“Tegumi” in the English translation of Nagamine Shōshin’s second book

Previously, I mentioned that the term “Tegumi” appears only once in the whole 1986 book by Nagamine Sensei. Here, I would like to compare this with the 1998 English translation.

First of all, in the 1998 English translation, the term “tegumi” appears a few times in the karate part of the book, namely once in an addendum to the chapter about Matsumura Sōkon, once in the chapter about Higaonna Kanryō, and twice in the chapter on Motobu Chōki:

“As such, Tsuru-san (Bushi Matsumura’s wife)  grew up partaking in such boy’s games as Okinawan sumo wrestling and muutou (more popularly known as tegumi, which, in Chinese characters, is kumite written backwards).”

“In spite of being quite small, Kanryo [Higaonna] was flexible and blessed with quick reflexes, which afforded him a reputation in tegumi (sumo) and to-te (karate).”

“Choki [Motobu] often asked if Matsumora would practice tegumi (application training) with him. However, Matsumora always refused because he knew that Choki would use his new found technique over in the Tsuji that evening. Rather, Master Matsumora told Motobu, “Don’t be so concerned about sparring with me, or others for that matter, you will find what works best for you, but only after you have discovered the real adversary; the enemy within.” Notwithstanding, Motobu Saru secretly observed Matsumora’s tegumi lessons with other disciples from behind the courtyard wall during special training in the evenings.”

That said, four of the most important ancestors of modern karate have been associated with tegumi, namely Matsumura Sōkon (or rather his wife, Tsuru), Matsumora Kōsaku, Higaonna Kanryō, and Motobu Chōki.

Then there is the part of the book that deals with the research by Kushi Jokei made into Okinawa sumō. In the part of the English translation, the term “tegumi” appears twenty-five times. For instance, the Japanese heading “Okinawa Sumō und Master Grapplers” was renamed to “Tegumi and Master Grapplers of Okinawa.” The following subheading, “Okinawa Sumō,” was also renamed to “Okinawa Tegumi.” Within the following text corpus in this part, the term “tegumi” was used a further twenty-three times.

In short, while “tegumi” appeared only once in the original Japanese text, the English translation featured it twentynine times, including in chapter headers. Actually, what happened is that the expression “Okinawa Sumō” was replaced by the term “Tegumi.”

The term “tegumi” as used in the English-speaking karate world originated single-handedly from this English translation of Nagamine Sensei’s book.

In the following I will provide a few examples. Note that while the translations naturally differ a bit, I want you to focus on the terminology.

Nagamine 1986Tuttle 1998
Okinawa Sumō and Master WrestlersTegumi and Master Grapplers of Okinawa
Okinawa SumōOkinawan Tegumi
… covered in mud like eels we swam in the stream of the Asato River at Sogenji Bridge, and in the evening we used to play [Okinawa] sumō in the nearby Utaki (sacred grove) and Ashibinaa (festival place)Sometimes in the evenings we also pretended we were fierce tegumi wrestlers and fought each other at the playground …
Since I had a small physique, my [Okinawan] sumō wasn’t strong, but I liked it very much.In spite of being quite small for my age, I was a leader among my friends and loved tegumi grappling with them.
About the origin of Okinawa SumōTegumi and the Origins of Okinawan Sumo
I assume that Okinawa sumō was born from the the same origin as the martial arts referred to as “tī” in Okinawa. That is, I assume it was born from the primitive man’s fighting methods of self-defense which are based on the instinct for self-preservation. In other words, within the long progress of history, on one hand our characteristic martial arts of tī was created, and on the other hand sumō was born as a pastime of the common people.It is believed that grappling ascended from primitive man’s instinctive means of self-preservation. In the history of civil fighting traditions here in Okinawa we refer to such grappling concepts as tegumi. There is every reason to believe that tegumi, after being enhanced by techniques of striking and kicking, also served as the progenitor of “te.”
Therefore, this sumō was initially the form of a pastime grapplingIn its early recreational form, tegumi was quite a rough and tumble practice.
It was similar to the current amateur wrestling and it was continued until the opponent was defeated [according to the rules].The tradition was not completely unlike present day amateur wrestling where the victor is the one who conclusively defeats his opponent by twisting his joints, sealing his breath, or holding him down so that he can no longer move.
In the old days, all the referees of Okinawa sumō acted according to the unwritten rules, …In the days of old-style tegumi, referees scored each bout according to an unwritten standard.

