Sound effects in karate and kobudo are an underestimated part of the art of performance. The best known example of it is slapping the uniform (dogi) with the pull back hand (hiki-te) while executing a technique with the other hand. The typical suspects of dogi-slapping are karate practitioners in the field of competitive karate, particularly those specializing in kata. Dogi-slapping really wouldn’t make sense in kumite either. And it’s true, sometimes techniques performed in the air during kata don’t feel powerful, nor are they perceived as such by the spectators and judges. The sound effect produced by slapping the dogi is therefore a popular dramatic element of many kata performances, and there are true masters of this art.
But this alone is not the full story. There are also plosives produced by the chest and mouth, which are synchronized in time with the dogi-slapping. And in Okinawa karate there is also the boiler breathing of Goju-ryu and the hissing of Uechi-ryu. The sychronisation becomes more difficult then.
Another underestimated effect is the rustling and clicking of the dogi, which is caused by the cut of the uniform, by a certain execution of the movement and its trajectory, a certain material composition, by washing and drying and adding or omitting fabric softeners, etc.
Some schools preach the gliding of the feet, while others prefer stomping sounds as an expression of a certain dynamic, and there are hybrids that use both variants skilfully to create a certain acoustic drama synchronized with the movement.
Cleverly employed stomping sounds are difficult to detect, especially when the movements are short and small and the performer’s demeanor draws attention to the upper extremities and the face. This method is also found on the makiwara, where synchronization of makiwara strikes with stomping sounds give the impression of considerable dynamism and destructive power.
On the one hand, one could say that the targeted use of such acoustic elements mainly serves to give the impression of dynamics and to impress an audience or judges. Why else are none of these tricks found in kumite, such as Kuyokushin? In this case, stomping sounds would be one of several theatrical sound effects to be synchronized with each other and with the movement to create a maximum dynamic impression without each being overly noticeable individually.
But there is also the completely opposite argument, namely that all these sound effects are simply the result of a correct, powerful technique. In this case, stomping would be one of several sound effects generated as an accompaniment to a functionally correct execution of technique, and which are synchronous with each other and with the technique because they are a function of the technique.
So the whole thing is a “chicken-egg causality dilemma,” which is notoriously difficult to solve.
Such sound effects are mainly used in the area of kata demonstrations, but also on the makiwara, in kihon, shime testing and other practices. They are not only used by certain groups among karate athletes, but are also found as fundamental components in so-called “traditional karate” and Okinawa karate. All groups also have their own sets of theatrical sound effects, which are synchronized both with each other and with the movement to create an overall impression. In many cases, you can tell which group is involved based solely on the properties of the artificially generated sounds. This alone is reason enough to pay attention to this phenomenon.
A significant factor in stomping is the ground surface. Therefore, people who train or perform on mats will emphasize different stomping parameters than those who train or perform on wooden floors, which greatly amplifies the stomping sound effect. Sprung floor will even provide you a tiny acceleration while at the same time it reduces the stress on the joints. On the other hand, people who train or perform on natural surfaces such as grass, sand, or stone will employ completely different types of foot movement, since there is no sound effect whatsoever. So the question arises whether the different stomping sound effects are not simply a result of the development of different training sites. Just imagine stomping on pointed pebble, or a sharp-edged coral stone.
It should be borne in mind that in Okinawa, by and large, dojos with wooden floors were built only in the modern era after 1945. From this perspective, pushing the feet with the toes over the ground should also be a rather new method, which at least requires straight and flat grounds such as mats or a sports ground, and is difficult to carry out on natural, uneven surfaces, where it would simply make little sense. Thus, it may be assumed that the stomping sound effect as a theatrical element in Okinawan dojos is a post-war development and may have had little to no functional significance in original karate and kobudo, except maybe in the mansions of the aristocratic udun and tunchi classes.
Abstract: This article provides an overview of the lexical meaning, subject areas and chronology of usage, as well as the terminological origin of the term shingitai.
Research method: For bibliographic queries, I used the National Diet Library of Japan (one of the largest libraries in the world), Webcat Plus (a search service for books and papers operated by the National Institute of Informatics in Japan), and CiNii (a bibliographic database service for materials in Japanese academic libraries, maintained by the National Institute of Informatics). Moreover, I used the term base Kotobank, a service allowing to search for the meaning of a term from entries in highly reliable Japanese dictionaries, encyclopedias, and databases.
Result: As expected, shingitai is by no means an ancient Japanese martial arts concept, but rather a construction of contemporary Japan. Two isolated cases appear in the 1940s, but shingitai really took a foothold since the 1950s, mostly in sumo, but spread out quickly to judo and kendo, until in the mid-1990s the media adopted it for the Japanese budo in general. In 2008, shingitai was finally included in the very definition of Japanese budo by a semi-official institution. During these decades, shingitai has also spread to all kinds of sports as well as many other professional fields, as shown in this article.
Western online dictionaries translate shingitai as “mind, technique, and physical strength,” and as the “three qualities of a martial artist or athlete: heart, technique, strength.” This is consistent with the literal translation and partly with the scope of use shingitai.
Certainly, the compound noun shingitai comprises of the following terms (on-reading in bold, followed by kun-reading):
shin / kokoro: mind
gi / waza: technique
tai / karada: body
Therefore, in its simplest interpretation, shingitai means “mind, technique, and body.” At the same time, it insinuates the unity or trinity of its three compartments. Shingitai is commonly used extactly this sense in sports to mean a “balance of mind, body, and spirit.”
In addition, shingitai is further defined as a general term representing the desired unity of the following three compartments:
mental strength (seishin-ryoku, i.e. shin),
technique / skill (gijutsu, i.e., gi), and
physical strength (tairyoku, i.e., tai).
Equating the above, shingitai refers to “mental strength, skill, and physical strength,” and implies the unity thereof as a goal.
The above description is the sole main entry of shingitai found in all Japanese dictionaries referred to in the Kotobank term base. In addition, shingitai does not have an individual entry as a term in Japanese Wikipedia. This raises the question of its actual distribution in general Japanese language.
In Japanese Wikipedia, shingitai as a term is found in the entries about the Grand Slam Paris 2011, Satō Nobuyuki (Japanese marathon runner), Iwai Joshiki (Japanese baseball player), Hayashi Toshiyuki (Japanese rugby union player), Akaiwa Yoshio (Japanese boat racer), TV-show “Juken Sentai Gekiranger” (Beast-Fist Squadron Gekiranger), Ogasawara Hiroshi (Japanese rugby player), Fuji Sankei Ladies Classic (Golf), Takahashi Miyuki (Japanese volleyball player), as well as in a very few budō-related entries such as about “Monthly Budō” magazine, henka (variation of technique) in sumō, and budō. In short, shingitai is used heavily in relation to various sports.
About swimming, the Encyclopedia of Japan (Nipponica) says, “Performance in sports is the combined result of technique (gijutsu), physical strength (tairyoku), and willpower (kiryoku). The basic elements necessary to improve swimming records are (1) the swimming style and the techniques for starting and turning, (2) physical strength, stamina, endurance, and (3) mental strength to support them. In addition, strategic elements such as setting the pace that make use of mind, technique, and body (shingitai) are also important in the game. In particular, the elements of mind, technique, and body (shingitai) are improved through daily training. The extent to which a player can improve these depends on their individual qualities, but it also depends on how well they incorporate training methods based on scientific theories according to the characteristics of the player.”
While the above article mentions shingitai in general terms, it also describes it specifically for improving swimming performance through training, namely
gi or technique as “(1) the swimming style and the techniques for starting and turning,”
tai or body as “(2) physical strength, stamina, endurance,” and
shin or mind as “(3) mental strength to support them.”
The same text also gives shin as “willpower” (kiryoku).
The Japanese version of Britannica International Encyclopedia has shingitai in its entry on jūdō, saying that randori “is a practice method in which mind, technique, and body (shingitai) are trained to develop the ability to adapt to the situation, and to learn how to compete. When Kanō Jigorō founded jūdō, he emphasized the simultaneous practice of training of the spirit, competition, and physical education.”
From this it could be said that shingitai is found in jūdō as follows: shin refers to the training of the spirit (shūshin), gi refers to techniques applied in competition (shōbu), and tai refers to physical education (taiiku).
From the above, the nuance of the meaning of shingitai slightly shifted to the following:
shin: mind, mental strength, willpower, spirit
gi: technique, skill, techniques applied in a competition
tai: body, physical strength, physical education
Appearance of the term Shingitai in Budō
(Note: Due to time constrictions, all titles are quick English translations without full bibliographic reference)
The term shingitai appears as early as 1942, in a sumō periodical, mentioning the “spirit, technique, and body (shingitai) of the three highest sumō ranks and their plunging into the fight” (Sumō 7(5), 1942-05, p. 66). Elsewhere it is said that “The spirit, technique, and body (shingitai) are harmoniously integrated, and the dignity of a yokozuna naturally oozes out” (Jinbutsu Ōrai 1-8, August 1952). It is reported that one wrestler “showed remarkable strength in mind, technique, and body (shingitai)” (Sumō 3(7), 1954-05, p. 36) and that another, “although he was exceptional already, his mind, technique, and body (shingitai) gradually improved, and in 1934 he was promoted to ōzeki, and in 1937 he was promoted to the long-awaited yokozuna, competing with Tamanishiki and Musashiyama (Sumō 4(9), 1955-06 p. 82). It is also published as a manly topic elsewhere, such as can be seen in “Shingitai: The 57thYokozuna Mienoumi Tsuyoshi,” published in the Monthly Construction Report by the Ministry of Construction in June (1980, p. 4-5). In July 1964, Kosaka Hideji wrote a special feature called “When will Tochinoumi’s mind, technique, and body (shingitai) be completed?” (Sumō, 1964-7, p 41-47).
