A study on the origins of Okinawa Karate and Southern Shaolin Boxing from Quanzhou

Zhou Kunmin (President of the International Southern Shaolin 5-Ancestor-Boxing Association): A study on the origins of Okinawa Karate and Southern Shaolin Boxing from Quanzhou. In: Ryūkyū Karate no Rūtsu wo saguru Jigyō – Chōsa Kenkyū Hōkokusho (Research and Study Report – Project to Explore the Roots of Ryūkyū Karate). Urasoe City Board of Education, March 2015, pp. 40-45.

Translation: Andreas Quast

The friendship between China and Ryūkyū has a long history. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Chinese-Ryūkyūan foreign trade once held an important position within the sphere of world trade. In 1370, Quanzhou established the “Overseas Trading Department,” and in 1405, it opened the “Station for Those Coming From Afar” (later transferred to Fuzhou, and known as the Ryūkyūkan). Placed under the jurisdiction of the “Overseas Trading Department,” this station hosted the Ryūkyūan missions and stipulated that Ryūkyū shall only pass through Quanzhou Port. More than a hundred years before the “Overseas Trading Department” moved to Fuzhou, Quanzhou played an important role as a hub for China and Ryūkyū. The Ryūkyūan envoys and visitors who traveled to Quanzhou passed on their culture, regional products, and written language to China, and at the same time, they spread a wide range of Chinese ethnic cultures to Ryūkyū. The exchange spanned a wide range, including commerce, agriculture, science, religion, culture, arts, architecture, and medicine. Influenced by Chinese folk customs, Ryūkyū became a Land of Courtesy (Shurei-no-Kuni), which values courtesy.

In the above field of study, there are also some highly credible research results available. However, in the field of martial arts, researchers have not found any research results, and we have not found any directly related materials when searching local history materials. Until now, historians may not have paid enough attention to the relationship between Chinese martial arts and Japanese karate, which extends to our lives today.

Here, I will summarize the limited materials existing on kenpō (the method of unarmed combat), and I will also briefly describe my personal opinion.


Karate (唐手) is a traditional old martial art that was handed down to Ryūkyū, and its name indicates that it was handed down from China in ancient times. The so-called “tī 手” (of Okinawa) is referred to as “skills of the hand 技手” in Quanzhou, which points to the term “jishou” (pivoting hand, or quick-reacting hand) as found in Okinawa’s Bubishi, and there is no change to this to this day.

In 1929, Keio Private University renamed “karate 唐手” to “karate 空手,” and already before that, in 1924, a “Karate-dō 空手道 Study Group” had been established. The word “karate 空手” can be found as early as 1905, in the book “Karate Kumite.” In Quanzhou, unarmed martial art without weapons is called “kongshou quan 空手拳 (jp. karate ken),” or otherwise “kong-quan 空拳 (jp. kūken),” and this name is the same as in Ryūkyū.

Since the 1970s, karate organizations and martial artists from Japan have visited Quanzhou several dozen times, surveyed the origins of karate, and interacted with the martial arts society in Quanzhou.

In 1990, I was invited by Mr. Wakugawa Kōsei of the Karate-dō Gōjū-ryū Seidōkan. I visited Okinawa with a twenty persons martial arts delegation from Quanzhou. At that time, the Quanzhou City Youth Martial Arts Delegation, invited by the Urasoe City Office, arrived in Okinawa together with us. Both Japanese and Chinese gave performance demonstrations at the community center. More than four-hundred persons from Okinawan dōjō participated in the demonstrations, and Higa Yuchoku, chairman of the Okinawa Karate-dō Federation, also gave a martial arts demonstration himself.

What surprised us was that the karate-dō performed by Okinawan martial artists, or otherwise the Naha-te, Shuri-te, Tomari-te of karate, used techniques from “skills of the hand 技手” (oki. tī 手), stood in horse stance, had method of using the hips, and of breathing, used of hard and soft techniques (gōjū) and offensive techniques, all of which were surprisingly similar to the traditional Southern Shaolin Boxing of Quanzhou. Many of the fist techniques are very similar, such as tiao (to poke), xian (to convulse), qin (to capture), kai (to open), gai (to cover), guan (to close), quan (to box), biao (to target), cha (to pierce), baobai (to hold and split), dan (to shoot) etc., leg kicking methods such as sao (to sweep), deng (to tread on), etc., as well as standing methods, such as zhanma (war horse), jiaoma (wildebeest), sipingma (four equal horses), tama (stepping horse), and quma (bent horse).

