Motobu Chōki: “My Art and Skill of Karate” (1932)

The book “My Art and Skill of Karate” presents the technical knowledge and original accounts imparted by famed Okinawa karate master Motobu Chōki (1870-1944). This translation was created in close cooperation with the author’s grandson, Motobu Naoki sensei. It also includes a congratulatory address by the author’s son, Motobu Chōsei sensei, the current head of the school. Moreover, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Motobu Chōki’s birth. In other words, three generations of the Motobu family were involved in this new translation, connecting the history and tradition of karate from the 19th to 21th century.

Print edition:  US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | JP | CA

Kindle edition:  US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

(Note: The Kindle version does not include the glossary index and only a rudimentary TOC, so navigation is less reader-friendly than in the print version)

In addition to accounts about old-time karate masters in Okinawa, the work features thirty-four photos of Motobu performing Naihanchi Shodan, including written descriptions. Moreover, it includes twenty kumite with pictures and descriptions as well as five pictures of how to use the makiwara.

What makes it even more unique is that the existence of the book was unknown until the 1980s, when the wife of a deceased student sent the book to Motobu Chōki’s son, Chōsei. Until today this edition remains the only known original edition in existence, and it provided the basis for this original translation. This work has to be considered one of the most important sources to assess and interpret karate.

Motobu Chōki: “My Art and Skill of Karate” (2020)

My Art and Skill of Karate (Ryukyu Bugei Book 3), by Choki Motobu (Author), Andreas Quast (Tr./Ed.), Motobu Naoki (Tr.)

  • 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Black & White on white paper
  • 232 pages
  • First Printing: 2020
  • ISBN: 979-8601364751

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Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son

BookCoverPreviewsmTroubled about the future of his only son and heir, a royal government official of the Ryukyu Kingdom wrote down his ‘Instructions’ as a code of practice for all affairs. Written in flowing, elegant Japanese, he refers to a wide spectrum of artistic accomplishments that the royal government officials were ought to study in those days, such as court etiquette, literature and poetry, music, calligraphy, the tea ceremony and so on.

The author, who achieved a remarkable skill level in wielding both the pen and the sword, also informs us about various martial arts practiced in those days. Translated from Japanese for the first time, from centuries-long puzzling seclusion the state of affairs surrounding an 18th century Okinawan samurai vividly resurrects in what is considered ‘Okinawa’s most distinguished literature.’

Print edition: US | CA | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | JP

Kindle edition: US | UKDE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

Table of Contents

Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son. By Aka/Ōta Pēchin Chokushiki (auth.), Andreas Quast (ed./transl.), Motobu Naoki (transl.).

  • 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Black & White on Cream paper
  • 218 pages
  • First Printing: 2018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1985331037
  • ISBN-10: 1985331039

Translated from Japanese for the first time!

“I think it is epoch-making that Quast sensei decided to translate the ‘Testament of Aka Pēchin Chokushiki,’ and not one of the famous historical or literary works such as the Chūzan Seikan or the Omoro Sōshi. … I believe this translation has significant implications for the future study of karate history and Ryūkyū history abroad. (Motobu Naoki, Shihan of the Motobu-ryū)

“It is one of THE most important primary sources for truly understanding the unabridged history of our arts first hand by a member of the very class of people who spawned Karate in the first place!” (Joe Swift, Karateologist, Tokyo-based)

“I highly recommend this new work by Andi Quast … as a MUST BUY book …” ( Patrick McCarthy, foremost western authority of Okinawan martial arts, modern and antique, anywhere he roams)

“I’m sure I’m going to learn and enjoy this book.” (Itzik Cohen, karate and kobudo man from Israel)

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Oni Oshiro

BookCoverPreviewIn the era of Old Ryukyu, a legendary warrior of Okinawan martial arts appeared on the center stage of the historical theatre. Due to his unique appearance and powerful physique—reminiscent of a wolf or a tiger—the people of that time called him Oni Ōshiro, or «Ōshiro the Demon.»

Also known as Uni Ufugushiku in the Okinawan pronunciation of his name, he had been variously described as the originator of the original Okinawan martial art «Ti» as well as the actual ancestor of a number of famous Okinawan karate masters, such as Mabuni Kenwa and others.

This is his narrative. Gleaned from the few primary sources available, which for the first time are presented here in the English language, the original heroic flavor of the source texts was kept intact.

«I invoke the Gods, To quake heaven and earth, To let the firmament resound, And to rescue the divine woman—Momoto Fumiagari.»

Get your copy now: US ►CA ►UK ►DE ►FR ►ES ►IT

5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
94 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1533486219 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1533486212
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

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Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts

by Andreas Quast

This is the true story of the seven virtues of martial arts as described by Matsumura Sokon. Considered the primary source-text of old-style Okinawan martial arts, the “Seven Virtues” are admired for their straightforward advice. Handwritten in the late 19th century by Matsumura, the most celebrated ancestor of karate, they are considered the ethical fountain and technical key to understand what can’t be seen.

This work includes the rare photograph of the original handwritten scroll, approved by the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum as well as the owner of the scroll. It also shows the family crest of the Matsumura family, sporting the character of “Bu.”

Get your copy now: USUKDEFRESITJPCA

Matsumura himself pointed out that the “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts” were praised by a wise man in an ancient manuscript, a manuscript that has remained obscure ever since. Now the ultimate source of this wondrous composition has been discovered and verified. Presented and explained here for the first time, it is not only the source of Matsumura’s “Seven Virtues of Martial Arts”… In fact, it is the original meaning of martial arts per se.

  • 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
  • Black & White on Cream paper
  • 80 pages
  • ISBN-13: 979-8605143611
  • BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense

Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts. By Andreas Quast, 2020.

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A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History Paperback – May 15, 2015

by Andreas Quast (Author)

Paperback edition: available at Amazon US ($14.99), Amazon UK (£9.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 14.97), CreateSpace eStore ($14.99), and at online and offline bookstores and retailers, as well as via public libraries and libraries at other academic institutions.

Kindle edition also availableUSUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

Based on his acclaimed previous studies, the author here presents a synopsis of the development of Ryukyu martial arts. The events described herein are all real, that is, they are all historical. Strolling along the chronology of martial arts of Ryukyu provenance, a large number of verified events are not only detailed, but also decorated with dozens of precious illustrations. As such “A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History” is for martial arts practitioners as much as it is for aficionados of history and Asia. It simply provides a pristine ground to stand on for the practitioner who wishes to understand the primordial origins of Ryukyu martial arts.

  • For those who read “Karate 1.0”: this new book here is a synopsis of Karate 1.0 plus the “chronology (Part VII)” without significant changes. It is an easier read without all the reasoning and footnotes, but instead with nearly 80 illustrations to make it more suitable for the general public, and not only academic people.

Among the unique information that cannot be found anywhere else are also some of the illustrations. For instance, there is only one picture scroll that shows the Chinese investiture envoys (sapposhi) and their military retinue. Here, for the first time you might see how famous Kusanku actually might have looked like.

Product Details (Paperback edition)

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1512229423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1512229424
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.4 x 9.7 inches

Cover

Cover

Available at Amazon US ($19.99), Amazon UK (£12.79), Amazon Germany (EUR 19,25 ), CreateSpace eStore ($19.99)

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Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art

OUT OF PRINT!

