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.
A new playlist on my channel sports “Kihon created from Kata.” There I present various ideas and suggestions of how to use techniques and combinations from kata as kihon routines.
The second installment features combos from Shiromatsu no Kon, which I first learned first-hand more than 20 years ago. There are some shorties here, and here, but you can watch the longer videos below.
When looking at old footage, or if you have practical experience, you know there are several variations in the performance and characteristics of the same movement in different schools. Also, from written descriptions, there are different names used by different schools for the same technique in the same kata. From this it is easy to understand that different schools had a different tactical understanding and practical interpretation of the techniques, and also a different analytical capacity.
The technique in question is well known in every Okinawan kobudo school.
Taira Shinken himself simply called it gedan-uke (deflection on the lower level).
Inoue Motokatsu called it hikkake (hanging block, from left to right), harai-uke (sweep deflection, from right to left), and also sometimes mamori (defense) without further determination and which can be like hikkake, like harai-uke, or straight foward on the center line.
Akamine called it gedan-barai (lower level sweep).
Matayoshi Kobudō – I was told – calles it gedan harai-uke [lower level sweep deflection]).
I actually don’t know the names used in in Kongo-ryu of Sakagami, in Ryōkonkai of Iha, and in Yamanni-ryū, but I guess they might be slightly different as well.
Also, in the practical interpretation, in Okinawa, you often see a straight confrontation, that is, it almost all happens on one straight line back and forth. This is reminiscent of the kumibo of the various theatrical village bojutsu. Did you know that the very term “kumibo” comes from theatrical village bojutsu? Even though kobudo dojo interpret things in a “martial sense,” this old characteristical performance on one-line coming from village bojutsu was obviously adopted by kobudo dojo. Before the war, it must have been almost the only way ever practiced. In short, and while everybody takes great care to talk about it a lot, there is little to no real tai-sabaki, tenshin, etc, but simple attack, block (!!!), counter etc. This of course shows the limits of the tactical analysis of the kata. It seems it maintains and continues the old interpretation of uke as a “block,” instead of a “deflection.”
In the bōjutsu tradition of Taira Shinken, we find a rarely seen pole weapon: the Kushaku-bō or 9-foot-staff. I have laid out all primary sources known to me before, here and here.
To finalize the matter, and as another instance of proof that “personal tradition” is not always “exact personal tradition,” today I present a video of Taira performing the 9-foot-staff. Taira was a great inventor of kobudo in the tradition of the 1950s and 60s and rooted his creations by referencing them to Okinawan history, culture, and regional characteristics.
I would like to state clearly that none of Taira’s successors or their repesentatives were involved in or added anything to this 3 article series.
Okinawan peace theory is a difficult topic, most of all for Okinawans themselves. Often, the era of the 15 Years War and Okinawan participation in “the system” is categorically marginalized, denied, and not addressed. The reasons for this are varied, and the attempted UNESCO inclusion is one of these reason. However, since I am not Okinawan, I can give you a tiny glimpse of this difficult topic.
When looking at how and why Okinawa karate and kobudo was spread to the masses, we might get an idea from school teacher Chibana Koreaki from Kunigami Village, who said as follows in 1930:
“From the viewpoint of improving the efficiency during war and in daily life, the citizens of Okinawa Prefecture are a race born with the serious mission to rise to the first line of battle of national defense.”
Among the concrete incentives to achieve this objective, Chibana proposed to
“Promote private karate and bōjutsu.”
“Private karate and bōjutsu” means outside of the school system. Looking at the state of public physical education since the early 1930s, the purpose of sports promotion in Okinawa was to improve the physical strength of the citizens of the prefecture, which was linked to national defense in the event of war.
The era of war with China without declaration began with the Manchurian Incident (1931) and until 1945, sports became a means for national defense. In July 1937, the battlefield expanded to the Second Sino-Japanese War, continuing into the Pacific War (1941-1945). The year 1937 was also the time of the “National Spiritual General Mobilization Movement,” which turned sports into a training for national defense and the battlefield. In December 1937, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture issued a notice to all local governments, schools, and physical education groups, about “Matters concerning the implementation of the physical education movement on occasion of the National Spiritual General Mobilization Movement.” In the preamble it says,
“The physical education movement aims to improve the citizens’ ambitions by a holistic toughening (tanren) of mind and body, to cultivate the spirit of the people, and to equip them with a healthy and capable disposition that satisfies the nation’s mission.