In the following decades shingitai appeared in countless sumō-related publications, of which following is just a selection. In 1971, Futagoyama Katsuji, the 45thyokozuna also known as Wakanohana Kanji I., published “Mind, technique, and body (shingitai),” followed three years later by his “Introduction to mind, technique, and body (shingitai nyūmon).”
In 1972, the “Battle of Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai)” by Taihō Kōki, 48thsumō grand champion was published in the extra-large new year’s edition of “Foresight Economy” magazine, which shows how shingitai entered the world of management early by way of sumō. In 2011, former sumō wrestler Mainoumi Shuhei published “Contradictions in the Sumō-Ring: The Truth in the Chaos of Grand Sumō Wrestling,” published by Business Japan, 2011, one of the first business magazines of Japan.
“Mind, technique, and body (shingitai)” magazine was published by the Sumō Research Group since 1983, and in 2011 the 58thyokozuna Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, published “The Power of the Rope” at Baseball Magazine under his later name Kokonoe Mitsugu.
The above is a glimpse of the use of shingitai as used in sumō. In fact, sumō-related publications dominated the overall use of shingitai until the late 1970. It therefore seems that shingitai first and foremost developed and evolved within the sumō world, and it continued to be used uninterruptedly in the context of sumō until today. It can be assumed that the use of the term shingitai radiated out from sumō publications to other fields to a considerable extent.
In relation to kendō, the concept is found in 1955, saying “In this way, the opponent’s mind, technique, and body (shingitai) will be overwhelmed and he will lose his head, and with my sword pointed right at his center, I pierce through him to win.” (Sasamori Junzō: Kendō. Ōbunsha Sports Series, 1955, p. 54).
More recent publications are “The Strongest Kendō” (2008), Koyama Masaki’s “Samurai Learning with Japanese Swords: The Most Easy-to-understand Iaido Bible for Modern People” (2008), or “Kendō Practice Menu 200: Strengthen your mind, technique, and body!” (2012) by Koda Gunhide, a 8thdan kyōshi and professor of Tsukuba University, and Yano Hiroshi, 8thdan hanshi and former professor of Kokushikan University, published “Kendō – A Message from a Teacher” (Physical Education and Sports Publishing, 2017).
In a 1950s jūdō course edited by Mifune Kyūzō and others, it is said, “It is desirable to come to demonstrate the power of unified mind, technique, and body (shingitai).” (Mifune Kyūzō et.al.: Jūdō Course, Vol. 1, 1955, p. 33). In a magazine published by the Kōdōkan is found a chapter called “About the mind, technique, and body (shingitai) of 30 athletes participating in international games” (Jūdō 50 (11). Kōdōkan, November 1979, p. 17-23). In 1982, Yamashita Yasuhiro, one of Japan’s most successful jūdōka and 8thdan holder published “The Judo World’s No. 1! Yamashita 5th Dan’s mind, technique and body (shingitai).” Gold medalist of the 2000 Olympics and Japanese jūdō coach Inoue Kōsei provided “Strengthen your mind, techniques, and body (shingitai)! Judo basics and practice menu” in 2013.
In karate apparently shingitai appeared for the first time in 1952, when Konishi Yasuhiro mentions that, “a kiai will promote the unification of the trinity of spirit, technique, and body (shingitai), so as to occupy an undefeatable position” (Konishi Yasuhiro: Zukai Karate Nyūmon, 1952, p. 11). In 1956, again by Konishi Yashuhiro, the following words can be said to establish shingitai as a part of an ideal form of karate: “In other words, karate practitioners should pursue the trinity of mind, technique, and body (shingitai).” (Konishi Yasuhiro: Karate jōtatsu-hō. 1956, p. 10).
However, in karate literature, it wasn’t emphasized much, until, in 1990, we find shingitai in karate again “for those who aim to improve their mind, technique, and body” (Shiroishi Shōji: Karatedō kyōgi nyūmon. Baseball Magazine Publishers, 1990). This is followed by Hokama Tetsuhiro’s “The Essence of Okinawa Karate and Kobudō” (1999), where it appeared in the context of Okinawa karate and kobudō. Kyokushin adopted shingitai as well, as can be seen in “Karate revolutionary Hamai Noriyasu – Kyokushin’s New Theory” of 2009, followed by shingitai used in “Kuro Obi: Aim for an invincible black belt!” published by BAB Japan in 2011. Ushirō Kenji, who teaches karate worldwide, also published “Learn how to train your mind, technique and body (shingitai) from Ushirō Kenji” in 2011. While these are just examples, it is true that the number of karate books that feature shingitai are small, particularly when compared to sumō.
Shioda Yasuhisa, third Sōke of Yoshinkan Aikidō, wrote “50 Tips for Improving Aikidō: Master your mind, technique, and body (shingitai)!” in 2008, but otherwise the use of shingitai in aikidō seems rare, at least in publications, which is also true for kyūdō, for which at least “Modern Kyūdō Course, Volume 5” (1969) could be verified.
Book of Five Rings
An edition of the “Book of Five Rings” (1980) includes the chapter “Miyamoto Musashi’s mind, technique, and body (shingitai),” and editions by other authors from 1996 and 2002 again include a reference to shingitai.
By the 2010s, (shingitai) has entered the world of the ninja, with Kuroi Hiromitsu’s “Ninja Cram School: Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai) learned from Ninja (2011), Kawakami Jin’ichi’s “Ninja: From the Origins to Ninjutsu and Weapons: Approach the Truth of the Army of Darkness!” (2012), and Komori Teruhisa’s “The Secret of the Ninja’s Unbeatable Spirit” (2017).
Budō as a whole
In any case, the time when shingitai began to not only be associated with individual Japanese arts, but formally entered the Japanese budō world en gros, was when the Nippon Budokan began to publish the magazine Gekkan Budō (Monthly Budō). While the first version of it which ran from 1974 to 1996, had no direct reference to shingitai, in 1997, an additional title was added, namely “Comprehensive magazine that nurtures mind, technique, and body (shingitai).” This was the point in time when the connection between budō and shingitai became quasi official.
A little more than 10 years later, shingitai found its way into the definition of the “Foundational Principles of Budō” (budō no rinen) by the Japanese Budō Association (Nippon Budō Kyōgikai) as follows.
Budō is an exercise culture that unifies mind and technique (shingi ichinyo) that is based on the training of martial techniques systematized in Japan, and it originates from the tradition of bushidō. By practising jūdō, kendō, kyūdō, sumō, karatedō, aikidō, Shōrinji kenpō, naginata, and jūkendō, it is a path to forge mind, technique, and body (shingitai) in unity, to refine one’s character, to raise one’s moral sense, to cultivate an attitude of respect for propriety, and to contribute to peace and prosperity of nation and society.
Established October 10, 2008
Japanese Budō Association (Nippon Budō Kyōgikai)
In 1989, historian Minamoto Ryōen wrote a work called “Kata” 型, asking “What is the ultimate kata – the unity of mind, technique, and body (shingitai) – that physical action aims for?” In this, he equates kata with the unity of mind, technique, and body, that is, shingitai. Chapter 2 is called “Thoughts on Body, Mind and Technique in Prehistory, Antiquity, and the Middle Ages.” From old texts of nō drama and kenjutusu, Minamoto traces the spiritual history of “kata.”
However, it seems to be an attempt to backdate shingitai as a concept existing since the origin of the Japanese nation.
Appearance of the term Shingitai in other contexts
Shingitai does only appear in budō, quite on the contraty. Below are publications from various other contexts and fields which also include shingitai.
Moreover, early on shingitai was also heavily used in connection with Western sports, as can be seen in in a 1952 baseball magazine, which writes that, “A good man who never gives up, trains his mind, technique, and body (shingitai), respects himself, and eventually gains recognition from the world.”( Baseball Magazine. 1952, p. 36), and it is also mentioned in relation to table tennis (Nippon University, 1956-05, p. 24). Another example is the description that “a good strike comes out when a good hitter has the heart, technique, and body strength (shingitai),” (Baseball Magazine Vol.1, 11(1), 1956-01, p. 132). In 1962, Yaoita Hiroshi, co-founder of Yasaka Table Tennis Equipment, published “Table Tennis” (Takkyū), with chapter 2 emphasizing “The Unity of Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai).” More recently, former professional baseball pitcher Takashi Saitō published “The magic spell of Mind, Technique, and Body that will definitely work!” in the “Whonk and One Blow”-Series, Vol. 9, 2005, and there are guidebooks such as “Mental Training for Baseball Players: Change your mindset, improve your concentration, and win!” (2008)
Hasegawa Shigetoshi, retired relief pitcher in Major League Baseball, best-selling author and Japanese television personality, published “Winning a Major: The Mind, Technique, and Body of Japanese Pitchers” (2011), while Tezuka Kazushi wrote “Batting Strategy Theory: Raise your batting average and aim for long hits” (2012). Tatsunami Kazuyoshi and Nomura Hiroki wrote “The secret to improving baseball with parents and children: Hints for success, mind, technique, and professional thinking that everyone can learn” (2022) and Iwai Seiku publishd “Iwai-style Hard Baseball. The royal road method to hone your mind, technique, and body” (2018).