I have shown that the term “tegumi” was introduced to the English-speaking karate world in 1998. Since then, the term “tegumi” has spread among karate people and among all factions worldwide and is used for all sorts of karate-related practices such as clinching, grappling, throwing, body conditioning, kata application, karate as an MMA, trapping, joint locks, chokes, seizings, impact techniques, and so on.
Patrick McCarthy was quite straightforward. He said that he assigned the defunct name of “tegumi” to a collection of two-person trapping, checking and conditioning drills he’s brought together from a variety of sources in the 1990s.
Subsequently, and in rising numbers in the 2020s, other karate people also adopted the term “tegumi,” yet without maintaining any reference to its origin. This raises an interesting question: why do guys need to use the term “tegumi” when all those practices of grappling and throwing and joint locking etc. were a traditional part of their karate?

Well, it probably just wasn’t. It is just, they don’t give a shit.

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“Tegumi” in Nagamine Shōshin’s second book

During the last twenty years, Tegumi has become a term used be an incresing number of persons for all kinds of karate-related practices. For this reason, I would like to point out the origin of the term “tegumi” in the English-speaking karate world.

Nagamine Sensei’s 1986 book is written in the Japanese language. The reason for writing the book was to provide biographies of Okinawan karate and sumo masters, based on historical facts and oral traditions. Actually, as I mentioned in an earlier article, Nagamine Sensei wrote this book due to his “relationship of particular friendship with Kushi Jokei,” an Okinawan sumō champion and lifelong friend of Nagamine’s. While Kushi Jokei collected research about the origin of Okinawa sumō, he passed a way to early. Therefore, Nagamine Sensei took up the responsibility and finalized Kushi’s will, organized his records on Okinawan sumō, and publish it in this book.

Among the Okinawa sumō research of Kushi Jokei is found a note about the origin of Okinawa sumō.

“This sumō was initially a kind of pastime grappling in which kicking with the foot and striking techniques with the fist were prohibited. It was similar to the current amateur wrestling and it was continued until the opponent was defeated. This kind of competition was called ‘tegumi’ in Naha, and ‘mūtou’ in the Tomari and Shuri regions. This pastime was continued until the Taishō era, when further inventions were added. This was the original form of Okinawa sumō, which has been created as an event that follows the premise of a peaceful and enjoyable pastime, and its internal rules have been created and handed down traditionally, and remain to this day, and this may be the origin of Okinawa sumō as seen from folk history.”

Nagamine 1986: 183 (Transl. A. Quast)

There are many interesting details in this description, but for now I would like to point out only one thing: In the whole 1986 book by Nagamine Sensei, the term “tegumi” appears only once, namely in the above quote.

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In 1998, the English translation of Nagamine Shōshin’s second book is published

In 1986, Nagamine Shōshin published his second book, “A biography of Okinawan karate and sumō masters based on historical facts and oral traditions.” A few years afterwards, plans for an English translation were being made by Tuttle Publishing and Patrick McCarthy, who is a famous researcher of karate, an inventor of practices related to it, and the director of the International Ryukyu Karatejutsu Research Society (IRKRS).

His works and translations have shaped the English-language karate world for decades, and he set and defined the direction in which karate developed outside of Okinawa Prefecture and Japan, including and especially in the area of applied or practical karate, i.e., the practical implementation of traditional practices. Moreover, he has created a vast text corpus of translations otherwise unavailable. Briefly, based on references to Japanese language karate literature and personal traditions, he has identified, described, and developed or even redeveloped karate and its related practices, and made these practices available to the members of his IRKRS and to the general karate community worldwide. Many of those practices and underlying theories were subsequently adopted by the international karate community and were in turn individually redefined, a process in which the reference to Okinawa karate was then often dismissed and considered unnecessary or even undesirable. Therefore, today there are numerous practices and terms that are common knowledge and in use among karate people of all factions, yet without the original reference to Okinawa karate or Patrick McCarthy. One such practice is that related to the term tegumi, and this is based in the translation of Nagamine Sensei’s 1986 book.

