Chojun Miyagi’s note on “Baida,” 1936

Jūjutsu and jūjutsu-like systems were known since feudal times in Japan under a multitude of names. The two most common of which were jūjutsu and yawara. Others were:

  • kumiuchi, kogusoku, koshi no mawari,
  • wajutsu,
  • aikijūjutsu, aiki no jutsu, aikijutsu
  • yawarajutsu, yawaragi, yawarariki
  • torite,
  • kenpō, hakuda, hade, shubaku
  • taijutsu …

These are all jūjutsu systems and their names also generally apply to the art itself. At the same time, they can all be distinguished from one another. Such differences had been pointed out by Jigorō Kanō (Lindsay & Kanō 1889). You can see it like this: “Jūjutsu” and “jūjutsu-like systems” refer to all systems that have certain characteristics of jūjutsu in common, but do not necessarily call themselves by that term. The word “system” simply refers to a method of martial art that displays tactics or techniques within the framework of a certain scope of characteristics (Cf. Mol 2001).

While all these arts have to be distinguished in detail, the simple reason for these manifold names might have any of or any combination of the following:

  • the various origins of the ryūha (schools), each technically, geographically, as well as regards the point in time of their origin,
  • different philosophies,
  • the fact that the name jūjutsu was not coined until the early seventeenth century,
  • the isolated state of the various feudal domains at the time,
  • the need to distinguish one’s ryūha from others,
  • the trend that originators of new schools created history to suit their own purposes (which render the innumerable written sources of the various schools often contradictory and unsatisfactory), and
  • the personal tradition, in which informations on the schools were handed down by the teachers to their pupils “as a secret in order to give it a sacred appearance.”

These various systems can be roughly categorized according to their tendential focus:

  • emphasize grappling, throwing, locking, and choking: kumiuchi, yawara, jūjutsu, taijutsu, koshi no mawari, and kogusoku.
  • emphasize capturing and restraining: torite, hobaku (tying an overpowered opponent).
  • Emphasize kicking, thrusting, and hitting: kenpō, hade, hakuda, and shubaku.

Some of the above Japanese jūjutsu-like systems were developed from or influenced by Chinese martial arts. Fragments of quanfa systems were transferred to Japan during the feudal era. The Japanese referred to these Chinese forms in their Japanese pronunciation as hakuda or shubaku, both of which are explained as “to beat by hand,” or as “sparring.” Kenpō  – which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese quanfa – was also used by the Japanese since feudal times, namely to describe any and all systems of continental influence which employ empty-handed methods of fighting in a sparring manner (Draeger 1973). Generally speaking, kenpō, hakuda, and shubaku were characterized by a certain emphasis on atemi-waza.

According to the above, kenpō, hakuda, and shubaku can be roughly considered historical Japanese martial arts systems with an initial Chinese influence which place emphasis – but are not limited to – striking and kicking, i.e. on impact techniques. Fujita Seiko (1958) confirms this view. In his book on the “deepest level of kenpō” he noted that “This book is about the art of war called kenpō, i.e. the punching and kicking techniques as have been handed down in various factions of distinguished Japanese martial arts schools.”

In a manuscript named Tenjin Shinyō-ryū Taii-roku occurs a conversation between Iso Mataemon (1787–1863), the founder of the Tenjin Shinyō-ryū, and Terasaki, one of his pupils. According to it, the origin of jūjutsu is as follows: In Nagasaki once lived a physician named Akiyama, who went over to China to study medicine. There he learned three methods of an art called hakuda, which consisted of kicking and striking. When he returned to Japan, Akiyama worshipped for 100 days at the Tenjin shrine in Tsukushi. During this time he discovered 303 different methods of this art (Kanō 1889). This story nails down – by evidence of written historical material – the Chinese origin of hakuda, although – due to the nature of school traditions – exact names and years might be replaceable to a certain degree. But it shows the idea.

In addition to the above, the same Iso Mataemon “fought against more than one-hundred villains, by which he recognized and understood the importance of the methods of atemi. From this he developed a synthesis of the two styles he had learned into a new one, comprising of 124 techniques” (BRD 1978). The categories in which these techniques were built in – from initiation to idōri, nage, and shiai-ura – were simply called te 手; like in the Okinawan , and karate. Te should be understood here as skill; methods; ways and means etc. In this way the historical Chinese martial art called hakuda by the Japanese became integrated in a Japanese jūjutsu-like system.