Some (of the Okinawan) kata are also very similar to traditional forms of Quanzhou. Among them, Sanzhan (Sanchin) is the most similar, and, as the mother of all boxing, it is the kata to begin with.

There are many types of boxing in Quanzhou Southern Shaolin, and all beginners first learn fist Sanzhan (Sanchin). This is the so-called principle of “to teach a disciple, always teach Sanzhan first.” Sanzhan has been handed down to places other than Quanzhou and is also called “Sanzheng (Three Principles),” and in the Quanzhou dialect, it is also called “Sanjian” (Three Divisions).

Each of the following boxing styles has a Sanzhan, and it is said to “start from Sanzhan and train until you die:” Great Ancestor Boxing (taizu-quan), Bodhidharma Revered Boxing (dazun-quan), Arhat Boxing (luohan-quan), Itinerant Monk Boxing (xingzhe-quan, aka Monkey Boxing), White Crane Boxing (baihe-quan), Flower Boxing (hua-quan), Mysterious Woman Boxing (xuan’nu-quan), Dragon Revered Boxing (longzun-quan), and Tiger Revered Boxing (huzun-quan).

The different boxing styles mentioned above were originally affiliated and influenced each other. Since Sanzhan is a foundational boxing method, and since it is a source from which the boxing schools derived, there are many points of similarity, and they resemble each other closely.

For example, the Gōjū-ryū of Okinawa Karate-dō has been handed down since the late Qing dynasty. Karate is done barefoot when performed on stage, but rolling up one’s trouser cuffs and perform barefoot is no longer known to people of Quanzhou. This (barefoot performance) is verified by the descriptions “four-points fall on the ground like gold (the toes and heel of both feet make four points that are firmly grounded and form a square)” and “five children look skyward (keeping the toes facing upwards, and not on the ground).” To recognize such things reveals clues to the source of boxing arts in both regions.

Since the 1970s, members of the Okinawan karate world have visited places such as Fuzhou and Quanzhou in Fujian to investigate the source. Among those who visited were also martial artists from Tōkyō and Ōsaka. For example, Onishi Eizo, Nakamoto Masahiro, Wakugawa Kōsei, Tokashiki Iken, Kinjō Akio, Miyagi Tokumasa, etc. have repeatedly visited to research.

Inspiringly, the Gōjū-ryū of Okinawa has traveled many times to find its roots in China, and as a result, in September 1989, a master of Higashionna Kanryō was discovered in Fuzhou. This is Xie Zongxiang (aka Ruru), born in 1852 in Changle County Zhanxiang Daoibian Village. The site was confirmed, and a commendation monument erected at Fujian Sports Center.

Earlier, Uechi-ryū surveyed in cooperation with the Fujian Wushu Association. As a result, it was revealed that in 1897, Uechi Kanbun learned martial arts at the school of Zhou Zihe (jp. Shū Shiwa ), a teacher of the Tiger Revered Boxing (huzun-quan) in Fuzhou Nanju Zhiri Village, and after returning to Japan established Uechi-ryū Karate. Therefore, the origin and genealogy of Uechi-ryū became clear. These two kinds of boxing are members of the Fujian Southern Shaolin Boxing, and White-Crane-Boxing (baihe-quan) was born in Yongchun, Quanzhou Prefecture.


Crane Boxing (He-quan), or otherwise White-Crane-Boxing, was also called Yongchun-Boxing (Yongchun-quan) and was handed down in Fuzhou, northern and eastern Fujian Province. After that, it branched into the following schools: Crying-Crane-Boxing (Minghe-quan), Feeding-Crane-Boxing (Shihe-quan), Sleeping-Crane-Boxing (Suhe-quan), Flying-Crane-Boxing (Feihe-quan), and Shaking-Crane-Boxing (Zonghe-quan). Gōjū-ryū had already discovered that Fuzhou Crying-Crane-Boxing (Minghe-quan) is its source, which can be traced back to the time when Fang Qiniang founded Crane Boxing (He-quan) about two-hundred years ago during the years of the Kangxi Emperor (1661-1722) of the Qing dynasty.

