By Renshi Mobley
On the evening of July 25, 2009, in Baltimore, a TABI was conducted at the Avengers DOJO. Since then several people have asked myself why do we conduct this martial arts ritual? Is ritual really necessary? Why do we put emphasis on past martial arts ceremonies? Why go through all the trouble? We live in the 21st century, not the 17th century. After all, modern technology enabled us to train in martial arts many dimensions more than the old ways of antiquity.
The word TABI is interpreted as a “journey in search of wisdom.” A TABI is a clandestine (secret) ritual that only selected Avengers members may attend, as authorized by Hanshi Hawkins. Hanshi Hawkins, alone, determines who is worthy enough to attend a TABI. A martial artist must be skilled and be able to demonstrate and live by the 27 leadership attributes as outlined in the Avengers Dantai.
The Avengers Dantai conducts this ritual to commemorate the gallant sacrifices made by Shorin-ryu martial artists from the Japanese time periods Edo (1603-1868) through Meiji (1868-1912). In the year 1609, during the Edo period, the Shimazu Shogun family, from Japan, led a military expedition, consisting of the Satsuma Samurai Clan, against the islands of Ryukyu (modern day Okinawa). From that time to the late 19th century, during the Meiji period, Japanese Samurai raped, pillaged, and assailed the island natives throughout Okinawa.
During this period the conquering Japanese dominated the Okinawa natives in tyranny. The ruling Shogun, Lord Shimazu, established a law prohibiting any natives possessing weapons and outlawed any form of martial arts. Self-preservation was very necessary! This law encouraged the native men on the island to practice and train in secret, using farm tools as weapons, and learning Chinese and indigenous martial arts. If the Samurai ever discovered them practicing martial arts, they would severely punish the natives, sometimes beheading them. Therefore, during this time period martial arts were forbidden, even as a sport, so secret training sessions took place, normally during hours of limited visibility. To deny the Samurai visibility of their martial arts training, the natives used secluded locations such as cemeteries, back yards, and thick concealed wooded areas. The natives considered clandestine martial arts training the most feasible means to protect their family and friends from the oppressive Samurai. For two centuries these clandestine martial arts training activities continued. Life or death was often the outcome. The importance of this reality cannot be overstated.
The Avengers Dantai stresses this level of importance when learning and training in martial arts. Proficiency is the Avengers Dantai “5th leadership attribute.” We follow this by devoting ourselves to high standards of mind, spirit, and body training. During antiquity there was an academic system that focused on enriching the total person by balancing mind, body, and spirit. This ancient Asian society tradition was referred to as “Teshimi Gakumun” (Te – translates to hand / Shimi translates to calligraphy which implies “scholarly pursuit” / Gakumun translates to study). It is the Avengers goal to embrace this wise aged concept. Our karate-ka will receive academic (mind), emotion and motivation (spirit), and physical (body) training (conditioning).
The Riley Hawkins Avengers Foundation has early childhood educators. They are given a mission of tutoring our karate-ka’s scholastic skills to reinforce what they learned or didn’t learn in grade school. All of our karate-ka will maintain or exceed high academic grade standards in school. Achieving high scholastic grades is part of our belt rank promotion standard for grade school karate-ka.
Positive strength training of each karate-ka’s emotions and motivation we believe is essential. Our “spirit training” is not the religious definition, but rather the concept definition of “The part of a human associated with the mind, will, and feelings that deals with personal character and temperament.” We will nourish our grade school karate-ka’s character and temperament with positive implementation of ethical principles, which support the idea that lying, cheating, and stealing is only for weak people that have low standards. We train our karate-ka to only espouse positive emotions and motivation.
We will challenge the karate-ka’s physical body while abhorring obesity and laziness. The Avengers find it appalling that many grade schools today have ridden physical fitness education from its academic curriculum. We believe that training the body reinforces training of the mind and spirit. Many martial arts masters who learned in a Teshimi Gakumun academy viewed the arts as a way of life. Similarly, members of the Avengers Dantai view martial arts as a “way of life” as oppose to only a “sport or hobby.” We dedicate our martial arts mind, body, and spirit by embracing community support, setting high standards of character, leading by positive example that is worthy of emulation, and caring for all who we encounter.
In closing, we conduct the TABI to commemorate past Okinawa natives high standards, gallantry, dedication, and clandestine way training, along with their love and concern for community, to link our challenging commitments of today. Only a selected few Avengers are brought into the Avengers Dantai and receive special martial arts licenses called Menkyo Makimono’s to lead karate-ka in the Avengers. These few special licensed Avengers are chosen to become aware of our past, act on the present, and prepare our karate-ka for the future!
is the origin of the Pinan Kata?
Arts researching authors suggest part or all of the Pinan Kata series
is derived from the ancient kata Channan 1 or Kusanku Dai 2, or both.
Author Joe Smith suggests that some or all the Pinan Kata series was
derived from the ancient kata Channan. On the other hand, other researchers
suggest that some or all of the Pinan Kata derives from other advanced
kata like Kusanku, thereby enabling him to simplify the teaching of
kata to high school students. Introduction
Itosu Anko (1832-1915),
around 1907, developed the series of five basic kata called Pinan for
inclusion in the karate curriculum of the Okinawan school system. However,
the actual history of the Pinan Kata has been the subject of intense
curiosity as of late. There are basically two schools of thought, one
that Itosu Anko developed them from the older classical forms that were
cultivated in and around the Shuri area, and the other that Itosu was
re-working a longer Chinese form called Channan.
Unfortunately, most of the written references to the Channan/Pinan phenomenon
in the English language are basically re-hashes of the same uncorroborated
oral testimony. This article will examine the primary literature written
by direct students of Itosu, as well as more recent research in the
Japanese language, in an effort to solve the "mystery" of
order to understand the Pinan phenomenon, perhaps it is best to start
off with a capsule biography of their architect, Itosu Anko (1832-1915).
Many sources state that Itosu was born in the Yamakawa section of Shuri
(Bishop, 1999; Okinawa Prefecture, 1994; Okinawa Prefecture, 1995),
however, noted Japanese martial arts historian Iwai Stucco states that
he was actually born in Gibe, Shuri, and later relocated to Kawakawa
(Iwai, 1992). He is commonly believed to have studied under Matsumura
Soon (1809-1901), but also appears to have had other influences, such
as Anathema of Naha (Iwai, 1992; Motorbus, 1932), Mats Mora Kusanku
of Tomari and a master named Gusukuma (Nihon Karate Kenkyukai, 1956).
There does not seem to be much detail about Itosu's early life, except
for the fact that he was a student of the Ryukyuan civil fighting traditions.
At around age 23, he passed the civil service examinations and was employed
by the Royal government (Iwai, 1992). It seems as if Itosu gained his
position as a clerical scribe for the King through an introduction by
his friend and fellow karate master Asato Anko (Funakoshi, 1988). Itosu
stayed with the Royal government until the Meiji Restoration, when the
Ryukyu Kingdome became Okinawa Prefecture. Itosu stayed on and worked
for the Okinawan Prefectural government until 1885 (Iwai, 1992).
There is some controversy as to when Itosu became a student of Matsumura.
Some say that he first met Matsumura when Itosu was in his late 20s
(Iwai, 1992), whereas others maintain that Itosu was older than 35 when
he began studying from Matsumura (Fujiwara, 1990). Matsumura appears
to have been friendly with Itosu's father (Iwai, 1992).
Be that as it may, Itosu is said to have mastered the Naifanchi kata
(Nihon Karate Kenkyukai, 1950; Okinawa Pref., 1995). In fact, one direct
student of Itosu, namely Funakoshi Gichin, recalled 10 years of studying
nothing but the three Naifuanchi kata under the eminent master (Funakoshi,
Again, there is some controversy as to where Itosu had learned the Naifuanchi
kata. Some give credit to Matsumura for teaching this kata to Itosu
(Murakami, 1991). However, others say differently, and here is where
we first start to see reference to Channan, as the name of a person.
