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.
According to data published by Nakamura Akira of the Karate Section of the Okinawa Tourism Bureau, a certain HIRAYAMA Kazuo from Tokyo Imperial University taught karate in Germany 1931 – 1933.
HIRAYAMA Kazuo (1908–1990) is listed at the “Deutsche Institut für Ausländer an der Universität Berlin“ (DIA; German Institute for Foreigners at Berlin University) as follws (Hartmann 2003:39; translation: Quast):
HIRAYAMA Kazuo 平山一雄 (1908–1990): DIA, entry date of June 11, 1931 / Political science / Apostel-Paulus-Str. 4, at Mrs. Aminski; VS, Summer semester 1932 to winter semester 1933/34, Nr. 4845 / Political Science / W 30, Schwäbische Str. 24 / Jurist, civil lawyer; Professor at Fukuoka University, author of Minpō kōgi (Lectures on Civil Law).
According to it, HIRAYAMA studied political science in Berlin between from summersemester 1932 to wintersemster 1933/34. He became a jurst and civil lawyer and later served as Professor of Law at Fukuoka University. According to the name directory of the 70 Year History of the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University, Hirayama Kazuo graduated there in 1931. So he might have left for Germany in 1931 at earliest, started summersemster of 1932, and finished his studies in Berlin at the end of the wintersemster in 1934.
What kind of karate was that at the time?
Funakoshi Gichin was a teacher at the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University. However, there was problem. Members of the club were interested in free kumite since at least 1926 and also visited Okinawa in the summer of 1929 for kata and kobudo research and it is also said that they tested karate in the streets and red light districts. On May 10, 1930, the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University held a spring karate demonstration which inlcuded kumite matches with protective gear (see article by Motobu Naoki Sensei here).
I remember that Shihan Funakoshi’s instruction consisted of various kata, starting with “Pinan” Shodan, kumite (today’s yakusoku kumite), makiwara thrusts, and other basic movements. It was strictly forbidden to engage in any kind of randori practice (today’s jiyū kumite).
Funakoshi opposed most of these developments and withdrew from his teacher position a Tokyo Imperial University.
So what was the style of karate taught by HIRAYAMA in Germany? According to the above, it was a style of karate developed in the Karate Club of Tokyo Imperial University since the mid 1920s. And while it had elements such as kata that were taught by Funakoshi, it also had elements which were simply ideas about what karate is or should be that were contrary to Funakoshi’s ideas. So one could say that it was a form of karate that was appropriated, a karate that was adapted to and mixed with the needs, ideas, and experiences of the younger people involved. This might or might not be a definition of “Shotokan karate.”
I would like to let you guys know about Jesse’s latest project, the Kobudo tutorial website at www.kobudomastery.com Since I am a passionate Kobudo practitioner myself, I was thrilled when I learned from a friend that Jesse has started this project. Although I traveled quite a bit for study, there are still some kata I couldn’t get my hands on so far. For this reason, I was more than excited to find some of those “missing links” among Jesse’s kata tutorials. I don’t easily buy, but I was so intrigued that I immediately chose one of the katas I yearned for and was positively surprised about the presentation.
In the tutorial I chose, the performance of the kata is presented in front view at normal speed and in slow motion as well as in the side and back views. Now, in the days of talking karate heads everywhere, this might be considered unusual. Still, silence during practice is something I always enjoyed most during Karate and Kobudo: not much talking, but a clear and serious presentation of what is expected from you. With Jesse’s tutorial, I was able to acquire the techniques, combinations, and performance directions in just a few rounds. Right now, I have incorporated the kata into my regular practice routine.
The whole program is built didactically so you may start where you are right now. That is, for beginners, you might want to choose the starter package, for intermediate you just hop in right there, and even advanced Kobudo practitioners will find plenty of things to learn.
It was enormous fun and worked for me 100%. As a bonus, the prices are simply great, too! Least I forget: You can watch it as often as you like. There is no artificial secrecy and no recurring payments or regular compulsory participation in courses! That means you are free to study whenever and how often you like without having to marry Jesse! Finally, again, there are no talking karate heads, which makes it a pleasant learning experience.
Since there are also combative applications, you will be prepared substantially and can practice with a partner. If you have any questions, I am sure you will get adequate, on point feedback. I recommend Jesse’s new Kobudo tutorial website to anyone interested in the ancient martial arts of the Ryukyu Islands, or Okinawa, that is, bo, sai, tonfa, etc.
