Kyūyō, Appendix Vol. III-154

“In the 13th year of King Shō Iku’s reign (1847), Satsuma conferred husked rice and edible seaweed.”

Since the year of the Dragon [1844], ships from both France and England repeatedly arrived in this country [Ryūkyū]. They made all kinds of disrespectful requests which harmed this country’s own affairs. Moreover, persons from both these countries came ashore and stayed for a long time, even more so since they were two countries [and not just one]. Last autumn, due to the issue of said French and English persons, a special envoy was dispatched to China. At a time when the entire country was hard-pressed and weary, and moreover met with the greatest expenses, on top of being weary there was additional weary, and to poorness came even more poorness. When Lord Shimazu heard about this, he granted [Ryūkyū] the huge favor of 300 koku of husked rice and ten thousand catty of edible seaweed as an emergency relief.

Posted in Kyūyō | Comments Off on Kyūyō, Appendix Vol. III-154

A Reconstructed Ryūkyūan Tribute Journey to China

Only one country was allowed to travel to China once or twice a year–the Kingdom of Ryūkyū. Its tribute ships were built in Naha based on the construction of Fujian-style junks. The keel was made of solid pine and shaped like a rib cage. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century these ships not only sailed to China but also to Japan and Southeast Asia.

Its hull was divided into small, separated partitions. Thus, in the event of water ingress, the affected partition could be shut off and isolated from the rest of the ship. The ships were enormous; more than 40 meters long, with a 30 meters high main mast, and they counted among the largest ships with a performance matched by no other vessel at the time. Ryūkyū is considered to have possessed about fifteen such vessels.

A Ryūkyūan tribute ship (Sekkōsen 接貢船) departs from Naha to Fujian (Beechey 1831).

A Ryūkyūan tribute ship (Sekkōsen 接貢船) departs from Naha to Fujian (Beechey 1831).

In spring, around March, or early autumn, when northeasterly winds prevailed, a fleet of usually two tribute ships are prepared to put to sea. Taking in the cargo the days prior to the leave and with several hundred men on board, the ships are finally towed out by an immense number of small boats and grounded off the entrance of the Naha harbor, the shores echoing with their deep-toned gongs. Soon afterward they are placed outside the reefs.

The vessels have three masts decorated with flags of all sorts and sizes. The front mast hoists the white flag of the Chinese emperor, the main mast a triangular flag, red and yellow, with a white ball in it, denoting Ryūkyū’s status as a tributary state. There were numerous others flags and along the stern were arranged ceremonial weapons sporting the flags of many “mandarins”. The prow of the hull sports a stylized lion, and on both sides, huge dragon eyes are painted, watching over a safe journey.

Finally, they set out from Naha onto their ten-day voyage across the East China Sea. Reaching Kume Island they wait for favorable winds, with which they reach Wuhumen Port in Fujian within seven to eight days. Wuhumen 五虎門, or Five Tigers Gate, was named after five rocks situated within the reefs. It was also the starting point for the maritime sea route of Chinese investiture missions (sappōshi) from Fujian to Naha harbor.

In Wuhumen they receive their official trading certificates (liuqiuguo jingong-chuan 琉球國進貢船) from the inspection authority for incoming vessels, and after about five miles upstream the river, they reach the Maritime Customs Office in Min’anzhen 閩安鎭. Chinese pilots embark and navigate the ships up to dock, where the large ships are left to remain until the departure for the return journey in the following year. On small boats, the tribute envoy, crew, cargo, and luggage continue to the Ryūkyūkan, the official trading consulate in Fuzhou and living quarter of the Ryūkyūans for the time of their stay. Here they unload and store their precious cargo.

In Chinese, this Ryūkyūkan is called Rouyuanyi 柔遠駅. It is the designated place of contact and stay for persons traveling from Ryūkyū to China within the tributary system and is regarded a sort of consulate. It is located to the south of the Jingong-chang 進貢廠, i.e. the official depot for temporarily storing tribute items in Fuzhou’s inner port city called Hekou 河口. A Ryūkyūan residence attaché (zonryū-tsūji 存留通事) is responsible for all kinds of official business. Normally, these residence attachés come in December or January and leave one and a half years later in summer.

On the black lacquered gate roof of the main entrance of the Rouyuanyi, a large inscribed board reads “No Waves Scatter on the Ocean” (haibu yangbo 海不揚波), expressing the wish for uneventful, peaceful and secure sea journeys. Another board on the main gate reads Rouyuanyi 柔遠駅, i.e. “Soothing Station for Those Coming from Afar”.

The facilities of the Rouyuanyi are guarded by Chinese military officers called Bamenguan 把門官. Both civil and military Chinese officials move around there, all in all about fifty-six persons, and the military officials wear swords and other weapons. Between the large front gate and the second gate are the official residences. At daytime the gates are open and the Ryūkyūans are free to walk about. At nighttime, the gates are closed and guarded.

The Ryūkyūan tribute envoy visits the local top officials and presents gifts. In late September or early October, he sets out on his way to Beijing, accompanied by an entourage of about twenty people under the protection of a Chinese military escort.

The others, several hundred Ryūkyūans, stay at the Rouyuanyi until the envoy’s return in the following year. During that time, the Rouyuanyi is opened for trade, which is called kaiguan maoyi 開舘貿易. In order to do so, the resident attaché first presents a trade application to the Fujian government. Once approved, the so-called Qiu merchants (Qiushang 球商) are allowed to enter the Rouyuanyi for trade. These Qiu-merchants had acted as official intermediary merchants for the China-Ryūkyū trade already since the early Ming dynasty. Their main task is selling the tribute commodities brought by the Ryūkyūan tribute ships, and in turn to purchase Chinese goods according to the Ryūkyūan wishes. This merchant guild consists of members of ten from among the thirty-six families that had emigrated to Ryūkyū since the late fourteenth century.

According to the “Book of Fujian” (Minshu 閩書), trade articles during the Ming and Qing dynasties included products of gold, silver, copper and tin as well as agate, ivory, spices, traditional Chinese medicinal materials, knife sharpeners, sulphur, swords, different kinds of dried seafood and articles for daily use. No doubt, these articles are not all from Ryūkyū. Most of them are from Siam, Java, Malacca, and Japan, with swords and spears from Japanese production. This indicates Ryūkyūs role as an intermediary trader. In other words, this kind of trade can also be described as a trade between China and other countries with Ryūkyū as an intermediary. As noted in the “Dynastic Record of the Ming Dynasty” (Ming-shilu 明實録), Ryūkyū earned great profits through buying and selling under the umbrella of being a tributary of China.

The Rouyuanyi in Fuzhou (Nishizato 2006).

The Rouyuanyi in Fuzhou (Nishizato 2006).

Besides selling imported Ryūkyūan commodities, the activities of the Qiu-merchants also include the purchase of Chinese articles according to Ryūkyūan instructions. Either they accomplish it themselves or they consign common merchants to go to other provinces to purchase products such as wood, silk floss, fine woven silk, iron wares, porcelain, satin, medicinal materials, tea, lacquer works, refined white sugar, tobacco, tin wares, ink sticks and so on. Large quantities of Chinese medicines and iron wares are what the Ryūkyūans usually desire. The case of a ship with twenty-five people found on the Ryūkyūs in 1701, having come from Fuzhou prefecture in Fujian with commodities acquired in Shandong and blown off course by a storm, is considered a possible example of such consignment trade under the order of the Qiushang merchants. The Ryūkyū trade is almost entirely in the hands of Fujian merchants and greatly promotes the local economy in Fujian.

