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

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

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

Kindle edition:  US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Book Reviews, Publications, Translations, Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Motobu Chōki: “My Art and Skill of Karate” (1932)

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

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

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

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

Kindle edition: US | UKDE | FR | ES | IT | NL | JP | BR | CA | MX | AU | IN

Table of Contents

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

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

Translated from Japanese for the first time!

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

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

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

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

Posted in From the Classics..., Misc, New Developments, Publications, Theories of Historical Karate in Comparative Perspective, Translations, Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Okinawan Samurai — The Instructions of a Royal Official to his Only Son

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

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Oni Oshiro

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.

Posted in From the Classics..., Publications, Translations, Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Matsumura Sokon: The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts

A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

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

by Andreas Quast (Author)

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

Kindle edition also availableUSUKDEFRESITNLJPBRCAMXAUIN

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

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

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

Product Details (Paperback edition)

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



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

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Stroll Along Ryukyu Martial Arts History

Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art


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

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

cover (4)

Karate 1.0 front cover

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

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

Read the review by the experts:

Continue reading

Posted in Publications | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Karate 1.0: Parameter of an Ancient Martial Art

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

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

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

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

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

In one of her texts, Chatani stated as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Comments Off on The girls sold as prostitutes, and the boys as Buddhist priests…

Sai Taitei’s Chinese Poetry and Red Light Districts in Ryūkyū

Sai Taitei was born in 1823 and he was from Kume Village. Later in life he succeeded his father’s post to become Ikei Pechin (an assistant estate-steward of Ikei Village belonging to Yonashiro District). It is presumed that he traveled to China five times and finally died in Beijing. The year of his death is unknown, but it is believed to have been after 1884. He was a cultured person who lived through the turbulent times from the end of the Ryukyu Kingdom to the Disposition of Ryukyu (1872-1879).

Among the Ryukyuans involved with Chinese poetry, Sai Taitei is the one with the largest confirmed poetry collection of the Ryukyu Kingdom era. His known poetrycollections were four works owned by the Okinawa Prefectural Library (the former Higashionna Kanjun Collection), but recently, five more items have been discovered. These five are collections of poems and texts written in Ryukyu itself.

Among all of Sai Taitei’s poetry, sixty-two poems deal with prostitutes and red light districts in Naha.

Red light districts in Naha

During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, there were three red-light districts in Okinawa. These are Tsuji, Nakashima, and Watanji.

Tsuji was located in the western part of Naha and bordered to Kume village. Tsuji village as a whole was a special village called a licensed red light district (yūkaku).

Nakashima is located in the southeastern part of Naha and belongs to Izumizaki village. Originally located on a sandbank, it used to be connected to Izumizaki Village by a bridge.

Watanji is a small island located in the southeastern part of Naha, facing Naha Harbor to the south, east and west. It belonged to Higashi Village, and was connected to Higashi Village by Shian Bridge.

Naha is a port town and it is thought that prostitutes have existed since ancient times. In 1672, the prostitutes were gathered and placed under the control of the Ryukyu royal government, and the red-light districts of Tsuji and Nakashima were established.

It is unknown when Watanji was established. In 1908, the Nakashima and Watanji red-light districts were abolished and integrated into the Tsuji red-light district by Okinawa prefectural ordinance. During World War II, the Tsuji red-light district also disappeared.


Takatsu Takashi: Sai Taitei no kanshi-bun to Ryūkyū no yūri (Sai Taitei’s Chinese Poetry and Red Light Districts in Ryūkyū).

Posted in Unknown Ryukyu | Comments Off on Sai Taitei’s Chinese Poetry and Red Light Districts in Ryūkyū

Kuwae no Kon (continued)

Previously on this blog, I have written about a rare kata called Kuwae no Kon, otherwise also known as Torisashi Umē no Kon. Since my blog is widely read internationally, and since I have come to know many people from different schools of Okinawan martial arts, I also get a lot of feedback. This time, I have received various additional information from the USA and from Okinawa, which I use for this article here.

First of all, the kata in question is found described in the book Okinawa Karate Kobudō, written by Ebihara Isamu in 1983. Ebihara himself was a student of Kina Masanobu, who taught Kuwae no Kon. In the book, there is an introduction of both Kina Masanobu and Ebihara Isamu as follows:

Introduction of Kina Masanobu Sensei

Born in 1925 in a family that has inherited Okinawa karate and kobudō from generation to generation, he learned Okinawa karate and kobudō from his grandfather and father. In addition, he studied under teachers such as Kina Shōsei, Kyan Chōtoku, and Miyagi Chōjun.

Introduction of Ebihara Isamu

Born in Yoshikawa Town, Saitama Prefecture in 1941. He graduated from Chiba University and became a public high school teacher in Chiba Prefecture in 1964.

While working at his first school, Chōshi Municipal High School, he met Chitose Tadashi Sensei, who was Toyama Kanken’s senior disciple, and started karate.

In 1969, he went to Okinawa, which was still under the rule of the United States, and began training under Kina Masanobu. In 1975, he was certified as a Shihan of Okinawa Karate Kobudō.

In my previous article I have introduced a video of the kata as performed by Kina Masanobu himself. I also provided a short description of the techniques and enbusen as I was able to observe it from the video. However, the book by Ebihara contained a full description of the kata, including a number of photos. I have translated the description below. It is a typical and actually very good example of an how-to instruction using the method of text plus photo. In this way, a person who had learned the kata can forever remember the kata. I hope you enjoy it and maybe give it a try.

The description is almost the same as the techniques shown in the kata video. By the use of terminology and by additional information, details of the techniques become much more clear. For instance, there is a clear distinction between a horizontal torso strike and a more vertical head strike, which does not immediately become clear from watching the video. Moreover, targets of attacks are described here and there, as are body parts to be defended, which adds a lot of spice to the performance of the techniques.