One of the famous kata with the paddle (uēku) is Tsuken Sunakake no Kon (oki.: Chikin Sunakachi nu Kun). As it is generally demonstrated using the uēku (paddle) it is also referred to as Chikin Sunakachi nu Uēku-dī (Tsuken’s skills of the oar and flipping sand).
Characteristic features are the butt-end floating defense (nagashi-uke, 0:23) in the very beginning, followed by a reverse cut (gyaku-giri, 0:25) while leaning the body to the left and followed by flipping sand (sunakake, 0:26) and front strike (shōmen-uchi, 0:27). In addition, jōdan nagashi-uke and gyaku-uchi are followed by drawing a circle with the tip of the uēku (mawashi-uke) and finishing with another gyaku-uchi (1:09).
There are also many yoko-uchi while turning the body. It contains the technique of flipping sand into the face of the opponent, which is referred to as sunakake, and this is a technique of blinding the opponent known as metsubushi in Japanese.
One of the most important things in the techniques of the paddle are the hand changes and to strike as if cutting with the blade part of the paddle.
A panel exhibition sponsored by Okinawa Prefecture that introduces the history of Okinawa karate during the early Shōwa period (started 1926) began on April 8 in the lobby of the Okinawa Karate Kaikan Exhibition Room in Tomigusuku City. The kumite publication “Illustrated Basic Okinawa Kenpō Karate-dō” (Okinawa Kenpō Karate-dō Kihon Zukai) is publicly exhibited for the first time. The book details the fighting techniques (kumite) of the late Kyan Chōtoku, who was a master of Okinawa karate and who was called the “Saint of Boxing” (kensei). “This prewar manuscript of Kyan is a very valuable material,” says the person in charge from Okinawa Prefecture.
The exhibition runs until March 31, 2022. The entrance is free.
It is a folding book made from a long strip of paper that is folded back and forth in a zigzag. It consists of 26 pages including the front page with a length of 15.5 cm and a width of 9 cm. It comprises an introduction of karate on the first 10 pages, and pictures with explanations of kumite postures and stances in the latter 15 pages. Kyan Chōtoku is photographed doing kumite, explaining an outline and the postures of the techniques. Okinawa Prefecture copied the original of the book from the persons in possession of the original. A part of it is exhibited on a panel.
At the end of the book is written “Shōwa 7,” i.e., 1932. It was published as a book by a disciple of Kyan at that time. So far it has not been made public who this disciple was. It is also said that there was also a “kata edition” that was a sister book of the kumite edition. This would probably clarify many things, most importantly about kata such as Ananku, Seisan, and others. Unfortunately, the “kata edition” has not been found so far.
Moreover, for the first time, a ryūka (Okinawan poetry in classical Ryūkyūan language) has been found which was created by Kyan Chōtoku. Kyan dedicated it to the Okinawa Shrine. In the poem Kyan cites a famous ryūka once written by the poet Unna Nabī. Unna Nabī who was not an upperclass person but a female farmer of the 18th century. Her monument is erected in Onna village. The poem reads, “When you pray at the shrine and at ceremonies, even the wind stops, for the five late kings, I must say my prayer and be thankful for my fortune.” (Jinja umachiriya, kajinu kwin tumari, guhashiranu ukami, miunchi ugama).
In addition, twelve articles, including newspaper articles are also on display. They are from the time when the late Fujita Tsuguharu (1886-1968), one of Japan’s world-class painters, talked about his impression of Okinawa karate when he visited Okinawa in 1938.
The panel exhibition will be held at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan Reference Room. The Karate Kaikan collected 2385 items such as newspaper articles and materials related to Okinawa Karate so far. A part of 325 materials including newspapers from 1938 to 1940, such as newspaper articles on prewar karate, are put together on 12 panels and displayed in the lobby of the exhibition facility in the library. Sonohara Ken, chief of the Okinawa Prefectural Karate Promotion Division, said, “I want many citizens of the prefecture to come into contact with the history of Okinawa karate and use it for academic promotion.”
For inquiries, call 098 (866) 2232 at the Okinawa Prefectural Karate Promotion Division.
In the latest series of “Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate,” Oshiro Toshihiro Sensei talks about his journey, experience and development in karate and bojutsu. In one episode Oshiro Sensei remembers when he went for Shodan test at the age of 17.