The most comprehensive study on the parameters of primordial Karate, this work intrigues readers with rich detail and insights into these ancient combat traditions, the pride of Okinawa.

KARATE 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art. Düsseldorf 2013, by Andreas Quast.

cover (4)

Karate 1.0 front cover

  • Pages: xxvii, 502 pp.
  • Language: English.
  • Hardcover binding in green linen material with gold foil stamping, size 8.25″ x 10.75″ (20.95cm x 27.31cm).
  • Full-color dust jacket in matte finish.
  • Inside: black and white printing on cream archival paper (60# weight). White exterior paper (80# weight).
  • Forewords by Patrick McCarthy, Miguel Da Luz, Cezar Borkowski, Jesse Enkamp, Dr. Julian Braun, Soke Leif Hermansson, and Dr. phil. Heiko Bittmann.
  • All copies ship from the United States.
  • Price: $75.00.

Only the highest quality both in content and production: get it now from Lulu.com!

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Shōrin and Shōrei – Lost in Translation

I would like to turn attention towards the terms pronounced in Japanese as Shōrin and Shōrei. In short: The whole story of Shōrin and Shōrei as the original schools of karate were possibly just a communication error.

To get started, you first should know that the Higa Seikō manuscript of the Bubishi is the oldest handwritten edition still extant. Within the twenty-nine articles verified for this edition, each of the two terms Shōrin-ji and Shōrei-ji appears only once.

Shōrin-ji 邵林寺 appears only in the “Four Incurable Diseases” (Article 18). The passage in question says:

“This practice and medical implications were handed down from the Shōrin-ji to this day. Kenpō and medical implications must be constantly studied and reviewed and proficiency in both must become skillful.”

Shōrei-ji 邵霊寺 appears only in “Shaolin Herbal Medicine and Injuries Diagram” (Article 25). The part in question translated to:

“This person carries remedies for the other person to heal. This tradition of Shōrei-ji ended (=does not exist anymore).”

In both these descriptions appears a Chinese character which could be read in Japanese as “ryū,” i.e., in sense of a martial art style in the form of so-and-so-ryū. However, there is no way to explain the semantics of these two expressions in this way. In the above given connection, Shōrin-ji and Shōrei-ji refer to temples or other institutions that taught medicine. It is said that the place called Shōrin also taught Kenpō (empty-handed martial arts), but no such thing was mentioned for the place called Shōrei-ji, which instead is said to have ended, meaning, at that time it already didn’t exist anmore.

However, martial artists naturally assumed that Shōrin and Shōrei must refer to the Northern and the Southern Shaolin temple. But the characters used in the Bubishi’s notation of Shōrin and Shōrei are very specific, are found nowhere else, and simply do not match the notation of “Shaolin.” In other words, the entries Shōrin and Shōrei neither referred to a martial art style in sense of a so-and-so-ryū, nor do they match with the notation of Shaolin. Also, the place called “Shōrei” simply never existed in China.

Next, in Itosu Ankō’s “10 Maxims of Karate” of 1908, he clearly stated that

“A long time ago the two schools called Shōrin-ryū and Shōrei-ryū were imported from China.”

The characters Itosu uses here are the same as in the above mentioned Bubishi, with the exception of the respective first characters. These still match 67% in writing and 100% in Japanese pronunciation. This discrepancy had been the reason for much cogitation ever since and in fact has never been solved. I want to circumvent another discussion about the characters used by Itosu and instead follow a working hypothesis pointed out by Matsuda Masashi:

“It seems they [Shōrin and Shōrei] have been confused since they sound very similar. Such misrepresentations are found in many other cases and are not uncommon.”

The important point here is a different one. Namely that Itosu unambiguously referred to both Shōrin and Shōrei as a ryū (a style, a school) in sense of martial arts styles.

It is more than questionable to believe that Itosu simply used his characters for Shōrin to phonetically resemble Shaolin, and Shōrei for some other place. The whereabouts of the original Itosu manuscript are unknown. Mabuni in 1934 only printed eleven articles from his Itosu copy. In addition, notwithstanding the existence of the Konishi Yasuhiro (A) mansucript, so far, no proof could be established that more than these eleven articles of Itosu were handed down. Mabuni 1934 uses Shōrin and Shorei in three articles (18, 20, and and 32), two of which are not part of the twenty-nine articles of the Miyagi lineage Bubishi (20 and 32). The Miyagi lineage Bubishi on the other hand uses Shōrin and Shorei in only two articles (18 and 25), one of which could hitherto not be verified for the Itosu Bubishi (25). Therefore, the only matching article of the Bubishi is the “Four Incurable Diseases” (Article 18). It might be no surprise that Mabuni uses the same notation as Itosu in 1908, i.e., Shōrin-ryū 昭林寺 and that Miyagi uses the slightly different notation as Shōrin-ryū 邵林寺. According to this sole evidence for comparison it must be assumed that Itosu referred to the same Shōrin-ryū – and therefore also the same Shōrei-ryū – as have been handed down with the Bubishi.

In other words, the characters for Shōrin and Shōrei as used by Itosu in 1908 originated in the Bubishi, while at the same time Itosu was the only one who explicitly used them both to refer to a style of martial arts. But this is contrary to the wording as found in the Bubishi, which stated that Shōrei already ended (does not exist anymore). Quite on the contrary, it seems to have been a misinterpretation of the classical Chinese text.

Although Itosu didn’t further elaborate on the meaning of Shōrin-ryū and Shōrei-ryū, Funakoshi Gichin mentioned Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū already in 1913, stating:

“As far as this is concerned, since ancient times it [karate] has been divided into two branches called Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. The first is a school that places emphasis on the body [tai], and the latter one is that emphasizes the method [jutsu]. Waishinsan belongs to the former and Iwā belongs to the last. Waishinsan is a wild, fat-bodied warrior, and Iwā is a quick-witted, lively and accomplished man with a slim body. Naha draws from the Shōrei-ryū, and Shuri enters the Shōrin-ryū.”

But one year later, in 1914, Funakoshi states that

“The styles of karate are the two kinds of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. As regards the first […], the military officer Ason belonged to this genre. As regards the latter […], the military officer Waishinzan belonged to this genre.”

You see, in 1913, Funakoshi stated that Waishinzan was of Shōrei-ryū, and Iwā belongs to Shōrin-ryū. One year later, Funakoshi stated that Ason belonged to Shōrei-ryū, while Waishinzan belonged to Shōrin-ryū. In other words, already in his first notes on the matter he confused the “styles” with the related persons.

While it might be considered reasonable that Qing military officers had some knowledge of Shaolin martial arts, you should note that it was Itosu himself who clearly stated that “Karate did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism.” The Northern and the Southern Shaolin temples were Buddhist temples. According to this, Itosu’s use of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū would not have referred to the Shaolin. It is simply inconsistent.

On top of that, Funakoshi in this article used another previously variant of notation for the prefix shō, namely 照.

