1982 Letter by Nagamine Shoshin to the JKF on behalf of the Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei

When I visited Nagamine Takayoshi at his dojo in Naha Kumoji one day in I believe 2011, he showed me a letter written by his father Nagamine Shoshin decades ago. The letter was written on behalf of the Karate Federation of Okinawa Prefecture (Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei). Although it had once been partly translated in a booklet for a demonstration, the meaning of the translation was barely recognizable. Furthermore, it reached only a very few number of people. That day he asked me to make this important matter known to the karate world. I made photographs of the letter and worked it out using proper and recognizable terminology. The implications of Nagamine’s letter are still the more up-to-date today.

Meanwhile the JKF and WKF removed the standardized shitei kata. At least that is the official terminology. In fact, standardization just reached the next level. And not one single mistake of the past had actually been rectified. The shitei-ization is just more homogenuous and all-encompassing now.

So I once more post the wording of the letter as follows.

To: Zen Nihon Karate-do Renmei (= JKF), Takagi Fusajiro, Managing Director.

From: Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei (Okinawa Karate Federation), Nagamine Shoshin, President.

Date: November 1st, 1982

“Regarding the shitei kata (designated kata) of Karate-do at the National Athletic Meet.

At the 36th National Athletic Meet held in Shiga Prefecture last year (1981), the JKF for the first time carried out competition in the kata of Karate-do. For this purpose a total of 8 kata were designated as shitei kata by the JKF; namely Bassai Dai, Chinto, Kanku Dai and Jion from the Shuri-te system, and Seishan, Seinchin, Seipai and Saifa from the Naha-te system.

At this year’s National Athletic Meet, however, we received a great shock.

These appointed shitei kata were not only borrowed from us, but were also in a completely miserable condition!

We, the members of the Okinawa Karate Federation, are unable to be satisfied with this decision and are having difficulties in understanding the situation. Thus, we now offer a full report of our opinion. Candidly discussed among the board of directors of the Okinawa Karate Federation, we hereby sincerely request your organization’s careful handling and consideration for improving this matter, with no preconceived notions.

Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate. Therefore we, the Okinawan people, are proud of, and responsible for, maintaining the pure traditional kata and handing them down as such to our posterity. However, we are aware of the present trend in which Karate has been regarded as a kind of sport for competition to some extent, and we are not reluctant in supporting this contemporary demand. We also want to clarify that we are not assuming an air of importance because of our long tradition, or the fact that Okinawa was the cradle of Karate. Our only wish is that your organization, the JKF, should pay more attention in selecting a reasonable method in the transition of Karate from a martial art to a sporting event.

Going back in history, we can look at the the Dai Nippon Butokukai [Japanese Martial Arts Federation] which was established in 1895 in order to modify the ancient Japanese martial arts into the modern-day Budo sports of Judo and Kendo, respectively. Not longer limiting their practise and subsequent mastering to the samurai class, these lethal techniques were made accessible to regular people. Ever since these days, the traditional Japanese martial arts became one of the three pillars of national education (moral education, intellectual training and physical education) in Japan.

Along with this development, refined kata of modern Judo and Kendo were born in 1906 and 1911 respectively, paving the way for further development in this new era.

However, the completion of these kata for Judo and Kendo required a time of 14-15 years. After long debate and occasionally tumultuous discussion among some 40 or 50 great masters representing the different Koryu Bujutsu (antique martial styles) of Japan who took part in the planning and extracting their piled up wisdom, these ultimate forms were finally devised. The details of which were decided by public opinion in a fair and democratic setting.

But, although already thirty-odd years have passed since the adoption of Karate sparring for competition (kumite), several revisions of the rules for Karate have come and gone. Still to this day no unified rules have been established and/or sanctioned by all! Moreover, for the competition of kata, the wisdom of the many masters of Okinawa has not been sought after (similar to Judo or Kendo), but rather it has been decided upon these borrowed shitei kata – which really is a flaw in the JKF’s authority, isn’t it?

They say, “better late than never”, so we once more earnestly beg the JKF to look back on the historical facts, drawing a parallel to the modernization of the ancient styles of Jujutsu and Kenjutsu into today’s Judo and Kendo. In the same manner, rather than to keep acknowledging the various offensive and defensive techniques of sport kumite only, we hope you can restore the fundamental kata of Okinawa too, so that Karate enthusiasts from all over the world, without exception and under equal conditions, may willingly participate in the nonpartisan and impartial kata competition.

To recapitulate our request to the JKF: We earnestly advise that you not only use the names of kata originating in Okinawa, but also the physical kata themselves as currently practiced in Okinawa, for future Karate competitions throughout Japan. By giving effect to the above mentioned ideas, we are confident that the interchange of ancient Okinawan kata with the new mainland kata of JKF will be realized, resulting in the “development of new ideas based on study of the past” [here Nagamine sensei uses the famous proverb “On-Ko-Chi-Shin”], the fruition of perfectly blending old and new techniques of Japanese Karate.

Signed:

  • Adviser: Uehara Seikichi
  • Adviser: Higa Yuchoku
  • Adviser: Takamine Choboku
  •  Vice-president: Miyahira Katsuya
  • Vice-president: Arakaki Seiki
  • Vice-president: Iraha Choketsu
  • Chairman of the board: Miyazato Ei’ichi
  • Board member: Nagamine Tadayoshi
  • Board member: Higa Seikichi
  • Board member: Akamine Eisuke
  • Board member: Shimabukuro Zenpo
  • Board member: Uehara Ko
  • Board member: Shimabukuro Eizo
  • Board member: Shiroma Seihan
  • Board member: Kise Fusei
  • Board member: Bise Joman
  • Board member: Shimabukuro Kichiro
  • Board member: Irei Takeshi
  • Board member: Sakumoto Tsuguo
  • Board member: Inamine Seijin
  • Board member: Kaneshi Eiko

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