Shirotaru no Kon (4) – Techniques of Shirotaru Deciphered

As I noted before, Miki Jisaburō learned Shirotaru no Kon from Ōshiro Chōjo (1887–1935), who lived in Shuri Ōnaka 1-54 at the time. At that time Ōshiro served as a regular teacher as well as the head of the karate department at the industrial school (Kōgyō Gakkō), where he taught karate and bōjutsu to the youth in an “educational manner.” He also taught karate and kobudō at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ College (Okinawa-ken Shihan Gakkō), where he was active together with Yabu Kentsū. Ōshiro not only taught at school but also invited the youth to his private home and taught them, about which they are said to have been “both were happy and proud.”

As Miki put it,

“Ōshiro was known as a leading man in bōjutsu of today’s Ryūkyū. And the famous bōjutsu master Yamane no Chinen sensei was his teacher.”

At this point it gets really interesting: There are so many lineages of bōjutsu from Okinawa who all swear that their kata came from Yamane no Chinen sensei, and/or Ōshiro Chōjo. But they are all different from the version recorded and perpetuated by Miki Jisaburō. I repeat:

DIFFERENT.

In order to show you what I mean: here is my practical reproduction of Shirotaru no Kon as learned from Ōshiro Chōjo in the late 1920s and described in text and illustrations in 1930.

Before watching, here are some notes to bear in mind.

At the time of Miki there was obviously no standardized terminology for techniques in use. For this reason there are many complicated descriptions. For this reason I have generated additional informations from the original description. By creating a matrix of the techniques and their numbers it became clear which techniques apparently belonged to certain combinations. Furthermore, I assigned modern names to the techniques described. For example, I abbreviated complex descriptions to technical names that are in standard use today – such as shōmen-uchi etc. From the data generated in this way, I then created a table of techniques and combinations and finally partitioned it according to the connected combinations and directions that portray the exact and complete structure and morphology of the original kata. By this the core combinations, interims techniques, bridges, and “runaway” – which are typical parts of the martial choreographies of kata – became recognizable and the otherwise confusing description of the entire choreography became clear and precise. That  means, as good as it was possible. It looks like this:

table

Finally, I have filmed the kata, which includes all my mistakes, personal inadequacies, and bad habits. Note that this is not a performance in the usual sense of “begging for points” during tournaments or graduation (or for Las Vegas 😀 ). Rather, it is simply supposed to show the enbusen and techniques of the kata as originally described by Miki.

Oh, btw, I do not have the nerves to lay down all my sources and experiences in front of everybody. You either trust me on that or not, and if the latter, I don’t care…

This all being said, here is my practical reproduction of Shirotaru no Kon as learned from Ōshiro Chōjo in the late 1920s and described in text and illustrations in 1930 by Miki Jisaburō.

Not nice, but hey: show some respect 😉 !!!

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Shirotaru no Kon (3) – The Pole Fencing Techniques of Shirotaru

Below follows my descriptive translation of Shirotaru no Kon as given by Miki in 1930.

Let me note a few things:

First of all, in the original text, some descriptions were shortened by making a reference to a technique from a different kata also described in the book. For example, the starting position of Shirotaru was described by a reference to the respective moves in Shūshi no Kon. In that case I have included the description that was referred to.

Secondly, when reading the original text I noticed that one part was obviously missing, namely a combination towards direction E. However, the rest of both lanes (towards directions E and F) in the kata are performed perfectly symmetrically. Therefore, it is logical that the gap is an error. For this reason I have added the numbers 33–2 to 33–4 in below descriptive translation. It was easy to reconstruct simply by using the description of the same combination mirrored towards direction F as numbers 42–44.

Additionally, while the original text had a numbering of techniques, it is not really in order according to connected combinations and directions. That is to say, connected combinations are ripped apart and were seemingly arbitrarily fragmented. This is important to understand.

Finally, there was obviously no standardized terminology for techniques in use at that time. For this reason there are many descriptions in the text, such as the following:

“With both hands from their previous position, strike down in a swinging motion from slanted upper left to the front below in direction B. The left hand is now on the right side of the body, the right hand is at the lower front.”

This of course is nothing but a gedan-gyaku-uchi.

When taking all of the above made points together, while in general Miki did an incredibly awesome job, his written description is not really user-oriented and does not favor a practical reproducibility of the kata. In other words, from the description alone it is extremely difficult to carry out a holistic structural and morphological motion analysis of the kata. This may be the exact reasons why Miki’s description of the kata has never been practically reproduced (at least as far as I know).


 

Shirotaru no Kon as described by Miki in 1930

Enbusen (route of the course of actions).

Enbusen (route of the course of actions).