Besides there is Andō Misako’s “You can win the game! Softball’s strongest tactics” (2012), Kawagoe Shinsuke’s “You can win the game! Futsal’s 50 strongest tactics (2013), and Hasegawa Tarō’s “How to prepare mind, technique and body (shingitai) to mass-produce goals in soccer” (2017).
All of the above address shingitai.
Management, Business, Guidebooks
Another interesting field using shingitai is that of industrial management, leadership, sales, business self-help literature and guidebooks. In a continuous series in an industrial management magazine, Hirano Hiroyuki introuces “MRP (Material Requirements Planning) for small and medium-sized manufacturers,” saying that “You can also create a MRP’s mind, technique, and body (shingitai) production schedule” (In: Factory Management 27(10)(346), 1981-09, p. 101-110), and Mito Kiyoshi wrote “Aiming to be a technician with a good balance of mind, technique, and body (shingitai)” (In: Skills and Techniques. Technical Journal for the Development of Vocational Ability (5)(204), 2000, p. 9-15, published by the Vocational Training College of the Employment Promotion Agency). Shingitai is found in “The Exploding Solar Cell Industry: Current Status and Future of the 25 Trillion Yen Market” (2008) as wel as in Shimane Masamitsu’s and Shimizu Toshiyuki’s “Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai) for Entrepreneurship: Steps to an Innovative Way of Life” (2018).
Also, in case you didn’t know it, there are “77 Laws of employees who continue to be selected: There is a trick to getting promoted quickly!” (2009). You also might be interested in “Skillful business succession of a small company: For a rich life plan after retirement” (2009), “The Power of Capable Rookie Leaders: How Modern Newcomers Acquire Mind, Techniques, and Body Forms (2010), the “Aesthetics of the Bartender: The Tavern Equation” (2010) or “Nikaido Shigeto’s Golden Rules of Successful Trading: The Secrets of Making Stocks and Forex (2011).
Whether you’re looking for “A chairmans’s accounting that changes management in one hour” as a “Prescription to prevent cash flow bankruptcy” (2010), “Heart Voice – Talk Techniques for Tele Appointment Sales” (2011), or “An introduction to the mind, technique, and body (shingitai) of sexy women” – it is all there.
You might also consult “Shin-Gi-Tai in the U.S. and Japan as Seen in Data” (Commerce and Industry Journal 23 (6), pp. 40-41, 1997-06), “Build better homes organically” (2013), or “How to create your best self” (2013) by the Japan Management Association Management Center – shingitai is in it, and there are countless more beyond the following short selection.
Matsui Hideki: 100% Thinking that Breaks Down Walls. PHP Lab, 2011.
Yamamoto Kazutaka: MBA Thinking and Writing Techniques: The heart and technique of business documents. Toyo Keizai Shimposha, 2011.
Sakaue Hitoshi; Ogasawara Koji: The Esay Guide to Start Your Own Company in Japan. Medium, 2011.
Kitakage Yuyuki: Samurai Athlete Soul: Mind, Techniques, and Techniques Learned from Hagakure: A Must-Read for Leaders! Study Hard, 2012.
Komori Osamu: Kaizen Leader Training School. Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, 2012.
Mori Shigekazu: The Power to Keep Winning: Morishige-style Staff Studies to Nurture a Tenacious Organization. Business Company, 2012.
The Complete Guide to Work Experience 34. Poplar Company, 2013.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – ‘Moving World Heritage’ at the Roof of the World in India. Kodansha, 2006.
Moritomo Sadao: Intellect and mind, technique, and body in quality manufacturing. Journal of the Japan Society for Precision Engineering 63 (2), pp. 158-161, 1997.
Sugashita Kiyohiro: How to Ride Your Life on the Uptrend. Best Sellers, 2013.
Matsuoka Shuzo: Repair manager – Head of Repair Department. Takarajimasha, 2017.
Uchiyama Hiroyuki: Mind, technique, and body to improve performance: The path to successful sales activities. The New Japan Insurance Company, 2002.
Shimane Masamitsu, Shimizu Toshiyuki; Ariyoshi Tokuhiro: Mind, Technique, and Body for Entrepreneurship: Steps to an Innovative Way of Life. Izumi Bundo, 2018.
Hirokawa Keisuke; Asayama Noboru et.al.: Mind, technique, and body of a project manager who does not fail in system introduction: Awareness for sustainable growth. Seiunsha, 2019.
Already in 1943 shingitai appears in a periodical of the Japan Handicraft Research Association in connection with occupational training, so it seems that the concept reached into various fields, such as can be seen in the “New Electricity” periodal, which states, “In order to maintain superiority at all times, it is necessary to demonstrate the unity of shin, gi, and tai to the highest degree” (New Electricity. Ohm Publishing, 1957-01, p. 70), and it might also be seen in connection with company sports teams, transcending the boundary to the vocational world.
Alread in the 1960s, shingitai is found in conncetion with board games, as can be seen in “Victory: Go and Guts” (1965) by Sakata Eio, 9thdan professional go player, which has a section called “Mind – Technique – Body (shingitai).” Makoto Nakahara, a former professional shogi player who had gained the rank of a 9thdan, wrote about “How to carry out self-development. ‘Match’ with comprehensive power of mind, technique, and body (shingitai),” published by the “Management Consultant,” 1973-5, p. 96-97.
Medical Science and Sports Psychology
In “A Medical Approach to Anthropology” (1989), Chapter 7 covers an “Approach to a Four-Dimensional Human Image from Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai)” and 1997 saw “The SOP theory that made 21-year-old Tiger Woods who likes ‘hamburgers’ and ‘to win’ approach the mind, technique, and body (shingitai)” (Gendai 31 (12), pp. 186-193, 1997-12), while Kakegawa Akio wrote “A Surgeon’s Mental Attitude. Maintaining and Improving the Balance of Mind, Technique and Body (shingitai) will bring Good Results” (In: Surgery 63 (1), pp. 73-74, 2001-01-01). The 2010s saw the puclications such as Kodama Mitsuo’s “ATop Athlete’s Quote from Poor Life Theory” (2012), “Mind, technique, and body (shingitai) in academic drug discovery” (Kanazawa University Cancer Research Institute, 2013), “Marathon Sense and Running IQ” by Hosono Fumiaki (2018), and Sakurai Shoichi’s “Requirements for Gold Medalists: How to create top-notch mind, technique, and body (shingitai)” (2020). Reaching the 2020s, there is Miyaji Shigeru’s “New Cerebral Endovascular Therapy Book: 68 Moves of Miyaji-style Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai)” (Medica, 2022).
Shingitai began to appear in novels, such as can be seen in “Since ancient times, this has been called mind, technique, and body (shingitai). Without these three things, you cannot become a full-fledged swordsman!” (Nakayama Mitsuyoshi: Tamiya Bōtarō, 1956, p. 72).
Shingitai also found its way into music, such as in an introduction to “mind, technique and body of Katsumi Hagiya’s trombone playing” (Pipers, 1981-12, p. 34-39), or “Research on music expression using musical instruments (3). Prospects for wind and percussion activities in school education” (Bulletin of Tomakomai Komazawa University (3) pp. 1-19, 2000-03).
Takada Saburō provided a “Daily Training Book for Singing Higher” (2008), while Ayame Yoshinobu asks, “Is it possible to play in an ensemble today?” (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture Arts Council Tokyo, 2020).
Finally, in 1984, shingitai appears in the educational context (Educational Perspectives 30(2)(320), 1984), and ten years later in Physical Education (42(14), 1994), published by the Japan Sports Instructors Federation, including a special feature on “Sports and Mental Training” with research by Endō Takurō (“Human Mind and Body”) and Egawa Kinsei (“The Mind, Technique, and Body that Determines Competition Results”). The latter, Egawa Kinsei, already published “Conditions for Victory: Mental Training for Sportsmen” in 1986, which also includes references to shingitai.
There is the “Mind, technique, and body (shingitai) in English class” (2009), and Takano Michi’s “Thinking about Coaching: From the Perspective of Active Players” (Annual Meeting of Japan Society of Physical Education 44B (0), 1993), or Sato Hisao’s “Ordinary children became the best in Japan! Sendai High School’s Mind, Technique, and Body (shingitai)” (2001). And of course, as Saito Takashi saiud, “This will make school more fun” (2011).
In Germany, there is the series “Geist-Technik-Körper (shingitai): Writings on the background of Budo-Arts,” with the “History of Japanese Martial Arts” (1996), “Budō in today’s time” (1998), “Tobi-ishi: Stepping stones of a karate path: Experiences, experiences and reflections from four decades of karate practice” (2007), and others.
Coaching and self-help publications feature shingitai, such as “Self-Coaching Learned from Ichiro’s Words: The 99.99 Law for Living Yourself” (2008). There is also the outdoor world with “Fishing Romance: What Fishing Taught Me” (2011) and hentai, such as “One Piece Nippon Longitudinal! 47 Cruise CD 42 (in Nagasaki Hentai – Franky goes to Nagasaki) (2015).
