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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Table of Contents

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

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

Translated from Japanese for the first time!

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

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

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

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

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Oni Oshiro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts

by Andreas Quast

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

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

Get your copy now: USUKDEFRESITJPCA

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

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

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

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A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

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

by Andreas Quast (Author)

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

Kindle edition also availableUSUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

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

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

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

Product Details (Paperback edition)

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

Cover

Cover

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

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Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art

OUT OF PRINT!

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

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

cover (4)

Karate 1.0 front cover

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

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

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Torite (continued 2) – The Founder of Toritejutsu in this World

In previous articles I have mentioned torite in relation to the history of Okinawan martial arts. I noted that the father of modern karate, Itosu Ankō, mentioned that historical karate was probably influenced by the teachings of Chin Genpin (1587–1674) in Japan and that the term used to describe the teachings of Chin was kenpō jūjutsu, referring to a historical Japanese martial arts systems with an initial Chinese influence which places emphasis – but not limited to – striking and kicking, i.e., on impact techniques.

I continued with an overview of torite as a classical martial art to capture an enemy with bare hands without killing him, and then turned to Chin Genpin and the once popular story of him being a founder of Japanese jūjutsu, which is erroneous and completely exaggerated.

This time I will turn to the founding of torite as a category and predecessor of what is now generally referred to as jūjutsu. The following mythical creation story is based on the Takenouchi Ryū Keisho Kogo Den 竹内系書古語伝, a document recording the history of the Takenouchi Ryū, a martial arts school established in 1532 and still extant (translation and occasional additions by Serge Mol, cf. Mol 2001:100):

In the mountains of Sannomiya [1], Takenouchi Hisamori prayed to the god Atago and submitted himself to severe training. For several days he practiced and perfected his skills, striking a big tree with his bokutō [wooden sword, which in his case had a blade length of 72 centimeters].[2] On the sixth day of his training, Hisamori had fallen asleep from exhaustion when suddenly a gray-haired yamabushi, who looked like the incarnation of the god Atago, appeared near his bedside. The yamabushi was seven feet tall and his eyes were open wide, giving him a furious look. Immediately Hisamori attacked him with his wooden sword; however, the yamabushi would not be defeated, and Hisamori realized that his adversary possessed superhuman strength. the yamabushi then taught Hisamori a number of techniques for swiftly overcoming an assailant. These techniques, five in total, are today called the “torite gokajō (捕手五ヶ条).

After this the yamabushi picked up the lengthy bokutō, which he felt was useless, and cut it in half, producing a shorter [36 centimeter] sword, which he called “kogusoku.” next the yamabushi showed Hisamori how to carry the sword in his belt and taught him a system of grappling with the sword coma consisting of twenty-five techniques. since then that system of kumiuchi using a short sword or dagger has been called “koshi no mawari” [around the loins]. At present these twenty-five techniques part of the Takenouchi Ryū’s kihonwaza, and are referred to as “kogusoku koshi no mawari omotegata.”

Taking off a vine and entwining a tree, the yamabushi subsequently taught Hisamori how to restrain and tie up an enemy. these restraining techniques were called “musha garami” [entangling a warrior], and according to this story gave birth to the technique of “hayanawa” [早縄, today also known as hojō 捕縄], the art of swiftly restraining an opponent using a 2.5-meter rope. Then the yamabushi disappeared in a mysterious way, with wind springing up, lightning flashing, and thunder rolling.

[1] The Haga Gō Sannomiya Shrine was dedicated to the god Hachiman, the guardian deity of Genji’s family, the Minamoto clan. Hisamori belonged to the Minamoto clan.

[2] The length of the blade is measured from the tip to where the habaki (the collar inserted just below the seppa [washer, spacer]) and the tsuba [sword guard]) locks the blade.

The oldest existing old-style jujutsu: Takenouchi-ryu thoroughly explained! (Gekkan Hiden DVD)

Moreover, school founder Takenouchi Hitachinosuke Hisakatsu demonstrated his skills in front of Emperor Go-Mizunoo, the 108th Emperor of Japan, and received the title Honishita Torite Kaizan 日下捕手開山, which means “The founder of Toritejutsu in this world/in Japan.” He was also granted the prerogative to use the color purple, which was the imperial color and the use of which by ordinary citizens was prohibited, for the ropes used in the schools tying arts. This event is recounted as follows (Mol 2001:103-4):

In the spring of 1620, Emperor Gomizuno’o went to view the cherry blossoms on Mount Nishi in Kyoto. On the way back two men appeared. The emperor’s escort asked, “Who are you?” One of the men replied, “Takenouchi Hitachinosuke Hisakatsu, Shihan of Kogusoku Koshi no Mawari, and his son Hisayoshi. We are studying very hard, and we would like to demonstrate our skill to the Emperor. Please forgive us this breach of etiquette.” The imperial escort tried to push the men away, but they wouldn’t move. At that time, however, the Emperor said he was willing to watch their performance, and thus Hisakatsu and his son demonstrated for the Emperor. The emperor was delighted with the demonstration, and the next day the Imperial Counselor Konoe dispatch a man to Hisakatsu to invite him to the Imperial Palace. It is said that the Counselor became a student of Hisakatsu, and even received menkyo kaiden [certification of full mastery in the art]. Later the Counselor recommended that the Emperor grant Hisakatsu the title “Hinoshita Torite Kaizan” – The Founder of Toritejutsu in this World. When Hisakatsu received his name, the Imperial Counselor remove the purple court from his kanmuri [ceremonial hat worn by high ranking officials], and gave it to Hisakatsu, saying that from now he could use it for hayanawa. thus began the use of purple cords in the school’s tying arts. [1]

[1] Translated by Serge Mol from: Takouchi Tōichirō and Jirōmaru Akio, in Shinden no Bujutsu, Takenouchi Ryū, pp- 57-58.

