Motobu Chōki: “My Art and Skill of Karate” (1932)

The book “My Art and Skill of Karate” presents the technical knowledge and original accounts imparted by famed Okinawa karate master Motobu Chōki (1870-1944). This translation was created in close cooperation with the author’s grandson, Motobu Naoki sensei. It also includes a congratulatory address by the author’s son, Motobu Chōsei sensei, the current head of the school. Moreover, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Motobu Chōki’s birth. In other words, three generations of the Motobu family were involved in this new translation, connecting the history and tradition of karate from the 19th to 21th century.

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

Kindle edition:  US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

(Note: The Kindle version does not include the glossary index and only a rudimentary TOC, so navigation is less reader-friendly than in the print version)

In addition to accounts about old-time karate masters in Okinawa, the work features thirty-four photos of Motobu performing Naihanchi Shodan, including written descriptions. Moreover, it includes twenty kumite with pictures and descriptions as well as five pictures of how to use the makiwara.

What makes it even more unique is that the existence of the book was unknown until the 1980s, when the wife of a deceased student sent the book to Motobu Chōki’s son, Chōsei. Until today this edition remains the only known original edition in existence, and it provided the basis for this original translation. This work has to be considered one of the most important sources to assess and interpret karate.

Motobu Chōki: “My Art and Skill of Karate” (2020)

My Art and Skill of Karate (Ryukyu Bugei Book 3), by Choki Motobu (Author), Andreas Quast (Tr./Ed.), Motobu Naoki (Tr.)

  • 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Black & White on white paper
  • 232 pages
  • First Printing: 2020
  • ISBN: 979-8601364751

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

BookCoverPreviewsmTroubled 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.’

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

Kindle edition: US | UKDE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

Table of Contents

Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son. By Aka/Ōta Pēchin Chokushiki (auth.), Andreas Quast (ed./transl.), Motobu Naoki (transl.).

  • 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Black & White on Cream paper
  • 218 pages
  • First Printing: 2018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1985331037
  • ISBN-10: 1985331039

Translated from Japanese for the first time!

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

“It is one of THE most important primary sources for truly understanding the unabridged history of our arts first hand by a member of the very class of people who spawned Karate in the first place!” (Joe Swift, Karateologist, Tokyo-based)

“I highly recommend this new work by Andi Quast … as a MUST BUY book …” ( Patrick McCarthy, foremost western authority of Okinawan martial arts, modern and antique, anywhere he roams)

“I’m sure I’m going to learn and enjoy this book.” (Itzik Cohen, karate and kobudo man from Israel)

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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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Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts

by Andreas Quast

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

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

Get your copy now: USUKDEFRESITJPCA

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: 979-8605143611
  • BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts. By Andreas Quast, 2020.

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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

Cover

Cover

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

OUT OF PRINT!

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 Lulu.com!

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Approaching a core issue of Okinawa Kobudo

In the bōjutsu tradition of Taira Shinken, we find a rarely seen pole weapon: the Kushaku-bō 九尺棒 (ca. 273 cm long staff). Early sources do not mention it but say that 

“The Okinawan bō is either Rokushaku (ca. 182 cm) or Sanshaku (ca. 90 cm) long: the first represents the method of the short pike, the other is the method of the sword” (Okinawa Issen-nen Shi 1923: 333).

Only in 1964 Taira Shinken wrote the following (Taira 1964: 15):

“No clear indications are found in literature as regards the manner in which kobudō originated. Many of the kata bear the names of the masters who designed them. Originally, there were a considerable number of kata for every kind of kobudō – that is, for every single old weapon and the methods associated with them. However, due to poorly developed systems of practice, and because teachers forgot some kata towards the end of their lives, and also for other reasons, it can today no longer be clearly verified how many kata actually once existed. Therefore, the following supplement lists the kata that still exist today in Okinawa.”

Among the well-known kata provided in that list, we also find “Kushaku-bō”.

On an unnumbered leaf of Taira’s book we find a photo entitled “Various old weapons”, on the bottom of which the Kushaku-bō is found:

photo 1: Upper row: Sai, Nunchaku, Suruchin, Kusarigama. Lower row: Dai-nunchaku, Rokushaku-bō, Kushaku-bō) (Taira 1964: unnumbered leaf 9

Finally, there is a description in chapter 4 (Taira 1964: 42), saying “The staff called Bō in Okinawa is called Gùn in Chinese [from which the Okinawa Kon derives]. The Kon can be roughly classified into three kinds: Sanshaku (about 90 cm), Rokushaku (about 182 cm), and Kushaku (about 273 cm).”

What more can be said about it?