Politics and Administration
In 2020, Kawai Toshikazu described “Mind, technique, and body (shingitai) to fulfill the city hall staff,” and there are the “Prospects for Democratic Judiciary: Shinomiya’s 70th Anniversary Commemorative Papers: Expectations for the Citizens as a Governing Body” (2022).
Also in the field of academic publications, one instance of shingitai can be seen in the 1950s, saying “If the mind, technique and body (shingitai) are not united, good results cannot be achieved” (Nihon University 1(1), 1956-05, p. 24). However, in academic discourse, shingitai appeared rather late. A keyword search at Waseda University Repository shows that shingitai as an academic topic only appeared since 2004. The earliest result found at through a query at the University of Tokyo Library OPAC System is from 1998, namely “The Science of Thoroughbreds: The Mind, Techniques, and Body of Racehorses” by the Japan Central Racehorse Research Institute and published by Kodansha in 1998. This again raises the question of how much shingitai was actually and formally used in general or technical languages. Particularly in science and academics, the reason might be that it is already an outdated concept for most disciplines, particularly in medicine, psychology, neuroscience and the like.
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.
(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.
My Art and Skill of Karate (Ryukyu Bugei Book 3), by Choki Motobu (Author), Andreas Quast (Tr./Ed.), Motobu Naoki (Tr.)
Troubled 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.’
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
First Printing: 2018
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)
In 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.»
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.”
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
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Martial Arts & Self-Defense
Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts. By Andreas Quast, 2020.
A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts HistoryPaperback– 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.
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.
In the previous article, I wrote about Tsuken no Kon. This kata is said to be one of the oldest bōjutsu of Okinawa, dating back to a certain Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku.
According to historian Majikina Ankō (1923), Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku handed down a staff fencing method called Tsuken-bō, which had a striking resemblance with the sword style of Jigen-ryū. According to this, Tsuken-bō must have existed in the 1920s, including a historical story to it. Majikina explains that the Okinawan bō was either six or three feet in length, with the first representing the method of the lance, and the latter representing the method of swordmanship. Finally, he says that this spear and staff method of the early 1600s are considered the origin of bōjutsu in Okinawa.
Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku was a historical person. The following information came to light.
Year of birth and death unknown. His Chinese-style name was Zen Kōsei. Due to his excellent qualities as a horseman, he won the favor of military commander Shimazu Yoshihiro of the Satsuma Domain, and by this he instantly gained power and influence. According to the Ryūkyū-kuni Yuraiki (1713), he seems to have acquired the skill of horseback riding during his stay in Satsuma.
In 1615 he proposed the creation of a trading port for Japanese ships in Taba Gushikawa district (in today’s Uruma city at Kin Bay). Together with Goeku Chōshu he was appointed magistrate to pursue this matter. Uezo Seiso, as the temporary chief administrator (sōjitō) of Gushikawa district was also involved in the planning of the construction work. His father was minister Yuntanza Seishō. At the time of the Shimazu hostile takeover, Yuntanza was Minister of Commerce (Osasu no Soba-kan) and participated in the peace negotiations (See Kyūyō Fukan, article 3). Yuntanza also once repulsed an application submitted by Tsuken Seisoku to be employed as the territorial administrator of Tsuken Island. Harboring a grudge over this rejection, Tsuken defamed Uezo’s working methods until the latter had to resign from office. Tsuken also defamed Uezo’s father, minister Yuntanza, until the latter also lost his office. As a result of these events, Uezu was sentenced to banishment to a remote island, and Yuntanza was demoted to the status of a commoner.
In 1617, Lord Shimazu Iehisa ordered a re-examination of the case and dispatched an inspector with two clerks. As a result of the investigation, Tsuken was identified as the real offender. Uezu’s banishment was repealed and Yuntanza returned to his original position as minister (sanshikan). Tsuken Seisoku lost his position of power. His hereditary fief of Tsuken was confiscated and he was interned in Kagoshima. The construction works of the planned trading port came to a halt and were never finished.
Btw, on Tsuken Island itself, Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku was referred to as Chikin Uēkata or Chikin Pēkū. Of course, Chikin is the dialect pronunciation of Tsuken, and Uēkata is a high rank within the royal government. As regards Chikin Pēkū, it might be a short form of Pēkumi, which is the way of pronouncing the title Pēchin only when the bearer is a fief holder. That is, both designations refer to him as either the general estate-steward (Uēkata) or the assistant estate-steward (Pēkumi) of Tsuken Island.
In addition, in the Okinawan play “The Legend of Loyalty and Bravery of Ufu-Aragusuku,” Tsuken is depicted as a traitor who was involved in the succession to the throne after King Shō Sei’s death, but this story is pure fiction.
Bōjutsu on Tsuken Island
There is a sūmachi-bō on Tsuken Island, which refers to a group of bō bearers usually walking in spirals to the rythm of gongs and horns during festivals. On Tsuken Island, it includes flag bearers, music, dances, historical costumes of the kingdom era, and so forth. It is a lively community activity attended by all ages, from little children to old seniors. It seems that it was held in 2013, but dates are unclear. I remember my colleague Walt Young, who also researches the tradition Tsuken Bō, told me he tried in vain to get someone to film the festival.
Anyway, in the past a crowd of about 200 men is said to have gathered at the community space called Shikirunchimā and performed the sūmachi-bō in two formations. It also includes bōkata as well as two-person kumibō.
On Tsuken Island, the originator of the Tsuken-bō is said to be Tsuken Akan’chū (Red Person). As an eminent figure, he has even been featured in comic books, and although some of his stories of bravery are exaggerated, the story of Tsuken Akan’chū has been generally passed down from generation to generation on the island as follows.
He was 180 cm tall, strong and agile, and was a strong sumō wrestler. He learned bōjutsu from Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku but was so skilled that he surpassed his master. During a fishing trip, he was swept away by a strong wind to Korea, where he killed a tiger.
Like this, according to tradition, Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku taught bōjutsu to Tsuken Akan’chū, and the latter surpassed his teacher in skill. Of course, as everyone knows, there is the famous paddle kata called Tsuken Akan’chū no Uēku-dī.
Quast, Andreas: Karate 1.0 – Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art. 2013.
Genealogy of Goeku Uēkata Chōshu, 5th generation of the Princly Shō-clan, House Wakugawa.
Dana Masayuki, in Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten, Vol. 2. 1982
(Note: The following is the translation of the abstract of Yoshifumi Hayasaka’s “Martial arts of the Satsuma Domain that influenced the martial arts of Ryūkyū (Tsuken no Kon)” presented at the 55th Conference of the Japanese Academy of Budo in 2022.)
As regards Okinawa’s martial arts, since Okinawa was ruled by the Satsuma domain during the era of the Royal Dynasty of Ryūkyū, the martial arts of the Satsuma domain had a great influence on the samurai of Ryūkyū. Among them, Jigen-ryū and Ten-ryū were most influential on ancient Okinawan martial arts such as bōjutsu (techniques of the staff), kaijutsu (techniques of the paddle), and kuwajutsu (techniques of the hoe).
Tsuken no Kon, which I learned when I was a student, is the oldest Okinawan bōjutsu. I want to pass on this martial art of Okinawa and its history, as I have studied so far, to future generations.
Tsuken no Kon
1. Founder Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku
Birth and death dates are unknown (estimated between 1558 and 1629). He was a member of the Shuri samurai class (shizoku), his rank was Uēkata, he was the originator of Tsuken Bō, a pioneer of horseback riding, his name was Seisoku, his Chinese-style name was Zen Kōsei. He excelled in horseback riding, and his name was known as far as Satsuma.
“In the Keichō period (1596–1615), there was a spear-staff-method (sōbōhō; The Tradition of Jiryō). There was also a staff method (bōhō) handed down by Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku as Tsuken Bō, which was very similar to the swordsmanship of the Jigen-ryū. Ryūkyū bōjutsu was divided into six-foot-staff (rokushaku) and three-foot-staff (sanshaku, AKA shaku-gwā). At the end of the Edo period (–1868), Tsuken Bō was passed down from the fishermen of Tsuken Island in Katsuren Village to Bushi Agena Chokuhō [transl. note: AKA Gushikawa Tērā-gwā], and was learned by Matayoshi Shinkō. This is the Tsuken no Kon as currently performed.
(Kyūyō, Appendix Volume 1; Okinawa Issen-nen Shi)
2. Techniques of Tsuken no Kon
The content of the performance is solo kata. In the performing line (enbusen), there are virtual enemies on all sides. The techniques include a strike (uchikomi) from the posture of carrying the bō on one’s shoulder, followed by a sliding thrust with the bō (nukibō), and a “prey drop”( emono otoshi) followed by a thrusting technique (tsuki-waza). It consists of techniques that combine strikes (uchikomi) and thrusting techniques (tsuki-waza), a rear thrust (ushiro-zuki), a reversed harai-uke followed by a butt-end thrust, and a variation of a naginata technique called “five consecutive strikes” (gorenda).
Martial arts of the Satsuma Domain that influenced martial arts of Ryūkyū
1. Jigen-ryū swordsmanship
The Jigen-ryū style of swordsmanship, which is representative of the Satsuma domain, was founded by Tōgō Shigekata (1561–1643), and has been passed down from generation to generation in the Tōgō family. For several years since 1609, Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku stayed (in the Satsuma Domain), and completed Tsuken Bō between 1617 and 1625, after he had returned to Ryūkyū.
