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.
About the Author
The author began Karate in 1994, went to Japan first in 1999 and continuously studied Ryūkyū Kobudō since 2000. Besides, he has seven years straight experience in Jiu-jitsu. He trained with a large number of internationally acclaimed budōka. For close to two years in total he lived and trained on Okinawa, Japan, honing his skills in the dōjō of various prominent masters.
In 2011 he performed Kobudō at the German Okinawan Festival held in Okinawa, which was well received by the German ambassador to Japan as well as the German Honorary Consul to Okinawa.
His unquenchable passion for various martial arts of Ryūkyūan provenance results in regular print and online publications frequently reaching an international audience. With two decades of practical experience, extensive travel, and published research he still considers himself being merely on the verge of understanding Ryūkyū martial arts.
The author is a certified engineer, technical writer, and antiquarian bookseller living in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he continues his training and research.
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.
Posted inMisc|Comments Off on Know a thousand, but master one thoroughly
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.
Kafu 家譜 (genealogies) are family trees prepared by the Ryūkyūan gentry since the latter part of 17th century. It is believed that almost 3,000 such genealogies were prepared during the period of the Ryūkyū Kingdom until the middle of 19th century. They were prepared by people from Shuri, Naha, Tomari, and Kumemura, but also from people from the islands of Kume, Miyako, and Yaeyama.
A title page was attached on temporary bound pages indicating the clan (by a Chinese surname) and the house (by the Ryūkyūan surname) of the genealogy (O uji kafu 御氏家譜). They were composed of a diagram of the family-tree (seikeizu 世系図) as well as additional family data and biographies (kafu kiroku 家譜記録).
Both the words kafu and keizu 系図 were used to describe the genealogies, but generally the term keizu was called, pronounced chēji in Ryūkyūan dialect. The genealogies were written in Chinese characters, but complimentary entries and awards were written in sōrō 書簡 (letter form) which was typical for administrative works. In this instance, Ryūkyūan characters were used, i.e. a mix of Kanji and Kana.
Among the many special characteristics of Ryūkyūan genealogies, the following three points may be considered the most important:
They were produced on order of the royal administration (ōfu 王府) in Shuri. One copy was kept by the family; the other copy was kept by the Bureau of Genealogies (keizu-za 系圖座, established in 1689 to compile genealogical records of the royal family as well as of the aristocratic families). The genealogies including their supplements constituted official documents maintained by the Bureau of Genealogies.
Only members of the gentry were authorized to prepare genealogies. In the documents they were to identify their gentry status and were called Keimochi (系持, lit. possessing a genealogy, often confused with the terms samurai and shizoku). As a class distinction, commoners without a family-tree were called mukei (無系, lit. “no genealogy.” These were commoners who could not prove a family lineage.)
It significantly influenced to established munchū (門中) which were organizations of paternal blood related families including the adoption of the (Chinese surname) system. The conception of the munchū originally developed from family clans within the earliest Mura village communities. It denotes a family clan based on the paternal line. It also denotes the Okinawan custom of sharing the same tomb and collectively performing related rituals. In the early modern era of Ryūkyū, they constituted one part of the semi-official groups of regional authority involved in all kinds of administrative matters as well as judicial affairs of the region. Terms related are shinzoku shūdan 親族集団, also shinzoku kankei 親族関係 meaning kinship, family relationship, furthermore ichimon 一門 (“one clan”) and munchū 門中 (“inside the gates or family”).
Editing of Genealogies
The following is a general outline of various events leading to the development of genealogies in Ryūkyū.
Between 1641 and 1643 the Kanei Shoka Keizuden 寛永諸家系図伝 was compiled by the Tokugawa shōgunate. It contained the lineages of daimyō, hatamoto, and various gentry families.
In 1650, by order of the Ryūkyū king, Shō Shōken (Haneji Chōshū, 1617–1676) edited the Chūzan Seikan 中山世鑑. It was the first official historical chronicle in Ryūkyū, compiled primarily as a genealogical record of the successive generations of Ryūkyūan kings.
In 1670, King Shō Tei ordered all his subordinates to edit their genealogies.
In 1679, regent Ōzato Ōji corrected the genealogies made by the people.
In 1689, the Bureau of Genealogies was established. It defined various systems and started a permanent editing of the genealogies.
It is believed that the Kanei Shoka keizuden (Tokugawa shōgunate, 1643) had a significant influence upon the establishment of the Bureau of Genealogies in Ryūkyū. The royal administration first ordered Haneji Chōshū to prepare the genealogy of the royal family, which became the first official history of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, called Chūzan Seikan (1650). Later it was translated into Chinese and further enhanced to represent the historical record of the royal family tree and the title was changed to Chūzan Seifu 中山世譜 (1701–1874). It was continuously updated as the official historical data of Ryūkyū, continued until the abolition of the kingdom.
The development of family genealogies began at the time when the royal genealogy started. After several stages of improvement, the permanent system of editing was initiated and established with the founding of the Bureau of Genealogies in 1689.