In a posthumously published bequest of Taira is found a paper specifying the “Types of Practices in the Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai” (Taira 1997: 195-98). There, categorized under “Other weapons”, is found the following entry:

• Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō) (九尺棒(突キ棒)

In other words, an addition to the name has been made by adding “Tsuki-bō” (thrusting pole) to it. Therefore, the representative offensive technique of the Kushaku-bō appears to be thrusting. For a weapon of its length, this makes absolute sense. It may be compared to the European pike, the Japanese Yari or the Wing Tsun long-pole. Indeed, later it became generally accepted that “Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō)” belonged to the kata that derived their name from their most characteristic technical feature (see OKKBH 1994: 41; Nakamoto Masahiro and Tsuha Kiyoshi, in OKKJ 2008: 302).

Inoue Motokatsu – one of Taira’s leading disciples – also mentioned the Kushaku-bō, providing us with another contextual perspective (Inoue 1972: 1-2):

“When speaking of Ryūkyū Kobudō, it is generally noted that in the Kobujutsu of Okinawa training is carried out with both long and short weapons. If, by way of example, one speaks of the type of weapon one trains with, then the Kun, the Kushaku-bō, and the Sanshaku-bō belong to the long weapons.”

Photo 2 shows 1. Kushaku-bō, 2. Bō or Kun, 3. Sunakake-bō (Uēku), 4. Sanshaku-bō (Photo from: Inoue 1972: 23).

Nakamoto Masahiro also mentioned it in his list of “Kata of Bōjutsu Preserved in Today’s Okinawa” (Nakamoto 2007: 92), and there are more and more works that adopt it.

As shown above, the term “Kushaku-bō (Tsuki-bō)” appeared in various literary sources since Taira Shinken wrote about it in 1964.

The term also appears otherwise, such as in this kata list once written by Akamine Eisuke (–> see pic 3). Actually, in the new Shimbukan dōjō of Akamine Hiroshi sensei, a Kushaku-bō wrapped in a soft case leaned on the dōjō’s front side between at least 2010 and 2012 ( –> see pic 4, featuring Akamine sensei doing Sai kata). I never saw it being used, though and it is unclear to me whether it had actually been handed down intact or if it is a broken tradition (jitsuden 失伝).

pic 3

I’d like to note that research about kinds of Okinawan bōjutsu appears to be a cumulative matter, with ever more kata and ever more weapons added to the syllabus during the recent century. As shown in the beginning of this short work, the Okinawa Issen-nen Shi (1923: 333) just spoke of two kinds of Okinawan bō, namely either Rokushaku (ca. 182 cm) or Sanshaku (ca. 90 cm). Forty years later, Taira Shinken roughly classified three kinds of bō as Kushaku, Rokushaku, and Sanshaku. A little less than fifty years later the general consensus had expanded again, saying that “the kinds of bō can be divided into the following lengths: ca. 91cm, ca. 1.21m, and ca. 1.82m. In addition, there are special lengths of ca. 2,42m and ca. 2,73m” (OKKJ 2008: 317).

pic 4, featuring Akamine sensei doing a posture from Sai kata

And by this we get to one of the core issues of Okinawa kobudō: While the term kobudō in Japan is clearly defined and strictly reserved for old martial arts established prior to the Meiji Restoration (1868), in Okinawa, there is no such differentiation. Instead, the term “kobudō” in Okinawa is used for all kinds of weaponry, kata, and practices without any distinction being made as regards their tradition as being old kobudō (pre-1879), modern kobudō (1879-1945), new kobudō (post 1945, even though they incorporate older techniques), creative and fiction kobudō, festival and entertainment kobudō, “karate kata with kobudō weapons”, or even any ad-hoc performance made up on the spot. Like this, the arsenal of weapons and techniques in Okinawa kobudō grows and grows and grows, sometimes things are forgotten and instead new developments are added, and it is getting more and more difficult to differentiate between them and to categorize them according to a date of actual establishment and the actual source.

And just like in this case of the Kushaku-bō, every time we attempt to analyze a specific matter related to Okinawa kobudō, we sooner or later approach the core issue that the term “kobudō” for Okinawa has never been clearly defined.

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A bare-handed man boxing

Note the calligraphy in the upper middle of the photography. It shows the phrase “a handless man boxing” (無手人行拳), read from right to left. The phrase was taken from “The Quiet Hermitage”, a Chinese collection of 100 Zen Buddhist theoretical problems (Koan). The phrase in question is found in No. 48, where the issue of “Vimalakirti’s Non-duality” is related to. It uses the comparisons of „a handless man boxing“ and „a tongueless man speaking.“

Apparently, here it had been interpreted in a Karate sense as “a bare-handed (unarmed) man boxing.”

This reflects the early 20th century ideal and is an educated selection.

The photograph was taken at the Tokyo residence of Funakoshi Gichin in 1936 to discuss the then forthcoming publication of Nakasone Genwa’s new book, “Karate-do Taikan” (1938). The photo was later published in “Karate-do Ichiro” (1956) by Funakoshi Gichin. The persons in the photo are, from left to right: Toyama Kanken (Shudokan), Otsuka Hironori (Wado-ryu), Shimoda Takeshi (Funakoshi’s disciple), Funakoshi Gichin (Shotokan), Motobu Choki (Motobu-ryu), Mabuni Kenwa (Shito-ryu), Nakasone Genwa (Karate researcher), Taira Shinken (Ryukyu Kobudo).

