FOUNDATIONS OF OKINAWAN KARATE
earliest known practitioner and teacher of what we now refer to as
a Shaolin type of Martial Arts was an Indian Buddhist yogi or
guru, the term monk is a more modern term used to differentiate
Buddhist practices from Hindu practices. However, it must be noted
that Buddhism was originally considered to be only a particular
sect of Hinduism. The same can be said of Christianity since it was
originally considered to be only a particular sect of Judaism. The
name of this yogi/monk was
Bodhidharma who was also known as Ta Mo or Da Mo. Bodhidharma traveled
all the way from India
to the Chinese Imperial Court, no easy journey even today. He was the third child of King
Sugandha in Southern India. His Status was that of the Warrior
Caste, "Kshatriya". His childhood was spent in
Conjeeveram, a small Buddhist province south of Madras. He is said
to have traveled to China after the death of his Buddhist guru or
Accounts of his activities in China vary considerably depending on
the reference cited.
Monastery gate - Honan Province, China
traditional date of his arrival in China was during the Sung
Dynasty, 500 A.D. His life in China centers within the Shaolin
Temple Monastery in Honan Province, in the Song Shan Mountains.
Tradition states that upon seeing the emaciated condition of the
monks at this temple, Bodhidharma instructed them in physical
exercises to condition their bodies as well as their minds.
several works dealing with Chuan Fa and its Okinawan counterpart,
Karate, reference is made to the close tie between Bodhidharma’s
Shaolin exercises and these fighting arts. However, evidence of
martial arts in the Orient dates back as early as 600 B.C. (the
time of the warring states period in which the general and supreme
tactician Sun Tzu lived) and much earlier with temple statues and even
earlier with cave drawings that appear to show martial arts
stances and combat.
physical drills that Bodhidharma introduced to the Shaolin Monks
were called "Luohan Shou" or 18 hands of Luohan (also
known 18 Buddha Hands or Palms). The method of learning these moves and
becoming proficient with this system was to repeat these moves
many times in many directions. This intense focusing of energy
coupled with demanding daily physical practice led to excellent
health and awareness. He stressed breathing exercises and
meditation in conjunction with his self-defense/exercise system. As a
member of the “Kshatriya” warrior caste of India he would have
been exposed to all existing forms of weapon and weaponless fighting. The
exercises of which he taught to the monks of the temple.
decades after his death, a Chaun Fa master (Ch’uch Yuan Shangjen)
verified the existence of Bodhidharma's 18 Luohan Hands exercise and
combined these with numerous forms to develop his own style. He is
credited with increasing the original 18 hand and foot positions
to 72, and then later to 170 offensive and defensive movements.
OF OKINAWAN MATSUMURA SHORINRYU/HAKUTSURU KARATEDO
Generations of secrecy have placed a veil of
mystery around the history and origins of Okinawan Karate. To a
certain degree this veil of secrecy still exists. This, coupled
with a general lack of written records in part due to the
destructive consequences of the battle of Okinawa in World war II, has created a void of
information on the early days of Ryu Kyu martial arts. What little
information we have has come to us through scattered bits and
pieces that somehow have come into the possession of modern Karate
historians or from an Okinawan Sensei. Nevertheless, any attempt
to write on Karate history will leave many stones unturned, and
the following is no exception; a lot of questions are left
HISTORY OF OKINAWAN KARATE
Okinawan Karate or Tode (Tuite & Suite) as it was called owes
its origin to a mixture of indigenous Okinawan fighting arts and
various “foot fighting” and empty hand systems of southeast
Asia and as stated above especially China. The Okinawans, being a
seafaring people, were in almost constant contact with mainland
Asia. It is quite likely that Okinawan seamen visiting foreign
ports of call may have been impressed with local fighting
techniques and incorporated these into their own fighting methods.