Uji (Chinese surname) and “Nanui”
At the time of establishment of the Bureau of Genealogies in 1689, the uji (Chinese surname) was determined based upon munchū as a unit, such as Shō-uji, Mō-uji, Ba-uji, etc. Furthermore, the first Chinese character of the individual given name was also decided. The Shō-uji had Chō 朝 as the first character of the given name. The first character of the given name in Gosamaru’s Mō-uji was Sei 盛, in the Ufugusuku lineage it was An, in the Ba-uji of Kunigami Aji it was Sei, and in Urasoe Uēkata’s lineage it was Ryō, etc. This first character is called nanui 名乗 in Okinawan.
The family names of officials of the kingdom’s administration came from the village or territory of their ruling. As a result, some prestigious families had different family names for each member, as parents, brothers and relatives were separately awarded a village or district.
Therefore, the uji name, which originally came from China, was fixed to a munchū to represent a consanguine group. The idea may be derived from the genealogies of Kume village gentry and was a significant characteristic of the Ryūkyūan genealogies.
Shitsugi and inspection of the Bureau of Genealogies
The royal seal of Shuri on the genealogy of “Yara Pechin”. This is the assumed genealogy of Chatan Yara.
When genealogies were prepared, the administration ordered the gentry to submit two copies of each genealogy to the Bureau of Genealogies: one formal copy was stamped with the “Seal of Shuri” (official seal of the king) and returned to the originator. The 2nd copy was retained by the Bureau of Genealogies.
Following the initial submission and registration of the documents, every 5 years personal historical data, koseki 戸籍 (directory of the personal data of a household) and other new additional information were incorporated. This was called shitsugi 質疑 (lit. “question and answer”).
All additional data needed a back-up proof. Back-up proofs were also needed at the time of the establishment of a genealogy. Basically all entries made to a genealogy required supporting data. For instance, to register a child, requests with signatures of about ten people of munchū and relatives had to be submitted within one week to establish a seishi shōbun 生子証文 (birth certificate). Occupational experience required to be accompanied by a certificate from the appropriate office.
The Bureau of Genealogies carefully reviewed the submitted documents. Misspellings and errors were corrected, remarks added and the package returned to the originator, who in turn corrected and re-submitted two copies of the final documents to the Bureau of Genealogies.
One copy was stamped and returned to be attached to the formal copy. A second copy was retained by the Bureau of Genealogies to be filed together with the 2nd (initial) document copy.
Such strict inspection and review by the Bureau of Genealogies added strong reliability as a primary source to Ryūkyūan genealogies. They were private genealogies of the kingdom’s subjects, and at the same time also official documents of the kingdom.
Kafu and personal status
The establishment of the genealogies clearly distinguished the gentry from the common public. Differences and distinctions in personal status existed before, but it was the system of genealogies the concept of mukei (without family lineage) as a designation for commoners came from. At the same time, strict rules were established as regards the qualification of the gentry. Those who engaged in daily maintenance works, performed agricultural works, lived in the country-side, etc., were subject to confiscation of the gentry status or the downgrade of the family status. This is because they violated the general rule that all gentry must serve the royal administration and must reside in Shuri, Naha, Tomari, or Kume.
But these rules were loosened because in reality the administration was not able to provide jobs to all gentry and many members of the gentry moved to the country-side and engaged in farming.
In addition, genealogies significantly affected the inheritance system of family lineage: If there was no one available in a household to inherit the lineage, they would seek out a closely related family, and if there was also no one available, they would seek out a remotely related family, and if still there was no one available, they turned to mukei to pick a male successor to continue – albeit artificially – the paternal blood line. The problem of determining a heir was a huge headache for the royal administration. However, taboos of today were not necessarily big problems back at that time.
The royal administration made a proper and appropriate job in reviewing the genealogies. It was in more recent years, after the collapse of the kingdom, that the problem became adversely affected by the original rules [?] and is difficult to solve.
For individual owners, the Ryūkyū genealogies represent the family register of ancestors and the historical data of the family. The records of the ancestors are related to the understanding of the history of the administration of Ryūkyū. That’s why the genealogies have a high value as historical data. Major events of the administration of Ryūkyū have been written down as official data in official documents, but many of them seemed to have been written based upon genealogical entries. The genealogical data includes the events an official was engaged in as well as his occupational accomplishments. Such entries often describe the event in more detail than official entries in other histories. Something may be discovered by accumulation and analysis of data from a number of these genealogies [which I did for security related duties in Karate 1.0]. Sometimes, there was even only one genealogy, but it showed very valuable information. In addition, 200–300 year old koseki (directory of the personal data of a household) provide us with various data such as marriage, divorce, longevity, changes of name, etc. at each respective period.
The value of the genealogies is that they provide us with information from many different areas otherwise unavailable.
Anyone who ever started Okinawa kobudō will inevitably get to know Shūshi no Kon 周氏の棍. Often the first kata taught in bōjutsu, it is found in many kobudō styles. Shūshi 周氏 means “Mr. Shū”, and kon 棍 refers to techniques of fencing with the long staff. Accordingly, the designation Shūshi no Kon means “the techniques of staff fencing of Mr. Shū”.
Well, Shū is not a Japanese or Okinawan name, but a Chinese name, which is actually pronounced Zhōu. Shū is simply the Japanese reading of the character.
