The term “Torite” in Itosu’s 10 precepts

01as an answer to myself concerning the short article on Torite and Tuidi, I want to make clear that of course we find the term torite 取手: It is used in #6 of Itosu Ankō’s “10 Precepts of Karate”, written in October 1908.

If this means anything, and if so, what exactly, I’d like you to decide for yourself.

Here are two translations easily found (!) on google. They both sound very similar. You might argue they are the same.

  • #6. Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly, the use of which is passed by word of mouth. Learn the explanations well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed. Enter, counter, release is the rule of releasing hand (torite). 
  • #6. Practice each of the techniques of karate repeatedly. Learn the explanations of every technique well, and decide when and in what manner to apply them when needed. Enter, counter, withdraw is the rule for torite.

First of all, as I don’t trust anyone 😀 I tried to re-interpret the original text again:

  • #6. Practice each of the skills of karate repeatedly. Attentively devote yourself to the meaning of each individual technique and make sure to apply them according to all possible circumstances. In addition, there are the methods of entering, receiving, releasing, and seizing. To these there are many oral instructions.

As you can see: I wrote some of the terms in italics. Here is an explanation that might help.

The “skills of karate” here refers to Kata, not to individual techniques. Other than commonly believed, Itosu here obviously advised to learn all of them. But there is a cautionary note: If these are practiced only half-heartedly or flabby, such practice is not effective. Therefore, in order to improve the efficiency of practice, one must immerse oneself in the “true art”, that is: train your ass off. To achieve this, one has to pay attention not only to the correct meaning of each of the techniques contained within each of the Kata, but also to each possible case of their application in order to be able to apply these techniques in any possible circumstance.

In addition, and as everybody knows, there are advanced skills within the kata that do not openly appear, such as special methods of attack (ire 入れ: entering), methods of defence (uke 受け: receiving), methods of releasing in case one is seized at the arm or the neck etc. (hazushi はずし), methods of locking joints (torite 取り手: seizing skills): But since these are “secret traditions”, many of them are only handed down orally to students. (kuden 口伝: oral instruction; orally handed down secret).

So here’s the meaning of #6 after the above consultation:

  • #6. Practice each of the kata of karate repeatedly. Attentively devote yourself to the meaning of each of the individual techniques contained within these kata and make sure to apply them according to all possible circumstances. In addition, there are the methods of attack, methods of defence, methods of releasing in case one is seized at the arm or the neck etc., and the methods of locking joints. But since these are “secret traditions“, many of them are only handed down orally to students.

So: It’s ok to use the Okinawan pronounciation of the term as Tuidi as a term describing a specific technical concept in reference to article #6 of Itosu Ankō.

It should be noted, though, that at the Teacher’s College in Shuri (the normal school), only standard Japanese was allowed. I would doubt that Itosu would have used Okinawan language in any correspondence, written or by word of mouth, with the Japanese Ministry of Education and the Ministry of War, to which he adressed this writing. Otherwise we would never heard of him.

Another point is: The first real dōjō established in Okinawa was a Jūdō dōjō, still in the late 19th century. It seems obvious that Japanese ideas of Bujutsu since at least the foundation of the Butokukai in 1895 would set the standards. In 1908, when Itosu wrote his 10 precepts, the Butokukai was organized in all regions of Okinawan, under the governor as its director.

In other words: the use of the term Torite by Itosu, in sense of Kansetsu-waza, by no means implies or can be taken as evidence that this term had been used in an indigenous Okinawan meaning anytime prior to this.

Yet, Okinawa/Ryukyu had police forces and security personell, why not simply use the term Torite/Tuidi in sense of a feudal policemen and the techniques they employed? We know the term is historic in Japan, so can we assume that it was also used in Okinawa? Yes, we can! But there’s still no proof other than Itosu’s misspelling. :O

In one of the the first newspaper articles noting “Karate” in 1898, using the old writing as Tōdī, nobody knew what this “art” was about anyway. Reporters on different occasions explained it as “maybe a Chinese style of Jūjutsu?”. Would that even be wrong? I don’t think so as they simply use the word Jūjutsu here as a reference for grappling and stuff. In this sense there is also American Jūjutsu, and French Jūjutsu, etc.  So why oh why has it to be something indigenous ancient Okinawan concept stemming from family clans handed down for 1000 years? Especially when there is not one single photograph of it! 😛

In February 1905, an unknown journalist pointed out in the Ryūkyū Shinpō what he believed should be the main points of educational Karate. Among others he wrote:

We are in the process of getting the ball rolling in Jūjutsu, wherein Western people still have to start working. That Karate has its origin in the prefectural middle school is a great delight.

At that time a new framework was being devised, and it was 100% Japanese, except the names of Kata still had an exotic feel, which was probably very cool at the time: Okinawa had played the exotic kingdom for centuries already – under Satsuma’s quasi-rule, Japanese names and clothes were forbidden and they were ADMONISHED to exhibit “exotic customs”. Anyway, as shown in the reference to Jūjutsu in the above article, Karate’s new face was that of an Okinawan form of the conception of Jūjutsu/Jūdō, and – as the journalist wished – it would hopefully follow the great international success of Jūjutsu/Jūdō already at the time.

But most importantly: There is not one single historical source prior to 1908 that confirms the usage of Torite/Tuidi in Okinawa in relation to any sort of Karate or its predecessors.

From this reason, when using the term Tuidi, it should be defined what is meant by it, and this includes it’s historical etymology.

Itosu Anko's Ten Precepts.  From: Nakasone Genwa: Karate-dō Taikan  (Outline of Karate-dō), 1938.

Itosu Anko’s Ten Precepts.
From: Nakasone Genwa: Karate-dō Taikan (Outline of Karate-dō), 1938.

© 2015, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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