“While I was doing the kata during the test, I did kime (tensing / focus) after techniques, but after kime, I couldn’t move on smoothly. This was a shocking revelation to me, and I thought ‘How can I fix this?’ The examiner said, ‘You’re waiting too long between movements.’ However, in reality, I wasn’t waiting. I couldn’t move (into the next technique). In budo this is known as itsuki meaning to be stuck in one place. I thought I must be doing something wrong here. I practiced endlessly but I could not find a solution.
At the Nagamine dojo I learned the intricacies of technique from Nagamine Shoshin Sensei, and also from Nakamura Seigi Sensei and Kushi Jokei Sensei, but the answer of why I couldn’t move was a still a mystery to me. It was only after extensive practice of (the bo) Yamanni-ryu with Kishaba Chogi Sensei that I realized how to use the body to avoid being stuck in one place.
For me personally, Yamanni-ryu has aided my study of karate tremendously. There’s an old saying in Okinawa, that karateka should also study bojutsu. In Okinawa, only bojutsu and karate had been practiced extensively since ancient times. Others such as saijutsu, tonfa and nunchaku, in my opinion, do not have as long a history. The connection between karate and bojutsu is very deep. It was said if an aspect of karate did not make sense, look back to bojutsu for the answer. So bo and karate have this connection.”
What is the meaning of itsuki? It means sitting, a residence, or to be (i) and to be attached or to take root (tsuki). Japanese it is written 居付き or 居着き and has the following dictionary meanings:
Among the 1935 Okinawan photos presented by the Ashi Shinbun Digital website are a few that show the use of the Ueku (paddle) as a means of transport fish and utensils. The posture is almost the same as the first posture of “Tsuken Sunakake no Ueku.”
This first photo shows Uehara Kame using an Ueku as a means of transport ropes and nets. Uehara was known as a master shark catcher. According to Ueda Fujio (74), an emeritus professor at the University of Okinawa, shark fins were used as ingredients and shark oil was used for lamps. According to Nakamoto Masahiro Sensei of Bunbukan, shark oil was also used to impregnate bō.
The next photo shows a fishing boy with an Uēku in the Itoman area. Many fishing boys were in indentured servitude as a “hired child” who lived and provided labor to a shipowner for about 10 years after the age of 10. These were not only boys, but also girls. Ueda Fujio (74), emeritus professor at Okinawa University who is familiar with this issue, said, “In modern times, this is a violation of human rights, but at that time it was considered superior to other systems of selling oneself (into bondage, esp. for prostitutes).”
Below are two more photos showing the same use of the Ueku.
Posted inBook Reviews|Comments Off on The first posture of “Tsuken Sunakake no Ueku”
Traditional “Kumi-odori” of the kingdom era presented to the younger brother of Shōwa Emperor (Hirohito)
Among the Okinawa-related photographs found this time in the Asahi Shimbun Osaka Headquarters, there was a photograph of the traditional Kabuki drama “Kumi-odori” of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The location is believed to be the house frontage of the Nakagusuku Udun, where the royal family had moved after they had been chased from Shuri Castle during the “Disposal of Ryūkyū” (1879) by the Meiji government. There is “Tairan” (inspection by the empress or the crown prince) written on the back and therefore the photograph seems to have been taken when the Kumi-odori was presented to Chichibu-no-miya, the younger brother of the Shōwa Emperor (Hirohito), who visited Okinawa in May 1925.
The performance is Kumi-odori’s masterpiece “Nidō Tekiuchi,” and it is Tamagusuku Seijū (1868-1945) on the right end of the photo who plays Amawari, the enemy of the two boys in the play. Nidō Tekiuchi is a story of two brothers who vow to avenge of their father’s death. They go after Amawari, the murder of their father. One day, the brothers disguise themselves as girls and approach Amawari in a nearby field. The boys serve him plenty of alcohol and dance until he gets intoxicated and gives them his sword, and then they take his life.
Kumi-odori is a Kabuki drama to welcome the envoys of the Chinese emperor, and Tamagusuku Seijū was directly instructed by the official in charge of the “Ukanshin-odori” (Crownship Dances) when Ryūkyū welcomed the final envoys in 1866.
Shimabuku Kōyū (1893-1987), a dancer representative of postwar Okinawa, recalls in his book “Sekisen Memoirs” (Okinawa Times) that all the performances in 1925 were presented by “the best members of the local theater world.”