  1. 02The left foot remains in its original position. Step forward with the right foot one step towards direction A and at the same time from its below right position comb (the ) upwards with your right hand, and thus strike [upwards] from the right side. The right hand is now slightly slanted upwards and to the front, the left hand is at the side of the body.
  2. The left foot remains in its original position. Step forward with the right foot one step towards direction A and at the same time from its below right position „comb (the ) upwards” with your right hand, and thus strike [upwards] from the right side. The right hand is now slightly slanted upwards and to the front, the left hand is at the side of the body.
  3. Both feet remain unchanged in zenkutsu-dachi towards direction A. Bring the right hand near the right pelvis at a distance of 55–58cm, and the left hand to the right temple at a distance of about 30cm, and in this way perform a defense in direction A.
  4. Both feet remain unchanged in zenkutsu-dachi towards direction A. Raise your right hand to your right shoulder near the head and immediatley strike from the right top down in direction of A, thereby pulling the the left hand to the left side of the body. Then rotate the  so as to strike the out of the opponent’s hand.
  5. Pull the front right foot back a little towards direction B and at once proceed with the left foot, so as to cross the right foot. Next, with the left foot remaining unchanged, step one step forward with the right foot in the direction A and simultaneously from the left side of the body thrust the to the front.
  6. Again perform the same action as in # 5 towards direction A.
  7. 03With the left foot as the pivot, turn backwards [clockwise] towards B and place your right foot forward towards direction B, one step in front of the left foot. Simultaneously, with both hands from their previous position, strike down in a swinging motion from slanted upper left to the front below towards direction B. The left hand is now on the right side of the body, the right hand is at the lower front.
  8. With the left foot unchanged, position your right hand near your right buttock and thereby raise your left hand to your the right breast and lift your right foot behind the left knee. Body and eyes are directed towards direction of B.
  9. Put down the right foot to the front in its previous position and at the same time shoot up the tip of the with your right hand starting from your right buttock towards direction B. This is similar to the movement number 2.
  10. Slide forward with both feet simultaneously, thrust towards direction B and then rotate the .
  11. With the left foot as the pivot turn around backwards towards direction A, step forward with the right foot in the direction A one step in front of the left foot and at the same time strike sideways from the right side of the body. The right hand is in front, the left hand is close to the left side of the body.
  12. Both feet remain in the previous position. By pulling back your right hand close to your left shoulder and left side of your head, strike [upwards] to the front with your left hand, and thus strike from below upwards with he lower [left] tip of the towards direction A. Next, bounce your right hand forward and pull back your left hand to your left side of the body, and thus strike downward and to the front with the front [right] end of the .
  13. Both feet remain in the previous position. Take the right hand close to the right shoulder and immediately strike diagonally downward to the front. At the same time pull back the left hand to the right side of your body.
  14. Perform the actions numbers 8 and 9.
  15. Perform action number 10 towards direction A.
  16. 04With the right foot remaining unchanged, step forward with the left foot towards direction A, placing it one step in front of the right foot. Take the right hand approx 30cm in front of your right breast and with the left hand push upwards over head and to the front. In this way you catch the opponent’s attack from below. Immediately take your left hand about 30cm in front of your left shoulder and thrust to the front. Quickly pull back the right hand into the overhead position.
  17. With the right foot unchanged, step back one step with the left foot behind the right foot towards direction B and at the same time raise the with both hands high above your head: Unlike the overhead position in Sakugawa no Kōn referred to as daijōdan the here transversely runs from left to right over head.
  18. Rotate the right end of the clockwise [on your right side backwards, and forward again on your left side] and perform a sweeping strike downwards towards direction A. Both feet remain in the previous position. The right hand is now in the front below, the left hand on the right side of the body. This is the same action as in number 7.
  19. Perform the actions of numbers 8, 9, and 10 towards direction A.
  20. The right foot remaining unchanged, step forward with the left foot one step in front of the right foot and simultaneously switch the grip of both hands and perform Yoko-uchi from the left side. The left hand is now in the front towards direction A, the right hand at the right side of the body.
  21. Both feet remain in the previous position. Perform the movements of action number 12, just with hands and feet reversed.
  22. Both feet remain in the previous position. Perform the movements of action number 13, just with hands and feet reversed.
  23. Perform the actions of numbers 14 and 15, just with hands and feet reversed.
  24. Perform the actions of number 16 towards direction of A, just with hands and feet reversed.
  25. Perform the actions of number 17 towards direction of A, just with hands and feet reversed.
  26. Perform the actions of number 18 towards direction of A, just with hands and feet reversed.
  27. Perform the actions numbers 8, 9, and 10 towards direction A, just with hands and feet reversed.
  28. The left foot remains unchanged in its position. Turn body and eyes towards  direction E and place the right foot foot one step behind the left foot [towards direction F] and at the same time defend towards direction E. The position of the left hand is about 58cm from the left pelvis, the right hand is about 30 cm from the left temple.
  29. Both feet remain unchanged in zenkutsu-dachi towards direction E. Take the left hand close to your left shoulder and immediately strike down diagonally towards direction E. The right hand is now at the right side of the body.
  30. Both feet remain unchanged, perform the actions of number 12, just with hands and feet reversed.
  31. Both feet remain unchanged, perform the actions of number 13, just with hands and feet reversed.
  32. Both feet remain unchanged, perform the actions of number 8, just with hands and feet reversed.
  33. Both feet remain unchanged, perform the actions of number 9 and 10, just with hands and feet reversed. 33-2. Perform the same actions as in numbers 16 and 17 towards direction E. 33-3. Perform the same actions as in number 18 towards direction E. 33-4. Perform the same actions as in numbers 8, 9, and 10 towards direction E.
  34. The left foot remaining unchanged, turn towards direction A by placing the right foot one step behind the left foot towards direction B. Take your left hand to your left shoulder and diagonally strike downwards from above towards direction A. The left hand now is in front, the right hand at the right side of the body.
  35. The right foot remains in its previous position. Pull back the left foot to the right foot, then place the right foot one step in front of the left foot, and exchange the grip of both hands. With your right hand from the right shoulder strike diagonally downward to the front, and thus attack towards direction A.
  36. The right foot remains in its previous position. Place your left foot one step backwards towards direction E  and turn around towards direction F, and at the same time defend towards direction F. This is the same action as in number 28, just with hands and feet reversed.
  37. Perform the same actions as in number 29 towards direction F, just with hands and feet reversed.
  38. Perform the same actions as in number 12 towards direction F.
  39. Perform the same actions as in number 13 towards direction F.
  40. Perform the same actions as in numbers 8 towards direction F.
  41. Perform the same actions as in numbers 9 and 10 towards direction F.
  42. Perform the same actions as in numbers 16 towards direction F.
  43. Perform the same actions as in numbers 17 and 18 towards direction F.
  44. Perform the same actions as in numbers 8, 9, and 10 towards direction F.
  45. The left foot remaining in the previous position, place the right foot one step towards direction A, body and view towards direction A, and in doing so strike sideways with your right hand from the right shoulder towards direction A. The right hand is now in front, the left hand at the left side of the body.
  46. Perform the same actions as in number 12 towards direction A.
  47. Perform the same actions as in number 13 towards direction A.
  48. Slide backwards with both feet towards direction B, and rotate the right end of the clockwise and perform a sweeping strike downwards towards direction A. The right hand is now in the front below, the left hand on the right side of the body.
  49. Perform the same actions as in numbers 8 towards direction A.
  50. Perform the same actions as in numbers 9 and 10 towards direction A.
  51. 51Both feets remain at their places. Turn your body and view towards direction B into neko-ashi-dachi and defend towards direction B. To do so, take the right hand about 30cm in front of the forehead, the left hand about 55–58cm in front of the left pelvis.
  52. With the left foot raised in neko-ashi, press down the left end of the in a circular motion, slide forward with both feet, and thrust forward and downward. The method of performing this tsuki equals the last gedan-zuki in Shūshi no Kon, number 8 [That is, “The fingers of the left hand form a loose ring (around the ). Now you glide forward with both feet (…) and simultaneously pierce/thrust forward, by letting the glide (through the loop made of your left hand’s fingers)”].
  53. With the left foot remaining in its place, place the right foot one step diagonally to the left in front of the left foot. Simultaneously strike from the side in a large scale from your lateral right to the front.
  54. With the right foot remaining in its place, place the left foot one step diagonally to the right in front of your right foot. Simultaneously change the grip and strike from the side in a large scale from your lateral left to the front. Numbers 53 and 54 use the same methods of striking.
  55. 55endWith the left foot remaining in its place, place the right foot one step diagonally to the left in front of the left foot and change the grip. With the right end of the scoop (pull up) from below upwards, and directly slide forward with both feet and thrust to the front towards direction B.
  56. With both feet remaining in their place, turn body and view towards direction A, thereby releasing the left hand from the ; let your left arm hang down naturally on the left side of the body, while placing the left end of the on the floor. Then return the into the initial position under the right armpit.

[End of description]


You see: It is complicated. Therefore, I will decrypt the meanings of the description in a forthcoming article.

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Shirotaru no Kon (2) – Kudaka Island and Native Beliefs

In the legend of Shirotaru, it is said that the fruitful harvest from Kudaka Island was dedicated to the people of Tamagusuku district, who began to brew sacred wine from the crop and offered it to the lord Tamagusuku Aji, and offered it to the gods. As suggested previously, the legend of Shirotaru has also been variously interpreted within the legend of origin of Ryūkyū itself. Let’s take a look at the article called “The Indigenous Culture and Martial Arts in Okinawa” (沖縄の土着文化と武術) by Miyagi Takao (OKKJ 2008: 25).

“Since ancient times, the people of Ryūkyū highly valued their religious beliefs. According to popular belief, in legendary times the ancestors came to Ryūkyū from distant land far off in the sea. They brought with them plenty of food, an original culture, good craftsmanship and so on. This distant land far off in the sea is called Nirai Kanai, the ‘paradise beyond the ocean.’ In hope of a blessed life, the people included gods and celestial beings from Nirai Kanai in their prayers.”

In  the legends of origin of Ryūkyū, from this distant land far off in the sea (Nirai Kanai) a pot with five kinds of grains drifted to Kudaka Island. But there were no grains of rice among them so the “legendary god, Amamikiyo, descended and summoned an eagle to Nirai Kanai to get these grains. The eagle traveled a long journey and returned with three grains of rice between its beak. Amamikiyo then planted these grains at a spring in Tamagusuku.” This is how the ancient religious beliefs of Okinawa came into being, reflected in the worship of nature, like Utaki. And the various analogies to the Shirotaru legend are obvious.

I still wonder: What has this supposedly to do with bōjutsu?

Well, according to above quoted article by Miyagi Takao,

“The marine culture established its own entity of existence. Divine assistance paired with the courage of the people shaped the basis for the ‘heart of Ryūkyū’ (Ryūkyū no kokoro).  In this way the people of Ryūkyū came into contact with Japan, China, and Southeast Asia, at which the gods of Nirai Kanai acted simultaneously as gods of safe sea voyages, gods of the fine arts, and gods of cultural creation.  In the same spirit, the fine arts, karate, and kobudō coalesce into a traditional culture. This is ‘kokoro’, or the spirit of mutual assistance, fellowship, and community.”

Alright. That is, in the 21st century self-perception of karate and kobudō everything is glued together: culture, religion, history, technique, etc. Well, it is a good, sustainable marketing idea. And actually it is quite typical for Japan, where “indigenousness” underpinned by academic or other sources is valued extremely high. The search for “indigenousness” might have been one decisive momentum in the development of karate anyway.

Btw, native beliefs in Ryukyu have been a topic for centuries. Already in 1611 the Satsuma domain ordered the termination of official emoluments for women in Ryūkyū. This aimed at eradicating the influence of the ancient institution of “holy women” in both society and government. While this measure was by no means fully implemented by the Ryūkyū royal government, it led to a gradual loss of influence of the “holy women” at the royal court.

Priestess at Kudaka Island. Poster by Nanjo City Tourist Association.

Priestess at Kudaka Island. Poster by Nanjo City Tourist Association.

Haneji Chōshū (1617–1675), prime minister of Ryūkyū from 1666 to 1673, realized that the native beliefs constituted “a conflict between ancient and medieval societies – the former dominated by women and the latter by male statesmen awakened to medieval consciousness” (Nakahara Zenshū, “Koyū Shinkō,” p. 154, cited in Matsuda 2001, p. 87). Haneji struggled against numerous native superstitious beliefs which extended to “illiterate peasant diviners” (called Tuchi), government officials, and holy women within the royal government, representing the dominant religious force of the country. The nation’s chief priestess known as Kikoe Ōgimi was begun to serve as an institution during the reign of King Shō En (1470–1476). At that time, the Kikoe Ōgimi usually was the queen or a daughter of the ruling king, which underscores their high level of official influence. The Kikoe Ōgimi stood on top of a vast network of religious administration and remained in the same official rank as the queen. Only in 1667 Haneji degraded her one rank below the queen. Haneji also criticized the traditional pilgrimages of the king and holy women to holy places in Chinen, Tamagusuku, and Kudaka Island.

