Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
We should all strive to learn and share all we can about the great teachers of the past, and the art of Karate that they insured, survived for us all. We owe them much in the way of gratitude. Without them, and their gift of giving to their students, we could not be where we are today. Karate from Okinawa is now practiced in many Dojo's in virtually every part of the world. What is important is to keep the truth, study the truth, and most importantly we must share the truth.
The Website located at http://www.shotoshinkai.blogspot.com/ is the site for the Kokusai Shotoshinkai™ Karate-do Kyokai, the International Shotoshinkai™ Karate-do Federation. This is the site that will direct the activity of the Original Shotoshinkai™, for all members, and all member sites/links.
SHOTOSHINKAI™ .........a Way of Seito Karate-do.....
Using the moniker of Zen Beikoku Shotoshinkai™ Karate Dojo, our name is translated as the "All American Shotoshinkai™ Karate Dojo". The official founding date was in December of 1994.
This name and date represents many historical, and personal timelines. Zen Beikoku, meaning "All American", derives it's name from the Founding City from which it began. Fayetteville, North Carolina is the home of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, and it's History as the AA, or All American Division, is recorded widely through out America's history. I am fortunate to be a past member of such an elite and glorified Paratrooper Unit, and still today Stand in Honor of their commitment and sacrifice.
The Shotoshinkai™ name was given to me by my wife's mother Takako Takeda shellcrosslee in November of 1994, in order that we might honor the beginnings of Karate in Japan. These men came from Okinawa, the likes of Gichin Funakoshi, Kanken Toyama, Hiroshi Kinjo, Kenwa Mabuni and others.
This name was also chosen in order to honor all aspects of Seito Karate, including the original art of Shuri-te.
All of this, as a whole was/is represented by the (Sho).
The (To) represents the original art of Okinawa, the To-te, To-di, or China Hand.
(Shin) represents the heart, soul, spirit, and our commitment to properly representing our family's warrior heritage.
(Kai) means group, association, or gathering of individuals.
This original description has not changed, and any other translation other than that above, simply is not correct in the context of the Original methodology of the Shotoshinkai™ Karate Dojo.
One of the most important contribution's to Karate, was the effort of Anko Itosu in establishing Seito Karate-do. Because of that, Karate has spread to the World. His base of students were responsible for the spread of his Karate World wide.
Along with Kanken Toyama was Funakoshi's desire to not "stylize" Karate-do. Dojo names were acceptable. It was early on, a popular movement with the support of many of the early Masters.
We wish to thank also, our Aunt and Uncle in Japan, Teruko and Takashi Takeda for making the original Shotoshinkai™ Menjo in 2003 during our trip to Yokohama, Japan. It shares the true intent of training in the Shotoshinkai™ Karate Dojo, which is to train Karate with all your heart and spirit.
This Menjo is shared with our friends worldwide as a symbol of friendship, and as a symbol of the mindset required to properly train in the art of Seito Karate.
To be clear, the true understanding of Karate can not be complete without both the aspects of Michi (Do), and Jutsu.
It is the responsibility of all persons claiming knowledge in true Karate to develop their capabilities in both areas. To even think about someday being considered an expert in the art of Karate without proper knowledge in both of these areas is not possible, and should be considered unthinkable at best.
Any person can develop the capability to fight, but that alone does not qualify anyone for mastery of our beloved art of Karate.
This is also a good time and place to thank my wife. Without her guidance and support, and that of our Japanese family, none of this would be possible. Many lessons, primarily life lessons, have been gleaned from this marriage. Many which have helped form my Karate for more than fifty years, and have helped lead me to where I am today. I would also like to thank my Mother in Law, Takako Takeda Shellcrosslee for everything she shared with me for many years. After all that she has shared , sadly she passed from this Earth on December 6th, 2010. Her memory however, will live on forever.......
Master Funakoshi, in the middle of our last century, was known to have written the following poem and calligraphy:
"To search for the Old is to understand the New. The Old, The New, this is a matter of time. In all things man must have a clear mind.