In his publications of 1922, 1925, and 1935, Funakoshi assigned a total of 15 kata to both the styles of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. Namely, in 1922 he assigned eight kata to Shōrei-ryū, and seven kata to Shōrin-ryū. 1925 two changes of assignment were made (Chintō and Jitte), and in 1935 two more changes (Wanshū and again Jitte). Funakoshi implemented this division of kata although he himself already in 1914 has pointed out that Chintō and Jitte were neither taught by Ason nor Waishinzan, but by a Vietnamese from Fuzhou who was washed ashore in Tomari.” Furthermore, he even assigned the five Pinan to Shōrin-ryū, and Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan to Shōrei-ryū, although these have been created only recently by Itosu Ankō, and not had been “handed down from China a long time ago.” The number of contradictions here is astonishing.

In 1934, Mabuni Kenwa attached the explanation “Shōrei-ji-ryū” to his chapter “Hand and Foot, Muscle and Bone Training Postures” As I have pointed out elsewhere, the persons depicted in this article very likely were either a Taoist priest and disciples, or even a Ryūkyūan teacher with disciples. As Mabuni copied this document from Itosu, and as Funakoshi noted that “the military officer Ason belonged to this genre” of Shōrei-ryū, and as further the twenty-nine verified articles of the Higa Seikō manuscript do not contain this specific article, it would mean that the theory of both Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū as martial arts styles were limited to the Itosu lineage.

According to the above, while the origin of the specific combination and characteristics of the terms Shōrin and Shōrei have been verified only in the Bubishi and in Itosu’s 1908 letter, and while only the Itosu lineage manuscripts of Mabuni Kenwa use these designations in sense of a style, no such interpretation can be derived from the comparative analysis of the Miyagi lineage Bubishi. The only thing that could be verified from the Itosu lineage Bubishi is the article marked as Shōrei-ryū, namely “Hand and Foot, Muscle and Bone Training Postures.” Again, this means that the theory of both Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū as martial arts styles were limited to the Itosu lineage and were probably related to exactly this article.

In any case, Shōrin and Shōrei became designations in the first attempt to classify various kinds of karate into styles as understood by the Japanese. The names Shōrin and Shōrei are found in the text of the Bubishi as well as in Itosu’s 1908 letter. It might even be that Itosu’s students subsequently added the specific meaning of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū to it, by attributing it to Chinese military officers Ason and Waishinzan in Funakoshi’s case, and by adding these two designations to the articles of the Bubishi in Mabuni’s case. Again, no such relation can be found in any of the other lineages of the Bubishi editions.

That is, these are historical allusions, or even allusions to records that originated in the teachings of the two military officers Ason and Waishinzan which might have entered the specific Bubishi lineage of the Itosu collection. One such fragment might have been the article “Hand and Foot, Muscle and Bone Training Postures,” which was specified as Shōrei-ji-ryū by Itosu’s student Mabuni.

The otherwise nonexistent original notations of Shōrin as found in the Bubishi as well as in Itosu’s writings were maintained by Funakoshi until 1922. Since his 1925 publication he changed it to Shōrin-ryū (sukunai hayashi-ryū /shōbayashi-ryū), thus changing it to the correct Japanese rendition of “Shaolin style.” A few years later, with one brush stroke less and probably a similar reference in mind, Chibana Chōshin named his style Shōrin-ryū (kobayashi-ryū).

Besides this nomenclatural glitch as described above, all would be good. Except…

An eight-part article series from March 1915 was called “The Heroic Tales of Itosu – Master of Shōrei-ryū.” It therefore makes little sense to refer to a school coming largely from Itosu’s or similar traditions as Shōrin-ryū. But this might simply be due to Funakoshi, who hypothesized Shōrei-ryū as being more the style prevalent in Naha, and Shōrin-ryū to be more prevalent in Shuri:

“When we look at what pupils and the like of the middle schools do today in our Okinawa, then they often train in Shōrei-ryū in Naha and in Shuri they often train Shōrin-ryū.”

From the above quote we see that Funakoshi talks about middle school pupils doing karate. From this and the date of the article we can clearly see that he talks about the timeframe from about 1905 to 1914, that is the early time of what I refer to as “conscription-agers karate.” While it seems that Funakoshi fumbled to provide a somewhat logical explanation, and while he associated Shōrin-ryū with Shuri and Shōrei-ryū with Naha during the early days of school karate, his failed attempt of a categorization later led to the equation of Shōrin-ryū with Shuri-te, and of Shōrei-ryū with Naha-te.

In the Bubishi as both a creation and a creator of modern karate we find these ideas picked up and perpetuated in Mabuni’s 1934 publication. In fact, this fallacy was never cleared up and continued to this day. As an example, Mabuni Ken’ei (1918–), oldest son of Mabuni Kenwa and the 2nd Sōke of Shitō-ryū, published “Karate-dō Kyōhan” in 1968. In its appendix were published two articles from the Bubishi. These were referred to by Mabuni Ken’ei as:

  • 1. Shōrei-ji-ryū Kenpō no Kamae (The Postures of Shōrei-ji-ryū Kenpō),
  • 2. Shōrei-ji-ryū Kenpō no Kumite (The Fighting Applications of Shōrei-ji-ryū Kenpō).

Above number 1 are the consecutive numbers 1 through 26 from the article “Shaolin Hand and Foot, Muscle and Bone Training Postures (of the Shōrei-ji-ryū)” as found in his father’s 1934 book.

Above number 2 are the consecutive numbers 3 through 28 from the Self-Defense Diagrams of his father’s 1934 book. So Mabuni Ken’ei here added one more previously unassigned portion of the Bubishi to the category of Shōrei-ji-ryū, namely the two-person self-defense diagrams.

Isn’t it also interesting that Itosu within his newly created framework of karate ignored the myriad of other martial arts lineages and “styles” on the island? There are no Naha-te kata in his curriculum, no Ryū’ei-ryū, no Sai-, Tei-, or Mō-family martial arts and no kobudō. While borrowing and modifying fragments of regional empty-handed martial arts from Shuri, he created something completely new, most probably even the terms of Shōrin-ryū and Shōrei-ryū in the meaning of martial arts styles, claiming that “karate” is based on exactly these two, which ever since have remained phantoms, inventions, and euphemisms which at the same time refer to and blur their own historical allusion. Furthermore, by his selection and creation he explicitly established the idea of karate as a historically empty-handed martial art, which has been considered face value ever since and which has become the core understanding of karate. Already Funakoshi used a different kata framework than Itosu, deliberately changing orders and even names of kata, while at the same time still referring to Shōrin-ryū and Shōrei-ryū in Itosu’s sense as the source of karate.

At this point, a sketch of the lasting confusion resulting from the era of modern karate’s labor pains and their recoil on its technical interpretation become recognizable.

BIBLIO

Kinjō 2011: 44.

Uechi 1977: 225. The original source referred to here is: Matsuda 1972.

Shōtō (Funakoshi Gichin): Karate wa Bugei no Kotsuzui nari (Karate is the Bone Marrow of Martial Arts). Ryūkyū Shinpō, January 9, 1913.

Shōtō (Funakoshi Gichin): Okinawa no Bugi (Part II). January 18, 1914. He repeated this in 1922 and 1925, saying “there are only the two schools of Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū,” see Funakoshi 1922/25: 5-6.

Shōtō (=Funakoshi Gichin): Okinawa no Bugi (Part II). January 18, 1914.