The calligraphy was brushed by Yashiro Rokurō (1860–1930, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and Navy Minister). In a memorandum, Tokuda Antei mentioned Yashiro as follows:  

If I remember correctly it was in my 5th year at middle school [i.e. in 1910] when famous rear admiral Yashiro visited our school and he was astonished by our amazingly developed physique and he said that at some point in the future he will try to have it [karate] adopted by the central government. 

From an original copy of Rentan Goshin-jutsu by Funakoshi Gichin, 1926 edition.
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Hide and seek

In Japanese martial arts, including Okinawa Karate, the personal lineage of instruction is of utmost importance. It is so important that it is considered a standalone criterion for the authenticity of a person and his style.

Sometimes technical expertise is assumed simply because a person has a specific personal genealogy. On the other hand, a personal lineage is sometimes assumed simply because a practitioner has excellent technical skills. However, technical expertise and personal lineage are not necessarily causal. What remains is the utmost importance of being able to date back a personal lineage to a founder, or otherwise as far as possible.  

However, there are frequently technical and genealogical inconsistencies, or otherwise different information about a lineage, depending on whose story you hear or read. Such cases have been the topic of many discussions for decades now. Usually it is a “proxy bout” in which people belonging to one or the other group involved argue about who is right and who is wrong. All kinds of arguments and sources are used, such as hearsay of the kind “Sensei xy said….,” or “I have heard that….,” etc.pp. Then, there are interviews, sometimes translated to English. Then there is comparative analysis of techniques, references to books, personal experiences, and many others. Among these arguments, there is one that is regularly missing. Namely, that a person cannot state who his teacher was. This is so obvious, it hurts.

Why would a person not be able to claim a teacher’s name in his official CV? There are some personal reasons, such as they got mad at each other, or there was a fight. Or a student became progressive and self-important or earned a lot of money, but his master didn’t approve. A person might never want to think of or mention another person’s name for such reasons. For example, a teacher and a student have been together for many years. The student moves to the US and becomes famous and earns a lot of money, but he changed the techniques to suit his target audience, and also grades himself – lets say – 8th dan, while actually he was only 4th dan. His sensei disapproves and gets mad at him. How could the student explain that he simply changed the techniques to his likes? He cannot. Instead, he withholds certain genealogical informations, for example, from whom  he actually learned the techniques; Because then everybody could easily compare and see what has been done. At the same time, he creates a narrative. Back home he finds some other people who are also unhappy with the situation, so they form a group with common objectives. This is easy to understand and probably happens all the time.

Or a person uses a specific term from one sensei – Ti, Tomari-te, Tuidi etc. – for a certain system of techniques, but sensei disapproves and tells him “I only taught you 1/3 of it!” So that person, because he already told everybody he is original heir, has to look for a story that explains it without mentioning that teacher.

But there are also formal reasons, and here we need to remember we are talking about Japan, or Okinawa. There are unwritten rules. A person might be “released” or expelled from a school for various reasons, often profane. Maybe he didn’t pay fees. Maybe he withheld income from karate teaching that was supposed to go to the association. Maybe he demanded a higher dan. Maybe he attacked the sensei. Maybe he was convicted of a crime? Here’s the point: If the person is expelled in a semi-formal or formal way and for whatever reason, he cannot use the name of the sensei anymore. He cannot claim “I have studied with sensei XY for 20 years,” even if it is true. Since his livelihood is at stake – and since he certainly will not stop doing karate every day! – he has to find a solution to continue, a story or narrative which might be completely or partly true. But neither the sensei (or dojo / association) who kicked the student out, nor the student himself will ever discuss this publicly. It is probably considered an impertinence in Japan, it is a taboo. At best, there are “rumors.” But in the West, we don’t think that way. Therefore, especially in social media we often openly discuss such matters. In the eyes of Japanese / Okinawans, this might be considered impertinent. But for us it is rather normal. It is a cultural difference.

Like that, we have seen this issue for decades, where Japanese / Okinawans invent new names for kata and styles, create the wildest genealogies, rename things and seek teachers to support them, grade them and lend their name to the cause, team up with other “rogues” etc. just to evade their Japanese cultural obsession with genealogy and personal tradition. And to bypass the issue of being basically prohibited to use the name of a certain teacher or school within their genealogy.

If this issue is better understood, the online world will be a better place.