The ideology of tanren might be a survival of the spiritualistic total war system that survived until today, although in a different context. Such ideas were established much earlier, namely in the 1910s by Tanaka Gichi, who designed “physical and spiritual education” for the young men’s corps (seinenkai) all over Japan, which thrived under member of the Imperial Reserve all over rural Okinawa. This mind and body concept can be likened to tanren kata (toughening kata), to shingitai (mind, technique, and physical strength), shintai (mind and body), spirit (seishin), etc. These things as seen in today’s Okinawa karate kobudō might well be “unpurged survivals of an Imperial ideology.”
Everyone in Okinawa was affected, and karate masters willingly participated in the preparation of the youngsters, many of which were send to Southeast Asia and elsewhere as “colonizers.” In his “Memories of Karate,” which was hidden from the public for a long time, Okinawan karate master Kyan Chotoku wrote as follows.
“Meanwhile, unfolding from the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) to the Greater East Asian War (1941–1945), the divine spiritual powers of officers and men of the Imperial Japanese Army suddenly appear in the sky and at sea and scatter our huge Caucasian enemies like one unified body. The fruits of battle are based on the glorious virtues of the Emperor, and our officers and men have enhanced the deepest secrets of Bushidō – the Way of the Warrior. Meanwhile, it is unbearable for this old man, to sit here, like an old tree, comfortably next to a charcoal brazier.”
The oldest source on the nunchaku so far seems to be by William Henry Furness III (1866–1920), American physician, ethnographer and author, who visited Okinawa from March 13 to 26, 1896, saying,
Non-shaku [nunchaku] is played with a stick about three feet long to which is attached a rope. The object of the game is to disarm the opponent by whipping the stick out of his hands.”
Soken Hohan wrote that Komesu Ushi who taught him bojutsu also taught him nunchaku techniques in 1908 (according to Soken’s 1961 hand-written resumee to the Okinawa Kobudo Kyokai, of which Walt Young has a copy).
Kaneshima Shinsuke learned nunchaku from Tokuyama Chōgi in Taiwan sometime between April 1918 and May 1919, or April 1928 to November 1928.
In 1939, Ishikawa Hōei (1911-2007) performed nunchaku at the Commemorative Demonstration held during the Opening Ceremony of the Okinawa District Committee of the Dai Nippon Butokukai.
The oldest photo of nunchaku or its use which I was able to verify is that of Koja Shoshin in a 1955 article “Roundtable discussion to talk about the karate (Part 3). – Weapons representing the spirit of defense.”
One year later, the Movie “Bushi Matsumora” was released in 1956. It is about the heroic tale of famed martial artist Matsumora Kōsaku. in this historical drama about Matsumora Kōsaku we see classical Kata of the Ryūkyū kingdom era performed, namely Passai, as well as choreographed fight scenes (Yakusoku kumite) unarmed as well as armed with a Nunchaku. Without doubt the actors were skilled in all of it.
It also seems that nunchaku has been featured for the first time on screen in this movie. Here, Henzan Jirā with a nunchaku fights against Bushi Matsumora Kōsaku, as some villagers look on.
One year later, the Movie “Bushi Matsumora” was released in 1956. It is about the heroic tale of famed martial artist Matsumora Kōsaku. in this historical drama about Matsumora Kōsaku we see classical Kata of the Ryūkyū kingdom era performed, namely Passai, as well as choreographed fight scenes (yakusoku kumite) unarmed as well as armed with a nunchaku. Without doubt the actors were skilled in all of it.
It also seems that nunchaku has been featured for the first time on screen in this movie. Here, Henzan Jirā with a nunchaku fights against Bushi Matsumora Kōsaku, as some villagers look on.
A nunchaku practice kata was presented in Ryuyku Kobudo Taikan by Taira Shinken in 1964.
Later, Minowa Katsuhiko mentioned that there were several weapons in Taira’s home such as tecchu and sanbon nunchaku that none of his students ever practiced. Taira admitted that he himself never learned any techniques or kata for these weapons. Therefore, some people later began to create techniques and even kata on their own. In this way, various of Taira’s students made their own contributions by creating new kobudo kata.
In Matayoshi Kobudō, nunchaku appeared as a 1st kyu content in the Teaching and Examination Subjects (Original 1972).