Interest in unarmed fighting arts greatly increased during the
14th century when king Sho Hashi of Chuzan established his rule
over Okinawa and banned all weapons. More rapid development of
Tode followed in 1609 when the Satsuma clan of Kyushu, Japan
occupied Okinawa and strengthened the existing ban of all weapons. Thus Tode or
Okinawa-Te, as the Satsuma clan soon called it, became the only
means of protection left to the Okinawans. It was this atmosphere
that honed the early karate-like arts of Okinawa into such a
weapon that they enabled the island people to carry on a
guerilla-type war with the Japanese Samurai that lasted into the 1800’s.
Tode or Okinawa-Te developed secretly to keep the Japanese from
killing the practitioners and the teachers of the deadly art. Tode
remained underground until the late Nineteenth Century through
public demonstrations of the art and especially when it was
the Okinawan school system to be incorporated into physical
education methods early in the Twentieth Century as the Japanese
Empire started to prepare for expansion of its sphere of influence
in the Orient through warfare.
OF SYSTEMS OF KARATE
Yara was one of the early Okinawan masters of whom some
information exists. Some authorities place his birth at about 1670
in the village of Chatan, Okinawa; others place his birth at a
much later date. In any case, he contributed much to Okinawan
Karate. He is said to have studied under Kusanku and also in China for 20 years. His kata,
“Chatan Yara No Sai”, “Yara Sho No Tonfa” and Chatan
Yara No Kon” are still widely practiced today.
modern systems or styles of Karate can be traced back to the
famous Satunuku (Kanga) Sakugawa (1733-1815) also called “Tode”
Sakugawa. Sakugawa first studied under Peichin Takahara of Shuri.
He later studied with Kosu Kun, also known as Kusanku who was
renown as a famous master of a Kenpo style referred to as Kumai
Jutsu which he apparently learned from a Shaolin monk in China. He
was highly skilled in fighting. In
1756 Kusanku was sent to Okinawa as a military envoy. Kusanku
began instructing “Tode” Sakugawa in the martial arts after
the death of Takahara, Kanga Sakugawa’s first instructor. Upon
master Kusanku’s return to China, Sakugawa followed him and
remained in China for 6 years. He reputedly studied the bo and
twin swords, Hsing-i and Chi Kung while in China which he eventually
integrated into his martial art. Although he never officially
established a formal dojo, he did teach his art to his martial
Kusanku is actually a Chinese
diplomatic title. Kusanku never instructed the kata that is named
after him. Followers of Kusanku were responsible for the combining
of the techniques believed to be his best into the kata. There are
primary lineages for the kata of Kusanku, Chatan Yara no Kusanku
and Sakugawa No Kusanku. Master Sakugawa's teaching of this form
came from the instruction he recieved from Kusanku. This was the
version taught to Soken "Bushi" Matsumura by Sakugawa.
This lineage was then further divided into two other forms of the
kata Kusanku Sho and Kusanku Dai.
Sakugawa - (1733 -1815 ) Bushi Sokon Matsumura - (1797 -1889 )
1762 Sakugawa returned to Okinawa and introduced his Kenpo; this
resulted in the Karate we know today. Sakugawa became a famous
samurai; he was given the title of Satunuku or Satonushi; these
were titles given to Samurai for service to the king. Sakugawa had
many famous students; among them were:
Chikatosinunjo Sokon Matsumura (Bushi Matsumura)
Satunuku Makabe (Mabai Changwa)
Satunuku Ukuda (Bushi Ukuda)
Chikuntonnoshinunjo Matsumoto (Bushi Matsumoto)
Kojo of Kumemura (Kugushiku of Kuninda)
Yamaguchi of the East (Bushi Sakumoto)
Usume (old man) of Andaya (Limundun)
contributed greatly to Okinawan Karate; we honor him today by
continuing many of the concepts he introduced. Sakugawa’s
greatest contribution was in teaching the great Sokon “Bushi”
Matsumura. Bushi Matsumura (1797-1889) studied under Sakugawa for
4 years. Sokon (Bushi) Matsumura was born into a well known
Shizoku family at Yamagawa Village, Shuri. As a small child he
lived with Kanga (Tode) Sakugawa, The “Father of Okinawas
Karate.” Matsumura grew into a good scholar and noted
calligrapher and like many youths from an early age studied the
basics of “Te.” He rapidly developed into a Samurai. He was
recruited into the service of the Sho (king’s) family and was
given the title Satunuku, later rising to Chikutoshi. He worked as
a body guard for the last three Ryu Kyuan Kings, (Sho Ko, Sho Iku
ShoTai). While working as a body guard he twice visited Fuchou and
Satsuma Japan as an envoy on affairs of state. At Fuchou he
visited several Chinese boxing schools, and was able to study
under the military attaches, Anson and Iwah. He also took time to
visit the Fukien Shaolin (Shorinji) Temple. He is alleged to have
remained in China for many years. While at Satsuma, Matsumura was
initiated into the Jigen-Ryu sword fighting system.
