets
9. Excursion meetings
11. Social evening; gathering for discussion; colloquium
12. Discussion meetings
13. Newspapers and magazines
14. Various games such as football and baseball
In the above list we see Bo-odori 棒躍 proposed as semething already in existence and established and which should be promoted. Now, bo-odori literally means “jumping lively with staff,” but came to be known as “staff dance 棒踊.” It is a traditional athletic culture and actually refers to fencing with the staff. It has roots in warrior traditions and this is the source of the Mura-bo, or village bojutsu. It might well be that it continued in two lineages:
1. The combative variant that became known as the martial art of bojutsu, and
2. the original variant that became known as Mura-bo.
The above is analoguous to Funakoshi’s saying that
As regards the origins of karate … (omission) … as martial arts unique to Okinawa, the Mēkata dances of the rural areas are the same as not yet developed karate.
Ryukyu Shinpo, 1914
The lack of even the tiniest hint to the existence of protective equipment in Okinawa still begs the question: how much of an actual warrior tradition was kobudo, really? And what were its tactical characteristics?
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During a roundtable discussion with Nagamine Shōshin, Chibana Chōshin explained as follows:
Nagamine: Well, karate existed even before it got handed down from China.
Chibana: About this, according to conversations with my teacher Itosu Ankō sensei (passed away 1916, at the age of 85), originally, in Okinawa there was the so-called ti 手. This also becomes clear from heroic sagas, such as of Oni Ōshiro. It is said that karate 唐手 entered later, when the ti of Chatan Yara and the kenpō of Tōdī Sakugawa merged into one, and became karate.
Taidan (Conversation, part 1). Okinawa Times, 1957.
Since Chibana became a student of Itosu in 1899, he must have heard this story between 1899 and 1916, the year Itosu passed away.
It is also interesting that Chibana mentions the ti of Chatan Yara and the kenpō of Tōdī Sakugawa. This sounds as if the technique of Chatan Yara was considered original Okinawan ti, while that of Sakugawa was considered Chinese kenpō.
This information is based on an unpublished program of the demonstrations that took place in the following context:
On Saturday, 17 June 1939, the former Prime Minister of Japan and current president of the Great Japan Martial Virtues Society (DNBK), General Hayashi Senjūrō, and invited persons attended the opening ceremony of the Butokuden of the Okinawa District Committee of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, where Judō, Kendō and Karate performances were held for two days on the 17th and 18th.
The program appeared on the internet shortly, but the site has been taken down. However, it is an extremely valuable source since it shows important experts and techniques of that time.
First of all, there were three categories of demonstrations:
Karate demonstrations by various secondary schools (apparently, group performances)
Solo demonstrations of Karate Kata
The solo demonstrations were performed in order of ascending age. Among the 22 karate performers, the last and oldest one was Kyan Chōtoku (69 years old at the time), who performed Chintō.
Here now follows the list. It speaks for itself. I’d like to thank Brian Arthur here for his valuable and successful commitment in almost single-handedly transcribing and the difficult-to-decipher characters on the low resolution photo, and in idenifiying the lion’s share of the persons in the list.
Karate Kata List of the Commemorative Demonstration held during the Opening Ceremony of the Okinawa District Committee of the Dai Nippon Butokukai (DNBK|ODC)
Kata of Karate-dō
Karate Demonstrations by Various Secondary Schools
Naha City Commercial School
Okinawa Prefectural Technical School (in Shuri Tōnokura)
Okinawa Prefectural Agriculture and Forestry School (in Kadena)
Dai Ni Chūgakkō (2nd Middle School in Naha Sobe)
Dai Ichi Chūgakkō (1st Middle School in Shuri)
Prefectural Teachers‘ College (the Normal School in Shuri)
Solo Demonstrations (of Karate Kata)
(in order of age)
(Name of Kata: Performer; confirmed names of performers in bold letters)
Recently I have been asked about a periodization of Okinawa. Surely there are various, often based on different approaches and perspectives.