McCarthy, Article 32. “Shaolin Hand and Foot, Muscle and Bone Training Postures.”

Funakoshi 1922/25: 4. Funakoshi 1935: 10.

Nakayoshi Shinkō: Itosu Buyū-den – Shōrei-ryū no Meijin. Ryūkyū Shinpō, March 15–28,  1915. 仲吉真光:糸洲武勇傳 昭霊流の名人、(1)~(8)。琉球新報 1915。

Shōtō (=Funakoshi Gichin): Okinawa no Bugi (Part II). January 18, 1914.

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The Karate and Kobujutsu demonstrations for Kano Jigoro in 1927

Yesterday, Motobu Naoki Sensei presented new research about Kanō Jigorō’s visit to Okinawa in 1927, and the karate demonstrations presented to him. In it appears a part of an article originally written by Ishikawa Seitoku of Shōrin-ryū in 1999:

“Director Ishikawa: (omission) Kanō Jigorō Sensei had already seen Funakoshi Sensei’s karate in Tōkyō, but since he was coming to Okinawa, Motobu Sensei and Gusukuma Sensei decided they had to show him the karate of Okinawa. Therefore, they summoned Shimabukuro Tarō, a fourth-year student at the Commercial High School (in Naha), and with permission of the school, they had him demonstrate (the kata) Chintō.”

In the meantime, another source could be assigned to this event.

When I lived at the Kōdōkan dōjō of Matsubayashi-ryū, Nagamine Takayoshi Sensei allowed me to study the books and notes in his father’s study. Among the many works was a handwritten notebook by Nagamine Shōshin. In it, there is a short entry on Kanō Jigorō’s visit in 1927:

“Around Taishō 14 (1925), the Karate and Kobujutsu of Okinawan were introduced to Kanō Jigorō Sensei of Jūdō. The people who performed for him at that time were Motobu Chōki, Gusukuma Shinpan, Chibana Chōshin, Shimabukuro Tarō, and Ōshiro Chōjo.”

The date 1925 is not correct, but this entry can only refer to the same events of 1927. It is the same story as that of Ishikawa Seitoku presented above.

The entry in the Nagamine handbook.

Both sources name the same four people to have performed in front of Kanō Jigorō, namely Motobu Chōki, Gusukuma Shinpan, Shimabukuro Tarō, and Ōshiro Chōjo.

Besides these, Nagamine also mentioned Chibana Chōshin. However, if Chibana Sensei really performed in front of Kanō Jigorō, then Kobayashi-ryū circles would have made this known. Therefore, the mention of Chibana in this connection might have been an error. Maybe more information will come to light in the future.

BTW, Ishikawa Seitoku was designated “Intangible Cultural Property in the Field of Karate and Kobudo” by Okinawa Prefecture in 2013 and he was in very good terms with Nagamine Shōshin. In fact, Nagamine was the first ever person to have received this same honor in 1997. In 1996, Ishikawa appointed Nagamine as a consultant of his Okinawa Shōrin-ryū Karatedō Ryūbukan Headquarter dōjō. Moreover, not only was Nagamine close to Shimabukuro Tarō, but Ishikawa was also a student of Shimabukuro.

In January 1927, Nagamine was still at the Naha Commercial School, as was Shimabukuro Tarō, and they trained together. There was probably a lot of talk about Shimabukuro’s demonstration and the school, proud that one of their students demonstrated Karate for the great educator Kanō, probably announced it publicly.

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Nagamine Shōshin and Shimabukuro Tarō

There is some confusion as to when Nagamine Shōshin began training in karate under his various sensei. Let’s check the timeline.

It is believed that Nagamine Shōshin entered Tomari Elementary School in April 1914. This is for the following reasons. Nagamine himself wrote,

“When I was in the third grade of Tomari Elementary School, the Naha Ward Elementary Schools Joint Athletic Meet was held at Onoyama Park. At that time, [Funakoshi] Gichin Sensei was teaching at Tomari Elementary School and we schoolboys of 3rd grade and up were taught Naihanchi and Pinan and had a martial arts group performance with more than 200 people. I remember it as if it was yesterday.”

This Athletic Meet took place on November 13, 1916, as reported in the Ryūkyū Shinpō. At that time, Nagamine would have been in his 3rd grade (April 1916 – March 1917). This is confirmed by a photo I was able to take at the Kōdōkan Nagamine Dōjō on May 12, 2009. It is a photo named the “1920 Tomari Elementary School Graduation Alumni Association.” Therefore, there can be no doubt that Nagamine entered Tomari Elementary School in April 1914, and graduated six years later in 1920.

The education system at that time was complicated and there were various routes of education (Shillony 1986: 769-787; MEXT, data for 1908 and 1919). As shown above, Nagamine completed the compulsory 6-year elementary school in March 1920. This was obviously followed by a 2-year preparatory course for commercial school (compare MEXT, data for 1919), which would have lasted from April 1920 to March 1922.

However, in his second year at (the Preparatory Course for) Naha Commercial School (i.e. 1921-22), he became sick:

“When I was in my second year of [the Preparatory Course for] Naha Commercial School, I suffered from gastrointestinal disorder and was confined to sickbed for more than a year. My complexion was also pale and my weakness was so severe that my school friend misunderstood it as me having pulmonary tuberculosis and were wary of approaching me. At that time, tuberculosis was an incurable disease. I was silently treated by a physician, but it didn’t seem to be effective, so I decided to give up my medicine and concentrate on my diet.”

His “second year of [the Preparatory Course for] Naha Commercial School” would refer to either April–December 1921 or January–March 1922 when he became sick. Or did he just need an excuse to train karate? Anyhow, Nagamine mentioned the year 1923:

“Besides that, as a more non-serious matter, I began to receive instruction in the basics of karate. Elder Kuba Chōjin, who was doing karate in the neighborhood, taught me in the garden of his house. This was in the summer of my 17th year, in the 12th year of the Taishō era (1923).”

Nagamine was in his “17th year,” i.e., he was 16 years old at that time, that is, between July 1923 and July 1924.

In other words, he “lost” at least one school year due to illness – or, you could say he won at least one karate year. That means, it seems that he graduated from preparatory school in 1924. Afterwards he would have attended the regular 3-year-course of Commercial School, from April 1924 to March 1927.

At that time, famous karate expert Shimabukuro Tarō from Shuri was also at Naha Commercial School. Nagamine remembered,  

“When I asked him if he could teach me karate, he kindly agreed. Since then, when school was over, I would travel the about four kilometers one way to Shuri on a daily basis.”

Accordingly, Nagamine began his study with Shimabukuro around 1924, with some tolerance towards 1925.

So far, so good. In an article by Motobu Naoki Sensei, the following is said about Shimabukuro Tarō:

“Motobu Sensei and Gusukuma Sensei decided they had to show him [Kanō Jigorō] the karate of Okinawa. Therefore, they summoned Shimabukuro Tarō, a fourth-year student at the Commercial School (in Naha), and with permission of the school, they had him demonstrate (the kata) Chintō.”

This took place in January 1927. Since Shimabukuro is said to have been in his fourth year, he must have entered Naha Commercial School in April 1923, i.e, one year prior to Nagamine. One remaining issue here is that the MEXT data for 1919 shows that 3 years were stipulated for commercial schools. Was Okinawan Commercial School a four year term?