his return to Okinawa, Matsumura established the Shurite that
later became known as Shorinryu. Matsumura combined Okinawan “Te”
and Chinese Chaun Fa into an organized system. He called this
system Shuri-Te, all Shorin styles originated with this man. After
his retirement, Matsumura taught karate in an open area in
Sakiyama Village, Shuri.
is the Okinawan pronunciation of the Chinese written picturegram
characters (kanji) for Shaolin in Chinese. In both languages
Shorin or Shaolin means “pine forest.” Ryu simply means “stream”
as in a mountain stream or a stream of though or method of
teaching such as those of a school.
Matsumura lived a long and colorful life. He fought many lethal
fights; he was never defeated. He contributed greatly to Okinawan
Karate. He brought the “Hakutsuru” (White Crane) concept to
Okinawa from the Shorinji in China. He taught many students and
indeed many modern Karate systems trace their lineage back to
Matsumura. He passed on his Menkyo-kaiden (Certificate of Full
Proficiency), the complete secret Hakutsuru style only to his
grandson, Nabe Matsumura.
Nabe Matsumura - (1850 - 1930)
Hohan Soken - (1889 - 1983)
Matsumura brought the old Hakutsuru secrets into the modern age.
His name does not appear in many Karate lineage charts. He was
alleged to be very strict and preferred to teach mainly family
members. Not much information on him is available; his date of
birth and death are unknown. He must have been born in the 1850’s
and died in the 1930’s. He was called “Old Man” or “Tanmei”
and is said to have been one of the top karate masters of his
time. He passed on his Menkyu-Kaiden to his nephew Hohan Soken.
Soken was born in 1889; this was a time of great social changes in
both Okinawa and Japan. The feudal system was giving way to
modernization. The aristocracy was forced to work beside the
peasantry. Hohan Soken was born into a Samurai family; at an early
age he chose to study his ancestral art of Shorinryu under his
uncle, Nabe Matsumura. At the age of 13 young Soken began his
training. For the first 10 years Hohan Soken practiced the basics
of Shorinryu. At the age of 23, Soken began learning the secrets
of Hakutsuru. So proficient did Hohan Soken become in the art that
his uncle, Nabe Matsumura passed on the Matsumura Shorinryu style’s
Menkyu-Kaiden to him.
the 1920’s Hohan Soken emigrated to Argentina. He remained there
until 1952. It is not clear why he moved there but while in
Argentina he made a living as a launderer and photographer. Upon
his return to Okinawa, the Matsumura Seito (Orthodox) Shorinryu
Karatejutsu and Kobujutsu style returned also. Soken saw that
Karate had greatly changed; sport Karate had all but replaced the
ancient methods. Soken did not change; he valued himself as the
last of the old masters. He refused to join some of the more
fashionable Karate associations. He stayed with the old ways and
did much to cause a rebirth in Kobudo and the old Shorinryu ways.
