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



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


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!

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Excommunication and School Name

A recent seminar announcement introduced a certain Tamaki Kazuo as an 8th Dan representant and teacher of Motobu Udundī. The reason is that Okinawan masters often know each other from school or elsewhere. Okinawa karate and kobudō is largely based on lobbyism and nepotism, and so they recommend each other, grade each other etc.pp. In this seminar case as well, Tamaki was invited because he was a classmate of another invited teacher.

Fortunately, and you might have followed it on social media, an agreement was reached by the parties involved and the name of Motobu Udundī will not be used in the advertisements of the seminars.

Anyway, who was Tamaki’s teacher in Motobu Udundī and why it is an unrightful claim?

The teacher’s name was Taira Ryōshū. Taira was a student of Uehara Seikichi, the person responsible for handing down Motobu Udundī. Taira received an 8th dan and a shihan license from Uehara. In fact, Taira was the only person in Okinawa who received a shihan license from Uehara. Taira was rich and provided significant assistance to Uehara. But then Taira became almost a murderer. This was reported in the newspaper on January 5, 1990, as follows.

Slashing at one after another with a sickle – Disco owner quarrels with customers wearing sandals

Okinawa City – On the afternoon of the 4th, the Okinawa Police Station arrested Taira Ryōshū (59), a restaurant manager at 3-1-4 Moromizato, Okinawa City, on suspicion of attempted murder.

According to the investigation, around 4:00 a.m. on the 4th, the suspect Taira was on the street in front of the disco “Hollywood” in Uechi, Okinawa City, which he runs. An employee received outrage by four customers who were refused entry because they were wearing traditional Japanese thonged sandals, resulting in a dispute with the customers.

The suspect Taira took out a kama (sickle) from his car parked nearby and slashed at them one after another.

In this fight, interior design worker A (20) had his nose cut off, canal worker B (20) had a laceration of about three inches on his left shoulder, and reinforcement worker C suffered a shallow laceration of about 10 centimeters on his neck.

The suspect Taira fled from the scene by car but was afterwards arrested by Okinawa police officers and accompanied to the police station.

Due to this incident, Uehara excommunicated Taira from Motobu Udundī.

After his release from prison, Taira began teaching under the name of Motobu Udundī, advertising himself as a 10th dan and holder of menkyo kaiden (certificate of complete transmission of the art). Of course, this is a self-proclaimed rank and title.

Among Taira’s students in Okinawa are Tamaki Kazuo and Takamiyagi Tetsuo, and he has students in the United States and possibly elsewhere.

About ten years after the first incident, Taira appears again in an attempted murder case. It was reported in the newspaper as follows.

3 years and 8 months in prison for man who stabbed his sister

Naha District Court, Okinawa City Branch

[Okinawa] Self-employed Taira Ryōshū (72) from 3-1-4 Moromizato, Okinawa City, was charged with attempted murder for stabbing his older sister, 69 years old at the time, in the abdomen and other parts of the body with a butcher knife in May of last year, at the office of a motorcar hotel in Hiyane, Okinawa City. The trial was held on the morning of the 27th at the Okinawa City Branch of the Naha District Court and presiding judge Sugiyama Shinji handed down a sentence of 3 years and 8 months of imprisonment (5 years of imprisonment requested).

In short, there are good reasons for excommunication, and it means that you cannot use the school name anymore. Also, you must not use the patch or other school symbols anymore. Because you were dishonorably discharged. Move on and chose whatever other name and patch you like instead.


NOTE BY THE AUTHOR: To avoid speculation: I have never trained in Motobu Udundi!

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Funakoshi and Nagamine

When Nagamine was in third grade, eight elementary schools would jointly hold an autumn athletic meet at Onoyama Park on November 13, 1916. The state of the joint athletic meet was also reported in the Ryūkyū Shinpō newspaper the following day. The karate perfomers were boys from Tomari Elementary School, among them young Nagamine Shōshin, who reminisced:

“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.