The shaku-gwā (sanshaku-bō) or jōjutsu passed down in Okinawa include the form of striking from a dragonfly posture (tonbo no kamae), and it is inferred that the sword was transformed into shaku-gwā (sanshaku-bō) or jōjutsu.
The Ten-ryū of Satsuma has been passed down from generation to generation by the Ijichi family, whose founder was Ijichi Matazaemon Muneaki. Ijichi became a disciple of Saitō Denkibō (1550–1587), a resident of Hitachi [in today’s Ibaraki Prefecture) [and founder of Ten-ryū]. Ten-ryū is a comprehensive martial art that includes methods such as the sword and naginata.
The Ten-ryū had a great influence on Ryūkyū’s bōjutsu (techniques of the staff), kaijutsu (techniques of the paddle), and nagakama (techniques of the pole sickle), and encompasses excellent naginata techniques. It has been handed down to the present day as a unique form of martial arts of Okinawa.
I once saw the last will of Ryūkyū samurai Aka Chokushiki, in which he mentioned about “a scroll of the Jigen-ryū, a scroll of the Ten-ryū spear (yari) and naginata” which he “kept as a family heirloom and passed it down” to his descendants. By this, I learned that these martial arts (bugei) had already been practiced in Ryūkyū during the Kyōhō era (1716-1736). In addition, after reading Katsuren Moritoyo’s book “Okinawa’s Staff Dance,” I learned that the bōjutsu developed by Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku has been passed down to the present day as Tsuken no Kon under the guidance of the late Matayoshi Shinpō Sensei.
Tsuken no Kon is a great kata with great technical variety. It seems to be rooted in the culture of Okinawa and I made a short video about the starting posture, which is an intruiging detail. Another interesting point is that there are several versions of the kata, which all claim the same or a similar history. So there is the question: Which is the real one? Is there more than one real one? Or, are they all modern 1950s / 60s creations?
Due to my inquisitive nature, I have a few questions which I will direct toward the above article. However, the same questions may be asked towards any other tradition of Okinawa kobudō. Please be benevolent.
Where kaijutsu (techniques of the paddle) and kuwajutsu (techniques of the hoe) really martial arts practiced in the 18th century?
In his story of Tsuken no Kon, the author mentions Jiryō, and then Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku. Then he continues the lineage with Agena Chokuhō and Matayoshi Shinkō, and says, “this is the Tsuken no Kon as currently performed.” Only after this paragraph he presents the Kyūyō and Majikina Ankō’s Okinawa Issen-nen Shi as the sources for it. However, while the Kyūyō and Majikina do mention Jiryō and Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku, they neither mention Agena Chokuhō nor Matayoshi Shinkō. Therefore the question arises when and who exactly made the connection between Matayoshi’s Tsuken no Kon and the historical source.
Neither the Kyūyō nor Majikina called the technique Tsuken no Kon, but Tsuken Bō, and here it must be noted that Tsuken Bō exists as an individual kata. Couldn’t it be that despite the same name Tsuken no Kon and Tsuken Bō are two different things?
It remains unclear what technical feature is supposed to qualify today’s Tsuken no Kon as a tradition influenced by Jigen-ryū. How does it represent any specific method of the Jigen-ryū
This tradition of Tsuken no Kon has been established in Matayoshi Kobudō for quite some time and already appears in the Matayoshi Shinkō memorial publication of 1999. Then, I think it is still difficult to establish the connection to Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku simply by the name Tsuken, because there are so many kata named Tsuken, such as Tsuken Bō, Tsuken no Kon, Tsuken Shitahaku no Sai, Tsuken Hanta-gwā no Kon, Tsuken Sunakake no Uēku, Tsuken Akan’chū no Uēku, and probably others. Wouldn’t it, therefore, be in the best interest of Matayoshi Kobudō stakeholders to research historical material to clarify the origin and transmission?
The written acounts on Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku existed long before Tsuken no Kon appeared as a kata. Why?
Even after reading the technical description, it remains unclear what technical feature is supposed to qualify today’s Tsuken no Kon as a tradition influenced by Jigen-ryū. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how and why this kata is traced back to Tsuken Bō of Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku some hundred years back.
It is typical for Okinawa karate and kobudō to mix self-created traditions with actual historical facts. What’s wrong with someone simply taking a village bō and Matayoshi-izing it?
Even more confusing, while Tsuken Bō of Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku was originally said to have been similar to the swordsmanship of the Jigen-ryū, the technical description has suddenly become one to include naginata techniques. Why?
It is said that Tsuken Uēkata Seisoku completed Tsuken Bō between 1617 and 1625. This wording seems insinuate that a solo kata was already created by that time, which came to be handed down under the name of Tsuken Bō, or otherwise as Tsuken no Kon. Wouldn’t it be more realistic to assume that a kata was created in a village much later, and became the kata of Tsuken no Kon as seen today only in the 20th century?
As regards nagakama (techniques of the pole sickle), while technology and techniques of Japanese martial arts existed in Ryūkyū, there was no such tradition found in the Matayoshi lineages so far, isn’t it? When, how, and by whom did these specific techniques and weapons supposedly have entered the Matayoshi lineage?
Aka Chokushiki handed down scrolls of Jigen-ryū swordmanship and Ten-ryū spear (yari) and naginata. However, when exactly, how, and by whom was any of these traditions supposedly handed down in Okinawa from the 19th to the 20th century?
Source: Yoshifumi Hayasaka (Kobudō Kenkyūkai): “Martial arts of the Satsuma Domain that influenced the martial arts of Ryūkyū (Tsuken no Kon)” (in Japanese). In: 55th Conference of the Japanese Academy of Budo (Budō Gakkai). Abstracts of Research Presentations. Date: September 3 and 4, 2022. Venue: Tōin University of Yokohama. Page 51.
In Okinawa karate theory and history, there is a train of thought that connects the persons Kūsankū, Sakugawa, and Matsumura Sōkon in sense of an unbroken personal tradition of skill, or of a teacher-student relationship. Like this, you will find genealogies such as Sakugawa à Matsumura à Itosu à modern Shurite.
How did this idea develop and is there any proof for it?
First, there s no karate kata bearing the name of Sakugawa. There is a bōjutsu kata by the name of Sakugawa. This bōjutsu kata includes a half-kneeling posture that is quite similar to the same posture in various versions of Kūsankū kata. There are also other bōjutsu kata that include the same posture, such as Chatan Yara no Kon. This similarity in postures might be reason for people to believe that there must have been a personal relation, or a master-student relationship between Kūsankū and Sakugawa, or Kūsankū and Chatan Yara, or both.
Of course, it would be nice for the historical claims of Okinawa Karate if a direct personal transmission of the technique from master to student could be established in this way. However, so far, it seems to be just a postwar story and largely a supposition without any proof or even hints. It is characteristic of Okinawa Karate that one does not comment on problems that could question and jeopardize the foundations of their own “Okinawa Karate theory”.
Let’s look at a theory by one of the greatest Okinawa Karate researchers of all times, Kinjō Hiroshi Sensei. Kinjō is an Okinawa. Born and raised in Shuri, he learned karate since his youth. In the postwar era, he published karate magazines and researched the history and techniques of Okinawa Karate all his life. In his last work, which is of eminent importance for modern karate research, he presents the story how he finally discovered the evidence for the master-student relationship between Sakugawa and Matsumura. The following is a translation of his reasoning.
Tōdī Sakugawa and his relation to Matsumura Sōkon
Wanting to know a little more about Tōdī Sakugawa, I examined the name register of the Ryūkyū royal government, but the name Sakugawa was not to be found in it. Maybe his Chinese-style name was used. However, as regards the fact that he studied in China, it was found that he traveled to China more than once as a member of the entourages of Ryūkyūan tribute missions. Within my various investigations, I made a great discovery. That is, the fact that Matsumura Sōkon – who might also be called Ryūkyū’s unparalleled Saint of Boxing – has been a disciple of Sakugawa Kanga.
Here, themartial artsgenealogy of karate originator Itosu Ankō in a straight line leads from China to Sakugawa, from Sakugawa to Matsumura, and to Itosu. Of course, this doesn’t mean that only Chinese kenpō of Sakugawa Kanga would have existed in the town of Shuri. Besides Sakugawa’s Chinese kenpō, it is indispensable to also consider earlier kenpō that has had already become Ryūkyū-ized “tī”.
I would now like to write about details of the teacher-student relationship between Sakugawa Kanga and Matsumura Sōkon. While researching Sakugawa Kanga, I was able to catch sight of the theory that Sakugawa died abroad in Beijing, was buried at the foreign cemetery located outside of Beijing, and in later years his mortal remains were returned to his native land of Ryūkyū by the hands of Matsumura Sōkon. According to the tradition of folk belief of Ryūkyū, if a person comes into physical contact with the mortal remains of a deceased person who was not a blood relative, that person will enter a time of terrible misfortune. Even today this kind of superstition of our regional character remains.
That is, I hypothesize that because one hundred and seventy years ago Matsumura, who was not a blood relative of Sakugawa, brought back Sakugawa’s mortal remains, there must have undoubtedly been a deep teacher-student relationship between the two, isn’t it so?
