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

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

Print edition: US | CA | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | JP

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

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

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, foremost western 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)

Table of Contents

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

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

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Martial Artists of Ryūkyū – A Legacy by Motobu Choki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oni Oshiro

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

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

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

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

Get your copy now: US ►CA ►UK ►DE ►FR ►ES ►IT

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

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

by Andreas Quast

King_Wu_Once_Buckled_Cover_for_KindleTHIS is the true story of the seven virtues of martial arts as described by Matsumura Sokon. Considered the primary source-text of old-style Okinawan martial arts, the “Seven Virtues” are admired for their straightforward advice. Handwritten in the late 19th century by Matsumura Sokon, the most celebrated ancestor of karate, they are considered the ethical fountain and technical key to understand what can’t be seen.

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

Get your copy now: US ►CA ►UK ►NL ► DE ►FR ►ES ►IT

Matsumura himself pointed out that the “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts” were praised by a wise man in an ancient manuscript, a manuscript that has remained obscure ever since. Now the ultimate source of this wondrous composition has been discovered and verified. Presented and explained here for the first time, it is not only the source of Matsumura’s “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts”… In fact, it is the original meaning of martial arts per se.

5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
80 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1523685981 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1523685980
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

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A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History Paperback – May 15, 2015

by Andreas Quast (Author)

Paperback edition: available at Amazon US ($14.99), Amazon UK (£9.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 14.97), CreateSpace eStore ($14.99), and at online and offline bookstores and retailers, as well as via public libraries and libraries at other academic institutions.

Kindle edition also availableUSUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

Based on his acclaimed previous studies, the author here presents a synopsis of the development of Ryukyu martial arts. The events described herein are all real, that is, they are all historical. Strolling along the chronology of martial arts of Ryukyu provenance, a large number of verified events are not only detailed, but also decorated with dozens of precious illustrations. As such “A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History” is for martial arts practitioners as much as it is for aficionados of history and Asia. It simply provides a pristine ground to stand on for the practitioner who wishes to understand the primordial origins of Ryukyu martial arts.

  • For those who read “Karate 1.0”: this new book here is a synopsis of Karate 1.0 plus the “chronology (Part VII)” without significant changes. It is an easier read without all the reasoning and footnotes, but instead with nearly 80 illustrations to make it more suitable for the general public, and not only academic people.

Among the unique information that cannot be found anywhere else are also some of the illustrations. For instance, there is only one picture scroll that shows the Chinese investiture envoys (sapposhi) and their military retinue. Here, for the first time you might see how famous Kusanku actually might have looked like.

Product Details (Paperback edition)

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1512229423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1512229424
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.4 x 9.7 inches


Available at Amazon US ($19.99), Amazon UK (£12.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 19,25 ), CreateSpace eStore ($19.99)

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Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art


The most comprehensive study on the parameters of primordial Karate, this work intrigues readers with rich detail and insights into these ancient combat traditions, the pride of Okinawa.

KARATE 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art. Düsseldorf 2013, by Andreas Quast.

cover (4)

Karate 1.0 front cover

  • Pages: xxvii, 502 pp.
  • Language: English.
  • Hardcover binding in green linen material with gold foil stamping, size 8.25″ x 10.75″ (20.95cm x 27.31cm).
  • Full-color dust jacket in matte finish.
  • Inside: black and white printing on cream archival paper (60# weight). White exterior paper (80# weight).
  • Forewords by Patrick McCarthy, Miguel Da Luz, Cezar Borkowski, Jesse Enkamp, Dr. Julian Braun, Soke Leif Hermansson, and Dr. phil. Heiko Bittmann.
  • All copies ship from the United States.
  • Price: $75.00.

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

Read the review by the experts:

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Periodization of Ryukyuan History

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.

Concept and design: Andreas Quast, first published in Karate 1.0, 2013.
Periodization into four divisions as an immediate working hypothesis advocated by Takara 1989 (I: 2). It is contrasted with the accepted transition of Japanese history for easy understanding.
Translation and design: Andreas Quast, first published in Karate 1.0, 2013.

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.

Periodization based on the transitions of security related official posts over the course of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Concept and design: Andreas Quast, first published in Karate 1.0, 2013.

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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Hans Talhoffer

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.

Hergsell was an outspoken expert. His dedication inside the book tells about his patron at the time, which refers to Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria:

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.

Source: Wiktenauer.

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.

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Gladiatoria — Ms. Germ. Quart. 16

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.

Gladatoria, 55v: “Merkt aber ain stand mit der stangen daraus man alle hew genemen mag vnd alle stück vnd prüch die zu der stangen gehören.”
Source: Wiktenauer.
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Genealogy of the Bu-family 武姓家譜, otherwise known as the Kiyō-family 嘉陽家

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 were:

  • 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:

1. Generation:

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.

I just found the original PDF while cleaning up my drives.


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).

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Sakugawa, Matsumura, and the “Illustration of the Arm’s Minor Yin Heart Meridian”

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)
Miyagi Tokumasa (right) and Chibana Choshin (December 19, 1968).
From: Miyagi Tokumasa: Karate no Rekishi.