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160 Years of German-Japanese Friendship

On occasion of 160 years of German-Japanese diplomatic relations, here’s a short overview of German influences on early Meiji Japan.

  • The official relations between a German state (Prussia) and Japan started with a diplomatic mission led by Count Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg. 
  • Japan adopted the German legal system, medical education, and military training in the Meiji era.
  • There was also a startling number of German language teachers in Japan. Actually, when an Okinawan sensei took me to a befirended doctor, the official doctor of the 1st Karate Kobudo World Championships in Okinawa in 1997, that doctor asked me to tell him about karate in Geman – as a physician, he has learned German and could understand it, although, he said, he couldn’t speak it well.
  • There was also a non-aggressive foreign policy of the German government.
  • Between 1885 and 1894, a number of prominent military advisors – Klemens Jacob Meckel, Hermann von Blankenburg, Erich von Wildenbruch, and Alexander Freiherr von Grutscheiber – came to Japan, playing significant roles in transforming the Japanese army into a capable organization.
  • Many ostensibly friendly gestures by the German state were well-received by the Japanese. In 1881, the German Studies Society (Doitsu-gaku Kyōkai, Verein für deutsche Wissenschaften), which was meant to promote all intellectual and research activities related to Germany, was founded by a number of high-profile Germanophile politicians, diplomats, and scholars such as Katsura Tarō (three-time Prime Minister), Katō Hiroyuki (Üresident of the University of Tōkyō), Inoue Kaoru, Aoki Shūzo (Ambassador to Germany), and Inoue Kowashi (high-profile bureaucrat).
  • Two years later, in 1883, the society even created its own preparatory school, the School of German Studies Society (Doitsu-gaku Kyōkai Gakkō), to educate a future generation of leaders in the spirit of the German system. At the same time, in 1881, the University of Tōkyō, the nation’s foremost institution of higher education, stipulated that
  • “Students in the Department of Science and Literature are accordingly required to study German instead of choosing between France and German […] since it is believed that Germany is the country where the sciences […] have reached the highest comparative development.”
  • Meanwhile, an increasingly large number of the scholarship recipients of the Ministry of Education – the very best of the Japanese students who had been educated by foreign teachers in Japan – chose to study in Germany. Between 1875 and 1881, students sponsored by the Ministry of Education were evenly divided among Germany, Great Britain, France, and the United States. From 1882, however, a majority (88 out of 108 students who went abroad between 1882 and 1897) decided, regardless of their academic disciplines, to go to Germany. Indeed, the reputation of German universities had risen so high in Japan that, according to sociologist Tomihide Kashioka, by around 1890, “One could not afford to not set foot in Germany to claim topflight scholarship.”
  • The Japanese infatuation with Germany and things German affected other areas of Japanese life and politics as well. The Meiji Constitution of 1889 was crafted after the Prussian model, under the heavy influence of German legal advisors. A German musician from Silesia, Franz Eckert, also composed the Japanese national anthem.
  • Likewise, a German arhcitect, Wilhelm Böckmann designed the Ministry of Justice building in Tōkyō. In short, as historian Sven Saaler has noted, the 1870s and 1880s were the “golden years of German-Japanese relations.”
  • In many ways, these golden years were made possible by Imperial Germany’s lack of aggressive foreign initiatives in East Asia and elsewhere in the world, which set it apart from Russia, Britain, and France.
  • BTW, Erwin von Bälz was the personal physician of the imperial family and fought for the reintroduction of martial arts in Japan. Actually, he was a member of the committee that looked into the introduction of  various budō into the Japanese school system and even trained jūjutsu, kyūjutsu and kenjutsu himself to popularize native sports to the Japanese themselves, and with the intention for them to readopt them.

Sources and recommended reading:
Hoi-eun Kim: Made in Meiji Japan: German Expatriates, German-Educated Japanese Elites and the Construction of Germanness. Geschichte und Gesellschaft. 41. Jahrg., H. 2, Rethinking Germans Abroad (April – Juni 2015), pp. 288-320 (33 pages). Published by: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG)

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Torite (continued)

As has been noted previously, it was no less than Itosu Ankō who “said that karate was introduced by Chin Genpin.”

As regards the art taught in Japan by Chin Genpin, it has been described as the “art of torite” (torite no jutsu) as well as kenpō (cf., the entry for Genpin-ryū in the Bugei Ryūha Daijiten 1963 and 1978), approving the contextual interchangeability of both terms. It should also be noted that while China at the time had no regular police force and these techniques were part of the military sphere of wu in general, in Japan it had been interpreted into techniques for persons who were feudal policemen rather than warriors at that time already.

Another hint is given by kobujutsu expert Taira Shinken, who might have picked up Itosu’s note, stating that “about three hundred and eighty years ago, a certain Chinese person named Chin demonstrated a kind of arresting art to police officers, which subsequently were adopted and further developed.” Obviously, the Chinese martial artist in this note is Chin Genpin, the arresting art is given as taihojutsu – i.e. the modern equivalent of torite in sense of a police martial art to arrest criminals –, and the police officers are described as torite no yakunin, that is, feudal officials specialized in arresting criminals. (Taira 1997: 55, from a writing of Taira posthumously published).