If this hypothesis would be proven, I thought that the martial art of Itosu Ankō, the inventor of “school karate,” is linked in a single straight line to Matsumura and further to Sakugawa, and therefore, it is also linked to Chinese kenpō of Beijing. Both Sakugawa and Matsumura studied Chinese kenpō in Beijing. However, the story that both were in a master-student relationship has never been heard.
I was lost in thought, wondering if the hypothesis of a master-student relationship between Sakugawa and Matsumura would end up being just a hypothetical problem without any chance of proving it.
Accidentally, I received a letter and a copy of an illustration from Miyagi Tokumasa. By means of this letter and illustration, I was able to prove the teacher-student relationship of Matsumura and Sakugawa.
Thanks to the support of Miyagi Tokumasa (1939–), the hypothesis of a master-student relationship between Sakugawa and Matsumura has been demonstrated. However, the fact that I wasn’t able to demonstrate the hypothesis by myself, but only by borrowing the support of another authority, is indeed ironic. Furthermore, in later years, by a record of Sakukawa’s funerary urn, it was found that the theory of Sakugawa dying abroad in Beijing turned out to be mere rumor, a glamorizing fable.
By substantiating the teacher-student relationship of Sakugawa and Matsumura, karate for school education becomes a genealogy leading from Beijing → to Sakukawa → to Matsumura → to Itosu, and can be understood as what became the “tī” of the age of Matsumura.
This “tī”, which molted from the Chinese kenpō of Matsumura, represents an extremely important point within the history of karate technique. Because without the existence of Matsumura’s “tī”, the creation of “school karate” would have been impossible. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that besides Matsumura many masters and experts of tōdī or ti, respectively, were also variously active.
Illustration: This is one sheet of a booklet about atemi and ukemi (striking of and receiving with the body), originally bound from 16 sheets in total and presented to Matsumura Sōkon by Tōdī Sakugawa. The original booklet was lost during World War II. Only this one sheet remains as a copy (provided by Miyagi Tokumasa).
It took me a number of years to locate the original source of the diagram. In fact, it was only when I went to Okinawa and met colleague and friend John Lohde, who brought along the extremely rare original source. I described the drawing here.
Here are some points to consider:
According to Miyagi Tokumasa, around 1995 it was still not confirmed whether the meridian diagram really belonged to an original of 16 bound papers, and whether these were really given by Tōdī Sakugawa to Matsumura Sōkon and then handed down by someone. However, the theory was “tentatively accepted.”
Is there any ongoing research of the theory?
Such meridian charts have been available anywhere since the Ming era, and always look the same. What qualifies it as an atemi chart?
While there are esoteric kyusho methods that use meridian theory, atemi waza uses many specific points and body regions not defined by esoteric meridian theory. Why would anyone use such an impractical method?
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This is about a story from Kinjo Sensei’s last book. It is a rich book with lots of great insights, theories, technical descriptions, thoughts, attempts at classification, personal experiences and so forth. I particularly liked a story from Kinjo’s youth seemingly unrelated to karate. It is the story of the Mice Athletic Meet.
“In Okinawa, even when it comes to our age, there were awfully many mice. At night-time, mice were running around in the gap of the intermediate ceiling and in the kitchen as if they owned the place.
In my childhood years, during night-time, when the mice ran around in the gap of the intermediate ceiling, we would say ‘And once more the Mice Athletic Meet began,’ and start laughing together. In such a living environment, what would happen if you left one straw bag of rice in the corner of the kitchen for so long that dust piles up? It would be devoured by the mice.
So how was rice stored? Rice that was used every day was stored in a lacquered, round barrel-shaped rice bin about 45 centimeters high and 30 centimeters in diameter. Rice that was stored a little longer was stored in a large wooden box covered with a lid to prevent it from being harmed by mice. When I was a child, I remember well that our home had a lacquered rice bin that had been passed down from my great-grandfather’s generation.“
The history and characters of Okinawa karate are often accompanied by hero stories. You start wondering how many of them are true and how many are mere barbershop gossip. It seems that the less is actually known about a person, the more stories there are. Such anecdotes tend to be exaggerated more and more, as in Chinese whispers. On the contrary, “important truths are sometimes not handed down,” Kinjo writes, saying that he has a “feeling that many of these stories are similar to fiction,” such as the following anecdote surrounding Matsumura Sōkon.
“It was said that night after night a mysterious boxer appeared, who challenged young men who took pride in their skills, and easily defeated them all. Finally, it was Sōkon’s turn. The first bout ended in a draw, but in the next bout Sōkon was victorious.
But wait, what? His opponent was a woman named Tsuru! So, Sōkon fell in love with her, and they got married.
Not only that. There’s a sequel to it. The story is that his wife was such an incredibly strong person that, when doing the cleaning, she lifted a bag of rice with one hand while sweeping the dust from under the bag with the other hand. This is also a cock-and-bull story, isn’t it?“
In short, Kinjo questions the veracity of the story and gives it a reality check. It means that it is unlikely that anyone would place a bag of rice on the ground in Okinawa at the time.
(The following is an episode translated from the stories of the late Kinjo Hiroshi Sensei himself, found on his website)
There was a famous master of the fist named Motobu Chōki. Even among the younger generation, those who are training in karate probably know his name.
It would be appropriate to describe my encounter with Motobu Chōki as a coincidence. As I will write about in detail in the following, I first met him through a hole in a paper sliding door when I was six years old.
One of my childhood friends, who was one or two years older than me, was Tomiyama Gorō. Although he died young due to childhood tuberculosis, he always wanted to stand over me no matter what. Not only because he was older, but also because my face always looked pale and I coughed a lot, and I was a little underdeveloped and not physically confident, so with the wisdom of an elder, it was obvious that he always wanted to lead me.
One day, Gorō came to call me. He told me that Motobu Sārū was coming to his house and that he would show him to me. Gorō’s house was the third next door. He hurried along and told me that Motobu Sārū was in the front parlor and that I should peek through the hole in the paper sliding door. Even as a child, I felt some resistance and hesitation at the idea of peering through the hole. However, with the joy of being able to see the face of the great pugilist I had always admired, I gathered my courage and peeked into the parlor through a hole in the paper sliding door, following Gorō’s instructions.
In the middle of the front parlor was a middle-aged man with a stern face, sitting cross-legged with his arms crossed. My first impression was that he had a slightly scary face and he didn’t seem cheerful. Even though we met through a hole in the paper sliding door, Motobu had no idea who we were. I think he probably thought of it as nothing more than a child’s prank. However, this was very satisfying. Later, I would tell my friends that I had met Motobu Sārū.
Thirteen or fourteen years after this encounter, I happened to meet Motobu Sārū again at my maternal grandfather’s house, and had the opportunity to have a conversation with him for the first time. It appears that my maternal grandfather and Motobu Sārū knew each other, and although my maternal grandfather was older, he spoke to Motobu in courteous language. At that time, I was a senior in middle school, a member of the karate club, and had been practicing karate for over ten years. However, I don’t remember him talking much about karate.
What I do remember is that he made a one-knuckle-fist with his right hand and said, “Let’s strike the pillar with a one-knuckle-fist. It will make a dent in the pillar!” Generally speaking, a one-knuckle-fist is one with the middle finger held up, but Motobu’s one-knuckle-fist had the index finger stick out. This unexpected matter left a strong impression on me. However, neither my grandfather nor I wanted him to perform striking the pillar with his one-knuckle-fist.
After that, about two years later, on October 20, 1938, I had a rare opportunity to attend the dedication demonstration at the Okinawa Shrine Festival. I had heard from my maternal grandfather that Motobu was said to be an unparalleled great master of the fist, but that he was actually a coward and that half of his victories were achieved due to deception.
There was a rumor that he had won against many opponents by deception, so I decided to check it out. I asked him timidly and modestly if this was true, and he he spat out at me that it was the fault of those who were deceived. At the time, I could not agree with those words. I thought he was just the man as the rumors had said. However, about half a century later, I came to realize that he had deceived me. So, he showed off his deception skills by saying “It’s the fault of those who are deceived,” while this is actually an expression of “deception is also part of the skill.”
I have a few questions here.
Was the alleged cowardice a story of tactics and strategies, such as described by Jesse here, when Motobu was already 72 years old, facing a mad attacker with a butcher knife?
Did it change Kinjo’s interpretation of karate after he finally understood the importance of Motobu’s lesson 50 years later?
If Sun Tsu famously said “All warfare is based on deception,” and Miyamoto Musashi also used trickery, why is it considered wrong?
Kinjo traced his karate theory back to Matsumura Sokon, but never considered Motobu Choki, a direct student of Matsumura, even tough “Watashi no Karatejutsu” became public in the 1990s. Why?
In comparative analysis of techniques, there are countless similarities between the movements of Okinawan karate kata and the techniques used in historical European martial arts. This example here is just one of a total 130 fighting techniques handed down by Johann Georg Pascha, published in 1663. The description to the illustration is as follows:
“When the opponent grabs you by the upper arms with both his hands, then press your left hand into your left side and push his hands away with your left elbow (see picture). Push his hands away with your right elbow in the same way.”
In Okinawa karate, this technique can be easily recognized as a possible application for techniques from Pinan Sandan and Chinto, and these kata even have follow up techniques. Can you think of any other examples?