In terms of the products purchased by the Ryūkyūans, most of them come from the south of Fujian. For instance, cotton yarn of Quanzhou is of excellent quality; velvet from Zhangzhou was already very popular during Ming times. In addition, grass cloth from Yongchun (!!!), porcelains of Dehua, and ramie of Hui’an are all famous trading articles. Furthermore, due to its mountainous areas, the south of Fujian is a good place for medicinal products and plants. All of the abundant natural resources make Fujian an active and interesting trading partner for Ryūkyū, and no doubt this provides the Qiushang merchants with great advantages for successful trade. And it also provides a logistical pathway for connections and items related to Fujian martial arts.

Meanwhile, the entourage to Beijing follows the land route through the provinces of Yanping, Jianning, Quzhou, Yanzhou, Kangzhou, Jiaxing, Suzhou, Zhenjiang, Yangzhou, Shandong etc. From Jianning to Quzhou they travel by land; from Yanzhou to Yangzhou by water. In Shandong, where the roads are flat and the wind is strong, they stretch out sails by which they drive their carts forward. Each time they reach a border town they beat gongs and fire firecrackers and the like to announce their arrival.

In November or December, they reach Beijing. During the audience at the Imperial Palace the chief envoy hands over documents as well as presents from the Ryūkyūan king, consisting of large amounts of sulfur, copper, tin, and other items. In return, the chief envoy receives silk, brocades, and the like. After about forty days in Beijing and with the audiences finished, they set out and return to the Rouyuanyi. Loading large amounts of purchased goods onto their junks, they commence on their way home, using the southerly winds in the summer from the “Five Tigers Gate” of Wuhumen towards Naha harbor.

These journeys took place uninterruptedly from 1372 until the final days of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

Biblio (excerpt)

  • Akazaki Kaimon: Ryūkyaku Danki (Record of Conversations with Ryukyū Visitors) (赤崎海門: 琉客談記), 1797. In: Binkenstein 1941, Vol. 4 (1): 266-67.
  • Beechey  1831: 171-72.
  • Beillevaire, Patrick 2000, I: 3.
  • Guidebook to the Shurijo Castle Park. 2000: 73.
  • Nishizato 2006.
  • Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten, Vol. 1, 1983: 365.
  • Quast 2013.
  • Takara Kurayoshi 1996: 47-48.
  • Tsūko Ichiran-Ryūkyū-kuni 23, which collected data from Arai Hakuseki’s Ryūkyū-koku Jiryaku琉球国事略
  • Tsūko Ichiran-Ryūkyū-kuni Bu 1. Heikin Shimatsu.
  • Wang 2010: 162, 165, 170–173.
Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Reconstructed Ryūkyūan Tribute Journey to China

Site of Uchaya-Udun

Note: Click links for the locations on Google Maps. 

The Uchaya-Udun is a detached royal residence built in 1677, for the sightseeing of the king, and for friendly reception and entertainment of Sappōshi and the like. In addition, since it is located east from Shuri Castle, chief investiture envoy Wang Yi in 1683 named it Tōen or Eastern Garden.

In the Uchaya-Udun, various artistic performances were held, such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, martial arts (bugei). In addition, many poems and Ryūka remain, such as Tei Junsoku’s “Eight picturesque sights of the Eastern Gardens”, by poets who visited here. After the battle of Okinawa, the ruins of the Uchaya-udun became the Shuri Catholic Church, and the vegetable garden ruins became the Jōnan elementary school. As a remembrance of the past, a stone lion (1.6 m high) remained at the southern side slope, but since there was fear of a landslide, it has been relocated close to the Amagoidake hill.

Posted in Sightseeing | Comments Off on Site of Uchaya-Udun

Ryū’ei-ryū 劉衛流 (self-narrative)

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

By the way, the name Ryū’ei-ryū 劉衛流 is composed as follows:

  • Ryū 劉 refers to Ryū Ryūkō (Ch.: Liu Longgong), a Chinese person who is said to have taught Nakaima Kenri.
  • Ei 衛 refers to the Ei-clan, of which the Nakaima House was a branch family.
  • Ryū 流 means style or school that came through a tradition.

Therefore, Ryū’ei-ryū means: the (martial arts) school of Ryū Ryūkō and (the Nakaima House of) the Ei-clan.

Here follows the self-narrative by 4th generation Nakaima Kenkō.

Ryū’ei-ryū is an ancient comprehensive martial art that inherited the legitimate Chinese Kenpō (unarmed methods) and Chinese Heihō (armed methods) from Ryū Ryūkō (Ch.: Liu Longgong) – according to one theory also referred to as Sho Tsushō (1852–1930), or by the common name Rūrūkō. The style was brought about by Nakaima Chikudun Pēchin Kenri of the Nakaima House from Kume village during the era of the Chinese Daoguang emperor (1820–1850).

Kenri’s uncle from a branch family was a doctor and at the height of his career and prosperity at that time. Additionally, his sister worked as a midwife. Born into a wealthy family like this, from a young age Kenri followed the path of the skills of the Kume Shizoku and studied sciences and practiced the martial arts (shubun renbu). As a young adult, at the age of 19, he took the opportunity to study abroad in Beijing or otherwise to Fuzhou.

There he was introduced to a former military escort officer of a Chinese investiture mission to Ryūkyū (sappōshi) called Ryū Ryūkō. Before long, among the students of Ryū Ryūkō, Kenri became an uchi-deshi or in-house disciple of the master.

After several years of unswerving determination in training, not sparing his life for the worthy cause, Kenri was granted the formal confirmation of a student’s awakening by his master of Hōden (transmission of the method). Not only did he receive approval of technical skill, but he was also granted the secret books “Account on Military Preparation” (Bubishi), the “Account on Criticism” (Heironshi), the “Methods of Healthcare” (Yōjōhō), the “Tokitsuke” (Twelve double-hours spread throughout the day and assigned to the twelve signs of the zodiac), and the “Method of Boxing with a Brave Heart” (Kenyūshin-hō). This was when he was 25 years old.

In the year before his return home, in order to gather experience Kenri betook on a warrior pilgrimage from Fujian via Canton to Beijing. When he returned home to Okinawa he also brought with him various kinds of ancient weapons.

Asked about the whereabouts of the above-mentioned secret books which had been granted to Kenri, 5th generation Nakaima Kenji clearly recollected that these scrolls had been placed in two large oblong chests stored in a wall closet. Regrettably, during the air raid on the 10th of October 1944, together with the weapons having been brought from China and stored at home, they ended up in ashes and dust.

3rd generation Kenchū would often tell his son 4th generation Kenkō that “When converted to today’s money, the amount of money spent by Kenri for training in Qing China would probably be worth several hundreds of millions of Japanese Yen”. Evidence of the pains Kenri took to cover the instruction fees and for traveling back and forth between China and Ryūkyū can be seen in the genealogical records (kafu) and in extant promissory notes.

