Itsuki – sitting duck

In the latest series of “Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate,” Oshiro Toshihiro Sensei talks about his journey, experience and development in karate and bojutsu. In one episode Oshiro Sensei remembers when he went for Shodan test at the age of 17.

“While I was doing the kata during the test, I did kime (tensing / focus) after techniques, but after kime, I couldn’t move on smoothly. This was a shocking revelation to me, and I thought ‘How can I fix this?’ The examiner said, ‘You’re waiting too long between movements.’ However, in reality, I wasn’t waiting. I couldn’t move (into the next technique). In budo this is known as itsuki meaning to be stuck in one place. I thought I must be doing something wrong here. I practiced endlessly but I could not find a solution.

At the Nagamine dojo I learned the intricacies of technique from Nagamine Shoshin Sensei, and also from Nakamura Seigi Sensei and Kushi Jokei Sensei, but the answer of why I couldn’t move was a still a mystery to me. It was only after extensive practice of (the bo) Yamanni-ryu with Kishaba Chogi Sensei that I realized how to use the body to avoid being stuck in one place.

For me personally, Yamanni-ryu has aided my study of karate tremendously. There’s an old saying in Okinawa, that karateka should also study bojutsu. In Okinawa, only bojutsu and karate had been practiced extensively since ancient times. Others such as saijutsu, tonfa and nunchaku, in my opinion, do not have as long a history. The connection between karate and bojutsu is very deep. It was said if an aspect of karate did not make sense, look back to bojutsu for the answer. So bo and karate have this connection.”

What is the meaning of itsuki? It means sitting, a residence, or to be (i) and to be attached or to take root (tsuki). Japanese it is written 居付き or 居着き and has the following dictionary meanings:

  • 1 sedentariness; settledness; sedentary; settlement.
  • 2 in fishery: a stationary fish; resident fish; sedentary fish (as opposed to migratory fish).
  • 3 in rogue jargon: burglars and robbers who work near where they live.

The term has been used in Japanese bujutsu generally and was also addressed by Arakaki Kiyoshi of Musokai under the title of “Eliminating the bad habit of itsuki.”

Obviously, in terms of karate and kobudo it refers to being tied to a certain position, even if it is just for a short amount of time. You might draw a comparison to “sitting duck.”

Sources Chris Willson Photography: “Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate #11 Toshihiro Oshiro.” Published Apr 2, 2021 on YouTube.

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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