Master Soken retired from Karate in 1978. For many years he was
the oldest living and active Karate master. Master Soken
passed away in 1983.
STATE OF SHORINRYU KARATE
Kise's organization is considered to be the authorized inheritor
of Soken Sensei's family art form. However, upon close inspection
of the information (kata/waza/bunkai) given by Soken Sensei to his
most advanced students, Okinawan as well as American, there is
great dispute within the Shorinryu Karate community in general as
to the validity of that assumption, especially since Hohan Soken
never issued anyone a Menkyu-Kaiden. Also, many are professing that
Soken Sensei's original art form has been severely "watered
down" by Kise Sensei's curriculum since the late
1990's when his son Isau Kise took control of the organization as
its chief instructor. Under his directorship the organization has
quickly been transitioning towards a more sport oriented version
of the ancient art than that which was passed down from Soken
Sensei. Most likely this has happened primarily for financial gain.
Fusei Kise - ( b. 1935 ) Takaya Yabiku - ( b. 1945 )
CRANE'S SHORINRYU CONNECTION
Perez started training in Shotokan Karate in 1966, Gojuryu Karate in
1973 and in Shorinryu Karate in 1984. He started teaching Karate in
the Spring of 1986 at the request of Sensei Fusei Kise
and his Shorinryu
organization. Sensei Perez resigned Sensei Kise's
Matsumura Seito organization in 2000 after an ethical argument with
Greg Lazarus*, the East Coast Director for Fusei Kise's AOSKKF and
because Sensei Perez's interests lay in a
different direction than that of Kise Sensei's organization. He
subsequently studied Matsumura Shorinryu Karate and Kohokan/Koshin/Kojoryu
Karate with Sensei Chuck Chandler until his death in
2009. Chandler Sensei was a student of both Kise and Soken Sensei as
well as the senior student of Takaya Yabiku Sensei, himself a senior
student of Soken Sensei and founder of Koshinryu Karate. More on the
history of the Northern Crane Martial Arts Association and Sensei
Perez can be found in the ABOUT US tab in Northern Crane's website.
July 11, 2015 the Okinawa Shorinryu Matsumura Orthodox (Seito)
Karate and Kobudo Federation (OSMKKF) issued an official statement
on their website; kenshin-kan.com that as of June 15th, 2016 they
have no interest in being involved with Greg Lazarus in any way.
Chuck Chandler - (1955 - 2009 )
Phil Perez - ( b.1954)
STATE OF THE MARTIAL ARTS IN THE USA
end of the nineteenth century as projectile weapons became more and
more effective with the introduction of rapid fire weapons such as
the machine gun and hand held explosives like grenades, the older
battlefield arts were seen to become less and less important. The
heads of many of these styles of combat then came to the erroneous
conclusion that in order to keep them alive in the twentieth century
they had to convert them into sporting activities like boxing and
wrestling had done a bit earlier in the west. In the latter part of the
twentieth century in order, again to improve the financial health of
these new sports, they then began recruiting younger and younger
participants. With modern mass media and marketing it has now become
very common to see even preschool children participating in
so-called martial arts programs. This has brought great shame to the
traditional martial arts community and its true masters. The recent
popularity and emphasis on cage fighting matches has further soiled
the reputation of the true martial arts. For the most part, the martial arts community
today at least in the USA seems to have sold out for financial gain and it has
become exceedingly difficult to find competent instruction in the
ancient and well tested battlefield arts.
following interview with Hohan Soken was made by Ernest Estrada
Sensei and illustrates this very clearly:
The following interview was conducted at
the Kadena NCO Club located at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Present
were Soken Hohan and one of his senior student, Kise Fusei. Soken
is a Shihan 10th Dan in Shorinryu Matsumura Seito Karate-do. His
Honbu dojo is located at 104 Gaja, Nishihara City, Okinawa
The date of the interview was
September 10, 1978. The interview was conducted in Spanish to the
great annoyance of Sensei Kise. Soken spoke excellent Spanish due to the
fact that he had lived in Argentina for over twenty-five years. I
should also make mentioned that I was a Spanish language
translator for the Pentagon for two plus years and worked in
Washington, D.C., hence, I am familiar with the language.