As regards the translation process, it started thirty years ago, during the mid-1990s. As Patrick McCarthy mentioned in a martial arts magazine in 1995,

“Last year, Tuttle Publications asked me to translate Shoshin Nagamine’s second book, ‘Okinawa no Karate Sumo Meijin Den’ … I have spoken to Nagamine Sensei about this now many times and as soon as the financial arrangmets can be agreed upon I will be getting under way with that project.”

Terry O’Neill’s Fighting Arts International, No. 88, 1995. page 39.

The following chronology can be derived from this and other facts:

  • 1994: Tuttle Publishing asks if McCarthy can translate the Nagamine book
  • 1994-95: Patrick McCarthy speaks several times with Nagamine Shōshin about the translation
  • 1995: Patrick McCarthy mentions the plans to translate Nagamine Shōshin’s book in an article in Terry O’Neill’s Fighting Arts International, No. 88, 1995, page 39.
  • 1997: Patrick McCarthy publishes a DVD on “Tegumi.”
  • 1998, Spring: Patrick McCarthy publishes the article “Tegumi. Part 1”in the magazine Bugeisha: Traditional Martial Artist. Spring 1998, Issue #5. Pp. 36-40.
  • 1998: Tuttle and Patrick McCarthy release the English translation of Nagamine Shōshin’s 1986 book. For the first time, detailed information about Okinawan karate and sumō masters reaches a large international audience.

Since that time, this book is one of the most important works about Okinawa karate, and Okinawa sumo.

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In 1986, Nagamine Shoshin published his second book

In 1986, Nagamine Shōshin published his second book. It dealt with written and oral traditions of Okinawan karate and sumō masters. The reason he wrote this book was that he felt responsible for completing the last will of his good friend, Kushi Jokei, who had passed away too young.

In Nagamine Sensei’s own words:

There was my classmate Kushi Jokei. In 1935 he won the sumō tournament of Namino no Ue Festival and became a grand champion (yokozuna). We felt that his ideal of sumō and my view of karate were very similar and we mutually found a kindred spirit in each other. After graduating from commercial school, we firmly promised to maintain our inseparable friendship and study together throughout our lifetime. And he always accompanied me to the traditional Okinawa sumō Festival at Nami no Ue on May 17th, and at Makishi Utaki on May 5th of the old moon calendar, and at the memorial service for the war dead at Ōnoyama Park on October 23rd, and to other sumō events to study the sumō techniques of other sumō wrestlers.

After the end of the war, he organized the Okinawa Sumo Federation (Okinawa Sumō Renmei) to purify the devastated Okinawan society through sports, and he was one of the first to join the Okinawa Sports Association (Okinawa Taiiku Kyōkai) and assisted Chairman Kinjō Masayuki in laying the foundations for today’s Okinawa sumō.

At the same time he was collecting materials to summarize the origins and traditions of Okinawa sumō, but unfortunately, without seeing its realization, he fell sick and passed away.

Although I am a person who places himself in karate-dō, I have a relationship of particular friendship with Kushi Jokei, and I felt the responsibility to follow his will, to organize his records, and to publish his idea all in one piece. Thus, I came to write this book. I would be grateful if it could get the consent of most of my dear friends.”

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General online occurence and year of the term “Tegumi”

Here I conducted a short query about the occurrence and year of the term tegumi on websites. There were about 60.700 results in 0,55 seconds. It will not show all occurrences but clearly the general trend. The results show that the term “tegumi” appeared on websites since around 2002. Afterwards it appears rarely until in the 2010s it increasingly occurs. In other words, the topic of tegumi has become more and more a focus of interest. You can also see that it is mostly teh same kind of people who publish about tegumi.