There are two very important points to the description. The first is that one part of the kata is done at a 45° degree angle, which is not seen in the video. The second point is that there is a sunakake move and strike under the opponent’s chin at the end of the kata, which is not seen in the video.

I hope you enjoyed the description. That is all for now.

Posted in Bojutsu Kata Series, Translations | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Kuwae no Kon (continued)

“Torisashi no Kon” und die Handlungsanweisung in der Form “Text plus Bild”

Wie in meinem kürzlichen Artikel beschrieben, entstammt Torisashi Ume no Kon der okinawanischen Tradition eines gewissen Kina Masanobu.

Zu dem Zeitpunkt, als ich den Artikel schrieb, lagen mir nur sehr wenige Informationen vor. Zuerst hatte ich über eine weitere Person eine knappe Information aus Okinawa erhalten, die lediglich aus dem Namen der kata sowie einer Genealogie der Überlieferung stammte. Mit dieser Information gelangte ich dann zu einer zugehörigen Bildquelle aus einem japanischen Buch, von dem ich allerdings nicht wusste, woher genau dieser stammte. Es zeigte lediglich den Text ohne Seitenzahl, Name des Autors, Name des Buches, des Verlags, oder des Jahres der Veröffentlichung.

Ferner lokalisierte ich zwei Videos der kata. Das erste Video zeigte Kina Masanobu selber beim Vorführen der kata, das zweite Video zeiget Robert Teller aus den USA, der die kata in den 1970ern auf Okinawa von Kina Masanobu gelernt hatte.

Und dann habe ich natürlich so, wie man das so macht, geguckt, wo kommt das Buch her, was ist der Titel, und habe international Freunde und Bekannte dazu kontaktiert. Schlussendlich erhielt ich dann tatsächlich die entsprechenden Seiten dieses Buches von einem Kollegen aus den USA, der in Besitz dieses Buches ist, als einziger, den ich kenne, und der auch als einer der wenigen in den etwas unbekannteren Schulen des kobudō unterwegs ist, also sich in den weniger standardisierten und verbreiteten Schulen auskennt. Damit hatte ich dann also eine Beschreibung, wie die kata überliefert worden ist, den Charakteristika der kata und einer detaillierten Beschreibung der Techniken der kata in der Form Text plus Bild.

Text plus Bild heißt, jede einzelne Bewegung ist im Text beschrieben, Punkt 1 bis x, und weil halt in den Büchern in den 70er und 80er Jahren nicht so viel Platz war, und weil zu jener Zeit das Veröffentlichen von Büchern etwas schwieriger war als heutzutage, auch wegen der Bearbeitung von Grafiken usw., sind dort vielleicht so 15 Fotos mit dabei, die dann jeweils einer der Textbeschreibungen zugeordnet sind. Manchmal sind die Fotos auch unterteilt in a, b und c, um den Ablauf einer einzelnen Bewegungssequenz besser zu veranschaulichen.  

Aus didaktischer Sicht kann man sagen, dass die Instruktionsform „Text plus Bild“ natürlich bereits seit langer Zeit internationaler Standard ist. Dies gilt vor allem auch für den militärischen Bereich, wo sich Text-plus-Bild-Anleitungen seit Jahrhunderten finden, aber auch andere technische Bereiche bedienen sich seit langem dieser Methode.

Weltweit sieht man natürlich die Entwicklung der Handlungsanweisung in Form von „Text plus Bild“ bereits früh, so auch in Europa, und hier ganz speziell in dem Corpus der sogenannten Fechtbücher, die sich als Monografien ausschließlich mit dem Kampf beschäftigten. Dies Form der Handlungsanweisung entstand etwa um 1300 und entwickelte sich bis zum 17. Jahrhundert immer weiter zu eigenständigen Kunstwerken, mit teils erheblichem künstlerischem Aufwand und Ausdruck in Kalligraphie und Malerei. Dabei handelte es sich um aufwändige Publikationen, denn man brauchte jemanden der kämpfen kann, jemanden der schreiben kann, und jemanden der zeichnen oder malen kann, und so finden sich häufig Widmungen an die Förderer solcher Veröffentlichungen in den Vorblättern. Es war darüber hinaus notwendig, dass die Zielgruppe lesen konnte, und die Bebilderung erleichterte das Verstehen; eine Erkenntnis, die noch heute im Bereich der technischen Handlungsanweisungen vollumfänglich gültig ist, aber auch und vor allem in allgemeinen technischen Produkte; denken Sie nur an IKEA, ihre Waschmaschine, die Fernbedienung, oder einen Kaffeeautomaten: ohne Bilder geht gar nix. Ohne Text meist aber auch nicht.

Als Eckpunkte in der Entstehung kann man hier das Süddeutsche „Ms. I.33“ nennen (um 1300), Codex Wallerstein (späteres 15. Jahrhundert), die Sammlung des Paulus Hector Mair (16. Jahrhundert), sowie die im 16. Und 17. Jahrhundert folgenden französischen und italienischen Fechtschulen.

Vor allem seit der Meiji-Zeit finden sich japanische Anleitungen zum Schwert, Bajonett, usw., aber auch des jūjutsu vor allem im Zusammenhang mit Übungen des Militärs oder der Polizei. Eine frühe, bildliche Darstellungen des kendō und dessen der Ausrüstung, des sōjutsu, ninjutsu, Bogenschießen und einiger Techniken des torite findet sich in Band 6 von Hokusai Katsushikas Manga-Serie aus dem frühen 19. Jahrhundert, aber dies ist keine reine Instruktion, sondern lediglich eine Sammlung von Szenen. Zu den bekannteren Werken, die komplexere Handlungsanleitungen der Form „Text plus Bild“ enthalten gelten sicherlich die chinesischen Werke Jixiao Xinshu (späteres 16. Jahrhundert) und das Wubeizhi (früheres 17. Jahrhundert), sowie verschiedene, daran angelehnte Formate aus Japan.  