Kudaka Island – as mentioned in the Shirotaru legend – is not just some arbitrary island. Quite on the contrary: During the Ryūkyū kingdom era it was an important place in connection with bilateral religious powers of the king and the holy women. In fact, since ancient times the king regularly visited Kudaka Island to worship, such as in 1550, when sacred wine was offered by a specifically designated official (see Kyūyō, article 211). Like this, sacred wine – as mentioned in the legend of Shirotaru – was a regular item of sacred offerings to the gods as well as to the royal family for centuries. To curb religious influence and divining and shaman practices as a whole, such pilgrimages were officially abolished in 1673 and henceforth performed by subordinates of the king. Like this, Yoshimura Aji Chōmei assumed the headship of the Yoshimura family in 1847 and moved into the hereditary family lodgings in Shuri and succeeded the hereditary fief of the Kochihira district, worth 300 koku. In the following twenty-five plus years he served the royal government in a large number of duties. And as a member of the Princely Shō-clan he was also dispatched to Kudaka Island to perform prayers for the nation’s health and security on behalf of the king (cf. Genealogy of the Princely Shō-clan, House Yoshimura). BTW, this person was the father of Yoshimura Chōgi, in turn the noted disciple of Higashionna Kanryō and (cf. Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten 2008: 597).

It is therefore interesting how those ancient beliefs survived. In this connection it was rather remarkable when a few years ago a young strong Okinawan martial artists, while openly flaunting his contemptibility, told me “You are Christians, ne?! … But we Okinawans are not religious!!!” The same persons would shiver when I whistled, because – as you know – this calls out the ghosts of the dead…

While I still wonder what this could possibly have to do with bōjutsu, for the time being I’d say: Sapere aude, boys and girls, sapere aude.

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Shirotaru no Kon (1) – Introduction and Legend of Origin

There is an interesting bōjutsu kata called Shirotaru no Kon. Today there are quite a number and variety of different versions of this kata in existence. Most of them have more in common than not and they all share specific “signature techniques” which unequivocally point to a common ancestor and make it clearly distinguishable from other bōjutsu kata.

There are different ways of writing the name in Japanese kanji and of pronouncing it. In addition, while there is very little tenable information about it, various authors consider it “the most ancient form of bōjutsu” (cf. OKKJ, 2008).

Since many points about this kata remained unexplained, it is a rather confusing topic for persons seeking tenable information, both technically as well as historically.

Well, Miki Nisaburō described Shirotaru no Kon in his work “Kenpō Gaisetsu” (1930, pp.171-181). Within my private studies, I translated the text already years ago and conducted various cross studies, once from literature, and once asking various experts when traveling to Okinawa. Literature was more fruitful.

Miki had learned the Kata from Ōshiro Chōjo (1887-1935), who lived in Shuri Ōnaka 1-54 at the time. At that time Ōshiro served as a regular teacher as well as the head of the karate department at the industrial school (Kōgyō Gakkō), where he taught karate and bōjutsu to the youth in an “educational manner.” He also taught karate and kobudō at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers’ College (Okinawa-ken Shihan Gakkō), where he was active together with Yabu Kentsū.

As Miki put it,

“Ōshiro was known as a leading man in bōjutsu of today’s Ryūkyū. And the famous bōjutsu master Yamane no Chinen sensei was his teacher.”

Obviously Ōshiro also initiated Miki into heroic tales which, btw, accompany Okinawan martial arts throughout its existence:

“My bōjutsu is based on what I was taught by Ōshiro sensei, and the story (told by Ōshiro sensei) about ‘Chikin Akanchū’ – a person who was very good with the bō – was interesting.”

Ōshiro did not only teach at school but also invited the youth to his private home to teach them, about which they are said to have been “both were happy and proud.”

Well, regardless of today’s many versions, Miki’s classical version of this kata is proof of how Shirotaru no Kon was performed in the 1920s. Or let’s say, how at least one version of it was performed.

Let’s turn to the seemingly easy part first: history.

Nohara Kōei accredits Shirotaru no Kun to a certain Shirotaru Uēkata during the 14th century (Nohara 2007). Uēkata was a rank similar to that of a minister of state.

In the “Okinawa Karate Kobudō Encyclopedia” (2008) it is also said that:

Shirotaru no Kon is the most ancient form of bōjutsu and the name Shirotaru remained from 1314 (year Ōchō 4) as the name of a warrior who was active during that time.”

Nakamoto (2007: 109) also wrote about the matter:

“Remembered in the whole Shimajiri region as well as in outlying islands, this posture [Shirotaru no kamae] is probably a relic of [the person] Shirotaru [from the legend].”

Indeed, in the Okinawan folk tradition a person named Shirotaru is the main actor of an ancient legend. The legend is described in the Irōsetsuden [*1] and the Kudakajima Yuraiki [*2] 

The Legend of Shirotaru

A long time ago a young boy called Shirotaru lived in Hyakuna Village in Tamagusuku District. Due to his docile nature and pronounced filial piety, Shirotaru was deeply beloved by Tamagusuku Aji, the lord of the district. So the lord married Shirotaru to the daughter of his eldest son, Minton Aji, thus making Shirotaru his grandson-in-law.

One day, Shirotaru and his wife went out in the fields and saw a small island alternately appearing and disappearing in the eastern sea. At that time, local warlords rivalled for power and there was war without end. The couple imagined how much better it would be to avoid the war and instead to cross over to the island and live together enjoyably, and so they crossed over to the island in a small boat. They saw clear spring water gushing forth, fertile soil, and fields far and wide. It was a comfortable place to live. They built a hut and stayed on the island.

The two made their living by gathering conch shells. One day they discovered a white jar that came drifting in the sea. Shirotaru tried to catch it but every time it disappeared between the waves and could not be seen. His wife had a revelation and so they went to the Yaguru Well where they performed a ritual ablution for purification. Afterwards they returned to the shore and this time Shirotaru was able to get hold of the jar. When they opened the lid they found seeds of the five grains in it. At once they choose the right soil, sowed the seeds, and it produced fruitful harvest, which the couple dedicated to the people of Tamagusuku district. Everyone greatly rejoiced and immediately began to brew sacred wine from the crop and offered it to the lord Tamagusuku Aji, and offered it to the gods, and gave it to the retainers and commoners. Since that time, the descendants prospered and the island was named Kudaka 久高, referring to the abundant harvest of the five grains over many years from this island in the sea.

One boy and two girls were born to the couple. The second daughter Umitaru 思樽, since she was a rare beauty, was summoned by Tamagusuku Aji and entered the inner sanctum of the castle. She attracted the affection of the lord but also the jealousy of many of the other concubines. One day Umitaru farted in the presence of lord Tamagusuku Aji, thus breaking manners, and so she was expulsed back to her birth-place Kudaka Island.

At that time she was pregnant and gave birth to a boy during full moon and named him Kanematsu 金松. After Kanematsu had grown up, he did not stop to frequently ask about his father. Eventually his mother explained to him the situation.

One day, Kanematsu found a jar at the shore. In it he found golden gourd seeds. Overjoyed he immediately went to the castle and presented the seeds to lord Tamagusuku Aji. While presenting the seeds he said

“When a merciful rain rains down, have a woman who has never even farted once in presence of her husband sow these gourd seeds. Be that the case, it will bear fruits of gold!”

The lord Tamagusuku Aji smiled and replied

“There cannot be a woman in the world that never farted.”

So Kanematsu responded,

“Then, why did you expel my mother because she has farted?”

Thereupon Tamagusuku Aji regretted his past follies. Later, since he had no heir, he made Kanematsu his heir.

Above-mentioned Kanematsu was identified as King Sei’i (西威王, 1328?–1349; rg. 1336 or 1337 to 1349), the 5th generation descendant of King Eiso 英祖王 of the Eiso Dynasty (1229–1349). When he died in 1349, his 5-year-old heir was dethroned and went into seclusion to Kudaka Island.

In the land near the Shuri castle there lived a House Kudaka of the Kei-clan (恵姓久高氏) who were descendants of Kanematsu=King Sei’i and who served in the position of priests called the “Shuri root deity 首里大根神,” which must have been an important religious post. During the Jingtai years (1450–1456), 1st generation founder Kudaka Pēchin Yūken 久高親雲上友顕 was officially appointed estate steward (jitō) of Kudaka Island territory by the royal government in Shuri. In 1671, during the era of King Shō Tei (1646–1709; rg. 1669–1709), the 8th generation Kudaka Pēchin Yūjō 久高親雲上友常 became a clerk of the Omono Bugyō of the government of Naha. 10th generation Kudaka Pēchin Yūshi 久高親雲上友始 was granted the post of the estate steward (jitō) of Kudaka Island as a hereditary domain.