Hokama (2001: 24) noted on Mr. Shū:
“Around the year 1831 the Bōjutsu-master Shū from Shanghai lived at the rear of the Sōgenji in Naha Asato. Shūji no Kon was passed down by him in Okinawa.”
That is, Shūshi no Kon describes the cudgel fencing methods of a certain Mr. Shū, a native of Shanghai, who settled in Okinawa and whose stick fencing methods were passed on in Okinawa. That’s all we can tell about Mr. Shū.
However, we can get ourselves an impression of what Okinawa looked like at the time and in the area Mr. Shū lived there. To this end, I here present to you an illustration of the Sōgenji in full bloom, as it once looked. The illustration is from the Nantō Kiji Gaihen of 1886. We see a beautiful, park-like terrain with the temple building, situated at the river Asato-gawa over which the stone bridge Sōgenji-bashi leads, as well as a few people on foot and on water. Just for the fun of it: there are various people who use poles either for carrying stuff, as a punt pole to propel their boats, or to fish.
19th century illustration of the Sogen-ji area in Tomari.
Still today Asato-gawa flows therealong, parallel to the monorail overhead railway. However, the Asato-gawa now is a few meters further away from the Sōgen-ji as could be assumed from the scale of the old illustration. Most probably it had been redirected in an artificial riverbed.
At the time of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the Sōgenji served as a national mausoleum. In its main hall commemorative plaques for each of the past kings were placed. Based on one of these stone tablets archaeologists dated the construction of the temple to the reign of King Shō Shin (1477-1562).
Mr. Shū, is that you?
The stone gate was the first gate of the temple and is the only part of the original building that has survived. The main hall and all other temple buildings were completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
But, besides the above “Mr. Shū”, Shūshi 周氏 might also have been meant to refer to a whole family named Shū. In fact, the Shū-clan周姓 was an official household from Kumemura, with its own genealogy. It is one of the so-called 36 families and this should be an interesting topic for future studies. As there are no informations readily available, data need be generated first about the clan, the households that belonged to it, the typical duties of the family members and other informations.
Chapter 14 of the “Jixiao Xinshu” (1560-61) described a kata made of 32 “gestures”, all of which had their applications. The work was translated and reprinted in the following centuries, including in Korea and Japan. In the introduction, the author explained that “in the wars of old unarmed combat did not play any role” (which was probably true for most combat all around the world for a long time already), but he says it was meant for combative fitness as a foundation for the acquiring the necessary skills in weaponry.
In terms of anthropology, the concept of kata for unarmed combat in very serious environment appears to be a rather young leaf for obvious reasons. In case of Ryūkyū, the answer might be found in asking “Who were they supposed to fight against unarmed?”
On ships within the China tributary trade, they would never ever have fought hand-to-hand unaremd, except as a very last resort. Instead they were equipped with cannons, rifles of some sort, swords, armor etc. Pirates would also attack with ballistic weapons, and if they entered, they would use spears, knifes, whatever. Skirmishes were decided by this equipment. When a Ryūkyūan China-bound vessel once put to flight a flock of pirate ships, and a Ryūkyūan official with triumphant shouts established himself on deck in full Japanese armor swinging a naginata, he was struck by a bullet that pieced his armor, and he died.
So, as regards the idea of kata having been meant for any kind of serious unarmed combat by Ryūkyūans — i.e. besides teaching the young, rituals, the usual mock combats of males, plus judicial combat was never heard of in Ryūkyū –; this would most probably have been restricted to internal affairs, like feudal police and security duties. Like, standing at a gate all day; or watching out for ships at an outlook; or spying on Westerners as well as their own people and the like.
Seriously, let’s travel back in time to Okinawa in the middle of the 19th century. In 1847, Jurien de La Gravière assumed command of the corvette La Bayonnaise and went to the Far East for three years. In August 1848 he reached Naha harbor and received the usual reception by a representative of the Ryūkyūan government. When he visited Shuri and its outskirts, he observed:
«Nous avions demandé à ne pas être suivis par la police, espérant que notre promenade en deviendrait plus libre et plus intéressante; mais le bambou des kouannins, invisible pour nous, n’en planait pas moins sur les épaules de ces pauvres gens. »
So, obviously, Ryūkyūan security guards were hitting their own people instead of the “intruders.” This is no wonder, since the impression Ryūkyūans got from Western visitors was like the one below, showing the landing of French Admiral Guérin in Tomari seven years later, in 1855, fifty years prior to karate‘s official adoption into the physical education of the Shuri Middle School:
Admiral Guérin and French marines embark at Tomari in 1855.
Posted inMisc|Comments Off on The impression Ryūkyūans got from Western visitors, 19th century
Following his assignment at Kadena Police Station (December 1931 through August 1936), Nagamine Shōshin was sent to the Tōkyō Metropolitan Police Department, i.e. the national police HQ of Japan. Not much is known about the training he received there over the course of six month. However, it might have been related to the book called “Police Martial Arts: Techniques for Arresting Criminals and for Self-protection” (Keisatsu Budō — Taiho to Goshin 警察武道。逮捕と護身). First published by Shōkadō of Tōkyō in 1930, this is a 3rd printing edition of 1931.