One may argue about the validity of Itosu’s reference to Chin Genpin. However, it is symptomatic for karate’s narratives to be extremely selective and artificial in their tendency to almost never even consider Japanese influence, but instead always quickly refer to China. The reasons for this are manyfold. One reason is to protect the overall popular narrative of Okinawa as having been historically victimized by Yamato/Japan. The whole modern narrative of Okinawa largely depends on not referring to Japan. Also, among martial artists there is a lack of theoretical and practical knowledge of historical jūjutsu and its technical contents and distribution to a degree that most of the masters can be said to have no clue about it. It is therefore no wonder that everyone quickly sidesteps such issues and instead perpetuates whatever they can relate to without further efforts. In the end, most of Okinawan karate is based in kata of the early 20th and late 19th century at best, and on personal traditions among Okinawan persons, while various historical martial arts of Okinawa have obviously been lost. This raises the question whether or not karate is an invented martial art of the 20th century. I cannnot imagine that any one of the countless people who have huge stakes in the modern narratives and success of karate will entertain that idea.

And hence, the fact that Chin Genpin was mentioned as a headwater of karate by the real father of modern karate, Itosu Ankō, which was noted for the purpose of further study by Majikina in 1923, has almost entirely been left unconsidered by karate people anywhere for the past century, and continuing. Keep in mind that this is not just about Chin Genpin, whose story was well-known at the beginning of the 20th century in Japan. Rather, it is about the question of distribution pathways of martial arts techniques, and why the stakeholders and agents involved in Okinawa karate obviously refuse to consider it. BTW, to see why Chin Genpin’s (once popular) story of being a founder of Japanese jūjutsu is erroneous and completely exaggerated, see Serge Mol’s Classical Fighting Arts of Japan (2001).

This being said, I am looking forward to more research towards the topic of Japanese martial arts techniques handed down to Ryūkyū, or Okinawa respectively, and whether or not they were simply lost or whether they were possibly somehow incorporated into later martial arts fashions, even if fragmentary. In the end, the existence and use of the term torite (tuitī in Okinawan dialect) alone makes further study indispensable, that is, if interest in karate history is not just mere lip service.

BTW, Itosu mentioned torite in 1908. The next note about torite from within Okinawan karate circles appeared only in the 1960s, more than half a century later.

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Torite (overview)

Torite is a classical martial art to capture an enemy with bare hands without killing him. Depending on the respective school, auxiliary weapons are used to make the arrest, such as the mitsu-dōgu (three pole weapons for catching criminals), the jitte (short truncheon with a hook), or the hojō (policeman’s rope used for restraining criminal). Torite is a martial art aimed at catching the opponent without killing them.

After the middle of the Edo period, there was a tendency for lower-ranking government official to learn it. Torite is included as an independent martial art in the “The 14 Kinds of Bugei” by Confucian scholar Kaibara Ekiken (1630–1714). As a side note, this work also includes ken (fist) as a kind of jūjutsu. Torite is equivalent to modern-day taiho-jutsu, which is a compulsory subject for modern police officers. As a derivative genre of torite, taiho-jutsu assumed its operative tasks and technical content in the modern era.

The origin of the name torite itself is older than that of jūjutsu and it has been used since the Muromachi period. In addition, the schools referred to as jūjutsu in posterity often included techniques classified as torite. In many schools torite is a technique to attack and arrest a person, either as a surprise attack or while employing atemi (strikes to vulnerable parts of the body). There were also schools that taught the use of various hidden weapons (kakushi buki).

Since the Muromachi period, torite has been used in every place in Japan by those whose job was to maintain security and public order and to capture and arrest lawbreakers. As a formal practice system that has been handed down as a martial arts school from generation to generation, torite mainly appeared since the 1500s.

The main schools are Takenouchi-ryū Torite Koshi-no-mawari Kogusoku, Tenka Musō-ryū Torite, Heki Musō Ikkaku-ryū Torite, Araki-ryū Torite, etc., which were established in the 1500s.

In the Edo period, torite was summed up under the umbrella term of jūjutsu along with other methods such as kumiuchi, kogusoku, yawara and kenpō. From this background, even in schools that used the name jūjutsu, their true nature might be that of torite.

In addition to kogusoku and kumiuchi, older schools such as the Seigō-ryū and the Takenouchi-ryū included torite as an important part of their system. In the Seigō-ryu, one was supposed to start learning from torite and then continue to learn kogusoku and yawara. Also, in the Takenouchi-ryū, the techniques devised by the school founder was said to be a shinden torite (literally “torite conveyed by the gods”; an excellent technique) and was regarded highly as a secret technique (okugi).

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Kenpō jūjutsu

According to Okinawan samurai Aka Pēchin (1721–1784), jūjutsu was practiced in Ryūkyū already in the 18th century. Regarding unarmed martial arts in Okinawa, it was no less than the father of modern karate, Itosu Ankō, who noted that historical karate was probably influenced by the teachings of Chin Genpin (1587–1674) in Japan, albeit indirectly. The terminology used to describe the teachings of Chin is kenpō jūjutsu, meaning a historical Japanese martial arts systems with an initial Chinese influence which places emphasis – but is not limited to – striking and kicking, i.e., on impact techniques.

This text is quoted from: Okinawan Samurai: The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son (Ryukyu Bugei) (Volume 4)

Fujita Seiko (1958) confirms this view. In his book on kenpō jūjutsu, he noted that “This book is about the art of war called kenpō, i.e., the punching and kicking techniques as handed down in various factions of distinguished Japanese martial arts schools.” Kanō Jigorō, the founder of jūdō, said, “assuming that Chin Genpin introduced jūjutsu than it could only have been the styles of kenpō and hakuda, which occurred in China between 1658 and 1672.” Kanō describes kenpō as a method which “according to contemporary Chinese sources mainly consisted of kicks and punches.”

According to experts, Ryūkyūan martial arts were influenced by classical Japanese martial arts already earlier:

During the Keichō era (1596–1615), torite […] became popular in Japan. Torite is nothing but the techniques of yawara, that is, an original form of jūjutsu. […] Besides, martial arts such as kenpō (karate), bōjutsu, and sumō have been performed since ancient times and are characteristic skills of Okinawa (Majikina 1923).

