This short article is a translation of: Nakamura A.: Sai de mei nokosu Kinjō Ufuchiku. Tikubushi no keifu, Dai Nanakai. Kindai karate-shi o tadoru. Bugi no denshō keiro ②. Okinawa Times, June 21, 2020.
Last time, after confirming the modern situation, that is, the teaching of karate in dojo institutions and in school education as the main transmission routes of martial arts, I asked whether such institutions existed in Early Modern Ryūkyū [Translator’s note: the epoch from about the 1730s until the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1872/79]. The answer was no. Therefore, let’s explore possibilities other than the above-mentioned routes of martial arts transmission.
When thinking about it, you realize that even in modern times there are cases where you learn martial arts depending on the specific occupation, because of the need to perform duties. More specifically, there are the Japan Self-Defense Forces, police officers, and private security companies, etc., and there are also cases of karate being taught by overseas armed forces. If this is so, was there any occupation in Early Modern Ryūkyū that necessitated the need to master martial arts for the same reason? As is well known, there was no standing armed forces organization in Early Modern Ryūkyū. However, some organizations had police functions. A representative example of this is the Department of Justice (hirajo).
The Department of Justice was a government office of the Royal Government of Ryūkyū with court and police function. It was composed of officials such as the chief called Superintendent of the Department of Justice (hirajo no soba), and below him the Assistant Superintendent (hirahō ginmiyaku), senior officials and judges (hirajo ufuyaku), clerks (hissha), and chikusaji (with the chikusaji roughly divided into chiku and saji, but to be exact, there are even more precise job titles). In terms of societal status, down to the clerks (hissha) they were all persons of samurē status, while the chikusaji were not samurē, but commoners. Of these positions, the one equivalent to a police officer is the chikusaji. Their duties included arresting criminals, maintaining security at the court, and guarding the king during imperial visits [by Chinese investiture missions]. In this way, the service of the chikusaji necessitated concrete strength of the police force, which can be said to have been the result of a pursuance of effectiveness, and they were allowed to carry arms such as the six-foot staff and the sai.
Generally speaking, as weapons, other than the six-foot staff, the sai is not a daily item and requires unique and special handling. (This is by no means a disparagement for the status of bōjutsu or any other weapon arts). The strength of the police will be enhanced only if the practice of its handling is carried out, so that these arms can effectively be handled as such. In addition, as one of the chikusaji still known at present, there is “Kinjō Ufuchiku,” who is recognized as a master of saijutsu. Ufuchiku is one of the more precise job titles of the chikusaji, which were previously mentioned, and “Kinjō Ufuchiku” means “a person named Kinjō who was in the position of an ufuchiku.” Anyway, like this Kinjō, there are several people who are known to posterity for their expertise in saijutsu.
With this kind of example, I reached the idea that those chikusaji might have been training weapons arts (kobujutsu of Okinawa as it is called now) on a regular basis, and that at the same time they also practiced weaponless arts, that is, “karate.” However, at present, research on the actual situation of the chikusaji has not progressed and is only speculation. After all, it is just my personal opinion. However, if this hypothesis is true, the chikusaji as the lower royal government officials of the Department of Justice (hirajo) could be regarded as those who handed down “Okinawa Karate,” and the Department of Justice as one of the routes by which martial arts were handed down.
© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.