Wenn man jetzt also zum Beispiel im Bereich des Okinawa Karate nachschaut, dann findet man „Karate Kumite“ von Hanashiro Chōmo aus dem Jahr 1905. Dabei handelte es sich um eine Handschrift ohne Abbildungen, also um reinen Text. Text und Bild im Zusammenhang mit Karate findet sich nach derzeitigem Kenntnisstand erstmals in Funakoshis Buch von 1922, wobei diese Ausgabe noch Text plus Zeichnungen verwendete, die drauffolgenden Ausgaben ab 1925 dann aber Text plus Fotos enthielten. Kurz darauf kamen dann Bücher mit Text und Fotos von Motobu 1926 und 1933, Miki Nisaburō 1930, Mabuni in den 1930ern, Itoman Masanobu, Karate-dō Taikan von Nakasone 1938 und andere, die alle Text plus Foto und teilweise Zeichnungen verwendeten. 1940 entstand Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu (Scenes and Customs of Ryūkyū), der nach derzeitigem Kenntnisstand erste Film, der Szenen des Karatetrainings in Okinawa zeigte. Dabei handelte es sich allerdings nicht um einen Lehrfilm, also nicht um eine Handlungsanweisung.

Während die Handlungsanweisung mittels Text plus Bild in Form von Büchern bis heute weitergeführt wird, kam es entlang der technologischen Weiterentwicklung im Bereich Film und Video vermehrt zu Videos, die zuerst oft privat erstellt, aber etwa ab den 1980ern in größerem Umfang auch kommerziell verfügbar gemacht wurden, als CDs und DVDs, dazu kam das Internet, dann kamen Streaming-Plattformen, und heute ist es halt Standard, dass man eigentlich bewegte Bilder hat und irgendjemand dann dazu eine Erklärung abgibt. Das heißt, wir haben hier die Form gesprochenes Wort plus bewegte Bilder. Dazu kommen weitere technologische Entwicklungen, die für die Allgemeinheit nur in begrenztem Maße zugänglich sind, aber in Zukunft eine größere Role spielen werden, wie Augmented Reality und Virtual Reality. Zu nennen ist hier „Ryukyu Robots,“ ein Projekt von Dr. Hagen Walter, der verschiedene Karate– und Kobudō-Bewegungen oder ganze kata und sogar Zweikampf mit einer Robotersimulation durchführt.

Das heißt aus didaktischer Sicht, aus der Perspektive der medialen Informationsübermittlung, sehen wir hier die Entwicklung von persönlicher Unterweisung, wie es sie zweifelsohne seit Menschengedenken für verschiedene Lebensbereiche gab, hin zu Text, Text plus Bild, Text plus Fotos, und schließlich hin zu dem gesprochenen Wort plus bewegten Bilder sowie interaktiven Medien.

Um zu der Beschreibung von Torisashi no Kon zurückzukehren: Nachdem ich also die Seiten aus dem Buch erhalten, den Text abgeschrieben und wegen der teilweise ungewöhnlichen Terminologie teilweise mit Unterstützung von Muttersprachlern übersetzt und die Fotos optimiert habe, und zwischenzeitlich eine Ausgabe des Buches lokalisiert und in Japan bestellt habe, habe ich nun damit begonnen, die detaillierte Beschreibung mit den vorliegenden zwei Videos abzugleichen. Daraus lassen sich wiederum einige neue Details entnehmen und genauere Informationen zur Ausführung und Bewegungsbedeutung ableiten.

Posted in auf Deutsch, Comparative Analyses | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on “Torisashi no Kon” und die Handlungsanweisung in der Form “Text plus Bild”

Inheriting the essence

  • The following is from an article published in the Okinawa Times: “Inheriting the essence. Faithfully inheriting the ancestor’s kata. Nakazato Takeshi (60), 2nd generation Sōke of Shōrinji-ryū and Chairman of Zen Okinawa Shōrinji-ryū Karatedo Kyōkai. Inheriting the techniques of Chanmī’s Anankū. Maintaining the shortest “unaltered” [technique] without futility. Monthly Okinawa Karate, No. 262, Okinawa Times, June 5, 2022.

“You shouldn’t change any of the kata you learned from your predecessors. This is because it is logical to use the body to perform the techniques in the shortest time without overdoing, waste, or unevenness.” With the teachings of his teacher in mind, Nakazato Takeshi (60), the 2nd generation Sōke of Shōrinji-ryū and Chairman of Zen Okinawa Shōrinji-ryū Karatedo Kyōkai, sticks to the “principle of unaltering.” He received his education from Mr. Nakazato Jōen (1922-2010), who is the first Sōke and also the same paternal line of family and teaches his disciples the kata he learned in daily training. (Matayoshi Kenji, Southern News Department)

Mr. Nakazato Jōen, a school teacher and former village headman of Chinen, was a strict and straightforward person. Looking back, when he was in the fifth grade of Chinen Elementary School, Nakazato Takeshi entered the Nakazato Dōjō in 1973, where his four years older brother and people from the area were learning.

First of all, the beginners worked hard on the progress of foot work. It is said that if you do not move correctly, the power of the technique will not be transmitted, and after training for several months, Nakazato Takeshi learned the basic techniques such as thrusting and kicking.