In 1989, Takara Kurayoshi presented an update of the usual perdiodization. I think it still did not reach the mainstream, so here it is. At that time, Takara advocated a periodization of Ryukyuan history into four divisions. He used this as an immediate working hypothesis for his new research findings and – for easy understanding – contrasted it to the accepted transition of Japanese history. This periodization is good for most tasks.
However, when looking at the combat arts in Ryukyu, a slightly different periodization is necessary. Therefore, based on Takara’s proposal, I came up with the following periodization. It is based specifically on my findings regarding the transition of security related government organization and official posts over the course of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
In any case, when talking about the kingdom era, one specific periodization should be used as a reference, and it doesn’t need to be one of the above two.
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I have owned a facsimile edition of the Ambraser Codex since the erly 2000s. It was expensive but well worth it. The edition was self-published in Prague in 1889 by fencing master Gustav Hergsell, who dealt in detail with Talhoffers work. The work contains 116 plates reproduced in collotype method, of which two pages are text and 114 are picture plates.
According to the description in it, the book was published with approval of the office of the immediate head of the imperial-royal court and household of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, by:
Gustav Hergsell, k.k. Hauptmann der n.a. Landwehr, k. Landesfechtmeister zu Prag, Ritter des kaiserlich Oesterreichischen Franz Josef-Ordens, Besitzer der herzoglich Sachsen-Cobur-Gothischen Verdienst-Medaille für Kunst und Wissenschaft.
Dedicated n deepest reverence, to His imperial and royal sovereignty, the most illustrious Highness, Crown Prince Archduke Rudolph.
The depictions of the judicial and other duels show the seriousness behind the efforts of the fencing masters of that age. In fact, the larger part of the work itself is a guide to the serious combat, as given by master Hans Talhoffer to the squire Königsegg (Lwtold von Kungsegg) towards a fight for life and death, which is also shown in its various stages, and which ends with the death of the opponent.
Typically for fencing manuals of that era, the depictions seem flawed from an artistic point of view. But they clearly show that the techniques of the ancient fencing masters, particularly in case of Thalhoffer, were designed to kill the opponent. It has been assumed, therefore, that typical distinguishing marks of combat masters of that time would probably have been broken bones, cuts, missing fingers, or a glass eye.
Already in 1754, German legal scholar and politician Johann Carl Heinrich Dreyer (1723–1802) has described the codex in detail. According to it, the original Ambraser Codex contained twenty leaves without the figures, which at Hergsell’s time were not there anymore. In addition to the twenty leaves of text, some of the plates with drawings also seem to have disappeared.
The condition of the codex at the time of Hergsell’s reprint was that of an illustrated manuscript with accompanying explanations, as well as two pages of text. The content was as follows:
1. Combat rules.
2. Combat with the long sword.
3. Duel of Junkers Königsegg in full armor.
4. Dagger fencing.
5. Wrestling (=unarmed combat).
6. Combat with the pike.
7. Mounted combat with the pike.
8. Mounted combat with the sword.
9. Wrestling on horseback.
10. Scenes of horsemanship.
While the work was about serious and deadly combat, there is also one depiction showing combat with staffs. In it, the right fighter strikes while holding the staff with one hand only, in this way making use of the full length and swing of it. The other fight defends by holding his staff inclined, with his head and body behind it.
I’ll end this short piece with a few words about Talhoffer and by sharing a few photos from my edition (right klick and “open in new tab”):
Hans Talhoffer was a 15th century German fencing master. His martial lineage is unknown, but his writings make it clear that he had some connection to the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer, the grand master of the German school of fencing. Talhoffer was a well educated man, who took interest in astrology, mathematics, onomastics, and the auctoritas and the ratio. He authored at least five fencing manuals during the course of his career, and appears to have made his living teaching, including training people for trial by combat.
This manuscript originally rested in the former royal library in Berlin, but since 1945 was considered a loss of war. In the 1980s, Hans-Peter Hils rediscovered it at the Biblioteka Jagiellonski, in Krakow. Weapon and armaments collector Peter Schlegel limited its date of creation to 1435-1440.