Since Kenri, the style was handed down within the Nakaima family, silently keeping the bloodline consecrated over three sons, and preserving the doctrine until today. The style was “carefully preserved and not given out the house” (mongai fushutsu) and “transferred as a secret technique from father to son” (isshi sōden) as follows:

  • 1st generation Ryū Ryūkō
  • 2nd generation Kenri
  • 3rd generation Kenchū
  • 4th generation Kenkō
  • 5th generation Kenji

As the designated successor to Ryū’ei-ryū, 4th generation Kenkō was strictly trained by his father Kenchū since his childhood. He was born December 23, 1911. At the age of 37, he received “Initiation into the mysterious principles of Ryū’ei-ryū” (Ryū’ei-ryū kaiden). During his time at the Okinawa Teacher’s College, he studied Kendō with masters Tomikawa Moritake and Ishihara Hiroshi. Later he studied under Ishihara Masanao (8. Dan Hanshi). His Karate instructors at the Okinawa Teacher’s College were master Ōshiro Chōjo of Shuri-te (his Karate was of the Itosu system, his kon [bōjutsu] was of the style of Yamanni from Shuri Kanagusuku village) and Yabu Kentsū (his Karate was Matsumura system). At the end of his life, Kenkō was a Hanshi of Karate-dō, a Hanshi of Kobudō, and a Kyōshi of Kendō. His legal domicile was in Kume 2-8-8, Naha City, his actual address was Miyazato 166, Nago City. As an occupation, he served as a principal of public elementary and middle schools in Okinawa.

Nakaima Kenchu (1856-1953)

Nakaima Kenchu (1856-1953)

Even today it is said that secrecy is very strong in China and that “walls are thick when trying to research other schools”. However, at the age of 60 years, 4th generation Kenkō opened the doors of the school and took disciples. It doesn’t mean that he took the family constitution lightly. It was around this time, during the 1970s, that the name Ryū’ei-ryū was first used to describe the school.

The Technical Contents of Ryū’ei-ryū

  • Kenpō (unarmed methods) (present-day Karate-dō)
  • Heihō (weapon methods, Chinese Kobudō)
  • “Methods of Healthcare” (Yōjōhō)
  • “Method of Boxing with a Brave Heart” (Kenyūshin-hō),
  • Others (Ninjutsu-ish actions)

Dan no mono (called “kata” today)


1) Sanchin, 2) Sēsan. 3) Nisēshī. 4) Sansērū. 5) Sēyunchin. 6) Ōhan. 7) Pāchū. 8) Ānan. 9) Paikū. 10) Heikū. 11) Paihō

Heihō (the use of weapons)

1) Sai, 2) Kama, 3) Renkuwan, 4) Tinbē, 5) Gekiguwan 6) Kon, 7) Bisentō, 8) Yari, 9) Taofā, 10) Suruchin, 11) Dajō, 12) Nunchyaku, 13) Tankon, 14) Gusan.


1. We take pride in passing down legitimate Ryū’ei-ryū as has been handed down by Ryū Ryūkō.

2. By excessive sportification and competition-ization, Budō will lose its life.

3. Ryū Ryūkō was the supreme instructor at the “Military Officers Cadets Training School” at the time, and supreme censor at the “Official Examination Place for Military Officers”. (story told by Kenchū)

4. Sakiyama Kitoku crossed over to the Qing Dynasty together with Nakaima Kenri and studied with Ryū Ryūkō. He was a person from Naha Wakuta Village. His childhood name was Tarū. He especially excelled in leg techniques, for which talented military officers envied him. His grandchild generation migrated to Kumejima and their subsequent information is unknown.  (story told by Kenchū)

5. A disciple of Sakiyama was Bushi Kuniyoshi (Kuniyoshi Shinkichi) from Kumoji. He had an outstanding power and the best boxing method of that time. He also excelled in horsemanship (bajutsu), and for some time also lived in the root house (negami-ya) of Nago Miyazato. There is no person that descended from this orthodox line. Kuniyoshi and Higaonna were called the “two walls” of east and west Naha. Kuniyoshi and Higaonna did not differ much in age and they were close friends, but they did not try to determine superiority or inferiority of technique between each other but respected each other. Kuniyoshi said to Higaonna, “If I get kicked by your leg, I will break into pieces”. Higaonna said to Kuniyoshi, “No! If I get punched by your fist, I will break into pieces. (story told by Kenchū)

6. Bushi Higaonna’s boxing was a kenpō that he personally learned in China. His light footwork was particularly outstanding. It is well-known that he was the teacher of Gōjū-ryū founder Miyagi Chōjun. (story told by Kenchū)

7. Kuniyoshi and Higaonna were junior colleagues (kōhai) of 2nd generation Kenri, and senior colleagues (senpai) of 3rd generation Kenchū. Also men of Naha, and in the line of Chinese Kenpō, they were particularly good friends. Incidentally, Higaonna and Nakaima were related by marriage.

8. Master Miyagi Chōjun was 4th generation Kenkō’s most revered, much older Senpai. Kenkō would personally listen to him with the utmost respect. (story told by Kenkō)

9. Ryūkyūan exponents of Chinese Kenpō during early modern times

  • Nakaima Kenri – Naha Kume Village, the same period
  • Sakiyama Kitoku – Naha Wakuta Village, the same period
  • Higaonna Kanryō – Naha Nishi Village
  • Sainokami Arakaki – Naha Kumoji Village
  • Shimabukuro West – Naha Nishi Village
  • Kinjō Matsu (alias Machā Buntoku) – Itoman Village in Kaneshiro District
  • Uechi Kanbun – Motobu Izumi, (roughly) the same period
  • Ahagon Motobu – Tōbaru, (roughly) the same period

The above are arranged in chronological order. They are the persons who have personally traveled to and learned in China after the Daoguang period (1821–1850).

If someone was left out, please forward the information.

10. Age at Time of Death

  • Nakaima Kenri: 77 years
  • Nakaima Kenchū: 98 years

11. As a matter of convenience, the titles of honor were omitted in the many personal names. I ask your understanding for this.

12. In the oldest character dictionary of Chinese writing, the “Shuowen Jiezi”, the character jutsu is defined as “a path within a village”. During the feudal era, the bujutsu or martial arts of Japan were referred to as jūjutsu, kenjutsu and the like. After the Meiji era these martial arts came to be referred to as jūdō, kendō etc. and were considered budō, or martial ways towards character formation. These martial arts were also implemented into school education in the form of budō, or martial ways. In today’s world of karate, there are still people who use the word kobujutsu. Isn’t this like going back through the eras?”


Gihō. Uechi-ryū Karate-do Kyōkai 1977, page 785–788.

Takamiyagi Shigeru, Nakamoto Masahiro, Shinzato Katsuhiko: Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten. Kashiwa Shobō, Tōkyō 2008, page 187, 442, 480, 550.

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , | Comments Off on Ryū’ei-ryū 劉衛流 (self-narrative)

If it looks like a duck…

Note: Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū was so kind to share the articles by Murakami Katsumi and from “Gekkan Karatedo” used in here with me. He also was so kind to help with the translations. Thank you very much Motobu Naoki Sensei!

Recently, I published the translation of an article by Murakami Katsumi from 1991. In it, Murakami Sensei wrote about his teacher Shimabukuro Tarō, who learned Rōhai, Wansū and Wankan from Iha Kōtatsu from Tomari.