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Sanchin

It seems that Higashionna Kanryō trained Sanchin as a technique to acquire skill. Miyagi on the other hand thought there was already enough practice of kaishu-gata, but heishu-gata were lacking. He began to aim at physical education and martial arts in the modern era (=Imperial Japan) and he revised Sanchin to serve as the fundamental kata (kihon-gata) of Gōjū-ryū. And he made it into a technique of training the mind rather than to acquire skill (of which there was already enough in all the kaishu-gata).

Or in his own words:

“Looking at karate in Okinawa, I suspect that there is still a slight inclination towards neglecting the heishu-gata (form of closed techniques), but I wonder, how about that? Therefore, because the fundamental technique remained undetermined, and no matter how excellent the techniques of the kaishu-gata (form of open techniques) may be, it is inevitable that it [karate] has to be completed by taking the final step [i.e., adding more heishu-gata].”

(From: Miyagi Chōjun: Karate-dō Gaisetsu. Kihōin Shozō, 1934; pp. 5-6. Translation by AQ)

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Clues from the short entry about “Ānankū”

In his book on kata, Nagamine Shōshin included a short paragraph about the original creator and the characteristics of each kata. This also holds true for the kata Ānankū. Below is a comparison between the English translation and the Japanese original of this short entry. This is not to judge the translation, but rather to show the different nuance when compared to the original text.

English edition (The Essence of Okinawan Karate-do, 1991, p. 164) :

“Ananku. The composer of this short kata is unknown, and the history is comparatively short. Ananku distinguishes itself from the other kata by offensive and defensive skills with the front-leg-bent stance.”

Japanese edition (Shijitsu to dentō o mamoru Okinawa no karatedō, 1975, p. 234):

“Ānankū. This [kata] was created by a past master, but this creator is unknown. The characteristics of this kata are many zenkutsu chūdan-zuki (mid-level thrusts in forward-bent stance). It is a short kata with a straight line as its enbusen (route of martial performance).”

As you can see, there are several issues. For example, there is no such thing in the original as “the history [of the kata] is comparatively short.” Instead, it is said to have been created by a “past master,” or “a master of bygone times.” The master / creator is unknown, as is the point in time it was created.

This is interesting because sometimes people from other schools have tried to make sense of Matsubayashi’s Ānankū. It is claimed that this Ānankū is a creation by Nagamine Sensei himself. I think this claim is without merit. This is because Nagamine Sensei in 1975 wrote that Ānankū “was created by a past master” and that this master “is unknown.”

While Ānankū of Matsubayashi-ryū is short and has a medium level of technical difficulty, it is a unique kata. It includes some signature techniques reminiscent of Chintō, such as the open-handed cross-block, or the rather specific abdomen toe-kick, which was a specialty of Arakaki Ankichi. In any case, while the open-handed cross-block with tow-kick is a snapshot-similarity with Chintō, it clearly has a different entry and exit than it has in Ānankū, and is, therefore, a mere punctual concordance.

Nagamine Sensei did not say from whom he learned Ānankū, but only that it “was created by a past master” and that this master “is unknown.” Could it be that it was handed down by that unknown, past master, and somehow reached Arakaki Ankichi?

BTW, as has been handed down by Sunabe Shozen, there were actually an Ānankū Shō and an Ānankū Dai. This would explain the existence of different Ānankū today. Since Arakaki was the earliest among Kyan’s prominent students (since 1924), and an adult man at the time, he could have learned one of these two versions and taught it to Nagamine Sensei. This version would then be the oldest extant version of Ānankū which otherwise was not handed down within the Okinawa Karate circles. Seen from this perspective, Ānankū of Matsubayashi-ryū would, therefore, not only be unique in technical content and Enbusen, but also in history itself.

The other Ānankū is was created later by Kyan around 1931 for teaching at the Kadena agricultural and fishery vocational school. It would make sense if Kyan developed Ānankū for those school kids because it is a mixture of many other kata. Below I have added the morphological analysis of the kata and the kata where the combos to create this version of Ānankū have been lend from.

  • opening gesture (standard gesture for kata in Seibukan)
  • 1. left Shutō-uke / Neko-ashi-dachi 45° to left front (typical karate, for example, in Pinan Shodan, Kūsankū)
  • 2. right Shutō-uke / Neko-ashi-dachi 45° to right front (typical karate, for example, in Pinan Shodan, Kūsankū)
  • 3. left Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki in Zenkutsu -dachi 90° to the left (as in Seisan)
  • 4. right Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki in Zenkutsu -dachi 90° to the right (as in Seisan)
  • 5. Same as opening gesture (standard gesture for kata in Seibukan)
  • 6. right Uchi-uke left Jōdan-uke (as in Passai)
  • 7. Both-handed mid-level scissor strike (as in Passai)
  • 8. Right choku-zuki (as in Passai)
  • 9. Left Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki / right Mae-geri / Gyaku-zuki (as in Gojūshiho)
  • 10. Right Uchi-uke / Renzoku Gyaku-/Choku-tsuki / left Mae-geri / Gyaku-zuki (as in Gojūshiho)
  • 11. Right Mawashi Enpi-uchi (Kūsankū)
  • 180° turn
  • 12. left Gedan-barai
  • 13. Right Choku-zuki
  • 14. Right Uchi-uke, step left foot forward in Bensoku-dachi / right Mae-geri and place right foot to front / right Gedan-barai / left Gyaku-zuki / right Uchi-uke  (as in Seisan)
  • 180° turn
  • 15. Right Shutō-uke (typical karate, for example, in Kūsankū, Rōhai)
  • 16. (right foot back) left Shutō-uke (typical karate, for example, in Kūsankū, Rōhai)
  • End gesture (standard)

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What’s in a hairpin?