About 40 years later, when the “Okinawa Exhibition” was held in Tokyo in August 1955, Nagamine and other Matsubayashi-ryū instructors went to Tokyo to perform karate every day. Funakoshi Gichin also showed up at the venue and Nagamine revived the old relationship. As a result of the above, the need for a unified Okinawa karate organization came to be advocated.

It can be said that the conceptualization of this unified organization originated in Nagamine’s school. In fact, the discussions for the launch were based in Nagamine dōjō, where the organization was officially formed on May 19th. Chibana Chōshin, the founder of theKobayashi-ryū, was appointed as the first chairman, and Nagamine supported him as vice-chairman.

The story surrounding this is that Miyagi Chōjun of Gōjū-ryū, who has been at the center of the Okinawan karate world since the early postwar period, died suddenly at the age of 65 due to a heart attack in October 1953. Therefore, he was replaced by Chibana Chōshin, who was a karateka of the same generation and central for the Okinawan karate world. This first karate organization that tied together the postwar Okinawa karate world was established at the Matsubayashi-ryū Nagamine dōjō.

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Nagamine Shoshin as a Politician

Sometimes you hear the argument spread by some Okinawan guy, saying “I don’t like him. He was a politician.” I often wondered what that was supposed to mean. Obviously, it can be very simple black & white thinking. Here’s an example from 70 years ago.

Planning to concentrate on karate and work as a businessman, Nagamine Shōshin ended his police career in 1952. In fact, in the 1953 New Year’s edition of the Ryūkyū Shinpō, Nagamine is mentioned as the “Senior Managing Director” in an advertisement issued by the Okinawa 1st Warehouse.

In 1953, many local governments held extraordinary parliamentary elections due to the increase in population numbers. Naha City’s population also drastically increased and a temporary election was held in March to select a new member for the city council, in which Nagamine was elected. Furthermore, in 1954, when the formal four-year-term election was held, Nagamine was elected as well.

In the second election of 1954, Higa Yuchoku (1910-94) and Nakaima Genkai (1908-84), who were also karateka, also participated in the election and were also elected. Nakaima Genkai was the father of former Okinawa Governor Nakaima Hirokazu (served 2006 to 2014) and was known as a Gōjū-ryū practitioner who had studied under Miyagi Chōjun. At that time, out of the thirty members of the Naha City Council, three were famous karateka. Nagamine became vice-chairman of the city council.

When Nagamine opened his dōjō on January 24, 1954, Naha City mayor Tōma Jūgō attended as a guest and Higa Shūhei, the president of the Ryukyu government, delivered a ceremony address. It seems Nagamine was well established in politics.

In October 1956, when the “Okinawa Karate-dō Renmei” was established,  Higa Shūhei, the president of the Ryukyu government, suddenly died of angina. At that time, the president was not yet elected by the public, but was still appointed by the US military. The question, of course, was: who to choose as his successor? As a result, the U.S. military singled out Naha City mayor Tōma Jūgō. By that move, the post of mayor of Naha became vacant, and a new mayoral election was held on December 25. There were two conservative candidates, but Senaga Kamejirō from Tomigusuku won the mayoral election. Senaga was the founder of the Okinawa People’s Party, which later joined the Japanese Communist Party. At that time, Senaga was just released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for sheltering Communists. At that time, the party made a strong political appeal to the residents of Okinawa, saying that it was an unfounded American oppression.

At that time, as a former police man and vice-chairman of the Naha City Council, Nagamine Shōshin inevitably opposed Senaga. Higa Yuchoku and Nakaima Genkai were undecided in the beginning, but eventually also chose the same “anti-Senaga” side. A motion of vote of no confidence was passed by the parliament in June 1957 and the city council elections for the dissolution were held in August. Nagamine lost the election by eight votes, and Nakaima Genkai also lost the election. Higa Yūchoku on the other hand managed to win with a marginal difference.

At that point, Nagamine cut off his ties to politics and never ran for office again. Instead, he returned to karate and business.