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Occurence and year of the term “Tegumi” in Youtube

There are dozens of videos about “tegumi” on YouTube, which was launched in 2005, and bought by Google in October 2006. The first of karate-related tegumi videos I was able to track is from 2012. After that, the number of uploaded videos per year increases more and more. In other words, the topic of tegumi is getting more and more in the focus of interest. The below list just shows examples and there are actually many more, but the first one is from 2012. Let me now if you know of any earlier.

First occurrence of a tegumi video on YouTube, 2012.
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Occurence and year of the term “Tegumi” in Google Books

I conducted a short query about the occurrence and year of the term tegumi by using Google Books. It will not show all occurrences but shows the general trend. The results show that the term “tegumi” appeared on the karate stage in 1998, in the English translation of Nagamine Shoshin’s book “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters.” Afterwards it appears rarely until there since 2009 it occurs more frequently. In other words, the topic of tegumi is getting more and more in the focus of interest.

  • 1998, Spring: McCarthy, Patrick: Tegumi. Part 1. In: Bugeisha: Traditional Martial Artist. Spring 1998, Issue #5. Pp. 36-40.
  • 1998. Nagamine Shoshin: Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters. Pp. 136-141: “In the history of civil fighting traditions here in Okinawa we refer to such grappling concepts as tegumi. There is every reason to believe that tegumi, after being enhanced by techniques of striking and kicking, also served as the …”
  • 1999. McCarthy, Patrick and ‎Yuriko: Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts Volume 2: Koryu Uchinadi. “Culminated by his lengthy analysis of the Bubishi, the hallmark of Mabuni’s Shito-ryu was his attention to kata application: the striking of anatomically vulnerable points (kyusho-jutsu); throws (nagewaza); the use of joint-locks, come-along techniques, and techniques of dislocation (kansetsu-waza), ground work (ne-waza); countering (gyaku waza); attacking the respiratory system (shime-waza) and grappling (Tegumi).”
  • 2001. Black Belt Magazine. Vol. 39, No. 3, Mar 2001. P. 140: Video Advertisement: “The 9 Throws of Gichin Funakoshi. … Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Japanese Karate, and his senior student Shigeru Egami, both advocated throwing in karate. In fact, it was Funakoshi, when first settling in Japan, who taught Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, throws that Funakoshi had learned in Okinawan Karate and Tegumi. In Funakoshi’ s Karate-do Kyohan, he outlines nine throws of the many done in kata.”
  • 2006. Sakihara Mitsugu: Okinawan-English Wordbook: A Short Lexicon of the Okinawan Language …. 2006. P. 176: “ti-gužmi, n. [tegumi] Arrangement; preparation”
  • 2006. Seiler, Kevin L., and ‎Donald J. Seller: Karate-do. Traditional Training for All Styles. 2006. Page 12: “Traditional Karate-do is a complete fighting art combining ancient Chinese forms with early Okinawan traditions of atemi waza (focused striking techniques), kyusho-jutsu (pressure point applications), tuite (grasping and manipulation of bones and joints), and tegumi, an ancient form of Okinawan grappling sometimes referred to as Okinawan sumo wrestling.”
  • 2009. Lowry, Dave: The Karate Way: Discovering the Spirit of Practice. 2009. p. 8: “[extensive historical investigations] seem to indictate that grappling methods, called tegumi in some places in the island chain and mutou in others, were popular indigenous methods of combat.” p. 183: “tegumi: A form of grappling indigenous to Okinawa”
  • 2009. Seiler, Kevin, and ‎Donald Seller: Karate-do: Traditional Training for All Styles, 2Ed. 2009. Page 17: “Traditional Karate-do is a complete fighting art combining ancient Chinese forms with early Okinawan traditions of atemi waza (focused striking techniques), kyusho-jutsu (pressure point applications), tuite (grasping and manipulation of bones and joints), and tegumi, an ancient form of Okinawan grappling sometimes referred to as Okinawan sumo wrestling.”