It is said that a Chinese sailor who was shipwrecked on Okinawa hid
in a cave at Tomari. It was from this man that Itosu supposedly learned
the Naifuanchi kata, among other things (Gima, et al, 1986).
In either case, it is known that Itosu was among the first to teach
karate (toudi) publicly, and began teaching karate as physical education
in the school system as early as 1901, where he taught at the Shuri
Jinjo Primary School (Iwai, 1992; Okinawa Pref., 1994). He also went
on to teach at Shuri Dai-ichi Middle School and the Okinawa Prefectural
Men's Normal School in 1905 (Bishop, 1999; Okinawa Pref., 1994, 1995).
In addition to his "spearheading a crusade" (McCarthy, 1996)
to modernize toudi practices and get it taught in the school system,
Itosu was also known for his physical strength. It is said that he was
able to crush a bamboo stalk in his hands (Funakoshi, 1976, 1988), once
wrestled a raging bull to the ground and calmed it (Nagamine, 1986)
and one could strike his arms with 2-inch thick poles and he would not
budge (Iwai, 1992).
Itosu's unique contributions to the art of Karatedo include not only
his 1908 letter to the Japanese Ministry of Education and Ministry of
War, expounding on the 10 precepts of Toudi training, but also the creation
of several kata. These include not only the Pinan series, but also Naifuanchi
Nidan and Sandan (Kinjo, 1991; Murakami, 1991), and possibly Kusanku
Sho and Passai Sho (Iwai, 1992).
Another kata that has often been attributed to Itosu is the Shiho Kusanku
Kata (Kinjo, 1956a; Mabuni, 1938), but more recent evidence points to
the actual originator of this paradigm to have been Mabuni Kenwa himself
(Sells, 1995). In addition to creating several kata, the other kata
that Itosu taught, such as Chinto, Useishi (Gojushiho), Passai Dai,
and Kusanku Dai, etc., had been changed from their original guises,
in order to make them more palatable to his physical education classes
Itosu Anko passed away in March 1915, leaving behind a legacy that very
few today even recognize or comprehend.
Early Written References to Channan and Pinan
References to Channan
can be found as far back as 1934. In the karate research journal entitled
Karate no Kenkyu, published by Nakasone Genwa, Motobu Choki is quoted
referring to the Channan and the Pinan kata: "(Sic.) I was interested
in the martial arts since I was a child, and studied under many teachers.
I studied with Itosu Sensei for 7-8 years. At first, he lived in Urasoe,
then moved to Nakashima Oshima in Naha, then on to Shikina, and finally
to the villa of Baron Ie. He spent his final years living near the middle
school. I visited him one day at his home near the school, where we
sat talking about the martial arts and current affairs. While I was
there, 2-3 students also dropped by and sat talking with us. Itosu Sensei
turned to the students and said 'show us a kata.' The kata that they
performed was very similar to the Channan kata that I knew, but there
were some differences also. Upon asking the student what the kata was,
he replied 'It is Pinan no Kata.' The students left shortly after that,
upon which I turned to Itosu Sensei and said 'I learned a kata called
Channan, but the kata that those students just performed now was different.
What is going on?' Itosu Sensei replied 'Yes, the kata is slightly different,
but the kata that you just saw is the kata that I have decided upon.
The students all told me that the name Pinan is better, so I went along
with the opinions of the young people.' These kata, which were developed
by Itosu Sensei, underwent change even during his own lifetime."
(Murakami, 1991; 120) There
is also reference to Pinan being called Channan in its early years in
the 1938 publication Kobo Kenpo Karatedo Nyumon by Mabuni Kenwa and
Nakasone Genwa. Mabuni and Nakasone write that those people who learned
this kata as Channan still taught it under that name (Mabuni, et al,
Kinjo Hiroshi, one of Japan's most senior teachers and historians of
the Okinawan fighting traditions, and a direct student of three of Itosu's
students, namely Hanashiro Chomo, Oshiro Chojo, and Tokuda Anbun, wrote
a series of articles on the Pinan kata in Gekkan Karatedo magazine in
the mid 1950s. In the first installment he maintains that the Pinan
kata were originally called Channan, and there were some technical differences
between Channan and the updated versions known as Pinan (Kinjo, 1956a).
Again according to Kinjo Hiroshi, Miyagi Hisateru, a former student
of Itosu who graduated from the Okinawa Prefectural Normal School in
1916, stated that when he was studying under the old master, Itosu only
really taught the first three Pinan with any real enthusiasm, and that
the last two seem to have been rather neglected at that time (Kinjo,
1956b). Although one can speculate about what this means, it is nevertheless
a very interesting piece of testimony by someone who was "there."
Sakagami Ryusho, in his 1978 Karatedo Kata Taikan as well as Miyagi
Tokumasa in his 1987 Karate no Rekishi both give extensive kata lists,
and both list a kata known as Yoshimura no Channan (Miyagi, 1987; Sakagami,
1978). It is unknown who Yoshimura was, but he may have been a student
American karate historian Ernest Estrada has also stated that Kyoda
Juhatsu (1887-1968), a direct student of Higashionna Kanryo, Wu Xianhui
(Jpn. Go Kenki), Yabu Kentsu, etc. and the founder of the To'onryu karatedo
system, also knew and taught a series of two basic blocking, punching
and kicking exercises known as Channan (Estrada, 1998).
Shiraguma no Kata
According to Iwai Tsukuo, one of Japan's most noted Budo researchers
and teacher of Motobu Choki's karate in Gunma Prefecture, Motoburyu
Karatejutsu, which is being preserved by Choki's son Motobu Chosei in
Osaka, contains what is known as Shiraguma no Kata, which he maintains
used to be called Channan. He also states that this kata is "somewhat
similar to the Pinan, yet different." (Iwai, 1997).
The Other Side of the Coin
The flip side to this theory states that Itosu did not create the Pinan
kata, but actually remodeled older Chinese-based hsing/kata called Channan.
This theory states that Itosu learned a series of Chinese Quan-fa hsing
from a shipwrecked Chinese at Tomari, and reworked them into five smaller
components, re-naming them Pinan because the Chinese pronunciation "Chiang-Nan"
was too difficult (Bishop, 1999).
It has been argued that the source for these Channan kata was a Chinese
from an area called Annan, or a man named Annan (Bishop, 1999). On the
other hand, others say that the man's name was Channan (Iwai, 1992).
Still others go into even more detail, stating that Itosu learned these
hsing/kata from a man named Channan, and named them after their source,
later adding elements of the Kusanku Dai kata to create the Pinan (Gima,
et al, 1986; Kinjo. 1999).
There is also interesting oral testimony passed down in the Tomari-di
tradition that is propagated in the Okinawa Gojuryu Tomaridi Karatedo
Association of Tokashiki Iken that states that Itosu learned the Channan/Pinan
kata from a Chinese at Tomari in one day. The proponents of Tomari-di
said that there was no need to learn "over-night kata" and
that this is the reason that the Tomari traditions did not include instruction
in the Pinan kata (Okinawa Pref., 1995).
This sentiment also echoes the statement by one of Itosu's top students,
Yabu Kentsu, made to his students:
"(sic) If you have time to practice the Pinan, practice Kushanku
instead (Gima, et al, 1986, p. 86)."
While more research, such as in-depth technical analysis of Motobu's
Shiraguma no Kata needs to be done, the evidence at hand seems to point
not to a "long lost kata" but rather to the constant and inevitable
evolution of a martial art.