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The Best Martial Arts for MMA

There are more than 170 recognised martial arts globally with millions of regular participants, but they vary in popularity across the countries. France has almost 600,000 registered judo players – or judoka, in the UK over 200,000 people regularly partake in some form of martial arts activity and in Germany, jiu-jitsu has become so popular that it has developed into its own form of martial art. Each player will extol the virtues of their chosen art being the best. However, the only way of finding out is in the one arena in which they all come together, MMA or mixed martial arts.

It was once thought that bringing players together from these different arts was almost a token gesture, purely seen as a showcase of their talent, than a serious bout, however, since the early nineties MMA has grown into a sport all of its own. With each discipline displayed providing its potential routes to victory, it’s a sport where fans of so many disciplines can appreciate the techniques on show. So, it’s not difficult to understand with such a broad appeal that MMA has become the third most popular sport globally.

But which of the martial arts is the most effective when it comes to conquering the world of MMA? It’s a difficult question as winners so far have come from so many different disciplines, from wrestling, kickboxing and boxing to the relatively new art of sambo, too. But there are some which stand out above the rest as being the most effective.

Taekwondo

If a fighter is a good striker, then taekwondo is potentially the perfect art to master in MMA. Although, it leads to a possible downfall as the stance is one that is very open and could be prone to attack. However, its effectiveness has been demonstrated by one of the sport’s greatest fighters, Anderson Silva, who started his career in taekwondo before moving into the MMA arena. Silva has since translated his skills into boxing too, winning his latest bout and proving his chosen art’s all-around credentials.

Muay Thai

This martial art is one that requires strength, balance, endurance and coordination and it’s one that has proven to be very effective in MMA. There 13 exponents of the Thai-based art who have got to the very top of the sport. Striking with the knees, elbows, holding and throwing punches are all part of Muay Thai. It’s almost perfect to bring into mixed martial arts and one of the best fighters in the sport is one of the finest exponents. Jon Jones is devastating at his best, mixing up flying elbows, quick kicks and strength in the grapple making him the man that people want to beat. But, with just one defeat in almost 30 bouts, it’s proving to be a hard task. Jones is mentioned in a Bwin Sports MMA infographic as being one-half of one of the most-eagerly awaited UFC fights of the year, against Israel Adesanya. That hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, you’ll see Muay Thai coming up against the kickboxing style of the Nigerian fighter. With the power from Jones allied to his speed and abilities in holding and grappling learned from Muay Thai, it will give him an excellent opportunity to beat the smaller opponent.

Jiu-Jitsu

As an art form that evolved from judo, jiu-jitsu has been very successful in MMA. It’s a more defence-focused style of fighting that emphasises holding and submission techniques rather than striking. Some of the less explosive fighters prefer this style to negate the heavy hitting, striking-based opponents. It was no better highlighted by Nate Diaz when he defeated Conor McGregor back in 2016. Diaz overcame the Irish fighter despite not being able to match his punching power by bringing his opponent to the ground, forcing him to submit to a rear naked choke.

These are three of the most popular arts used in MMA, but this continues to be an evolving sport, where a combination of the styles are utilised for victory. Much like Higa Seitoku discovered, the ultimate skill of any martial art is based on a general principle of technique to control your opponent.

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Wallerstein Codex, fol. 15r und 15v: Einleitung zum Ringkampfbuch

Die erste Lehre vom Ringen

Präge dir nun ein, dass zum Ringen drei Fertigkeiten gehören:
1. Stärke (Bedeutung: Kraft, Gewalt, Tapferkeit),
2. Maß (Bedeutung: die angemessene Aktion und Reaktion in dynamischen Situationen) und
3. Behändigkeit (Bedeutung: Gewandtheit, Klugheit, Eifer, Kunstfertigkeit, Schnelligkeit, Beweglichkeit, Fertigkeit, Geschicklichkeit, Schlauheit, List).

Um die Stärke zu nutzten, senkt jeder seinen Körperschwerpunkt ab in die Position der Waage und stellt sich fest auf dem Boden auf.

Maß bedeutet, dass du es verstehst, deine Hände und Füße in allen Positionen geschickt einzusetzen, wie du es in Folge hier in guter Form lernen wirst.

Behändigkeit bedeutet, dass du dich wohl vorsiehst, dir alle Hintertritte (ein Bein so positionieren, das der Gegner in seiner Bewegungsfreiheit gestört, behindert, gehemmt, oder zu Fall gebracht wird), Ziehen (Zucken; schnell und mit Gewalt ergreifen und sich reißen) und Stoßen (Stöße, Schubser und Schläge, mit Anprall treffen), und Armbrüche (Sammelbegriff für Knochenbrüche und Gelenkverletzungen) gut einprägst, um all diese sogleich / unerschrocken abwehren zu können, und dass du dich stets schwer machst und deinen Körperschwerpunkt in die Position der Waage absenkst.

Die zweite Lehre vom Ringen

Auch sollst du wissen, dass du gegen jeden schwachen Gegner mit Stärke vorringen sollst (zuvorkommen, angreifen), und gegen einen gleichstarken Gegner mit Maß mitringen sollst (gleichzeitig), und gegen einen starken Gegner mit Behändigkeit nachringen sollst (ihn angreifen lassen). Wenn du also mit einem Schwachen ringst, so brauchts du dir keine Sorgen vor ihm zu machen, solange du Maß und Behändigkeit besitzt und dich fest in die Waage setzt. Was du dann probierst, sei es Zwirchstellung oder Blöße (Öffnung anbieten), Armbrüche, Kampfstücke, Mordstücke oder andere Stücke, so wird er diese nicht leicht abwehren können, es sei denn, indem er sich dir entzieht oder dir ausweicht.