The training was centered on learning the kata, and while Mr. [Nakazato] Jōen was watching, he [Takeshi] would show off [the kata moves] one by one. During the performance, he [Takeshi] speculated, “What was wrong?” but he said, “I didn’t feel like I could ask questions” during the instruction, so he got into the habit of thinking about things for himself.

Mr. Nakazato Takeshi was absorbed in the growth of his skills through training and the feeling that he was “strengthening himself” with the kumite he was doing when he was young. In 2006, after being praised for his attitude toward karate, Mr. Nakazato Jōen asked him, “Would you like to take on as the second generation?” He felt as if he was prepared and accepted, “If you are ok with me?!”

He serves as the president of a subsidiary company of Okinawa Electric Power Co., Inc. On Saturdays he tries not to work and teaches four high-ranking students once a week. After returning home, he spends 1-2 hours almost every day on the second floor of his home in Yonabaru to practice kata.

It’s not difficult to remember the sequential order of the kata. However, he emphasized, “Don’t practice the kata indiscriminately. It is necessary to practice it while considering the meaning of the thread of techniques.” In teaching, I also make every effort to understand the technique.

Mr. Nakazato Takeshi says, “My role is to pass on the inherited kata to the next generation without adding anything or subtracting anything.” “I think it’s the Sōke‘s job to aim for quality rather than quantitative expansion,” he said.

The Kyūdōkan has a framed writing saying “Ikki Suisha Ikki” – one vessel represents one vessel. It means to inherit the technique and the spirit in its entirety, like transferring water from one vessel to another. In the Shōrinji-ryū, it means to inherit the direct tradition of Mr. Kyan Chōtoku  (1870–1945), a leading figure in the Okinawan karate world known as Chanmī.

The Ānankū that Mr. Kyan Chōtoku learned from a master in Taiwan is transmitted only in the Shōrinji-ryū. There are techniques such as shutō-uke, morote-uke, and continuous thrusts, and it is a kata in which you can learn the basics.

Kūsankū teaches the idea of “karate ni sente nashi” (There is no first attack in karate). You draw a circle with your hands to prevent four attacks, and then move on to offense and defense. It is taught to those who have 5th Dan or higher.

Tokumine no Kon has continuous deflections and attacks using a of 6-foot length, as well as a quick-moving thrusting and striking techniques. After Mr. Nakazato Takeshi received his 6th dan, he learned this kata from Mr. Nakazato Jōen.

Takeshi says, “I have an emotional attachment for all the kata. I’m still in the middle of the way, so I’d like to continue to pursue them.”

There is a framed writing in the Kyūdōkan that says, “Yesterday’s first rank (shodan) is not necessarily tomorrow’s first rank (shodan). You have to do it today.” Like this, he stresses the importance of daily practice and also preaches this to his students.

Posted in Kyan Chotoku, Postwar Okinawa Karate, Prewar Okinawa Karate, Translations | Comments Off on Inheriting the essence

Shitsuden and Shinden

The term shitsuden 失伝 means disruption; interruption; non-continuation; to fall into desuetude; the loss of a tradition, a practice, a custom, etc. It can mean the loss of a full tradition, such as a complete school or style (ryūha), or only a part of it (such as a kata), or only a fragment of it (such as a technique of a kata, or its application). That is, shitsuden can take place in several dimensions, from the micro level to the macro level.

Let’s look at some leads in regards to lost tradition of Okinawan martial arts.

First of all, during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era, all sorts of martial arts existed, but most of them where not handed down to early-modern Okinawa. Instead, the practices of “karate” and “kobudō” appeared.

In karate and kobudō, different groups sometimes use different terms for the same techniques. It is important to remember that almost all systematic terminologies of Okinawa kobudō were created only in the postwar era, mostly between the 1970s and 1980s, and based on and emulating terms used in the Japanese budō and mainland karate. The important point is that these terms differ according to schools, that is, according to a personal tradition of the persons involved.

Taking one technique of Shirotaru no Kon as an example, one school might call it “hane-age” for jumping up the to the opponent’s family jewels (kinteki). Another school might call this “sunakake,” or flipping sand etc.

So, for one, from terminology we can see that the understanding of the same movement developed differently in different schools, simply because someone understood the kata techniques differently, and they assigned corresponding names to the techniques.

Taira Shinken taught a handful of basic applications here and there, but he didn’t teach comprehensive applications for the kata, nor combat principles. Therefore, it is obvious that he didn’t know the applications for all kata and weapons, because he gave shihan licenses to his students, which means that he authorized them to teach, so he would have taught them the applications, or not? This refers to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. This in turn means that Taira didn’t learn kata applications from Yabiku Moden in the 1920s and early 1930s. Since Yabiku gave Taira a teaching license, meaning that he taught everything to Taira, Yabiku also did not know and teach the applications of the kata and the weapons. Therefore, when Yabiku learned around 1900 or so, kobudō was probably already a kata-based practice, and not a combat practice. As a further example, there was no kumibō in Yamane-ryū in the 1920s or afterwards.

Therefore, obviously bōjutsu was a kata-based practice at least between 1900 and the 1960s.

Therefore, while the outer form (kata) survived, the applications or intent got lost long ago. Usually, it is said that first there was the applied techniques and combat experiences, which were then made into kata. However, when was that? Assuming that actual combat arts were trained during the Ryūkyū Kingdom era, it probably ended in the 1870s, and by around 1900, it was probably largely a lost tradition. At that point, karate and kobudō by and large might have already been empty outer forms (kata) without much of a content.

The above shows a loss of tradition (shitsuden). Specifically, here it refers to the loss of the original intent of the movements of the kata.

I have provided the two examples of Taira Shinken and Yamani-ryū. I want to emphasize here that in accordance with most data, Okinawa kobudō persons successively created new applications in the postwar era. This process continues to this day. These creations or “invention of martial arts” come from their own understanding, as well as from outside pressure.