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:

  1. This is not an atemi chart, but a chart of the acupuncture points of the heart meridian.
  2. The illustration is a hand drawn and hand labeled copy of a widespread original acupuncture chart.
  3. The characters are not Chinese, but Japanese.
  4. 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”:

Characters Abbreviation Japanese
極泉 HT1 Kyokusen
青霊 HT2 Seirei
小海(少海) HT3 Shōkai
霊道 HT4 Reidō
通里 HT5 Tsūri
陰郄 HT6 Ingeki
神門 HT7 Shinmon
少府 HT8 Shōfu
少衝 HT9 Shōsho

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.
  • Miyagi Tokumasa: Karate no Rekishi.
  • Patrick McCarthy: Bubishi. Tuttle 2016.
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The 2nd Okinawa Karate Academy — An unknown group of early modern Karate persons (3) — Yonamine Isshun

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.”

Good friend Ulf Karlsson from Sweden and Morikazu Kyan from Okinawa attended, and Ulf shared the minutes of the lecture.

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).

Looking at 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.

Yonamine 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).

Bōjutsu in Kakazu village, Tomigusuku, early Shōwa period (1926-).
From: Hokama Tetsuhiro: Okinawa Karate Kobudō no Shinzui, 1999, page 244.

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.

Lastly, 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 down.

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The 2nd Okinawa Karate Academy — An unknown group of early modern Karate persons (2) — Matsuda Seiei

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.”

Good friend Ulf Karlsson from Sweden and Morikazu Kyan from Okinawa attended, and Ulf shared the minutes of the lecture.

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.

2. Matsuda Seiei (1887? – death dates unknown) — Beginning the Spread of Karate Towards School Education

Short curriculum vitae

  • Around 1887: Born in Shuri Kinjō.
  • 1903: Entered the Prefectural Middle School.
  • 1904, May: Gave a speech with the topic “Concerning Firmness of Character (Inner strength)” at the oratorical meeting of the Prefectural Middle School.
  •  About 1904, April to June: Demonstrated Karate as a side show during class meeting, which caught the attention of the prinicpal.
  • 1904, December: Performed Karate during his speech at the oratorical meeting.
  • 1906: It seems that he has dropped out of Prefectural Middle School (maybe he was expulsed).
  • About 1906 to 1909: Immigration to Hawaii.
  • 1910: Together with Yabu Kenden, he was involved in the establishment of the association of people from Okinawa prefecture called the “Kyūyō Club.”
  • 1910: a Karate performance is held at the opening ceremony of the same club (Matsuda Seiei is head of the athletic department).
  • 1912: Published a New Year’s greeting announcement in the New Year’s Day issue of the  Hawaii Colonization Newspaper (Hawaii Shokumin Shinbun).
  • 1934: Nakayoshi Ryōkō publishes the article “The Founder of Karate Gymnastics — The Pride of the 1st Middle School / Reminiscences of our Classmate Matsuda who Created that Stimulus“ (Yōshū, No. 35, 1934).

Regarding details on how karate was introduced to school education, it has been written in contemporary sources that:

1905 <omission> – From the end of last year, all present staff members and teachers commenced research and since it [karate] was approved as being valuable for education, it is imposed on general students starting this current academic year

“The History of the Prefectural Middle School,” in: Okinawa Education, No. 33, 1908.

In other words, Shuri middle school staff began practicing karate in 1904, and began teaching it to students from January 1905. (NOTE: Apparently, according to researcher Nakamura Akira, the academic school year at that time started in January. Today, on the other hand, the academic school year starts in April.)

However, there was also an event/incident that should be called the “Secret Story of Karate’s Introduction.” The process of it was described by Nakayoshi Ryōkō in an article published in the alumni magazine of the prefectural middle school:

The original stimulus that led to the spread of karate to the world was my classmate Matsuda from Kinjō town in Shuri.

Nakayoshi Ryōkō: “The Founder of Karate Gymnastics — The Pride of the 1st Middle School / Reminiscences of our Classmate Matsuda who Created that Stimulus.“ In: Yōshū, No. 35, 1934

About a class meeting on one day in 1904 it was written:

“Above-mentioned Matsuda performed karate as his showpiece. <Omission>. Everybody celebrated Matsuda with “Banzai” and a lot of applause, but the person most interested was the school principal Ōkubo sensei. Ōkubo sensei, who knew this was a martial art suitable to temper mind and body, was delighted in the same way that Christopher Columbus must have been when he discovered America. The next day he immediately talked to Hanashiro Chōmo, a physical exercises (taisō) teacher at the time, and talked to early modern karate expert Itosu, and transferred karate to school.

In other words, after seeing Matsuda Seiei’s performance of karate, Shuri middle school principal Ōkubo Shūhachi recognized the effectiveness of karate, invited Itosu Ankō through Hanashiro Chōmo, and introduced karate into school education.

It was Ōkubo Shūhachi 大久保周八 (orange circle) who recognized the effectiveness of Karate, invited Itosu Ankō through Hanashiro Chōmo, and then introduced karate to school educaation. Hanashro Chomo (left) and Itosu Anko (right) on a photo discovered by Nakamura Akira. From a photo donated by the Nakagusuku family to the Kochi Prefectural Library.

Therefore, it can be said that Matsuda’s performance was the beginning of karate instruction in school education, that is, a monumental performance for the departure of karate towards modern times.

However, currently little is known about Matsuda. Nakayoshi continues above secret story of karate’s introduction, remembering that:

Matsuda dropped out of school halfway and traveled to Hawaii, where he seems to have struggled hard. Finally he was attacked by the demon of ill health and died in the middle of his activities.