Nagamine was drafted at the age of 20 and successfully passed the physical examination as a grade-one-conscript. That means, he must have been drafted between July 1927 and July 1928. According to Yanagihara (2020), Nagamine is considered to have joined the 47th Infantry Regiment in Oita in the winter of 1927 “when he was still in Naha Commercial High School.” This in turn would mean that either Nagamine entered commercial a year later than previously thought, i.e. he entered in 1924, or, what seems also likely, there was in fact a fourth year at commercial school in Naha.

The point here is that Nagamine Shōshin studied karate with Shimabukuro Tarō since either 1924 or 1925. Summoned by Motobu Chōki and Gusukuma Shinpan, Shimabukuro performed Chintō in front of Kanō Jigorō in January 1927. It has therefore to be considered one of the oldest proven traditions of Chintō in Okinawa.

Just to clarify the magnitute of this tradition, the teaching of this Chintō is at least as follows:

  • Kyan Chōtoku taught Arakaki Ankichi
  • Arakaki Ankichi taught Shimabukuro Tarō
  • Kyan Chōtoku taught Shimabukuro Tarō
  • Shimabukuro Tarō taught Nagamine Shōshin
  • Arakaki Ankichi taught Nagamine Shōshin
  • Kyan Chōtoku taught Nagamine Shōshin
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The Tsuki-fication of Bojutsu

Old-style Shūshi no Kon

The earliest description of a bōjutsu kata in text and illustration is that of Shūshi no Kon. It was learned on Okinawa by Miki Jisaburō and published in 1930. In this description, there are no tsuki done following the shōmen-uchi in descriptions No. 7, 13, 16, and 19. Instead, following the front strike, the description continues by saying “Now the bō is being screwed, and the opponent’s weapon thus placed aside.” The movement is described in Japanese as nejiru ねじる, i.e. 捩じる, to screw; to twist. It is a defensive movement and a terminological forerunner of today’s chūdan-uke (or uchi-uke, soto-uke, depending on the school). This is an example of the development of kobudō terminology, but I digress.

The same kata has been presented as Shūshi no Kon (Koshiki) in Volume 3 of Ryūkyū Kobudō by Inoue Motokatsu (1974). There are also no tsuki at the corresponding positions.

Contrary to the above, the same kata in the Shimbukan school of Akamine Hiroshi sensei has tsuki at each of these positions. Since there are different versions of this kata, this version is explicitly called Koryū Shūshi no Kun, i.e. old-style.

In short, the use of tsuki is one striking difference between the above mentioned versions.

Shūshi no Kon Shō

There is an old video of Taira Shinken doing Shūshi no Kon Shō. The video was published by Devorah Dometrich. In this video, at three points in the kata following a shōmen-uchi, Taira does not perform a tsuki, but instead immediately performs uchi-uke. Looking up Shūshi no Kon Shō in Volume 1 of Ryūkyū Kobudō by Inoue Motokatsu (1972), there are also no tsuki, but immediately uchi-uke. You can also easily google the kata and see for yourself.

In the Taira-Akamine lineage, on the other hand, there are tsuki done at each of these three positions.

So, is there a pattern?

Shūshi no Kon Dai

In 1964, Taira Shinken described Shūshi no Kon Dai with text and photos in a book. There is also an old video of him doing the kata published by Devorah Dometrich and it has the same details as his 1964 description. We see the same kata details in the version of the Taira-Inoue-lineage in writing and photo (1972) and in various videos online, as well as in the version of the Taira-Hayashi-lineage, and the version of the Taira-Sakagami-lineage.

All of these direct students of Taira Shinken do not perform a tsuki following the shōmen-uchi in most cases.

In the Taira-Akamine-lineage, on the other hand, there are many tsuki done following the shōmen-uchi. In fact, in Taira-Akamine-lineage, the kata has six more tsuki than all the others, including the one by Taira himself.

As a side note, the two thrusts in the kata by Taira are sliding thrusts (nuki-zuki), while Taira-Akamine-lineage here does a standard (non-sliding) thrust.

So, obviously, there is a pattern.

Sakugawa no Kon Shō and Dai

Looking further, while the above is true to a lesser degree in case of Sakugawa no Kon Shō, it becomes cristal-clear in Sakugawa no Kon Dai: The kata performed by Taira and many of his direct students has almost no tsuki after shōmen-uchi. But Taira-Akamine-lineage does tsuki after each shōmen-uchi.

Conclusion

To make my point, I have here used the examples of the first kata to be learned in Taira lineage Kobudō. There are more examples but this is sufficient to show the pattern. From that, obviously a “tsuki-fication” of Taira lineage bōjutsu in Okinawa took place during the 2nd half of the 20th century. Someone at some point in time added a lot of tsuki to the Taira kata on Okinawa and today this has become the accepted standard.

As with most small knowledge gains and insights, you never really know where you get with it, if anywhere. With the point being made, however, as a next step it would be interesting to hear some expert opinions and finally find out more details such as the when and why.

In the video below I show some examples from Shushi and Sakugawa for you to see. It is always : 1. Non tsuki version. 2. Tsuki version.

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10 Basic Techniques of Bojutsu performed by Yonamine Kosuke in 1982

In this video, Yonamine Kosuke performs 10 basic techniques of the bo. As can be seen, these 10 bo basics were already a part of the syllabus at that time within that kobudo association (Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai) in 1982. I don’t know exactly when they were created but guess it was around that time. They are still practiced today in the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai (led by Kuniyoshi Sensei), the Shimbukan (Akamine Hiroshi Sensei), the Tesshinkan (Tamayose Hidemi) and probably others and possibly with slight variations. They are used to convey the principles of bojutsu as a foundation for the kata and so they are important for beginners to get the “style sheet” of the specific school.

The techniques are found in the bo kata of Taira lineage. However, on a closer look, many of the techniques and combinations are just variations of what is found in kata. For this reason, you cannot teach kata moves by just saying “Oh, just do it as in Kihon No. 10.” I don’t know the reason for this. The Jodan-ura-uchi preceding every Shomen-uchi in kata is such an example. I wrote about it here. Yonamine still does it in a very pronounced way, but it has since been watered down and is has been treated as a mere kamae in the bo kihon (except in No 8). This obviously reflected back into kata, and so the change of the basic technique lead to the change of the kata. All kata. This is an actual example of how and why kata actually change…. And it is an example of the “style sheet” issue that I wrote about here.

Notwithstanding these little issues, this is a good set of bo basics.