The Way: Who will pass it on straight and well?"
This passage was foremost in our thoughts when we founded the first Shotoshinkai™ Karate Dojo's in December of 1994 in Little Rock and North Little Rock, Arkansas. The Shotoshinkai™ movement began as the result of two friends studying and sharing their karate together.
The desire of the Shotoshinkai™ in the beginning was to understand the origins of all methods of Karate, to include both Karate-do and Karate-jutsu.
What I have found with the passing of time, and after much research into the earlier methods of Karate, I will share. It might help someone save some time in their own training while exploring Karate. I came to realize that the "Original Karate" of Funakoshi (via Itosu) is quite different from JKA Shotokan Karate. The older systems of Karate or Te of Okinawa were different as well. It soon became obvious to me that I needed to take myself back to the origins of Karate.
Much of this Dojo's growth has been continued by the founding of the Kokusai Seito Karate Kenkyukai, or the ISKK in late 2005/2006. This International Study Group and its membership, allows us to share information with senior karate Sensei's from all over the world.
The ISKK Shihankai includes Kaicho Dwight Holley, 9th Dan, Shotokan, a member of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, as well as Retired member, Kyoshi Paul Fracchia, 8th Dan, Shito-ryu (and Mabuni family student), Kyoshi George Bishop, 7th Dan, Shotokan from the United Kingdom, and many other fine senior Sensei from around the world including Carlos Varon Kyoshi, Jim Copeland Kyoshi, Shihan Malcolm Bates (Renshi), myself, and many, many other outstanding Senior Karate-ka from around the World. We are truly blessed to bring together this fine group of Karate teachers and mentors.
A few points on the History of my personal Ranking: I recieved my Go-dan, 5th Degree and the Renshi Title in 2006. On September 3rd, 2009 The ISKK Shihankai elected to induct me onto the Shihankai Board.
On 01 April, 2011, I was elevated to Roku-dan, 6th Degree Black Belt, in Okinawa Seito Karate-do from the ISKK and by both Holley Kyoshi, and Fracchia Kyoshi, while still maintaining my Renshi Title. I am humbled once again that these men consider me worthy of such a position.
As of September 2018, I hold the rank of Roku-dan, 6th Degree Black Belt in Shotoshinkai™ Karate, 6th Degree Black Belt from the Kokusai Seito Karate Kenkyukai in Seito Karate-do, a 5th Degree Black Belt in Shojukai Kempo from the Okinawa Karate League, and a 4th Degree Black Belt from the International Society of Okinawan/Japanese Karate-do. I also have rank in Korean Karate as well, from 1st-3rd Dan. I truly like this because of the connection from Korean Karate, or Kong Soo Do, my first style and Seito Karate.
Many other members of the ISKK also continue to train in Japan, Okinawa, and around the world at every opportunity. In turn, they continue to bring the information and advantages gained, back to the membership of the ISKK.
Each person must follow his own path, and should develop and foster the growth of his/her own curriculum, as their level of ability allows. Once again I find myself always changing as I grasp a deeper understanding of Seito Karate and its roots. It is truly a wonderful experience.
I will always elect to continue down my own path of study, in the original Okinawan art's of Ryukyu Kempo, Japan's Seito Karate-do, and Ryukyu Kobudo and Kobujutsu. I do this to be as complete a martial artist as possible.
I hope through my efforts, the Shotoshinkai Dojo will continue on as it has from the very beginning.
As always, we hope that we can continue to learn the truth via the Kuden, or oral transmission, from any and all teachers who are determined to share the truth about Karate.
This is our History, as best as I can provide it. It has taken many years of work, on the part of many, just to be here on this Blog. I hope it is of some use for others in the furure.
The content of this Blog, represents the work of many Karate-ka. Where possible I always list the known resource of the information. If something is listed that does not correctly portray the intent of the writer, please ask and I will correct it or remove it at your direction.