After migrating to Hawaii, Matsuda was known to have played a central role, including acting as a sports club manager for the Kyūyō Club, an association of people from Okinawa prefecture (Cf. Japanese-Hawaiian Daily, September 12, 1910). In addition, from the fact that Matsuda Seiei was a karate master and head of the athletic department of the Kyūyō Club, and since karate performances were held at events of that same Kyūyō Club, he must have been more or less involved in the karate performances.

As a side note, in an academic study of the Hawaii Colonization Newspaper (Hawaii Shokumin Shinbun) about the atheltic activities of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii from 1908 to 1914, it was also established that sumō, fencing (gekken), and jūjutsu were actively played by Japanese-Americans at that time. Due to the knowledge we gained on Matsuda Seiei, karate can also be added to that list.

Nakayoshi closes his text about Matsuda Seiei by noting that

It would have been a dream for all of us to perform karate as peerless as he at a class meeting party.

Therefore, Matsuda Seiei, whose karate conquered the whole world, is a person whose influence should be reexamined by the karate world.

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The 2nd Okinawa Karate Academy — An unknown group of early modern Karate persons (1) — Haraguni Seishō

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.”

Good friend Ulf Karlsson from Sweden and Morikazu Kyan from Okinawa attended, and Ulf shared the minutes of the lecture.

The speaker was Nakamura Akira of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate Promotion Division. Within this blog post, I have added a few infos from the cited sources.


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.

Hanashro Chomo and Itosu Anko
Hanashro Chomo (left) and Itosu Anko (right) on a photo discovered by Nakamura Akira. From a photo donated by the Nakagusuku family to the Kochi Prefectural Library.

1. Haraguni Seishō (1863-1930) — The First Karate Teacher in Educational Setting

Short curriculum vitae

  • 1863: Born in Naha Izumisaki.
  • 1887: Starts as a licensed elementary school teacher at Shuri elementary school.
  • 1889: Served as a “commander” at the welcome athletic meet for Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi (1841-1909), who visited Okinawa at the time.
  • 1896: Involved in a bloody event when members of the Stubborn Party (gankotō 頑固党) used “Karate” to commit violence.
  • 1907: Received a monetary award from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture for his service in education during the Russo-Japanese War.
  • 1909: Received an educational award from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
  • 1930, December 20: Haraguni Seishō also appears in Yamashiro Seichū’s[1] drama “The Yamanomon (sic) Incident.”
  • 1930, December 27: Dies in Kakinohana, Naha City.
  • 1931: The memorial writing “The Story of Teacher Harukuni” by Shimabukuro Zenpatsu is serialized in the “Okinawa Daily Newspaper” (Okinawa Nichi-Nichi Shimbun).

On account of new research results, this Haraguni Seishō is considered the first confirmed karate teacher in early modern Okinawa. In educational settings, that is.

Haraguni Seishō was born in 1863 in Naha Izumisaki as the oldest son of Seiho 政輔, originally from Shuri Mawashi. His father Seiho had mastered karate, and under this influence Seishō also learned karate. There is an episode that he was captured by a Chikusaji (policeman) during his youth, but it is unclear whether this was due to a kake-dameshi 掛試し.

Following the Abolition of the Ryūkyū Kingdom and Establishment of Okinawa Prefecture (1874-79), Haraguni graduated from the Okinawa Normal School (Okinawa Shihan Gakkō) in Shuri in 1887, and afterwards taught as a licensed elementary school teacher. First he was appointed to teach at the Shuri elementary school. Due to the violent incident that took place there in 1896, Seishō was engraved in the memories of the people at that time.

When the First Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) ended, the activities of the Stubborn Party (gankotō 頑固党), which had been active until then, subsided. This said, it didn’t vanish like mist, but rather continued to smolder violently like ash-covered charcoal. The incident took place on February 27, 1896. On that day, when the parading troupes of the Stubborn Party of Shuri passed the place in front of Shuri Primary school, a wall of scorn by the pupils triggered the reaction of the Stubborn Party. Haraguni Seishō stepped in between the two groups to try to intervene, but the whole thing developed into case of bloodshed and injuries.

Subsequently, written denunciations of the Stubborn Party appeared in different newspapers. It was called the “Rampancy of the Stubborn Faction,” and in the Ryūkyū Kyōiku labeled it “The Odd Accident of this party’s member, Haraguni Seishō”:

The terrible spectacle reached a state where Haraguni was injured by wild attacks and beating with clenched fists and a parasol and he got injured and blood was shed.

“The Odd Accident of this Party’s Member, Haraguni Seishō.“ Ryūkyū Kyōiku, issue 4, 1896.

It continues:

This prefecture’s usage of fists is what the martial arts of fencing (gekken) and the spear (sōjutsu) are for the other prefectures. It is also called karate and its techniques have names like “Passai,” “Kūsankun,” “Naihanchin,” and the like. Certain educated Ryūkyūans formerly all trained this method, by means of which one can prepare for emergencies.

“The Odd Accident of this Party’s Member, Haraguni Seishō.“ Ryūkyū Kyōiku, issue 4, 1896.

However good that may sound for us today, “karate” — when used by the other party — has been considered to be a savage thing, as can be seen in the direct continuation of the text:

That is, it does not differ at all from the case when a member of the department of school affairs was killed by Taiwan local bandits using spears, cudgels and swords. In our prefecture this mob’s mischievous fellows still today are active as evildoers, go rampant and roam at will. It is like the establishment of complete disorder and is really hazardous.