Recorded with Takayoshi Sensei’s consent, in Nagamine Sensei’s private study in 2008, in his old premises which also housed the old, now defunct dōjō.
The authors were Takahashi Kazuyoshi, Ōgushi Ihachi, and Zusho Takekuma.
Takahashi was instructor (shihan) at the police training school and ranked kyōshi in jūdō. Ōgushi was a policeman and 5th dan in Kōdōkan jūdō. Zusho was an instructor at the Tōkyō Metropolitan Police HQ, i.e. were Nagamine studied as a trainee.
After returning to Okinawa, Nagamine continued to serve as a policeman of Okinawa Prefectural Police force.
The term Taiho found in the title of the book refers to Taihojutsu 逮捕術, a modern era term which refers to “techniques used by policemen to arrest criminals”. It can be viewed a modern era equivalent of the medieval/early modern term “torite” 捕り手. That is, these were techniques from jūdō, jūjutsu, aikijutsu etc. adopted for police work.
Posted inMisc|Comments Off on Is Taihojutsu modern Torite?
Today I scratched and scraped off a 50 year old paper slip to get closer to a secret… A secret related to what Urasoe, Sueyoshi, Sesoko, Soeishi, and Shiishi no Kon have in common. And what not.
Here we go.
In 1964, the original edition of Taira Shinken’s “Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan” (Encyclopedia of Ancient Ryūkyūan Martial Arts with Weaponry) was published. It was the first ever attempt to publish a monograph solely concerned with Ryūkyū Kobudō. The term Ryūkyū Kobudō does not refer to all schools of ancient Ryūkyūan martial arts with weaponry. Rather, it decidedly refers to the syllabus researched and established by Taira Shinken.
At the time of its publication, due to the rush in publication numerous writing and printing errors occurred. Moreover, there are also mistakes in the contents, some of which still cause a headache 50 years later.
To begin with, I am in the fortunate, unique, and expensive position of owning two specimens of the original 1964 edition of Taira’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan.
In one of these two, a correction sheet is found glued in. In the other it’s not, neither are there signs of glue. Obviously, and while this publication was already limited to comparatively few printed copies anyway, this correction sheet was not included in all of the copies, or it got lost.
According to the postscript by the publisher Kogure Takehide, it was not possible to collect all kata of Taira Shinken in this one single volume. Therefore, the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan was actually planned as a series of five volumes, each with a individual volume name: 1) Kan no maki. 2) Gen no maki. 3) Kō no maki. 4) Ri no maki. 5) Tei no maki. However, only the first of these volumes was ever published, and this is the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (Kan no maki) we are talking about.
The five planned volumes, each with their respective kata.
The remaining four volumes – and their unpublished photos and texts – never saw the light of day. However, on page 70 of the original edition, the publisher Kogure Takehide provided the following list of the kata that were planned to be published in the five volumes. Note the highlighted kata:
Kata List 1 (original version of 1964)
Vol. 1 – Kan no maki
Shūshi no Kon (Dai)
Urasoe no Kon
Hama Higa no Sai
Vol. 2 – Gen no maki
Sueyoshi no Kon (Shō)
Sakugawa no Kon (Shō)
Sesoko no Kon
Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai
Vol. 3 – Kō no maki
Sueyoshi no Kon (Dai)
Shirotaru no Kon
Chinen Shikiyanaka no Kon
Chatan Yara no Sai
Vol. 4 – Ri no maki
Sakugawa no Kon (Dai)
Chōun no Kon
Tawada-ryū no Sai
Vol. 5 – Tei no maki
Yunegawa no Hidari-bō
Yakā no Sai
Kanegawa no Tinbē
Let’s turn to the correction sheet, which gives the corrections for writing and printing errors detected at the time of publication in 1964: Line 5 of page 70 is corrected from Urasoe to Sesoko, and line 8 is corrected from Sesoko to Urasoe.
The correction sheet, correcting Line 5 of page 70 from Urasoe to Sesoko, and line 8 from Sesoko to Urasoe.
Therefore, the following corrected list unfolds (abbreviated to volume 1 to 3 only, as these are the only ones of interest here):
Kata List 2 (corrected version of 1964)
Vol. 1 – Kan no maki
Shūshi no Kon (Dai)
Sesoko no Kon
Hama Higa no Sai
Vol. 2 – Gen no maki
Sueyoshi no Kon (Shō)
Sakugawa no Kon (Shō)
Urasoe no Kon
Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai
Vol. 3 – Kō no maki
Sueyoshi no Kon (Dai)
Shirotaru no Kon
Chinen Shikiyanaka no Kon
Chatan Yara no Sai
In other words, in the original edition, initially Urasoe no Kon had been specified. On the correction sheet this was corrected to Sesoko no Kon. Moreover, inside the actual book, in the headline of the kata on page 54, a paper slip bearing the printed characters for Sesoko was pasted over the original text.
Paper slip saying “Sesoko no Kon” pasted over the original text.