Although there is opposition, most of the primary written materials
point to the fact that Itosu was indeed the originator of the Channan/Pinan
tradition, based upon his own research, experience, and analyses.
However, in either case, Itosu Anko and his efforts left a lasting mark
on the fighting traditions of old Okinawa, and will probably always
be remembered as one of the visionaries who were able to lift the veil
of secrecy that once enshrouded karatedo.
is the origin of Shorin-ryu?
By Renshi Mobley
Prior to identifying
who was the father of Shorin-ryu, it is necessary to define what is
Shorin-ryu. Shorin is the pronunciation of the Chinese Shaolin in
Hogun ("Hogen" is standard Japanese for "dialect";
the suffix "-ben" is also used, but the modern use of the
word "Hogen" is current Okinawan local "slang"
for Uchinanchuguchi, TFA.) Hogen is the primary dialect of Okinawa,
although now an almost dead language due to the taking over of Okinawa
by Japan. The word ryu means "Association". Therefore, Shorin-ryu
("Shaolin association" or "small pine forest")
reflects the Chinese influences intrinsic to the art.1 In other words;
the Shaolin Temple is pronounced the Shorin Temple in Okinawan language
dialect of Hogen.
Shorin-ryu is a specific
style of Okinawa-te. Okinawa-te (means Okinawan fist) is an indigenous
martial arts system of Okinawa that has many styles, to include but
not limited to, such as Shorin-ryu, Shito-ryu, Isshin-ryu, Goju-ryu,
Wado-ryu, Uechi-ryu, and many others. Many martial arts historians
recognize Tode Sakagawa as the “Father of Okinawa-te.”
This can certainly be challenged because there were many martial artists
who were trained by Chinese martial arts masters prior to the birth
of Sakagawa, such as Matsu Higa, Chatan Yara, Peichin Takehara, Shinjo
Choken, to include numerous others. Probably the reason for recognizing
Sakagawa as the “Father of Okinawa-te” is because little
history is known about his predecessors. His predecessors were virtually
invisible in regards to history because martial arts were hidden under
a veil of secrecy. This veil of secrecy was necessary because after
the “Satsuma Clan, from Japan, invaded Okinawa making the island
a “suzerain,” established law that no Okinawa native be
allowed to practice martial arts. The penalty for disobeying this
law was death! Two major secret societies, Tsuan Fa and To De, joined
to form one single alliance against the Japanese occupiers. The direct
consequence of which was the emergence of a new lethal martial art,
which arose as a combination of all existing conceptions, and which
was first called simply TE then later Okinawa-te.2 Therefore, many
historians credit Sakagawa as the “Modern Father of Okinawa-te.”
This is in spite of there were many before him that secretly taught
indigenous martial arts on Okinawa.
Okinawa martial arts
systems evolved into 3 major village systems, Shuri-te, Tomari-te,
and Naha-te. Many martial arts historians recognize Soken “Bushi”
Matsumura as the “Father of Shuri-te Shorin-ryu” ()
Kosaku Matsumora as the “Father of Tomari-te Shorin-ryu.”
The other prominent Okinawan martial arts system Naha-ta (Goju-ryu,
founded by Chogun Miyagi is a subsystem of this art), was formalized
by Higaonna Kanryo in the 1880s. Shuri-te, Tomari-te, and Naha-te
are the 3 most popular Okinawa martial arts system.
- There are many Shorin-ryu Dojo’s located throughout the world
that developed popular systems of Shorin-ryu. After the late great
Tode Sakagawa’s death, some of his “Deshis” (students)
changed the name of their system. Branches began to evolve such as
Sukunaihayashi 1, Ryukyu Kenpo 2, Matsumura Kenpo 3, Okinawa Kenpo
4, Matsubayashi 5, Kobayashi 6, Shobayashi 7, Matsumura Ryu 8, Matsumura
Seito 9, but there are many others, most with long and distinguished
histories tracing back to Sakagawa and his “Deshis”, such
as Bushi Satunuku Ukuda, Satunuku Macabe Chokun (nicknamed Mabai Changwa),
Bushi Matsumoto of Urazoe, Kojo of Kumemura (nicknamed Kugushiku of
Kuninda), Yamaguchi of the East (Bushi Sakumoto), Usume of Anday (nicknamed
aged man), and Bushi Chikatosinunjo (Soken) Matsumura.10
Absolute Shorin-ryu Orthodoxy – There is no such thing. All
systems of Shorin-ryu experienced modifications in kata, fighting
techniques, philosophy, doctrine, and organizational procedure &
methods. At times Sakagawa’s “Deshis” modified his
version of martial arts to often form different but similar versions
of their own. Most Shorin-ryu kata origin derives from China centuries
ago. The amount of changes in kata that has occurred is mind-boggling.
Even Sakagawa himself modified the Tode (Chinese fist) system by incorporating
Okinawa-te with it to create Shorin-ryu. Century’s forward,
Shorin-ryu systems transitioned into systems that were complemented
with techniques from other different and diverse Okinawa-te systems.
Chinese envoys that visited Tomari centuries ago, at times, instructed
kata differently from that of envoys visiting Shuri. Why was this
so? This occurred probably because of geographic regional preference
in China. After all, this happens in virtually any organization in
the world, to include the United States. Particularly worth relating
is, “In NBA basketball there is the west coast offense”.
In the sport of boxing Philadelphia use to be considered the Mecca
of the boxing for the east coast while Los Angeles was the Mecca for
the west coast. Back to my main point, Shorin-ryu is analogous to
the previous examples I commented on. Different styles of Shorin-ryu
were and are real in Okinawa as well as the rest of the world.
claim that there is no such thing as “Shorin-ryu Orthodoxy”
is the noteworthy fact of different kata versions, to include but
not limited to, such as Passai, Kusanku, and Pinan Kata’s.
Passai has many
Okinawa regional versions such as, Matsumura -no- Paisai, Matsumora
-no- Paisai, and Oyadomari -no- Paisai. There are many more versions
of this Kata. Passai is the Okinawa name (pronounced Bassai in Japanese
styles) of a group of kata practiced in different styles of Shorin-ryu,
including and various Korean martial arts (Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do,
and Soo Bank Do). There are several variations of these kata, including
Passai sho (minor) and Passai dai (major). In Korean, the kata has
several names: Bassahee, Bal Se, Pal Che, Palsek, Bal Sae, Ba Sa Hee,
and Bal Sak. 11
called Kankudai (translated as gazing heavenward, viewing the sky,
or contemplating the sky), is an open hand kata that is studied by
many practitioners of Okinawan and Japanese karate. The name Kusanku/Kosokun,
is used in Okinawan systems of karate, and refers to a person by the
name of Kusanku, a Chinese diplomat from the Fukien province of China,
who is believed to have traveled to Okinawa to teach his system of
fighting.12 In the Tomari region this kata is often called “Yara
no Kusanku” (named after Chatan Yara). Yara reportedly was sent
to China when he was 12 years old to train in martial arts and was
apprenticed to a man named Wong Chung-Yoh and studied with him for
the next 20 years. Also, he studied under Kusanku. In addition Yara
was the Sensei of Takara Peichin, Sakagawa’s first Sensei.13
Why was his version of this kata different than Sakagawa’s version?
Yara and Sakagawa both learned this kata from Kusanku but they both
taught different versions of the kata. Geographically Sakagawa was
Matsumura’s Sensei and taught him in the Shuri district, while
Yara a Sensei of Matsumora and taught him in the Tomari district.