Already 15 years earlier, Murakami also wrote about Shimabukuro Tarō and his teacher Iha Kōtatsu as follows:

The Actual Combat Kata of Iha-gwā no Nushi from Tomari

Let me introduce Iha-gwā no Nushi from Tomari. Iha-gwā was the teacher of Shimabukuro Tarō AKA “Aburaya Sanjin” (nickname). Shimabukuro Sensei talked about Iha-gwā as follows.

Master Iha-gwā, as a descendant of Shizoku from the kingdom era, received the teachings of the great masters Matsumora and Oyadomari, both from Tomari. [omission]

From Iha-gwā no Nushi, Shimabukuro Sensei was taught and handed down the Kata Rōhai, Wankan, and Wansū. These Kata are introduced in this book. (Murakami 1976: 28)

Iha-gwā no Nushi here refers to Iha Kōtatsu.

As can be seen from the above, Murakami Katsumi learned the Kata Rōhai, Wankan, and Wansū from Shimabukuro Tarō and introduced them in his 1976 book. In fact, he introduced both the Enbusen of the Kata as well as its combat applications:

  • Wansū in Murakami 1976: 114–120
  • Wankan in Murakami 1976: 121–132
  • Rōhai in Murakami 1976: 133–142.
Iha Kotatsu as identified in OKKJ 2008.

Iha Kotatsu as identified in OKKJ 2008.

In other words: This is one very credible source for the Kata Rōhai, Wankan, and Wansū as having been handed down by Iha Kōtatsu and probably earlier masters of what is referred to today as Tomari-te.

BTW, Shimabukuro Tarō was one of the teachers of Nagamine Shōshin and taught him the three Kata in question. In addition, Nagamine also learned the same three Kata from Iha Kōtatsu directly:

“I, too, inherited… Wankan, Rōhai, and Wanshū of Tomari-te from this teacher [Iha Kōtatsu], and continue to preserve and research these Kata in my current Matsubayashi-ryū Karate-dō Kōdōkan Dōjō” (Nagamine 1986)

BTW, I personally studied these three Kata Wankan, Rōhai, and Wanshū at that same place called the Matsubayashi-ryū Karate-dō Kōdōkan Dōjō in Naha Kumoji. I also performed all of them during gradings at that same place and did not fail. So you can assume I know them a little.

Anyway, the transmission of these three Kata here look like this:

  • Iha Kōtatsu –> Shimabukuro Tarō
  • Iha Kōtatsu –>  Shimabukuro Tarō –>  Nagamine Shōshin
  • Iha Kōtatsu –>  Nagamine Shōshin
  • Iha Kōtatsu –>  Shimabukuro Tarō –>  Murakami Katsumi

That means, with Murakami Katsumi and Nagamine Shōshin, there are two independent sources of the same Kata from the same lineage, i.e. Iha Kōtatsu.

Since both Murakami Katsumi and Nagamine Shōshin published the movements of these three Kata in their books, they can easily be compared. For Nagamine Sensei’s description, see his book here:

  • Wansū in Nagamine 1975: 256–262
  • Wankan in Nagamine 1975: 240–247
  • Rōhai in Nagamine 1975: 248–255.

Plus, if you trust my judgment, I learned them personally from one of these lineages.

The quintessence of it all is this:

Wankan and Rōhai are perfectly identical in Enbusen and techniques. There are some very minor differences, like a few stances – for example, occasional Kōkutsu instead of Neko-ashi – but 95% perfectly fits. (Wanshū is easily identifiable, but it needs more study.)

Well, there is also an alternative lineage that claims the inheritance of Kata from Iha Kōtatsu.

If we take their Wankan and Rōhai as an example, their oral tradition is as the follows:

The Kata of Wankan

Wankan is a representative Kata of Tomari-te that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu. It is a Kata that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū. 

The Kata of Rōhai

Rōhai is a Kata that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu and that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

The problem is: This alternative lineage claims the direct inheritance of the three Kata in question from Iha Kōtatsu. At the same time, both their Wankan and Rōhai are just completely different Kata.

How can that be? Maybe they did not carefully read the books by Nagamine and Murakami. In the end that alternative club was established only 6 or 7 years respectively after the books with the Kata shown in pictures were published.

Anyway, Murakami Katsumi added some useful information to Wankan. For instance, he described it as

A representative Kata of Tomari-te, it is a brilliant Kata that is nimble, fast as lightning, profound and rich in variety. It is the type of Kata that you want to do many times. It is a Kata that is very useful for actual combat.

and its techniques as “unique to Tomari-te“, which I think is correct. He goes on with this interesting explanation:

When applying the movements 12/21, it is most important that the opponent is controlled by uke-sabaki [similar to irimi]. This part is a technique essentially seen in the defenses of the Chinese Kempō of Baguazhang and Taijiquan. In addition, it must be carried out similar to Irimi-nage of Jūjutsu and Aiki.

In Okinawa, there was a person named Motobu Chōyū (AKA Motobu Umē), who was the older brother of Motobu Chōki. My former teacher Kyoda Jūhatsu Sensei, Miyagi Chōjun Sensei, Mabuni Kenwa Sensei, Shiroma Kōki, and Go Kenki Sensei studied with him at the Karate Club in Wakasa Town, Naha. In addition to being the manager of this Karate Club, Motobu [Chōyū] Sensei very much liked playing the Sanshin and he seems to have been very good at it. Currently there is a Karate teacher called Uehara Seikichi, who was a disciple of this Motobu Umē [Chōyū]. The technique (Te) that this Uehara Seikichi uses, currently in Okinawa is called Koden Bujutsu Motobu-ryū Torite. This Torite means entering the opponent’s attack at the moment he comes in (and then control and throw him). It seems that what is the most basic of Torite’s entering techniques is substantially the same as Wankan’s technique 12/21. In case of being thrown by technique 12/21, the person thrown does not understand how he got thrown. It is a technique that you want to make a skill of the deepest level (gokui-waza).

I was told by an authoritative person that some of the applications used by Murakami Sensei are similar to Motobu Udundī, others are similar to Motobu Kenpō. The reason for this might be that Kyoda Jūhatsu and Shimabukuro Tarō were among Murakami Katsumi’s teachers: Kyoda trained Torite with Motobu Chōyū and Shimabukuro Tarō trained Kumite with Motobu Chōki. Therefore, both influences exist in Murakami Sensei’s application of the Kata.

Wankan application by Murakami Katsumi (1976).

Wankan application by Murakami Katsumi (1976).


  • Takamiyagi Shigeru Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten, 2008.
  • “Shuri-te, Naha-te toha kotonaru maboroshi no Karate – Tomari-te nazo ni semare!” (Extremely rare Karate different from Shuri-te and Naha-te – Approaching the Mystery of Tomari-te!) In: Gekkan Karatedō. February Issue 2003. Fukushōdō 2003.
  • Murakami Katsumi: Karatedō to Ryūkyū Kobudō. Seibidō Shuppan, Tōkyō 1976.
  • Murakami Katsumi: Kata no Kokoro to Waza. Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, Tōkyō 1991.
  • Nagamine Shōshin: Shijitsu to Kuden ni yoru Okinawa no Karate, Sumō Meijin-den. Tōkyō, Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha 1986.
  • Nagamine Shōshin: Okinawa no Karate-dō – Rekishi to Densetsu o Mamoru. Tōkyō, Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha 1975.
Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on If it looks like a duck…

Shimabukuro Tarō and his Teachers

In 1991, Murakami Katsumi (Murakami 1991: 190-91) published an article about the teachers of his teacher Shimabukuro Tarō. Motobu Naoki Sensei of the Motobu-ryū was so kind to share it with me. Thank you very much Motobu Naoki Sensei!

