“Tegumi” in the English translation of Nagamine Shōshin’s second book

Previously, I mentioned that the term “Tegumi” appears only once in the whole 1986 book by Nagamine Sensei. Here, I would like to compare this with the 1998 English translation.

First of all, in the 1998 English translation, the term “tegumi” appears a few times in the karate part of the book, namely once in an addendum to the chapter about Matsumura Sōkon, once in the chapter about Higaonna Kanryō, and twice in the chapter on Motobu Chōki:

“As such, Tsuru-san (Bushi Matsumura’s wife)  grew up partaking in such boy’s games as Okinawan sumo wrestling and muutou (more popularly known as tegumi, which, in Chinese characters, is kumite written backwards).”

“In spite of being quite small, Kanryo [Higaonna] was flexible and blessed with quick reflexes, which afforded him a reputation in tegumi (sumo) and to-te (karate).”

“Choki [Motobu] often asked if Matsumora would practice tegumi (application training) with him. However, Matsumora always refused because he knew that Choki would use his new found technique over in the Tsuji that evening. Rather, Master Matsumora told Motobu, “Don’t be so concerned about sparring with me, or others for that matter, you will find what works best for you, but only after you have discovered the real adversary; the enemy within.” Notwithstanding, Motobu Saru secretly observed Matsumora’s tegumi lessons with other disciples from behind the courtyard wall during special training in the evenings.”

That said, four of the most important ancestors of modern karate have been associated with tegumi, namely Matsumura Sōkon (or rather his wife, Tsuru), Matsumora Kōsaku, Higaonna Kanryō, and Motobu Chōki.

Then there is the part of the book that deals with the research by Kushi Jokei made into Okinawa sumō. In the part of the English translation, the term “tegumi” appears twenty-five times. For instance, the Japanese heading “Okinawa Sumō und Master Grapplers” was renamed to “Tegumi and Master Grapplers of Okinawa.” The following subheading, “Okinawa Sumō,” was also renamed to “Okinawa Tegumi.” Within the following text corpus in this part, the term “tegumi” was used a further twenty-three times.

In short, while “tegumi” appeared only once in the original Japanese text, the English translation featured it twentynine times, including in chapter headers. Actually, what happened is that the expression “Okinawa Sumō” was replaced by the term “Tegumi.”

The term “tegumi” as used in the English-speaking karate world originated single-handedly from this English translation of Nagamine Sensei’s book.

In the following I will provide a few examples. Note that while the translations naturally differ a bit, I want you to focus on the terminology.

Nagamine 1986Tuttle 1998
Okinawa Sumō and Master WrestlersTegumi and Master Grapplers of Okinawa
Okinawa SumōOkinawan Tegumi
… covered in mud like eels we swam in the stream of the Asato River at Sogenji Bridge, and in the evening we used to play [Okinawa] sumō in the nearby Utaki (sacred grove) and Ashibinaa (festival place)Sometimes in the evenings we also pretended we were fierce tegumi wrestlers and fought each other at the playground …
Since I had a small physique, my [Okinawan] sumō wasn’t strong, but I liked it very much.In spite of being quite small for my age, I was a leader among my friends and loved tegumi grappling with them.
About the origin of Okinawa SumōTegumi and the Origins of Okinawan Sumo
I assume that Okinawa sumō was born from the the same origin as the martial arts referred to as “tī” in Okinawa. That is, I assume it was born from the primitive man’s fighting methods of self-defense which are based on the instinct for self-preservation. In other words, within the long progress of history, on one hand our characteristic martial arts of tī was created, and on the other hand sumō was born as a pastime of the common people.It is believed that grappling ascended from primitive man’s instinctive means of self-preservation. In the history of civil fighting traditions here in Okinawa we refer to such grappling concepts as tegumi. There is every reason to believe that tegumi, after being enhanced by techniques of striking and kicking, also served as the progenitor of “te.”
Therefore, this sumō was initially the form of a pastime grapplingIn its early recreational form, tegumi was quite a rough and tumble practice.
It was similar to the current amateur wrestling and it was continued until the opponent was defeated [according to the rules].The tradition was not completely unlike present day amateur wrestling where the victor is the one who conclusively defeats his opponent by twisting his joints, sealing his breath, or holding him down so that he can no longer move.
In the old days, all the referees of Okinawa sumō acted according to the unwritten rules, …In the days of old-style tegumi, referees scored each bout according to an unwritten standard.

I have shown that the term “tegumi” was introduced to the English-speaking karate world in 1998. Since then, the term “tegumi” has spread among karate people and among all factions worldwide and is used for all sorts of karate-related practices such as clinching, grappling, throwing, body conditioning, kata application, karate as an MMA, trapping, joint locks, chokes, seizings, impact techniques, and so on.
Patrick McCarthy was quite straightforward. He said that he assigned the defunct name of “tegumi” to a collection of two-person trapping, checking and conditioning drills he’s brought together from a variety of sources in the 1990s.
Subsequently, and in rising numbers in the 2020s, other karate people also adopted the term “tegumi,” yet without maintaining any reference to its origin. This raises an interesting question: why do guys need to use the term “tegumi” when all those practices of grappling and throwing and joint locking etc. were a traditional part of their karate?

Well, it probably just wasn’t. It is just, they don’t give a shit.

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