Note 1: All techniques start from Chudan-kamae

  • 1. Shomen-uchi in Shiko-dachi
  • 2. Chudan-zuki in Shiko-dachi
  • 3. a) Shomen-uchi in Shiko-dachi – b) Chudan-zuki in Shiko-dachi
  • 4. a) Gedan-uke in Kokutsu-dachi – b) Gedan-nuki in Kokutsu-dachi – c) Gedan-barai in Shiko-dachi – d) Shomen-uchi in Shiko-dachi
  • 5. a) Jodan-nuki in Zenkutsu-dachi – b) Chudan-zuki in Shiko-dachi
  • 6. a) Chudan-ura-uchi in Shiko-dachi – b) Chudan-yoko-uchi in Shiko-dachi
  • 7. a) r. Chudan-gyaku-yoko-uchi in Zenkutsu-dachi – b) l. Chudan-gyaku-yoko-uchi in Zenkutsu-dachi
  • 8. Shiko (four attackes): a) Age-uchi in Zenkutsu-dachi – b) Kaeshi-uchi in Kokutsu-dachi – c) Jodan-ura-uchi in Neko-ashi-dachi – d) Shomen-uchi in Shiko-dachi
  • 9. Reverse grip: a) Chudan-uchi in Shiko-dachi – b) Chudan-zuki in Shiko-dachi – c) Kaeri-gyaku-mochi in Shiko-dachi – d) Chudan-tate-uke in Shiko-dachi – e) Mawashi-baraiin Shiko-dachi – f) Chudan-zuki in Shiko-dachi
  • 10 a) Jodan-ura-uke in Shiko-dachi – b) Jodan-nuki in Zenkutsu-dachi – c) Jodan-mawashi-uke in Zenkutsu-dachi d) Kaeshi-uchi in Kokutsu-dachi

As regards combinations found in kata, Nos 1, 2, and 3 are fragments found all over the kata. No 4 is eminent in Shūshi no Kun Dai and as a variety in Sakugawa no Kon Dai and Yonegawa no Kon. No 5 is not found in this combination, and also it has a Jodan-nuki, while most kata have Chudan-nuki. Moreover, the Chudan-nuki is done in six-foot-grip, not in regular grip as in kihon. No 6 is found in Shūshi no Kun Shō & Dai, Sakugawa no Kun Dai, and in Soeishi no Kun. The first two techniques of No 8 are found in Tsuken Sunakake, but there the following two techniques are completely different. No 8 is also found in Chinen Shikiynaka no Kon, but there the first technique is a Jōdan-barai, not an Age-uchi as in No 8, so here too the combination is a different one. No 9 is found in Urasoe no Kon, however, in the kata, it is done without the first tsuki. While the first two techniques of No 10 are found in Shirotaru no Kon, and the last two techniques are found in Chinen Shikiyanaka no Kon, the whole of No 10 is found nowhere in kata.

You see, complex combinations such as Nos 8, 9, and 10, you cannot be used to teach kata by just saying “Oh, just do it as in Kihon No. so-and-so.” The only kihon with more than just two techniques that is congruent with kata is kihon No. 4. Oh, wait, that is not entirely correct: Kihon No 4 ends by assuming chudan-kamae. But in kata, in which there are four instances of Kihon No 4 in Shushi no Kon Dai total, it is followed by a chudan-zuki and kamae in three instances, and by chudan-zuki and chudan-uke in one instance. No 4 is also found in Sakugawa no Kon Sho, but with a 180° turn, and in Sakugawa no Kon Dai, but as part of a longer combination, and also in Yonegawa no Kon, however – alas – in the different order of 3 – 4 – 1 – 2 and also including a 180° turn as well as once as regular Kihon No 4, followed by a chudan-zuki and kamae. Oh, and depending on the so-and-so-kan (insert name of dojo/association), some changed the kihon a little, but adaptions and improvements in Japan as well as Okinawa are veeeeery slow, that is, it takes decades to correct obvious things. Also, if kihon is not enough, usually more kihon is considered the solution.

And there you have it: These traditional 10 Bo Kihon do not coincide with kata! In this way, kihon has become an almost an separate and for sure an additional entity. It is like practicing gamuts that are not part of any song you want to learn to play. BTW, various schools continuously try to adapt and change the kihon to be more fitting, and by doing so add to the confusion.

Of course you practice techniques, you can apply them, you train the “style sheet” of the school and you do something for your fitness. BUT: How did kihon become more important then Kata? Kihon should be techniques and combinations from kata, to be able to train and optimize them separately. Or Kihon should refer to application, but alas, the 10 Bo Kihon do not only not coincide with kata, they also do not coincide with bo kumite.

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Style sheet

In my last post I mentioned how the execution and entire appearance of kata are influenced and in fact defined by the characteristics of the kihon (basics). I did so on example of the bo kihon set of Ryukyu Kobudo but this applies to karate as well. I made the point that, when changing technical characteristics emphasized in kihon, the technical characteristics of the whole kata change, too.

To illustrate the matter, I used the term “style sheet.” In other words, kihon provides a “style sheet” for a specific school or a specific sensei. Accordingly, kata change according to the habits and contents (=style) emphasized by any given chief sensei.

What I mean by the term “style sheet” is the separation of content and presentation so that any “content can be reused in many contexts and presented in various ways” and that such a style sheet can be “attached to the logical structure to produce different presentations.”

The contents emphasized in the basics are subject to many different influences. Usually, if you want to be acccepted in a school, or you want to do a grading, or you want to win a competition, you have to follow the basics defined by that school.

For example, if you take Tomari no Passai of Matsubayashi-ryu, it has a very specific style that includes footwork, body shifting, rythm, starting and end position of movements, the direction each body part travels from a to b, and so on.

Tomari no Passai of Matsubayashi-ryu

If you compare this with Tomari no Passai of Inoue-ha Shito-ryu, it is clear that it is the same kata, but simply with a different style sheet attached to it.

Tomari no Passai of Inoue-ha Shito-ryu

Of course, Tomari no Passai of Shito-ryu was borrowed from Matsubayashi-ryu long ago. In this example you can realize how style sheets work, how important they are, and that you should consider them when studying (=practicing) karate.

The next example of how to use a style sheet in basics to the kata is from Kobudo. This kata here is “Urasoe no Kon” and it is one of the highest kata taught in Okinawa Taira lineage kobudo (There is an Isshin-ryu variation of this kata, too, but I am talking about Taira – Akamine lineage!). Since it is a 7th or 8th dan kata, and kata teaching has long been neglected for the benefit of basics, most people don’t even know it. Therefore, here is a video of how it has been handed down in Taira – Akamine lineage in Okinawa:

Urasoe no Kon of Taira – Akamine lineage, old Shimbukan style sheet applied to it

The following video shows the same Urasoe no Kon of Taira – Akamine lineage. However, they applied a different style sheet of basics to it. Watch it:

Urasoe no Kon of Taira – Akamine lineage, new Yamanni style sheet applied to it

You see, it is the same kata (negligible differences). They simply applied a different style sheet.

The first video uses the old style sheet of Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan. The second video uses the style sheet of modern Yamanni-ryu (I say modern because there is also an old Yamanni style sheet. In other words, yes, Yamanni-ryu is actually just a style sheet itself). Which one do you like better, which one do you think is better for fighting, which one looks more “awesome”?

Now, this kata is “Urasoe no Kon” of Taira – Akamine lineage and it never historically existed in Yamanni-ryu. And actually almost bo and ueku kata the dojo in the second video (Fukuoka Shidokan) does are Taira lineage bojutsu kata. However, the basics (= style sheet) of modern Yamanni-ryu have been applied to them all. It is really that “simple.”

Now, what to do with all that? Well, I hope this little article provides you with a different perspective on kata, how it is performed the way it is, and why, and that you might look into your own style sheet and optimize your basics to your own advantage, and to what you believe it actually means, and so finally that you come up with your own style sheet that then shows itself in the kata.