“The Odd Accident of this Party’s Member, Haraguni Seishō.“ Ryūkyū Kyōiku, issue 4, 1896.

In addition it is also reported that there was no danger to his life because

“Mr. Haraguni also knew this technique well from a person in Naha, so he did not lose his life.”

 In other words, both sides were using Karate. It can therefore be considered a fact that early modern karate was not just an martial art, but it was a tool used by both opposing political factions, as I mentioned earlier (see link below).

In 1899, Seishō was transferred as teacher and principal of the Haebaru elementary school in Shimajiri district, and in 1901 worked as the principal of Kyan elementary school, also in Shimajiri district. 1912 he became teacher and headmaster of the Takamine elementary school.

While the actual scope of his activity as a karate teacher remains unclear, there is the following unambiguous encyclopedic entry:

“From early on, he had a liking for karate and he continuously encouraged students [to practice it].”

“Haraguni Seishō,” in “Record of Okinawan Persons.”

Although there is no information about when and how exactly it took place, and besides being a karate man himself, there is no doubt that he encouraged karate instruction at school. Haragkuni Seishō should therefore be considered a pioneering figure of karate instruction in school education.


[1] Yamashiro Seichū 山城正忠 (1884–1949): Studied medicine in Tokyo. During that time, he also studied under writers Tesano Yosano and Akiko. Afterwards he returned to Okinawa and opened a dental clinic. He published novels and plays in addition to tanka in his own fanzine and in newspapers. He died November 22, 1949, at the age of 66. He wrote the anthology “Shiden o yaku 紙銭を焼く (Burning paper money),” the novel “Kunenbo 九年母,” and the drama “Crown Ship 冠船 (kansen).” BTW, Kunenbo refers to an evergreen shrub of the citrus family with a mandarin-pomelo variety of fruit.

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William Adams on Okinawa (1614-15)

The first Western eyewitness accounts of Okinawa originated from Richard Wickham and William Adams (1564–1620). Adams became famous as a counselor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, was promoted to samurai status by the Shōgun, and provided with an estate. His Japanese name was Miura Anjin 三浦按針. Adams came to Japan as the navigator of the Dutch ship Liefde, was the first Englishman in Japan, gained the trust of Tokugawa Ieyasu, taught geometry, geography and shipbuilding, became diplomatic advisor, was awarded a fief in Sagami, and provided the inspiration for the novel “Shogun” by James Clavell.

Both Wickham and Adams at the time were working for the British factory of the East India Company, with headquarters in Hirado, Kyūshū. In August 1614 the factory bought a junk for 2,000 Tael, naming it the Sea Adventure. Although another 2,312 Tael were spent for repairs and outfit, she was said to not have been very seaworthy. Actually, Richard Wickham had to be persuaded to board as the head merchant, assisted by Edward Saris, and with William Adams as the pilot. Their first voyage was intended for Siam. The ship carried merchandise for barter and ₤ 1,250 for the purchase of Brazil wood, deerskins, raw silk, etc. from Siam. There were also several Japanese merchants on board, among them a certain Shobei Dono. Adams set sails at Kawachi harbor, south of Hirado, on December 17th, 1614.

It was just when they had left the coastline behind,

when she was battered by a ferocious electric storm. The wild seas lashed at the recent repairs, loosening timbers and pouring water into the hold. For a day and a night the Japanese crew labored ‘to heave out and pumpe the water continually’,

Cf. Purnell 1916: 167

but the waters continued to rise. The attitude of their reckless English captain only increased their sense of terror. Adams appeared to be enjoying their predicament, urging them on in their endeavors and putting

the merchants and other idle passengers unto such a feare that they began to murmure and mutiny.

As the winds howled and the waves crashed over the deck, the crew rebelled and told Adams that they would refuse to pump unless he headed immediately for the Ryūkyū Islands in the East China Sea. Adams had little option but to agree and, with heavy heart, he steered the vessel towards the subtropical island of Great Ryūkyū–today’s Okinawa–which lay some 500 miles to the south of Hirado ( Milton 2002: 248–249).

On their way they reached the port of Oxima (Amami-Ōshima) on the 22nd. The local governor and others came aboard and assured their friendship, for which they were presented a “Langanatt” or lance. The governor recommended Wickham

to goe for Nafe, being the cheefe harbor on the iland of Lequeo Grande, where the king is resident […]

Farrington, Anthony (ed.): The English Factory in Japan 1613–1623. Letters of Richard Wickham from Amami-Oshima and from Okinawa. William Adams’ voyage to the Ryukyu Islands in the Sea Adventure. The British Library: 273–74. 1991. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol 1.

Richard Wickham, in a letter from December 23rd 1614, wrote

& seing ourselves in extreame peril of death yf that our leakes should increase never soe little more, having now not above 15 men, being the officers, w’ch could stand upon theire legges, the rest being ether seasicke or almost dead with labour, so that the 20th, about 10 of the morninge, we shaped our course for the Leques Grande [Great Ryūkyū]…

In this way, in December 1614, five years after the invasion of the Satsuma and three years after the return of Ryūkyū king Shō Nei from captivity, Adams reached Naha, Okinawa:

The 27 in the morning we steered so’ fort the harbor & cam in about 10 a cllok, thank be to God, in ssaffety, w’ch harbor lyeth 9 lleges from the narrow passedg w’ch is from the no’ p’t of the illand soum 18 or 30 ll’. This daye wass Twessdaye, ressonnabell wether, much wind & soumting littell shoowres.