As I mentioned before, I am in the fortunate, unique, and expensive position of owning two specimens of the original 1964 edition of Taira’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan. In both of these the paper slip with the printed characters for Sesoko are pasted on the headline on page 54. So I decided to remove the paper slip in one of the editions. It was not possible to do so nondestructively. So I heated the area, made it wet, and carefully scraped the paper slip off, hoping my in situ surgery would render the original text below intact. And it did. As it was to be expected, the original text read Urasoe.
Buried for more than 50 years, under the removed paper slip the original text says “Urasoe no Kon.”
Summarizing the above, in the original 1964 edition of the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (Kan no maki), the title of the kata on page 54 was initially specified as Urasoe no Kon. However, it was corrected to Sesoko no Kon, both on the attached correction sheet as well as on page 54 itself.
Now, looking further into this topic, I looked up the “New Revised and Enlarged Edition of the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan”, published in 1997 by Yōju Shorin of Ginowan, Okinawa. Editor in Chief was Inoue Kishō, the 2ndSōke of the Ryūkyū Kobujutsu Hozon Shinkōkai. In his postscript he explains:
As people who bought the original  edition will know, in this new revised and enlarged edition, in addition to evident typographical errors, the names of kata have been corrected, for example Sesoko was corrected to Sueyoshi. (Taira 1997: 209)
In other words, he explains that the designation Sesoko no Kon in the original 1964 edition was a mistake, and that this kata is correctly labelled as Sueyoshi no Kon. And this was by no means a recent idea. In fact, in Inoue Motokatsu’s encyclopedic work (Ryūkyū Kobudō Vol. 2, 1974: 223-266), the one hundred and twenty-six techniques of Sesoko no Kon are described in detail with photos and text. And while there are some concords, this is simply not the kata as shown by Taira in his 1964 original edition. Finally, when looking up the eighty-eight techniques of Sueyoshi no Kon (Ryūkyū Kobudō Vol. 1, 1972: 201-230), it is exactly the same kata as shown by Taira in 1964. So it is Sueyoshi, not Sesoko.
Next, you probably have noticed that in the above-given Kata List 1 of 1964 two kata are mentioned as Sueyoshi no Kon (Shō) [Vol. 2 – Gen no maki, No. 1] and Sueyoshi no Kon (Dai) [Vol. 2 – Vol. 3 – Kō no maki, No. 1]. First, it should be noted that Inoue Motokatsu himself only ever published one single version of Sueyoshi no Kon in his encyclopedia, which contain all kata of the system. He also taught only one single version of this kata. Accordingly, again looking up the “New Revised and Enlarged Edition of the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan” (1997), the following corrections emerge:
Kata List 3 (corrected version of 1997)
Kan no maki
Shūshi no Kon (Dai)
Sueyoshi no Kon
Hama Higa no Sai
Hama Higa no Tunfā
Gen no maki
Soeishi no Kon (Shō)
Sakugawa no Kon (Shō)
Sesoko no Kon
Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai
Kō no maki
Soeishi no Kon (Dai)
Shirotaru no Kon
Chinen Shikiyanaka no Kon
Chatan Yara no Sai
So the 1964 entries for Sueyoshi no Kon (Shō) and (Dai) have been corrected to Soeishi no Kon (Shō) and (Dai).
As a side note which shows the confusion, you probably also noted that Sesoko no Kon (Vol. 2 – Gen no maki, Nr. 3) of Kata List 1 (original version of 1964) was corrected to Urasoe no Kon in Kata List 2 (corrected version of 1964), but that it was corrected back to Sesoko no Kon in Kata List 3 (corrected version of 1997).
Now, I previously mentioned that Motokatsu Inoue only every published one single version of Sueyoshi no Kon in his encyclopedia, not two, and that he also taught only one single version of this kata. I also showed that this version of Inoue’s Sueyoshi no Kon is 100% identical with the kata presented on pages 54 – 65 of Taira’s original 1964 version. As shown above, this latter 1964 presentation of Taira had been mislabeled twice, first as Urasoe no Kon, and then as Sesoko no Kon. Whatever caused this confusion: this kata is what thousands of instructors and students of Taira lineage kobudō around the world refer to as Sueyoshi no Kon. It should furthermore be noted that an answer to the name might be found anywhere except in Okinawa: there, it seems, this kata, although found in name only in the kata lists of dōjō, had not in fact been handed down personally. Therefore, the comparison to Japanese mainland Taira lineages are the only means available. And with this we reach another extraordinariness, the description of the kata by Murakami Katsumi.
Murakami Katsumi’s main teacher was Inoue Motokatsu, who in turn was a top student of Taira Shinken. As he was the first and only person to have ever received a 10thdan by Taira Shinken himself, some say Inoue was the actual heir to the system. Well, there was a lot of pushing and shoving among a number of venerable gentlemen both on the mainland as well as in Okinawa, but this is another story.