Karate-Do....Who will pass it on straight and Well.........
What is Karate ?
What Karate is now, is many different things to many different people. Karate as we know it today, has it's roots in Okinawa, but by it's very nature has now spread across the entire Universe. Virtually every country on Earth has had it's own impact on the art of Karate. Karate has grown into a magnificent sport that has attracted millions of follower's into it's fold. The vision of Itosu Sensei has truly blossomed. The art of Karate has now been made available to the masses, young and old. The level of sporting karate is at it's very best technical level ever.
And yet, to the well trained karate-ka, the knowledge of how to revert the art of Karate back to the original art of Okinawa-te, a method of bujutsu, or the warring/combat aspects of the art, are readily at hand. This is the beauty of the art itself. Not only can it be taught at various levels, depending on the needs of the practitioner, but it continues to be a catalyst for developing the warrior skills from whence it originated.
The history of Karate's beginning is somewhat obscure due to the lack of written records, and therefore much of the information we do have is based on oral transmission of the facts. The true beginning of Karate was based on the blending of Chinese Chuan Fa or Kempo and the Okinawan art of Te.
Satunuku "Tode" Sakugawa (1733-1815) is considered to be the first teacher of true (Seito) Okinawan Karate. Also called Kanga Sakugawa, he was an Okinawan martial artist who played a major role in the development of Te, the precursor to modern Karate. In 1750, Sakukawa (or Sakugawa) began his training as a student of an Okinawan monk, Peichin Takahara. After six years of training, Takahara suggested that Sakugawa train under Kusanku, a Chinese master in Ch'uan Fa. Sakugawa spent six years training with Kusanku, and began to spread what he learned to Okinawa in 1762. Kusanku is credited with development of both the "Hikite" or pulling hand and for the develpment of Kumiai Jutsu (Kumite), or fighting techniques. In most all styles of Karate, even today there exists a Kata by the name of Kushanku, or it's derivative, ie. Kusanku, Kanku, Kosokun, or Kongsangun.
Sakugawa then begins to teach the new art of "Tode" and teaches many distinguished martial artists, among them Bushi Ukuda, Macabe Chokun, Bushi Matsumoto, and Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura. "Bushi" Matsumura (1797-1889) was by all accounts one of the top martial artists of his time. His style of Shuri-te (Tode) certainly formulated the beginnings of the Shorin Ryu style, although his student Ankoh Itosu (1830-1915) is generally credited with the founding of the wording "Karate". Fortunately for us all, Bushi Matsumura left us a small, but important piece of information contained in a letter sent to one of his pupils.
The Precepts of Master Matsumura
You must first resolve to study if you wish to understand the truth of martial arts. This resolve is very important.
Fundamentally, the arts and the martial arts are the same. Each has three fundamental elements.
As far as Art is concerned they are Shisho-no-Gaku, Kunko-no-Gaku and Jussha-no-Gaku.
Shisho-no-Gaku is the art of creative writing and reading - in a word, literature.
Kunko-no-Gaku means to study the past and gain an understanding of ethics by relating past events to our way of life.
Both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku are incomplete until supplemented by Jussha-no-Gaku, (the study of the moral aspects of the teaching of Confucius).
Have a tranquil heart and you can prevail over a village, a country, or the world. The study of Jussha-no-Gaku is the supreme study over both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku.
These then are the three elements necessary for the study of the Arts.
If we consider Budo, there are also three precepts. They are Gukushi-no-Bugei, Meimoko-no-Bugei and Budo-no-Bugei.
Gukushi-no-Bugei is nothing more than a technical knowledge of Bugei. Like a woman, it is just superficial and has no depth.
Meimoko-no-Bugei refers to a person who has physical understanding of Bugei. He can be a powerful and violent person who can easily defeat other men. He has no self-control and is dangerous and can even harm his own family.