Farrington 1991, 1051. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol 1.

There they met with “marvelous great friendship” and were given rice, meat and turnips. Adams was permitted to bring his cargo ashore, while the Sea Adventure was to be repaired in the following five months.

During this time, Adams tried to make the best out of the involuntary situation and worked towards the establishment of a trading base. The local authorities, however, under instructions of the Satsuma fief, could not and would not comply with this request: Satsuma would neither allow interference in the trade relations between China and Ryūkyū, nor the possible suspicion of occasional Chinese visitors raised by the presence of a Japanese vessel in the port of Naha, even if it was led by Europeans.

On the strategy implemented by the locals, Beillevaire wrote,

“If asked about their relations with Japan, the Ryūkyūans were supposed to answer that there were none, and that everything that might look Japanese came in fact from the Tokara Islands […]. The same explanation would continue to be in use with nineteenth-century western visitors.”

Beillevaire 2000, I, p. 5.

The British, however, had already learned on Amami-Ōshima that Ryūkyū recently had been “subordinated” to the Daimyō of Satsuma:

the inhabitantes of these ilandes are descended from the race of the Chines, wearinge theyre hayre longe but tyed upp on the right sid of the head, a peacable & quiet people but of late yeares conquered by Ximus Dono [Lord Shimazu], Kinge of Satchma [Satsuma], soe that now they are governed by the Japon lawes & customes […]

Farrington 1991, 326–27. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

Satsuma tried everything to avoid that these kinds of information, with all its inherent meanings, were made available to third parties:

This day the gentellmen of Ceeooree [Shuri] cam to Natta [Naha] to p’sswad me to go w’th our ship to Woshima [Amami Oshima] becass about 3 mounth hence a ship or funia would come from China, and yf we weer heer it would bee an occacion to cass them looss ther trade w’ch only theay by ther mens did lyve uppoon. But I awnssered that I wass but on, I did not car where I died, eayther in heer or in the sseea […]

Farrington 1991, 1057. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

Meanwhile, Adams’ crew got out of hand, caused much trouble and even rose up in arms. They demanded the payment of half the guerdon. Adams refused more than once, but under request of the merchants, who feared to lose their trade, he would yield at last. With the money the sailors then bought liquor and soon slashed at one another ( Milton 2002, p. 250 ):

This day all our offessers, mariners & passengers risse up in armes to a ffought on w’th another, but by my great p’sswasion and Mr Wikham & Sr. Edward Saris did so p’sswas on both sides as ther wasse no bludshed of no p’tty, thankes bee to Allmyghty God for ever amen.

Adams noted, that the Japanese merchant traveling on his ship, Shobei Dono, with sixteen to twenty men entered the market all armed with swords, lances, halberds, and bows and arrows,

but w’th ffair woourds I did keep our men that theay cam not together, who weer about 40 p’ssons.

Farrington 1991, 1057. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

Wickham and Damian Marin also fell out and fought and were not reconciled till thirty days later (Purnell 1916: 168). This Damian was a Portuguese who was afterwards made prisoner at Nagasaki by his fellow-countrymen for having served with the English. A special command for his release had to be obtained from leyasu by Adams.

In the following days, Adams tried to calm the parties, just like on March 9th,

butt made not an end, still Shobe servant werynge ther wepones in braving our men for peece.

Farrington 1991, 1057. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

This continued until March 15th, when at last

the principall of Ceeooree [Shuri] cam to the town of Nata [Naha] to take up the quarrell bettwen the merchants and mariners, who make peece and a gennerall agreement.

Farrington 1991, 1058. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

The situation eased, and two days later Adams, along with the merchants, was invited to a banquet by the Three Ministers (sanshikan). The following day he even received an invitation by the King in Shuri, who wanted to show him the capital and hold a banquet–a privilege which Basil Hall, two hundred years later, tried in vain to obtain–, however, Adams did not avail of doing so, because he had to make his ship seaworthy again (Purnell 1916: 169).

The mentioned dispute seemed to have been settled, when the ringleader in the night of the 26th of March again instigated unrest; the Japanese merchant Shobe Dono found out about it, pitched on the troublemaker and slashed the man into pieces with his sword:

This day at night he that had been the cass of the great muttini being still fooull of desperate partes, this night Shobe Donno killed hime. This day fayr wether, the wind northerlly.

Farrington 1991, 1059. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1.

The misbehavior of his crew was a continual cause of trouble to Adams, and he had much difficulty in saving the lives of two of the men who had been condemned to death for stealing, etc (Purnell 1916: 169.). After these incidents the hospitality of the local authorities was exhausted and they ordered the departure of the Sea Adventure.


During his stay on Okinawa, Adams was constantly worrying on account of news brought by junks from Satsuma of the war between Ieyasu and Hideyori at Ōsaka. Although he had heard, on January 21, 1615, that the

Emperor had goot the victory of which newes I wass gllad,

yet a rumor reached him in May that

the emperor is like to loosse his countri

so he delayed a few days longer in order to have an interview with some officials from Satsuma who had brought the latest news (Purnell 1916: 169). Adams’ logbook furthermore gives reason to believe that individual Samurai probably having served under Toyotomi Hideyori sought refuge in Okinawa shortly before or during the ceasefire in January 1615:

The 21, being Satterdaye, heer cam a nobellman to Ceeoree [Shuri] w’ch flled from the wares in Ossaka [Osaka]. His name was [blank]. W’ch daye I heerd that the Emperor had goot the victory, of w’ch newes I was gllad to heer.