Tamagusuku Seijū studied the dances of the Ryūkyū royal government and nurtured the younger generation. In Tokyo he was introduced as the “Danjūrō of Ryūkyū” [in reference to the famous Kabuki stage name Ichikawa Danjūrō, which is bestowed upon actors since the 17th century]. Nakagusuku Udun, which was the setting for the photo, burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The style reconstructed by Tamagusuku Seijū’s disciples after the war is the cornerstone of the current Ryūkyū classical theatre.
In the performance “Uchigumi Amakawa,” the costume was provided by the Shō family, a descendant of the last king, Shō Tai. Suzuki Kōta, an associate professor at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts Research Institute, paid attention to the sake tools at Tamagusuku Seijū’s feet. They look like metal and match the specifications ordered by the royal government for the crown ship dance. “If the costume is from the Shō Dynasty, the stage props may have been used in the actual crown ship dance. The stage props do not exist anymore and so the photo is valuable for learning about Kumi-odori during the Kingdom era,” he said.
According to Dan Antonsen Sensei, whose wife Masako is a student of a student of Tamagusuku Seijū,
“he disappeared during the battle of Okinawa in 1945. Nobody knows what happened to him or where his remains are. Kind of a mystery for the Ryūkyū dance society. His picture hung in Masako’s dojo all her life. This is the story as I understand it.”
Okinawa Karate, not to be defeated by discrimination
A strong-muscled man receives a thrust from a big man wearing a haramaki (bellyband). The photo is considered to have been taken around 1933 at the Ōsaka City Sports Ground (the current Yahataya Park in Minato-ku, Ōsaka).
On the back of the photo are pencil writings of “Kenjinkai” (Association of People from the Prefecture) and “Karate Kenpō Meet.” It seems that it was taken at Ōsaka City Sports Ground (currently Minato-ku, Ōsaka) around 1933. Reporters of the Asahi Shinbun and the Okinawa Times verified the persons by interviewing people involved in Okinawa Karate. Two names were identified from their faces and bodies: The young man who receives the thrust is Kanei Uechi (1911-1991), the second generation of the Uechi-ryū of Okinawa Karate, and the strongly-built person who shoots the thrust is Akamine Ka’ei (1908-1977), a businessman and also the chairman of the Okinawa Prefectural Sumo Federation.
As a technical note, relatives testified that Uechi Kanei had the habit of arching his big toe, as can be seen in the basic stance called “Sanchin” of the Uechi-ryū in the photo. Akamine had the same hair growth on his arm.
Uechi recalled meeting with Akamine in Ōsaka in an interview article with the Okinawa Times (October 9, 1960). While it is not confirmed that this article refers to this photo, Uechi said in it, “I decided to try out the real power of karate.” It is said that when the pit of the stomach was struck by Akamine, who could break seven wooden planks with his fist, the skin of the abdomen broke and bled, causing a hemorrhage. In the article, Uechi also talked about the joy of being praised for his training by officials. .
Karate is said to have its roots in the Ryūkyū Kingdom era. The two persons mentioned above were born in Okinawa and trained at a dōjō opened in Wakayama City by Uechi’s father, Kanbun (1877-1948). Kanbun is the founder of the Uechi-ryū, who had travelled to the Qing dynasty where he studied martial arts.
The time when the photo was taken was an era when the number of migrant workers from Okinawa to the Ōsaka and Kyōto regions increased. In the 1920s, Okinawa suffered a recession called “cycad hell” when people where so poor they had no choice but to eat poisonous sago palm cycads. Many people from Okinawa went to the Ōsaka and Kyōto regions, but the phrase “Ryūkyūans and Koreans refused!” spread and they faced discrimination when trying to find a job or a house.
According to Kaneshiro Kaoru (67) of the Kansai Okinawa Library, who collects materials related to Okinawa in Ōsaka City, there was a strong tendency until the 1970s to avoid performing Okinawan songs and dances in public. “As a self-defense from discrimination, I feel that Okinawan culture has been protected within circles of friends and family since before the war, and this photo is a vital outwardly expression of this.”
Kanei returned to Okinawa and opened a dōjō. He survived the Battle of Okinawa and afterwards developed and popularized Uechi-ryū. According to research by Okinawa Prefecture, there are 300 Uechi-ryū dōjōs in the prefecture, as well as in the north-eastern and south-western regions of Japan, the United States, France, and Argentina, but there are also dōjō in many other countries.