Ringst du dann mit einem gleichwertigen Gegner, so sieh auch zu, das du dich gut in acht nimmst vor Zucken, Hintertreten und Armbrüchen und vor anderen Täuschungsmanövern; Tu dies, indem du dich stets in die Waage setzt und mit Stärke mit Maß finden lässt und dich jederzeit schwer machst gegen ihn und ihn abarbeitest, und danach kannst du ihn mit Behändigkeit übereilen mit Maß.

Die dritte Lehre vom Ringen

Ringst du mit einem starken Gegner, dann schütze dich da, wo er dich angreift oder anfällt, und sieh zu, dass du dich fest niedersetzt (Schwerpunkt absenken) und ihm seine(n) Arm(e) mit dem Bärenstoß ausstößt oder auch mit anderen Stücken ausbrichst und allgemein, dass du viel vor ihm ausweichst. Und versuche, ob du ihn mit Behändigkeit verleiten und übereilen kannst; dass du einen seiner Füße erwischst oder ansonsten unter ihn trittst, so dass du in wirfst, wie du dann ihn mehreren Stücken und Brüchen hiernach in Zeichnung und Text finden wirst.

Weiteres als Vorrede

Ein jeder schwacher Ringer ist im Ernstkampf jedoch einem starken gleichwertig, wenn er es versteht, Behändigkeit und Maß, Kampfstück und Mordstück zu seinem Vorteil einzusetzen. Beim Gesellenringen jedoch ist der starke stets im Vorteil. Doch für alle diese Dinge (die unendliche Vielfalt der Möglichkeiten) wird die Kunst (des Ringens) von Rittern und Knechten gelobt.

Es folgt das erste Stück.

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Die Karate- und Kobudo-Vorführung im Jahr 1964 und die Bedeutung von Kulturgut

Die im folgenden verwendete Quelle wurde von Herr Kyan Morikazu (Mitglied des Bunbukan) sowie von Herr Motobu Naoki (Motobu-ryū) recherchiert und mir freundlicherweise zur Verfügung gestellt.

Am 8. August 1997 erklärte die Präfektur Okinawa Karatedō und Kobudō als immaterielles Kulturgut und designierte gleichzeitig drei Träger dieses Kulturgutes. Seitdem wurden regelmäßig weitere Träger designiert. Hier ist die gesamte Liste bis jetzt:

  • 1997: Nagamine Shōshin, Yagi Meitoku, Itokazu Seiki
  • 2000: Iha Koshin, Tomoyose Ryūkō, Nakazato Shugorō, Nakazato Jōen, Miyahira Katsuya, Wakugawa Kōsei.
  • 2013: Ishikawa Seitoku, Uehara Takenobu, Hichiya Yoshio, Nakamoto Masahiro, Higaonna Morio.
  • 2020: Takara Shintoku, Iha Seikichi, Nakahodo Tsutomu, Iha Kōtarō, Maeshiro Morinobu, Kikugawa Masanari.

Was aber bedeutet Kulturgut und wann begannen die Aktivitäten dazu in Okinawa?

Am 30. Mai 1950 wurde das japanische „Gesetz zum Schutz von Kulturgütern“ erlassen. Zweck dieses Gesetzes war es, Kulturgüter zu erhalten und zu versuchen, diese aktiv nutzbar zu machen. Die Leitlinie dabei ist es, einen Beitrag zum kulturellen Fortschritt des japanischen Volkes sowie zur Entwicklung der Weltkultur zu leisten (Artikel 1). Der japanische Staat bewahrt, verwaltet, schützt, subventioniert und nutzt diese Kulturgüter aktiv.

Abschnitt 1 definiert Kulturgut als Bauten, Malerei, Bildhauerei, Kunsthandwerksarbeit, Schriften, Handschriften, Bücher, antike Dokumente, volkstümliche Materialien und andere materielle (greifbare) kulturelle Produkte, die für Japan von hohem historischem oder künstlerischem Wert sind, sowie archäologische Materialien. Diese werden „materielles Kulturgut” genannt.

Abschnitt 2 definiert Kulturgut als Theater, Musik, handwerkliches Können und andere immaterielle Kulturgüter, die für Japan einen hohen historischen oder künstlerischen Wert besitzen. Diese werden „immaterielles Kulturgut“ genannt.

Abschnitt 3 definiert Kulturgut als historische Stätten, Orte von landschaftlicher Schönheit sowie Naturdenkmäler (z. B. Landschaft, Pflanzen, Tiere). Diese werden „historische Stätten und Naturdenkmäler“ genannt.

In Okinawa entwickelte sich die Kulturgutverwaltung wie folgt.

Vor der Schlacht von Okinawa (1945) waren die Haupthalle der Burg Shuri sowie dreiundzwanzig weitere Gebäude in zwölf Gebäudekomplexen durch Gesetze wie dem Gesetz zur Erhaltung von Nationalschätzen (1929) als Kulturgüter designiert und erhalten worden. Während der Schlacht von Okinawa (1945) brannten die meisten Kulturgüter nieder, einschließlich der als Nationalschatz designierten Gebäude.

Aufgrund der administrativen Trennung von Japan gab es nach dem Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Okinawa keine gesetzlichen Maßnahmen in Bezug auf Kulturgüter. Allerdings bemühten sich einige private Organisationen um den Erhalt der verbliebenen Kulturgüter. Als Reaktion auf den starken politischen Druck durch diese privaten Organisationen erließ die Legislative der okinawanischen Selbstverwaltungsregierung während der amerikanischen Besetzung am 29. Juni 1954 das „Gesetz zum Schutz von Kulturgütern“.

Im selben Jahr folgte die Einrichtung des „Ausschuss für den Schutz von Kulturgütern“ als externe Einrichtung des Bildungsbüros sowie des „Sonderrat für Kulturgüter“ als beratendes Gremium und man begann mit der Designation und dem Erhalt von Kulturgütern in Okinawa.