The following is my translation of it.

Shimabukuro Tarō and his Teachers

I think a list of the teachers of the late master “Aburaya Sanjin” (nickname) Shimabukuro Tarō Sensei can be used as a source of information on the history of martial arts in Okinawa.

Shimabukuro Sensei was born in Shuri’s “Three Places” (name that combines the three towns of Tounjumui [usually pronounced Torikohori, today’s Torihori], Akata, and Sakiyama to one place). I do not clearly know his date of birth, whether it was 1905 or 1906.

Shimabukuro Taro, original photograph by the author, shot at Matsubayashi Kodokan Honbu Dojo in Naha, 2009.

Shimabukuro Taro, original photograph by the author, shot at Matsubayashi Kodokan Honbu Dojo in Naha, 2009.

Shimabukuro Sensei practiced Makiwara under the guidance of his father from the age of seven. This was the first time that he was introduced to Karate. After that, until his fourth year in elementary school, he practiced the Kata of Naihanchin from Tokuda Anbun Sensei. In his fifth year, Gusukuma Shinpan Sensei became his class teacher and by the time he entered the (old system) middle school, he learned Pinan, Kūsankū Dai and Shō, Chintō, and in Bōjutsu Shūshi no Kon. Since he was sixteen years old, he learned Kata of Shurite by Chibana Chōshin Sensei. Afterwards, he learned Dōhai [Rōhai], Wansū and Wankan from “Iha-gwā no Nushi” from Tomari, and Sēsan and Pīcchūrin from Shinzato Jin’an from Naha.

He learned Karate with Kyan Chōtoku Sensei from Shuri and from Arakaki Ankichi Sensei until both the teachers were dead. His [Shimabukuro’s] favorite Kata were Kyan Sensei’s Chintō and Arakaki Sensei’s Sēsan.

From Soeishi Umikana Sensei he learned Chōun no Kon.

From 1925 he went to Ōshiro Chōjo Sensei’s house the whole year around to learn until Ōshiro Sensei died in 1932 [Note: Other authors said Ōshiro lived until 1935]. In addition, he also went to the house of Chinen Usumē, the teacher of Ōshiro Sensei, for a couple of years, where he learned Sakugawa no Kon, Shirotaru no Kon, and Yonegawa no Kon.

From venerable elder Kiyuna, he learned Passai and Kūsankū and from a Karate person from Shuri’s “Three Places”, called “venerable elder Nakandakari Manga”, he learned to use Keikōken (Chicken-Beak-Fist, AKA Ippon-ken, and Kosa in old Okinawan dialect) and Kumite.

From Mīhagi Tōma Shizen Sensei he learned Kumite, from venerable elder Tamana(ha) Hamagū he learned Jūjutsu-/Jūdō-like Jissen (combat) Kata, from venerable elder Teruya he learned the old style Kata of Passai, from venerable elder Ishikawa-gwā nu Kekkerē he learned Sai, Nunchaku, Gojūshiho, and Kama nu , and from venerable elder Tawada nu Mēgantō he learned how to kick with the instep.

From venerable elder Maeshiro from Shuri’s “Three Places” he learned Kumite, from Yabiku Mōden Sensei he learned “Yabiku no Chōbō” (Yabiku’s long Bō) and Picchūrin, from Yabu Kentsū Sensei he learned Gojūshiho, from Go Kenki Sensei he learned HakuTsuru (White-Crane), from Miyagi Chōjun Sensei he learned Sanchin, from venerable elder Uechi (the founder of Uechi-ryū) from Nakijin he learned Sanchin, and from the venerable elder Ōshiro Myōjin from Tsuken Island he learned Chikin Bō (=Tsuken Bō).

From Motobu Chōki Sensei he learned Kumite, from venerable elder Tokumura from Shuri’s “Three Places” he learned the source-Kata (prototype) of Naihanchi, from venerable elder Asato he learned the source-Kata (prototype) of Passai, from Takamine nu Chān Sensei he learned how to fight using the geographical features (topography) in the field.

During his Karate life, Shimabukuro Sensei received the teachings of Karate and Kobudō from the above-mentioned 28 teachers.


Murakami Katsumi: Kata no Kokoro to Waza. Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, Tōkyō 1991.

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Shimabukuro Tarō and his Teachers

“Tomari-te Kata” handed down in the Gōhakukai

The February 2003 issue of “Gekkan Karatedō” magazine features an article about the Gōhakukai. There it is stated (page 46):

“Nine Kata are handed down in Tomari-te!!!”

The following is my translation of the text.

So, what Kata are handed down in Tomari-te? Let’s introduce them while taking into account the history of their transmission.

  • The Kata of Naihanchi (Naifanchin)

Matsumora Kōsaku (1829–1898) received three years of instruction in Tomari no Naihanchi from Uku Karyū (1800-1850). [From Matsumora] It was handed down to Nakazato Bokuhitsu (1835–1902?). From Nakazato Bokuhitsu it was handed down to Nakasone Seiyū (1893–1983). Of Naihanchi there are the varieties of Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan, each of which has different characteristic techniques.

  • The Kata of Wansū (Dai)

This Kata has been handed down from Teruya Kisō (Kishin?)( 1804–1864) to Matsumora Kōsaku. From Matsumora Kōsaku it was handed down to Iha Kōtatsu (1873–1928) and Maeda Ginin (1840–1921). As a representative Kata of Tomari it has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

  • The Kata of Wansū (Shō)

Handed down from Oyadomari Eirō (1878–1926) to Heianzan Ryōzen (1901–2000), it was finally inherited by the Gōhakukai.

  • The Kata of Wankan

Wankan is a representative Kata of Tomari-te that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu. It is a Kata that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

  • The Kata of Chintō

Chintō is a representative Kata of Tomari-te that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu and has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

  • The Kata of Kūsankū

Tomari-te no Kūsankū is a Kata that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu and that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

  • The Kata of Rōhai

Rōhai is a Kata that has been handed down from Matsumora Kōsaku to Iha Kōtatsu and that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū.

  • The Kata of Passai

Passai is a Kata that has been handed down from Teruya Kishin to Matsumora Kōsaku and Oyadomari Kōkan (1827–1905), and [further] to Iha Kōtatsu and that has finally been inherited by Nakasone Seiyū. Particularly Oyadomari Passai is widely known and is a representative Kata of Tomari.

  • The Kata of Rinkan

Rinkan is a Kata that has been inherited from Nakasone Seiyū, but it is unknown who instructed Nakasone Seiyū in it.


Shuri-te, Naha-te toha kotonaru maboroshi no Karate – Tomari-te nazo ni semare!” (Extremely rare Karate different from Shuri-te and Naha-te – Approaching the Mystery of Tomari-te!) In: Gekkan Karatedō. February Issue 2003. Fukushōdō 2003.