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The story of “Maezato no Nunchaku Dai” and “Akamine no Nunchaku”

In connection with Okinawa karate and kobudō, questions often remain answered unsatisfactorily, or unanswered at all. This may have different reasons. For example, people have long since forgotten what exactly happened several years or decades ago, or they were not even informed at the time, and nobody made any notes about events. When seen as a whole, information from Okinawa is often contradictory, but questions often arise only decades later, such as in the case of the kata called Akamine no Nunchaku.

In 2006, there was the following discussion on Ebudo between Mario McKenna and Tim Jurgens. I very slightly edited the text for consistent use of terminology and better readability.

Mario: “When was Maezato no Nunchaku Dai renamed Akamine no Nunchaku in the Akamine lineage? Was this before or after [Akamine Eisuke’s] passing [in 1999]?”

Tim: “They are different kata with a similar enbusen. We use the Maezato no Nunchaku for 1st Kyū Grading and Akamine no Nunchaku for 1st Dan.”

Mario: “Hi Tim: I know that the two kata have essentially the same enbusen, but they did originally start out as Maezato no Nunchaku Shō and Maezato no Nunchaku Dai. So, as I asked previously, do you know when Maezato no Nunchaku Dai was renamed to Akamine no Nunchaku?”

Tim: “I am unaware of the second kata ever being called Maezato [no Nunchaku Dai]. As you probably know Maezato is Taira Shinken Sensei‘s birth name prior to his adoption. The kata was named after the composer and I was always told that Akamine Eisuke Sensei composed the second kata.”

Mario: “Hello Tim: I guess that we will have to agree to disagree as my instructor (Minowa Katsuhiko) had taught me that both kata were originally called Maezato.”

In short, Minowa Katsuhiko said that Akamine Eisuke taught two nunchaku kata which were originally called Maezato no Nunchaku (Shō) and Maezato no Nunchaku Dai. At some point in time however, the name Maezato no Nunchaku Dai was replaced by the name Akamine no Nunchaku in the Shimbukan dōjō of Akamine Eisuke, now led by his son Akamine Hiroshi. Mario simply asked when this name change happened.

Tim on the other hand maintained that there never has been a kata named Maezato no Nunchaku Dai, but that it was always called Akamine no Nunchaku simply because it was composed by Akamine Eisuke.

Well, as a kobudō person who had studied that lineage and techniques, I know both the kata in question pretty well and for many years. Yesterday, an old colleague who is a well-known and successful German kobudō practitioner contacted me, asking if I knew anything about Maezato no Nunchaku Dai. This is because according to his Okinawan Sensei, the name Maezato no Nunchaku Dai was changed to Akamine no Nunchaku during the latter half of the 1980s in the Shimbukan. In short, some people in Okinawa that have been related to the Shimbukan during the lifetime of Akamine Eisuke indeed maintain that Maezato no Nunchaku Dai existed, and that it was changed to Akamine no Nunchaku.

In short, the name change seems to have taken place 1.) during Akamine Eisuke’s lifetime, and 2. In the latter half of the 1980s. This would answer Mario’s question.

But hold on for a second. Was the kata name really changed? Remember that Tim said that Akamine Eisuke was the creator of the kata, and that he already originally named it Akamine no Nunchaku after his own name.

Well, when I trained for Shimbukan, and with Akamine Hiroshi’s consent, I was able to make various notes, including records of Akamine Eisuke’s kata descriptions. Among them are two descriptions of the two nunchaku kata in question: one original, which must have been written around 1982/83, and one copy, which is newer, maybe from the 1990s or later. See for yourself.

In the original, Akamine Eisuke first wrote the kata name as Akamine no Nunchaku. At some later point in time however he crossed out the name Akamine and replaced it by Maezato, and there is also a Dai added in a circle at the end of the name. What does this mean?