Various experts repeatedly likened karate to Ryūkyūan dance. For example, Funakoshi Gichin wrote that “As a martial art unique to Okinawa, the Mēkata dances of the rural areas are the same as not yet developed karate.” (1) More than a century later, Okinawan karate champ Kiyuna Ryō trains traditional Ryūkyūan dance to polish his stare for karate performance. (2) The relation between dance and tī has been emphasized by Uehara Seikichi of Motobu Udundī, such as in this comparison between the Hamachi-dori and its martial analysis. (3)

According to Yamauchi Seihin, hairpins were used, in conjunction with techniques of karate or tī, as defensive weapons, which can be seen in the plot of the Gwīku-bushi (Goeku-bushi) set around the 1890s. (4) Yamauchi also wrote that a Ryūkyūan warrior might have relied on his hairpin, his umbrella, his fan, his pipe, or his thumbs for self-defense. (5)

As regards the expertise of this Yamauchi Seihin: He was a karate member during his time at the Okinawan Normal School. In 1907, he went to Tōkyō on a school excursion, where he visited the Kōdōkan institute and performed karate in front of Kanō Jigorō and his disciples. Yamauchi was also one of the persons who answered Kanō Jigorō’s questions about karate. Yamauchi later compiled a report of the events which was published in the journal of the school’s alumni association. (6)

What is the story of the Ryūkyūan hairpin? I was personally told in Okinawa by an Okinawan woman that a hairpin was used to commit suicide by thrusting it into one’s own heart when sexually attacked by a man. I am not sure how historically accurate this is but there’s plenty of proven history.

Let’s start with the centralization of government under King Shō Shin (rg. 1477–1526) who for the first time determined the distinctions between officials by clothes and ranks (Kyūyō, article 197). Erected in celebration of the expansion and beautification of Shuri Castle’s main palace, the “Momourasoe Rankan no Mei” (1509) reports:

“One-thousand retainers were appointed government officials, one-hundred officials were assigned to duties. All ranks and classes of the people were fixed, by means of their yellow and red turbans, by means of their golden and silver hairpins. This shall serve as the model for posterity for the distinction between aristocrats and plebeians.” (7)

In other words, hairpins were a part of the system of court ranks. (8)

A few years later, in 1534, Chinese investiture envoy Chen Kan reported:

“We were invited to the banquet, and on that occasion a pavilion was erected at the lake shore from where we watched a dragon boat race. […] The persons using the boats without exception were young minor government officials or children of noblemen, each of them wearing a golden hairpin with a flower design […].” (9)

During the period of Shō Shōken to Sai On, i.e., roughly 1666 to the 1730s, the royal government organization was restructured and the organization of court ranks and functions were re-formulated and completed. By 1729 the system was permanently in effect, and in 1732 the particulars of promotions were fixed. Henceforth, each of the nine ranks, further divided in one major and one minor sub-rank, were granted according to social status, age, and meritorious services and indicated by the color of the headgear, clothes, and hairpins. (10)

In the summer of 1783, Furukawa Koshōken toured Satsuma and created the “Miscellaneous Notes on a Journey to the West” (Seiyū Zakki) and described the Ryūkyūan office in Kagoshima as such:

“Taking a glance at the Ryūkyūkan. Entry of unauthorized person to the Ryūkyūkan was prohibited and ensured by gatekeepers (monban). About one hundred persons from Ryūkyū having crossed over to Kagoshima stayed there, trading with Ryūkyūan products, or studying Japanese and learning all kinds of artistic skills in Kagoshima. And their waka poetry and handwriting are splendid. Their hairdo is like that of children and tied up round and kept in place with a hairpin and their clothing is like that of Buddhist laymen or private scholars (koji).” (11)

Looking at another different context, every time Ryūkyūan vessels near the Chinese coast were approached by ships, the Ryūkyūans had to prepare for battle with potential pirates. The Ryūkyūans were equipped with all sorts of weapons including rifles (teppō) and cannons to guard their ships and to protect official and personal silver as well as large and small cargo, clothes, silver hairpins etc. (12) So there were people who would try to steal your precious hairpin.

Hairpins are also found in the “Bubishi” (13) and there is also a theory that they were somehow related to the development of the sai.