Budo-no-Bugei is what I admire. With this you can let the enemy destroy himself - just wait with a calm heart and the enemy will defeat himself.
People who practice Budo-no-Bugei are loyal to their friends, their parents and their country. They will do nothing that is unnatural and contrary to nature.
We have "Seven Virtues of Bu". They are:
Bu prohibits violence.
Bu keeps discipline in soldiers.
Bu keeps control among the population.
Bu spreads virtue.
Bu gives a peaceful heart.
Bu helps keep peace between people.
Bu makes people or a nation prosperous.
Our forefathers handed these seven virtues down to us.
Just as Jussha-no-Gaku is supreme in the arts, so Budo-no-Bugei is supreme in the martial arts.
"Mon-Bu" (Art and Martial Arts) have the same common elements. We do not need Gukushi-no-Bugei or Meimoko-no-Bugei - this is the most important thing.
I leave these words to my wise and beloved deshi Kuwae.
- Bucho Matsumura
Around the turn of the century, Ankoh Itosu introduced Karate (Tode) to the Okinawan Board of Education, and was asked to develop a program suitable for inclusion in the Physical Education curriculum. This Karate was to be distinguished by a different Kanji, being read as "Kute" or as "Empty Hand", instead of "Tode" or "China Hand", however both are pronounced as "Karate".
In 1904, Itosu introduced the "Pinan" Kata 1-5. He also designated a total of fourteen kata for his PE karate program. The kata's named were Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan, Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan, Bassai Dai, Bassai Sho, Kosokun Dai, Kosokun Sho, Chinto, and Gojushiho.
In 1908, Itosu presented his "Toudi Jakkajo" (Karate Report) to outline his less lethal form of Te by way of his famous "Ten Teachings".
10 precepts from Yasutsune "Ankoh" Itosu
°Tode did not develop from the way of Buddhism or Confucianism. In the recent past Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu were brought over from China. They both have similar strong points, so, before there are too many changes, I should like to write these down.
°Tode is primarily for the benefit of health. In order to protect one's parents or one's master, it is proper to attack a foe regardless of one's own life. Never attack a lone adversary. If one meets a villain or a ruffian one should not use tode but simply parry and step aside.
°The purpose of tode is to make the body hard like stones and iron; hands and feet should be used like the points of arrows; hearts should be strong and brave. If children were to practice tode from their elementary-school days, they would be well prepared for military service. When Wellington and Napoleon met they discussed that 'tomorrow's victory will come from today's playground'.
°Tode cannot be learned quickly. Like a slow moving bull, that eventually walks a thousand miles, if one studies seriously every day, in three or four years one will understand what tode is about. The very shape of one's bones will change. Those who study as follows will discover the essence of tode:
°In tode the hands and feet are important so they should be trained thoroughly on the makiwara. In so doing drop your shoulders, open your lungs, take hold of your strength, grip the floor with your feet and sink your intrinsic energy to your lower abdomen. Practice with each arm one or two hundred times.
°When practicing tode forms (kata) make sure your back is straight, drop your shoulders, take your strength and put it in your legs, stand firmly and put the intrinsic energy in your lower abdomen, the top and bottom of which must be held together tightly.
°The bunkai (application of kata techniques) should be carefully practiced, one by one, many times. Because these techniques are passed on by word of mouth, take the trouble to learn the explanations and decide when and in what context it would be possible to use them. Observe principles of torite(grappling) and applications will be more easily understand.
°You must decide whether tode is for cultivating a healthy body or for defense.
°During practice you should imagine you are on the battle field. When blocking and striking make the eyes glare, drop the shoulders and harden the body. Now block the enemy's punch and strike! Always practice with this spirit so that, when on the real battlefield, you will naturally be prepared.
°Do not overexert yourself during practice because the intrinsic energy will rise up your face and eyes will turn red and your body will be harmed. Be careful.