Assessment of the Shirotaru Legend

Well, in the legend, Shirotaru was not a warrior. Quite on the contrary: he was someone who left the war behind with his wife to live on a peaceful island. Moreover, the original legend never mentioned any kind of bōjutsu, let alone the “most ancient form of bōjutsu.”

What, then, could this have to do with pole fencing techniques?

So lets seek out the narrative coherence in the tradition of Shirotaru no Kon:

According to our written source from 1930, Miki learned his bōjutsu from Ōshiro, who in turn learned it from Yamane no Chinen. For those of you who are into lineages and know a little about the importance of a chronology of events, the earliest source I was able to detect which adopted this information in written form was Inoue Motokatsu who wrote in 1972 (page 6) that Shirotaru no Kon was created by Yamane no Chinen (1842–1925). Ōshiro also initiated Miki into the heroic tale of Chikin Akanchū (a person who lived on Tsuken Island). Now, in the tradition of Shirotaru no Kon, it was noted by Nakamoto Masahiro (2007: 109):

“Having remained on Kudaka Island as Shirotaru no Kon, the founder of Yamane-ryū, Chinen Chikudun Pēchin Masanrā, at the age of 18 years heard that there are masters of bōjutsu on Tsuken Island and on Kudaka Island. So he went to both these islands to learn the bōjutsu.”

Here, a late 19th / early 20th century oral tradition of Yamane no Chinen is further backdated to the 14th century. The connection is made by regions (Tsuken and Kudaka Islands) and by the existence of a “back guard” in this kata and — last but not least — by the name of a legendary person called Shirotaru. Well, it is possible. However, there are a number of other options which are at least as possible as the above. And the blending of existing historical facts and legends with martial arts stories is a typical narrative method of karate and kobudō circles.

Depiction of the scene from the life of Chikin Akanchu. From: Gima Hiroshi: Chikin Akanchu. Ryukyu Shinpo 2013.

Depiction of the scene from the life of Chikin Akanchu. From: Gima Hiroshi: Chikin Akanchu. Ryukyu Shinpo 2013.

Well, it is an interesting legend, a number of variations of which are found today on Okinawa. It should be noted that the “five grains” as mentioned in above legend is something that was already mentioned 600 years earlier, namely in Japan’s oldest historical record called Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters, 712 AD). The whole legend with its references to ritual ablution, divine assistance in providing food (the five grains), the role of the Yaguru Well [*3] which still today is used by Noro (Okinawan: Nuuru) priestesses of the ancient Ryūkyūan religion for ritual ablution: This is a strongly religious legend, combined with prayer for good harvest etc. In some versions Shirotaru and his wife are even presented as two deities and children of gods send down to earth.

Rather, it is also possible that, just as in other cases (Kūsankū etc.), that a documented historical event served as the godfather and namesake of a new cudgel fencing method, part of whose narrative design principles it was that it had to be rooted in indigenous history.

While all this is up to speculation, I will turn to the technical description of the kata in a latter part of this series.

Notes

[*1] Tei Heitetsu (1695–1760) compiled the Kyūyō 球陽 as well as the Irōsetsuden 遺老説伝, both written in Chinese. Kyūyō is a poetic name and refers to Ryūkyū itself. The book is a semi-official history of Ryūkyū. The Irōsetsuden is an adjunct volume to the Kyūyō and features ancient legends. See: Matsuda 1962.

[*2]  “Account of the Origin of Kudaka Island.”

[*3] Yagurugā ヤグルガー (屋久留川). ~gā ガー here means “well.” It is located in Kudaka, in the Chinen section of Nanjō City, Okinawa Prefecture.

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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. Chōmo can be found in the 11th generation of this genealogy. His childhood name was Masanrā 眞三良, his Chinese-style name was Min Zōsei 明増盛. He was born 1869/6/18 (according to the old moon calendar) as the 3rd son of father Chōkō and mother Magosei (of the Kyo-clan).

Chōmo was an Okinawan soldier (infantry) and a physical education and Karate teacher at the Middle School in Shuri. In 1905 he created the basic text book called “Karate Kumite” (空手組手) as a manual for teaching Karate at school. Here for the first time in history the modern notation of Karate 空手 in its meaning as “empty handed martial art” was used.

By translating and analyzing his genealogy, besides the info about of Chōmo himself, we can also learn about the royal government service his clan and family members were employed in over generations.

Hanashiro Chōmo 花城長茂 (1869–1945) on a photo taken in 1937 in commemoration of the meeting of the Okinawa Prefecture Karate-dō Promotion Society (沖縄県空手道振興協会).

Hanashiro Chōmo 花城長茂 (1869–1945) on a photo taken in 1937 in commemoration of the meeting of the Okinawa Prefecture Karate-dō Promotion Society (沖縄県空手道振興協会).

(Note: All photos are from an original 1938 edition of “Karatedō Taikan” from the possession of Nagamine Shōshin sensei, photographed by Andreas Quast at the Kōdōkan Nagamine Dōjō with permission of Nagamine Takayoshi.)

Genealogy of the Min-clan, House Kameya (branch family) 明氏亀谷家 (小宗)

1st Generation: Teruya Pēchin Chōtai

2nd Generation: Atetsū Pēchin Chōson

Childhood name: Matsukane

Chinese-style name: Min Kōko

Born: 1556 as the 2nd son

Father: Teruya Pēchin Chōtai

Mother: unknown

Secondary Wife: Maka, daughter of Ameku Okite Pēchin. Her posthumous name was Kegan.

Oldest son: Chōtō

Second son: Chōshō (Kyan Pēchin. Since his older brother Chōtō had no heir, he succeeded as the head of the household)

Oldest daughter: Omokinoto (married Maeda Okite Pēchin from Tomari)

During the era of King Shō Ei (1573–1588)

1577: becomes Ufuyaku of Atetsū

1583: becomes manager of the Bon Festival under the Sejiaratomi Hiki

During the era of King Shō Nei (1589–1620)

1601 becomes junior official of the Sejiaratomi

1602 becomes Aji-okite of Ie and Iheya islands

1607 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1609/10/26: died at the old age of 64 years, posthumous name: Bai’an

Hanashiro Chōmo, from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

3rd Generation: Kyan Pēchin Chōshō

Childhood name: Magotoko

Chinese-style name: Min Shindō

Born: 1573 as the 2nd son

Father: Chōson

Mother: Maka, daughter of Ameku Okite Pēchin

Secondary Wife: Omokinoto, daughter of Kume Nakagusuku Chikudun Pēchin Shūhei of the Rei-clan, posthumous name: Kasō

Oldest son: Chōshi

Second son: Chōchū (different genealogy)

Third son: Eishō

Fourth son: Chōji (different genealogy)

Oldest daughter: Mashitake (Born: 1607/6/18, married Ōwan Pēchin Kigyō of the Taku-clan, died 1649/7/12, posthumous name: Keigaku)

Fifth son: Chō’an (different genealogy)

Sixth son Chōrai (because his older brother Chōshi 長旨 had no heir, continued the head of household)

During the era of King Shō Ei (1573–1588)

1587 becomes Ko-akukabe (junior red-capped vasall)

1601 becomes lower junior official

1604 becomes Clerk of the Ishi-bugyō石奉行; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1606 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1607 becomes Udun Seitō

1608 becomes captain captain of the Yoyosetomi

1609 duty as estate steward of Yamagusuku in Kyan district

1617/2/30 becomes Ufuyaku of the treasury

During the era of King Shō Hō (1621–1640)

1621/11/14 becomes captain of the Fusaitomi

1622 becomes magistrate of tax collection of the east

1623/4/14: transferred to the duty of a captain of the Jakunitomi

1623/10/28 on royal order awared the court rank of Zashiki

1624 becomes magistrate of farming for the Nakagami region

1627/3/25 becomes captain of the Seiyaritomi

1627/6/4 granted a fief of 20 koku (~3600 dm3 of rice and/or grains)

1627/7/17 transferred to the duty of a estate steward-general of Kyan district

1630 serves as magistrate for court trials and investigations

1633/2/8: serves as administrator for Miyako Island

1639/1/5: died at the old age of 64, posthumous name: Shunrin

 

4th Generation: Kyan Pēchin Choshi

Childhood name: Maushi

Chinese-style name: Min Sonbi

Born: 1597/1/23 as the 1st son

Father: Chōshō

Mother: Omokinoto of the Rei-clan

During the era of King Shō Nei (1589–1620)

1611 becomes junior red-capped vasall (ko-akukabe)

1615 becomes donzel (hana-atari)

During the era of King Shō Hō (1621–1640)