Fang Qiniang is said to be from Lishui city in Zhejiang Province in east China, or, in another theory, from Fukuning, Fujian Province. During the years of the Kangxi Emperor (1661-1722), taken by her father, Fang Huishi (aka Fang Zhangong), she arrived in Yongchun in Quanzhou, Fujian, incorporated the movements of cranes into a boxing method, and handed it down.

This was at a time when many people gathered in Quanzhou due to the popularity of Southern Shaolin Boxing. Many practitioners adopted her method, which established itself as a unique and vivid new movement. When new boxing methods appeared, they spread rapidly. Although the status of Yongchun was increased to that of an administrative district in 1735, there was limited land, and the poverty of people in agricultural villages did not change. Many farmers wanted to leave the prefecture and pursue a flourishing development, from which later spawned the proverb that, “Without Yongchun, no commercial port will ever be opened, and without Yongchun, no market will ever be established.”

Among them were masters of boxing who traveled widely in all directions (east, west, north, and south), and with it, the fame of the boxing method of Yongchun (Yongchun-quan) spread naturally. According to the ancient “Register of Traditional Boxing Methods” (Chuan Quan-pu), she taught twenty-eight disciples, and they demonstrated their talents, and they all became masters of boxing and called “outstanding talents” (yingjun), and around the same time, the “Five Tigers” also appeared. These disciples said, “Highly perfected in the methods of boxing, this institution’s reputation spread as by the whispers of the wind, and a large number of followers hastened cheerfully to attend to its study.”

The footprints of these successors can be found from the villages near Yongchun, to downtown Quanzhou, and to the distant “four upper prefectures of Min,” i.e., the western (inland) part of Fujian. Fuzhou, the provincial capital of Fujian, was densely populated and because it had the highest concentration of people, so the footprints of the successors, as well as their boxing method, spread further to Jiangxi province in southeast China, Zhejiang province in east China, and Guangdong province in south China.

Zeng Si, Gu Xi, Wang Daxing, Zheng Li, Zheng Chong, Ye Jinxi, Zheng Bi, Zheng Tong, and others inherited and handed down Yongchun White-Crane-Boxing, and their achievements were great. In particular, Zheng Li’s footprint reached the most far and wide, and his fame was also the highest. In the book, “Order of the Tradition of Descendants of the Art of Boxing (Quan-yi Shichuan-xu),” it is said that in his study it was “especially hard to write with the brush, but the boxing has been handed down from generation to generation.”

I talked with Yu Baoyan of Fuzhou, who is a successor to Xie Zongxiang (aka Ruru, 1852-?) and who accompanied me when our Quanzhou martial arts delegation visited Okinawa in 1990. Yu Baoyan was not only very familiar with the historical background of Crane Boxing (He-quan) having been introduced to the Fuzhou area from Yongchun County in Quanzhou but at that time also said, “after Crane Boxing was introduced to Fuzhou, it split into five groups,” and pointed out, “Crying-Crane-Boxing (Minghe-quan) is one of them.”

While the art of boxing traditionally has stability and a closed-up nature, it is also always subject to the constraints and influences of the unique culture of the region to which it is handed down, and it also changes with the creativity of the disciples, and contingency can also occur. Pan Yuba, the successor of Xie Zongxiang, who was active during the years of the penultimate Qing emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), developed a new style of Yongchun White-Crane-Boxing by continued painstaking tempering in the methods of hardness and softness as well as in breathing techniques. The method of breathing in and breathing out was like the whooping sound of a crane, and so it was called Crying-Crane-Boxing (Minghe-quan). This was a new creation and a breach of tradition.

Other than the five crane styles in the Fuzhou region (crying, feeding, sleeping, flying, and shaking crane), other methods have emerged in other regions, such as the Long-Technique-Crane, Short-Technique-Crane, or the Crane-jumping-on-one-leg. Also, in Guangdong province in south China, a distinction is being made between Yongchun-Crane and Yongchun-Boxing.