Sensei, can you please
Soken-Sensei: My name is Soken Hohan
and I was born on May 25, 1889. I come from (I live in) Gaja
Village, Nishihara City, Okinawa Prefecture. I am a native
Okinawan. My style is officially called the Matsumura Orthodox
Shorin-ryu Karate-do and I am a Shihan 10-Dan. My Honbu dojo is
presently located at Gaja Village, Nishihara City.
My style comes from Kayo Soken. To mark the
occasion when Kayo was appointed the chief body-guard to King Sho
Ko (and later to Sho Iku and then Sho Tai), he was allowed to
change his name. This was a custom back then, especially if
something important or notable happened to you; he changed his
name to Matsumura, -- Matsumura Soken.
It was later that King Sho Tai officially
gave Matsumura the title of "Bushi" (The term "Bushi"
is different from the Japanese meaning. In Japan a "Bushi,"
in simplistic terms, is a warrior. In Okinawa, the term "Bushi"
also refers to the individual being a martial-man/warrior but with
a strong slant to also being a true gentleman -- hence, the
meaning, "a gentleman warrior." - Editor) and to
this day he is, with affection, referred to as Bushi Matsumura.
When Bushi Matsumura died he left the
"hands" of his teachings to my uncle, who was his
grandson, Matsumura Nabe. My mother was Nabe-tanmei's sister.
Tanmei means "respected senior or respected old man,"
this was and still is a title of much respect in Okinawa. I became
a student of my uncle around 1902 or 1903 and learned the original
methods of Uchinan Sui-di (Sui-te), as it was then called.
Back then, there weren't large followings of
students for a master of the warrior arts. Itosu Ankoh had less
than a dozen students and he was one of the greatest of teachers
at the time. My uncle had only one student, and that was me. He
was still a practitioner with an "old mind" and would
only teach or demonstrate for family members. Since I was the most
interested, he allowed me to become his student.
I should also state that Matsumura Orthodox
is not the only authentic Shorin-ryu style. This style, my style,
was passed on from Matsumura Sokon to my uncle, Nabe-tanmei but
Nabe-tanmei was not Bushi Matsumura's only student. Matsumura had
a good dozen or so dedicated students. Each one learned his
methods and then expanded on them.
My uncle only learned from Bushi Matsumura
and only taught me what he had learned. So, it can be said that it
is an "old version" with no updates. By studying my
Matsumura Orthodox you walk back into ancient times when karate
was more forceful and challenging.
Interviewer: Sensei, can you tell me
something about your training methods?
Sensei: Old training was always done
in secret so that others would not steal your techniques. Nabe
initially taught me stepping before anything. He would cut the
leaves off the banana tree and place them on the ground. He would
then have me do exercises to develop balance. If the balance was
not good you would fall and since the exercises were always
vigorous, a fall could seriously hurt you.
We would also use the pine trees that were
found throughout Okinawa. We would slap or kick the trees and
develop our gripping methods for close in fighting. This kind of
training was very hard and severe on a person who had to work hard
all day and then train hard at night. Life was very hard back
We would train twice a day. Early in the
morning we would train on striking objects and conditioning to
prepare one for the day. After working hard in the fields, we
would have nightly training in two person techniques and
conditioning like present-day kotekitai (korte-yate). We had to
toughen our legs and hands - like iron, then they became true
weapons. During the late hours we would practice the kata of
Interviewer: Can you tell me
something about the kata you teach.