Gekkan Karatedō. February Issue 2003.

Gekkan Karatedō. February Issue 2003.

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Tomari-te Kata” handed down in the Gōhakukai

Location of Higaonna Kanryō‘s House

Recently we had a discussion on Facebook about Higaonna Kanryō.

During that discussion I noticed that I miscalculated the location of Higaonna Kanryō’s house in my Karate 1.0 (2013). There I concluded that Higaonna’s shop must have been situated in today’s Omoromachi 3-chōme 4-8-505, right behind the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum.

This was a mistake!

The reason for the miscalculation was that I confused a temple name.

But now I got it right.

Let me explain how I got to the approximate location.

Yoshimura Chōgi (1866-1945) left his “Autobiographic Martial Arts Records” (Jiden Budōki, 1941). Therein Yoshimura describes how he learned Karate from Higaonna Kanryō, starting in 1887 or 1888. According to Yoshimura,

“From my 22nd year, that is about 1888, I was a student of master Higaonna. About three times a month I went the distance from Shuri to him. Situated near the beach in Naha, in front of the Hongan-ji he ran a business selling firewood.” (transl. A. Quast)

Now, of course, today that place does not exist anymore like back then. First of all, the place was turned into a residential area by land reclamation starting around the 1880s. Furthermore, the air raid of October 10, 1944, alone destroyed 80 to 90% of Naha by fire, not counting in the Battle of Okinawa itself.

Now, back to the location.

The current Shinkyō-ji is what Hongan-ji in Yoshimura's text referred to.

The current Shinkyō-ji is what Hongan-ji in Yoshimura’s text referred to.

Yoshimura noted the temple called Hongan-ji. This temple was established in 1884 after Tahara Hūsui (1844 – 1927 ) began to propagate the Jōdo Shinshū sect in 1876 (Meiji 9).

The temple was first called Higashi Honganji Kōgijo (Lecture place of Higashi Hongan-ji). This is the Hongan-ji mentioned by Yoshimura. It was later renamed to Shinkyō-ji, which is still its current name.

It is located in Nishi town of Naha.

Moreover, according to Arume Kangaku, who was 72 years old at the time of the interview, Higaonna transported firewood from the Kerama Islands by boat and sold it in Nishi town of Naha. This was recorded in the late Nagamine Shōshin Sensei’s handwritten personal notebook (unpublished, copy in author’s collection).

So there are two independent records that describe the location of Higaonna’s shop quite closely.

Well, Yoshimura wrote that Higaonna’s house was “situated near the beach in Naha”, and Arume Kangaku noted that “Higaonna transported firewood … by boat “.

So, while looking for the location, I found the site called “Niishi nu Umi” or “Ocean at Nishi Town”. This site refers to the shores west of Nishi town in Naha. In the past, the coastline was U-shaped from Miegusuku (1) to current Sanmonji park (2) in Tsuji something like this:


Ok. So far so good.

I will now add the locations of the Shinkyō-ji temple (3) and the old coastline “Niishi nu Umi” (4):


So, Higaonna Kanryō’s house – and shop I assume – was located around points 3 and 4 on the map.


And if you want to know how it looked like, and even maybe see a boat of the Higaonna family, take a look at this 1877 drawing showing Nishi town with its houses and some people, the shoreline and the “Niishi no Umi”, as well as some cargo boats…




Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged | Comments Off on Location of Higaonna Kanryō‘s House

Higaonna Kanryō (quick overview)

Higaonna Kanryō (1853–1915), referred to as the “ancestor who rejuvenated Naha-te“, is one of the representative Okinawan masters of Karate of the Meiji era.

Personal history

Early life

Higaonna Kanryō was born on 1853-04-17 (Gregorian calendar) as the 4th son of firewood trader Higaonna Kanyō in Nishi village, Naha.  His Chinese-style name was Shin Zenki, his childhood name was Mōshi 真牛.

His father Kanyō transported firewood from Kerama in a small boat type called Yanbaru-sen and sold it in Naha as a business. At that time, the Higaonna family belonged to the class of commoners. According to a descendant of Kanryō, however, they were originally a samurai branch family of the Shin-clan, with father Kanyō being the 9th generation of this lineage.

As an additional information hitherto unpublished: On January 8, 1867 (moon calendar), Higaonna tied up his topknot, i.e. the male coming of age ceremony. His later wife was called Makatu. (Nagamine Shōshin: Handwritten Personal Notebook).

The Era of Practicing Naha-te

To support the family, Higaonna helped in the family business of selling firewood from around the age of 10 years. According to one hypothesis, in 1873, at the age of 20 (or 17 years old), he is said to have studied Karate under Aragaki Seishō (1840 – 1920) of Naha-te. This hypothesis was established by Nagamine Shōshin (Nagamine 1976: 96), but there is no source mentioned for it.

The reason why Arakaki would hand down Naha-te – a carefully protected art not given out of the house – to an outsider not belonging to the Kume Shizoku class remains unknown. In this connection, it is said that the Aragaki family were customers of the Higaonna family. Watching Higaonna entering and leaving the house to sell firewood, it is said that Arakaki felt the extraordinary qualities of Higaonna. So it happened that Higaonna studied Naha-te under Aragaki for about three years.

However, in a 1914 newspaper article about Arakaki Seishō, there is no mention that Higaonna was somehow related to him in terms of a teacher-student relationship (Shō Busei 1914).

Moreover, the Kata of the so-called Aragaki-school (Aragaki-ha, a name coined by Mabuni Kenwa in 1938 or so) were neither handed down in Gōjū-ryū nor in Tōon-ryū. In addition, there is no mention of Arakaki in the “Karate-do Gaisetsu” (1936) by Miyagi Chōjun. So it remains unknown whether the Arakaki-hypothesis is true or not.

There is also the theory that Higaonna practiced Okinawa-te since childhood, but that he – as an outsider – was declined access by an expert of Chinese Kenpō and could not train (hypothesis by Miyazato Ei’ichi, in Uechi 1977: 747).

There is also the hypothesis that, after studying under Arakaki, because Arakaki traveled to China as an interpreter, he left Higaonna into the custody of Kojō Taitei of Kojō-ryū, where he trained for a while (Fujiwara 1985: 178).

However, an anecdote contradictory to this hypothesis reports that Higaonna is said to have waged a heated debate with Kojō Taitei over Sanchin (the so-called Sanchin Trial).

The Era of Practicing Chinese Martial Arts

According to the hypothesis by Nagamine Shōshin, Higaonna crossed over to Qing-China in 1877 (Meiji 10), at around the age of 20 years. There are also hypotheses that say this was at 24 years of age (hypothesis by Eiichi Miyazato) etc. There are various hypotheses as regards the reason why Higaonna is supposed to have crossed over to China, such as that practice of Chinese Kenpo-hypothesis, the working away from home-hypothesis, or the hypothesis of acting as a messenger for Yoshimura Chōmei of the Yoshimura Udun on behalf of the Ryūkyū royalist movement etc.