For instance, Taira did not teach or know much of kobudō application, but his students Inoue Motokatsu developed a comprehensive system of applications for all weapons structured from the basic techniques to partner techniques of all kata and all weapons up to consecutive kumibō. This was during the 50s and 60s and presented in his 3-volume book 1972-1974. At that time, application was almost unheard of in Okinawa. I am afraid that interest in application in Taira lineage came only after Inoue had created several levels of all sorts of applications for all weapons. At that time, Okinawan practitioners only had a handful of applications I am afraid, but nothing even close to an methodical approach. As regards other traditions, surely there were those who provided competition format, such as in Isshin-ryū, or Okinawa kenpō, but these should be considered separately for various reasons.

In short, in Okinawa, by and large kobudō was a kata-based practice since at least from 1900 to 1960s. Actually, in a dōjō directory by Okinawa prefecture from the 2000s, most of the 400+ dōjō stated the main content of their practice as “kata training.”

In other words: the applications of Okinawa kobudō techniques were already lost traditions, while the form (kata) remained. Then, following and emulating top-level Japanese budōka such as Inoue and others, Okinawans began to create applications for the moves in the kata. They began to develop terminologies, which in turn defined that “applications” according to their own understanding. Following half a century of shitsuden, this reinvention might be termed shinden, or “new tradition.” Things get lost, other things are newly invented. When following along the progress over the eras, this is the reason why karate kobudō seems to transform and cumulate its content all the time.

It is not always the case that a tradition is fully lost, but sometimes only parts are lost, such as some or all applications. Sometimes movements are lost or change over time. And when new applications are created, it might be called shinden 新伝, or new tradition, which I just use here as a working hypothesis. Since the 1950s, countless new traditions (shinden) were created and grafted onto the existing stem of kobudō over the past 70 or so years. The problem with these countless new traditions (shinden) is that most of the time they are neither marked as such, nor are the dates of changes recorded anywhere. Quite on the contrary, most new creations are tacitly placed under the roof of “ancient martial arts.” Oftentimes ancient tales are added to purport an ancient, regional origin.  

Again, these terminologies and applications and assumed intents are largely developments of the 2nd half of the 20th century. They are not ancient techniques, but modern interpretations of what was already kata-based practice after the 1870s.

From the above derives the possibility that Okinawans didn’t knew any original intent (application) worth mentioning, and that much of it was simply created in the postwar era. The creation of applications from air-moves (kata techniques) has become a major pastime among traditional practitioners. The application corpus of karate created in this way is enormous and is growing daily. It should be noted that this is an international movement, and it cannot be called Japanese, or Okinawan at all.

Except for the kata.

Posted in Comparative Analyses, kobudo, kumibo, Matayoshi Kobudo, New Developments, Postwar Okinawa Karate, Prewar Okinawa Karate, Terminology | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Shitsuden and Shinden

The karate of the “Pechin Class”

A colleague just argued that “karate” came from the Pēchin class of Okinawa. I think this is a oversimplification, and it is also one of those stories based on guesswork and premature conclusions.

According to censuses of 1873 and 1880 there were 296 households of Pēchin class at that time, and 20,759 households of Satonushi Pēchin and Chikudun Pēchin class. That’s a total of 21,055 households at one time around the mid-1870s which you could count among a “Pēchin class.”

How many “Pēchin-ranked” persons do you know who taught karate?

How many percent of the total of 21,055 households is that?

Do these numbers provide you with a statistically meaningful value that supports the conclusion that “karate was handed down by the Pēchin class”?

Of course not. Rather, the existing data of the “martial arts Pēchin” are obviously outliers on the extreme boundaries of a Gaussian curve.

As a side note, one characteristic of the royal administration of Ryukyū kingdom was to promote as many people as possible to rank. This at least is something that is traditionally found in modern karate as well. However the claim that karate came from the Pēchin class is difficult to prove.

So how many Pechin taught martial art? Let’s calculate! And while doing so, let’s add the primary sources and their year of publication to the data set.

Next, it should be noted that from among nine ranks, the Pechin class occupied minor rank 7 through to major rank 3, which is a huge field. If someone did martial arts was more related to the actual duty they held, and probably to personal preferences.

Well, there are various martial arts techniques that are decidedly NOT from the Pechin class. For instance, in Matayoshi Kobudo, there is Jitodee-mochi. This refers to a s-called Jitodai, a rural official who was not among those who held any court rank, Pechin or else.

Chinen Sanra (Yamanni)? Nope. He is also known as Chinen Usume already in the 1910s, with Usume referring to an older person from the class commoners.

Kinjo Ufuchiku? Nope, commoner.

Sakugawa Kanga? Well, even if this legendary warrior of an early 20th century theater play actually existed, Sakugawa no Kon and Shirotaru no Kon was handed down among commoners (Tawada 1973). They were probably folk heros.

How about Itosu? Well, yes, he held a court rank, but the “karate” handed down by him was newly created around the beginning of the 20th century, transformed as a physical education meant to drill young men in preparation for conscription and probably had little in common with the rural dances that Funakoshi referred to as “not-yet developed karate,” which argumentum e contrario means that karate – at least partially – is “rural dances further developed.” And rural people were not of Pechin rank.

I did an Ngram search, which shows when phrases have occurred in a corpus of books. The term Pechin in karate context apeared only with the popular books of Mark B. and Patrick M., so rather recently and in the larger context of retrospective karate invention, and from there radiated outward to other publications and websites.