Sensei: Well, kata, yes, the most important
Matsumura Seito kata is the Kusanku. Sometimes we would practice
the Kusanku with kanzashi (hairpins) held in the hands - this was
a common method of fighting. The hairpins were symbols of rank and
many Okinawans carried them for decoration and also for
Interviewer: I understand that you
teach a white crane form. Is this the Hakucho kata?
Hakucho, is another kata
that, I believe, came from the Chinese tea seller, Go Kenki. He
moved to Japan but my kata is much different. I call it Hakutsuru.
It was about... no, it was after ten years of training my uncle
taught me the most secret kata of Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu, the
Hakutsuru (White Crane) kata. This form stressed the balance --
all the Matsumura kata stressed balance but this form was the most
dangerous in training.
The practice of the Hakutsuru form forced me
to learn better balance by performing the techniques while
balanced on a pine log. Initially I learned the form on the ground
and then I had to perform it on a log laying on the ground. For
the advanced training the log was put into the river and tied down
so as not to float away. I was then instructed to perform the kata
while balanced on the log. It was very difficult and I almost
drowned several times by falling and bouncing my head off the log.
Interviewer: You are recognized as a
leading practitioner of traditional weaponry. Can you tell
something about your weapons training?
Sensei: I studied traditional
weaponry under Komesu Ushi-no-tanmei and later under Tsuken
Mantaka. Tsuken is known for the bo form called Tsuken-nu-kun or
Tsuken-bo. It is very famous.
Interviewer: Sensei, you speak
excellent Spanish. Where did you learn to speak Spanish?
Sensei: Yes, Spanish. In 1924 I
moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to find my fortune. I
apprenticed myself as a photographer and later I worked in the
clothes cleaning business. I learned Spanish there and I taught
Karate after they found out who I was. Most of my students in
Argentina came from the Okinawan community - some Japanese.
All in all, in Argentina, I only had a small
handful of students but we gave numerous demonstrations throughout
the country. There were many, many Okinawans and Japanese living
in Argentina. I returned to Okinawa in 1952.
Interviewer: What happened when you
returned to Okinawa?
Sensei: I did not teach karate at
first. Yes, not to the public but I began to teach a few family
members which then opened up to a small dojo. I initially called
it by the "Hogen" name Machimura Sui-di or in Japanese,
Around 1956 I changed the name of my
teachings to Matsumura Orthodox Shorin-ryu karate-do. I still
trained in the old ways and did not understand the new methods
that were being taught. It appeared to be softer (watered down)
and more commercial. Because of this, I did not join the new
organizations that were being formed at the time. My old way of
Karate was not readily accepted by everyone. They thought it too
old and too crude -- I think it was just too hard or maybe my
training methods were too severe. Whatever it was, it was the way
I learned and the way I taught. It was later, when the Americans
came to learn, that I changed my ways.
I found that there were two kinds of
students - one was a dedicated and motivated student who wants to
learn the Okinawan martial arts. The other is an individual who
only wants to say he is "learning Karate". There are
more of the latter. It is the latter that you see everywhere. They
say that they "know" Karate or that they "use
to" practice Karate - these are worthless individuals.
Interviewer: Can you tell me some
more about your kata.
Sensei: I teach the Matsumura kata.
The kata that I teach now are Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Naihanchi
Shodan, NaihanchiNidan, Pasai-Sho and Dai, Chinto, Gojushiho,
Kusanku, Rohai Ichi-Ni-San, and last, the Hakutsuru. The last one
is my favorite kata that I demonstrate - because it is easier to
do. When I was young, the best kata was the Kusanku. This is the
Matsumura Kusanku -- the older version that is not done much now.
I also teach bo, sai, tuifa, kama, nunchaku,
kusarigama and suruchin. My favorite weapons form is Tsukenbo (I
learned that from Komesu Ushi) but in the old days it was the
furi-gama or kusari-gama. We, on Okinawa, use a hand made rope to
tie the kama to the hand or wrist. In Japan they use an iron chain
but this is too cumbersome and can damage the student that
practices that method.