For example, Kinjō Akio wrote that Higaonna crossed to China as a secret messenger of Yoshimura Chōmei. According to Kinjō (2006), in 1877, Higaonna carried a hidden petition written by Ryūkyūan royalists and addressed to the Qing authorities, asking for aid to rescue Ryūkyū from being “disposed” by the Japanese. But this was pure speculation on Kinjō’s side and no primary source has been presented.

In any case, immediately following his voyage, and although he locally sold firewood, Higaonna is said to also have sold medical drugs and eventually to have studied under Chinese martial arts expert Rūrūkō (also, Tūrūkō).

In addition, according to the talks of Asato Ankō, Higaonna Kanryō, referred to as “Nishi Higashionna-gwā”, was a Karate teacher at the Fishery School and at the Commercial School (Shōtō 1914, I). He was said to have been a disciple of Waishinzan, described as a Chinese military officer (bukan). However, it remains unclear from the text whether Higaonna traveled to China or whether he received instruction directly in Okinawa (Shōtō 1914, II).

At the beginning, due to the disability to speak the language, and also as a usual measure (old trick) in the martial art practice of that time, Higaonna was not able to receive a professional martial arts instruction. He is said to only practiced stepping and breathing for 4 or 5 hours, and besides only did chores for the teacher. However, it is said that Higaonna won the trust of Rūrūkō by saving his master’s family at the risk of losing his own life during a massive flood and that afterward he received full-fledged professional martial arts instruction from the master. Afterwards, as Higaonna became Rūrūkō’s assistant teacher (Shihan Dai), his skill was recognized.

Regarding the period of Higaonna’s stay in China, there are multiple hypotheses, but no conclusion. The 15-years hypothesis  (such as from Nagamine Shōshin and others), the 3-years hypothesis (such as from Miyagi Chōjun, Higa Yūchoku, Chibana Chōshin, and Higaonna Kanryō’s grandchild), Moreover, some researcher says that Higaonna actually stayed there for 1 year and 4 months, with the sailing time excluded from this (!) (hypothesis by Tokashiki Iken). Besides, there are also others, such as the 8-year-hypothesis, 10-year-hypothesis, 16-year-hypothesis, and the 30-year-hypothesis (Toguchi 1986: 103).

Entry on Higaonna Kanryo, from Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten 1983.

Entry on Higaonna Kanryo, from Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten 1983.

In addition, while there are various hypotheses of Higaonna’s travel, there is the contradicting fact that traveling to China was under severe official monitoring at that time and it was all but easy to become an “exile to Qing”. However, none of the various hypotheses drew a conclusion from this contradicting fact. Therefore, there are also various hypotheses as regards Higaonna Kanryō’s age at the time of his return from China, ranging from his 20s to his 40s.

Since his return home

After returning home from China, Higaonna is said to have opened a dōjō in Naha, but initially, he did not gather disciples. The first disciple that can be confirmed in the literature is Yoshimura Chōgi (1866-1945) of the Yoshimura Udun.


Yoshimura Chōgi (1866-1945) left his “Autobiographic Martial Arts Records” (Jiden Budōki, 1941. Joe Swift translated the whole text in one of his publications). Therein Yoshimura describes how he learned Karate from Higaonna Kanryō, starting in 1887 or 1888. According to Yoshimura, Higaonna lived near the beach in Naha at the time, in front of the Hongan-ji temple, where Higaonna ran business selling firewood (Note: Arume Kangaku, 72 years old at the time, confirmed that Higaonna transported firewood from the Kerama Islands by boat and sold it in Nishi village of Naha (Nagamine Shōshin: Handwritten Personal Notebook). The place was later turned into a residential area by land reclamation. It is situated around

  • Naha’s old coastline at today’s 1 Chome-16 Nishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0036, Japan


  • the Shinkyō-ji temple at 2 Chome-5-21 Nishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0036, Japan

There are some details described by Yoshimura, such as that he was taught Sanchin as the foundation, and also Pecchūrin (i.e. Sūpārinpē) by Higaonna.

However, no person is mentioned as a teacher of Higaonna, nor any travel to China whatsoever, nor anything of the nature that Yoshimura helped Higaonna travel to China and stay there, nor that Yoshimura wrote a letter of introduction for Higaonna for his stay in China or anything else.

Contact and traveling to Qing-China in those years would have been considered a political activity of the “Rūykyū Restoration Movement”. However, at the time of the publication of his autobiography, it would not have been a problem anymore to speak about his or Higaonna’s past: Yoshimura even repatriated his father’s bones in the early 1930s, his father having been a leader of the (anti-Japanese) “Rūykyū Restoration Movement”. Therefore, there would have been no reason for Yoshimura to hold back any such facts about Higaonna (for the above, see: Zuroku “Yoshimura Chōgi Ten”. Okinawa Kenritsu Hakubutsukan 1981).


After that, in 1902 (Meiji 35), Kyoda Jūhatsu and Miyagi Chōjun, who later became the leading disciples, started practicing with Higaonna. Other disciples of Higaonna include Mabuni Kenwa, Higa Seikō, and Tōyama Kanken.

Miyagi Chōjun (1888–1953) received direct transmission of skill from Higaonna from September 1902 (at the age of 15) until October 1915  (at the age of 28) (Nagamine Shōshin: Handwritten Personal Notebook).

Shiroma Kōki was also a personal disciple of Higaonna (Nagamine Shōshin: Handwritten Personal Notebook).

In 1915 (Taishō 4), Higaonna died from a worsening chronical bronchial asthma while his disciples watched over him.

The Issue of Transmission

In the past, the Kata of Gōjū-ryū – except for those created by Miyagi Chōjun – were thought to have all been acquired by Higaonna Kanryō in China and brought back to Okinawa. However, in recent years various questions have been raised.

  • The Investiture Celebration Program of “The Crown Ship of the Year of the Tiger”

In 1867, Shizoku class persons from Kume Village hosted a celebration to welcome the Chinese envoys who visited Ryūkyū for the investiture of King Shō Tai. The program describing the items of the celebration at that time was discovered after the war (Shimabukuro Zenpatsu Chōsakushu). Among the recorded items are found the performances of the Kata “Sūpārinpei”, “Shisōchin (original text is “Chishochin”), and “Seisan”. Therefore, this is proof that these Kata already existed in Okinawa before Higaonna passed away.

  • A name like Rūrūkō does not exist in China

The pronunciation of Rūrū (如如) is Mandarin Chinese, but people in Fujian, which Higaonna is said to have learned from, do not pronounce it like this. Ryūryū (量量) on the other hand points to Higaonna Kanryō himself. In the first place, it is impossible to find such names to refer to a male adult in China.

  • There is no source martial art in existence

After the recovery of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, research teams were dispatched dozens of times to China, but no specific school could be identified as the source of Gōjū-ryū.

  • No weapons art has been handed down together with it

Unlike in Okinawa Karate, in Chinese martial arts, it is common to jointly use weapons techniques. It is impossible to be promoted to an assistant teacher (Shihan Dai) without having practiced weapons techniques.

Because of the above doubts, and because of the lack of primary sources, the number of researchers who doubt that Higaonna Kanryō traveled to China in the first place increased in recent years. Furthermore, even if he crossed over to China, he is considered to have just practiced Chinese Kenpō rudimentary. And finally, most of his personal history that has been handed down lacks credibility.