1625/10/18 becomes master of ceremonies at the separate ceremonial residence inside Shuri Castle (Ōmi Udun); awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1627 becomes Ufuyaku of the separate ceremonial residence inside Shuri Castle (Ōmi Udun); awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1632 becomes junior official of Tomari

1635 becomes magistrate of tax collection of Goeku

1635/12/9: Succeeding his father, he becomes the estate steward-general of Kyan district

1640: becomes official for the investigation of ships bound for China

During the era of King Shō Ken (1641–1647)

1641 becomes resident commissioner on Miyako Island and after completion of this duty returned home

During the era of King Shō Shitsu (1648–1668)

1656/12/26 awared the court rank of Zashiki

1663/11/23 died at the old age of 67, posthumous name: Kanzan

 

4th Generation: Kameya Pēchin Chōrai

Childhood name: Omojirō

Chinese-style name: Min Seitoku

Born: 1625/5/18 as the sixth son

Father: Chōshō

Mother: Omokinoto of the Rei-clan

Wife: Mainukane, daughter of Kuniba Pēchin Kōji from the Shū-Clan

Oldest son: Chōkō

Oldest daughter: Tamakane (Born: 1656/8/22, married Yonagusuku Chikudun Pēchin Seibu of the Shō-clan. Remarried to Mabuni Uēkata Chōki of the princely Shō-clan)

Secondary Wife: Omokinoto (Born: 1658/8/1, married Ro-clan Zayasu Chikudun Pēchin Shūshin. Died 1687/8/5, posthumous name: Shūgetsu)

Second son: Chōchin (different genealogy)

Third son: Chōzō (because his older brother Chōkō had no heir, he succeeded the head of family)

Third daughter: Maushi (Born: 1664/2/14, married Itokazu Satonushi Pēchin Chō’I of the princely Shō-clan)

Fourth son: Chōrin (different genealogy)

Fourth daughter: Mashitake (Born: 1668/10/13, married Sakiyama Sakiyama Chikudun of the Son-clan)

During the era of King Shō Shitsu (1648–1668)

1654/11/7 becomes police captain of minister Mabuni Uēkata Chō’i of the princely Shō-clan; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1655/2 Receives permission to move his residence to Shuri

1658/1/7 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1658/12/9 becomes Urasoe magistrate of tax collection

1661/1 becomes clerk of the police inspector-general

1661/12/20 becomes Ufuyaku of the palace kitchen

1663/7/20 The Chinese investiture envoys Zhang Xueli and Wang Gai came to Ryūkyū. Because Katsuragi Kōsuke and Hirose Jirōei [of the Satsuma Resident Magistracy in Naha] were on Okinawa, they moved to the lodgings in Urasoe village [in order to veil Japanese presence in Okinawa from Chinese eyes]. At that time Kameya Pēchin Chōrai worked for the Satsuma Resident Magistracy in Naha.

1663/12/29 becomes Ufuyaku of the palace kitchen

1665/01/ 15 becomes master of documents

1665/12/28 becomes magistrate of tax collection of the Shimagiri region.

1666/12/13 becomes clerk of the warehouse for products from Miyako

1667/2/18 becomes Ufuyaku master of ceremonies at residence of the heir apparent (Nakagusuku Udun)

1667/3/1 duty as estate steward of Kokuba in Mawashi district

During the era of King Shō Tei (1669–1709)

1670/9/13 transferred to the duty as estate steward of Tsuken Kameya

1671/6/1 becomes Ufuyaku of the royal treasury

1671/6/22 awared the court rank of Zashiki

1672/8/1 becomes Ufuya of Nago Ōji Chōgen of the royal Shō-clan; awared the court rank of Zashiki

1673/2/8 died at the age of 49 years, posthumous name: Yuishin

 

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

5th Generation: Chōkō

Childhood name: Omogorō

Chinese-style name: Min Kokujun

Born: 1654/9/28 as the 1st son (since he had no heir his younger brother Chōzō 長増 succeeded the family lineage)

Father: Chōrai

Mother: Mainukane of the Shū-clan

Oldest son: Raikan ( Omojirō Born: 1677/2, became a priest)

During the era of King Shō Tei (1669–1709)

1673/12/22 becomes administrator of the royal coin warehouse

1677/7/1 becomes clerk of the royal coin warehouse; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1684/10/9 becomes Shimauchi Atari-chikudun

1689/12/2 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1699/9/4 died at the age of 46, posthumous name: Shishin

 

5th Generation Chōzō

Childhood name: Omotaketa

Chinese-style name: Min Kokutatsu

Born: 1662/2/19 as the 3rd son (since his older brother Chōkō had not heir, he succeeded the family)

Father: Chōrai

Mother: Madagane of the Shū-clan

Secondary Wife: Makado, daughter of Iraha Pēchin Kinsei of the Ho-clan.

Oldest son: Chōki

Oldest daughter: Mainukane (Born: 1688/01/15, married Azama Chikudun Kishin of the Bu-clan)

Next Wife: Omokame (Born: 1690/8/21, married Sakiyama Chikudun Shikō of the Son-clan)

Third daughter: Maushi (Born: 1692/12/16)

Second son: Chōki (different genealogy)

During the era of King Shō Tei (1669–1709)

1680/8/11 becomes administrator of utensils at the palace kitchen

1682/10/24 becomes administrator of the palace kitchen

1682/12/22 becomes assistant clerk of the palace kitchen

1691/12/1 becomes clerk of the magistrate of artisans; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1693/11/6 becomes master of ceremonies of Yuntanza Uēkata Seikō of the Mō-clan; awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1700/12/13 becomes clerk of the magistrate of roof tiles

1703/6/1 becomes master of ceremonies at the residence of the royal high priestess (Kikoe Ōgimi Udun)

1708/6/1 becomes Ufuyaku of the royal coin warehouse

During the era of King Shō Eki (1710–1712)

1710/8/27 becomes master of ceremonies of Chatan Ōji Chō’ai of the royal Shō-clan

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1718/6/15 awared the court rank of Zashiki

1719/6/27 died at the age of 58, posthumous name: Ryōkaku

6th Generation: Chōki

Childhood name: Omojirō

Chinese-style name: Min Eishō

Born: 1685/3/8 as the 1st son

Father: Chōzō

Mother: Makado of the Ho-clan

Secondary Wife: Matsuru, daughter of Azama Chikudun Pēchin Kian of the Bu-clan

Oldest son: Chōgi

Secondary Wife: Makado, daughter of Nakamatsu Chikudun Pēchin Bikō of the Kō-clan

Second son: Chōshō (Childhood name Masando)

Third son: Chōkō

Fourth son: Chōsei

Oldest daughter: Manabe (Born: 1723/04 /16)

Fifth son: Chō’ei (because his older brother Chōgi had no heir, he succeeded as head of the family)

During the era of King Shō Tei (1669–1709)

1700/8/19 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

During the era of King Shō Eki (1710–1712)

1711/9/25 becomes royal coin warehouse clerk awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1716/6/17 becomes senior clerk of the palace kitchen

1721/6/25 becomes master of ceremonies of the minister Nishihira Uēkata Chōjo of the princely Shō-clan; awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1723/6/12 becomes police captain of Nishihira Uēkata Chōjo of the princely Shō-clan

1727/6/8 becomes Ufuyaku of the palace kitchen.

1732/6/14 becomes captain of the Sejiaratomi (Hiki)

1737/10/23 becomes Ufuyaku of Yafuso Aji Ganashi of the Mō-clan, awared the court rank of Zashiki

1738/2/23 serves in Shinkawa Tsukuchi in Gushi District (the exact duty is unknow)

1739/11/26 becomes police inspector

1740/4/27 serves on Ie Island for the reception of a tribute ship returning from China; he returned to the capital on 1740/8/8.

1740/12/19 becomes resident commissioner of Aguni Island; his ship reaches that island in the following year 1741/7.

1741/12/15 Aguni Island resident commissioner excelled in his duty.

1743/9/3 returned after completion of the official business

1745/7/3 becomes O-dōgu-atari Nushidori at the residence of the heir apparent (Nakagusuku Udun)

1746/12/15 becomes O-kakuya-mamori

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1752/12/1 becomes O-kakuya-mamori

1761/3/20 died at the old age of 77 posthumous name: Honkaku

 

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

7th Generation: Chōgi

Childhood name: Omotaketa

Chinese-style name: Min Bunfu

born1709/3/12 as the 1st son (as he had no heir the head of family was succeeded by his younger brother Chō’ei)

Father: Chōki

Mother: Matsuru of the Bu-clan

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1726/2/19 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1735/7/3 died at the age of 30.