Posted inkobudo|TaggedNunchaku|Comments Off on An incomplete chronology of the nunchaku
Before I talked about the disadvantages of the single grip of the Taira tinbe. To give you an impression, I assumed a two-sided lever with the formula F1 · l1 = F2 · l2. As a comparison, the punching forces in amateur boxing are around 255 Kg. When assuming a similar force for a tsuki or a strike with a bō as an attack against the tinbē, your grip strength on the tinbē handle would need to be 1732,93 Kg just to balance the attacking force. That is about the biting force of a great white shark.
Now, geometry is important and there are differences between different groups of the Taira lineage.
Below is a photo taken from this video showing the positioning of the tinbē as employed in the Shimbukan school. In all overhead positions in this kata, the tinbē is held like this. Attack trajectory A could be blocked, but attack trajectories B would tilt the tinbē and hit the shoulder, arm, collar bone or head.
But there are other positionings of the tinbē, which is with the tinbē held sideways. This gives a lot of stability to the tinbē and is excellent for practical use. In this case, your leverage is way better and you actually “have a grip.”
Sideways or frontward? This is important in terms of using tinbe or tinbe-like objects for self-protection.
As noted in the post, today’s techniques of the tinbē included a lot of flipping back and forth of the short spear (rōchin), which has a long handle and a short metal tip. But a short halberd such as in the photo can’t be flipped back and forth because you would cut yourself. Therefore, it is a very good question. This is because the short halberd used in this staged photo cannot be used for the kata.
To get closer to an answer, I first wondered where the photo was taken. Taira seems to wear an Iaidō uniform, and the short spear shows a considerable amount of craftmanship, something not seen on Okinawa at the time. I have neither seen the photo nor these particular weapons in the Shimbukan dojo in Okinawa in over a year. On the other side, it is known that the photo is part of a whole series, which is found in the enlarged edition of Taira’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (1997), published under supervision of Inoue Kishō. Therefore, I would guess that the photo was taken in Japan.
Moreover, no-one knows when Taira created the “Tinbē kata.” Maybe in the 60s? Maybe after this photo was taken?
Well, let’s see what there is.
In 1964, the original edition of Taira Shinken’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (Encyclopedia of Ancient Ryūkyūan Martial Arts with Weaponry) was published. It was the first ever attempt to publish a monograph solely concerned with Ryūkyū Kobudō. The term Ryūkyū Kobudō does not refer to all schools of ancient Ryūkyūan martial arts with weaponry. Rather, it decidedly refers to the syllabus researched and established by Taira Shinken.
In one of two editions I own, a correction sheet is found glued in. In the other edition it is not, neither are there signs of glue. Obviously, and while this publication was already limited to comparatively few printed copies anyway, this correction sheet was not included in all of the copies, or it got lost.
According to the postscript by the publisher Kogure Takehide, it wasn’t possible to collect all kata of Taira Shinken in this one single volume. Therefore, the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan was actually planned as a series of five volumes, each with a individual volume name:
1) Kan no maki.
2) Gen no maki.
3) Kō no maki.
4) Ri no maki.
5) Tei no maki.
However, only the first of these volumes was ever published.
The remaining four volumes – and their unpublished photos and texts – never saw the light of day. However, on page 70 of the original Vol. 1, the publisher Kogure Takehide provided a list of kata that were planned to be published in all five volumes.
There is no Tinbē kata mentioned in it. However, Volume 5 had the following kata list.
Vol. 5 – Tei no maki
Yonegawa no Hidari-bō
Yakā no Sai
Kanegawa no Tonfā
Kanegawa no Tonfā is an intriguing name. No kata under this name exists, so it might have been a mistake. For comparison, I looked at the entry for Nichōgama, which is found in Volume 4, and it is simply referred to as Nichōgama, not as Kanegawa no Nichōgama, as it is called today.
Then, Kanegawa no Tonfā could be a mistake, and actually refer to Kanegawa no Tinbē.
However, Taira Shinken invented a lot of kata after 1945. Therefore, couldn’t it be that he planned a Kanegawa no Tonfā, and then discarded it, and created Kanegawa no Tinbē instead?
The following shows how chaotic Taira sometimes worked. In 1938, Taira created Kongō no Kon based on Shūshi no Kon, but later discarded the changes, and created a completely new Kongō no Kon instead. The following instance is an example of how unclear these traditions are in reality: In an interview in 1997, when Akamine Eisuke was asked when the Shō and Dai versions of Shūshi no Kon were developed, he replied, “I guess it was after the war.” So, nothing is clear, and nobody seems to know the details of Taira’s creations. So, in creating kata, Taira did a lot of trial and error and changes and developments over time.