While such fighting methods are immortalized in so-called “wrestling books,” they were not “wrestling” in the modern sense (Greco-Roman), but rather fighting books in a broader sense, often in conjunction with weapons. In this context, therefore, “wrestling” refers to “unarmed combat.”
The title of the book, interpreted in modern language, is “Complete book of unarmed combat, instructing how to correctly attack the adversary, how to disengage from grips and holds etc., how to parry blows, and how to train the various techniques and counters.”
In my previous article I presented a chapter from Kinjo Hiroshi’s last book. In it he describes “The Four Outer Forms of Postures Discovered by Matsumura.” These four outer forms of postures simply describe how two opponents can face each other, that is, the “positions of two people relative to each other.”
(1) A: right foot forward / B: right foot forward
(2) A: right foot forward / B: left foot forward
(3) A: left foot forward / B: right foot forward
(4) A: left foot forward / B: left foot forward
In all these scenarios, B can attack – for instance – with a right chūdan-zuki, that is, a total of 4 combinations of posture and attack. Adding a left chūdan-zuki, it becomes a total of 8 combinations of posture and attack. Adding right and left jōdan-zuki, the total becomes 16 combinations of posture and attack. Moreover, if using the same defensive techniques for all these 16 there, there must also be sixteen defensive techniques corresponding to this.
Considering the large amount of attacking and defensive techniques known in karate, it is easy to understand that a myriad of combinations is possible, which makes karate not only extremely versatile, but als inscrutable. In order to calculate the number of possibilities, advanced knowledge of mathematics would be necessary, for example combinatorics. This would also show how futile it would be to try to figure all possible combinations. It would also show that no one entity can know and train all those possible combinations.
In his book, Kinjo mentions that he has heard that “the four outer forms of postures are even found in foreign boxing textbooks, “but that he hasn’t confirmed it himself.” So I asked if there are martial arts that discovered similar concepts. Of course, this is a rethorical question. Here is an example that has the four basic vis-a-vis postures.It is from a book by Johann Georg Pascha, published in 1663, called “Complete book of [unarmed] fighting, instructing how to properly attack the adversary, how to disengage, how to parry blows, and how to perform various exercises and counterattacks.”
While the illustration lack artistic expression, they are examples of how other martial arts used the various combinations in practicing techniques.
(1) A: right posture, B, right foot forward
(2) A: right posture, B, left foot forward
(3) A: left posture, B, right foot forward
(4) A: left posture, B, left foot forward
Let me just add that this is just an example. Any of the old manuals will reveal that this idea was well known and understood long ago. As an example, the Wallerstein Codex of 1464/5 clearly describes not only the different stances taken relative to each to each other, but also that any technique can be done “on both sides,” meaning right and left.
The question remains whether this theory is fully practical, and if it is historical, if it is considered a standalone discovery of Okinawa, or of Shuri, and if it was a keypoint of Matsumura’s old-style Shurite and so on. In any case, Kinjo Sensei’s doubts that the same practical considerations as Matsumura’s were not made in boxing (before or after Queensburry), or in a number of other types of combat under various names around the world, can easily be dispelled by looking at the existing sources.
(Note: The following is a partly abridged translation of a chapter from Kinjo Hiroshi’s last book. It is presented here for discussion und research purposes for those with ties to Okinawa Karate, particularly those of the Shurite genus.)
The Four Outer Forms of Postures Discovered by Matsumura
It seems that the four outer forms of postures are even found in foreign boxing textbooks. This is just what I’ve heard but haven’t confirmed myself. There is no way to know when the four postures became established in boxing. However, it is difficult to imagine they were established before Matsumura.
I believe that the four postures were not just suddenly discovered one day. I believe that reaching the state of the four postures is the result of a lifelong commitment to “achieving wisdom” (kakubutsu chichi, to deepen one’s observation and speculation about specific things). […]
Think of kenpō as a combat sport. In combat sports, winning is the priority. To win, it is necessary to be faster than your opponent, so it is essential to have superiority of speed (hands come before feet). However, speed alone is not enough to win. You must be able to respond to all of your opponent’s postures.
Unless you practice by changing your posture, speed alone will not be effective. After discovering the four postures, Matsumura realized that the four postures were not effective unless they were combined with movement. Training to capture moving objects activates the four postures. This will give you the wit to know how to take the initiative, as well as to formulate logical strategies and tactics.
The Meaning of “Posture” (kamae)
The word “posture” (kamae) has many meanings. Here, I would like you to understand it in the narrower sense of “an offensive or defensive posture.” Generally, it is said that there are various postures (kamae) used for karate. However, I think that the fundamentals lie in the four simple outer forms of postures (kamae) discovered by Matsumura. […]
(Translator’s note: In all photos, A is on the left, and B is on the right.)
Stand a little higher, just as shown in illustration 1. This is the stance of Pinan created by Itosu Ankō. As shown in illustration 1, if the right foot is in front, it becomes “right Pinan-dachi.”
In illustration 2, both A and B are in “right Pinan-dachi with a right two-handed posture.” If you stand in the opposite fashion, it becomes “left Pinan-dachi with a left two-handed posture.”
For a single person, there are only two basic forms of stances, i.e., left, and right. However, if two people team up, the number will double to four.
The traditional old kata often start from the right posture. This is probably to protect the important heart.
For convenience, I will number the four outer forms of postures. The first form of right stance versus right stance will be the First Outer Form of Postures.
1) First Outer Form of Postures
As shown in illustration 2, A is in right Pinan-dachi, with right two-handed posture, and B is also in right Pinan-dachi with right two-handed posture. Both are in the same posture.
2) Second Outer Form of Postures
As shown in illustration 3, A is the same as in the First Outer Form of Postures, i.e., right Pinan-dachi with right two-handed posture. B is in the left Pinan-dachi with left two-handed posture.
3) Third Outer Form of Postures
As shown in illustration 4, A is in left Pinan-dachi, with left two-handed posture. B is in right Pinan-dachi, with right two-handed posture. Note that in this form and the positions of A and B are opposite to each other than in the Second Outer Form of Postures.
4) Fourth Outer Form of Postures
As shown in illustration 5, A is in left Pinan-dachi, with left two-handed posture. B is also in left Pinan-dachi with left two-handed posture.
The posture is second outer form on the left and right when used alone, and the Fourth Outer Form of Postures when assuming an opponent.
Do you understand? Maybe because it is so straightforward and simple, when I ask people to explain it, I often see them confused and unable to explain it clearly and in an orderly manner, maybe because the four postures are so similar.
The four outer forms of postures are not just four models according to or beyond the kata. From the four postures, the mathematical logic can be derived that one technique is developed into four techniques. For example, if we consider a right-hand thrusting technique, if we apply it to the four outer forms of postures, when viewed from B’s side, four kinds of thrusts are created as follows.
(1) A: right posture / B: right chūdan-zuki, right foot forward
(2) A: right posture / B: right chūdan-zuki, left foot forward
(3) A: left posture / B: right chūdan-zuki, right foot forward
(4) A: left posture / B: right chūdan-zuki, left foot forward
If you add a left chūdan-zuki, it will become a total of eight chūdan-zuki (four with the right, and four with the left fist). If you then add left and right jōdan-zuki, the total number doubles to sixteen. If this is the case, then there must also be sixteen defensive techniques corresponding to this.
If we can understand the trend of development of the four postures as mentioned above, I believe that a new way of teaching methods opens for [karate as] a combat sport.
I have a few questions in relation to this text.
How did Kinjo Hiroshi know that Matsumura discovered “Four Outer Form of Postures”?
Why were these not handed anywhere else in in Okinawa?
Did Kinjo Hiroshi, who came from a school karate background, change his few on karate over time?
Are there other martial arts that discovered similar concepts?
There is a interesting detail to Nagamine Shōshin sensei‘s Naihanchi, which has rarely been adressed, if ever. Namely, each step in this kata is performed with the leg raise referred to as nami-gashi (lit. returning wave). This continuous nami-gashi is performed in each of Naihanchi Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan and seems to be a unique feature of Matsubayashi-ryū when compared to the Kobayashi-ryūNaihanchi of Itosu-Chibana lineage.
There are also other schools who have what they call a Tomari Nahanchi, but I don’t know their technical details and personal traditions. Looking at old videos, though, they also perform a continuous nami-gaeshi, such as seen in the Matsumora-ryū of Yara Chōi. Yara was a disciple of Kuba Chōjin, which happened to be a teacher of Nagamine as well, and this Yara also served as an instructor at the Nagamine dōjō in the 1950s.
Nagamine Shōshin sensei wrote about the when and how certain kata of Tomari were handed down (Note 1).
Matsumora Kōsaku, also known as “Bushi Matsumora of Tomari,” was born on March 18, 1829, in the village of Tomari, as the eldest son of Matsumora Kōten of the Yō clan, which descended from the 1st Dynasty of the Royal Shō Clan. His baby birth cry was heard at their mansion at Zuikeizan [maybe an old location that is now lost], which was located to the west of Tomari Village School. His childhood name was Tarukane and his Chinese-style name was Yō Ikan.
Although he was of short height, he had broad shoulders, a large chest, and a sturdy physique. At that time, Tomari Village was an administrative area separated from Shuri, but it was a trading port for the royal government in Shuri, and so it shared the history and fate of the royal government of Ryūkyū. Therefore, people from Tomari were generally conservative, and experts in fields such as Chinese characters, performing arts, music, and martial arts also appeared one after the other.
