The Tsuki-fication of Bojutsu

Old-style Shūshi no Kon

The earliest description of a bōjutsu kata in text and illustration is that of Shūshi no Kon. It was learned on Okinawa by Miki Jisaburō and published in 1930. In this description, there are no tsuki done following the shōmen-uchi in descriptions No. 7, 13, 16, and 19. Instead, following the front strike, the description continues by saying “Now the bō is being screwed, and the opponent’s weapon thus placed aside.” The movement is described in Japanese as nejiru ねじる, i.e. 捩じる, to screw; to twist. It is a defensive movement and a terminological forerunner of today’s chūdan-uke (or uchi-uke, soto-uke, depending on the school). This is an example of the development of kobudō terminology, but I digress.

The same kata has been presented as Shūshi no Kon (Koshiki) in Volume 3 of Ryūkyū Kobudō by Inoue Motokatsu (1974). There are also no tsuki at the corresponding positions.

Contrary to the above, the same kata in the Shimbukan school of Akamine Hiroshi sensei has tsuki at each of these positions. Since there are different versions of this kata, this version is explicitly called Koryū Shūshi no Kun, i.e. old-style.

In short, the use of tsuki is one striking difference between the above mentioned versions.

Shūshi no Kon Shō

There is an old video of Taira Shinken doing Shūshi no Kon Shō. The video was published by Devorah Dometrich. In this video, at three points in the kata following a shōmen-uchi, Taira does not perform a tsuki, but instead immediately performs uchi-uke. Looking up Shūshi no Kon Shō in Volume 1 of Ryūkyū Kobudō by Inoue Motokatsu (1972), there are also no tsuki, but immediately uchi-uke. You can also easily google the kata and see for yourself.

In the Taira-Akamine lineage, on the other hand, there are tsuki done at each of these three positions.

So, is there a pattern?

Shūshi no Kon Dai

In 1964, Taira Shinken described Shūshi no Kon Dai with text and photos in a book. There is also an old video of him doing the kata published by Devorah Dometrich and it has the same details as his 1964 description. We see the same kata details in the version of the Taira-Inoue-lineage in writing and photo (1972) and in various videos online, as well as in the version of the Taira-Hayashi-lineage, and the version of the Taira-Sakagami-lineage.

All of these direct students of Taira Shinken do not perform a tsuki following the shōmen-uchi in most cases.

In the Taira-Akamine-lineage, on the other hand, there are many tsuki done following the shōmen-uchi. In fact, in Taira-Akamine-lineage, the kata has six more tsuki than all the others, including the one by Taira himself.

As a side note, the two thrusts in the kata by Taira are sliding thrusts (nuki-zuki), while Taira-Akamine-lineage here does a standard (non-sliding) thrust.

So, obviously, there is a pattern.

Sakugawa no Kon Shō and Dai

Looking further, while the above is true to a lesser degree in case of Sakugawa no Kon Shō, it becomes cristal-clear in Sakugawa no Kon Dai: The kata performed by Taira and many of his direct students has almost no tsuki after shōmen-uchi. But Taira-Akamine-lineage does tsuki after each shōmen-uchi.

Conclusion

To make my point, I have here used the examples of the first kata to be learned in Taira lineage Kobudō. There are more examples but this is sufficient to show the pattern. From that, obviously a “tsuki-fication” of Taira lineage bōjutsu in Okinawa took place during the 2nd half of the 20th century. Someone at some point in time added a lot of tsuki to the Taira kata on Okinawa and today this has become the accepted standard.

As with most small knowledge gains and insights, you never really know where you get with it, if anywhere. With the point being made, however, as a next step it would be interesting to hear some expert opinions and finally find out more details such as the when and why.

In the video below I show some examples from Shushi and Sakugawa for you to see. It is always : 1. Non tsuki version. 2. Tsuki version.

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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