  • 2010. Green, Thomas A., and ‎Joseph R. Svinth: Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. 2010. p. 206: “It has been suggested that the early Ryukyuan fighting was actually composed of five distinct styles: di, the original civil combative discipline of Okinawa; martial arts from Fujian, in Southern China; torite, a system of seizing the body to inflict various physical responses; tegumi, derived from Chinese grappling; and buki’gwi, the use of weapons (McCarthy 1996).”
  • 2010. Kogel, Helmut: The Secret Karate Techniques – Kata Bunkai. 2010. Photo captioned, “Evan Pantazi demonstrating a Kyusho Technique in floor combat, Grappling (Tegumi Waza).”
  • 2010. O’Brien, Andrew and ‎Emma: The Little Bubishi: A History of Karate for Children. 2010. Page 78: “They had been engaged in a game of ‘Tegumi’ (Okinawan wrestling), which had been disturbed by the commotion coming from the field. Curiosity getting the better of them, they now stood on top of the wall, jumping up and down and waving their arms like a flock of frantic frogs, screaming for Itosu to run faster.” Page 102: “Funakoshi and young Azato would spent hours at each other’s homes tudying their schoolwork and playing their favorite game, Tegumi, with other friends under the watchful eye of Azato and his close friend Anko Itosu.”” Page 103: “One evening whilst watching the boys at their usual rough-and-tumble game of Tegumi, he ordered them to stop and come and sit with him for a while. ‘Boys,’ Master Azato announced, …”
  • 2013. O’Neill, Simon John: The Taegeuk Cipher: The Patterns of Kukki Taekwondo as a …. 2013. “Over the years, Okinawan grappling methods called Tegumi or Mutou were combined with the Bujutsu of the occupying Japanese warriors and the various forms of Quan Fa brought to the island by Chinese colonists and visitors, or by Okinawans returning from China.”
  • 2014. Ashrafian, Hutan: Warrior Origins: The Historical and Legendary Links between … . 2014. “Some masters classify Ti as an indigenous grappling art that would approximate to a mixture of Aikido and Jujutsu; the ostensibly native Okinawan grappling art is also often referenced as Tuite or Tegumi.”
  • 2015. McCarthy, Patrick: Bible of Karate. Bubishi. 2015. p. 153: “Modern Japanese karate-do has popularized other terms to describe specific components of bunkai in recent times: torite (tuidi in Okinawan Hogan), to seize with one’s hands; kyusho-jutsu, vital point striking; tegumi, grappling hands; kansetsu waza, joint locks and dislocations; shime waza, chokes and strangulations; and atemi waza, general striking techniques.”
  • 2015. Miketta, Heero, and ‎Cornelia Heinz, ‎Sascha Wagener: Missing Link Martial Arts – Curriculum. 2015. “Master level degrees are granted in four fields of knowledge: Kata/Form, Tegumi/Fighting, Teaching, Philosophy/Energy/Health. One Okuden master level in each of these areas can be achieved.”
  • 2016. DeMarco, Michael et al.: Okinawan Martial Traditions: Te, Tode, Karate, Karatedo. “Dave Lowry has speculated that the [alleged] contest between Motobu and Yabu was not in karate, but in tegumi, or Ryukyuan sumo (1985: 13). That sounds plausible, especially since Yabu went out of his way to organize tegumi matches during the Okinawan celebrations held near Fresno in July 1921 and August 1922.[6] The History of Okinawans (1988: 339) reports that: ‘Sergeant Kentsu Yabe was a great fan of sumo. In Okinawa, he had been so enthusiastic that he got involved in every match that came up. His talking of sumo fired up all the younger men, and they decided to hold a big match. Considering the absence of entertainment in the life of the issei immigrant, those who participated in the sumo returned home pleased an happy.’” [6] In tegumi, officials restarted bouts whenever one of the players was thrown to his stomach or knees. Also, judges only counted falls to the back. A typical outdoor tournament started about 10:30 a.m. and continued until dark. To give everyone a better chance of winning, American competitors were ssometimes divided by age and weight. If so, the divisions were usually 150 pounds and over, 130-149 pounds, and 129 pounds and under. Hawaiian blue laws, by the way, required players to wear a pair of shorts under their wrestling belts.     