It is likely that the kata was actually created by Akamine Eisuke, and obviously he gave it his own name as Akamine no Nunchaku. However, it is presumptuous and unusual to use one’s own name for a self-created kata. This might have been the reason that Akamine Eisuke changed it to Maezato at a later point in time and suffixed Dai to it, making it look as if Taira had created it. In addition to being more nice and less ego centered, the use of Maezato also implies a personal transmission of techniques from Taira to Akamine.

For the sake of completeness: Anyone who knows the two kata is well aware that the second one is based on the first one, and an extension of it. One may well imagine how Akamine Eisuke extended the existing kata a bit to create a second kata. Or in other words, the existing Maezato no Nunchaku served Akamine Eisuke as the template for the creation of Maezato no Nunchaku Dai, AKA Akamine no Nunchaku.

Since some new facts have been established here, let’s continue a bit more. As far as the origin of the older Maezato no Nunchaku (Shō) is concerned, it remains questionable whether Taira’s kata existed in fixed form and was actually passed on personally, or whether Maezato no Nunchaku (Shō) was created after Taira’s passing and simply chosen as a name by his students to indicate a personal tradition. In fact, there is a “nunchaku practice form” described by Taira Shinken himself with photos and all in 1964. This routine has a lot of similarities with Maezato no Nunchaku (Shō), as well as a kneeling technique similar to Maezato no Nunchaku (Dai) [AKA Akamine no Nunchaku], but also contains one entirely different technique not found in any of the others. In short, it seems that Taira worked on developing a nunchaku training routine during the 1950s and 1960s, and either he already created Maezato no Nunchaku (Shō), or his students did so later from whatever they collected and remembered from him.

On another level, we’re talking about developments during the second half of the 20th century. This in turn begs the question: How Ko (ancient) is Okinawa Kobudō (ancient Okinawa martial arts with weaponry) really?

And so, this short study case is a practical example of why questions in Okinawa karate and kobudō often remain unanswered, i.e., because people no longer know exactly what happened several years or decades earlier, and / or they were not even privy to what was happening, and / or because nobody has made any notes about it, and / or ultimately also to underpin and perpetuate the personal tradition from master to student, and / or even to position one’s own name in a genealogy or kata catalogue.

Again, it is unusual for a karate or kobudō person to name a kata with his own name, so why would Taira name a kata with his former family name of Maezato? In terms of budō ethics, this is pretty pretentious. Naming a kata by the name Akamine no Nunchaku, as can be seen in Akamine Eisuke’s original writing of 1982/83, is equally pretentious and the recognition of this ethical problem was probably what led him to correct it to Maezato no Nunchaku Dai.

In the unwritten rules of Okinawan karate historiography however, there is a mechanism that may best be referred to as the “protection of the tradition.” It means that everything has to be explained in an ethical logic. Therefore, as I was told recently, as of now the official story is that around the 2nd half of the 1980s, Akamine Eisuke’s students begged him to name the kata by the name Akamine no Nunchaku, and ultimately he complied with their request.

In Okinawa Karateology, there are many events similar to the above and the quantity of incoherencies and unanswered questions is growing while those who might be able to answer die out. Since it is a pretty boring and difficult matter, young masters prefer to write their own new narratives, create new techniques, draw new genealogies with the help of some seniors who once did the same, and to train their students in the gym and all over the world. And so, there is in fact nothing new under heaven.

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Form Follows Fiction

Form follows function,” an old concept borrowed from architecture is the congenial didactic behind karate kata, or so we were told.

It can be.

However, it can also be that – by and large – what teachers actually use as a design tool is “form follows fiction.”

That is, karate and its combative scenarios are ever being created and recreated as the product of stories and narratives, both real and imagined, of the people practicing it.

In short, it may well be that large parts of the functions assigned to today’s karate are not the results of personal traditions going back decades or even centuries, but the results of fiction.

Or, as they say, “Never Let The Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story.”

In any case, “form follows fiction” should be recognized as a principal design tool of karate at least since about the 1950s, and increasingly over the 80s, 90s, 2000s until today, and therefore need be considered within the general modern karate discourse. 