However, there is by no means a change in the quality of the kind of boxing, and the underlying theme is still Yongchun-Crane-Boxing. Tokashiki Iken of the Gōjū-ryū Tomari Association preserved a manuscript of the Bubishi, a record of Crying-Crane-Boxing (Minghe-quan) which has been handed down from Xie Zongxiang (aka Ruru, 1852-?) over several generations, and its content, organization and writing characters are the same as in the old boxing records handed down in the southern Fujian region.

Articles such as on the history, principles, and techniques of boxing, prescriptions for knockouts, the “Bronce Man,”  “Instructions for the body parts for the 12 double-hours of the day,” “Six-Rotating-Palms,” “Seven spots not to strike” etc., can be verified in old books such as “Laws for Specialists of White-Crane-Boxing” (Baihe-quan Jia Zhengfa), “The Art of Boxing from Taoyuan” (Taoyuan Quanshu), “The Correct Method of the Immortal Master and Ancestor of White Crane” (Baihe Xianshi-zu Chuanzen-fa), “The Secret Crane Method of the White-Lotus-Temple” (Bailian-si Mizhuan Hefa), “The Secret Book of Striking and Tumbling of the Shaolin-Temple” (Shaolin-si Dieda Mishu), “Prescriptions by the Ancestor of White-Crane” (Baihe-zu Yaofang), and “The Immortal Tradition of White-Crane” (Baihe-xian Zhengzong).

For example, in the “Commentary on White-Crane-Boxing (Baihe-quan Lun), Fang Qiniang is revered as the first teacher and portrays her creation of the boxing method, and the outline of the story is the same in each book. Most in line with the original text is, “I have studied kenpō well from Zheng Sishu in the past,” and “I have taught various families in Yongchun, but the Wang were the best.” Talking about the boxing methods, and about engagement and disengagement, there are phrases like: “Exhale when you push your hand out and inhale when your hand changes direction,” “The inner section (upper arm) is like iron, and outer section (forearm) is like cotton,” “Straighten out to break the side, Sideways can fix straightness, Softness is suitable against hardness, Hardness meets softness well, Know whether to advance or to retreat, breathing in and out is like ebb and flow,” “With every step, grow your roots, no matter how you’re pushed, remain motionless,” “Is the opponent inattentive (doesn’t use force), take the initiative; if the opponent uses power, follow it.”

These are set phrases often heard in the Southern Shaolin Boxing of Quanzhou, which are mostly quoted from the “Classic of the Double-Edged-Sword” (Jianjing) written by Yu Dayou (1503-1579), a person from Quanzhou who was the commander-in-chief of the Ming Dynasty.

From this, it can be estimated that the Bubishi is a compilation of old records of Yongchun in Quanzhou.

Fujian Province, from: Wikipedia


In addition, it is important to note that the “Bubishi” contains the “Explanation of Luohan-quanfa (Arhat Boxing),” as well as the tou-kuang, er-kuang, san-kuang, and si-kuang, which are the (1st to 4th) kata of Luohan-quan (Arhat Boxing). Why is Arhat Boxing included in a record of Crane Boxing? Many people may have been surprised, or think that it was mixed up. In fact, this is not the case, and it is a common phenomenon in the martial arts world, which is often seen in Quanzhou, and referred to as “learn two or more is to know two or more” (=learn several things at the same time).

There are many kinds of boxing in the Southern Shaolin Boxing of Quanzhou, and in the 1980s still twenty types of martial art were discovered and arranged. Although these kinds of boxing belong to different schools, many are rich in beauty of clear or masculine strength, with inhale and exhale like ebb and flow, hardness and softness, well in short-range strikes, excellent for actual combat, and the boxing style is similar, the techniques are similar, and the stances are similar. Besides, the use of the body, the way how to apply strength, and the breathing methods are similar, and it is possible that both have been incorporated and accumulated into a system.

To enrich their own martial arts, those who practiced martial arts often learned several kinds of kenpō. A few learned two or three different types, most learned four or five, and this has taken root over a long time.