  • 2016. McCarthy, Patrick: Bubishi: The Classic Manual of Combat. 2016. P. 38: “Nagamine Shoshin’s Biographies of Karate & Tegumi Masters.” p. 253: “Modern Japanese karate-do has popularized other terms to describe specific components of bunkai in recent times: torite (tuidi in Okinawan Hogan), to seize with one’s hands; kyusho-jutsu, vital point striking; tegumi, grappling hands; kansetsu waza, joint locks and dislocations; shime waza, chokes and strangulations; and atemi waza, general striking techniques.”
  • 2017. DeMarco, Michael, et al.: Okinawan Martial Traditions: Te, Tode, Karate, Karatedo, 2017. Photo series, titled “Basic Tegumi (Grappling) Kumite.” Text 1a) The attacker and defender are in traditional grappling stances. 1b) The defender throws a right slap to the left side of the attacker’s neck. 1c) The defender follows through with his right hand and sweeps the attacker’s front leg.”
  • 2017. Newhouse, Adam: Black Belts Only: The Invisible But Lethal Power of Karate. “When he was growing up, Master Funakoshi spent hours playing tegumi – a form of Okinawan wrestling of unknown origin – with other children. In fact, some people perceived a connection between tegumi and Karate. The very word tegumi is a reverse of kumite, deriving from te, meaning hand, and kumu, meaning joining, linking, crossing or grappling. … Could it be that those playful games of Okinawan children were just ‘warming-up’ exercises for the more adult exercises of no-holds-barred Karate?”
  • 2017. Thrash, Maggie: Strange Truth. 2017. Page 100: “It [Aikidō] was a Japanese martial art unlike karate or tegumi, where the winner of a fight was determined by which opponent could force the other into submission.” Page 316: “Except now he needed Winn to trust that he was man enough to take care of his woman. ‘I have a brown belt,’ he said, which wasn’t a lie, but of course a brown belt in aikido didn’t mean the same thing as a brown belt in karate or tegumi.”
  • 2018. Antony, Vinicio: Jutsu: the hidden art in karate. “This splendid art evolved through centuries of reciprocal contact and exchange between many other fighting styles, but those that were amalgamated in Okinawa Te, i.e., Chinese Kempo, Muay Boran, Tegumi and Ju Jutsu.”
  • 2018. Hopkins, Giles: The Kata and Bunkai of Goju-Ryu Karate: The Essence of the Heishu and Kaishu Kata. Tegumi is only used in footnotes leading to online articles by Dan Smith,
  • 2018. Jurgensen, Gert: Karate Grappling. 2018. “(Tegumi) Karate Grappling”
  • 2019. DeMarco, Michael: Grappling and Throwing From the Near and Far East. “In Abundant Peace (1987: 67), Steven describes the grueling conditioning Ueshiba did with his sumo training. In Okinawa, karate master and pioneer Gichin Funakoshi in his youth engaged in sumo-like wrestling called tegumi…”
  • 2019. Denwood, Chris: Naihanchi (Tekki) Kata: The Seed of Shuri Karate Vol 2. 2019. p. 63: “[koryu karate] Originally being a holistic system that covers a number of combative aspects such as tegumi (grappling), kansetsuwaza (joint attacks) and tuite (seizing), shime-waza (chokes and strangles), nage-waza (throwing) etc., …”
  • 2019. Schmeisser, Elmar T.: Bunkai: Secrets of Karate Kata: The Tekki Series. 2019. In a forword by Tony Annesi, author of Cracking the Kata Code, The Road to Mastery, and The Principles of Advanced Budo, writes,  “In this compact book, Dr. Schmeisser opens the doors to tegumi (Okinawan grappling) as it is manifested in the popular Shotokan versions of the Iron Horseman forms. With no wasted space on preliminaries or filler, Dr. Schmeisser dives into the subject offering unique, imaginative, but nontheless applicable, interpretations of karate forms which most practitioners have heretoforth justified with fanciful and non-functional explanations. There is no excuse for that now.”
  • 2020. Haskins, Randy B.: Martial Advice for Training & Living: The UA Way. 2020. p. 16: “Historically, karate is an all-encompassing art designed for self-prtection. Karate is made up of: – Striking, punching, kicking, and thrusting; – Joint manipulation and muscle and tendon disruption; – Vital point and vital area attacks; – Okinawan grappling and wrestling (tegumi); – Nine basic throws.” p. 27: “Tegumi (Okinawan wrestling) was played and practiced back in the formative years of karate and had an influence on the understanding of violence.”