Am 15. Mai 1972 erlangte Japan die Souveränität über das Gebiet von Okinawa wieder. Mit der Reversion wurde ein Kulturdezernat als Teil der örtlichen Schulbehörde eingerichtet und alle Aufgaben der Kulturgutschutzverwaltung einem „Komitee für den Schutz von Kulturgütern“ übertragen.

Im Rahmen einer “Schwerpunktwoche zum Schutz der Kulturgüter” fand am 3. November 1964 in der Sporthalle der Fachoberschule für Wirtschaft in Naha eine Gedenkfeier anlässlich des 10. Jahrestages des Inkrafttretens des okinawanischen „Gesetz zum Schutz von Kulturgütern“ statt.

Bei der Zeremonie sagte der Vorsitzende Miyazato Eiki:

„Wir, die gesamte Gesellschaft [Okinawas], müssen die einzigartige Vielfalt traditioneller okinawanischer Kulturgüter schützen, pflegen und nutzen.”

Im Anschluss an diese Gedenkfeier führten verschiedene Meister Inhalte aus vier Fachbereichen vor: klassische Ryūkyū Musik, Ryūkyū-Tanz, Karate und Kobudō. Das Publikum soll von den Darbietungen der vollendeten Meister tief bewegt gewesen sein und „genoss das hohe Niveau und die Unverfälschtheit der Ryūkyū-Kultur nach Herzenslust.“

Es folgt die Auflistung der Vorführungen:

Teil 1: Klassische Ryūkyū Musik

  • Kagiyade-fū
  • Kote-bushi
  • Agichikuten-bushi (Gesellschaft für klassische Musik nach dem Nomura-Stil, Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung der klassischen Musik nach dem Nomura-Stil, Genkoe-Gesellschaft des Afuso-Stils, Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung der klassischen Musik nach dem Tansui-Stil und Genkoe-Gesellschaft des Muramatsu-Stils)

Teil 2: Ryūkyū-Tanz

  • „Tanz des alten Mannes“ (Rōjin odori): Shimabukuro Kōyū
  • „Zei-Flaggen-Tanz“ (Zei odori): Kin Ryōshō
  • „Hurra Takadēra“ (Takadēra manzai): Takamine Zenkei
  • „Die Amakawa Weise“ (Amakawa bushi): Yamada Sadako
  • „Die Hatoma Weise“ (Hatoma bushi): Higa Sumiko
  • „Die Inoha Weise“ (Inoha bushi): Majikina Yoshiko
  • „Die Esa Weise“ (Esa bushi): Une Shinsaburō
  • „Amakawa als Herren- und Damengruppenvorführung“: Oyadomari Kōshō, Miyagi Nōzō
  • „Hurra Yaese“ (Yaese manzai): Tamagusuku Seigi

Teil 3: Karate

  • Karate Sansērui (36): Uechi Kan’ei, Lehrer des Uechi-ryū
  • Karate Sūpārinpe (108): Yagi Meitoku, Lehrer des Gōjū-ryū
  • Karate Kūsankū: Nagamine Shōshin, Lehrer des Matsubayashi-ryū
  • Karate Passai Dai: Chibana Chōshin, Lehrer des Kobayashi-ryū

(Anm.: Bei den Personen in Teil 3 handelt es sich um führende Mitglieder des im Mai 1956 gegründeten Okinawa Karatedō Renmei)

Teil 4: Kobudō

  • Gelenkhebeltechniken (tuiti): Higa Seitoku, Higa Kiyohiko, Onaga Taketoshi
  • Gelenkhebeltechniken (tuiti): Ameku Minoru, Nakama Takeshi
  • Sanchin von Matsumura Sōkon Sensei (Grundlegende Gelenkhebeltechniken): Tsuha Kōmei
  • Sanchin (Shuri-te): Uehara Seikichi
  • Chōun no Kon (Soeishi no Kon): Higa Keitoku
  • Wansū of Maeda Sensei from Tomari: Shimabukuro Zenryō
  • Stocktechniken (bōjutsu) Tokumine no Kon: Nakazato Jōen
  • Gojūshiho of Hanashiro Chōmo Sensei: Nakama Chōsō
  • Stocktechniken (bōjutsu) Shirotaru no Kon: Izumigawa Kantoku
  • Sicheltechniken (kama no te): Soken Hōhan
  • Sēsan von Ōshiro Chōjo Sensei: Nakachi Seitoku
  • Stocktechniken (bōjutsu) Sakugawa no Kon: Higa Seitoku
  • Nīsēshī of Kuniyoshi Shinkichi Sensei: Nakamura Shigeru
  • Schildtechniken (tenbē): Nakaima Kenkō
  • Sicheltechniken (kama): Irei Matsutarō
  • Sai: Kina Shōsei

(Anm.: Bei den Personen in Teil 4 handelt es sich um Mitglieder des Okinawa Kobudō Kyōkai, dem 1961 durch Higa Seitoku gegründeten Verband)

Oben erwähnter Herr Irei war zu jener Zeit 85 Jahre alt und Herr Kina war 83 Jahre alt.

In der Literatur wird dazu gesagt, Karate und Kobudō zählten „auf diese Weise in Okinawa als Folklorekünste (minzoku geinō 民俗芸能), die sich neben der klassischen Musik und dem Ryūkyū-Tanz durchgesetzt haben.“

Warum dauerte es nach dieser Vorführung mehr als 30 Jahre, bis Karate und Kobudō 1997 als immaterielles Kulturgut designiert wurden? Wie oben erwähnt, wurden Karate und Kobudō damals als Folklorekünste (minzoku geinō 民俗芸能) verstanden. Viele der traditionellen kämpferischen Dorfvorführungen (mura-bō) wurden bereits seit den 1980ern als immaterielles volkstümliches Kulturgut (mukei minzoku bunkazai 無形民俗文化財) designiert. Wahrscheinlich erschienen diese Kategorien vielen Beteiligten als nichtzutreffend oder unpassend, oder es gab Konflikte zwischen Gruppierungen mit unterschiedlichen Ansichten.