7th Generation: Chōkō

Childhood name: Tsuruji Ufukane

Chinese-style name: Min Bunkyō

born1717/12/11 as the 3rd son

Father: Chōki

Mother: Makado of the Kō-clan

Secondary Wife: Konito, daughter of rankless Asato Chikudun Pēchin

Oldest daughter: Makado (Born: 1741/2/2, died 1761/5/16 at the age of 21, posthumous name: Tamakumo)

Secondary Wife: Mamitsu, daughter of Heshiki Chikudun Zenyō of the Shi-clan

Oldest son: Chōren

next Wife: Omoto (Born: 1750 /12/25 , died 1754 /12/2 at the young age of 5 years)

Second son: Chōkyō

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1729/5/5 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1744/6/15 becomes clerk of the magistrate of shrines and temples, awarded the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1748/12/25 becomes residence of the heir apparent (Nakagusuku Udun) magistrate of tax collection clerk

1749/12/15 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1751/3/22 becomes master of ceremonies under Urasoe Aji Chōken who travelled to Satsuma as a congratulatory envoy.

1753/6/1 becomes Ufuyaku of the palace kitchen

1763/10/10 died at the age of 47

 

7th Generation: Chōsei

Childhood name: Omotoku

Chinese-style name: Min Bunkichi

Born: 1721/3/1 as the 4th son

Father: Chōki

Mother: Makado of the Kō-clan

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1738/8/13 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

(note: the following page in the source writing is missing)

7th Generation: Chō’ei

Born: 1728

fifth son of 6th generation Chōki

Oldest son: Chōkei

Secondary Wife: Omoto, daughter of Nakamine Genshin of the Hō-clan (she passed away 1809/2/25 at the age of 70, posthumous name: Umeya)

Next Wife: Maedo (Born: 1773/7/18 )

Second son: Chōkoku

During the era of King Shō Kei (1713–1751)

1743/8/10 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1754/12/3 becomes chief clerk at the residence of the royal high priestess (Kikoe Ōgimi Udun); awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1764/12/1 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1765/6/11 becomes clerk of Atsuta Pēchin, responsible for house construction (magistrate at that time was Sodoyama Pēchin An’in of the Mō-clan)

1767/12/7 becomes Ufuyaku of the [unknown office]

1772/12/1 becomes inspector of Kyan district

1775/12/10 again becomes inspector of Kyan district

1778/12/1 becomes inspector of Goeku district

1782/12/1 becomes inspector of Ōsato district

1783/10/6 died at the age of 56, posthumous name: Jogaku

 

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

8th Generation: Chōren

Childhood name: Omojirō

Chinese-style name: Min Jitoku

Born: 1746/11/25 as the 1st son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Maman of the Na-clan

Secondary Wife: Maushi, daughter of Heshiki Chikudun Pēchin Zenbu of the Na-clan

Oldest son: Chōjun

Oldest daughter: Maman (Born: 1777/2/2)

next Wife: Makado (Born: 1781/3/15)

Second son: Chōki

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1762/12/13 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1767/12/7 becomes clerk of the Office of Shrines and Temples; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1771/6/1 becomes magistrate of tax collection clerk at the separate ceremonial residence inside Shuri Castle (Ōmi Udun)

1774/10/7 Accompanied the king’s oldest son Shō Tetsu to Satsuma, received tobacco as a gift

1775/6/1 becomes Otomo Chikudun of the residence of the heir apparent (Nakagusuku Udun)

1778/12/1 becomes chief clerk of the official residence of the queen (Sashiki Udun)

1781/6/1 again becomes chief clerk of the official residence of the queen (Sashiki Udun); awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1785/5/9 died at the age of 40

 

8th Generation: Chōkyō

Childhood name: Matsukane

Chinese-style name: Min Jijun

Born: 1757/2/21 as the 2nd son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Maman of the Na-clan

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1772/9/9 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

 

8th Generation: Chōkei

Childhood name: Omotaketa

Chinese-style name: Min Seiryō

Born: 1761/11/11 as the 1st son

Father: Chō’ei

Mother: Maman of the Na-clan

Heir: Chōwa

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1775/11/5 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1783/10/4 died at the age of 23

 

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

8th Generation: Chōkoku

Childhood name: Omokame

Chinese-style name: Min Seigyō

Born: 1777/8/27 as the 2nd son

Father: Chō’ei

Mother: Omoto of the Na-clan

Shitsu-clan: Omoto, daughter of Tokuhara Satonushi Pēchin Kenshū (1865/10/9 died at the old age of 88, posthumous name: Ga’un)

Oldest son: Chōwa (Childhood name: Makamado, Chinese-style name: Min Teisen. Born: 1798/8/20)

Oldest daughter: Omokana (Born: 1802/10/8)

Second son: Chōkan (because his older brother Chōwa’s uncle Chōkei ha d no heir, he succeeded that family line)

Next Wife: Makado (Born: 1808 /9/5, married Yamasato Chikudun Pēchin Shuka of the A-clan, later divorced)

During the era of King Shō Boku (1752–1794)

1792/12/18 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

During the era of King Shō On (1795–1802

1799/12/1 becomes clerk of the Bureau of Articles/Goods for Royal Court and Offices (御用物座); awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

During the era of King Shō Sei (1803)

1803/11/23 becomes temporary police captain of Sanshikan Sadoyama Uēkata Anshun of the Mō-clan

1803/12/1 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

During the era of King Shō Kō (1804–1834)

1809/6/20: becomes police captain of Sanshikan Sadoyama Uēkata Anshun of the Mō-clan

1811/6/1 becomes temporary clerk of the 2nd in command of the Naha Government (Omono-bugyō)

1813/8/13 becomes assistant superintendent clerk of the 2nd in command of the Naha Government (Omono-bugyō)

1818/2/19 becomes clerk of the Magistrate of Royal Treasures (Omono-bugyō)

1822/2/1 becomes an assistant clerk for a tribute-paying small China-bound ship, together with tribute envoy Takemoto Satonushi Pēchin Seishō of the Ō-clan, warehouse manager Tokeiji Chikudun Pēchin Saifu of the Shū-clan, and senior clerk Nakamura Satonushi Pēchin Chōfu of the princely Shō-clan. They returned home 1823/5/19.

1823/12/1 becomes a Ufuyaku of the department of land control; awared the court rank of Zashiki

1833/2/1 becomes senior clerk of a tribute ship to China.

1834/6/9 becomes supervisor during a mission to Satsuma. They returned home on 1834/11/16

During the era of King Shō Iku (1835–1847)

1835/12/1 awared the court rank of Zashiki

 

9th Generation: Chōjun

Childhood name: Tsuruji Ufukane

Chinese-style name: Min Nisshin

Born: 1773/8/3 as the 1st son

Father: Chōren

Mother: Maushi of the Na-clan

 

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

10th Generation: Chōken

Childhood name: Omokame

Chinese-style name: Min Inin

Born: 1820/8/10 as the 1st son

Father: Chōwa

Mother: Makamado of the Bun-clan

Secondary Wife: Maushi, daughter of Sakiyama Chikudun Pēchin Shi’ei of the Son-clan

Oldest daughter: Omoto (Born: 1843/3/26)

Heir: Chōkō

During the era of King Shō Iku (1835–1847)

1835/3/19 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1844/12/1 awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1846/9/22 died at the age of 27, posthumous name: Jitoku

 

10th Generation: Chōsai

Childhood name: Masanrā

Chinese-style name: Min Igi

Born: 1825/3/13 as the 2nd son

Father: Chōwa

Mother: Makamado of the Bun-clan

Secondary Wife: Manabe, daughter of Iha Chikudun Pēchin Kakan of the Kyo-clan (later divorced)

Oldest son: Chōkō (Childhood name: Makamado, Chinese-style name: Min Iki, Born: 1845/11/14)

Second son: Chōjō

Oldest daughter: Makado (Born: 1850/12/8)

Next Wife: Omoto (Born: 1853/8/5)

Posthumous name: Shingen

 

11th Generation: Chōkō

Childhood name: Makamado

Chinese-style name: Min Iki

Born: 1845/11/14

Father: Chōken

Mother: Maushi of the Son-clan

Secondary Wife: Maushi, daughter of Nashiro Chikudun Pēchin Shinga Shinga of the Ma-clan

Oldest daughter: Maushi (Born: 1873/8/3)

During the era of King Shō Tai (1848–1872)

1860/5/15: he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1868 /6/1 became clerk of the royal rice warehouse; awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

 

11th Generation: Chōjō

Childhood name: Maushi

Chinese-style name: Min Itei

Born: 1848/6/22 as the 2nd son

Father: Chōsai

Mother: Manabe of the Kyo-clan

Secondary Wife: Matsuru, daughter of Kuba Chikudun Pēchin Rihan of the Eki-clan

Oldest daughter: Maushi (Born: 1870/3/8)

Oldest son: Chōshun

next Wife: Manabe (Born: 1877/6/21)

During the era of King Shō Tai (1848–1872)

1863/5/11: he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1875/12/1: awared the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

Hanashiro Chōmo performing "Jion", from original 1938 edition of "Karatedo Taikan" of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

Hanashiro Chōmo performing “Jion”, from original 1938 edition of “Karatedo Taikan” of Nagamine Shoshin sensei. Photo by this author.