There are many different kinds and names for hairpins, such as kanzashi 簪 (ornate hairpin), golden hairpins (for 2nd major court rank or higher), silver hairpins (for 2nd minor court rank and below), and furthermore (14):

  • kamisashi (ornate hairpin used by men) カミサシ|髪挿|髪さし
  • jīfā (ornate hairpin used by women)  ジーファー
  • kugani-jīfā (golden hairpin used by women) クガニジーファー
  • nanja-jīfā (silver hairpin used by women) ナンジャジーファー
  • chijaku-jīfā (brass hairpin used by women) チジャクジーファー
  • ushi-jashi (secondary ornate hairpin used by men) ウシジャシ|押差
  • kāminakū-jīfā (tortoiseshell hairpin used by women) カーミナクージーファー
  • kī-jīfā (wooden hairpin used by women; used in case of mourning regardless of status) キージーファー
  • suba-jashi (secondary ornate hairpin worn by women of samurē class or higher) スバジャシ|側挿|側挿し

Anyway, what is lesser known is that Okinawan hairpins also have had been described as ear cleaners and it might not even be that far-fetched. Similar cosmetics or hygiene instruments are well known around the globe much earlier in time. The photo below shows a small ear spoon or probe (specillum) dated to the 1st-3rd Century, Roman Empire. It is characterized by the round, slightly angled spoon at the end and was used to clean the ears. To make handling easier, the shaft of this cosmetic device is profiled with notches on the lower handle.

In other words, some varieties of the Okinawan hairpins might originally have been cosmetic instruments.

Badisches Landesmuseum
https://katalog.landesmuseum.de/object/UiA1MTE5
  • (1) Funakoshi Gichin: Okinawa no Bugi. Ryukyu Shinpo, 1914.
  • (2) Kikuchi Hiroki: Kiyuna Ryō: A Champion Born and Raised in Okinawa, the Land of Karate. Nippon.com, Jun 1, 2020.
  • (3) Hamachidori and its bunkai. Motobu-ryu, uploaded Oct 19, 2009.
  • (4) Yamauchi Seihin: Karate Self-Defence & Okinawan Dance, 2019, p. 48.
  • (5) Ibid., p. 148. 
  • (6) Kadekaru Toru 2017, thesis.
  • (7) Takara 1993, I: 18–21.
  • (8) See also Kyūyō, articles 174, 197.
  • (9) Chen Kan (SLQL 1534, Vol. 1), in ORJ. Vol. 8, Nr. 1.
  • (10) Quast: Karate 1.0 (2013).
  • (11) Quast: Karate 1.0 (2013), translated from Kagoshima Prefectural Library as well as the Waseda University Archives.
  • (12) Genealogy of the Son-clan (House Azama) for the year 1853.
  • (13) Mabuni Kenwa: Kōbō Jizai Karate Kenpō Sēpai no Kenkyū. Tōkyō Kōbukan, 1934, p. 120.
  • (14) Shuri Naha Dialect Dictionary

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Launch of “Tijikun”

I finally realized an old childhood dream, namely to design my own t-shirts. So I am excited to announce the launch of TIJIKUN.

As you know, TIJIKUN has been the original name of karate. Well, it is designed for afficionados of Okinawan martial arts. I hope you like it and look forward to your input and design suggestions.

To go to the shop sites, click Tijikun America or Tijikun Europe.

Custumize your product:

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Inoue Motokatsu (1918-1993)

Inoue Motokatsu was born 1918 in Tôkyô. He was the grandson of the elder Meiji statesman Inoue Kaoru and Inoue Keitarô. He studied a synthesis of Bujutsu under Fujita Seiko, the 14th generation headmaster of Kôga-ryû.

After completion of Keiô Private University in 1941, he took part in the 2nd worldwar at the front in Birma and Imphal (capital of Manipur, North-East-India).

He studied under Taira Shinken who – upon request – granted him the first and only ever Hanshi Menkyo Kaiden in Ryûkyû Kobudô.

Unfortunately, in none of his books he ever mentioned when exactly he opened his style or dojo. There are some websites of his Western students who say it was around 1948. The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, p. 889, says the following:

Yuishin-ryū (Karate)

(The founder was) Inoue Motokatsu from Shimizu. He studied Karate under Konishi Yasuhiro and Kamiyama Hōsaku [note.: Yuishinkan Ippō-ryū], Shuriken-jutsu under Fujita Seiko, Ryūkyū Kobudō under Taira Shinken. Shōwa 37 (=1962) he founded the Yuishinkan. Among his students were Shida Hitoshi, Shingai Masaru, Ikegaya Hidetoshi, Sanada Rihei, Kiyotomi Shikō.

(If so, the Yuishinkan of Kisaki Tomoharu, 9th Dan from Osaka, used the name Yuishinkan earlier.)