On leaf 55v is found an illustrated piece on fencing with the staff. There are seveal things to note, particularly: 1) Both left foot foward and right foot foward position is is shown. 2) Both “cross grip” (Jp. honte-mochi, left person) and “upper grip” (Jp. gyaku-mochi) are shown. 3) An attack to the head is shown by the right person, while an attack to the foot/leg might be used as a counter by the left person. 4) There are gloves drawn in the upper center of the illustration. This might be taken as a hint to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). 5) Apparently they are both wearing a tight, padded fencing jacket with a high collar, which also points to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Therefore, while this is just a short text and only one (quite nice) illustration, it actually says a lot. Here follow both text and illustration:
Next, note the posture in the staff, from which one can perform all strikes, and all combat pieces and counters belonging to the staff.
This is about the family line where Matsumura Sōkon came from. Originally written in January 2006, and also published in my KARATE 1.0 (2013).
In the time of King Shō Kei (rg 1713-1751), on the 28th day of the 1st month of 1719, a petition (sōsei 奏請) was forwarded to the Bureau of Genealogies, asking for recognition of Esu Anji (16th c.) as the progenitor of the Bu clan (House Kiyō). The petition was prepared by Zayasu Okite Pēchin (i.e. Kiyō Sō’ei, 3rd generation descendant of Esu Anji) and Kobashigawa Okite Pēchin (i.e, Kiyō Sōmo, 4th generation descendant). The petition placed emphasis on the importance of the clan’s ancestors and the family history.
The main forwarder of the petition
Kiyō Chikudun 嘉陽筑登之
Kiyō Chikudun Pēchin 嘉陽筑登之親雲上
Majikina Chikudun Pēchin 真境名筑登之親雲上
Kiyō Chikudun Pēchin 嘉陽筑登之親雲上
Nagahama Pēchin 長濱親雲上
Okubara Pēchin 奥原親雲上
Majikina Pēchin 真境名親雲上
Additional forwarders were (possibly
in connection with other genealogies):
Inamine Pēchin 稲嶺親雲上
Tomigawa Satonushi Pēchin 冨川里之子親雲上
Gisushi Pēchin 宜壽次親雲上
Kise Pēchin 喜瀬親雲上
Kyan Pēchin 喜屋武親雲上
Madanbashi Pēchin 真玉橋親方
The petition was processed in several stages: On the 4th day of the 3rd month of 1719 it was signed by Kakinohana Oyakata, Kochinda Anji, and Kin Ōji, and on the 10th day of the 3rd month of 1719 it was signed and accepted by Izumi Pēchin. In this way, Esu Anji was established as the progenitor of the House of Kiyō from the Bu clan. The records show the following entry on this person:
First name: Esu Anji Sōso 江洲按司宗祖. Chinese name: Bu Genmin (武源明). Died in 1472, date of birth unknown. Posthumous name: Kaiki 開基. Parents: unknown. Wife: unknown. Eldest son: Sōjū 宗從.
After succeeding generations had passed, in the 18th century during the time of the 10th generation of this family, there was a person named Sōshi 宗至. On 1756/08/04 he tied up his topknot (at age 14). On 1768/12/01 he was ranked Chikudun Zashiki. On 1771/12/09 he got granted the yellow Hachimaki, i.e. he was awarded the Pēchin rank.
At the end of the 18th century, while the surname of the family members had been written Kiyō 嘉陽 for several generations, the Ki-ideogram (嘉) at this point in time was prohibited from being imparted in personal names. Reason for this was – I assume – that it was part of the era name of the 嘉慶 Jiaqing Emperor (rg 1796-1820), hence it was prohibited for everybody else to use it.
In consequence, the family was ordered to change their name. In 1778/06, the family name of Kiyō–as the account states–was changed to Muramatsu 村松, which is vice-versa the writing of Matsumura. Such Kiyō Sōshi became Muramatsu Sōshi. He died at age forty and received the posthumous name Shūshin 秀信.