10th Generation: Chōkō

Childhood name: Makamado

Chinese-style name: Min Shūtoku

Born: 1834/1/20 as the 1st son

Father: Chōkan

Mother: Matsuru

Secondary Wife: Magosei, daughter of Sakumoto Chikudun Pēchin Kasei of the Kyo-clan

Oldest son: Chōsei

Second son: Chōga (Childhood name: Omokame. Chinese-style name: Min Zōchū. Born: 1867/2/10, died 1876/12/15 at the young age of 10; posthumous name: Yōgaku)

Third son: Chōmo 長茂

Oldest daughter: Matsuru (Born: 1872/7/12)

Fourth son: Chōhan

Fifth son: Chōkō

During the era of King Shō Tai (1848–1872)

1849/6/9 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

1856/6/1 His father serving at the Ryūkyūkan, he became a clerk of the office for sugar production ad awarded the court rank of Chikudun Zashiki

1866/5/13 becomes clerk of the office of preparations

1866/12/1 awared the court rank of yellow Hachimaki

1872/7/5 becomes clerk at [unknown office] under Takemoto Satonushi Pēchin, who got ill

1872/12/1 becomes temporary clerk in the same institution, served as ashi of Urasaki Chikudun Pēchin when he went to Kume Island, served until 1873/6

1873/6/1 becomes ashi-clerk in the same institution

1875/6/1 becomes temporary clerk in the same institution

1876/12/1 becomes clerk in the same institution.

 

11th Generation: Chōsei

Childhood name: Matsukane

Chinese-style name: Min Zō’ei

Born: 1862 4th month/11 as the 1st son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Magosei of the Kyo-clan

During the era of King Shō Tai (1848–1872)

1876/5/3 he tied up his topknot (coming of age)

 

11th Generation: Chōmo 長茂

Childhood name: Masanrā 眞三良

Chinese-style name: Min Zōsei 明増盛

Born: 1869/6/18 as the 3rd son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Magosei of the Kyo-clan

 

11th Generation: Chōhan

Childhood name: Maushi

Chinese-style name: Min Zōkō

Born: 1875/10/8 as the 4th son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Magosei of the Kyo-clan

 

11th Generation: Chōkō

Childhood name: Tarukane

Chinese-style name: Min Zōsei

Born: 1879/9/12 as the 5th son

Father: Chōkō

Mother: Magosei of the Kyo-clan

 

12th Generation: Chōshun

Childhood name: Makamado

Chinese-style name: Min Sarin

Born: 1873/9/9 as the 1st son

Father: Chōjō

Mother: Matsuru of the Eki-clan

[END]

 

Biblio:

Okinawa no Rekishi Jōhō. Dai Go Maki. Gazō to Zenbun Tekisuto Dētabēsu (I). (6) Ryūkyū Kafu no Jōhōka. Okinawa no Rekishi Jōhō Kenkyūkai, 1998. Page 679-693.

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The Invention of Karate

The last and probably most important book by Kinjō Hiroshi (2011) has the clear tenor of an “Invention of Karate”. Yes, I just said that. It is about as follows:

In 1904, Itosu Ankō (1831–1915), commissioned by and under the guidance and supervision of the Okinawa Prefecture Department of School Affairs and by its designated purpose as a school education, selected and modified a  number of kata from Suidī (Shuri-te), and in addition invented a number of kata of his own, and in this way determined a framework of kata for physical education. In 1904/1905, karate was taught for the first time as a compulsory subject of physical education at the Okinawa Prefectural Middle School. It should be borne in mind that this was not unaltered Suidī (Shuri-te) in its original state.

Techniques aiming at the vital points of the human body (kyūsho), such as the male crotch, thrusting into the adversary’s eyes, and other targets of attack that cause irreparable damage or fatal injuries – in short, techniques considered antisocial and anti-educational at the time [and still today!] – were replaced by other techniques and/or modified to provide a safe training environment.

This is expressed in Article I of Itosu’s Ten Maxims,

“The quintessence should be, by word of honor, to never injure human beings by means of one’s fists and feet.”

Well, there is some confusion as regards the descendant of Itosu Ankō and this is due to courtesy and respect for family affairs. According to Kinjō Hiroshi, Itosu Angō (1915–96) was Itosu Ankō’s adoptive heir. And according to the memories of this Itosu Angō, physical education karate looked somewhat like this:

“First of all, the movements of the physical exercises [of karate] were large and relaxed. Secondly, dangerous antisocial techniques were deleted or otherwise changed to other, safe techniques, so as to conform to the purpose of education.”

Since Angō was born in 1915 and Ankō died in 1915, there cannot have been a dialogue between the two, right? However, Angō is considered to have experienced what he described above when he enrolled in the Karate Club of the Okinawa Prefecture Normal School Young Man Division (around 1935), and more specifically, directly from Yabu Kentsū (1866–1937), who was the karate instructor at that karate club at the time, and Itosu Anko’s leading disciple. Besides this, Angō also had a variety of other anecdotes about Ankō.

Left: Itosu Angō (1915–96). Right: Itosu Angō and Kinjō Hiroshi at the monument of Itosu Ankō. Courtesy of Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, International Ryukyu Karate Research Society, originally provided by Kinjō Hiroshi.

Left: Itosu Angō (1915–96). Right: Itosu Angō and Kinjō Hiroshi at the monument of Itosu Ankō. Courtesy of Patrick McCarthy, Hanshi, International Ryukyu Karate Research Society, originally provided by Kinjō Hiroshi.

Well, in this connection Kinjō Hiroshi gave the following outline about the name Chintō:

I think persons who teach Chintō to students and who understand the meaning of the word are certainly extremely small in number. For me myself it has been more than eighty years since I aspired karate, and even now I am not able to understand the meaning [of the word Chintō]. Looking back at the past I personally feel somewhat ashamed.

Understanding the meaning from the word Chintō [in katakana] is extremely difficult. No, it’s impossible! Since China and Japan are said to be of the same race and have the same script, if at least the – as I surmise – Chinese characters would have been left behind, hints to understand the meaning of the word might be obtained. While they also have not the slightest clue of the meaning of Chintō [in katakana], there were and are also factions that rewrote the word in Kanji as Chintō 鎮闘. In its meaning “to appease” or “to pacify” a battle, a fight, or a conflict, I think it is indeed an appropriate name for karate as a combat sport.

However, examining the contents of the individual techniques of Chintō [in katakana], isn’t it true that they create an impression of being unduly exaggerated in their technical representation? Since the “training of techniques that serve the purpose of defense and attack” is the quintessence of both combat sport and budō, it is good to include the fundamental physical fitness of combative sports [into budō]. However, isn’t it that the larger a technique becomes the more it moves away from being practical? The designation as Chintō 鎮闘 gives an impression that is quite incongruous to the characteristic features and content of the kata. Chintō with large techniques is not usefully applicable in a fight because such techniques are not in time for combat.

Since olden times it was said that Chintō and Gojūshiho are the highest kata of karate. These kata were not taught during the initial stage of training. After entering training, the teaching progressed from Pinan, to Naifanchi, to Passai, and finally to Chintō and Gojūshiho as the finishing touch. So that means that the difficulty to understand the exaggerated representations and precise meanings of many of the techniques in the highest kata of karate is the main reason for the nonexistence of books of secret traditions (densho).

Next, in the kata, as THE representation mode of the techniques of karate, over time beauty was sought, which also seems to demonstrate the fact that eventually a world of fiction was created. Kata is the representation mode of the techniques of karate. By replacing names and designations, the real techniques and the imaginary (false) techniques became entwined. The passages of the kata where the real and the imaginary (false) techniques were entwined are difficult to clearly understand and distinguish.

I think this is a great point: Real and imaginary (false) techniques entwined and difficult to clearly understand and distinguish. BTW, isn’t this the same as in karate history research, with primary sources being continuously ‘polluted’ by fictionary embellishments?

Well, Funakoshi (1922: 4) mentioned a certain “Gusukuma from Tomari” and wrote that “Itosu followed the system of Gusukuma”. The same “Gusukuma from Tomari”, apparently, was already mentioned by Funakoshi in 1914 (Okinawa no Bugi, January 1914). There it is said that “Gusukuma learned Chintō” from a castaway in Tomari. For this reason it is possible and even seems likely that Itosu learned Chintō from Gusukuma. In any case, as described earlier, the Chintō adopted by Itosu for inclusion into his physical education karate kata-framework was modified towards safety and conformity with the purpose of education, by deleting dangerous, antisocial techniques or otherwise modifying techniques.

"Itosu Anko said..."