In the Okinawan karate circles similar examples are found, such as can be seen in Taira Shinken’s phantastic story of Hama Higa Pechin, which is another example of the old tradition of mixing martial art references into actual historical events, of which there are numerous examples, mostly from the 1950s and onward. One of the most representative is the postwar story of Sakugawa and Matsumura, in which a ordinary meridian chart was sold as an atemi chart handed down from legendary Sakugawa to half-legendary Matsumura.

Posted in Okinawa Peace Theory, Prewar Okinawa Karate, Theories of Historical Karate in Comparative Perspective | Comments Off on The karate of the “Pechin Class”

Kuwae no Kon (a.k.a. Torisashi Umē no Kon)

Yesterday, I received note about a rare kata of Okinawa. It is almost unknown in both name and technique, let alone its history. Almost.


The name of the kata is Kuwae no Kon, and it is also known as Torisashi Umē no Kon. Let’s take a look at the names one after the other. Kuwae is an Okinawan family name. The suffixed phrase “no kon” is the phrase regularly used for almost all Okinawan bō kata, with only a few exceptions to this rule. Torisashi refers to catching birds using a birdlime-covered pole, or otherwise to the birdcatcher himself. Finally, Umē was used to address the member of a noble family.

From the above it can be said that Kuwae no Kon means “The techniques of Kuwae,” and Torisashi Umē no Kon means “The techniques of His Excellency, the birdcatcher.”


In the Okinawa Karate Kobudō Encyclopedia (2008), no information is found about Kuwae no Kon or Torisashi Umē no Kon. However, the following information exists. However, the following information exists from a Japanese book. The page was shared by Walt Young.

Kuwae no Kon (a.k.a. Torisashi Umē no Kon)

Kuwae was a master of bōjutsu to the extent that he could thrust flying birds, so it is said that the people were in awe of him, calling him Birdcatcher Umē (Umē was an affectionate nickname for a warrior [bushi]).

Path of Tradition

  • Umē-gwā, the second son of the Kuwae Dunchi from Shuri Torihori
  • → Zukeran village section in Kitanakagusuku (Yogi Seikō, Nakasone Chōho)
  • → Ōshiro Seira (instructed by Yogi Seikō in 1928)
  • → Kina Masanobu

According to the above, Umē-gwā was the nickname of the second son of the Kuwae Dunchi from Shuri Torihori. ,

From this Umē-gwā, the techniques reached Yogi Seikō and Nakasone Chōho in the Zukeran village section of Kitanakagusuku.

Then, in 1928, Yogi Seikō taught the bō techniques to Ōshiro Seira, from where it reached Kina Masanobu.

Performances of the Kata

Let’s take a look at the performance of the kata. The first video is a performance by Kina Masanobu. who is mentioned in the above description of the tradition. While unrelated to this kata, Masanobu Kina is also the nephew of Kina Shōsei, who is known as a master of saijutsu in the tradition of Kinjō Ufuchiku.

Kina Masanobu performing Kuwae no Kon (a.k.a. Torisashi Umē no Kon) on Okinawa in September 1979.

Note that the movie starts with the on the left-side of the body. Then the film color changes and the position changes to right handed. At the end the kata ends with the on the right side. Then the film color changes again, and the is on the left side again. In short, at the beginning and at the end, there were other parts inserted into the movie. Don’t get confused by this.

Another performance is by Robert Teller Sensei, who had learned the kata from Kina Masanobu. You can watch it here.

The hand change there are many details that could be pointed out about the techniques of this kata, there is a signature technique characteristic of this kata which is rather unique in its context. The method of this hand change itself however is also found in Chōun no Kon and Chatan Yara no Kon of Taira lineage, as well as Soeishi no Kon of Matayoshi lineage in a slightly different fashion and context.

Here’s how its done (in principle). This might have even provided the name for the kata, or it might be a hint of the special technique utilized by Kuwae to catch birds in flight, namely to place the on the forearm to create a stable aiming and launching device. (For animal welfare reasons, and for reasons of law, I strongly discourage anyone from attempting such a technique on live birds).

It should be noted that such stories are found elsewhere in martial arts, such as that of Sasaki Kojirō, who is said to have developed a technique of killing a bird in mid-flight (called tsubame-gaeshi). However, Sasaki himself might have been a fictional character.

Breakdown of Techniques

I have written down the individual techniques of the kata as good as possible. The number of techniques largely depends on how and what you count. In this simple assessment here, there are 37 techniques, however, it is a simplified counting.