I knew Taira Shinken very well before he
died. I taught him some of my older forms. In 1970 I formed the
All Okinawa Kobujutsu Association. I hope that this will spread
all over the U.S. and mainland Japan. I am also a member of the
Ryukyu Historical Society. We are trying to preserve the "Hogen"
dialect. Many young Okinawans no longer understand or even speak
the old Okinawan language anymore. It is shameful.
(It should also be noted that Soken
preferred to speak in his native dialect of Hogen. He often stated
that he did not care for the Japanese language that much. --
Interviewer: Sensei, you say that
Shorin-ryu Matsumura Seito Karate-do is an old style with many
secrets. Since you also say that you are getting old, what do you
feel needs to be passed on to modem day students of Okinawan
Sensei: There are many secrets in
Karate that people will never know and will never understand.
These ideas are really not secret if you train in Okinawa under a
good teacher. You will see the teacher use these so called secret
techniques over and over again until they will become common
knowledge to you. Others will look at it and marvel that it is an
advanced or secret technique to them. That is because they do not
have good teachers or their teachers have not researched their
Karate is much more than simple punching and
kicking and blocking. It is the study of weaponry and of
grappling. Weaponry and empty hand fighting go together. How can
you learn about defending against a weapon unless you are familiar
with what the weapon can do?
[Soken-sensei used the Spanish word for
wrestling when describing this art-form but I felt that a more apt
term would be grappling - much like Japanese-style jujutsu. He
stated that many people often referred to the Okinawan grappling
arts as Okinawan-style wrestling mainly because it was never
systematized and looked like a free-for-all form of fighting.
Soken-sensei continued by stating that as a
youngster on Okinawa, that grappling was taken very seriously and
it was not uncommon for individuals to suffer broken arms and legs
as a result of taking part in this light form of entertainment.
Soken-sensei would use the terms "Te-gumi" or "Gyaku-te"
as identifying this old Okinawan art form.
The danger of reminding Soken-sensei of the
"old methods of playing" was that he would often stand
up, grab you, and then apply one of these painful methods of
common people entertainment - (He enjoyed watching Americans
"squeaking like a mouse who had been stepped on." --
Grappling is an old Okinawan custom that is
commonly practiced in all villages. In America, the children
played at "cowboys and indians. " In Okinawa we played
by grappling with each other. We would have contests for grapplers
in every village and one village would pit their best grapplers
against all comers. It was very exciting.
Some people see the grappling and call it
Okinawan Jujitsu but this is incorrect. It is the old method
called "Ti". (Or Tui-Ti / Tuite-Japanese, this
Ti is pronounced in the old dialect of Okinawa -- it sounds like
the word "tea" -- Editor) Ti practice was very
common during the turn of the century but with the Japanese
influences, these methods have almost disappeared.
Interviewer: Sensei, any
recommendations for us -- Americans?
Sensei: Yes, but you won't like it!
Americans want to learn too much, too fast. You want more this and
more that. You have a life time to learn. Learn slowly. Learn
correctly. Look. Listen. Practice, practice, practice. Don't be a
rash American, but a smart American. Never be in a hurry to learn,
OK? Learning in a hurry can cause pain. Do you know about pain?
Let me show you!
DEMONSTRATION: At this time, Soken
demonstrated basic "Ti" methods involving the use of the
"sharp forearm bone" and the "thumbing"
methods. All of them hurt - a lot! He had an uncanny command of
the human anatomy and would use the thumb to hit the various
nerves in the shoulder, the forearm and the sides of the body. He
laughed a lot when doing this - he really enjoyed grappling.
A number of techniques resembled
movements and instead of moving in on the opponent, he would step
backwards and would use his body weight to increase the power of
the technique. He would always block using what he called a
"double bone block" and counter with a thumb technique
or a grappling technique that took you to the ground.