If Kanegawa no Tonfā was a mistake, and actually Kanegawa no Tinbē was planned to be included in Vol. 5 of the Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan, this would be the earliest date of it being mentioned. 1964. So it could have been created around that time, or earlier.
What do the Okinawans say? Does anyone even know the details?
The simple question remains: When was Kanegawa no Tinbē created?
There has always been some confusion as to why the Taira-Inoue lineage of Kobudo practices more kata than the Taira-Akamine lineage, this even more since a comprehensive kata list written by Akamine Eisuke is found hanging at the Shimbukan that includes kata that are not practiced.
In a 1970s footage of the Shimbukan under Akamine Eisuke, there is a kata list that is almost identical with the current kata list hanging in the Shimbukan dojo. However, this 1970s version bears the name “Inoue,” so I wonder whether the list was originally designed and written by Inoue Motokatsu, and later replaced by a version signed by Akamine Eisuke. Moreover, I also compared the handwritings of the two lists and they were written by different hands. Also, in the 1970s footage, there are tools in the Shimbukan probably lend by Inoue, because they appear on later photos of Inoue while they are not seen at the Shimbukan anymore.
It would at least explain why there are kata on the list that are practiced by the Inoue group, but not by the Akamine group, such as Kongo no Kon, Hantagwa no Sai, Sueyoshi no Kon, Yonshaku bo, Sanbon nunchaku and the like.
For the convenience of the students, here is the transcribed and transliterated 1970s kata list. It is basically identical with the current list hanging in the Shimbukan.
Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai
Shūshi Shō/ Dai
Sakugawa Shō/ Dai
Urasoe (Gyakute Hanta-gwā)
Yonegawa (Hidari bō)
Jigen (Manji no Sai)
– Kama (Nichōgama)
Mēkata Bō (Yonshaku)
All Japan General Headquarters
Ryūkyū Kobudō Hozon Shinkōkai General Headquarters
The above is the 1970s list. It is not 100% clear if Inoue really wrote it but it can well be. The Okinawans received a lot of influence from the mainland at the time, and it would be no wonder if they followed Inoue on kata names, terminology and other topics.
There was a recent post on the Facebook group “Karate Nerds,” a really good and diverse group with an open approach to communication. The post referred to a photo with a short text description taken from a translation of the original Japanese text. It went as follows.
I’m currently reading a Soke 10th DAN’s karate book and sometimes I wonder if I should laugh or cry. As a first example (more to follow): the image Sagurite uke. According to the book, this block is found at the end of the Passai Kata (yes it is) and it was originally used to look for a nearby opponent in the dark. So a block with which one looks for people in the dark.
In a slightly scornful attitude, it describes a “Soke 10th DAN” using this technique as a “block with which one looks for people in the dark.” Following the passage “this block is found at the end of the Passai Kata,” the poster adds “yes it is” in brackets, probably to prove his authority on the matter.
It has long been known that many translations from Japanese to English are directly incorrect or at least inaccurate and insufficient. The translator of the English version is Shinzato Katsuhiko, who was not only a student of the person shown in the photo, but also studied English and English Literature at the University of the Ryukyus and then studied Applied Linguistics in the United States at Indiana University. Therefore, there can hardly be any doubt as to the correct translation of the text passage.
On the other hand, mistakes happen all the time. As an editor myself, I know this very well. Here is an example. In the “Encyclopedia of Okinawa Karate-do Kobudo” (2008), the oldest Western reference to karate was presented. It was taken from Basil Hall’s famous description of Okinawa Karate, which he witnessed in 1816 on board of a ship in Naha harbor. The transliteration writes “the boxer’s potion of difence,” when in fact the text phrase is “boxer’s position of defence.” Above-mentioned Shinzato Katsuhiko, together with Takamiyagi Shigeru, were the editors and main contributors of this work, and both were professors of the English language and two of the best persons in Okinawa karate.
While this is certainly a humorous example, these things happen. Even monkeys fall from trees, they say. This might serve as a reminder that, when reading books, critical thinking means you need to read and think actively, and sometimes you need to verify a claim by yourself.