 Standing bowMusubi-dachiStand straight, bō at the right side of the body. Bow.
 Starting positionMusubi-dachiRaise bō slightly with the right hand and grab it with the left hand, with the left forearm in front and above of the forehead.
1Middle blockRight forward stanceFrom Musubi-dachi, step back with the left foot.
2Middle postureRight NekoashiWith the bō as it is, place your right foot 45° to the left, and assume the middle posture towards the left front at 45°
3Front strikeLeft forward stanceChange the grip, place the right foot a little to the right, and step forward with the left foot.
4Low blockLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
5Front strikeLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
6Middle blockLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
7Nuki-zukiLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
8Low block
(rear hand)
Left forward stancePrepare a little, slide a little forward with a low block with the rear hand.
9Front strikeRight forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the right foot.
10Low blockRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
11Front strikeRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
12Middle blockRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
13Nuki-zukiRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
14Front strikeLeft forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the left foot.
15Front strikeRight forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the right foot.
16Front strikeRight forward stanceLook over your left shoulder, turn around 180° counterclockwise, step forward with the right foot, and strike to the front.
17Front strikeLeft forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the left foot.
18Front strikeRight forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the right foot.
19Front strikeLeft forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the left foot.
20Low blockLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
21Front strikeLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
22Middle blockLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
23Nuki-zukiLeft forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
24Low front strikeRight forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the right foot.
25Front strike
(right side)
Musubi-dachiLook over your left shoulder, turn around 180° counterclockwise, pull back the left foot to the right foot, and strike down to upper level on your right side.
26Sliding thrustNekoashi (sort of)Loosen left hand, place left forearm and hand horizontally in front of your body to support the bō, step forward with left foot, and thrust to the front, suing the left hand as a support.
27Front strikeRight forward stanceRotate bō backwards, let go right hand, catch with left hand, add right hand, shuffle feet and place right forward, and strike to the front.
28Low blockRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
29Low block kamaeTai-sabakiQuick shuffle of right foot back to left foot, left foot back.
30Front strikeRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
31Middle blockRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
32Nuki-zukiRight forward stanceWith the stance as it is.
33Front strikeLeft forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the left foot.
34Front strikeRight forward stanceChange the grip, and step forward with the right foot.
35sliding thrust to lower levelShikoLook over your left shoulder, turn around 180° counterclockwise, slide forward in shiko and perform a sliding thrust to the lower level
36Thrust to upper levelRight forward stanceStep forward with the right foot.
37Yōi no kamaeLeft forward stanceTurn around 180° counterclockwise, and assume Yōi no kamae.
Yōi no kamaeMusubiPull right foot forward into Musubi-dachi.
EndMusubiPlace left arm at the left side of the body.
Standing bowMusubi 


The Kuwae Dunchi might be the same family as that of Kuwae Ryōsei (1856–1926), who was a disciple of Matsumura Sōkon. According to Okinawa Karate Kobudō Jiten (2008), Kuwae Ryōsei was born in Shuri Torihori, the same place mentioned in case of “Umē-gwā, the second son of the Kuwae Dunchi from Shuri Torihori.” Therefore, there might have been a family relation between them.

Dunchi is an honorific title referring to the families of Uēkata rank who hold the position of Estate Steward General (sō-jitō) among the Ryūkyū samurē. In a broader sense, it is also used for the families of Assistant Estate Stewards (waki-jitō). In the hierarchy positioned under the Udun, which belong to royalty, the Dunchi are families of high social standing. Together with the Udun, this social stratum was called Udun-dunchi. In reference to their jurisdiction over a territory under the royal government administration, they were also called daimyō-gata.

The tradition of this kata states that Umē was an affectionate nickname for a warrior (bushi), so it doesn’t seem to abide to the naming standards of Udun and Dunchi families. In short, in this case, it Umē was not used to designate a member of royalty. It should be noted that rural commoners might not have known these naming conventions and so Umē might have simply been used to show a particular respect.

The context of how this tradition took place is also unknown, but it might have been related to an administrative relation between Kuwae Dunchi and Zukeran village section in Kitanakagusuku from the times of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. In order to figure out family relations as well as territorial relations, I have looked up the genealogies of Shuri (in: Okinawa no Rekishi Jōhō [Historical Information on Okinawa], Vol. 5 Shuri-kei kafu). Unfortunately, the Kuwae family does not have an individual entry. Therefore, I couldn’t verify whether Zukeran village section in Kitanakagusuku was an administrative territory of the Kuwae Dunchi.

The tradition might also have been related to traditional village events, or to activities of the Young Men’s Corps, or to coincidence. In any case, these are just guesses and nothing is known for sure except that the tradition states that Yogi Seikō and Nakasone Chōho learned it. Since Yogi Seikō taught it to Ōshiro Seira in 1928, Yogi himself might have learned it anytime from the second part of the 19th century to the early 20th century.

Moreover, although the tradition states the Kuwae Dunchi as the origin, and uses a name related to royalty (Umē) for the protagonist, the family registers of Okinawa (Uji-shū) also show other Kuwae families from Shuri which were not of the Dunchi class, but lower samurē. In short, the person Umē-gwā might have actually been from the Kuwae Dunchi, or not.

As is typical for Okinawan martial arts, there is no source and no date for the information, and it is probably oral tradition written down at a later point in time. It is unknown by whom and when the story of the kata was handed down, and how the persons obtained the information. In the end, in Okinawa karate, most traditions enjoy the benefit of the doubt, which renders any tradition at least possible.

I hope that more study will be done on the tradition of this kata in the future and to verify more details on the persons involved.

Other usages of Torisashi

I would like to note here that the Motobu Udundī uses a torisashi, or bird catching stick, as a weapon. For instance, it is used against naginata. It is interesting to note that Motobu Chōyū was nicknamed Umē and was the person who handed down Motobu Udundī.

It is a mere coincidence and I know nothing about the technique, but my small practice bamboo actually in size and all looks like the torisashi as used in Motobu Udundī.

Posted in Bojutsu Kata Series, Comparative Analyses, Postwar Okinawa Karate, Prewar Okinawa Karate, Terminology, Unknown Ryukyu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Kuwae no Kon (a.k.a. Torisashi Umē no Kon)

Karate ni sente nashi

For Okinawa karate circles, imperialism and militarism are extremely difficult issues. This is because they are seemingly irreconcilable with Okinawa’s postwar karate narratives, its notional philosophies, related marketing campaigns in tourism, and most of all, the recent endeavors to list Okinawa karate as an intangible cultural heritage with the UNESCO.

Therefore, the topic is avoided like the plague, all the more so since the Okinawan anti-war movement following the 1945 defeat. There is a conflict of conscience, the wish to repress memories of collaboration during the war years, the wish to disconnect karate from general daily life under the regime, the wish to present karate history as the sum of personal traditions of peace-loving Okinawans unaffected by the circumstances of the times, the wish – or is it pressure? – for harmony at all time, business or other private interests, the insular perception of schools and teachers which does not allow a differentiation of karate prior and after the 1945 defeat, the lack of communication from a bird’s eye view, the mixed ideologies of karate practitioners (everything from left to right, up and down), and so on.