Die Designation eines Kulturgutes kann auf nationaler, präfekturaler oder kommunaler Ebene erfolgen. Für Karate und Kobudō wurde 1997 dazu auf präfekturaler Ebene die Designation „Immaterielles Kulturgut“ (mukei bunkazai) auf dem Gebiet des Karate und Kobudō geschaffen. Laut Gesetz kann sich dies ausschließlich beziehen auf „menschliche Fähigkeiten von hohem historischem oder künstlerischem Wert, wie Schauspiel (Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki, Kumiodori), Musik und handwerkliche Techniken (Keramik usw.)“. „Sport“, „Kampfkunst“, „Selbstverteidigung“ und dergleichen sind keine Kategorien innerhalb des „Gesetzes zum Schutz von Kulturgütern“, und im Übrigen auch keine Kategorien in der Liste des Immateriellen Kulturerbes der UNESCO. Es ging und geht also offenbar erst einmal darum, eine passende Kategorie zu finden.

Am „Tag des Karate“ 2014, verkündete die Regierung von Okinawa ihre Absicht, die formelle Anerkennung des Karate als Immaterielles Kulturerbe bei der UNESCO anzustreben. Daraufhin entstanden 2016 zwei Institutionen: Die “Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung des Okinawa Karate and Kobujutsu als immaterielles Kulturgut der Präfektur Okinawa” und die “Abteilung für Karate-Förderung der Präfektur Okinawa”, letzteres ein politisches Planungsbüro, welches auch das lokale Karate-Netzwerk koordiniert und dem die Aufgabe übertragen wurde, „Okinawa Karate zu fördern, um in das immaterielle Kulturerbe der UNESCO aufgenommen zu werden.“ Auch das Okinawa Karate Kaikan hat die Aufgabe „die Aufnahme des Karate als immaterielles Kulturerbe der UNESCO“ voranzutreiben.

Da in der repräsentativen UNESCO-Liste keine Kategorie für Kampfkunst existiert, zielen die Verantwortlichen auf die Aufnahme des Karate in dem Bereich „gesellschaftliche Praktiken, Rituale und festliche Veranstaltungen“. Ein 2019 gegründetes Komitee von Karate-Experten verkündete „Ritual“ (gishiki) als Schlagwort für die Kandidatur und den Slogan „Der Geist des Friedens; Anbindung des Okinawa-Karate-Rituals an den UNESCO-Ring“.

Auch die JKA unterstützt die okinawanische UNESCO-Initiative, unterscheidet jedoch klar zwischen Okinawa und japanischem Karate, wobei traditionelles japanisches Karate in der Tradition des Bushidō verwurzelt sei (Nakahara Nobuyuki, bei einer Konferenz im Karate Kaikan 2017). Mit anderen Worten: Es gibt verschiedene Stakeholder und Bündnisse, jedoch auch Potential für unversöhnliche Konflikte.

Durch diese Entwicklungen, zu der sich noch zahllose persönliche Interessen privater Stakeholder gesellen, die im Windschatten dieser Offensive ihr Glück suchen, wird es schwierig bis unmöglich, die tatsächliche Geschichte und Bedeutung des Karate und Kobudō zu beschreiben. Es gibt einfach zu viele negativ belegte Wahrheiten, die diesen Kategorisierungen und den damit verbunden institutionellen und privaten Aktivitäten und dem erheblichen Lobbyaufwand in Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Tourismus, Forschung, Schrifttum und neuen Medien diametral entgegenstehen. An dieser Stelle erscheint daher die Frage notwendig, inwiefern die Kenntnisse über die Entstehung, die Inhalte und die Entwicklung des Karate und Kobudō zu Gunsten einer Marketing-Agenda verfälscht werden.

Quellen (Auszug):

Eduardo González de la Fuente; Andreas Niehaus: From Olympic Sport to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage: Okinawa Karate Between Local, National, and International Identities in Contemporary Japan. Seite 40 – 50. In: Traditional Martial Arts As Intangible Cultural Heritage. ICHCAP and ICM, 2020.

Präfekturarchiv Okinawa: Die Ära der Ryūkyū-Regierung, 1945 bis 1972.

Dokumente zur Information und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit von Kulturgütern – Materialien aus dem Besitz des Archivs der Präfektur Okinawa. 1964 – 1967.

Miyagi Tokumasa, Karate als immaterielles Kulturgut. In: Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten 2008, S. 9.

Quast, Andreas: Karate as an Intangible Cultural Property. May 28, 2016.

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Kickstarter Campaign — Okinawa Martial Art Dances – The Video Tutorial Archive

Exciting news: I have started a Kickstarter Campaign. It will run 30 days, so don’t hesitate.

I have been documenting martial arts dances for more than 25 years now. Some of the things I came across are published here on my blog, other in my published works, and I am involved in social media communication, such as in my Karate group with 7.5 k members, and growing. 

Now I am planning to create a video tutorial archive of the many martial arts dances with ancient tools I have studied for more than 25 years. I have trained in Japan for the first time in 1999 and have spent more than two years in total training in Okinawa. Learning these things is extremely time consuming and expensive, and most people do not have the ressources in time and finance to do so themselves. The finished content will be made available from my webshop (almost ready to launch).

