Other examples of Tegumi – Yuishinkan Goju-ryu Karate-do

Recently I have presented a number of sources and thoughts on the term tegumi from a strictly academic point of view. However, tegumi has been in use in karate circles for quite some time, without being related to either the predecessor of Okinawan sumō nor the interpretation by Patrick McCarthy.

This morning, Christian Sensei, representant of Yuishinkan Gōjū-ryū Karate-dō in Europe, contacted me. He noted that tegumi was a part of the Yuishinkan and provided me with grading regulations from the time period of ca. 1980-89. This was before the term was used in Nagamine Sensei’s 1986 book and in Patrick McCarthy homonymous set of practices from the 1990s.

In these Yuishinkan grading regulations, tegumi was part of all gradings starting from the 6th kyū.

The grading regulations for a 1. Dan included the following:

  • Physical constitution: 50 Udetate and 500 Kushin (100 Ebi) and/or 10,000 m run.
  • Kihon Techniques and Stances: 3 Uke techniques, 3 Tsuki techniques, 3 Keri techniques, 3 Uchi techniques
  • Combination techniques: small kata Kata 1-4
  • Kata: Sanchin, Seisan
  • Partner forms: 12 Kumite-ura, 12 Nage-waza, and the Ura counter forms
  • Jiyu-ippon: 1 round
  • Jiyu-kumite: 2 fights according to WUKO rules
  • Tegumi: 1 fight
  • Self-defense: against chokes, grabs, holds and attacks from 8 directions
  • Refereeing: acting as a referee
  • Self-defense against weapons: against knife, stick, as a partner
  • Ground fighting (Newaza): 1 fight
  • Note: All techniques must be convincing, character and Budo attitude must be irreproachable. The examination points: teaching qualification, kuatsu, attendance of seminars and a written work are to be checked and evaluated in the Dan examination list.

As can be seen, tegumi has been a traditional practice in the Yuishinkan. Afterwards, when checking my old files, I actually found the term tegumi several times, which I probably simply have forgotten. One note is a recorded I took of a conversation with Lutz Klemann in 1999 in Japan, where Lutz Sensei remembered his early training at the Yuishinkan dōjō of Kisaki Tomoharu Sensei in Ōsaka. Here is my note:

“I used to faint regularly during training.” Lutz said he always ran into a fighter named Fuji, who was feared in the Yuishinkan. He always showed Lutz his place, especially in ground fighting since he had some terribly good choking skills. Sometimes Lutz was in a good mood during training, but then Fuji’s face suddenly appeared in the hall entrance, and that was the end of the good mood. Lutz also broke his toe regularly once a year, so maybe he was doing some conditioning or resilience training or Tegumi.”

Like this, in the Yuishinkan, tegumi referred to a free fight in which almost everything was allowed and it is said that it ended – more often than not – in ground fighting (newaza).

There is also a Gōjū-ryū book called Goju-ryu Karate-Do I bought back when it was published in 1997. It was written by people from the Yuishinkan sphere, namely Horst Espeloer, Heckhuis Ulrich (the later vice-president of the German Karate Federation or DKV), and Horst Nehm. The book has the following short chapter on tegumi as well:

6.1 Tegumi

A form of exercise that comes relatively close to the actual form of self-defense is Tegumi, a kind of free fight with a partner yet without the limitations of sports rules. Tegumi allows techniques that are forbidden in competition karate, such as Gedan foot attacks or knee kicks. Body shots are allowed, even required. If the contact between the combatants is very close, the fight can be continued on the ground after a throwing technique.

There is no separating stop signal after achieving a scoring technique. The fight runs for a set time, unless one of the two partners has to give up earlier.

This form of combat may only be done by seniors, otherwise the risk of injury would be too big. It takes many years of training experience to be able to estimate how hard you can hit your training partner’s body without seriously injuring him.

Christian Sensei told me he does not know where the term tegumi in Yuishinkan came from, but undoubtedly it was in use in the Yuishinkan Gōjū-ryū by Kisaki Tomoharu Sensei and Fritz Nöpel Sensei. Kisaki Tomoharu Sensei had travelled to China in the early 1980s to research the roots of Gōjū-ryū and mentioned that he would also visit the Jundōkan dōjō of Miyazato Sensei when he was in Okinawa. I have also just heard from Joe Swift that “there is an old interview with So Neichu who said Yamaguchi Gogen used the word Tegumi instead of Kumite in the early years.” Therefore, it might have been a Ritsumeikan University thing, and might even have come from Yogi Jitsu’ei, an Okinawan student of Miyagi‘s who was part of the Ritsumeikan Karate Club. Anyway, that is speculation.

Here is some more background from my old files:

Kisaki Sensei named his dōjō in Ōsaka the Yuishinkan, which translates to “Hall of the Brave Heart.” The reason for this name is said to be the special objective of this undercurrent of Gōjū-ryū: Kisaki practiced a particularly intensive strength and resilience training, and placed great importance to realistic self-defense training. This gave rise to the training form of tegumi, a form of free combat where all techniques are allowed, including throws followed by ground combat. That is, in the Yuishinkan, all infight techniques are practiced.

Through his experience in judo – Kisaki Sensei had the 3rd Dan -, many elements were adopted into the Yuishinkan. Ground fighting has long been part of the grading examinations of higher kyu and dan grades. In order to bring an opponent to the ground in the first place, various throws are required. In order to specifically train these throws , Kisaki designed a system of 24 set attack-defense combinations with a final throw (Nage-waza). In Germany, this model was included in the general Gōjū-ryū grading regulations, thanks to the initiative of Fritz Nöpel Sensei.

I also remember my friend and senior, Ulrich Schlee. A warhorse of the old school, who also accidentally broke a bone during exams, Uli was an officer in the state police. Unfortunately, he became seriously ill and died in 2010. He had always supported me and encouraged me, and said with a laugh, “Well, just keep doing what you do!” and I followed his advice. The last thing I could do was to fulfill his last wish, which was to publish a book with his ideas about karate. It was finished, with a beautiful cover designed by his wife, and he was able to hold it in his own hands before he passed away.

In his book, and as the editor of it I should have rememberd it, there is also a short chapter on tegumi:


Tegumi comes very close to a realistic fight. Tactics don’t really matter that much. Tegumi can only be carried out by those with a well-trained body and a healthy self-confidence. Trust in your partner also plays an important role.

Tegumi is practiced in the dōjō from brown belt upwards, when body and technique are sufficiently developed. The aim is to bring the opponent to give up. If the opportunity arises, it can switch to ground fighting. However, it cannot be a goal to go down as quickly as possible, since the position on the ground is weak. You may strike blows to the body in a controlled manner, but the head is only touched. You stand close to your partner, put pressure on him from the start and look for a decision. At the opening of the fight, you approach your partner and step forward. You can also find this type of opening in Kihon-idō no Kamae and in the kata. The step forward is intended to demonstrate self-confidence.

… There is kumite-ura and nage kumite, ground fighting, the small kata, tegumi, and tuite, i.e., grappling that should be specially practiced during training.

I think it has become sufficiently clear that tegumi existed as a practice method in the Yuishinkan. It is unclear when exactly it was named as such and where the name came from, yet it is important to note that the use of tegumi in the Yuishinkan precedes the use of Nagamine Senseis 1986 book as well as Patrick McCarthy’s use of tegumi since the latter 1990s. In short, in the Yuishinkan Gōjū-ryū Karate-dō, the term tegumi was used since at least the 1980s but probably earlier, and it was used to refer to a free fight including throws and groundwork.

I am looking forward to finding more traditions with their own history of tegumi practice.

© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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