165 photographs of people and landscapes of Okinawa before the war were discovered at the headquarter of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Ōsaka City. Previously, a negative of Okinawa in 1935 was found also at the Asahi Shimbun and introduced as “Reviving Okinawa 1935” in print and in a photo exhibition. However, this time the photographs included some from the older Taishō Era (1912–1926), which makes them valuable.
Most of them are printed on photographic paper. As far as could be confirmed the period is from 1921 to 1944. Most of them are from the current city of Naha, but there are also some from Ishigaki Island. The investigation was conducted in collaboration with the Okinawa Times, including for those photos of which the photographer is unknown. These 165 photographs show the true faces of Okinawans who lived in such an era when the ties with Japan strengthened and the city and lifestyle of Okinawa changed drastically.
The photos below show a reenactment of the “Three Temples Visiting Procession” by the king of Ryūkyū. This was a procession with visits to Engakuji, Tennoji, and Tenkaiji temples. The procession in the photo was reproduced by the staff and students of the Prefectural 1st Middle School in Shuri in 1930 on occasion of the school’s 50th Anniversary Athletic Meet. This is the school where karate was first taken up officially as a regular curriculum. It is said that the baskets and umbrellas in the photo were borrowed from the former royal Shō Family. Participants wear a headgear called “hachimachi” and are dressed as officials of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.
In the procession various weapons are carried such as bō, naginata, and a long sasumata (刺股, spear fork).
In colloquial Japanese, “gyaku-uchi” 逆打ち refers to “to pilger along the 88 stations of the Shikoku Pilgrimage in opposite direction, i.e. from point 88 to point 1” (from Ōkuboji in Sanuki, Kagawa Prefecture to the Ryōzenji in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture).
In the jargon or technical language of kobudō, however, “gyaku-uchi” means “reversed strike.” Donn F. Draeger called it the most important technique of bōjutsu. Indeed, without it, bōjutsu would make little sense. It is therefore interesting that neither Ufugusuku no Kon nor Shūshi no Kon Shō nor Sakugawa no Kon Shō and Dai have this technique. In fact, in the classical kata of Taira lineage, the technique first appears in Yonegawa no Kon – four times to be exact. But Yonegawa no Kon is a 4th Dan kata, so for beginners it is out of reach for about 10-20 years and thousands of dollars and hours for seminars and travel and merchandise and whatnot. Well, today everyone has video so the whole thing got a lot cheaper (pun intended).
Anyway, maybe due to its importance, the technique in question is often already taught as a basic technique. See Nakamoto Mamoru sensei (director of the Bunbukan) explaining Gedan-gyaku-uchi:
In his explanation, Mamoru sensei uses the term Gedan-gyaku-uchi 下段逆打ち, i.e. reversed strike to the lower level. He also says that the technique is initiated by Jōdan-nagashi-uke 上段流し受け, i.e. upper-level floating deflection. Floating is a figurative term. It is to be understood as in water trickling down (the Bō). Because this is the main intention of the technique: to deflect an incoming attack from above, which is intercepted and trickles down the end of the Bō, thus being neutralized. It is otherwise also called Sukui-uke すくい受け, i.e. scooping deflection. This is because you scoop up against an incoming attack, deflecting and neutralizing it.
Of course, at the time of the attack, while performing the Jōdan-nagashi-uke you move your body out of the attacking line, so you shift your body weight and use your stance intelligently. Likewise, when you continue and counter with the Gedan-gyaku-uchi, you shift the front hand towards the rear hand. Taira Shinken in 1964 referred to this as Yose-nigiri 寄せ握り or “coming-together grip”: The tripartition grip in Taira lineage, which it is often scolded for, is actually only for beginners.
Let’s take a look at terminology: Of course, all kinds of schools use this technique. It is found in manuscripts of historical European martial arts as well as in Chinese and other Asian martial arts. It is found in Japanese Budō (koryū and gendai) and of course also in Okinawa Kobudō. While it is a fact that methods of stances and body shifting substantially vary between different Taira lineage schools, here is a terminological reference:
TAIRA SHINKEN 1964:
INOUE MOTOKATSU 1972-74:
AKAMINE EISUKE 1984:
Jōdan-uke 上段受け, rarely Nagashi-uke 流し上段受け
OKINAWA KARATE KOBUDO ENCYCLOPEDIA 2008:
So while the terms are similar, they are also far from being standardized. Also, none used the terms used by Taira Shinken, the mutual source. It may, therefore, be surmised that the development of terminology for Kobudō is a more recent matter, say 2nd half of the 20th century. Miki in 1930 does not use a terminology per se, but is more of a descriptive kind, like “from the left side of the head, strike down to the lower level in direction A” etc. The descriptive kind is true for Taira Shinken in 1938, which – however – does not feature this specific technique. Therefore, the development of terminology should be considered a rather new invention.