Soken stated that he could drive an
individual through the ground or just simply throw him on the
ground either way, the opponent was at a distinct disadvantage. He
could then subdue you with techniques like kicks or move away from
Interviewer: Sensei, your kata is
very distinct and beautiful to see. I have a question that has
been bothering me since the Okinawan Expo. Remember when we saw
the bo fighters in Nago. They used the names of many of the kata
that are practiced today but they are very different. The only
thing that appears to be the same is the name.
Sensei: Yes, they are the same and
they are not the same. You say you lived on Okinawa for five years
but you cannot understand the Okinawan people. In the old days,
when we were really Okinawan and not Japanese, many of the old
people were not smart -- or as smart as they are today. They did
not travel, they did not watch TV, many never left their villages
unless they had to. What we did have was festivals... village
festivals. Everyone would come and watch and learn.
These village people would watch the other
fancy city people practice their Ti or their methods of weaponry.
Say, like... well, ... Yes, a kata that they knew or practice had
a number of movements. They come to the city and see and city kata
with some of the same movements. The city kata had a name... and
maybe their kata did not have a name. So, they would go back and
... yes, you now understand. They would name their kata after the
city kata because they had a few of the same movements.
Some of their kata had five or maybe ten
movements. Taira, my friend, would go to the village and learn
these kata. He says that he learned 500 kata this way! Wah! This
is true but he also liked to tell stories. Some of these kata had
only 3 or maybe 5 movements. 500 kata, yes, now that is funny but
he was a history collector. He knew them but he didnt understand
Interviewer: Was Taira a friend or
student? He is very famous for his weaponry in Japan.
Sensei: Yes, Taira... he knew a lot
of kata, huh. Huh, huh, huh... Yes, he is dead, you know that. He
would watch my kata all the time and try to learn my tsuken style
stick. But I would trick him and change the kata, wah!! ... just
like that. He would still come back and look some more in the
hopes of being able to take it back. When we both were young --
our karate was very good. When we both got old, our weaponry was
Why do you want to know these things --
these old ideas, these old ways. Their old value was to survive a
challenge match. You punch me and I will show you ... good karate
means you also test yourself through pain. Like pain... in good
Karate... movements are quick, like a mongoose. If you are slow,
you can die. If you are quick, then there is a chance that you and
your family (???) will live.
Interviewer: Yes, fighting must have
been very different at the beginning of this century.
Sensei: Yes, you don't know these old
days. In a fight... if you would lose, the loss would be suffered
by your family. They could die. You would work hard to support the
family working all day, If you were injured or killed while
fighting, then your family would starve... maybe even die. Okinawan
life was very hard.
Now, the young people want to be Japanese.
They don't speak the Okinawan language. They are lazy. They do not
respect old people, they have no pride in being Okinawan. Yes, we
are a poor country but that is no excuse in putting our culture in
the dark and saying we are someone that we are not. This is no
NOTE: The second interview ends
here. Sensei's mind begins to wander and he begins to get angry. I
believe it has to do with painful, old memories that are brought
up by the questions
CRANE SHORINRYU KARATEDO LINEAGE:
“TODE” SAKUGAWA (1733-1815). Studied in China under Kusanku.
Early founder of Tode.
“BUSHI” MATSUMURA (1797-1889). Founder of Shurite (Shorinryu).
MATSUMURA (1850’s-1930’s). Grandson of Bushi Matsumura.
SOKEN (1889-1983). Great grandson of Bushi Matsumura. In 1955
Changed name of style from Matsumura Shurite to Shorinryu
KISE (b. 1935). Current Grandmaster of Ken Shin Kan Shorinryu Karate
& Kobudo Federation. Now known as Matsumura Seito Shorinryu
Karate & Kobudo Federation.
PEREZ (b. 1954). Chief Instructor of Northern Crane
Martial Arts Association.
Copyright © 1998 By Phil
Perez [Northern Crane]. All rights reserved.
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