Sensei Funakoshi modified and renamed this kata “Kanku”
during the 1930’s. This kata is also practiced in Tang Soo Do
(Korean Karate Do) and is often pronounced "Kong Sang Koon"
kata, Pinan Shodan, some credit the karate legend and educator Itosu
Yatsunuku for developing, varies from some other Shuri-based systems
with a mae geri instead of side kick in movement eight. Shiroma Jiro,
Hachidan/Shorin-ryu, described that Chibana began to alter some of
the movements in the Matsumura/Itosu kata syllabus, which caused a
stir with some of the older senior students. Higa Yuchoku and Miyahira
Katsuya were worried about the effects of not preserving the true
kata as it had been passed on. Shiroma remarked that Chibana altered
the kata slightly from the original versions for example; he changed
the kick within the kata Pinan Shodan and Yondan from yoko geri from
mae geri to make it more "Japanese." It was changed back
later. However, Nakazato Shugoro, Hanshi, remarked that Chibana began
teaching Itosu's Shuri-te as it was passed on to him and Chibana spoke
of the importance of preserving kata exactly as it was learned from
forefathers of karate.14 In addition, a single kata may have several
different versions. In other words, students of different styles of
karate may perform a particular karate kata in a different manner.
Many karate katas have counterparts in more than one style. Furthermore,
individual schools within a single karate style may incorporate small
variations in how they teach and practice the same kata. Often, these
differences serve to identify the teachings and students of specific
Instructors. Students wishing to expand their knowledge as much as
possible may seek to become familiar with these different versions
Shorin-ryu – our system of Shorin-ryu is an amalgamation of
various Shorin-ryu systems. Hanshi Hawkins adopted kata, fighting
techniques, philosophy, doctrine, and organizational procedure &
methods from selected Shorin-ryu systems, to include other Okinawa
systems, to enhance the Avengers martial arts enrichment. For example,
Kata’s Geikei-sai (H-kata #4), Seisan, and Saifa are Goju-ryu
kata’s from the Nahe-te system but Hanshi Hawkins added them
to the Avengers repertoire. Another example of kata acceptance and
incorporation is how Hawkins Avengers includes Shuri-te and Tomari-te
kata’s in our repertoire. Other Okinawa martial arts Sensei
have taken a similar approach, such as Chitose Tsuyoshi (founder of
Chito-ryu) and Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-ryu).
Also worth mentioning,
decades ago, during the 1960’s & 70’s, the late great
Kempo master, Sifu Daniel Pai, instructed Okinawa White Lotus Kempo
techniques in Kumite and Ippon Kumite to Hanshi Hawkins, thereby enriching
our Hanshi’s martial arts edification. Finally, after acquiring
all these different & diverse skills and knowledge of Shorin-ryu
and other Okinawa martial arts, Hanshi Hawkins incorporated them,
to include from his personal experience, developed indigenous physical
and mental self-defense skills, adaptable for urban environment application.
It is the Hawkins Avengers Dantai’s believe that Hanshi Hawkins
passion to reach out and learn from different and diverse Shorin-ryu
and other Okinawa systems that we have a more cosmopolitan perspective
of martial arts than most other martial arts organizations.
my purpose for providing this research is to hopefully broaden one’s
perspective concerning different Shorin-ryu systems and to rid one
from being mislead by martial artist from other Shorin-ryu systems
who wrongfully attempt to persuade you to believe that they have “the
legitimate Shorin-ryu system and that our system is illegitimate.
In closing, to legitimize a particular Shorin-ryu system as “absolute
orthodox” is analogous to a person legitimizing his/her particular
religion as absolute orthodox. Religion is supported by historical
scribes who interpret faith different based on oral tradition. To
say my religious faith is right and yours is wrong is based on opinion,
not fact. Martial arts scholars and historians often research dates,
people, places, and situations but often come up with different findings.
After all, it is often said that history is, “His Story”.
Tell the Truth
the real Hanshi please stand-up?
Mobley’s note – Confusion exists amongst Shorin-ryu martial
artists concerning who is the bona-fide successor of the late Chosin
Chibana. Various Kobayashi Shorin-ryu martial artists contend that
Nakazato is the rightful successor, while others state that Miyahira
is. Officially Miyahira is the successor because upon the death of
Chosin Chibana, he formally received the HANKO (official seals of
the organization) and was voted president of the Okinawa Shorinryu
Karatedo Kyokai in March of 1969. However, since Chibana’s passing,
financially Nakazato has promoted “Shobayashi Shorin-ryu”
to a much larger degree than Miyahira, therefore Nakazato bears the
pun as the “true financial successor” of Chibana.
The below information is authored by Okinawa Shorin-ryu Kyoshi Ernest
In 1989, Master
Katsuya Miyahira, the President of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Shido-kan,
was honored by the Japan Martial Arts Association for contributing
distinguished services to the martial arts. To commemorate this occasion,
I would like to write about Master Miyahira's martial arts career
from it's beginning. Master Miyahira was born in Nishihara, one of
the villages directly controlled by the King's court, where martial
arts had always been popular among the residents. He first learned
martial arts from his father who had graduated from the Toyama Army
School and was good at swordplay and gymnastics. Entering the First
Junior High School, Master Miyahira began focusing on karate.
He became a
student at the dojo of Choshin Chibana Sensei, which was located at
Nakijin Goten of Yoshitsugu Teishi; there he received influences from
the dojo's senior pupils, such as Kangi Shoya, Yasuyoshi Kamikosu,
Tsuguyoshi Miyagi, Chozo Nakama and Shinji Tawada. I have heard that
Master Miyahira also learned karate at the First Junior High with
Anbun Tokuda Sensei and his teacher who taught him the spirit of martial
arts that has kindness among rigor. Both Chibana Sensei and Tokuda
Sensei were among the best students of Anko Itosu Sensei, the master
of the Shuri style (Shuri-te). This situation enabled Master Miyahira
to learn the traditional kata’s of the Shuri-te both at the
town dojo and at school.
Traditional Shuri-te focuses on Atemi. The central idea is that blocking
(uke) means not only to defend oneself against an attack by his opponent,
but also to simultaneously crush the attack. Idealistically, one should
train the hands and feet so as to achieve the condition in which strength
and flexibility coexist, just as steel has both hardness and springiness
in it. Thus, using a punching board (makiwara), one should hit it
more than two hundred times a day with each hand, mixing several kinds
of punching (tsuki) methods, aiming at simultaneous occurrence of
offense and defense.
Master Miyahira trained himself, closely following the Shuri-te's
traditional methods. In 1948, soon after the end of the World War
II, he opened a karate dojo in his hometown of Nishihara, intending
to train the youth to be strong persons who could live through any
difficulties. Master Miyahira set his dojo's rules as follows:
- Try to perfect one's own personality?- Cultivate the spirit of making
constant efforts?- Admonish one's own youthful ardor?- Value good
manors based on these rules, he created his basic concepts of karate:
"Following the reason and the law" and "coexisting
and co-flourishing". He named his dojo Shidokan, hoping to instruct
the youth who aspired to learn the way of karate. After moving to
Naha City in September 1952, he continued his effort to popularize
the Shuri-te, and also visited the Philippines to teach and propagate
karate there. In June 1974, Master Miyahira participated in the First
Karate World Championship and received an award for his distinguished
service in karate.
During the same period, Master Miyahira took office as the president
of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate Association and strived to make the
association grow. Invited by the Brazil Shorin-ryu Karate Association,
the Argentina Shorin-ryu Karate Association, and the North America
Shorin-ryu Shidokan, he energetically visited these places to teach
and popularize karate overseas. In 1982, he became a councilor of
the Japan Karate Federation and devoted his energies to help make
Japanese karate grow. He also took part in the Japan-China International
Martial Arts Tournament as the leader of the Japanese team, making
an effort for the goodwill exchange. In the karate division at the
42nd National Athletic Meet in 1987, the Okinawa team led by Master
Miyahira, finished first overall, the victory earning Master Miyahira
a special award for his distinguished service by the Okinawa Amateur
Sports Association. Then came this year's award for distinguished
services in martial arts.