Okinawa no Rekishi Jōhō, Volume 5. Image and Full Text Character Database (I). 6: “Ryūkyū Genealogies Computerization.” 1: Genealogies of Shuri. Genealogy of the Bu-Family (Kiyō-Family); Genealogy of the Bu-Family (traditional).
A few years back Patrick McCarthy and Tuttle were planning to publish a new edition of the “Bubishi.” At that time, I had been asked if I’d like to contribute a little extra info, which I gladly did. My article is found in the 2016 edition of the Bubishi, on pages 67–111. In this contribution, most of what I had come across in the year-long preceding research was well based in primary sources which I owned myself or had otherwise been given access to. But there was one short source I wasn’t able to locate and check. And it was particularly interesting.
It is the following citation of Miyagi Tokumasa:
On the last page of Shimabukuro Eizō’s “Records of Okinawa Karate-dō and the Royal Dynasty,” one single sheet of illustration appeared as a fragment of the Bubishi or otherwise martial arts related document. […] The description says that the sheet is one from among a total of sixteen originally bound sheets showing atemi (striking vulnerable points on the human body) and ukemi (receiving strikes with one’s body) illustrations that were presented from Tōdī Sakugawa to Matsumura Sōkon (destroyed by fire during the Battle of Okinawa). Although it is still not confirmed whether this is true or not, it is tentatively accepted.
Tokashiki 1995 (leaf 5-6, unnumbered pages)
Well, this appears to be the one single source where the theory of a personal tradition from Sakugawa to Matsumura originates in. And this is why it is extremely important for Okinawa Karate as a whole. As you can probably imagine, I’ve tried to get my hands on the mentioned publication, and although I have been a professional antiquarian for 20+ years or so, it was in vain at that time. So I had no means to check the veracity of above statement.
Luckily, I happened to befriend with John Lohde sensei, a seasoned karate kobudō man who calls Okinawa his second home and who also happened to be a long time student of Shimabukuro Eizō, the author of the book in question. And so I happened to receive a copy of the page in question. It was so exciting. Here is the illustration:
There was some disenchantment but I will make it short:
This is not an atemi chart, but a chart of the acupuncture points of the heart meridian.
The illustration is a hand drawn and hand labeled copy of a widespread original acupuncture chart.
The characters are not Chinese, but Japanese.
The characters are not from the time of Sakugawa or Matsumura, i.e. not from the 18-19th century.
Sakugawa’s life dates are ambiguous. However, he is said to have lived during the 18th to the 19th century. During that time, there is basically no way that he or anyone else used the simplified form of characters called Shinjitai, i.e. simplified forms of kanji that have only been used in Japan since a reform in 1946. There are several of these characters used: 図 vs 圖, 霊 vs 靈, and 経 vs 經. This means that the illustration was created in the postwar era.
If you Google picture search the illustration’s headline, you get about this:
This is because the illustration’s headline reads “Te no Shōin Shinkei no Zu” (手の小陰心経之図). This is nothing but the “Illustration of the Arm’s Minor Yin Heart Meridian,” abbreviated in TCM as HT.
Besides, the handwritten labels of the points are as follows, and they are exactly the acupuncture points of the “Arm’s Minor Yin Heart Meridian”:
In other words, this source can not be used as an evidence for a personal combative tradition from Sakugawa to Matsumura and further to the postwar era. Moreover, it is an example of the liberty and inventiveness of storytelling, building rapport, appeal to authority etc.pp. that we often find Westerners be so receptive of when it comes to Okinawa.
Shimabukuro Eizo: Records of Okinawa Karate-dō and the Royal Dynasty. 1964.
On Monday, November 25, from 2-4 pm, the “2nd Okinawa Karate Academy” was held at the Auditorium on the 4th floor of the Okinawa Prefectural Office. The topic was new findings regarding “An unknown group of early modern Karate persons.”
The speaker was Nakamura Akira of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate Promotion Division.
The achievements of experts such as Itosu Ankō (1831-1915), Hanashiro Chōmo (1869-1945), and Yabu Kentsū (1866-1937) are well known. However, there are karate persons from the initial stages of karate’s spread in educational settings who were forgotten and buried in history. In the current lecture, Nakamura Akira introduced three unknown karate persons and the “secret story of karate’s introduction” to school education.
