The Facebook page of “Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate – Midwest Honbu Dojo” regularly posts intriguing videos from the personal collection of Bill George Sensei. Since it is a private video collection, in most cases I saw the video for the first time.
Recently a video was posted showing a “Bō kata performed by Nagamine Takayoshi Sensei in the late 1960s.”
I have never seen this kata anywhere in Okinawa, nor by Takayoshi Sensei himself. I asked Bill George Sensei, who – while he remembered watching Nagamine Sensei doing this bō kata – he didn’t remember a name or other specifics. It was too long ago.
I also asked other seniors, but so far no one was able to provide any additional information. Only one person remembered to have seen Takayoshi sensei do a bō kata he has never seen before or elsewhere. While this person wasn’t able to confirm if it was the same bō kata, he for sure remembered that the kick against the bō has been in it. This old expert promised he will look up his notes to see if he finds anything.
In any case, at this point it remains unclear whether this bō kata is a traditional one or if Takayoshi Sensei just played around or created it himself. One point to consider is that it has all components of a well designed kata. Moreover, it does not just draw upon fragments of other bō kata – you’ve got to trust me on this one.
This bō kata has some interesting and unique features, so I took a closer look into its techniques. First of all, this bō kata starts with the bō held on the left side of the body. This is rather uncommon. In fact, I know of only one other Okinawan bō kata that does this, namely Yonegawa no Kon.
Secondly, it has some technical specifics in common with another rather unique bō kata from the realm of the old Matsubayashi-ryū Kōdōkan headquarter dōjō, namely Shiromatsu no Kon. The most striking technical specifics in common are as follows:
- The old-style opening.
- The hand-change is performed stationary and without rotating the bō.
- The way Hikkake (trap&hook) is performed.
- The way that Uchi-maki-uke is performed, using both hands and the assistance of the hip. The rear hand actively works to produce a better lever.
- The Jōdan-kamae in Neko-ashi with the following Nuki-tsuki.
- The Hikkake performed in Ippon-dachi (see end of Shiromatsu).
- The Hikkake | Shōmen-uchi | Furi-age | Shōmen-uchi combi two both sides, and the with the stationary hand-change performed in between. This is found both in Shiromatsu as well as in this unknown kata here. In the latter, it uses Hanza, though.
- The Furi-age-uchi (upward swing) is done on the shoulder while remaining in Zenkutsu-dachi.
It might well be that the unknown bō kata and its lineage is somehow related to Shiromatsu no Kon. BTW, it is still unknown who developed Shiromatsu no Kon. There are hyptheses abut Kyan Shin’ei and Izumikawa Kantoku as influencers.
Another option is found here: In 1955 a certain Koja Shōshin served as an assistant teacher at the Matsubayashi-ryū Kōdōkan headquarter dōjō of Nagamine Shōshin. There is a photo of Koja swinging a nunchaku and in an interview about the kobujutsu practiced in the Nagamine dōjō, Koja was asked about the origin of his bōjutsu came from, so apparently he taught bōjutsu at the Nagamine dōjo. He answered:
“My bōjutsu teacher is known as Shīshi no Tanmē. The originator of this bōjutsu was the venerable old man Sueyoshi Kōfū.”
I would therefore like to establish the hypothesis that a) the unknown bō kata performed by Nagamine Takayoshi Sensei in the video might have come from Koja Shōshin along the following lineage: Sueyoshi Kōfū → Shīshi no Tanmē → Koja Shōshin → ….
Well, this would be a sensation and thanks to Bill George Sensei there is even a video of it in existence, showing all the steps, directions, and techniques. On the other hand, Takayoshi Sensei might have just played around or created the kata himself. Or …, or …, or … .
So I feel a little in limbo. Since I wanted to start 2019 properly anyway, I created a description of the kata with text and pictures which you can download for free! You may use it complementary with the video if you like to breathe new life into this kata.
After I had posted the link on Facebook, there was some discussion and exchange about the techniques seen in Takayoshi sensei’s kata. Some said it looks like Tokumine no Kon, some mentioned Kyan Shin’ei, but I maintain that for both these cases the technical features in and signatures of Takayoshi sensei’s kata are more different than not. Also, there is a different feel to it.
However, following the decisive hints made by Steve Mullahy and Jamie Gray, and further message by Walt Young, I took a closer look at the bō techniques of Kina Masanobu. Here follow’s what I came up with.
A video shows a combination of four techniques as performed by Kina Masanobu. The techniques are from the kata Shishi no Kon. It is the same combi as Takayoshi sensei does in his bō kata quite frequently, six times to be precise (see my description of the kata, numbers 9 to 12, 14 to 17, 19 to 22, 24 to 27, 32 to 35, and 48 to 51). Moreover, and as I pointed out before, the order is rather unique, with Uchi-maki-uke followed by Nuki-zuki.
Another unique feature is the left kamae shown by Takayoshi both in the beginning and the end. I thought it is otherwise only used in Yonegawa no Kon but now I was told that Kina Masanobu used the left kamae at least in two kata, namely “Shishi no Kon” and “Tui Sashi Ume no Kon”. BTW, it is interesting to see here that Kina first finishes similar to Taira lineage kobudō, and then quickly corrects back to the “old style”. There is also some Yamanni-vibe in his performance so I wonder how much of an influence Higa Sensei of the Bugeikan might have had on Kina directly or indirectly. In any case, Kina Masanobu is a good example of the new kobudō blend that appeared from the 1960s onwards.
Next, in a kata called “Tui Sashi Ume no Kon”, Kina also does the very unique kick against the bō followed by a nuki-zuki. Takayoshi performs the same technique in his bō kata (see my description, numbers 29 and 30). It is also a technique that is rarely if ever seen anywhere else in this manner.
In summary, there are three distinctive features which connect Takayoshi sensei’s bō kata to the techniques of Kina Masanobu:
- The combination of Hikkake / Shōmen-uchi / Uchi-maki-uke / Nuki-zuki
- The left-sided start and end kamae
- The kick against the bō followed by a Nuki-zuki
Another noticeable feature are the quick&short-out-and-back tsuki, but this technique is actually widespread and found in various bōjutsu schools.
For me, the above three features allow for a technical connection that points – rather than to anything or anyone else – to Kina Masanobu, or his disciples or teachers.
Also to be noted here are the evaluations and observances of some of my seniors. For example, Danish expert Jim Sindt told me he once observed Takayoshi sensei performing a bō kata with that kick against the bō in it, but Jim couldn’t remember if it was overall the same kata as in the video. But he revisited his old notes and found something: At the time when he watched Takayoshi perform that bō kata, Takayoshi did not provide him with any name or background for it. Instead Takayoshi sensei told Jim that he was always experimenting. Jim’s evaluation concurs with the tenor of what other seniors believed: Takayoshi’s bō kata in that video is probably not a specific kata. Rather, he was probably experimenting, or it was Takayoshi Sensei’s own routine and / or a mixture of several kata/techniques.
So, Takayoshi sensei’s bō kata in the video might simply be a kind of “Takayoshi no Kon”.
© 2019, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.