For the past several decades, I have been inspired by Master Miyahira's
persistent effort to attain the higher ground in karate and in karate
only, wishing to some day surpass him. It seems, however, that every
moment I feel as if I can catch up with him, he is already gone far
ahead of me; it is like building a ladder to reach the sky. I wonder
if Master Miyahira is teaching me, with his own way of life, that
there is no end for the quest for perfect karate.
As an elder in the world of karate, Mr. Miyahira is in charge of the
Okinawa Karate Conference and still gives his students lessons as
well. In several symposiums held by the Karate Shinbun newspaper and
the Ryukyu Shinpo newspaper, and also in his lectures, Mr. Miyahira
has openly stated his own ideas about the future of Okinawa karate.
Since those ideas are very suggestive, we will quote one of them here:
??"During the World Uchinanchu Tournament, the Karate/Ancient
Martial Arts Exchange Festival was a big success. This is a big step
for a future full-scale world championship" (From the symposium
"The Future Okinawa Karate", The Karate Shinbun: September,
When the karate lecture series for the general public took place for
the first time (February~October, 1991), Master Katsuya Miyahira (President
of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate Association) taught the Shorin-ryu
to about seventy people in one of the medium sized conference rooms
of the Ryukyu Shinpo. Despite such a difficult theme as the lecture
about karate, the seemingly small conference room was filled with
eager karate fans and athletes. Master Miyahira explained to his audience
the history of the Shorin Ryu and its characteristics by speaking
about Choshin Chibana, his own master. The main difference between
Mr. Miyahira's lecture and others' was that he mentioned Choshin Chibana's
family tree in great detail. Choshin Chibana came from Suridennai
and belonged to the high-rank warrior class. Out of his family line
appeared many talented men who later became leaders of the society
in different fields. One reason why Mr. Miyahira talked about the
details of Chibana's life is to let his audience clearly understand
the Shorin Ryu; another reason is probably based on his own unique
philosophy for karate.
As far as “literary correctness” of Kobayashi Shorin-ryu
is concerned, Hanshi Miyahira often states, "Now the Japanese
call it Kobayashi style but that is incorrect...but that is all right
because only people who do not know Okinawan karate will call it by
that name. Since they do not know, you must gently remind them or
the Okinawan people will laugh at their ignorance. After all, it is
funny. Many foreign people call it Kobayashi Shorin-ryu; that is just
like saying Shorin Shorin-ryu. It doesn't make much sense."
Mr. Miyahira often teaches the "virtue of martial arts"
to young people. At the end of his lecture, he explained the value
of karate, quoting the "Seven Virtues of Martial Arts" from
one of the Chinese military strategy books. The quotation reads as
follows:??"Martial arts forbids violence, suppresses an uprising,
keeps one from corruption, establishes honor for one, pacifies the
public, makes harmony among people, and makes one rich. These are
the seven virtues of martial arts”. The martial arts (karate)
can, according to Mr. Miyahira, be a helpful tool for one's life:
it adds value to one's ability, secures a sure means of living, and
even makes one rich. This interpretation may sound vulgar, but it
shows that Mr. Miyahira focuses not only on the spirituality of karate,
but also on its practicality. Even today, many karate experts tend
to hold on to the volunteer spirit as their mottos, believing that
one should not use karate as a tool for making a fortune, or as a
means of living. This kind of Puritanism has been preventing Okinawa
karate from flourishing in popularity and achieving economical success
in dojo management.
The teaching of Itosu, however, does not insist on such Puritanism
in karate; it seems to say that the more respectable a karate expert
is, the more successful he should be socially and economically. Here
we can see the will of Master Miyahira who, by having learned from
Master Itosu, now instructs his students in accordance with his ideas:
"Following the reason and the law" and "coexisting
Mr. Miyahira speaks about the Shorin-ryu as follows. In 1908, his
teacher Anko Itosu submitted a petition to the prefectural officials
of Okinawa to introduce karate into the regular public school curriculum.
This petition of Itosu is called the "Ten Articles of Karate".
Mr. Miyahira says that this is all one should know about the Shorin-ryu.
Though it may be a little too long, we would like to present its contents
In the introduction, Itosu tells the history of karate (China Hand).
It begins with the following sentences: "Karate came from neither
Confucianism nor Buddhism. It started as the Classic Shorin-ryu and
the Shorei-ryu, both of which came from China. Since these two methods
have their merits and demerits, it is important to preserve and inherit
them as they are". The paragraph continues as Itosu describes
the purposes and training methods of karate, insisting that it be
taken into the school education.
His first article says that though karate's aim is to strengthen one's
body, however the main reason for this is not to meet one's own needs
but to serve the society. Thus a karate athlete has to know that even
if he were to be confronted with violence, he should never hurt his
The second article tells that karate strengthens bones and muscles
of the body, making it as strong as iron and stone, so as to use the
hands and feet in place of a spear or a sword. Itosu claims that such
achievement is possible if one begins training his body when he is
still in elementary school. Itosu then says that it would help Japan
to build the society of soldiers, the ideal of Itosu's time when the
whole nation was working hard to enrich and strengthen the country.
The third article explains that though one cannot be a karate expert
in a short time, a mere one to two hours vigorous daily training would
make one's physique incomparable to a normal person in three to four
years. From that point on, many would continue pursuing the career
of karate for life.
The fourth article claims that since the hands and feet are the most
essential weapons in karate, one should train his by punching a makiwara
every day. The point is to punch it one to two hundred times a day.
Itosu thus keeps explaining the essence of karate. His fifth article
describes the correct positions; another points out the wrong training
methods, warning, for example, that too much tension in muscles can
harm the blood circulation. We can understand Mr. Miyahira's claim
that this letter of Itosu alone works as the bible of the Shorin-ryu.
Originally there was no clear distinction among various schools of
karate (ryu). The style developed and handed down from generation
to generation in Shuri has been called the Shuri-te, the one in Naha
the Naha-te, and the one in Tomari the Tomari-te. Shuri flourished
as Okinawa's capital city for a long time. As the center of history,
culture and politics, Shuri has produced many famous martial artists
such as Kanga Sakugawa AKA Karate Sakugawa, Choken Makabe AKA Makabe
Chansho, Sokon Matsumura AKA Warrior Matsumura, and Master Anko Itosu.
Master Choshin Chibana learned one of the traditional ways of karate
from Master Anko Itosu, who in turn had learned it from Master Sokon
Matsumura. In 1933, Master Chibana named the said way of karate the
Shorin-ryu in order to distinguish it from the Shuri-te's other ryus
and thus became its founder.
The characteristics of the Shorin-ryu are detailed in the "Ten
Articles of Karate", the petition submitted in 1908 by Master
Anko Itosu, Master Choshin Chibana's teacher, to the education department
of Okinawa Prefecture. The Shorin-ryu teaches stances and breathing
methods that are natural and relaxed. It also teaches a unique method
of taking in power and releasing it: one takes in power from inside
outward. This method makes concentration of power easy, which, combined
with the quickness of movement, increases the force of an attack.
The basic training is the Naihanchi: one trains his hands mainly by
punching a makiwara to increase the destroying force of an attack.
Also when attacked, one should smash up the opponent as well as defend
oneself; this enables one to learn the technique of attack/defense
Currently, there are 24 dojo’s belonging to the Okinawa Shorin-ryu
Karate Association, for which Mr. Miyahira acts as the president in
the Okinawa prefecture. More branch Dojo’s exist outside of
Okinawa and abroad, as the popularity of the Shorin-ryu is increasing
At the Bick Symposium Mr. Miyahira said: "It is important to
develop the unique characteristics of each ryu of karate, but the
most important thing today is to create an instruction plan that can
be applied to any ryu. In order to achieve this, we have to educate
our future instructors and found a karate university. It is possible
to hold a world championship in three to five years. We should organize
a task force to make the idea come true".