BTW, here’s an early appearance of tegumi in a non-karate-related matter:

1896. Brinkley, Frank, and Nanjio ‎Bunyiu, Iwasaki ‎Y. 和英大辭典. Sanseidō, 1896. Page 1453. “Tegumi, てぐみ, 手組, n. 1. Folding the arms. 2. A plan; scheme; project. Tegumi ga hazureta, 手組が外れた, my (or his) scheme has failed;  Tegumi wo suru 手組をする, to fold the arms. Syn. mokuromi, udegumi.”

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Kinjō Ufuchiku, whose name is left behind in Sai

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.

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Okinawan Sumo (Shima)

I wrote about the term tegumi as used by Funakoshi Gichin in 1956. It is the first written use of the term tegumi that I was able to confirm. The next verified source to use the term tegumi is Nagamine Shōshin in his 1986 book, an English translation of which first appeared in 1998.

As regards terminology, the English translation uses the header “Tegumi and Master Grapplers of Okinawa,” whereas the Japanese original clearly says “Okinawa Sumō and Master Grapplers” (Okinawa Sumō to Meijin Rikishi). Therefore, I wonder whether the English translation generally substituted the word sumō of the Japanese text by the term tegumi, or only sometimes, and if so, where exactly. In short, I wonder whether today’s perception of what tegumi was is a modern invention. Also, there are expressions in brackets which I am unsure if they are part of the Japanese original or whether they are additions made to the English translation.

Anyway, there are several instances of Okinawan sumō mentioned already in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Below is a chronological table of both Okinawan and Japanese sumō performed between 1894 and 1912. The data is from Maeshiro et al. (1993). In his data, Maeshiro unmistakenly defined sumai 角力 as a “traditional competitive sport of Okinawa,” while he defines sumō 相撲 as a “traditional competitive sport of Japan.” In short, in this chronological table, sumai 角力 refers to Okinawan wrestling, while sumō 相撲 refers to Japanese wrestling.

While both sumai 角力 and sumō 相撲 are used in Japan, Maeshiro used it here to differentiate between Okinawan sumō and Japanese sumō. I surmise this was indicated already in the original newspaper articles of 1897-1912.

Well, Nagamine used the term sumai 角力 and it seems that this word became corrupted to shima シマ in the Okinawan language, which is the name of Okinawan sumō. Accordingly, the Okinawa Prefectural Sumō Association also uses the characters sumai 角力.

The following list shows the practice of Okinawan sumō and Japanese sumō in chronological order.

