Taira Shinken 1964 copied from Yun Heui-byeong 1948

Taira Shinken’s Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (1964) is considered the first monography on Okinawan weapon’s arts. In it, he included a chapter called “The History of Ryūkyū Kobudō” with descriptions of various masters from the past. However, more than fifteen years earlier, Yun Heui-byeong of the Kanbukan already published a monography called “Bōjutsu Kyōhan,” in which he also already shared his research on various masters from the past. To make a long story short, Taira’s descriptions of the past masters are copies of Yun’s research, even though Taira translated them into somewhat more modern Japanese. This means that many of the stories that have been handed down today originally came from Yun, not from Taira.

Taira even used the same order, except that he reversed the entries for Sakugawa and Tsuken. Only one person was added by Taira, namely Oyake Akahachi, whom Taira dates to “about 200 years ago,” while he actually lived around 1500 AD.

It should be noted that Yun based his person list on the list provided in the Kenpō Gaisetsu (1930, pp.151-52). However, this list had only the names and approximate life dates, but no further description. In short, the background for these persons of Okinawan martial arts history were first researched and published by Yun. As can be seen from his foreword, he thanked both his senseis Mabuni Kenwa and Tōyama Kanken as well as his senpai, among which was Kinjō Hiroshi, for their “tremendous support in order for this volume to reach the public.”

Anyway, my main point is that it was not Taira Shinken who first published a collection of micro-biographies of past masters in his Ryūkyū Kobudō Taikan (1964), but Yun Heui-byeong in his Bōjutsu Kyōhan (1948).

Let’s turn to some of the details. Taira antedates many of Yun’s dates. His intention is unknown. Maybe he wanted to position the persons closer to the present time, so that a personal tradition is more likely? For instance, Yun dates Soeishi to “approximately 300 years ago,” while Taira writes “not less than 100 years ago.” Yun dates Chinen Shikiyanaka to “about 300 years ago,” while Taira claims “100 years ago.” Yun states Sakugawa lived “between 100 and 300 years ago,” while Taira claims “100 years ago.”

Moreover, there are many details and meanings that changed in Taira’s copy. A few examples follow here.

As regards Soeishi, Yun says that “The current Chōun no Kon and Shūshi no Kon were generated from inside the Soeishi no Kon,“ while Taira says that Soeishi “devised Soeishi no Kon and Chōun no Kon.” It should be noted that Soeishi no Kon did not appear in pre-1945 sources, so this might have been the impulse to create one.

On “Old man Kōra-gwā,” Yun notes that “Only the name of this sensei was known and handed down, and I could not find a detailed description, so I decided to just list him as a great master of bōjutsu.” Taira adds to it by saying that this person “is said to have devised the Urasoe no Kon and the Kōra-gwā school of saijutsu.”

Yun described Arakaki as the “founder of Arakaki bōjutsu,” of which Taira makes “Arakaki-ryū.” While Yun solely attributes bōjutsu to Arakaki, Taira claims he was “a master of bōjutsu and saijutsu.”

According to Yun, Ginowan Dunchi was an outstanding talent who “received training from Sakugawa Sensei,” while Taira described him as a “master of and sai.”

Yun describes “Yama no Ne no Chinen Sensei,” while Taira says “Chinen Sensei of Yamane-ryū.” Yun says Chinen was “particularly good at Sakugawa no Kon,” which Taira omits. Yun notes that “among his disciples was the late Ōshiro Chōjo Sensei,” while Taira expanded on this by saying “Ōshiro Chōjo Sensei and Yabiku Mōden Sensei.”

And like this, information changed over times, and while some details were lost, others were added.

© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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