Farrington 1991, 1053. In: Beillevaire 2000, Vol. 1. Purnell 1916: 196.

Hence, apparently Japanese Samurai, facing the looming defeat against the Tokugawa forces in mainland Japan, sought refuge in Okinawa, perhaps even with the knowledge and toleration of Satsuma.

Later, after Adams return to Japan, in late September 1915, he received a letter from Ieyasu, demanding his presence:

Adams said that he thought the Emperor wished to hear about a fortress newly built in the Riu Kiu, where it was suspected that Hideyori might retire after his defeat.

Cocks, Vol. I: 49. Purnell 1916: 170.

Finally, Adams also noted that he bought weapons on Ryūkyū (Purnell 1916: 219), namely four Katana, an unknown number of Wakizashi (but more than one as he used plural), and two Yari for the total amount of “106 Mas,” which today would correspond to an estimated 3,430 €, or 5,145 € considering deflation, which is a good price.

Ultimately this travel of the Sea Adventure costed more than 140 pounds and trading-wise it was a fail. The only person on board able to make profit from the situation was Richard Wickham: he had discovered that ambergris was considerably cheaper in Ryūkyū than elsewhere in Asia, and that it was traded for high prices in Japan: “here is great store of ambargrys, the best that ever I sawe & equall to that of Melinde, but is deare, at 90 & 80 tays a catty.” He bought two pound in the name of the trading post in Hirado, and two hundred sixty pound for himself. One batch of his amount he later sold with 50% surcharge to the trading post in Hirado, another batch through an intermediary in Nagasaki, and a third batch went to Bantam. This earned him huge profits.

Adams collected a number of Ryūkyūan words and phrases which enabled him to “be polite to the officials of the island.” In this way he produced the first Western micro dictionary of the Ryūkyūan language, although “many of the words are unrecognisable” (Purnell 1916: 170). He left Naha on the morning of May 20, reaching Kawachi harbor on June 10. One of the results of this voyage was the introduction of the sweet potato from Ryūkyū to Japan (Purnell 1916: 169).

More than one hundred fifty years would pass until the next direct contact of western travelers with Ryūkyū.

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“Karate Kumite” 1905

In 2016, my new discovery of a photo of Hanashiro Chōmo was featured on the website of the Okinawa Traditional Karate Liaison Bureau. Then, in 2018 I translated and published the Genealogy of Hanashiro.

Today I add an overview of Hanshiro’s life, and the attempt to reconstruct the fragmentary survivals of his “Karate Kumite” (1905), the first work considered to have used the modern characters for Karate.

Hanashiro was born in the village of Shuri on July 26, 1869 as the 3rd son of father Chōkō 長康 (1834 to not earlier than 1876) and mother Magosei 真呉勢, in turn the daughter of Sakumoto Chikudun Pēchin Kashō 佐久本親雲上嘉政. Hanashiro’s childhood name was Masanrā 眞三良, and his Chinese-style name was Min Zōsei 明増盛.

While his modern-era name is Hanashiro, the correct old-style designation of his family would be “House Kameya of the Min-Clan.” It was a keimochi (“lineage holder”) family from Shuri which originated in Atetsū Pēchin Chōson (1556 – 1609) (Cf. Genealogy of the Min-Clan, House of Kameya, in: Okinawa no Rekishi Jōhō: 679 – 693, as well as in Higa 2005). Hanashiro Chōmo was in the 11th generation of this lineage, but – as the 3rd son – not heir to it.

Hanashiro Chomo. From a photo donated by the Nakagusuku family to the Kochi Prefectural Library.


In accordance with the new Meiji educational system, formal physical education had been introduced in the Shuri Middle School in 1887 and later became the basis for military-drill schedules (Kerr 1958: 413-14). Although Okinawa had been the only Japanese prefecture exempted from the otherwise nation-wide Conscription Ordinance (chōheirei) of 1872 (Smits 1999: 149), in December 1890 ten young Okinawans volunteered for training as noncommissioned officers at the Rikugun Kyōdōdan military academy of the Imperial Japanese Army (Kerr 1958: 418. OKKJ 2008: 544). Among those were Hanashiro Chōmo, Kudeken Kenyū (1869–1940) and Yabu Kentsū (1866–1937). Hanashiro was 21 years old at the time.

Just like Yabu, Hanashiro participated in both the campaigns of the 1st Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Japanese-Russian War (1904–05), whereby he was promoted from sergeant (gunsō 軍曹) to first lieutenant (chū’ī 中尉). Awaiting the approaching enactment of general conscription in Okinawa (1898) and in the social situation of draft evasion taking place one after another, Hanashiro counted among the volunteer soldiers which of course also made him expedient for propaganda, just like Kentsū Yabu (OKKJ 2008: 494).

After one and a half decades in the military, Hanashiro retired from active service and in 1905 entered his position as a sports teacher at the 1st Prefectural Middle School of Okinawa. At that time the school had about six hundred pupils and more than twenty teachers, and physical education and military drill being part of the curriculum (Leavenworth 1905: 56). Itosu Ankō taught karate at that middle school. Hanashiro initially served as his assistant and later took over instruction until around 1912, when he retired from the 1st Prefectural Middle School. Afterwards he opened a dōjō in Naha Asato, where he devoted himself to the dissemination of karate (OKKJ 2008: 494).