Murakami Katsumi had not only been a student of Inoue Motokatsu, but also added three kobudō kata to Inoue’s 3 volume set on Ryūkyū Kobudō (see Vol. 3, 1974). In 1997, Murakami was also appointed advisor to Inoue’s association, the Ryūkyū Kobujutsu Hozon Shinkōkai, at that time and following the demise of Motokatsu led by his son Inoue Kishō. The following is, therefore, all the more astounding: When Murakami Katsumi’s work Okinawa Bojutsu was translated by Joe Swift and published in 2007, it included two cudgel traditions designated as Sueyoshi, namely Sueyoshi no Kon Shō (Murakami/Swift 2007: 79 – 88) and Sueyoshi no Kon Dai (Murakami/Swift 2007: 89 – 102). But, as noted by the translator Joe Swift, these two kata were called Soeishi no Kon Shō and Dai by Inoue Motokatsu. However, it seems Murakami maintained that he was taught these kata under the name of Sueyoshi. But, these two kata are what both Murakami’s teacher Inoue Motokatsu as well as his son Inoue Kishō clearly and unambiguously labelled Soeishi no Kon Shō and Dai, as also had been previously mentioned in this text. Here is a video of Murakami Sensei performing the kata in question. Although labelled Sueyoshi here, it is what the rest of his teacher Inoue’s group calls Soeishi no Kon Dai.
Another issue not really solved is related to the above: Within the kobudō syllabus of Shimabuku Tatsuo of Isshin-ryū is found a kata called Shīishi no Kon シーシヌクン. According to Arcenio Advincula and also other sources, Shimabuku Tatsuo learned this kata from Taira Shinken. However, there has been a discussion as to which kata the name Shīishi actually refers to, to Sueyoshi or to Soeishi.
So what was the original name of Shīishi, what characters were used, and what was the kata Shimabuku Tatsuo learned from his friend Taira Shinken?
As was shown earlier, there was a lot of confusion about the correct names even in Taira’s own publication still in 1964. Various kata names where mislabeled, and even the corrections were partially wrong. This is now 50 years ago. At the risk of repeating myself: I learned what has become called Sueyoshi no Kon firsthand by a 2nd generation student of Taira Shinken. I also studied kobudō with a Okinawan 2nd generation student of Taira Shinken. I studied in great detail Sueyoshi no Kon in practice as well as in comparison with the few publications by Taira Shinken and Inoue Motokatsu, as well as Soeishi no KonDai from the latter as well as from object-lesson by a teacher. I studied Soeishi no Kon of Taira lineage from Okinawa, which I am – however – not allowed to share anything about. This in addition to all the videos and websites everybody else has also seen.
And while there is still much to discuss, like the name changes and their level of authenticity anyway, as regards the question what kata the Shīishi no Kon of Isshin-ryū originated from, there is only one answer: It is the kata today (!!!) referred to as Soeishi no Kon, or otherwise Soeishi no Kon Dai, depending on which Taira lineage you refer to.
Finally, you might simply learn Sueyoshi no Kon and Soeishi no Kon.
The proof of the pudding is in eating it.
Here are some of sources again:
Soeishi no Kon (Shō) (Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō, Vol. 1, 1972: 161-195)
Soeishi no Kon (Dai) (Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō, Vol. 2, 1972: 133-176)
Sueyoshi no Kon (Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō, Vol. 1, 1972: 201-230)
Sesoko no Kon (Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō, Vol. 2, 1974: 223-266)
Sueyoshi no Kon (Taira Shinken: Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan – Kan no maki, 1964: 54 – 65)
Sueyoshi no Kon (Taira Shinken: Shinpen Zōho Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan, 1997: 127 – 142)
Sueyoshi no Kon Shō (Murakami/Swift: Okinawa Bojutsu, 2007: 79 – 88)
Sueyoshi no Kon Dai (Murakami/Swift: Okinawa Bojutsu, 2007: 89 – 102)
I wrote about Sueyoshi no Kon previously. Here I present Taira Shinken’s own description of the kata, in photo and text (my translation). You can also view how it is performed here, while I tried to leave out the typical performing habits that usually distort a clear assessment.
Note that some of the main Okinawan Taira lineage schools do not practice this kata. In one of the main Taira dojo they asked a friend and sensei of mine to show the kata to them, which they then filmed. In other words, they don’t know it and have no personal tradition in it.
So here it is for your comparison.
Stand in musubi dachi and hold the Bō under your right Armpit. Bow (rei). Place the feet in the parallel stance (heikō dachi) and adopt the position of attention (yōi). Now first let your both hands hang down [, such that the Bō untwines. Grab the Bō with your left hand] and continue the movement by lifting the left hand in front of the forehead, as is shown in the photo.
Leave the right foot in its place, and place the left foot one step backwards. Assume prep for a defence to the middle level (chūdan uke yōi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of a defence to the middle level (chūdan uke) as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Lift both hands overhead and assume the posture of the rising defence (jōdan age uke) as is shown in the photo.
Swing the Bō around circularly and strike to front to the lower level (migi gedan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Now pull your right hand to your left shoulder and simultaneously lift your left hand up to the front into the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage).
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume prep for the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull back the left hand to the left hip and simultaneously strike downward from above with the right. Like this you assume the posture of the right strike to the upper level (migi jōdan-uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Now assume the posture of mid-level defence (chūdan uke).