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This is a short Soeishi-inspired combo.

In mainland Taira lineage, there are two kinds of Soeishi no Kon, namely a Sho and a Dai version. Maybe Taira used different techniques at different times, so students decided they had to create two versions?

In Okinawan Taira lineage, there is only one Soeishi no Kon.

In addition, there is another Okinawan Taira-lineage version handed down to Shimabukuro Tatsuo of Isshin-ryu.

Then, there are several other versions by the same name, but with different techniques.

Soeishi-ryu bojutsu was a royal bojutsu handed down only to the king and the firstborn son of the Soeishi House. Therefore, it is famous name in Okinawan martial art. The way I understand it is that Soeishi-ryu bojutsu itself was lost around the 1940s and 50s. However, it seems that some researchers have seen the techniques, or even studied it a little.

It can therefore be assumed that Soeishi-ryu bojutsu in some way has inspired the technique of Okinawan postwar bojutsu. In what way exactly and by whom is almost completely unknown though.

Over the recent years, Naoki Motobu Sensei of the Motobu-ryu has published a number of articles on the school’s blog that include various information about Soeishi, so you might want to search the blog.
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Fourth Installation on Ufutun Bō

The following info is found in literature:

Ufutun no Bō (aka Mēkata no Bō)

In today’s Yaese Town Ufutun (the former Gushichan Ufutun).

When and where performed: During Abushibarē in the 4th month of the old lunar calendar.

This bōjutsu is performed together with the music of the Kagiyade-fū.

History and overview of this village bōjutsu: Was there an influence by the Yadori?

It is called Mēkata no Bō and Ufutun no Bō.

Ufutun became an administrative district in 1931.

This bōjutsu was taught by the late Yagi Zenjo to Yagi Zenryō. In addition, there is Koshima Mizusei as a successor.

(See: Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education: Basic Research Report on Karatedō and Kobudō, 1994. Hokama Tetsuhiro: Okinawa Karate Kobudō no Shinzui, 1999.)

There is a lot of information in the short entry above.

First of all, this bōjutsu is called Ufutun no Bō and also Mēkata no Bō. Today Ufutun is located in Yaese Town, but in the past it belonged to Gushichan.

Next, what is Abushibarē? Abushibarē is an event that takes place on a lucky day in the 4th month of the old lunar calendar, mostly around the 14th and 15th day of the month. It is a ritual of exterminating harmful insects with the Noro priestesses at its center. In the past, harm by rats or insect pests were a threat for the agricultural communities, and magic considered the best means to chase them out of the village. Offerings to capture the insects were placed on a boat and pushed off the coast by the Noro priestess.

Next, it says that this bōjutsu is performed together with the music of the Kagiyade-fū. This Kagiyade-fū is one of the most famous Ryūkyūan music pieces and a famous song among karate people. Originally this song was only performed in front of the King.

Then, the entry raises the question whether the bōjutsu was influenced by Yadori, that is, by a rural “warrior class” villages. According to the website of Yaese Town, Ufutun (Ōton) has currently a population of only 275 persons in 111 households. The small village originated in Ufutunbara Yadori, which was created by former samurē (shizoku) persons who migrated from the urban district of Shuri to the territory of the current village. Like this, Yadori were rural “warrior class” villages and they often maintained parts of their previous urban culture, including martial arts. There are various reasons for the emergence of Yadori villages, one being that more and more people became aristocrats in Okinawa and by the 18th century there were not enough government posts left for all of them, so they were send to the rural areas where they established their own communities, the Yadori.

In 1931, Ufutun became established as a village section (aza, an administrative unit) separately from Hanagusuku village section, but the registered domicile and address remained Hanagusuku. In 1989, the area of Gushikami and Hanagusuku were changed, and Ufutun (Ōton) became a larger village section (administrative unit).