Five-Ancestor-Boxing, which unified five boxing schools, was formed after the creation of White-Crane-Boxing. In old records of boxing, there is an ancestral tablet of the first master. In some records, only “Great Ancestor (taizu), Bodhidharma (dazun), and Arhat (luohan)” are written, but in some records is written “1. Great Ancestor (taizu), 2. Bodhidharma (dazun), 3. Arhat (luohan), 4. Itinerant Monk (xingzhe), and 5. White Crane (baihe).” Also, there is a boxing record with the word “Mysterious Woman” (xuan’nu), which clarifies the course of its development. Some people once adopted the boxing style in the past, but it was rare. After the creation of White-Crane-Boxing, it was finally officially incorporated into the five boxing schools.

In other words, there is no doubt that the original author of the Bubishi was experienced in both Crane-Boxing and Arhat Boxing. Moreover, the person was considerably knowledgeable and when he copied and arranged Arhat Boxing into the record, to avoid misunderstandings, he intentionally stated in the beginning that: “A person involved in Arhat Boxing is also (involved) in Crane-Boxing.”

At the same time, it is clear that the person who kept the record did not put the two boxing types together, but it is clear that they coexisted. It is not one but two boxing methods, and this record contains forms one to four of the Arhat Boxing.

The “Record of Five-Ancestor-Boxing” (wuzu-quan pu) from Quanzhou contains the Arhat forms one to five (tou-jie, er-jie, san-jie, si-jie, and wu-jie), so their origin can be seen. At least through Qing Dynasty until the Chinese revolution in 1911, this group of Arhat boxing forms ranged from simple to complex. There have already been changes, but still remains in the martial arts practice of people from different regions.

If speculating further, the Bibishi is a record that was copied selectively. Generally speaking, it seems that Higashionna Kanryō (1853-1915) transcribed it after studying Arhat Boxing from Xie Zongxiang (aka Ruru, 1852-?). Naturally, the content of these training methods and techniques would have merged into his original Gōjū-ryū karate-dō. As Wang Foudeng said (in the Bubishi), “Arhat Boxing is also Crane Boxing,” but at present, it is in an unclear state (like the similarity between vermilion and purple). Also, some kata and techniques of karate are difficult to classify, and it’s hard to say if it’s Crane Boxing, but it’s also hard to say that it’s not Arhat Boxing.

With this, we can further speculate on the relationship between Great-Ancestor-Boxing (taizu-quan) as a part of the Five-Ancestors and karate-dō. Great-Ancestor-Boxing is the oldest boxing method among the Five-Ancestors and dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It was named by Song Taizu, and was the most popular in the Quanzhou from Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1912) until the Chinese Revolution of 1911, with 80 to 90 percent of the martial artists in Quanzhou Prefecture belonging to a faction of the Great-Ancestor-Boxing.

According to the Jixiao Xinshu, there were “32 Gestures of Long-Boxing of Song-Taizu.”

In the “Compilation of Northern Boxing Methods” (Bei-quan Huibian) it is said that, “The Shaolin school is also referred to as the waijia or external school, and Zhao Kuangyin (personal name of Song Taizu) is the ancestor. Zhao Kuangyin had amazing skills, which he kept secret and did not show them to others, but once when drunk he told a large number of his retainers about its secret techniques. He regretted this and couldn’t eat and stopped talking, and at last, he placed the book in the altar of the Shaolin temple. This boxing method is excellent for hard, straight forward attacks.”

The present Quanzhou Great-Ancestor-Boxing is indeed characterized by its “hard, straight forward attacks.” Great-Ancestor-Boxing of Quanzhou is dedicated to Zhao Kuangyin (Song Taizu) as its ancestor, and is based in this source.

At the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty, Emperor Gaozong moved to the south to Quanzhou. Most of the imperial families under his jurisdiction were descendants of Zhao Kuangyin (Song Taizu), and their number reached as high as several thousand, and it is said that “the city walls were entirely filled with imperial people.” The Great-Ancestor-Boxing handed down by the imperial class gradually spread into the private sector and never declined for hundreds of years. In old records of the Crane Boxing you can also see that Crane Boxing has developed based on Great-Ancestor-Boxing. Whether Fang Qiniang was born in the south of Zhejiang or in Fujian Fukuning, Shaolin Great-Ancestor-Boxing was thriving there.