Leave the right foot in its place, and place the left foot one step forward. Bring the right hand in front of the right shoulder and simultaneously swing the left to the front. Like this you assume the posture of the reversed horizontal strike to the upper level (jōdan yoko gyaku uchikomi), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the left foot in its place and place the right one step forward. Pull the left hand in front of your chest and strike forward with the right. Like this you assume the posture of the horizontal strike to the upper level (jōdan yoko uchikomi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Raise both hands above your head and such assume the posture of the ascending defence (jōdan age uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. [Swing the Bō circularly and strike to the front on the low level, and] like that assume the posture of the right strike to the low level (gedan uchikomi), as is shown in photo. [Now pull the right hand up to the left shoulder and] simultaneously raise [the left up to the front] into the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage) [Gyaku-furi-age-uchi].
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the prep for a strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull back the left hand to the left hip and simultaneously strike with the right downward to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Now rotate the right wrist inwards and like that assume the posture of the right defence on the middle level migi chūdan uke).
Leave the left foot in its place, transfer the right foot one step to the right, and turn [90°] to the left. [Change the hands (mochi kaeru) and] and lift the right hand in front of the forehead and simultaneously thrust the left forward below. Like that you asume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan-uchikomi) towards the left side.
Leave the right foot in its place. Assume the posture of the ascending defence (jōdan age uke) and raise the left foot until close to the knee joint. From this position now assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke).
Leave the right foot in its place and place the left back in its previous position. Simultaneously assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke) [, by lifting the right hand in front of the forehead and simultaneously thrusting the left forward below] , as is shown in photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan-uchikomi). Then assume the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage).
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi). Now rotate the left wrist inwards, so that – in a circular movement – you assume the posture of the defence on the middle level (chūdan uke).
Both feet remain in their previous position. Turn around [180°] to the right. [While turning, change the grip (mochi kaeru), lift the left hand in front of the forehead and simultaneously thrust the right forward below.] Like that you assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi) as is shown in the photo.
Leave the left foot in its place. Assume the posture of the ascending defence (jōdan age uke) and raise the right foot until close to the left knee joint. From this position now assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke).
Leave the left foot in its place and place back the right foot in its previous position. Lift the left hand in front of the forehead and simultaneously thrust the right forward below. Like that you assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull back the left hand to the left hip and with the right simultaneously strike downwards to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Now assume the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage) [by pulling up the right hand to the left shoulder and simultaneously raising the left hand up to the front].
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the right strike to the upper level (migi jōdan uchikomi). No rotate the right wrist inwards, so that in a circular motion you assume the posture of mid-level defence (chūdan uke).
Leave the left foot in its place, and place the right foot back one step towards the back (kōmen) of the Enbusen. Take the right hand in front of your chest, the left hand diagonally in front of the hip. Such assume the posture of the defence to the low level (gedan uke no kamae). [Perform Nuki-tsuki]
Both feet remain in their previous position. Turn [180°] towards the back and assume the posture of the sweeping defence to the low level (gedan barai uke) as shown in the photo [by taking the left hand in front of the forehead and thrusting the right hand forward below.]
Both feet remain in their previous position. From out of the posture of the ascending defence (jōdan age uke), circularly strike downwards by pulling the left hand under the right armpit and simultaneously strike with the right hand from the left side to right front below. Like that you assume the posture of the strike to the low level (gedan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Continue and assume the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage) [Gyaku-furi-age]
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Continue and assume the posture of mid-level defence (chūdan uke).
Leave the right foot in its place. Grip change [with the right hand] into the reverse grip (gyaku nigiri). Place the left foot one step forward. Take the left hand above your left shoulder and simultaneously strike forward with the right hand. So you assume the prep posture for the [left] reverse strike ([hidari] gyaku uchikomi yōi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull back the right hand in front your chest and clamp the Bō under your armpit. The left hand remains in the reverse grip (gyaku nigiri) and strikes to the front. Following this strike, form a ring with [the fingers of] your left hand and with the right hand thrust through it on mid-level.
Leave the left foot in its place and place the right foot one step forward. Raise the right hand above the right shoulder and push the left hand forward in front of your chest. Such you assume the prep posture of the right reversed strike (migi gyaku uchikomi yōi), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull back the left hand in front your chest and clamp the Bō under your armpit . The right hand remains in the reverse grip (gyaku nigiri) and strike to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the right reversed strike (migi gyaku uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Following this strike, thrust to the mid-level with the left according to the sequence of No. 31.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Change grip [with the right hand] into the regular grip (jun nigiri). From the posture of the ascending defence (jōdan age uke), circularly strike downwards by pulling the left hand under the right armpit and with the right hand from the left side simultaneously strike to the right front below. Like that you assume the posture of the strike to the lower level (gedan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Continue and assume the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage).
Both feet remain in their previous position. Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo. Continue and assume the posture of the defence to the mid-level (chūdan uke).