Hanashiro Chomo and Itosu Anko. From a photo donated by the Nakagusuku family to the Kochi Prefectural Library

In September 1919 he was elected village headman of Mawashi, one of the three old districts of Shuri (together with Nishihara and Haebaru, and collectively referred to as Shuri Mihira). This took place according to the special system of communal organization of the Meiji Constitution, which provided the right to local self-government. In June of the following year, with the abolition of the special old system of communal organization, Hanashiro resigned. Later, in 1924 he was elected a member of the village assembly. While again being engaged in the village system, he has been instrumental in teaching and spreading karate (Okinawa Dai Hyakka-jiten, 1982).

In 1926 he participated in the Okinawa Karate Club 沖縄唐手倶楽部, together with Motobu Chōyū, Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952), and Chibana Chōshin (1885-1969). In 1934 he taught Karate at Azato.

Photo of Hanashiro (identified as such in 2016)

On October 25, 1936 Nakasone Genwa gathered the experts of that time and conducted the “Karate Symposium” held under the auspices of the Ryūkyū Shinpō newspaper. BTW, this symposium was the motivation for the decision of the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly of 29 March 2005, to declare October 25 the “Day of Karate (Karate no hi 空手の日).” Among the prominent budōka participating in this symposium were Hanashiro Chōmo, Kyan Chōtoku, Motobu Chōki, Miyagi Chōjun, Kyoda Jūhatsu, and Gusukuma Shinpan.

Hanashiro, around 1937.

One of the topics of the 1936 symposium was the question of the formal notation as Karate 唐手, or as Karate 空手. At that time, Hanashiro mentioned that he had used the notation Karate 空手 already decades ago. Two years afterwards, in 1938, Nakasone Genwa published “Karate-dō Taikan.” Featured in it is the cover and the sole remaining text page of Hanashiro Chōmo’s historical “Karate Kumite 空手組手” of 1905. Here, Hanashiro has used the modern notation of Karate for the first time in literature.

Hanashiro Chōmo died in 1945 in Nakaoji in Haneji Village, aged 76 years. The Kata called Jion ジオン (慈恩) is said to have been his specialty. Photographs of Hanashiro performing Jion can be found in the above-mentioned “Karate-dō Taikan.”

Hanashiro is an important person in the history of modern Karate. Besides Kuwae Ryōsei, he is the only other person documented to have received a handwriting by Matsumura Sōkon (Wittwer 2007: 7). Hanashiro’s edition was dated “the 7th month of the Year of the Ox.” Only one photograph of the last page of this document has been handed down (in Karate-dō Taikan 1938: 64). The photo’s caption says

“Matsumura’s ink handwriting (from the archives of Hanashiro Chōmo Sensei).”

The photo shows an ink written page, sealed and signed by “Matsumura Chikudun Pēchin.” The content and scope of the text is unknown (Wittwer 2007: 7). Because of this it is impossible to conclude whether Hanashiro received it from Matsumura’s bequest or whether the handwriting was specifically prepared by Matsumura for Hanashiro. If it was the latter, according to Hanashiro’s lifedates, which are uncontroversial, two specific years come into consideration. First, the Year of the Earth Ox 1889/01-1890/01, when Hanashiro was around twenty years of age. And second, the Year of the Metal Ox 1901/02-1902/02, when he was around thirty-two years of age. Although the first of these is more close to popular belief, the later date cannot be ruled out either. In any case, both dates point to an era ten to twenty years after the end of the Ryūkyū Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture.

Besides, it was also Hanashiro who handed down “Itosu’s 10 Precepts of Karate”:

It was Hanashiro who handed down “Itosu’s 10 Precepts of Karate” (Karate-dō Taikan 1938: 62-64).

Karate Kumite, 1905

In February 1905, the Ryūkyū Shinpō published an article about the introduction of Karate in the 1st Prefectural Middle School in Shuri.

After in 1904 the Shuri Middle School staff intended to take up karate, they immediately commenced preparations. At present the results are proper. It is sufficiently understood that the teachers simultaneously serve in two roles–i.e. as regular school teachers, and as karate teachers. However, one inadequacy is that the teachers do not have a methodical explanation of the subject. Therefore, after having accumulated a reasonable skill in karate, we hope that they create a program that largely matches our country’s current society and that they research and develop karate technically, mentally, and as a physical education. […] We are in the process of getting the ball rolling in jūjutsu, wherein the West still has to start working. The fact that karate originates in the prefectural middle school is a great delight.

Chūgakkō Shokuin no Karate–Kyōikukai (The Karate of the Middle School Staff Members. Education World). In: Ryūkyū Shinpō, February 05, 1905. Translated by A. Quast.

The above article shows that the staff of the 1st Prefectural Middle School prepared the implementation of karate into the regular curriculum since 1904. It is also apparent that this was considered the first and original approach, which means that a new framework was being devised. As shown in the reference to jūjutsu, karate’s new face was that of an Okinawan form of the conception of jūjutsu/jūdō. It should be noted that the West became strongly interested in jūjutsu following Japan’s military successes in the Russo-Japanese War 1904–05, hence the reference in the article. Karate was thus designed to become a regional bujutsu-style physical education of Okinawa Prefecture.