He left behind a system of techniques for the various weapons he had established and organized.

He left this world on January 1st 1993 in Tôkyô. Today his teachings are continued by Inoue Kishô.

Inoue Motokatsu

Book list

Inoue Motokatsu: Ancient martial arts of the Ryūkyū Islands, 2 vols:

1.Inoue Motokatsu: Bō, sai, tonfa and nunchaku. Seitohsha, Tokyo 1987. 215 p. 26cm. Ancient martial arts of the Ryūkyū Islands, vol. I. English and Japanese.
2.Inoue Motokatsu: Kama, tekkō, tinbē and surujin. Seitohsha, Tokyo 1987. 211 p. 26cm. Ancient martial arts of the Ryūkyū Islands, vol. II. English and Japanese.

Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō series, 3 vols (1972-74):

1.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. I (Jōkan). Tōkyō, Burēn Shuppan 1972. 602 pp.
2.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. II (Chûkan). Tōkyō, 1974.
3.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. III (Gekan). Tōkyō, 1974.

This series was produced under supervision of Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai Sō Honbu (Okinawa) and Naichi Sō Honbu (mainland).

Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō series, 3 vols (1983):

1.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. I (Jōkan). Tōkyō, 1983. 602 pp.
2.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. II (Chûkan). Tōkyō, 1983.
3.Inoue Motokatsu: Ryūkyū Kobudō vol. III (Gekan). Tōkyō, 1983.

This re-published series contains a few changes, particularly in some of the Kata the older pictures have been exchanged for photos of Inoue Kishô. There are also some additions and omissions to the texts.

Inoue Motokatsu: Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series, 8 vols:

1.Inoue Motokatsu: Bō. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Bōjutsu. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Bōjutsu). Including English translations. Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1977. 60. pp.

2.Inoue Motokatsu: Sai. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Saijutsu. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Saijutsu. Including English translations. Seitosha Hen. Tōkyō, Seitōsha. Tōkyō, Sekibundō Shutsuban 1977. 52 pp.

3.Inoue Motokatsu: Nunchaku. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Nunchaku. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Nunchaku.). Including English translations. Seitōsha Hen. Tōkyō, Seitōsha. Tōkyō, Sekibundō Shutsuban (sales) 1978. 50 pp.

4.Inoue Motokatsu: Tonfā. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Tonfa. Including English translations. Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1978. 53 pp.

5.Inoue Motokatsu: Tekkō. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Tekkōjutsu. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Tekkōjutsu. Including English translations. Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1982. 59 pp.

6.Inoue Motokatsu: Kama. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Kamajutsu. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Kamajutsu. Including English translations. Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1981. 50 pp.

7.Inoue Motokatsu: Tinbē. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Tinbē. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Tinbē. Including English translations. Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1984. 43 pp.

8.Inoue Motokatsu: Surujin. Ryūkyū Kobudō Kihon Waza Shirīzu. Hitori de dekiru Nyūmonsho. Surujin. Ancient Martial Arts of the Ryūkyū Islands Series. The Basic Formal Exercise of Surujin. Including English translations Tōkyō, Seitōsha 1986. 50 pp.

This series describing all weapons and their techniques and Kata in detail was the first such work on Ryukyu Kobudo which contained English translations. This made information accessible for a wider audience of Western readers for the first time.

Further read:

Taira Shinken: Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan. Editor in chief: Inoue Kishō. Commentary: Miyagi Tokumasa. Ginowan, Yōju Shorin 1997. 210 pp. –> This is a limited edition (only 800) reprint of the 1964 original work, wh

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The “tea cloth squeeze”

In bōjutsu, depending on the teacher, various methods of how to hold the bō are taught. In the Taira lineage of Okinawa, students are supposed to basically adhere to a 3/3 division of the bō and keep both hands fixed in position all the time. I was instructed to close the front hand starting from thumb and index finger. In this way, the front hand is supposed to be tightly fixed, like as if you would use a hammer with one hand.

Of course, a bō is held with both hands, so it cannot be used like a hammer. Due to the wide distance between the hands, when striking, the bō can only penetrate to a certain extent. Often it barely reaches the point of contact, for example the head. This is due to the positions of the back hand, the front shoulder, and the front hand, respectively, as well as the distance between the front and back hands. It is geometry.

Well, you might say, “This is the prescribed form of the kata.” In that case, it is ok.

What about practical application? Of course, you would adapt to the situation as necessary. However, the same method as described above is also used in applications, which are mostly prearranged sets. And because of that, this method of holding the bō has been criticized as being stiff and impractical. While it is safe in prearranged sets of kumibō, you just don’t strike through, even if putting on a show.