°In the past many of those who have mastered tode have lived to an old age. This is because tode aids the development of the bones and sinews, it helps the digestive organs and is good for the circulation of the blood. Therefore, from now on tode should become the foundation of all sports lessons from elementary schools onward. If this is put into practice there will, I think, be many men who can win against ten aggressors.
The reason for stating all this is that it is my opinion that all students at the Okinawa Prefectural Teachers' Training College should practice tode, so that when they graduate from here they can teach the children in the schools exactly as I have taught them. Within ten years tode will spread all over Okinawa and to the Japanese mainland. This will be a great asset to our militaristic society. I hope you will carefully study the words I have written.
Itosu Ankoh 1908
Two other Shurite experts assisited Itosu in developing the School PE Karate Program. They were Chomo Hanashiro and Kentsu Yabu. Although Hanashiro was the first to publish the Kanji for Karate as "Kute", it is Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957), the student of Itosu who was responsible for promoting the "Empty Hand" term on mainland Japan.
Funakoshi was one of the school teachers with some training in Shuri-te and was therefore sought out by Itosu and his assistants to promote and teach the new system of Karate. In 1917 Funakoshi went to Japan to introduce the PE Karate Program. He returned to Japan in 1922 and was to remain there for the remainder of his life.
Gichin Funakoshi is known as the "Father of Modern Karate". His style became known as "Shotokan" with the construction of his Dojo between 1936 and 1938, which reportedly opened in January of 1939. The art of Shotokan Karate has taken on many changes throughout it's history, with many of those changes being implemented by the JKA, or the Japan Karate Association after Funakoshi's death. We know for certain that it is not the same as it was when Funakoshi brought the Original Karate Syllabus to Japan.
Funakoshi Sensei did leave us with some important pieces of work. The Niju Kun, or Twenty Precepts is an example of Funakoshi's beliefs that karate could be used as a tool to develop one's character.
While it has been suggested that the kun were documented by around 1890, they were first published in 1938 in a book The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate in the form below:
1) Karate-do begins and ends with rei
Karate-do wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru koto a wasaru na
2) There is no first strike in karate
Karate ni sente nashi
3) Karate stands on the side of justice
Karate wa, gi no taske
4) First know yourself, then know others
Mazu onore o shire, shikashite ta o shire
5) Mentality over technique
Gijitsu yori shinjitsu
6) The mind must be set free
Kokoro wa hanatan koto o yosu
7) Calamity springs from carelessness
Wazawai wa ketai ni seizu
8) Karate goes beyond the dojo
Dojo nomino karate to omou na
9) Karate is a lifelong pursuit
Karate-do no shugyo wa isssho de aru
10) Apply the way of karate to all things. Therein lies its beauty
Ara yuru mono o karateka seyo; sokoni myomi ari
11) Karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state
Karate Wa Yu No Gotoku Taezu Netsu O Atae Zareba Motono Mizuni Kaeru
12) Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing
Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
13) Make adjustments according to your opponent
Tekki ni yotte tenka seyo
14) The outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness (weakness and strength)
Tattakai wa kyo-jitsu no soju ikan ni ari
15) Think of hands and feet as swords
Hi to no te-ashi wa ken to omoe
16) When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies
Danshi mon o izureba hyakuman no teki ari
17) Kamae is for beginners; later, one stands in shizentai
Kamae wa shoshinsha ni atowa shizentai
18) Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter
Kata wa tadashiku, jisen wa betsumono
19) Do not forget the employment of withdrawal of power, the extension or contraction of the body, the swift or leisurely application of technique
Chikara no kyojaku tai no shinshuku waza no kankyu
20) Be constantly mindful, diligent, and resourceful, in your pursuit of the Way
Tsune ni shinen ku fu seyo
The Five Dojo Kun
Senior instructors at the JKA developed the Five Dojo Kun, which every-one studying at the JKA commits to memory. With each practice session at the dojo, students kneel in the seiza position and repeat these five precepts out loud. This process reminds students of the right attitude, frame of mind and virtues to strive for both within the dojo, and outside. The number 1, or Hitotsu, was used to precede each of the following, in order to assure all five rules were considered equally important.
1) Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto
Seek perfection of character
1) Makoto no michi o mamoru koto
1) Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto
Put maximum effort into everything you do
1) Reigi o omonzuru koto
1) Kekki no yuu o imashimuru koto
Varying translations and interpretations of the dojo kun exists. Each translation differs in the terms used and the interpretations vary regarding the philosophical depth, meaning, and intention.
The population of English karate practitioners has pushed one form of the translation into being the most widely accepted outside of Japan. Generally, the English translation states:
Each person must strive for the perfection of one's character.
Each person must be faithful and protect the way of truth.
Each person must endeavour (fostering the spirit of effort).
Each person must respect others and the rules of etiquette.
Each person must refrain from violent behavior (guard against impetuous courage).
A more terse translation is used by many Dojo's:
Seek Perfection Of Character
Refrain From Violent Behavior
In recent times we have began to realize the truth of what Karate was and what it has become. It was and is the product of Ankoh Itosu's desires to spread the cultural fighting arts of Okinawa to many people.
He then developed a program for the youth of Okinawa, to be taught within the school systems. Although this program was elementary in it's design, the true master of Karate (according to Kinjo Sensei and Mitani Sensei) is also aware of how to convert the techniques of Karate back to the art of Shuri-te, one of the original systems of Okinawa-te. This is what gives us the ability to teach our system correctly, and to teach to the students needs and capabilities.
Kazuya Mitani is the student of Hiroshi Kinjo. Hiroshi Kinjo was the student of Chosin Chibana and of Chomo Hanashiro. Hanashiro Sensei was both a student of, and an assistant to Ankoh Itosu. Through Mitani Sensei we were able to realize the truth of our roots. Karate had no styles in the beginning. It was simply Karate.
Master Funakoshi, in the middle of our last century, was known to have written the following poem and calligraphy:
"To search for the Old is to understand the New. The Old, The New, this is a matter of time. In all things man must have a clear mind.
The Way: Who will pass it on straight and well
My Journey in Karate-do
My parents were a career Military family, and I myself joined the US Military upon graduation from High School in 1974. In a large part, this played a heavy influence on how and who I was taught by, and how I trained in the martial arts. At many times I found myself studying alone, or with one or two other's who were also trying to seriously learn karate.
My father was an amatuer boxer in his teens and twenties, and spent time boxing for the Army Air Corp, and the US Air Force. He was twenty seven when I was born, and from the time I could stand he played boxing with me, encouraged me to learn fighting skills, including wrestling, and finally introduced me to Sensei Ron Powell at the Little Rock Air Force Base Judo Club around 1972.
During this period, and prior to my enlistment in June of 1974, I studied Kodokan Judo at the Base Gym, and Korean Kong Soo Do Karate at the Enlisted Men's Club. Sensei Powell had lived for many years in Japan serving in the Air Force, and had studied at the Kodokan for many years. He sponsored a Japanese exchange student by the name of Akira Tachibana (also a Kodokan Black Belt), who introduced us to Goju-ryu Karate at the Jacksonville Recreation Center during his stay in America. I received my Yellow Belts in Judo and Goju-ryu.
The class where we trained Kong Soo Do, was a class for adults, although there were always two or three other teens present during my time there. They allowed us to train with them, though we were told to stay quiet, do what we were told, and to stay out of the way of the adults. They trained very hard, fought very hard, and during most classes someone, if not everyone would bleed. I will never forget that, or the fact that when class ended they all hugged, and proclaimed proudly of their wounds and cuts, with true friendship. They still did not speak much to us, but it was unforgettable none the less. They did not issue rank to kids, and that was fine with all of us, as we were just happy to be there.