The following are the teachings of Miyahira Katsuya, the present president
of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association and one of the senior
most students of Chibana Choshin. Miyahira teaches in Naha, Okinawa,
and has contributed a number of outstanding students to the Shorin-ryu
system. Miyahira Sensei began training with Chibana Sensei in 1933
and was promoted to 9-Dan Hanshi in 1967. Upon
the death of his teacher, he formally received the HANKO (official
seals of the organization) and was voted president of the Okinawa
Shorinryu Karatedo Kyokai in March of 1969.
Thoughts on sparring
I believe that free style sparring is essential to the advanced development
of a student but only after the student's techniques are a part of
their self. I must also state that the karate student's sparring techniques
must come from the kata. This takes many years to develop and I do
not allow a student to spar until they reach the sandan (third degree
black belt) level. At this stage of their development, sparring can
be helpful. Below the sandan level, free style sparring is too dangerous
and will even hinder a student's development.
I teach my students to be concerned with the mastery of the traditional
kata and unless they master the kata they can never hope to become
proficient in the study of karate-do. When a student reaches a point
in their development where they have a good understanding of the kata,
I then introduce the techniques of semi-free sparring. These are prearranged
techniques that test the student's ability to judge distances and
application of blocks and counterattacks. Later we introduce a limited
type of free style sparring where we limit the areas of attack.
Thought on Correct Attitude
modern-day teachers are trying to develop the karate attitude through
methods of tournament competition. The old way has always been self-competition
and self-study. One might become a good fighter but we cannot say
that they are practicing budo karate. This type of individual is much
too limited. A student's training must always be in balance.
Thoughts on Kata
Kata is never concrete in performance or interpretation.
It changes either knowingly, unknowingly or through the passage of
time. Sometime the changes are small -- like changing the emphasis
of punching to kicking or to quick movements or to slow, steady movements.
An instructor may favor one technique over another and tell his students
to emphasize it more than it was originally taught. The kata is still
the same but a change has now taken place either consciously or unconsciously.
These minor changes have not really changed the style. These changes
cannot be prevented either, for in most cases the change occurs over
a long period of time.
Thoughts on Karate Styles
If you really look at the various names of the modern styles, it has
no real meaning. Styles are based on the teachings of an individual.
If the individual is good, then of course the style will be good.
In the end, group styles are meaningless. You say that your style
is better then this style or that style; let us see if you can prove
it! A punch or kick can only be done in a limited number of ways that
are combative. It is like a rifleman who shoots at a target. If he
hits the target do you say that the rifle is a good shot or do you
say that the man is a good shot? The rifle may be the most expensive
and best rifle made but if the shooter is no good then the rifle will
not hit the target. The rifle is the style and the shooter is the
Miyahira Katsuya, Chosin Chibana’s senior student, has no children.
He has one brother who studied karate but he is a company president
and has very little to do with karate. Miyahira still teaches Monday,
Wednesday and Friday nights. He has always taught like that and has
not changed his teaching times in over thirty years. On Okinawa, Miyahira
is a recognized training partner of the great Motobu Choki.
Miyahira Katsuya has a habit of punching the tatami when bored, tired
or nervous. This habit goes back to his childhood. In the 1930's Chibana
took Miyahira to visit Itosu's granddaughter that still lived in the
Itosu family home. They sat and talked at great lengths about the
great Itosu. Finally, they started talking about the difficult times
at the time of Itosu's death in 1915.
At this, Miyahira began to lose interest and unconsciously began to
pound the tatami with his fist. The granddaughter immediately stopped
her conversation with Chibana and looked at Miyahira. She then said,
"That's a funny habit you have there. My grandfather use to do
the same thing when he was bored!" ??The Toe-Tipped Kick?- the
two major styles of Shorin-ryu (often referred to as Chibana style
Shorin-ryu and Matsubayashi-ryu) perform 85% of their front kicks
(shomen geri) with what is called "tsumasaki geri" (toe-tipped
kick). Of the kicks that are performed in basics and in kata, 85%
are chudan shomen geri (middle area front kicks) and are done with
the toe-tipped kick.
The other 15% are called jodan shomen geri (high front kicks) and
are performed with the ball of the foot. The toe-tipped is usually
not performed or practiced in Japan due to the difficulty of the kick.
The Japanese prefer the ball of the foot kick and the instep kick
due to the fact that they feel it is easier to "master."
Nowadays, it is also rare to find an American Okinawan stylist who
works on the toe-tipped kick. They, too, have sought to learn "the
Even today in Okinawa, the native practitioners still prefer the toe-tipped
kick with the instep kick as a standby technique. Both of these kicks
are diligently practiced on the makiwara and with training partners.
The toe-tipped kick is performed straight in with the back and head
straight. Tradition also indicates that when bringing the foot up
for the kick, that it must be brought up to the opposite knee with
the kicking foot pointed to a 90 degree angle forward (toward your
opponent) before actually snapping the foot outward.
The following also comes from the teachings of Miyahira Katsuya, Shorin-ryu
Hanshi 10th Dan and president of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do
Kyokai. These maxims are written on the wall of his dojo and are a
guide to help his students in a better understanding of the "Proper
Spirit in Karate-do Training."
The Proper Spirit In Karate-do Training
1. You should thoroughly understand and pay strict attention to your
teacher's corrections and apply them correctly.
2. You can attain perfection by exercising patience and through constant
3. In learning the basic techniques, learn to apply them, adopt them
and finally transform them to your own taste but always according
to the correct theory of basic techniques.
4. You should listen to and accept the corrections of the more senior
or advanced students.
5. Try to assimilate everything good in your peers and use it to correct
that which is inconsistent in you.
6. When teaching you should always be kind but firm and strict with
following is taken from the teachings of Miyahira Katsuya (Okinawa
Shorin-ryu Karate-do Hanshi 10-Dan) and are found on display in his
karate training hall located in Kokuba Naha, Okinawa:
Rules for Proper Conduct In The Training Hall
1. To acquire experience and understanding, take seriously all advice
given to you.
2. Never judge or take a person lightly.
3. Accept with an open mind the opinions and remarks of others, if
they prove to be earnest, just and correct.
4. Be honest, fair and true whenever you ponder over or reason out
a problem or theory.
5. When you are not training, quietly sit by the edge of the dojo
and watch the activities of your fellow students and how they are
Itosu – fighter or bodybuilder?
By Renshi Mobley
(Yasutsune Itosu) (1831-1915) is one of the most influential early
20th century karate pioneers. (1) For those knowledgeable in karate
history, his name to you is legend.
It was Itosu
who first started teaching karate to the public and was one of the
teachers of Gichen Funakoshi (who many know as the father of Japanese
karate), as well as many other founders of the karate we know today.
He was the creator of the Pinan Kata series, and he modified of many
other kata practiced throughout karate today.
But what is
the history behind this man? What’s his legacy? Records identify
Itosu born in the Gibo section of Shuri (the capital city), Okinawa,
in 1831 and died on January 26, 1915. His first name was Anko (the
Kanji for which may be alternately read in Japanese as Yasutsune and
his last name Shishu read as Itosu). He is probably most commonly
known by the name Anko Itosu. He was born to a prominent family and
was well educated in the classics of Chinese literature. He was short
by modern standards, but in Okinawa at the time his approximately
five feet of height was average. Some sources describe him as stocky
with a barrel chest and very strong. He also had immense discipline.
and passing civil service exams, he became a clerk for the Ryukyu
government. At least one source he was a secretary to the last King
of the Ryukyus (the island chain of which Okinawa was the capital),
Sho Tai (the monarchy ended in 1879 when the islands officially became
part of Japan). It was through the assistance of his good friend Anko
Azato that he progressed to a position of prominence in Ryukyu governmental
administration. This was a bond of friendship that existed throughout
their lives, and they are often described together by Gichin Funakoshi,
who studied under both of these masters. By all accounts he was built
strongly, and there are many tales of his incredible punching ability.