“Itosu Anko said…”

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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 for quite some time, the following is an interesting episode taking place shortly after the 1609 Shimazu invasion of Okinawa. This was originally published in my “Karate 1.0 – Parameters of an Ancient Martial Art” (2013).

To ensure the process of control over Ryūkyū, in 1612 for the first time several so-called national hostages went to Kagoshima in order to undergo training as civil servants. They lived in specially constructed official residences (kansha 官舎), which existed until Meiji.(*1) Kunigami Anji Seimi 國頭按司正彌 (1591–1635, Chinese-style name Ba Zuisai 馬瑞彩), 6th generation of the Ba-clan and Estate Steward (jitō 地頭) of Kunigami district, was the third of these national hostages dispatched to Kagoshima in 1614.(*2)

In the same year 1614 the siege of Ōsaka took place. Shimazu Iehisa (1576–1638, original name Tadatsune) received Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s command to send troops in aid of the campaign. In 1615 Kunigami Anji requested to follow the troops to serve in the Ōsaka summer campaign. Iehisa at once commanded Seimi to ‘correct his appearance’ to that of a Japanese, bestowed upon him the Japanese style name Kunigami Sama no Mamori 國頭左馬守 and provided him troops of Satsuma warriors. Moreover he bestowed upon him one helmet, one suit of armor, one long sword, one short sword, two firearms (teppō 鉄砲), one saddle, stirrups, and a bridle.

Shimazu Iehisa, from Wikipedia.

Shimazu Iehisa, from Wikipedia.

However, halfway en route, Ōsaka had already been pacified, the war was over and public peace established. Kunigami Anji returned to Kagoshima, and in the following year, 1616, returned to Ryūkyū. (*3) In 1632 he was sent to Satsuma again, this time as a New Year envoy.(*4) The sword bestowed on him by Iehisa was handed down as an heirloom within the Kunigami family until the early Shōwa era.(*5)

According to the above, Shimazu Iehisa himself clearly approved the possession of cut and thrust weapons in the possession of Ryūkyūan leaders.

Biblio:

*1: see Binkenstein, Vol. 4: 2, 1941: 301.

*2: Kerr 1958: 165. Digital-ban Nihon Jinmei Daijiten デジタル版 日本人名大辞典, accessed via Kotobank.jp, 08.01.2013.

*3: Kyūyō Fukan, article 16. Chūzan Seikan Fukan, Vol I. Sakihara, in Kerr 2000: 564.

*4: CZSFFK, Vol I.

*5: The whereabouts of the sword following the Battle of Okinawa seem to be unknown.

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On a Third Itosu Photo

Recently, I wrote about a first and a second photo showing a man considered to be Itosu Ankō (1831–1915), the father of modern Karate.

Some weeks ago my colleague Thomas Feldmann of Hoploblog dug out another photo which we believe shows the same man. The following description and photo are provided by the Digital Museum of the Naha City Museum of History:

Persons / Personnel of the Kadena Police Station?

Date of photography: During the war.

Reference: Photograph Collection of the Naha City Historical Materials Room / During the war / Back row, 4th person from the left: Inamine Seiryō (around 1940).

The man considered to be Itosu Ankō, the father of modern Karate.

The man considered to be Itosu Ankō, the father of modern Karate.

As can be seen in the “Reference”, the photo has been dated to “during the war” and “around 1940”. If this is correct, the man in the photo cannot be Itosu Ankō. However, as shown in study about the second photo, the dates given for photos may be incorrect.

There is another hint, that is the person Inamine Seiryō. However, this person is unknown and there is no possibility for a comparison of his life dates, his looks etc.

However, the one thing that we can investigate from the photo to properly establish a date are the uniforms. Since the photo shows personell of a police station (whether it is in fact Kadena or another station is irrelevant here), we checked other photos of police stations and compared the uniforms. We were able to verify a very similar type of uniforms for the year 1922, see here.

If this is correct, then the date for the 3rd Itosu photo (“around 1940”) would be incorrect, because the uniforms changed over time. Furthermore, it would allow the uniforms to be of an older type, which could have been worn already during Itosu’s lifetime (1831–1915).

In other words: The next best chance to figure out the date of this 3rd Itosu photograph is to study police uniforms of Okinawa prefecture over time. Unfortunately, I do not have the time right now. Therefore, any help in the study of the uniforms would  be appreciated, especially also by Karate men and women in Okinawa, since they have easier access to archives etc.

The person considered to be Itosu Anko.

The person considered to be Itosu Anko.

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Kata Videos of OKINAWA KARATE INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT

The Youtube channel fo the OKINAWA KARATE INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT 2018 just added a large amount of kata. To be exact, there are

  • 86 kata of the “Shuri-te & Tomari-te Lineage”,
  • 40 kata of the “Naha-te Lineage”,
  • 28 kata of bōjutsu, and
  • 17 kata of saijutsu.

I don’t know whether these kata were filmed as a reference material for the judges to be able to know the kata, or for the participants of the tournament. Probably both. In any case, they can serve as a reference in on line discussions and for comparison and study.

I noted that some kata from the same lineage are listed twice. For example, in case of the saijutsu kata, there are two versions of each Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai, Chatan Yara no Sai, and Hama Higa no Sai. However, both respective versions are from Taira Shinken lineage. So why the differenciation? The habits of techniques diverged in two or more schools over the past decades, even if they came from the same source. For example, while two schools (so-and-so-kan) may trace the above mentioned kata just along the same lineage, slight differences developed in height, angles, stances, tempi etc. These differences then became trademarks of one specific school (so-and-so-kan). Of course, since judges coming from different so-and-so-kan, they will judge according to their own perspective of “correct technique”. Therefore each of the influential so-and-so-kan had to make sure their specifics are being recognized. In terms of the tournament, this is simply a prerequisite to get points and win in the competition. This is true for karate and kobudō. In a sense, Okinawan karate and kobudō circles here developed their own Shitei-gata (standardized kata).

BTW, not all acknowledged kata are presented in the below video links. For example, the kata of Uechi-ryū are not shown so far. The kata to be performed in each section shall be acknowledged by the Executive Committee. You can view the complete list here. Maybe they will be uploading more videos soon. I will then update this list here.

It should be noted that kata of the Ryūei-ryū seem not to be included.

I linked the kata with names in Rōmaji and in Kana below for reference.

Karate | Shuri-te & Tomari-te Lineage

Karate | Naha-te Lineage

Kobudō | Bō

Kobudō | Sai

 沖縄空手国際大会 OKINAWA KARATE INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT


沖縄空手国際大会 OKINAWA KARATE INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT

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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.

“Karate no omoide” (Memories of Karate) [excerpt], by Kyan Chōtoku. Okinawa Shinpō, 1942-05-07.

“Karate no omoide” (Memories of Karate) [excerpt], by Kyan Chōtoku. Okinawa Shinpō, 1942-05-07.

“I never forgot when I went to Shikina-en together with my father in the spring of my 16th year. My father took me to Matsumura Sōkon Sensei, the restorer of Okinawa Karate of whom I had heard tales of. (In his way) I was able for the first time to meet with and to receive instruction from Matsumura Sōkon Sensei through my father. I remember Sensei was 80 years old at that time. The Kata of Karate that I was taught was Gojūshiho  and I still have not forgotten it.”

The year depends on the method of age calculation that Kyan used. In the traditional method called kazoe a person is counted as one year old at birth, and at the turn of the year he gets one year older. Therefore, if Kyan used the traditional kazoe method, his 16th year would have been 1885. Otherwise it would have been 1886.

Morever, Kyan states that:

“I received instruction from Matsumura Sōkon Sensei for two years.”

Or in other words, he received instruction from Matsumura Sōkon until 1887 or 1888.

There is another short info in the text:

“In the fifth year after I had come to Tōkyō, Matsumura Sōkon Sensei died at the advanced old age of 88 years.”

According to this, Matsumura Sōkon passed away 1893 or 1894. Furthermore, this would mean that Kyan went to Tōkyō in 1888 or 1889.

Next, it is said that:

“Thanks to that, my previously weak body became strong and I did not catch a cold for even one day during the 9 years that I lived in Tōkyō, and was able to spend a pleasant adolescence.”

Therefore, he must have stayed in Tōkyō until 1897 or 1898. However, it is also said in the article that

“Due to the circumstances of my family affairs, I returned home (to Okinawa) at the age of 26.”

So this would have been either 1895 or 1896, again, depending on the method of age counting. So there’s a little internal discreprancy within the provided dates. Anyway, this is not a big deal. When he wrote the text, or when he interviewed for the article, he was 72 years old, or 73 according to traditional kazoe. However that may have actually been: just as in the testimony of Yoshimura Chōgi, Kyan Chōtoku also testifies that he has learned Gojūshiho directly from Matsumura Sōkon.

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