Even though many 21st century people might find this amusing, it is in fact not too far-fetched that persons in old Okinawa might have had to fight in a pitchblack environment, and fragments of this reality have become traditions in karate.
However, since I studied in Okinawa with the son of the person in the photo, I wanted to know exactly what the original text meant. I looked up one Japanese book of the author and found the photo, yet without any further description except “The form of sagurite”. I couldn’t locate the other book so I contacted a friend who has a lot of collectibles and indeed he had it and quickly sent me the page in question. I immediately noticed that the Japanese text was way longer than in the English translation.
First of all, the poster obviously used a recently and privately published German bridge translation, which he then re-translated to English for the text of his post. Obviously, he also didn’t look up and comparing the English version by Shinzato. A bridge translation is a translation of a translation. In professional editing circles bridge translations are an inacceptable practice because it not only continues errors made in the first translation, but also might add additional errors. Imagine translation of legal papers, contracts, electrical designs, code etc. You have to go back to the original sources. In short, a bridge translation is unreliable and shouldn’t be used at all.
And just like that, the German bridge translation has several semantic nuances and terminology that are slightly flawed, if not straightforward inaccurate. And then, the poster translated that flawed German translation back to English. You get the problem, right?
Let’s move on.
The English text is as follows:
10. Sagurite-Uke (Searching-hand block). This is seen in the last part of Passai kata and was originally used to search for the opponent at close range in the dark. Used only in Passai (Fig 32).
Nagamine Shoshin: The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. Tuttle Publishing, 1st paperback edition, 1998, p. 93.
Fair enough. It is something similar to the meaning previously mentioned. At a first glance, and from the knowledge of the kata, I immediately thought “keep in mind the verb ‘search’ here and check for its nuance.”
Without further ado, let’s turn to the original text passage.
10. Sagurite-uke (Passai)
Standing in a cat-foot-stance, making a double-handed torite, it is a posture to detect the opponent’s movements in darkness.
Torite and sagurite have the same shape, and as in case of torite, sagurite should be performed in a quick movement, just as in shutō-uke, and the palms and fingers should be flexible.
Sagurite literally sounds out the enemy not by vision, but by muscle sense, so release the tension from the muscles of your fists and arms, and move calmly and softly, as if it there was motion in stillness.
The footwork of the cat-foot-stance is also performed as if in the dark, so it is performed by raising the foot to avoid obstacles, which since long ago is called nami-gaeshi.
Nagamine Shōshin: Shijitsu to dentō o mamoru Okinawa no karatedō (The Karate-dō of Okinawa – Preserving its History and Tradition). Tōkyō, Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha 1975, p. 148.
So what does it mean?
I mentioned before that the verb “search” struck me. It is simply too vague to understand the nuance of its meaning. The noun saguri 探り means sounding out; probing; probe; spy. The verb stem is saguru 探る, meaning (1) to feel around for; to fumble for; to grope for; to search for; to look for; (2) to inquire; to scout out; to investigate; to probe into; to spy on; to sound out; to explore. An example is te saguri de 手探りで, meaning: by touch, by groping, by fumbling.
Within the liberty of a translator, and after checking various dictionaries and synonyms, I decided to use the verb “detect” here, within the context of the above described lexical meaning of saguri / saguru.
This is also because a part of the Japanese text, which is not found in the English translation, clearly describes what it means: To sound out the enemy not by vision, but by muscle sense. Now, “muscle sense” is an obsolete medical term. As can be found in English Wikipedia,
In 1826, Charles Bell expounded the idea of a ‘muscle sense,’ which is credited as one of the first descriptions of physiologic feedback mechanisms.
Today this is known in English as proprioception, also called kinaesthesia (or kinesthesia), and refers to the “sense of self-movement, force, and body position.”
So what sagurite refers to, I guess, is to deduce tactile information from contact with the opponent’s body or weapon and is related to the highly-developed human ability to operate in three-dimensional space through touching and feeling the surroundings. It is the basis for tactile response which can be seen in kakie, or in the sticky hands of Wing Tsung or Taichi and elsewhere. In HEMA, it was called “Fühlen” (to feel) and it is a concept found in any and all martial arts. It is therefore of high technical and historical value to find this concept manifested in the technique of an old kata of Okinawa karate, and described in photo and text in a 1975 book by Nagamine Shōshin.
This matter should be deeply considered by practitioners of classical karate.