When speaking of the historical theories of the origin of jūjutsu, one of the most prevailing Japanese views during the Edo era was another one. Namely, that jūjutsu had been introduced to Japan in 1659 by the Chinese person Chin Genpin (1587–1674). Kanō Jigorō vigorously rejected this view (Kanō 1889). The rejection of an overvaluation of foreign influences on the very Japanese life became the standard way of Japanese thinking during the course of the Meiji era. Kanō’s vigorous endeavor to repudiate such an origin might very well have set the precedent for the much later decision to change the characters of karate from “Chinese hand” to “empty hand.”

Kanō understood jūjutsu as to include such systems as taijutsu, yawara, kogusoku, hakuda, kenpō and others, and defined it spaciously as “Techniques by which one attacks or defends against an adversary who is unarmed or armed with short weapons” (Niehaus 2000: 94). As regards the systems of kenpō and hakuda, Kanō said, “if assuming that Chin Genpin introduced jūjutsu, than it could only have been the styles of kenpō and hakuda, which occurred in China between Manji (1658–1660) and Kanbun (1661–1672).” Both kenpō and hakuda are described by Kanō as methods which “according to contemporary Chinese sources mainly consisted of kicks and punches.”

Not only do we now have a slight idea of the tactical approach of hakuda, but also a rough estimate of the time of its influence on Japanese jūjutsu: around the time from 1658 to 1672. This is good enough for now.

It has also became sufficiently clear that certain tactics and methods were applied under completely different names and, in different schools, a greater or lesser emphasis was placed on specific tactics (Cf. Mol 2001).

Okinawan Karate people also referred to some of the above facts and theories. It was none less than Itosu Ankō who noted that Chinese kenpō – and thus the headwater of karate – might as well have reached Okinawa by way of Chin Genpin’s teaching, although indirectly (Cf. Majikina 1923). In this he refers to what was a widespread opinion throughout Japan since the Edo era. It should be noted here that this was by no means his own idea or research.

And in 1936, the Ryūkyū Shinpō newspaper published an article series called “The Karate Symposium” (Karate Zaidan-kai), written by Nagamine Shōkai. There, in reference to the different designations of martial arts in different times and places, Miyagi Chōjun noted that:

“In China, in the old days, people referred to kenpō by the term baida.”

Of course, just like in Itosu’s case, this was by no means Miyagi Chōjun’s personal research or idea. In fact, this baida is nothing else but the previously mentioned hakuda frequently mentioned in this paper. Maybe he read Kanō’s works. Maybe these informations got around the Okinawan martial arts circles of the time by word of mouth. Who could know that? In any case: it was not Miyagi’s own research or finding, it was not personally witnessed by him, but instead it is an indirect quote of his about the well-known story of hakuda as described in Japanese sources since the Edo era.

After having seen the above history and use of hakuda as a Japanese jūjutsu-like system with fragmentary Chinese roots, and also from the perspective of a standardized terminology, and far and foremost from the reason that Miyagi simply cited this common knowledge from Japanese sources, I would like to propose to transcribe it in its Japanese pronunciation as hakuda instead of baida. Another point to it is – although I am not totally sure – I don’t think that a Chinese tradition exists under the name of baida that has a tradition dating back to the same root.

When Toyama Kanken (Karate-dō Taihōkan) was right, the journalist transcribed Miyagi’s words by using the characters 白打. This can can be translated as “white strikes.” Besides “white“, the first character 白 can also mean a lot of other things, including “pure” or “bright,” and also “empty,” as in “empty (handed) strikes.” But this is just guesswork. In any case, whether the journalist transcribed hakuda correctly or not is unknown.

Fact is that other sources write it differently, namely as 伯打. Here the character 伯 can be translated as an obsolete way of writing “one hundred,” so it could be interpreted as “100 strikes,” in sense of “a lot of fighting techniques.” It might also refer to a relative, namely an elder uncle, a senior, or one’s oldest brother. Isn’t it that such references are said to have been used for martial arts masters? Like this, hakuda might have even referred to “uncle’s strikes” or – to draw it a bit larger – the “uncle’s boxing methods” etc.

And that was about hakuda, or baida respectively.


For a translation of the 1936 “Karate Symposium”, in which Miyagi Chōjun noted hakuda (baida), see, for example:


Why do I get photos of Justin Bieber when I image-google 伯打???

And why do I find a lot of Brautkleider when I image-google 白打???


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