According to the “Laws of the White-Craning-Boxing School” (Baihe-quanjia Zhengfa), Fang Qiniang said, “When I was sixteen, I liked the Shaolin boxing skills.” The “Immortal Tradition of White-Crane” (Baihe-xian Zhengzong) says: “When master Fang Zhangzu practiced Great-Ancestor-Boxing, Fang Qiniang learned by secretly watching him.” At the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and beginning of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the first famous master of Five-Ancestor-Boxing, Gan Deyuan, said, “White-Crane has been taught from Great-Ancestor-Boxing for generations, and it remains like that.”

Still today, in Yongchun, the hometown of White-Crane-Boxing, still has a hard style of Crane-Boxing, which some call the Great-Ancestor-faction of Crane-Boxing, during the development of which Great-Ancestor-Boxing served as the foundation. Besides, a school called “Taizu-ized Crane-boxing” (Taizu-hua He-quan) has emerged and is becoming popular in Taiwan. From this, you can now see elements of Great-Ancestor-Boxing in the White-Crane-Boxing, and you can also guess their influence on the karate-dō of the Gōjū-ryū.

Wakugawa Kōsei, the chairman of the Okinawa Gōjū-ryū Karate-dō Preservation Association, has conducted numerous studies of Quanzhou Shaolin Boxing and published a paper titled “Quanzhou Great-Ancestor-Boxing and Okinawa Karate-dō.” The following is written in this text. “I saw young monks perform traditional Great-Ancestor-Boxing at the Chongfu-Temple in Quanzhou. I was quite surprised at the fact that there were many similarities with Okinawa karate-dō, such as the simple, yet heavy fist strike and way to apply strength to the lower back/hips.”

He studied the “Outline of Taizu’s 24 Gestures” (Taizu Ershisi Shi Jianshu) from the “Register of Great-Ancestor-Boxing” (Taizu-Quan Pu) from renowned boxing master Su Zaifu, and after seeing his performance, stated: “Great-Ancestor-Boxing’s strongly protected position while moving forward, and its gaining the initiative by striking first; this is a common point with the basic idea of Okinawa Karate-dō, which is probably one of the pieces of evidence that connects karate to its roots in the Southern Boxing of Quanzhou.”

Mr. Wakugawa concluded that “comparing the kenpō in both Okinawa and Quanzhou with each other, issues that weren’t well understood before or things that never came to mind at all were easily resolved.”


If the roots of Okinawa karate-dō, or otherwise of karate, are found in the middle or late Qing dynasty (1644-1912), there is a long historical gap. Many researchers reported that more than 3,000 persons from the “Thirty-six Clans of Fujian-People” traveled to Ryukyu in 1396 to lead the tribute business and were involved in the spread of martial arts. However, some researchers have questioned this. As for one, there is no solid evidence, and second, it is too many years before the formation of the tī of Ryūkyū.

I believe that the tī of Ryūkyū itself is difficult to date, and besides, it is difficult to infer from the above that “36 Clans” and “3,000 households” lived in Kume Village over two or three hundred years and were only connected with “spreading culture and education.”

It would have been only “trading along the seaways.” According to Mao Yuanyi’s “Wubeizhi” Vol. 14, about “coastal defense,” at that time in Fujian “Anyone who knows the seaways well, and can maneuver a boat well, is a man from Zhangzhou (in Fujian), Quanzhou (in Fujian), Fuzhou (in Fujian), or Ningbo (in Zhejiang )…  The captain, the person who arranged the seaways, and the pilot all came from there.”

From among the 36 Clans, many of which came from the coastal ports of Quanzhou, were selected those who could skillfully manouvre and fight with boats. They were good at martial arts and familiar with overseas traffic routes. At that time, the relationship between Ryūkyū and the Ming Dynasty was so close that Ryūkyū frequently visited, sometimes several times a year.