The early training
of this martial arts legend is shrouded in mystery. Many martial historians
refer to Itosu as having been a disciple of the Great Sokon "Bushi"
Matsumura. Matsumura was the most influential martial artist of his
time who helped bring karate into the modern era as exponent of Shuri-te
(meaning Shuri hands or art). It was Matsumura who was a student of
Tode Sakagawa (1733-1815) who in turn studied under Kusanku -- after
which the famous kata is named (Konku).
Was Itosu the
link to this heritage, an interpreter of Matsumura's karate? Upon
closer examination this appears to be incorrect, or at least overstated.
Any senior martial
artist who validates this martial artist as a legend should ask the
question, “What constitutes him as a legend?” The history
of this great martial artist is relatively recent; he died less than
a century ago. Therefore the credibility of recent research should
probably be more believable than centuries old martial arts legends,
which often get distorted because of “time allowing people to
adulterate the truth.” Unlike his legendary martial arts predecessors,
such as Tode Sakagawa, Bushi Matsumura, and others whose birth dates
and life situation experiences have been distorted by authors and
historians, Itosu’s life is generally known and well documented.
martial arts tradition recounts many legendary heroic tales of martial
artists gallantly fighting resulting in glorious victories. However,
Itosu has nothing documented concerning physical confrontations and
gallantry. He was the early master of karate whose courage prevented
him from being in a fight. The late great founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu,
Shoshin Nagamine stated that, “In Itosu’s eighty five
years there was not a single episode describing such an encounter.
Highly skilled in the fighting traditions, the very fact that Itosu
avoided physical confrontation, especially during the time of his
generation, is in itself testimony that he was a man of eminent virtue.”
In spite of Itosu’s diligent makiwara training and polished
martial arts skills, “I know of no episodes of him ever fighting
or even having an argument throughout his entire life. 1
As a child,
Itosu was small and introverted compared to boys of his age. It has
been suggested that his size and strict upbringing, attributed to
him being so quiet during his childhood. He was well educated in Chinese
classics and calligraphy. Itosu had a high aptitude in writing skills,
which guided him to attain a position as an administrative secretary.
He was a passionate Confucian who prayed several times during the
then becomes how do we ascertain the truth when so much of martial
history is based on oral accounts and opinions? While we may never
know the truth for sure, we should look to accounts of those who actually
trained under Itosu for significant periods of time. One such account
comes from Choki Motobu (one of Okinawa's greatest early twentieth
century karate masters) who spent eight to nine years under Itosu.
In his 1932 book, "Watashi no Tode Jutsu," Motobu is quoted
as saying: "Sensei Itosu was a pupil of
Sensei Matsumura, but he was disliked by his teacher for he was very
slow (speed of movement). There (in the dojo) for although Itosu sensei
was diligent in his practice his teacher did not care about him so
he (Itsou) left and went to sensei Nagahama." According Motobu,
while Sensei Nagahama was quite well known and very diligent, his
method or idea of teaching was entirely different from master Matsumura.
Nagahama stressed just building of the body. Apparently Itosu adjusted
well and trained hard for Motobu reports that Nagahama referred to
Itosu as his disciple and "right hand man." It must have
been a shock when Nagahama told Itosu on his deathbed (as reported
by Motobu), that he had actually only taught him (Itosu) strength
building and had never once given thought to actual combat. In other
words, his method lacked the idea of liberty in motion and alertness
in action, and therefore he wanted him to go back to master Matsumura.
Funakoshi says on page 18 of his text (reprinted as "Tote Jitsu"
in 1925), "It is confirmed through written documents and collections
that .....(2) ASATO followed MATSUMURA and ITOSU followed GUSUKUMA,
according to what has been told through generations."In
his later text, "Karate-do Kyohan" (page 8, 1973 edition),
Funakoshi says again that, "It is stated that ...... (3) masters
AZATO and ITOSU were students of MATSUMURA and GUSUKUMA respectively.
It is likely that through his instruction many of the seeds were planted
for using tode (an early name for karate) as a method of physical
and mental strengthening. These seeds combined with Itosu's unique
perspective and experience came to fruition in the Okinawan school
system as a method of developing the youth of Okinawa. Itosu likely
realized, as Nagahama suggested, that he needed further training in
combative principles. It would have been highly unlikely for Itosu
to return to the Matsumura, however, since he had previously left
him. The question then becomes, "Where did Itosu go next?"
we look at the words of Gichin Funakoshi (the great karate pioneer
who is often referred to as the "Father of Japanese Karate.")
who is regarded as a top student of both Anko Azato and Anko Itosu,
we find that Anko Itosu became a disciple of GUSUKUMA OF TOMARI! (sometimes
known as Shiroma). On page 18 of his text (reprinted as "Tote
Jitsu" in 1925) Funakoshi states, "It is confirmed through
written documents and collections that...(2) ASATO followed MATSUMURA
and ITOSU followed GUSUKUMA, according to what has been told through
generations." In his later text, "Karate-do Kyohan"
(page 8, 1973 edition), who instructed this writer and to whom the
writer is greatly indebted". Thus through the combined weight
of the statements made by two direct long term students of Anko Itosu
(Motobu and Funakoshi), we can logically come to the conclusion that
Anko Shishu (Anko Itosu) began his training under Matsumura, left
to become a disciple of Nagahama of Naha (a seaport city near Shuri,
the capital), and upon Nagahama's death became a disciple of GUSUKUMA
This would explain the inclusion of the Tomari (a seaport village
near the capital Shuri) (4) kata Rohai and Wanshu within the Itosu
curriculum. Sokon Matumura was not known to have taught or passed
on these forms. To explain the presence of these kata in the Itosu
curriculum, other historians have theorized that Itosu, as student
of Matsumura, must have therefore trained briefly, side by side, with
Kosako Matumora of Tomari sometime after 1873. But, the more logical
explanation is to assume that Motobu and Funakoshi are correct in
stating that Itosu had studied with Gusukuma. He was a Tomari instructor,
and both katas are recorgnized as Tomari kata. Itosu continued to
teach Wanshu as well as Rohai, which developed into three versions
based on the original Tumaidi (Tomari te) prototype. Then there is
the kata Seisan. It was a kata taught by Soken Matsumura. If Itosu's
primary karate teacher had been Matsumura, surely he would also have
taught this kata. But he did not. An explanation for the absence of
Seisan can be found in the existing Tomari te (Tumaidi) traditions.
For example, the continuing Tomari traditions as were passed down
through the Oyadomari brothers of Tomari (5), as well as those of
the Matsumora ha Tumaidi (Tomari te) as passed down to Tokashiki Iken
(6), also lack the kata Seisan, as does the tode passed on by Itosu.