There are two basic ways to perform a front strike like that, but they do not address the actual problem itself and are either “clinging to formality” or “workarounds”:

In the position shown on the left, it is easy and fast to backswing because you don’t need to twist the upper body much. Japanese disciples of Taira lineage bōjutsu prefer this method, but it is also seen on Okinawa. It is fast but weak.
The position shown on the right is often used by Okinawan disciples of the Taira lineage bōjutsu. In this position, while the strike reaches deeper down, the backswing is more difficult to accomplish — or almost impossible unless you’re a yogi or something. Therefore, you have to actively switch to Neko-ashi for the backswing, and then actively move into Kokutsu again to strike. This results in the almost robotic habits often seen among practitioners of this group.

By the way, in kenjutsu there’s a specialized term called “tea cloth squeeze” (chakin shibori). Because the tea cloth is small, the “tea cloth squeeze” is done in a specific way. In a nutshell, when cleaning the wet tea cloth, it is folded three times, and you squeeze the water out of it. You squeeze the fingers from the pinky side, and the index finger is straightened. This is the same as the front hand in kenjutsu: You squeeze the pinky, ring, and middle finger while thumb and index finger are relaxed.

The “tea cloth squeeze”

But in kenjutsu, the back hand is also assigned a task. Basically, there is a push-pull action done by both hands. It allows a full downward strike while at the same time allow to stop a downward in an instant. Different from many bōjutsu, it is not the geometry and the front hand that stop the strike, but a push of the back hand in combination with a pull of the front hand.

This is what my sword sensei, Hamamoto Hisao Sensei, teaches and refers to as “Te no Uchi”.

BTW, when used in bōjutsu, the “tea cloth squeeze” allows the front hand to glide along the bō, thus reducing the distance between the hands, and as a result, you can strike through.

For example, we have seen the “tea cloth squeeze” being used in many of the Yamanni-ryū bōjutsu. Most Yamanni-ryū bōjutsu schools today came from Kishaba Chōgi. While basically all of his students do the “tea cloth squeeze” – or at least point the index finger somewhere – most of them do not use the full “Te no Uchi”.

Last year, while on Okinawa, I visited one Yamanni-ryū bōjutsu sensei for practice. That specific sensei taught two methods of striking:

  • 1.) normal strike with “tea cloth squeeze”, and
  • 2.) the “Te no Uchi” version (including “tea cloth squeeze” and push-stop of the rear hand). This strike version was done like the “Te no Uchi” of kenjutsu, just adapted to the bō.

I also visited another direct student of Kishaba Chōgi. That sensei then told me that Kishaba Chōgi never did the “sword stop” (= “Te no Uchi”).

In other words, new methods from other martial arts such as kenjutsu are assessed and introduced into existing schools of bōjutsu. Or was it originally in there?

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Nagamine Shoshin performed Chatan Yara no Kusanku in 1969

On October 10, 1969, a National Special Invitational Kata Demonstration was presented at the Nippon Budōkan in Tōkyō. There, a number of Okinawan karate masters were invited to present Okinawa karate kata in front of a nationwide audience. The occasion was the “1st All Japan Karate-dō Championships” held by the Japan Karate Federation (JKF). This was the first nationswide competition within the development that lead to the current form of competition karate under the World Karate Federation (WKF).

On September 25, prior to that performance at the Nippon Budōkan, the invited Okinawan master demonstrated their kata of choice at the Okinawa Times Hall in Naha, which was covered in the newspaper. At that time, the following masters presented Okinawa karate:

  • Kaneshima Shinsuke (Tōzan-ryū)
  • Nagamine Shōshin (Matsubayashi-ryū)
  • Kushi Jokei (Matsubayashi-ryū [Shōrin-ryū])
  • Shimabukuro Zenryō (Sukunai-hayashi-ryū [Shōrin-ryū])
  • Higa Yūchoku (Kobayashi-ryū [Shōrin-ryū])
  • Yagi Meitoku (Gōjū-ryū)

At that time, Nagamine Shōshin performed “Kūsankū”, i.e. the version today more commonly known as “Chatan Yara Kūsankū”. This was covered by the Okinawa Times under the headline of “Performance of the correct form of Kūsankū”. The essence of the article is this:

Passai, Chintō, and Kūsankū are three of Nagamine Hanshi’s special techniques, but at the Nippon Budōkan, he will perform Kūsankū. […] According to Nagamine Hanshi, “Because match-centered karate has become popular on the mainland, this kata Kūsankū is also spreading in a chaotic way. Using the ideal opportunity at the Nippon Budōkan, I would like to reveal the correct kata there.”

Newspaper from author’s archive. For a translation of the complete article, see Okinawa Karate Information center.

BTW, Nagamine Sensei performed Chatan Yara no Kūsankū already in 1939, at the opening ceremony of the Dai Nippon Butokukai Okinawa Branch Butokuden. This was also the first known instance in history in which the unique designation “Chatan Yara no Kūsankū” has been used in a written record. At this occasion, Kyan Chōtoku (1870-1945), from whom Nagamine Sensei had learned this kata, was still alive and he was also present during this performance.

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