Category Archives: Unknown Ryukyu

Okinawan Samurai — The Painting of Guan Yu, God of the Martial Arts

While working on “Okinawan Samurai,” Motobu sensei and me discovered a painting with a specific significance to martial arts. The painting was originally in the possession of Aka/Ōta Pēchin and is described in his ‘Instructions’ to his only son and … Continue reading

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The Genealogy of Hanashiro Chōmo 花城長茂 (1869–1945)

One of the few karate people that can be found in the official genealogies of the Ryūkyū Kingdom era is Hanashiro Chōmo 花城長茂 (1869–1945). He belonged to the House Kameya 亀谷家, which was a branch family of the Min-clan 明氏. … Continue reading

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Shimazu Iehisa presented military weaponry to Ryukyuan leader

For more than a century a prohibition of firearms and cut and thrust weapons by the Shimazu House has been considered one major trigger for the development of empty handed martial arts in Okinawa. While this theory has been refuted … Continue reading

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Kata Taught by Matsumura Sōkon (2)

“Karate no omoide” (My Memories of Karate) by Kyan Chōtoku was published on 1942-05-07 in the Okinawa Shinpō Newspaper. “I never forgot when I went to Shikina-en together with my father in the spring of my 16th year. My father … Continue reading

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Kata Taught by Matsumura Sōkon (1)

Since I read about Matsumura Sōkon in social networks recently and about the kata he presumably taught, I thought it might be a good idea to remind Karate circles of an eyewitness account about the eminent master. In his 1941 autobiography, … Continue reading

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On the Persistence of Historical Distortions

Back in 2004 or so an old picture found its way onto the cover of a newly published Karate book. The seemingly irresistible narrative spun around it claimed that it showed Matsumura Sōkon and Itosu Ankō, as body guards of the … Continue reading

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Karate and the Floating Foot (Ukiashi 浮き足)

Floating Foot is a literal translation of the Japanese word ukiashi 浮き足. It refers to an unsteady step, to standing on the tiptoes, to being ready to flee, and even – figuratively – to high volatility in a financial market. … Continue reading

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Educational Modernization, Standard Language, Karate, and Dialect Cards

One of the crucial pillars of the Okinawa assimilation policy was educational modernization. Students needed to be trained in the standard language of Japan. Implementation began as early as 1880 when two new schools were established to serve as the … Continue reading

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A Reconstructed Ryūkyūan Tribute Journey to China

Only one country was allowed to travel to China once or twice a year–the Kingdom of Ryūkyū. Its tribute ships were built in Naha based on the construction of Fujian-style junks. The keel was made of solid pine and shaped … Continue reading

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Ryū’ei-ryū 劉衛流 (self-narrative)

Recently, the Motobu-ryū detected various contradictions in the personal histories of Karate styles told up to now in Okinawa, Japan, and elsewhere. In this connection, he touched one oral tradition – or maybe better self-narrative – of the style called Ryū’ei-ryū. By the … Continue reading

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