Seisan was not a Tomari kata. (7)
any event, all the forms Itosu apparently borrowed from the Tomari
curriculum appear to have been heavily altered when compared to the
existing Tomari traditions. Given the existing Tumaidi forms, one
can see that Itosu utilized the sum of the knowledge given to him
and further altered it to reflect his experience and objectives. It
is also interesting to contrast Itosu's kata and how they are performed
as compared to the kata of Tomari (Tumaidi) as practiced today. (8)
When one compares
the kata of Tumaidi (9) with those traced to Anko Itosu, one is struck
by the greater use of open hand techniques and the more upright stances
in the Tomari tradition. The kata themselves are performed with a
much more relaxed and lighter feel. There is also greater emphasis
placed upon the use of koshi (hip area) -- the lower back/hips/pelvic
girdle move in more of a figure eight pattern and on multiple planes
as opposed to rotating around a horizontal axis as is found in the
In his book "Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles And Secret Techniques,"
Mark Bishop contrasted the karate of Azato (Matsumura heritage mixed
with a swordsmanship perspective) and Itosu:
"While Azato believed the hands and feet should be like bladed
weapons and that one should avoid all contact of an opponent's strike,
Itosu held the idea that the body did not have to be so mobile and
should be able to take the hardest of blows. Chosin
Chibana (a long time student of Itosu) once said that Itosu indeed
have a very powerful punch, but Matsumura had once said to Itosu:
'With your strong punch you can knock anything down, but you can't
so much as touch me.'"
It is through
the efforts of this "Father of Modern Okinawan Karate" that
many basic exercises and forms were simplified and organized into
a curriculum suitable for the mass instruction of students. In addition
to placing importance on basics, Itosu took the Channan forms he had
previously devised (or had been taught him, according to historians),
altered them slightly and renamed them Pinan, which he thought would
be more appealing to students. Nakasone Genwa, 1934, and “Kobo
Kenpo Karate-do Nyumon” by Mabuni Kenwa and Nakasone Genwa,
1938, evidence this in such journals as “Karate No Kenkyu”.
Let it never be said that Itosu lacked enthusiasm, for he didn't stop
at the Pinans. He went on to supplement Naifanchi by the creation
of a Nidan and Sandan (Kinjo 1991, Murakami 1991) and possibly Kusanku
Sho and Passai Sho (Iwai 1992) as well!
questions persist about Itosu's lineage, there is no doubt about the
profound and universal impact he had on the development of karate
in Okinawa. It was Itosu who brought Karate from the shadows into
the light of public study. (4) In 1901 he began instructing karate
at the Shuri Jinjo Primary school (Iwai 1992, Okinawa Pref. 1994)
and taught at the Dai Ichi middle school and the Okinawa prefectural
Men's Normal School in 1905 (Bishop 1999, Okinawa Pref. 1994, 1995).
It is perhaps one of the greatest testaments to the skill of this
karate-ka that he developed such a group of superb students, who in
turn promoted his art. The karate that descended from Itosu represents
one of the great Okinawan karate heritages known as Shorin-ryu. His
students comprise a virtual "who's who" of the founding
fathers of modern karate. They include: Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro,
Jiro Shiroma, Chojo Oshiro, Shigeru Nakamura Anbun Tokuda, Moden Yabiku,
Kenwa Mabuni, Gichin Funakoshi, Chosin Chibana, Moden Yabiku, and
Choki Motobu (who contrary to popular stories spent some eight years
of training under Itosu).
In October of
1908 Itosu realized it was time for Karate to reach beyond the shores
of Okinawa to the heart of Japan itself. It was to this end that he
wrote his famous letter of Ten Precepts (Tode Jukun) to draw the attention
of both the Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of War.
After demonstrations were held for several naval vessels, the most
important of which was the 1912 visit of Admiral Dewa, karate emerged
as an attractive vehicle for developing young fighting men for the
imperialistic Japanese government of the period.
On January 26,
1915 a great light in the martial world was extinguished when Anko
Itosu drew his last breath at the age of eighty- five. It is a shame
that he did not live to see the art he so vigorously propagated achieve
its worldwide popularity, and to see his crusade vigorously pursued
on the mainland by his student Gichen Funakoshi.
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorin-ryu, para 1
2. http://www.okinawakarate.com/enmapsite/history/history.html, middle
3. http://www.karatedohistory.com/styles.html, Sukunaihayashi
4. http://okinawakenpodssi.com/masterodo.htm, Ryukyu Kenpo
5. http://www.matsumurakenpo.org/history/hist3.html, Matsumura Kenpo
6. http://www.matsumurakenpo.org/history/hist3.html, Matsumura Kenpo
7. http://www.matsumurakenpo.org/history/hist3.html, Matsumura Kenpo
8.http://www.okinawakenpokarate.com/history.asp, Okinawa Kenpo
11. http://www.shorin.info/7.html, Shobayashi
12.http://www.shorin.info/8.html, Matsumura Ryu
13. http://www.shorin.info/9.html, Matsumura Seito
14. http://www.matsumuraorthodox.com/matsumura.htm, Sakagawa’s
15.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bassai_shoPassai, Passai Kata
16.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kusanku_%28kata%29, Kusanku Kata
17. http://www.newsfinder.org/site/more/chatan_yara/, Chatan Yara
18.http://shorinryushorinkanindia.com/osskkai.htm, Chibana altering
Pinan Shodan & Nidan
19.http://homepage.eircom.net/~nmalone/meaning.htm, different versions
21. Estrada, E. (1998). Personal Communication.
Fujiwara, R. (1990). Kakutogi no Rekishi (History of Martial Arts).Tokyo:
Funakoshi G. (1976) Karatedo: My Way of Life. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Funakoshi G. (1988) Karatedo Nyumon. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Tr. by John Teramoto.
Iwai T. (1992). Koden Ryukyu Karatejutsu (Old-Style Ryukyu Karate-jutsu).
Iwai T. (1997) Personal Communication
Kinjo A. (1999) Karate-den Shinroku (True Record of Karate's Transmission).
Naha: Okinawa Tosho Center. Kinjo H. (1956a). "Pinan no Kenkyu
(Study of Pinan) Part 1."
Gekkan Karatedo June 1956. Tokyo: Karate Jiho-sha.
Kinjo H. (1956b). "Pinan no Kenkyu (Study of Pinan) Part 2."
Gekkan Karatedo August 1956. Tokyo: Karate Jiho-sha.
Kinjo H. (1991) Yomigaeru Dento Karate 1 Kihon (Return to Traditional
Karate Vol. 1, Basic Techniques) - video presentation. Tokyo: Quest,
Mabuni K. (1934). Seipai no Kenkyu (Study of Seipai Kata). Tokyo: Kobukan.
Mabuni K. and Nakasone G. (1938) Karatedo Nyumon (Introduction to Karatedo).
McCarthy, P. (1995) Bubishi: The Bible of Karate. Tokyo: Charles E.
McCarthy, P. (1996) "Capsule History of Koryu Karate." Koryu
Journal Inaugural Issue. Australia, International Ryukyu Karate Research
McCarthy, P. (1999) Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts: Koryu Uchinadi, Vol.
2. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle, Co.
Motobu C. (1926) Okinawa Kenpo Toudijutsu: Kumite-hen. Osaka: Toudi
Motobu C. (1932) Watashi no Toudijutsu (My Karate). Tokyo: Toudi Fukyukai.
Murakami K. (1996). Karate no Kokoro to Waza (The Spirit and Technique
of Karate). Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha. Nihon Karate
Kenkyukai (1956) Zoku: Karatedo Nyumon. Tokyo: Wakaba Shobo.
Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education (1994). Karatedo Kobudo Kihon
Chosa Hokokusho (Report of Basic Research on Karatedo and Kobudo).Naha:
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Sakagami R. (1978) Karatedo Kata Taikan (Encyclopedia of Karatedo Kata.
About the author: Joe Swift
Joe Swift, native of New York State (USA), has lived in Japan since
1994. He works as a translator/interpreter, and serves as an assistant
instructor at the Mushinkan Okinawa Karate Kobudo Dojo in Kanazawa.
22.Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters, 2000, Chapter 5, pgs 46-49,
23. http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=1 Fighting Arts
24. Hanshi, 10th Dan?b. 1918, referencehttp://www.ihadojo.com/Origins/miyahira.htm