Nakaima Kenkō on ‘dō’ and ‘jutsu’

In the Japanese martial arts there is a rough categorization into martial technique (jutsu) and martial sport (). The difference, in a nutshell, is that the -variants like kendō, judō, karatedō etc. serve an educational ideal. This might be seen as a modern interpretation of Neo-Confucian “filial piety”, i.e. supporting oneself, one’s parents, and one’s country. Jutsu, on the other hand, has zero value other than simple technical efficiency – it is only about martial techniques.

Nakaima Kenko, 4th generation of Ryuei-ryu.

Nakaima Kenko, 4th generation of Ryu’ei-ryu.

In fact, during the develoment of modern Japanese martial arts, the refinement from a mere jutsu to a higher level of (which includes but is not limited to the values and methods of Western sports) was considered of utmost importance by the elites. In other words: Jutsu makes an individual stronger. makes a country stronger. Just ask the ministry of education.

Nakaima Kenkō (1911–1989) was an educator by profession. As the successor to the Ryūei-ryū, since his childhood he was strictly trained by his father and master Kenchū in this family martial art. At the age of 37 he received “Initiation into the mysterious principles of Ryūei-ryū” (Ryūei-ryū kaiden 劉衛流皆伝).

During his time at the Okinawa Teacher’s College – where in the early 20th century modern karate was born – he studied kendō with the masters Tomikawa Moritake 富川盛武 and Ishihara Hiroshi 石原弘 and later studied under Ishihara Masanao 石原昌直 (8. Dan Hanshi). His karate instructors at the Okinawa Teacher’s College were master Ōshiro Chōjo 大城朝恕 of Shuri-te – whose karate was of the Itosu system, while his bōjutsu was from Yamanni 山根 of Shuri Kanagusuku village – and master Yabu Kentsū, whose karate was of the Matsumura system.

The technical contents of Ryū’ei-ryū are quite extensive and include unarmed methods of Kenpō 拳法 (present day karate-dō), military methods of Heihō 兵法 (old Chinese weapons), the methods of healthcare (Yōjōhō 養生法), the method of boxing with a brave heart (Kenyūshin-hō 拳勇心法), as well as others, such as ninjutsu-ish actions.

According to Nakaima Kenkō himself, the empty handed kata of the style were the following (as of 1977):

  • 1) Sanchin, Sēsan. 2) Nisēshī. 3) Sansērū. 4) Sēyunchin. 5) Ōhan. 6) Pāchū. 7) Ānan. 8) Paikū. 9) Heikū. 10) Paihō.

In terms of modern-style ranks, Nakaima Kenkō was a hanshi of karate-dō, a hanshi of kobudō, and a kyōshi of kendō.

And by profession he was the principal of public elementary and middle school in Okinawa. His students Sakumoto Tsuguo and Kinjō Takeyuki also followed the modern martial sports philosophy of budō and were both ranked in karate-dō, in jūdō, and in kendō. Everyone can easily tell that many of today’s karate champs do not get their excellent physique and good looks from traditional karate training, but from all sorts of sports.

In accordance with the above, Nakaima Kenkō obviously fully supported the ideals of budō – probably as a sport and as an education – over those of jutsu. In his own words, Nakaima Kenkō raised the following rhetoric question:

“In the oldest character dictionary of Chinese writing, i.e. the Shuowen Jiezi 説文解字, the character jutsu 術 is defined as ‘a path within a village’ [術:邑中道也]. During the feudal era, the bujutsu 武術 or martial arts of Japan were referred to as jūjutsu 柔術, kenjutsu 剣術 and the like. After the Meiji era these martial arts came to be referred to as jūdō, kendō etc. and were considered budō 武道, or martial ways towards character formation. These martial arts were also implemented into school eduction in the form of budō 武道, or martial ways. However, in today’s world of karate, there are still people who use the word kobujutsu 古武術. Isn’t this like going backwards through the eras?”


Biblio: Uechi Kanei: Seisetsu Okinawa Karate-dō: Sono Rekishi to Gihō. Uechi-ryū Karate-dō Kyōkai, Ginowan 1977. 上地完英(監修):精説 沖縄空手道。その歴史と技法。上地流空手道協会、宜野湾 1977。

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