During the voyage, looting and riots always occurred, and therefore, a large number of weapons and protective guards were needed during the trip. Chen Ruifang from Quanzhou, successful candidate of the highest imperial military service examination, who served in Min’anzhen, was appointed commander-in-chief (Dusi) for the protection of the Imperial investiture mission (sappōshi) in 1800 and captured two-hundred pirates at sea. As armaments, he carried armor and helmet and weapons, but he died of illness in Ryukyu.

The first of the 36  Clans was the Cai (jp. Sai) family, whose ancestors came from both distinguished civil and military families in Nan’an County, Quanzhou. In their genealogy, it is recorded that “they were the most esteemed and heavily busy, and produced many talents afterward.”

According to Japanese media reports, the Cai family (jp. Sai) as well as the Zheng family (jp. Tei), also a member of the 36 Clans, handed two kinds of boxing methods, namely the Cai-Family-Boxing and the Zheng-Family-Boxing.

And there is an important relationship between the Cai family of Nan’an county in Quanzhou, Fujian and the transmission of Southern Shaolin Boxing martial arts. According to the Journal of the Westen Mountains (Nishiyama Zasshi) compiled by Cai Yongjian in the years of the Jiaqing Emperor (1760-1820), Cai Yangeng inherited a martial art of the Shaolin faction. The Cai family, under the political rule of the Zheng family of the Southern Ming Dynasty (1644-1661), had more than sixty people worshipping them, giving them the status of generals, and extending their influence south. In addition, he said, “I abandon the way of culture and engage in voyages instead, Jump in, sail, and live in the sea!” Cai Qian said, “I have learned the martial arts from a monk in a temple. Let’s leap into the blue sea and sail.”

It is worth considering were Cai-Family-Boxing, and Zheng-Family-Boxing came from and continues to this day. When Investiture missions from the Ming and Qing departed to Ryūkyū, he was allowed to choose himself, from various personnel to masters of the martial arts.

During their stay in Ryūkyū, the investiture envoys, retainers and servants interacted with the people on each level, and it was their mission to communicate with them, and of course, including Chinese culture and martial arts. Therefore, in the book “Secrets of Japanese Karate-dō,” the beginning of Okinawa’s karate is thought to be at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644). It says that “the envoys’ delegation departed from Beijing, crossed the sea to Ryūkyū, and Chinese kenpō was transmitted accordingly.”

The oldest book on karate, the Ōshima Hikki, mentions something related to Kūsankū, who took a lot of his disciples to Okinawa and taught a kind of kenpō.

In 1479, during the Ming Dynasty, Ryūkyū also dispatched people to Fujian and Taiwan to study Shaolin kenpō. These examples are numerous and took place over a long time. The material does not explain the events in detail, but they are fully verified.

The reason why I do not eliminate the history of Chinese-Ryūkyūan martial arts exchange during the Ming Dynasty is that it was a mature period of Chinese martial arts development. In the wake of the “Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques” (Wujing Zongyao, 1044) compiled by the Zeng Gongliang of the Northern Song Dynasty, Yu Dayo (1503-1579) of Quanzhou compiled the “Continued Wujing Zongyao.” He also published the 67 volume edition of the “Classic of the Double-Edged-Sword” (Jianjing), which includes a collection on the essence of the Chinese cudgel and rake and which summarizes the theory of kenpō. The “Classic of the Double-Edged-Sword” (Jianjing) is China’s first specialized martial arts textbook and provides an excellent discussion.

For example, it says “Hardness before him, softness after him” (use hardness when he is not ready, receive him with softness after he has come to power), “Move after he sets out, but arrive before him,” “Pass by his old strength before his new strength arrives,” “If have to strike a person, do not injure her,” “deliver to others, but don’t take from others,” and so on. Until now, the various boxing schools of the North and South have served as the holy books (of boxing), and the Great-Ancestor-Boxing (taizu-quan) mentioned above, White-Crane-Boxing (baihe-quan), and Arhat Boxing (luohan-quanfa) are no exceptions, and their influence extends to karate-dō.

I believe that if one seeks the origins of Okinawa karate-dō and Quanzhou Southern Shaolin Boxing in one single era, it should be based on sufficient historical background data as well as cultural factors.

December 20, 2014, in Quanzhou

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