The article also calls for staff members to create a programm for karate. A few months later, in August 1905, the physical education instructor Hanashiro Chōmo of that school created the basic textbook called “Karate Kumite” (Kadekaru 2012: 178).

Only the title page and one text page of Hanashiro’s “Karate Kumite” survived. They were included in the “Karate-dō Taikan,” published by Nakasone Genwa in 1938 in Tōkyō. From the above mentioned history and from the title we can see that this document was drafted for the purpose of teaching karate kumite at the Middle School in Shuri. The original handwriting was deciphered by Mr. Kadekaru Tooru and published by Kinjō Hiroshi in 2011.

“Karate Kumite” – English Interpretation

Karate Kumite

First teaching: A single thrust (tsuki) and a single defensive sweep.

Paragraph 1: upper-level direct thrust (choku-zuki) and upper-level defensive sweep (the selected soldiers perform the techiques three times)

This is a about the seizing method of defense (tsukami-uke-hō) .

Words of command are 1) assume posture (kamae) , 2) thrust (tsuke), and 3) stop (yame/dome) .

Upon the command “assume posture” (kamae), both parties A and B stand separated at a distance of approximately 1.20 meters, with both heels aligned on one line, and the heels about 30 centimeters apart, and with both foot tips slightly pointing to the outside, and both hands kept apart and raised appropriately in relation to each other.

Upon the command “thrust” (tsuke), A steps forward one step with his right leg and with his right fist simultaneously swiftly thrusts to B’s face.

B evades by taking one step backwards with the right leg, and with his left hand from the inside simultaneously swiftly seizes A’s right wrist (tsukami-uku).

A performs the opening-method with his left fist, then B perfoms the opening-method with his right hand. This is alternately continued with the other hand, until the command “stop” (yame).

Upon the command “stop” (yame), B attaches his right hand to his left hand, and with his left seizes A’s right fist (tsukami-uke) and simultaneously with his right fist, or alternatively with the fingers of his right hand, [thrusts to] A’s face, or otherwise [thrusts to a different part of A’s body, like solarplexus, or suprasternal notch]

From: Nakasone Genwa (pub.): Karate-dō Taikan. Tōkyō Tosho Kabushiki-gaisha, May 5th, 1938.

Clearly, what is called “Kumite” here is not what is currently called free kumite (jiyu-kumite 自由組手). Rather, it is yakusoku (promised) kumite 約束組手, where two persons face each other and repeatedly attempt prearranged offensive and defensive techniques.

Because there is only one page of text, and the last sentence is cut at the end of the page, I added a probable ending in square brackets [].

What Sort of Document is “Karate Kumite”?

There are interesting expressions found in Hanashiro’s “Karate Kumite” (1905), a book considered to have been written for karate instruction of school children at the 1st Prefectural Middle School in Shuri. One expression is bōfutsu/fusebarai 防拂à防払 or “defensive sweep.” During Hanashiro’s era, this phrase was typically found in manuals for military drill (heishiki taisō), of which there are numerous examples. These military drill manuals included didactically prepared descriptions of the individual equipment that was used, the commandos, formations, the methods of moving forward and backward, individual and partner exercises, etc. The structure and general fashion of such manuals match with that of Hanashiro’s “Karate Kumite.” Actually, the two opponents of the karate kumite where referred to by Hanashiro as the “selected soldiers” (選兵).

Examples of such manuals for military drill are:

Kōryoku Sei: Guntōjutsu jikyō Zen. Tsuke – Jōba Guntō-jutsu (The Complete Instructions in the Art of the Military Sword/Sidearm/Bayonet. Appendix: Horse Riding Military Sword/Sidearm/Bayonet) . Gunju Shōkai, Tōkyō 1910 (Meiji 43) . 紅緑生 著:軍刀術示教 全。『附乗馬軍刀術』。軍需商会、明治43年 (1910) 。

Gunju Shōkai Hensan-bu: Tenpan-rei Kenkyū no Shiori. Dai San Shū. (Guide to the Study of Standard Orders. Collection 3) . Gunju Shōkai, (1907-08) . 軍需商会編纂部 著:典範令研究ノ栞。第3集。軍需商会、明治40-41年 (1907-08) 。

Page from a typical manual for military drill (heishiki taisō)

In this connection it is interesting to note that the characters for Karate 空手 might have had a different meaning than we think. That is, exactly the same Kanji as used for Karate appeared in the antique book Kyūyō for the year 1524 in the report on Kyōahagon, and again for 1709 in the report on Gima from Hija Village. There it was used the term Kūshu 空手, which are the same characters as for Karate, but simply mean unarmed, with empty hands, carrying no weapons, and have otherwise no relations to modern Karate whatsoever.

Moreover, in 1921 Buyōken Kensai published a book called “Karate Goshin Hijutsu – Sokuza Katsuyō” (The Secret Art of Karate Self-protection – Instant Application). Here, too, “Karate 空手” simpy meant “empty handed.” Otherwise this book would have been the first monograph about “Karate.”

If “Karate Kumite” was inspired by and had the same aims and contents as the other manuals for military drill at that time, Hanashiro might have simply used the term Karate in the title to refer to “unarmed” combat, as opposed to the use of weapons, and as opposed to a century-old indigenous combat methodology of Ryūkyūan provenance.

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