Well, the title of below video is “Bōjutsu ‘Mēkata’ Joint Dance Performance.” It was performed at the “All Island Bōjutsu Festival” held in Yaese in 2017. Obviously here members of various bōjutsu troupes from all over the island perform together.

First of all, this took place in Yaese District, and Ufutun (Ōton) is a village of this district. Second, the performance is referred to as bōjutsu mēkata. Third, it is performed to the music of Kagiyade-fū.

One man wears a jacket with the district name of “Hanagusuku” on it. Hanagusuku and Ufutun (Ōton) are close, only about 1.8 km apart, and they are also historically close, with Ufutun (Ōton) having been a part of Hanagusuku. It is therefore quite possible that the bōjutsu shown by the person with the name “Hanagusuku” on his jacket is similar in appearance to Ufutun Bō. It should be noted that no village bōjutsu is mentioned for Hanagusuku so it might have been handed down or adopted from elsewhere, including from Ufutun (Ōton) village.

I hope in the future we will be able to see the actual Ufutun Bō from Ufutun (Ōton) village, and see if there is any resemblance to either the 1961 perfomance of Shiroma Taisei (known to a few people from an unpublished video) or to the completely different Ufutun Bō that was adopted into Matayoshi kobudō circles.

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Third installation on Ufutun Bō

After a first and a second article, and a bunch of feedback by experts of the style, lets get back to basics. To do so, let me shortly recapitulate some infos gathered so far:

In 1961, Shiroma Taisai performed Ufutun Bō, which was reported about in a newspaper article. As regards the name Ufutun: There is a district called Ōton in Okinawa, pronounced Ufutun in Okinawan slang. Located in Yaese Town, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture, it even has a bus stop called Ōton/Ufutun 大屯. And Shiroma Taisei was born in 1885 in Ōshiro in Ōzato Village, which is just a short distance from Ufutun (Oton).

Now, there’s the following short information about bōjutsu from this area.

Ufutun no Bō (Mēkata no Bō), in the former Gushikami Village Ufutun section”

(See, “Basic Research Report on Karatedō and Kobudō,” Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education 1994)

What is called “the former Gushikami Village Ufutun section” here is the current Ufutun in Yaese Town, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture.

In short, Ufutun Bō of Shiroma Taisai might have been a “village bōjutsu” (mura bō) of Ufutun in today’s Yaese Town.

At this point in time it is unknown to me whether this village bōjutsu is still practiced, and if so, if it is the same as Shiroma’s Ufutun Bō.

But there’s an important thing to note though: The description adds in brackets that Ufutun Bō is a Mēkata no Bō. To make a long story short, mēkata usually means that it is a free and often ad hoc performance to music, as opposed to a “fixed kata.” This needs to be carefully considered, because any personal or ad hoc staff dance might have been referred to as Ufutun Bō by any person.

Well, Shiroma Taisai’s version of Ufutun Bō is considered a lost practice. Now, understanding the mēkata factor, it becomes even unclear if his Ufutun Bō was a fixed kata, or if it was an ad hoc variation performed to music. In the end, in his description in the 1961 newspaper article, at no point did he clarify whether it was a fixed kata or a free performance, even though the (unpublished) video of his Ufutun Bō looks like a typical kata performance.

The question remains, what is the origin of the modern Matayoshi-fied Ufutun Bō?

Shimabukuro Tsuneo performing Ufutun Bō as an official kata of the 2018 Okinawa Karate Kobudō Cup

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Follow-up on Ufutun Bō

Previously I wrote about Ufutun Bō. As is often the case, there were no tangible answers or new informations shared by even the most authorative persons. In Okinawan martial arts, there are official narratives and these are strictly to be observed and repeated by students and teachers alike.

However, after some time had passed, a colleague send me a 1979 Matayoshi program, which included the following page:

In short, it shows that Maeshiro Shusei performed Ufutun Bō in 1979. Here Ufutun Bō uses the same characters as used in the 1961 newspaper article, that is 大屯棒. Therefore, it seems that the use of the designation Ufutun no Kon 大殿の棍 in the 1999 Matayoshi program was a mistake.