In this connection, in the Matayoshi Kobudo of the Zen Okinawa Kobudo Renmei (2010), the techniques are found under the names of Jōdan-age-uke 上段挙げ受け and Gedan-uchi 下段打ち, and these are the closest to Taira Shinken’s terminology used in 1964. However, in Matayoshi Kobudō, this combination is rather rare it seems.
So what about the quantity of distribution? There is no standardized terminology for techniques in Okinawa kata of Bojutsu. Therefore, in order to be able to approximate the task, in the following I used Akamine Eisuke’s handwritten notes (dated 1984) as a reference (which Akamine Hiroshi sensei kindly allowed me to copy for my personal study back in 2011).
The results are as follows:
In sum, there are 78 Gyaku-uchi in all these kata.
50 of these are only Gyaku-uchi (2 Jōdan, 31 Chūdan, 17 Gedan).
28 of these are Gyaku-uchi preceded by Jōdan-uke (of the Gyaku-uchi, 1 is Jōdan, 18 Chūdan, and 9 are Gedan).
Why is there sometimes only Gyaku-uchi, and why is there sometimes Gyaku-uchi preceded by Jōdan-uke? I think it might be a looseness in terminological consistency, rather than an actual instruction as to what the original content of the techniques was. Even modern 21st century global players have their own terminology management for a reason. It is simply crucial for exact communication.
In Detail: As I already mentioned, neither Shūshi no Kon Shō nor Sakugawa no Kon Shō and Dai contain the techniques in question. A Gedan-gyaku-uchi first appears in Shūshi no Kon Dai, where it is used during the final combination. However, here it is done without the preceding Jōdan-uke (in his terminology).
So from kyū grades to 3rd Dan, the technique appears only once (!!!), and also without the preceding block.
Then, in Yonegawa no Kon, a 4th Dan kata, there are four Gyaku-uchi. These are all executed to Gedan level. Two times they are preceded by a Jōdan-uke, and two times not.
Shirotaro no Kon has six Gedan-gyaku-uchi, four of which are preceded by a Jōdan-uke.
Tsuken Sunakake has 14 Gyaku-uchi, performed to Chūdan level as well as to Gedan level.
Chōun no Kon has five Chūdan-gyaku-uchi (only one of which is preceded by a Jōdan-uke) and one Gedan-gyaku-uchi (with no preceding Jōdan-uke).
In Chinen Shikiyanaka all eleven Gyaku-uchi without exemption are performed to Chūdan level: Of these, six are preceded by Jōdan-uke, and one by Nagashi-uke.
Urasoe no Kon also has eleven Gyaku-uchi, four of which are to Gedan level, six to Chūdan level (of which four are preceded by Jōdan-uke), and one to Jōdan level.
Chatan Yara no Kun has twelve Gyaku-uchi, of which seven are aimed at Chūdan level (and of which only one is preceded by Jōdan-uke) and five are aimed at Gedan level (of which three are preceded by Jōdan-uke).
Soeishi no Kon has thirteen Gyaku-uchi. Of these, ten aim at Chūdan level (all of which are without a preceding Jōdan-uke), one aims at Gedan level (without preceding Jōdan-uke), and two aim at Jōdan level (of which one is preceded by Jōdan-nagashi-uke).
LIMITATION OF ABOVE:
The Kata used for the above analysis are those detailed in written descriptions by Akamine Eisuke exist, namely Shūshi no Kun Shō, Shūshi no Kun Dai, Sakugawa no Kun Shō, Sakugawa no Kun Dai, Yonegawa no Kun, Shirataru no Kun, Tsuken Sunakake no Uēku-dī, Chōun no Kun, Chinen Shichanaka no Kun, Chatan Yara no Kun, Urasoe no Kun, and Soeishi no Kun.
While Sueyoshi no Kun, Sesoko no Kon, Tsuken Bō, and Hantagwa Kōuragwa no Kon appear in an original Kata list of the school, they are apparetly not in use anymore and to my knowledge there is no written description. It is also questionable if Soeishi no Kun ist still in practical use. Moreover, new Kihon kata have been developed in which the Gyaku-uchi found entry. All these were not considered and not counted in the above analysis.
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