The last installment is about kobujutsu or “ancient martial arts using weaponry.” Usually, there is a lack of information about kobujutsu at that time of early karate developments. Usually kobujutsu is spared from being accused of having gone through the process of technical sanitation that is typically believed to have been the case for karate in school education. As a result, kobujutsu is also believed to have been less charged with nationalistic and militaristic ideology all the way to 1945. However, the following research results necessitate to reconsider the notion that modern Okinawan kobujutsu was an original warrior martial arts from the kingdom times. Instead, modern Okinawan kobujutsu was probably spawned by the same momenta as karate. Continue reading to find out.
3. Yonamine Isshun (1877 – death dates unknown) — The First Teacher of Kobujutsu (in modern educational setting)
Short curriculum vitae
1877: Born in Nakagusuku district.
1898: Becomes a licensed elementary school teacher at Noguni Elementary School (at that time in Chatan district).
1899: Held a speech at the ceremony of new recruits at Chatan district. There he used the phrase “Okinawa-style iron fist.”
Around January 1900: the term Tinbē appears in his memoirs of those days.
1904: Composed “A Young Soldier’s Poem”, “Army War Songs”, and “Various Songs for the Russo-Japanese War”
1907: Started education for children with visual or hearing disabilities at the Tokeji elementary school (he served as the principal).
1909: He translated the Imperial Rescript on Education (1890) to Okinawan language and distributed mimeograph-made copies of it to schools and government offices in Nakagami district (published as the “Complete Textbook on the Imperial Rescript Written Down in Local Color,” 1934).
1910: Prefectural Middle School students perform karate at the Mitō Elementary School, where he was being in office.
1936: Published a proposal for the enforcement and popularization of “Physical exercises with the Bō” in “Okinawa Education” (No.233).
educators of modern Okinawa, Yonamine Isshun can be mentioned as a person who
has demonstrated versatility. For example, he pioneered an Okinawan translation
of the Imperial Rescript on Education (1890), composed music, and in addition
was a pioneer of so-called special support education in Okinawa. For special
support education, a monument of “School of Origin of Okinawa Handicapped
Children Education” was erected in 1981 at Togeiji Elementary School in
Yomitan Village, where Yonamine was active as a teacher. His achievement is
honored in an inscription.
Among his activities was also the instruction of kobujutsu in school education.
was born in 1877 in Nakagusuku district. He went to the Prefectural Normal
School in Shuri and in 1898 became an elementary school teacher. It is unknown
who he studied with, but before graduating from Normal School, he seemed to
have been fond of Okinawa Karate. This is confirmed in his usage of the words “Okinawa-style
iron fist” (phrase from a speech for new recruits) and “Tinbē” (in his memoirs
for the time of around 1901-1902).
Above all, it was bōjutsu that Yonamine placed a lot of energy and focus on. It seems that he was teaching “bō taisō” (physical education or gymnastics with the bō) in the field of school education, and in 1936 he formulated his passion for bōjutsu in the announcement “Advocating the popularization of physical education using the bō” (“Okinawa Education,” No. 233).
Yonamine proved his preference in saying, “In Okinawa, karate-jutsu and bōjutsu are handed down as martial arts (bugei),” and that “In recent years especially karate-jutsu reached Tokyo, the Kansai region (south-western half of Japan, including Osaka), Hokkaido, and other regions.” However, with regard to bōjutsu he described the then current status as: “I feel that there are few people who focus on its research, and also the kinds of kata are quite strange when compared to karate, and they only amount to 10 kinds (of kata).” At that time, Yonamine was sixty years old, and was becoming increasingly distant from the educational field. This sentence may have been meant to petition future teachers to inherit and hand down kobujutsu.
Yonamine Isshun’s activities can be confirmed by his attendance of a roundtable
called “The Enjoyment of Being an Educator” held in 1939. It is not well known
how he lived throughout his later years, or what kata of bōjutsu he handed