Overall, it is like this:

Ufutun Bō大屯棒1961
Ufutun Bō大屯棒1979
Ufutun no Kon大殿の棍1999

I also wonder whether the 1999 story of origin of the kata also added some confusion. To wrap it up,

  • There was a village bōjutsu from Ufutun in Ōzato Village called Ufutun Bō which was handed down since at least around 1900. This Ufutun Bō was presented in 1961 by a certain Shiroma.
  • Eighteen years later, in 1979, Maeshiro Shusei performed a bōjutsu also named Ufutun Bō.
  • Then, another twenty years later, in 1999, an official Matayoshi program describes Ufutun no Kon as an age-old bōjutsu from the Shuri lineage which was also called “Tunchi Bō” (Tunchi was an aristocratic class of Shuri), and further by the abbot of the Shikina Shrine, and further by others, and finally to Maeshiro Shusei.

Post Scrictum

A Canadian colleague and student of Yogi just now replied on Facebook, saying that Yogi and four other kobudō persons went to a village and still teach something they learned there. Unfortunately, while that Canadian colleague is a student of Yogi’s, he doesn’t speak a word of Japanese, so it is unclear where this story comes from. However, another Matayoshi experts then joined in and also said that Yogi Sensei told him the same story of the five guys going to the village elders larning the kata….

Then, I went on to search for the origin of the story. And I found it. It says the following in an article from 2007:

Yogi Jyosei relates that he and a number of other seniors went at Matayoshi’s direction to a member of his Uechi dojo to learn the kata Ufutun bo, which they later modified to fit the characteristic of the Matayoshi style.

Frederick W. Lohse III.: Matayoshi Kobudo. A Brief History and Overview. In: Meibukan Magazine No. 9, July 2007.

So what it says is that Yogi Sensei and his colleagues went to the Uechi dojo (of Maeshiro Shusei), and not to the village elders.

This is also verified by a colleague of mine earlier this year, who also inquired with Yogi Sensei specifically about Ufutun Bō. This is because Yogi Sensei is one of the few persons who teaches Ufutun Bō. What Yogi Sensei clearly said during two occasions was that Maeshiro Shusei learned Ufutun Bō from a certain master, and that Yogi afterwards learned Ufutun Bō from Maeshiro. Upon inquiring about the name of the person who taught Ufutun Bō to Maeshiro, Yogi Sensei clearly replied that he doesn’t know it.

It was further made clear that Ishiki Hidetada and Yamashiro Kenichi did not learn Ufutun Bō from Maeshiro (while Yogi was still his student), but probably later. In any case, Ishiki became Okinawa world champion in August 2022, during which he also used Ufutun Bō and it has become a standard competition winning kata in Okinawa.

While there are many people in Okinawa, and communication is easy these days for interested parties and those who have access to the kobudō circles on Okinawa, I am unaware of any person who inquired directly with Maeshiro Shusei to clear up the question surrounding the origin of Ufutun Bō as raised in the previous and this current articles.

That is, it seems that nobody has an interest in clarifying it.

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The girls sold as prostitutes, and the boys as Buddhist priests…

Typically, most members of the karate community oppose or even forbid discussion of certain topics. For instance, the topic of the involvement of Okinawan karate people in Japanese imperialism, colonialism, and militarism until the surrender in 1945 is carefully and cautiously circumnavigated. The reason is simple: It does not fit into the modern narrative of the peaceful kingdom. Also, why would Okinawans demonstrate against US bases if they had been so much “emotionally invested in the project of Japanese nationalism and militarism,” at least when they were young and until 1945? The same topic also diametrically opposes karate’s spiritually and philosophically draped self-portrayal.

In connection with Okinawa, a certain group compulsion towards positivism (a form of extremism) can also be seen as such, which is already strongly reminiscent of ideology, but it would probably be going too far to try to recognize people with a penchant for ideologies in all Okinawa fans.