In June of 1974, I found myself at Ft Polk, Louisiana. There I was to undergo 16 weeks of Basic and Advanced Infantry Training. Within the first week there I was made a squad leader, and met a former Korean ROK soldier, and Tae Kwon Do man by the name of Se Chong Lee, who was a 3rd dan, and one of my squad members. For the next sixteen weeks we trained together along with his brother Han, a fourth dan, and another soldier Kyung Pak, who were also stationed at Ft Polk. When we were to depart ways, him going to California and me heading to Ft Benning for Airborne Training, he presented me with a green belt. It was a very nice quality belt, that I was quite fond of. I passed that belt on to my student Bob Kinney.
In December 1974 I was stationed at Ft Bragg, North Carolina and the 82nd Airborne Division. Quickly locating the available karate men in our 1st Battalion area, we began studying with each other almost daily. In 1975-1976, General Emerson's movement toward the Army's Tae Kwon Do training program started and Jon Petry and myself began teaching for Charlie Company 1/325 Airborne Infantry.
In 1977, I married Janet Marie (Takeda) Shellcrosslee, a Japanese/American Army Dependent, whose father was retired from the Special Forces at Ft Bragg. I left the Army in 1978, and trained on my own or with friends whenever possible for the next four years.
I met Sifu Juan Agoun, another soldier in the 82nd, a Black Belt in Kempo, and an expert in Shaolin-Five Animals Kung Fu. He was trained by his father and grandfather, and was probably the hardest hitting and kicking individual I have ever met. A few weeks after I began training with him, he gave me a Brown Belt, stating that I was not a Green Belt by his standard, but further along than that. On 12 September 1983, I was tested and awarded the Sho-dan in Shojukai Kempo.
In 1984 I moved back to Arkansas, and tried a brief stint with the ATA Tae Kwon Do Association, before meeting a local Sheriff's Deputy named Scott Parr, a Hapkido Black Belt 1st dan.
In January 1988 we formed a partnership and founded the Ki Do Kwan School of Tae Kwon Do, a few miles from the Air Force Base. I was recruited by a Little Rock, Arkansas 4th Dan, Dwayne Hodges, also a Sheriff's Deputy, to join the USA-Korean Karate Association. We affiliated our school with them and I tested for my 2nd Dan, and received my Diploma on the 6th of August, 1988.
During this time, I was able to meet many martial artists, as my school competed in the Arkansas Karate Circuit, as well as other open tournaments. Our hard training paid off, and the school won many awards, including six State Championships. In July of 1992 I was promoted to 3rd Dan by the IATF, also receiving my Instructor Certification.
My dream to learn Japanese Karate was finally made a reality by meeting one of the founders of the Arkansas Karate Circuit, Sensei Pete Rouse, a Shotokan Black Belt, and former student of Cedric Rodgers, himself a student of Nishiyama Sensei. Sensei Rouse owned the local Karate supply store in Little Rock where I bought most of my supplies, and we quickly became good friends. Both of us would end up serving the Pulaski County Sheriff as Deputies for many years as Defensive Tactics Instructors, and I would end up serving with Sensei Rouse, who was the Special Response Team Commander.
From 1992-1994, I privately studied Shotokan Karate, although I was still teaching Korean Karate. On 12-12-1994 I was conversion/promoted to 3rd Dan Shotokan-style Karate-do, and I closed the Ki Do Kwan School (leaving my senior student Bob Kinney with my remaining students at his newly opened Dojang), and opened the Shotoshinkai Karate School in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
The name Shotoshinkai was given to us by my mother in law, Takako Takeda Shellcrosslee, as we wanted to promote and study Japanese style Karate, but we also wished to include Jujutsu/Judo/Aikijutsu style techniques, and we wished a name that could honor our roots and allow us to study material outside of the mainstream Shotokan syllabus.
The path of Shotoshinkai Karate has been one of much growth for me. Although the separation of a thousand miles, and over ten years of time has caused our karate to now differ in many aspects, Sensei Rouse and I continue to travel, and to train together at every opportunity. We both maintain that karate is a personal journey, and for me it is a journey backwards in time.