The undeniable reality however is that imperialism and militarism where among the major formative forces behind the creation of karate in the early 20th century, at a time when karate was invented not as a self-defense, but to prepare young men for war, when karate was a conscription agers’ drill and education fueled by ideology. And the young men were receptive.

In short, karate’s actual history is often diametrically opposed to each and all narratives invented and propagated in postwar Okinawa. As a result, there is a certain imbalance in media and academic representations of Okinawa karate, a supra-dimensional contradiction, a skeleton in the closet.

It was therefore a refreshing novelty when in a 2021 paper about the movie “Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu,” the author pointed out various problems related to Okinawa karate and imperialism and militarism. Without getting in into the appalling details here, it is pointed out in the paper that “more careful surveys and research are re­quired in the future.” As a first relativization, the author notes as follows.

“There is no first move in karate” (karate ni sente nashi) has been handed down as a proverb of the pre­deces­sors of Okinawa. It is a phrase that includes the mean­ing that karate is not about attacking first, but it is a technique to protect yourself and your loved ones. After experiencing the Battle of Okinawa, the significance of the aphorisms in­her­ited from our predecessors has increased. I believe that today we can firmly maintain to emphasize the sig­nif­i­cance of karate as a “martial art of peace” (heiwa no bu).”

As you can see, karate ni sente nashi is cited as an aphorism and a peaceful philosophy of karate already before the era imperialism and militarism, which was just a chapter that had no relation to the real intention of karate whatsoever. Moreover, from that, the author stresses that the real meaning of karate is as a “martial art of peace” (heiwa no bu).”

As regards karate ni sente nashi, the phrase first appeared in 1914, in the article series Okinawa no bugi (Martial Arts of Okinawa), written by schoolteacher Funakoshi Gichin and based on the stories told by Asato Ankō. Here, Funakoshi tried himself as a karate historian and philosopher in an article series published and probably commissioned by the sole Okinawan newspaper at the time, the Ryūkyū Shinpō. The Ryūkyū Shinpō published various articles about what was euphemistically termed “education of conscription-winners” (chōhei tōsensha kyōiku) since August 1898. For this sort of education, the military assigned schoolteachers to prepare future conscripts. The Ryūkyū Shinpō also published lists of conscription dodgers. In short, the karate-related articles published by Ryūkyū Shinpō at the time were meant to support the official policies of the Japanese government.

I wonder if karate ni sente nashi was really a time-honored philosophy handed down by wise ancient masters with Prussian beards, or rather, if it was simply the daily necessity of an elementary school teacher who had do deal with boys and young men every day. As regards the schoolyard manners of boys and young men, they were not so much different in Okinawa than anywhere else, I guess. 10 years before Funakoshi tried himself as a karate historian and philosopher in the government-loyal Ryūkyū Shinpō, in the year of the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, at Shuri Middle School “the air was filled with war, and war talks,” and “not only the boys, but the adults too were in a dangerous mood. On the slightest occasion, fists attacked, and sticks were swung.” (Noma 1935) Particularly young men out of school were probably those found “at night in the vicinity of Tsuji,” where “gangs of thugs roamed around, of which it was said they were proficient in tekobushi and who were always ready to overwhelm unwary strangers.” Of course, tekobushi is an old name for karate.

It was the time when nations around the world accessed the resource of “young men” through conscription. The connection between school education and following military training is shown in the term “conscription society.” It is also worth mentioning that the government positioned the Young Men’s Corps between the school and military service since 1915, which were successful in Okinawa as an institution for education and (para)-military preparation of young men between 15 and 20.

More careful research is necessary in the future, but what Funakoshi said in 1914 was,

“Since ancient times, we have been instructed by the teaching of karate ni sente nashi, an expression that ad­mon­ishes young men and boys from an educational point of view.”

He also said that

However, the first move is permissible in cases where the fate of the nation is at stake.

At this point, and from all I have studied so far about the matter, I guess karate can rightfully be an UNESCO ICH by all ethical standards. However, this only applies if it is limited to postwar karate.

Posted in Okinawa Peace Theory, Prewar Okinawa Karate | Comments Off on Karate ni sente nashi

Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu (Scenes and Cus­toms of Ryūkyū) (1940)

The 1940 movie Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu (Scenes and Cus­toms of Ryūkyū) was planned by the Japan Folk Art Association (Nihon Mingei Kyōkai) and headed by Ya­nagi Muneyoshi (1889–1961), who acted as editorial supervisor.

Yanagi was born on March 21, 1889, in Ichibei Town, Tokyo, as the third son of Yanagi Narayoshi, a rear admiral of the Im­pe­rial Japanese Navy, scholar of Japanese mathematics, mathematician, land surveyer, and politician. In 1891, when Soetsu was two years old, his father died of influenza and he was raised by his mother, Katsuko.

Katsuko is the older sister of Kanō Jigorō (1860–1938), the founder of the Kōdōkan and Japan’s first member of the IOC. Kanō was also one of the people who took an interest in karate through the Dai Nippon Butokukai. His exchange with Funakoshi Gichin (1868–1957), who came to Tōkyō in 1922, is well known. Also, when Kanō came to Okinawa in 1927, he met Miyagi Chōjun with whom he had a lively discussion on karate.


Sakihara Kyōko: About the Movie “Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu” (Scenes and Customs of Ryūkyū) – Focussing on its Relation to Karate. Bulletin of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, № 14, pp. 63–79. 2021.

Posted in Prewar Okinawa Karate | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Ryūkyū no Fūbutsu (Scenes and Cus­toms of Ryūkyū) (1940)