For instance, it is common to praise Okinawa soba (noodle soup) and other foods in the highest tones, even if it is just a noodle soup. Another good example is Awamori, the indigenous spirit: Once used to clean corpses of flesh residue etc. after seven years in a bone urn, it is now extremely popular as a lifestyle party drink.

It is not exactly known where all these ideas-turned-ideologies came from but there have been varied reactions to a recent short post of mine on social media. It was a short quote from an article by Sayaka Chatani of the National University of Singapore. Chatani has clarified in a groundbreaking study “how and why young men in rural areas of Japan … became emotionally invested in the project of Japanese nationalism and militarism,” and this is very true for Okinawa as well for the time from about 1895 to 1945, that is, half a century.

In one of her texts, Chatani stated as follows:

“The imperial government invested more resources in ruling and establishing large-scale industries in Taiwan and Korea. Whereas spectacles of urban modernity in Taipei and Seoul impressed visitors, Okinawa’s capital, Naha, suffered the notoriety of having massive red-light districts, a manifestation of ‘barbaric’ old customs from the viewpoint of social reformers.” (Ōta 1995:279–289; Cf. Chatani 2018)

Let’s take a look at a rather unknown side of such “barbaric old customs.” To do so, we look at the genealogy of the Chō-clan. One of the houses of this clan was newly established in Naha as a non-hereditary house, but in the 3rd generation they achieved hereditary status as a house of Naha samurē. In this family lineage the first character of the personal name of the sons (nanori-gashira) was henceforth Sei 盛. Typical family names among the extended family circle (monchū) are Takemura and Nakamura.

One episode of the extended family relates to the family members from Itoman. After the rural village had been ruined by natural disaster, the boys and girls of the farm village were sold into peonage one after another. This is referred to by the saying “With the girls sold as prostitutes and the boys sold as Buddhist priests, Itoman itself was de facto sold out.” The children became indentured servants: The girls in the red-light district of Tsuji, and the boys as child monks in temples, or as fishermen in Itoman.

There were three red-light districts in Naha during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era, namely Tsuji, Nakashima, and Watanji. Tsuji was located in the western part of Naha and bordered to Kume village. Tsuji Village as a whole was a special village called a licensed red-light district (yūkaku). Nakashima was located in the southeastern part of Naha and belonged to Izumizaki Village. Originally located on a sandbank, it used to be connected to Izumizaki by a bridge. Watanji was a small island located in the southeastern part of Naha, facing Naha Harbor to the south, east and west. It belonged to Higashi Village and was connected to it by the Shian Bridge.

Naha was a port town for hundreds of years, so it is thought that prostitutes have lived there since ancient times. Then, in 1672, all prostitutes were gathered and placed under the control of the Ryūkyū royal government, and the red-light districts of Tsuji and Nakashima were established. It is unknown when Watanji red-light districts was established, but in 1908, the Nakashima and Watanji red-light districts were abolished and integrated into the Tsuji red-light district by Okinawa prefectural ordinance.

Recently a number of photographs were discovered. Among others, a photo shows a fishing boy with an uēku (paddle) in the Itoman area. Many fishing boys at the time were in indentured servitude as a “hired child” who lived and provided labor to a shipowner for about 10 years after the age of 10. These were not only boys, but also girls. Ueda Fujio (74), emeritus professor at Okinawa University who is familiar with this issue, said, “In modern times, this is a violation of human rights, but at that time (1935) it was considered superior to other systems of selling oneself (into bondage, esp. for prostitutes).”

In short, from the Ryūkyū kingdom era up until the early 1940s, children in Okinawa were sold into prostitution, indentured servitude, peonage, child labour, etc. for centuries. The girls were mainly sold to the massive red-light districts of Tsuji etc., and the boys were mainly sold as child monks to temples, or as fishermen to Itoman. Such were the “old customs” that were considered barbaric from the viewpoint of social reformers.

The Tsuji red-light district only disappeared with the end of World War II.

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