[Change into reversed grip (gyaku nigiri)] Leave the right foot in its place. Turn [counterclockwise on the right foot as an axis] to the front direction (shōmen) until both feet are parallel. Raise the Bō above the head with both hands. Like that you assume the posture of the horizontal defence to the upper level (yoko jōdan uke) in reversed grip (gyaku nigiri), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Lower the Bō to hip level. Like that you assume the posture of the horizontal defence to the low level (yoko gedan uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Place [the tip of the Bō] Bō next to your right foot. Pull the left hand to the left hip, and with the right hand simultaneously strike from the bottom upwards to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the right ascending strike (migi age uchi), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the left foot in its place, place the right foot one step to the front and thrust with both hands to the mid-level (chūdan). Like that you assume the posture of the thrust to the mid-level (chūdan zuki), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the left foot in its place. First pull back the right foot to the left foot and then place it out to the right again. Place [the tip of the Bō] Bō next to your left foot. Pull the right hand to the right hip, and with the left hand simultaneously strike from the bottom upwards to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the left ascending strike (hidari age uchi), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the right foot in its place, and place the left foot one step forward. Thrust with both hands to mid-level (chūdan). Like that you assume the posture of the mid-level thrust (chūdan zuki), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the right foot in its place and transfer the left to the left [and turn 90° to the right]. Assume the reverse ascending defence to the upper level (jōdan gyaku age uke) as shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull down the left hand to your left armpit and simultaneously press down with the right hand – still in reversed grip (gyaku nigiri) – from above, as it shown in the right pressing down posture (migi oasekomi) in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Thrust to the front with both hands and thus assume the posture of the thrust to the middle level thrust (chūdan zuki) as shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Turn around [180°]. The left hand – still in reverse grip (gyaku nigiri) – placed forward. Like that assume the posture of the reversed ascending upper level defence (jōdan gyaku age uke), as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull down the right hand to your right armpit and simultaneously press down with the left hand – still in reversed grip (gyaku nigiri) – from above, as it shown in the left pressing down posture (hidari oasekomi) in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Thrust forward with both hands and assume the posture of the mid-level thrust (chūdan zuki) as is shown in the photo.
Leave the left foot in its place, and place the right foot one step to the front. Still in reversed grip (gyaku nigiri), assume the posture of the low level defence (gedan uke). Continue by changing the grip [of the right hand] into the regular grip (jun nigiri) and raise both hands above your head. Like that you assume the posture of the ascending upper level defence, as is shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Bring the left hand under your right armpit, and simultaneously strike from the left side circularly to the front below. Like that you assume posture of the low-level strike (gedan uchikomi). Continue and assume the posture of the ascending strike (uchiage).
Both feet remain in their previous position. First raise your right hand above the right shoulder in a clockwise rotation. Then strike downward to the upper front. Like that you assume the posture of the upper level strike (jōdan uchikomi) as shown in the photo. Continue and assume the posture of the mid-level defence (chūdan uke).
Leave the left foot in its place. Transfer the right foot to the left direction, on one line with the left, and turn [90°] to the left. First execute the horizontal defence to the upper level (yoko jōdan uke), then the horizontal defence to the low level (yoko gedan uke). Now continue and again rotate counterclockwise [a) left foot as the axis, place right foot backwards, b) right foot as the axis, place left foot backwards], the right hand above the shoulder, the left in front of the left shoulder. Such assume the prep for the strike to the middle level (chūdan uchikomi yōi) (see photo).
Drop on your left knee. Bring the left hand to your left Armpit, and the right hand simultaneously from the right [to the front], so that you circularly strike to the front. Like that assume the posture of the mid-level strike (chūdan uchikomi), as shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. From the posture of the ascending upper level defence (jōdan age uke), bring the left hand under your right armpit, and the right hand above the left shoulder, and strike (uchikomi) from there. Like that you assume the posture of the low-level strike (gedan uchikomi), as shown in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Stand up. Raise the left hand in front of your forehead, the right hands thrusts forward below. Like that you assume the posture of the low-level defence (gedan uke), as shon in the photo.
Both feet remain in their previous position. Pull the left hand to your left armpit and [simultaneously] strike with the right hand from above the shoulder to the front. Like that you assume the posture of the right upper level strike (migi jōdan uchikomi).
Leave the right foot in its place and place the left foot well backwards. Using the approximating grip (yose nigiri), assume the posture of the ascending upper level defence (jōdan age uke). Continue and with both hands swing the Bō overhead and around, so that a large momentum is generated, until you have assumed the posture shown in the photo of the strike to the lower level (gedan uchikomi).
Leave the left foot in its place and pull back the right foot to the left [into musubi or heisoku-dachi]. Let the Bō rotate backward first on your left side, then your right side, with large movements striking out above the head. Place the right foot one step forward in prep for an upper level strike (jōdan uchikomi yōi).
Leave the right foot in its place and pull back the left into the closed stance (heisoku dachi). Assume the posture of the strike to the upper level (jōdan uchikomi), as is shown in the photo.
Leave the right foot in its place and place the left foot well backwards. Stretch the right hand to the front. Pull back the left hand to the hip, at which the right hand forms a ring through which the Bō is being letting slipped.
Both feet remain in their previous position. The right hand forms a ring, through which a frontward thrust to the upper level (jōdan zuki) is executed with the left hand, as is shown in the photo.
Pull back the left hand from the thrust back to the hip and simultaneously assume the posture of mid-level defence (chūdan uke), as is shown in the photo. Continue and pull back the right foot to left into musubi dachi, and lock the Bō under the right armpit. The execution of the bow (rei) is the last act.