  • Fujiwara Ryozō: Kindai Karate-dō Senkusha, Miki Jisaburo to ‘Kenpō Gaisetsu’. Contribution to: Tōkyō Daigaku Karate-bu Roku-jū Nenshi. Tōkyō Daigaku Karate-bu Roku-jū Nenshi Kinen-go Henshū Iinkai-hen, 1985.
  • Gekkan Karate-dō. Fukushōdō, September 2005 issue.
  • Iwai Tsukuo: Koden Ryūkyū Karate-jutsu. Airyūdō 1992.
  • Kinjō Akio: Karate Denshi Roku. Champ, Tokyō 2006.
  • Nagamine Shōshin: Handwritten Personal Notebook with interviews and data collections. Page 47: Entry for Higaonna Kanryō. Copy from the personal archive of Andreas Quast.
  • Nagamine Shōshin: Shijitsu to Kuden ni yoru Okinawa no Karate Sumō Meijin-den. Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, Tōkyō 1976.
  • Shō Busei: Okinawa no Bujutska – Arakaki-gwā to Higaonna. Ryūkyū Shimpō, January 24, 1914.
  • Shōtō (Funakoshi Gichin): Okinawa no Bugi (I). Karate ni tsuite Asato Ankō Uji Dan. Ryūkyū Shinpō, January 17, 1914.
  • Shōtō (Funakoshi Gichin): Okinawa no Bugi (II). Karate ni tsuite Asato Ankō Uji Dan. Ryūkyū Shinpō, January 18, 1914.
  • Toguchi Seikichi: Karate no Kokoro. Kadokawa Shoten, Tōkyō 1986.
  • Toguchi Yoshiaki: Karate no Rekishi, sono Shinpyōsei o kōsatsusuru. In:  JKFan, October, November, December Issue 2006; May, July Issue 2007.
  • Uechi Kan’ei Seisetsu Okinawa Karate-dō no Rekishi. Uechi-ryū Karate-dō Kyōkai 1977.
  • Zuroku “Yoshimura Chōgi Ten”. Okinawa Kenritsu Hakubutsukan 1981.
Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged | Comments Off on Higaonna Kanryō (quick overview)

Tokuda Antei’s Memorandum

As can be seen in newspaper accounts, karate spread and developed as a compulsory subject of physical education. On January 25, 1911 (Meiji 44), the sole daily newspaper within Okinawa prefecture at the time published the following article:

The Karate Convention of the Normal School

Yesterday from 2 p.m. in the school’s courtyard the karate convention of the pupils of the just mentioned school commenced. Yabu Kentsū was named the instructor. First, up to 80 sets of karate were performed by the pupils. Furthermore about 4 sets of kumite were also performed. Afterwards 5 sets of karate were demonstrated by middle school pupils as distinguished guests. Finally, [the following was demonstrated] by masters in this field of study kindly present on this day:

  • Sēsan by Funakoshi Gichin,
  • Passai by Mr. Kiyuna,
  • Gojūshiho (AKA Ūsēshi) by Yabu Kentsū,
  • Naihanchi by Mr. Itokazu,

and the like.

And with this the convention was concluded. These are all things of undeniable reputation within this prefecture’s karate circles, but are also things which could not be seen as easily as during this day’s demonstrations.

The kinds [=kata] of karate are the 15 types:

  • Nanhanchi [=Naifanchi]
  • Pinan
  • Chintō
  • Wansū
  • Passai
  • Ronsū [=Chinsū]
  • Kūsankū
  • Rōhai
  • Gojūshiho (AKA Ūsēshi)
  • Jitte
  • Nantei [=Chintē]
  • Jī [=Jiin]
  • Sēsan
  • Wandō [=Wandau]
  • Jūmu [=Jion]

Among the pupils who excelled in these fifteen types the following persons were presented an award of excellence. […]

Altogether sixty-eight pupils were presented the award of excellence. Among them was Tokuda Antei (1884–1979).

Tokuda entered the Prefectural Middle School in 1905 and graduated in 1910, in the 22nd graduation class. As can be seen in the chronological records of the Prefectural Middle School as well as in newspaper articles, karate had been introduced as a compulsory subject of physical education in the Prefectural Middle School in the year of Tokuda’s entrance, so he became acquainted with it for a period of five years. After graduation from the Prefectural Middle School he matriculated in the evening course of the Normal School (teacher college), which was a one year course to become a primary school teacher. There he was also a member of the Normal School karate club and also received instruction in karate until his graduation in 1911.

During the six years from 1905 to 1911, Tokuda received instruction from Itosu Ankō. He is therefore a contemporary witness of the invention of school karate by Itosu Ankō.

Well, the introduction and spread of karate to mainland Japan is usually dated to have begun with Funakoshi Gichin’s demonstration at the 1st Physical Education Exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education in 1922. However, according to a memorandum by above mentioned Tokuda Antei, karate had already been introduced in 1908 at the Kyōto Butokuden.

Tokuda Antei’s Memorandum

Miscellaneous thoughts on karate.

By Tokuda Antei

My memories are numerous, but I would like to mention mainly those about physical training. During my school years, karatejūdōsumō and the like were performed for the first time. Karate began with both Hanashiro and Yabu senseis and about twenty volunteer students. Practice took place inside the grounds of the Okinawa Ginko Bank, on the remains of the former National Academy (Kokugaku) of Ryūkyū in Shuri Tōnokura. Practice commenced with techniques such as the fundamental Naihanchi. Occasionally we went to the house of venerable old man Higaonna [Kanryō] in Naha, where we practiced Sanchin, and later we welcomed venerable old man Itosu at school and received instruction. Moreover, during times of physical exercises (taiso), karate was also adopted and in this way the so-called “physical exercise karate” (karate-taisō) was born. Later, team or individual kumite was demonstrated at athletic meets and the like. I also coached as an assistant instructor. During the summer lecture meetings at venerable old man Itosu’s home, with Hanashiro sensei as the initiator, and Yabu, Funakoshi and other warriors (bujin), all sorts of performances were seen performed. Staff members also increased more and more and I remember Kuniyoshi Seikun and Taira Kana, both from Naha, as well as others. At times me and Kanemoto Seijin visited Yamannī Usumē (i.e. venerable old man Chinen Sanrā) from Shuri Kinjō, venerable old man Kiyuna from Tamaudun as well as other warriors (bujin). As a result we received a lot of answers and corrections to our questions. Every time inspectors of the school and prefectural offices appeared, staff members performed and tried to introduce karate to them. If I remember correctly it was in my 5th year at middle school [i.e. in 1910] when famous rear admiral Yashiro [Rokurō, 1860–1930, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and Navy Minister] visited our school and he was astonished by our amazingly developed physique and he said that at some point in the future he will try to have it [karate] adopted by the central government. When I participated as a jūdō athlete at the Butokuden [in 1908] I also performed school karate in front of Kanō Jigorō sensei and answered several of his questions. […] Venerable old man Itosu always said to me “Your remarkable progress in jūdō is due to your karate!” [the remainder was omitted]

The above memorandum was published in the magazine “Yōshū”, published in 1961 on occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Shuri (Senior) High School.


Note: The above is an adaption of text and research written and published by Kinjo Hiroshi in “Karate1 kare Karate2 made”.

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Comments Off on Tokuda Antei’s Memorandum