In the end, and as I showed in the above examples, you can simply change the basics, and the result becomes something almost entirely different. In any case, you should learn the kata and its applications. Otherwise you might simply learn a format, but not the content.

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Ryukyu Kobudo — 10 Bo Kihon

These are the 10 basic techniques of the bo (bo kihon) of Shimbukan and other schools coming from Akamine Eisuke. There are three more techniques, but these are very simple and not shown here. I do these rather casual here without sweating it and without strict count.

BTW, this gym is that of my second elementary school and it is also were I trained when I first entered an athletic club, i.e. around 1974.

These 10 basic techniques of the bo define the kata performance. This is because they were part of every training at Ryukyu Kobudo Shimbukan. They were done 10 times left and 10 times right so everyone did like 100 techniques (combos) on both sides, which took quite some time an energy. They were counted, not freely done, so everyone would count 10. Usually, after bo kihon, there was a water break. I think they thought about using like only 5 techniques on each side due to the time factor – it is really time consuming.

Because there is so much time spent on kihon, there is little time for kata. Actually, each kata was done only 1 or 2 times so you can imagine the learning effect of kihon was muuuuch bigger than that of kata. In addition, the kata gets to look like the kihon. This is both good and bad at the same time.

There’s another important point: When changing the habits/style of the kihon, it then also changes the style of the kata, ain’t that right? So kihon provides the “style sheet” for the specific school or the specific sensei. Accordingly, the performance habits of these kihon techniques might change at any given time and with any given sensei. For example, you could do them in Yamanni style, and then all your kata would gradually adapt to it. In this connection, there is actually a new Yamanni-ryu that uses Taira Shinken kata but with Yamanni basics. It is an example of this effect.

It is the style sheet effect.

Here is a list of the 10 bo kihon:

 TechnikPositur
1.Shōmen-uchiShikō-dachi
2.Chūdan-zukiShikō-dachi
3.Shōmen-uchiShikō-dachi
 Chūdan-zukiShikō-dachi
4.Gedan-ukeKōkutsu-dachi
 Gedan-nukiKōkutsu-dachi
 Gedan-baraiShikō-dachi
 Shōmen-uchiShikō-dachi
5.Jōdan-nukiZenkutsu-dachi
 Chūdan-zukiShikō-dachi
6.Chūdan-ura-uchiShikō-dachi
 Chūdan-yoko-uchiShikō-dachi
7.r. Chūdan-gyaku-yoko-uchiZenkutsu-dachi
 l. Chūdan-gyaku-yoko-uchiZenkutsu-dachi
8.Shiko (vier Angriffe) 
 Age-uchiZenkutsu-dachi
 Kaeshi-uchiKōkutsu-dachi
 Jōdan-ura-uchiNeko-ashi-dachi
 Shōmen-uchiShikō-dachi
9.(Gyaku-mochi) Chūdan-uchiShikō-dachi
 Chūdan-zukiShikō-dachi
 Kaeri-gyaku-mochiShikō-dachi
 Chūdan-tate-ukeShikō-dachi
 Mawashi-baraiShikō-dachi
 Chūdan-zukiShikō-dachi
10Jōdan-ura-ukeShikō-dachi
 Jōdan-nukiZenkutsu-dachi
 Jōdan-mawashi-ukeZenkutsu-dachi
 Kaeshi-uchiKōkutsu-dachi
Filmed Saturday, ‎20 ‎Februar ‎2010. Heinz Tessner and Frank came to visit and asked a lot of questions, including showing them the basic techniques of the bo (bo kihon).

By the way, there is only one Jodan-ura-uchi in all these 10 bo basics, that is, in number 8. In the complete set of kata however, the techniques is done in 141 instances.

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Tomari-te — Early mentions and historical snapshot

The category of Tomari-te is famous in karate circles. For example, there is Tomari Passai in the JKF/WKF syllabus of kata, there is Tomari no Chinto and others in Matsubayashi, there is Tomari no Shirotaru in Yamanni-ryu bojutsu and so on. However, the designations of Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te for Okinawa karate are usually quoted without providing a reference. Therefore, today I would like to look into early mentions of Tomari as a place of specific karate technique.

First of all, Funakoshi Gichin mentioned it already in 1913 as follows [Note 1].

▲ The styles of karate

Every now and then people call it Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te, as if they existed separately. While there are these people, this fallacy will unravel itself when the real reason of the styles’ origin is clarified. As regards this, since ancient times it [karate] has been divided into two branches called Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. The first is a school that places emphasis on the body, and the latter one emphasizes the method [jutsu]. Waishinzan belongs to the former, and Iwā belongs to the latter. Waishinzan is a wild, fat-bodied warrior, and Iwā is a quick-witted, lively, and accomplished man with a slim body. Naha draws from the Shōrei-ryū, and Shuri enters the Shōrin-ryū. Tomari has combined these two things. By becoming the so-called “middle hand”, Tomari-te was made into an individual school.

It is clear from the above text that at that time Funakoshi considered Tomari-te as a mix between Shōrei-ryū and Shōrin-ryū. This is pretty straightforward in that it is proof that the term Tomari-te was known and used by various persons already in 1913. If I would have to take a guess I would say that the suffix te here explicitly referred to kata, but in fact there is no clear proof for that.

Let’s look further back in time. The Conscription Ordinance in Japan was officially proclaimed in 1873. While it was implemented in Okinawa only in 1898, long after the other Japanese prefectures, several Okinawans volunteered to join the Japanese Imperial Army, including persons such as Yabu Kentsū and Hanashiro Chōmo, who later basically constituted the first generation karate teachers in Okinawa.

Another such volunteer was a certain Yagi who originated from Tomari. Yagi was recruited as a volunteer soldier at the Rikugun Kyōdōdan military academy for the training of non-commissioned officers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Under the headline “The Welcome Party for Master Sergeant Yagi,” the local newspaper reported about the circumstances of a welcome party for occupation forced stationed at the Taiwan Garrison — Taiwan belonged to Japan since the end of the 1st Sino-Japanese War in 1895. The soldiers at that time where returning home on their way to re-assignment to the 21st regiment of Hiroshima. I have presented this article previsouly in my out-of-print “Karate 1.0” (2013), but for the convenience of the reader present it here again (Note 2):

On October 15, 1899, Infantry Master Sergeant Yagi returned home from service with the Taiwan occupation forces. On the afternoon of the 18th from three o’clock like-minded persons prepared a welcome party and grand banquet for Master Sergeant Yagi at the Tomari primary school. Setting out from Master Sergeant Yagi’s house, the Tomari primary school staff members and pupils reached the assembly hall in the primary school. The district headman, more than thirty middle school pupils from the section of village, policemen, active service soldiers from Master Sergeant’s older brother’s section of village, and other like-minded persons added up to more than about four hundred persons. The meeting was opened, and everyone saluted the guest of honor on that day, Master Sergeant Yagi. Yagi, participant in the 1st Sino-Japanese War, himself gave a speech and the whole audience was deeply moved. Then the members held speeches, and when they were finished, everybody turned to drinking and the banquet. Then, as an entertainment, the middle school students presented performances such as fencing (gekken) and sword dance (kenbu), and Tomari’s strong point of tōdī (karate). Following the entertainment, Master Sergeant Yagi got up himself and loudly sang a war song of a great victory.