Year/Month/DayEvent
1897/05The athletic meet of the Normal School (racing, baseball, sumai (Okinawan sumō), etc.)
1898/06/25The sumai (Okinawan sumō) tournament in Makishi village
1898/09The athletic meet of the Normal school (racing, sword fencing (gekken), baseball, sumai (Okinawan sumō), tug-of-war, etc.)
1899/02/10The Amateur sumai (Okinawan sumō) tournament
1899/11/05, 07, 19Discontinuation of Japanese sumō and sword fencing (gekken) matches at the memorial service for fallen soldiers
1900/04/19Japanese sumō at the Shikina horse-riding ground
1901/02/19, 21The amateur sumai (Okinawan sumō) tournament at Tondō
1901/09/11Sword fencing (gekken) and Japanese sumō as a sideshow during the social gathering of the Land Organization Bureau
1902/05/19Japanese sumō, archery (kyū), and horse racing as sideshows at the Nami-no-ue festival
1902/09/05Sumai (Okinawan sumō) as a sideshow at the Harayama contest
1903/05/19Japanese sumō and horseracing as entertainment at Nami-no-Ue festival
1903/06/01Dragon-boat race, Japanese sumō, and horseracing as entertainment during the opening ceremony of Meiji Bridge
1903/07/03Horseracing, boat regatta, Japanese sumō, etc. as a sideshow at the Harayama contest
1907/10/27Showing off jūdō, kendō, karate, and sumai (Okinawan sumō) as entertainment at the General Youth Meeting of Shimajiri County
1908/05Horseracing, Japanese sumō, tug-of-war of adolescents at the in athletic meet of the Gechi elementary school of Miyako Island
1908/09/06Tennis, sword fencing (gekken), jūdō, and sumai (Okinawan sumō) thriving at the Normal School Alumni Association of Nakagami County
1909/05/18Japanese sumō at the festival sideshow of Nami-no-Ue
1909/08/30The Kinjō Japanese sumō tournament at the Shikina-en horse-racing ground
1909/11/05The dragon-boat race, tug-of-war, and sumai (Okinawan sumō) tournament in Kunigami village
1909/11/05The Japanese sumō tournament inside Shuri castle in celebration of the Emperor’s Birthday (national holiday held from 1868 to 1948)
1910/11/03The Japanese sumō tournament donated to the Nami-no-Ue festival by the Shuri district
1911/01/20, 24First newspaper publication of Kyūshū Japanese Sumō Announcement and Results
1911/05/17Sumai (Okinawan sumō) as a sideshow at the Nami-no-Ue festival
1911/06/04Sumai (Okinawan sumō) at the ceremony of completion of Katsuren town hall
1911/06/05Sumai (Okinawan sumō) at the opening ceremony of the Mawashi Young men’s association
1912/05/28Opening of the Kunigami County Young men’s association (racewalking and Japanese sumō as sideshows)
1912/05/26Japanese sumō at Nami-no-Ue festival

In other words, this raises a question, namely: While Okinawan sumō and Japanese sumō existed side by side already at the turn of the century, there is no mention of tegumi. There might be several reasons for this. For instance, tegumi might have been simply a colloquial term used to describe an innocent form of wrestling done as a play and to have fun by kids, as anywhere in the world, including “rules” preventing unfair tricks such as striking or hair pulling. Funakoshi’s description confirms this.

In any case, Okinawan sumō was a traditional pastime already at the turn of the century. As reported in 1909 in the Ryūkyu Shinpō, the Young Men’s Associations of Shimajiri County intended to promote traditional (!) sports and pastimes such as horse riding (jōba), tug-of-war (tsuna-hiki), dragon boat races (hārī), staff fencing (bō-odori), and also Okinawan sumō. I hope with more information becoming available, a new assessment of the term, development, and transition of tegumi will be possible in the future.

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Funakoshi Gichin on Tegumi (1956)

“Okinawan Wrestling

It might surprise you if I told you that Okinawa also has wrestling.

However, as in karate, I don’t know in detail when and how it developed. Consequently, while there must have been some kind of relation between karate and this weaponless martial art [of wrestling], this [relation] is unclear now either.

Its name is “tegumi” テグミ. Of course, this is dialect, but if I were to write it in Chinese characters, I should write it as “tegumi” 手組, isn’t it? It is the opposite of “kumite” 組手 of karate-dō, and I feel that there seems to be a connection with karate in this point as well.

When we were small, we often did this “tegumi” with our close friends. There were no rules, but there were so-called fouls (forbidden moves).

First of all, I think it were the four points of not being allowed to thrust with the fist, kick with the foot, use the knifehand (shutō) and strike with the elbow (enpi), and grabbing the hair and pinching was also prohibited.

The thrust in this [list] means that all strikes are forbidden, including what in karate is called backfist (uraken) and spear hand (nukite).”

There was no special ring in this “tegumi”. Various places such as a tatami mat room and fields became rings. Also, you didn’t have to wear only a pair of underpants, as in wrestling. Everyone wore a kimono.

The above is from Funakoshi Gichin’s book “A Way of Karate-do” (Karatedo Ichiro), 1956.

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