Naturally, while young boy Tarukane studied the “Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism” at Tomari Village School, as a member of the samurē class, he also devoted himself to the way of martial arts and cultivated the typical ideology of a young conservative man from Tomari.
He received serious karate instruction from masters Uku Karyū and Teruya Kishin, both from Tomari. First, he worked with Master Uku in his garden for three years, where he trained Naihanchi of Tomari-te and thoroughly strengthened his legs and hips.
Next, under Master Teruya, he studied the master’s specialties of Passai and Wanshū for more than three years and was finally able to master the majority of Tomari-te.
Was this the earliest reference to the masters Uku Karyū and Teruya Kishin and to Naihanchi, Passaiand Wanshū as kata handed down in Tomari?
Actually, Nagamine published the same details including about “Naihanchi of Tomari-te” already seven years earlier, in December 1979 (Note 2).
Again nine years earlier, Nagamine Shōshin provided a biography of Matsumora Kōsaku for a “Brief Biography of Warrior Matsumora Kōsaku – Ancestor of Tomari-te Karate,” which was published by Matsumora Kōshō, probably a descendant of “Warrior Matsumora.” (Note 3)
Moreover, in his personal notebook, which includes data and records about interviews with famous martial artists and other research, Nagamine collected some of his research on “venerable Matsumora Kōsaku of the Yō-clan.” This is where he probably first wrote down by hand his research that Matsumora Kōsaku was born on 18 March 1829 in Tomari Village as the oldest son of Matsumora Kōten, that his childhood name was Tarugani, and that his Chinese-style name Yō Ikan. From other data such as the names of his three daughters and two sons, as well as the fact that he mentions that “Matsumora Kōsaku’s mortuary tablet was handed over to Matsumora Kōban and further to Matsumora Kōmei of Onna Village,” and that he provides the address of the then-current head of family in Gushikawa Village Agena 203, who ran a taxi company at the time, there can be little doubt that Nagamine spared no effort to deeply research the genealogy of Matsumora and interview the family members. Therefore, information such as the following are most reliable (Note 4):
Matsumora Kōsaku died on November 7, 1898. He was 70 years old. The founder and 1st generation of the Yō-clan from Tomari was Kochinda Pēchin Kōchō, a grandson of King Shō Toku, the 7. King of the 1st Dynasty of the Royal Shō-clan. Kōsaku’s father Kōten was the 11th generation of this family, and Kōsaku himself was the 12th generation.
Is Naihanchi performed with continuous nami-gaeshi an antique method of Tomari-te? This question cannot be answered for various reasons. For instance, various versions of Naihanchi were probably used in various regions, and mixed over time. More recently, “Tomari” became sort of a buzzword used inflationary and it is difficult to confirm or refute any of these. This is why it is interesting and important to study seeming tiny details in the kata.
Besides his lifelong practice and teaching efforts, it can be said that Nagamine Shōshin’s study, records, interviews, and genealogical study truly constituted the “whisteling arrow of research” into the study of Okinawa Karate.
Note 1: Nagamine Shōshin: Biographies of Okinawa Karate and Sumō Masters – Based on Historical Facts and Oral Traditions (Shijitsu to kuden ni yoru Okinawa karate sumō meijin-den). 1986, pp. 57-58.
Note 2: Nagamine Shōshin: Biographies of Okinawan Martial Artists of Karate – Matsumora Kōsaku (1) (Okinawa no Karate Bujin-den – Matsumora Kōsaku (1))
Note 3: Matsumora Kōshō: Brief Biography of Warrior Matsumora Kōsaku – Ancestor of Tomari-te Karate (Bushi Matsumora Kōsaku Ryakuden: Karate (Tomari-te) Chūkō no So). Naha 1970.
Note 4: Handwritten Records by Nagamine Shōshin. Copy made by the author.
Comparatively recent, on March 29, 2005, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly declared October 25th as “Karate Day.” The date was chosen in reference to October 25, 1936, when several leading karate practitioners of the era officially decided on the notation Karate 空手 (empty hand) to replace the older notation of Karate 唐手 (Chinese martial arts skill).
These two events are the result of the interests of various influential stakeholders from fields such as politics, prefectural administration, business associations, media, lobby groups, education, military, etc., and of course the karate masters themselves. It is the premise of an undifferentiated continuum, a logical fallacy of the kind “If the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true.”
In postwar Okinawan self-historiography, October 25, 1936, is treated like any other date. In fact, “Okinawa” as a whole fails to recognize that the name change coincided with the era of Japan’s military and colonial expansion in Asia and that Okinawa was a proactive part of it since the late 19th century. Whether the karate masters were aware of this or not: Karate 唐手 written by using the character kara 唐 meaning China became untenable due to the situation of the expanding Fifteen Year War, meaning the timeframe from the Mukden Incident in Manchuria in 1931 through the end of World War II in 1945. By changing the name within this situation, the karate masters complied with the wishes of the various, influential stakeholders of the era, without being willing or able to classify their deed contextually or historically.
In the resolution on the declaration of Karate Day in 2005, it is the collective silence of all stakeholders in and outside of the prefecture that allows “Okinawa” to euphemistically define karate as a “martial arts of peace based on the magnificent philosophical principle of ‘no first attack in karate’ and the fundamental ideal of cherishing life as ‘life is the treasure’.” While sympathetic and positive, this is straightforward marketing speech, a selling point using selective, fragmentary indication of ingredients.
Don’t get me wrong, Karate is a great exercise and self-protection, Japan is a great country and Okinawa is a super vibrant and interesting place with great history and culture. My point is simply, to historically, contentually, and contextually position Karate in a larger whole, including its dark ages, the above issue would need to be taken into account as part of the overall considerations. However, when comparing Okinawa Karate’s current popular self-theory as a tripod, since the issue would chop off one of its modern legs (i.e., international dojo business, tourism, UNESCO intangible cultural heritage inclusion etc. pp.), there is little hope that it will ever be discussed and narrated by stakeholders of Okinawa Karate themselves. This is all the more so because Okinawa Karate stakeholders are positioning themselves more and more as an elite group and are deliberately taking a protectionist approach. In other words, the sovereignty of interpretation of Okinawa Karate is placed solely in the hands of its own stakeholders who never fall short of excuses for anything that might contrast their polito-economic interests.
Loosely related to postwar karate in that it shares its dimension as an economic policy measure, October 17, 1978, was designated “Okinawa Soba Day.” Let me tell you this about the importance of regional particularities for Okinawans: My Sensei would ask me, “Do you like Okinawa soba?” If I said yes, he would shake my hand, proudly saying “You are my son!”
Okinawa soba is one of Okinawa’s most representative dishes made from wheat flour, table salt, and brine. Unlike Japanese soba, it does not use buckwheat flour, so in terms of its recipe it is classified as Chinese noodle soup (chūka men, chūka soba, shina soba). In Japan, the Chinese noodle soup was adopted in the 19th century from China and then adapted and further developed and became known as rāmen.
The history of Okinawa soba began only in the earlier 1900s when Chinese noodle soup was served at a restaurant run by a Chinese person (tōjin 唐人) in Uenokura in Tsuji, Naha City. At that time, it was simply called “soba” (buckwheat noodles) or “shina soba” (Chinese buckwheat noodles). In 1916, the Chief of the Naha Police Station at the time instructed the name to be changed to “ryūkyū soba” (Ryūkyū buckwheat noodles), but this change did not take root.
It was only after the war that a noodle soup came to be commonly called “Okinawa soba” (Okinawa buckwheat noodles). While this soup did not use proper buckwheat noodles, modern product marketing drew a continuum to the Chinese noodle soup served at the Tsuji restaurant since the earlier 1900s, and adopted the name “soba.” This resulted in a drawback for the Okinawan noodle soup industry, when in 1976, the Japan Fair Trade Commission ruled that “Okinawa soba” must not be labeled as “soba” since it did not contain 30% or more of buckwheat flour, which was a requirement according to the Fair Competition and Trade Code.
In response, the Okinawa Noodle Association campaigned to preserve “soba” as a local name. As a result, on October 17, 1978, the Japan Fair Trade Commission has officially approved the trademark registration of “Authentic Okinawa Soba” with attributes such as being a local specialty, a famous product, and authentic Okinawan, etc. specified in the attached table of the “Fair Competition Code and Enforcement Regulations Concerning the Labeling of Raw Noodles.”
To commemorate this day, in 1997, the Okinawa Noodle Association designated October 17th as “Okinawa Soba Day.”
As can be seen, just as in case of karate, without considering contentual, contextual, and historical discontinuation and tectonic societal shifts, although it wasn’t soba at all, stakeholders such as the Okinawa Noodle Association succeeded in creating, establishing, and perpetuating their very own kind noodle soup as an authentic Okinawan product in the late 1970s, and established October 17th as “Okinawa Soba Day” in 1997.
It can therefore be said, that “Okinawan Soba” came into being years after Greek immigrant Sam Panopoulos created the Pizza Hawaii in Canada in 1962.
Also, while there was always noodle soup, the story of the Okinawan noodle soup in particular is a mirror of Okinawan society and can be compared to the creation of Japanese as well as Okinawan karate, large chunks of the contents of which were likewise rather recent, postwar inventions based on older recipes, and which include embedding the product in the larger cultural and geographical frame of Japan and Okinawa, respectively.