Go to Kickstarter Campaign

Since I’ve been recording and documenting everything in great detail for such a long time, and since I receive request for teaching from all over the world, and since I am a communicator by profession, it is a logical step to bring it all together in one amazing project. I have all the practical expertise as well as full documentation in writing. While I published amateur videos for fun on Facebook, TicToc, or my YouTube channel, I am also good with professional video software.  

Go to Kickstarter Campaign

Therefore, my plan is to provide a video tutorial archive with everything I have learned and documented so far, with all the details and in a refreshing and fun way for every person interested to follow and replicate on their own pace, in their own place, at any time. 

My timeline starts with a design thinking session on the video format, intros, subtitles, colors and forms etc. The syllabus is ready, although I will have to look for a good studio-esque setting with good lights and audio and all that. Once all is decided upon, I will prepare, create, and fill in the content one after the other, from beginners to intermediate to expert level.  

Go to Kickstarter Campaign

Right now my equipment is just a good Sony camera and I use Adobe CC with Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Photoshop etc., but I need a new tripod and there will be the need for new equipment, microphone, clothes, lightning, audio and a bunch of little things, but also a dedicated server. Therefore, I am looking for a 5-digit funding. 

I am 100% passionate about these martial arts dances and fully committed and excited to make this happen and to publish the tutorial archive of Okinawa martial arts dances with ancient tools. To achive this, I’d appreciate your support.

Sincerely, Andreas

Go to Kickstarter Campaign

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Higa Seitoku (1921-2006) – Ultimate Skill – Lifelong Pursuit

(The following is a translation of the following article: Okinawa Times, 29 August 2021: “Weekly Okinawa Karate No. 230 – Okinawa Kobudō Biographies Series 2 – Ultimate Skill – Lifelong Pursuit – Higa Seitoku (1921-2006) – Bō “Shūshi no Kon” – Efforts to expand Karate and Kobudō)

It is said that Okinawan bōjutsu was established in Ryūkyū by trading with China during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era, and that it was introduced along with Chinese martial arts by the 36 Families of Kume, who introduced Chinese culture. Staffs used in Chinese bōjutsu are thin, long and elastic, but Okinawan are thicker than Chinese and have a standard length of 6 shaku (~182 cm). Along with the kata that came from China, Okinawa has also created its own original kata of bōjutsu, and many kata of traditional ancient martial arts of Okinawa have been inherited.

Born in Shuri Sueyoshi in Naha City, Higa Seitoku (1921-2006) performed kata of karate in a self-taught manner from an early age, but when he was in the first year of the junior high school of the old school system, he began to receive full-fledged personal instruction in karate and kobudō from the warrior (bujin) Kishimoto Sokō. In 1938, he entered Chūō University and refined his karate skills while studying. While attending school, he performed a martial arts demonstration together with Tōyama Kanken in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama City. In an interview during his lifetime, Higa mentioned that he was inspired by a novel about Miyamoto Musashi to travel about to gain skill (musha shugyō) on a nationwide pilgrimage. Looking back he recalled,

“I slept outdoors, and when it rained I spent the night at a temple, and stood under a waterfall to train my spirit. The practice at that time was a great plus for my daily life.”

After the outbreak of the Pacific War, he began his military service in 1942 and continued his training in between military services, such as performing karate on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. After returning to Japan in 1947, he opened the Nichigetsukan Karate Dōjō in Kumamoto, striving to popularize karate and kobudō. Two years later, he returned to Okinawa and gathered young people in Shuri Akahira to teach karate and kobudō.

In 1957, he studied under Chinen Masami of Yamane-ryū, which is a prestigious school of bōjutsu. He learned the handling techniques and was given the instructor (shihan) license Number 1 [in Yamane-ryū by Chinen Masami]. He also studied under Uehara Seikichi, the successor of Motobu Udundī, which Higa described as a “profound and infinite skill,” and was awarded the 10th dan hanshi, using one’s bare hands to take away the enemies’ various weapons, and then use the skills of tuiti (toritejutsu) to control them.

Regarding the relationship between karate and kobudō, Higa said,

“It cannot be denied that both the arts of using one’s bare hands and the use of ancient weapons are techniques within the range of the ancient martial arts (kobudō) that have been handed down since ancient times. I learned in practice that the ultimate skill of any martial art is that the sword, karate, spearmanship (sōjutsu), and jūjutsu are based on a general principle of technique.”

In the 1960s he established the Okinawa Kobudō Kyōkai. To further develop the Okinawa Kobudō Kyōkai, he dissolved it and established a new organization, the “Zen Okinawa Karate Kobudō Rengōkai,” and served as its president and continued to make efforts for the development of Okinawan karate and kobudō. In 1995 he founded the Shindō-ryū.

Higa’s photos show his performance of Shūshi no Kon. It is considered to be the basic kata of Yamane-ryū bōjutsu, and it has transformations of technique (henka) such as pretending to strike (uchi) when in fact you thrust (tsuki) or chop (tatakikiru).

Higa Kiyohiko (77), the eldest son of Higa Seitoku and chairman of the Bugei no Kai (martial arts association) who inherited the teaching of karate and kobudō, explained regarding the bōjutsu of Yamane-ryū, “In deflecting (uke) and thrusting (tsuki) with the , there is a motion as if expanding and contracting (or, a elastic; flexibile motion). It has a feature that makes it difficult for the other party to control the fighting distance.” Regarding Higa Seitoku during his lifetime, he reflects,

“It’s vile to say that you won or lost. He (Higa Seitoku) set up the Bugei no Kai, saying that it is a “life road” (seidō) to bring to life yourself, and to bring to life others. He eventually came up with his own Shindō-ryū style of using ki to control an opponent.”

Those teachings were inherited by his disciples, and many martial arts artists from all over the world are still visiting the dōjō of Chairman Higa.

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