There is a lot you can derive from this. Karate was the strong point or specialty (tokui) of Tomari already in 1899. It was presented at a welcome party for a Master Sergeant Yagi who was native to Tomari. Yagi volunteered to join the Imperial Japanese Army and was a member of the Japanese occupation forces stationed on Taiwan, conquered in the 1st Sino-Japanese War in 1895, in which Yagi has participated. There were thirty middle school pupils from the section of Tomari, policemen, and soldiers in active service. The middle school pupils were pupils at the Middle School in Shuri, which was the only middle school at the time. And they presented fencing (gekken = precursor of kendō), sword dance (kenbu), and karate as a specialty of Tomari.

So what you see here is the context of military, education, and karate already in 1899. Also, it is an example of Okinawan soldiers as members of occupation forces in Asia since the 1890s and no doubt this was the case until 1945, that is, for half a century. This is an important point to keep in mind when it comes to postwar narratives and karate in Okinawa.

Note 1: Shōtō (Funakoshi Gichin): Karate wa Bugei no Kotsuzui nari (Karate is the Bone Marrow of Martial Arts). Ryūkyū Shinpō, January 9, 1913.

Note 2: Yagi Sōchō no Kangeikai (The Welcome Party for Master Sergeant Yagi). In: Ryūkyū Shinpō, Friday, October 21, 1899.

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A transformation of Jōdan-ura-uchi

Most people are not aware that Akamine Eisuke created handwritten descriptions of every kata (1982/83, personal archive of this author). There was a collection that was given to dojo directors, which included all kata up to 5th dan, but the higher kata were also described meticulously.

In the descriptions of the bo kata, the term “Jodan-ura-uchi” appears in 141 (!) instances, each time followed by Shomen-uchi. It looks like this:

The person in the video is Yoza Masao Sensei in 1991. At that time, he was a 7th Dan under Akamine Eisuke. Actually, already 45 years ago – in 1976 – Yoza served as the instructor of the Shimbukan as the General Headquarter of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, as is officially stated in the 1976 brochure of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai. I received a little instruction from Yoza at the old Shimbukan honbu btw. Last time I saw him was after a directors’ meeting in 2011.

Now, as regards this technique, I have often heard that “this is just a kamae!” but this is historically inaccurate. As I already mentioned, the Jodan-ura-uchi followed by Shomen-uchi is found in 141 instances in the bo kata descriptions of Akamine Eisuke, that is, basically every single time before the Shomen-uchi. Obviously, as exemplified in the video above, the technique was actually performed like that.

Here is a list of the 141 instances of Jodan-ura-uchi followed by Shomen-uchi, broken down to each kata:

Shushi no Kon Sho7
Sakugawa no Kon Sho8
Shushi no Kon Dai9
Sakugawa no Kon Dai11
Yonegawa no Kon13
Shirotaro no Kon9
Chinen Shikiyanaka no Kon20
Choun no Kon17
Chatan Yara no Kon9
Soeishi no Kon24
Urasoe no Kon14

Well, in the original descriptions, on the pages for Shushi no Kon Sho, at the point of the Jōdan-ura-uchi there was a handwritten note added: “this is the meaning of the bunkai.” That is, the Jōdan-ura-uchi is the application of the technique. However, in the copy of the kata descriptions, at some later date, a handwritten note was added, saying that this (Jōdan-ura-uchi) was “only a kamae.” Like many others, I was told this explanation too at the Shimbukan. However, no such note was ever added to other entries.

In any case, today this technique is done a little bit more slanted downwards, and a new term was used by a friend (7th dan Shimbukan), namely “gyaku-shomen-uchi,” or reverse front strike. This term gyaku-shomen-uchi is nowhere to be found in Akamine Eisuke’s descriptions so it is probably a new invention to give a name to the transformed technique.

It should be added that neither Miki in 1930 nor Taira Shinken in 1937 and 1964 described the Jodan-ura-uchi, but they referred to it as a preparation for the Shomen-uchi. Accordingly, the Jodan-ura-uchi interpretation was probably made by Akamine Eisuke himself.

You may think, it is not a big thing, but 141 instances of a an applied technique changed to a mere kamae (preparatory posture) is a massive change!

In any case, I think it is an interesting small case study since it not only shows a transformation of the Jōdan-ura-uchi, but also a transformation in terminology, excecution, and combative meaning.

See some more examples below:

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Karate taught in Germany ~ 1931 – 1934

According to data published by Nakamura Akira of the Karate Section of the Okinawa Tourism Bureau, a certain HIRAYAMA Kazuo from Tokyo Imperial University taught karate in Germany 1931 – 1933.

HIRAYAMA Kazuo (1908–1990) is listed at the “Deutsche Institut für Ausländer an der Universität Berlin“ (DIA; German Institute for Foreigners at Berlin University) as follws (Hartmann 2003:39; translation: Quast):

HIRAYAMA Kazuo 平山一雄 (1908–1990): DIA, entry date of June 11, 1931 / Political science / Apostel-Paulus-Str. 4, at Mrs. Aminski; VS, Summer semester 1932 to winter semester 1933/34, Nr. 4845 / Political Science / W 30, Schwäbische Str. 24 / Jurist, civil lawyer; Professor at Fukuoka University, author of Minpō kōgi (Lectures on Civil Law).

According to it, HIRAYAMA studied political science in Berlin between from summersemester 1932 to wintersemster 1933/34. He became a jurst and civil lawyer and later served as Professor of Law at Fukuoka University. According to the name directory of the 70 Year History of the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University, Hirayama Kazuo graduated there in 1931. So he might have left for Germany in 1931 at earliest, started summersemster of 1932, and finished his studies in Berlin at the end of the wintersemster in 1934.  

What kind of karate was that at the time?

Funakoshi Gichin was a teacher at the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University. However, there was problem. Members of the club were interested in free kumite since at least 1926 and also visited Okinawa in the summer of 1929 for kata and kobudo research and it is also said that they tested karate in the streets and red light districts. On May 10, 1930, the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University held a spring karate demonstration which inlcuded kumite matches with protective gear (see article by Motobu Naoki Sensei here).

Bō Hideo (who joined the karate club in 1927) also stated the following in his “Memorandum of My Introduction to Karate-dō” (see article by Motobi Naoki Sensei here)

I remember that Shihan Funakoshi’s instruction consisted of various kata, starting with “Pinan” Shodan, kumite (today’s yakusoku kumite), makiwara thrusts, and other basic movements. It was strictly forbidden to engage in any kind of randori practice (today’s jiyū kumite).

Funakoshi opposed most of these developments and withdrew from his teacher position a Tokyo Imperial University.

So what was the style of karate taught by HIRAYAMA in Germany? According to the above, it was a style of karate developed in the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University since the mid 1920s. And while it had elements such as kata that were taught by Funakoshi, it also had elements which were simply ideas about what karate is or should be that were contrary to Funakoshi’s ideas. So one could say that it was a form of karate that was appropriated, a karate that was adapted to and mixed with the needs, ideas, and experiences of the younger people involved. This might or might not be a definition of “Shotokan karate.”

Biblio:

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