Ten years later in April of 2004 I was promoted to 4th dan, by ISOK, the International Society of Okinawan/Japanese Karate and Sensei Leroy Rodrigues. I had spent many years completing my conversion, and although I had received certificates from Sensei Rouse over the years, I endeavored to maintain my Gradings through other legitimate organizations, in order to preserve the full integrity of the Shotoshinkai Dojo.
My 5th Dan, dated 7-01-2006, from the ISKK, the International (Kokusai) Seito Karate Kenkyukai (Karate-do), came less than three years later but was based on my many years as a Yudansha between 3rd dan and 4th dan. I also received my Renshi Teaching Title at this time.
I then received my 5th Dan, dated 11-05-2007, from Sato Sensei and the Okinawan Karate League in Shojukai Kempo Karate-jutsu.
My 6th Dan, dated 4-01-2011, from the ISKK, the International (Kokusai) Seito Karate Kenkyukai (Karate-do) was my last grading to date, and at this writing on September 2018, I am forging forward, still maintaining my Renshi license, but also have now been a member of the Dai Nippon Butoku-kai in Kyoto, Japan for more than four years. I am eternally grateful to Hanshi Dwight Holley for sponsoring me in these most special opportunities.
In closing I would like to say that I have studied karate earnestly, and to the best of my ability. I have Honorably served my Country on two occasions, as well as my State and my County.
I have also tried to always provide a positive influence on/of karate at all times. That I have only touched on the true knowledge of karate goes without saying, yet it is my inspiration, and keeps me on the path of no end.
My only hope is to continue learning, and to most importantly continue sharing. The real secret of Karate is in the sharing. Without sharing we can not be students, nor teachers. As I grow older, I hope to continue learning the true way of Budo, and to honor the heritage of my family, the Takeda family, and all of my teachers, through that learning process.
James Lee "Bud" Morgan, Rokudan
On Karate and Budo
note: Please understand that a translation has occured here and the words used will sometimes seem indifferent or direct, when this is not the intent nor the case. You must read this many times and reach within for the lessons Mitani Sensei is giving us. His teacher was the student of all of Itosu Sensei's main students though primarily Shuri-te teachings.
Buddhism and Taoism are the main Oriental philosophies and although these two philosophies have a close relation in Budo, they are different. It is because it had united with Taoism rather than the pure Buddhism (Indian philosophy) of China.
It is in which the Buddhism imported by Japan was called Chinese-books Buddhism, and it was united with Taoism.
Budo was greatly influenced by this Chinese-books Buddhism, and many of theoretical basis of martial arts were obtained from here.
The cult which had influence important for Budo was the Zen sect. In ancient Japan, many martial art people received the instruction of a priest of high virtue. They trained their heart by Buddhism, and studied skill.
Here, a martial art and zen were united. This is called Budo in the present age.
It is such if it is roughly called the Oriental philosophy stated here. It is monism that this differs from an Occidental view fundamentally.
For example, the adjective which means two contraries is the opposite meaning in dualism. In Oriental philosophy, this is considered to be the same thing. The low thing is the same as a high thing. The ugly thing is the same as a beautiful thing. An attack and defense are the same things.
Zanshin (it leaves the heart) was also born from here. It is explained to leave the heart without leaving the heart.
It is difficult for us to explain this by means of words, and to understand by means of words. Then, it is said that it conveys to the heart from the bottom of its heart.
"Gokui to iu ha ishin denshin" The secret is conveyed to the heart from the bottom of its heart.
Simultaneity is in one of the secrets of Budo. A martial art requires a quick response. If a time lag is there, one thinks he cannot beat the opponent. Making this response time into zero is called for.
It is explained as the nimbleness to which one thread of hair does not fit in between. "Kan hatsu wo irezu."
If a window is opened, the light of the moon will arrive on the floor. Did he open the window first? Or did the light of the moon enter first? It was simultaneous.
"Shoji akureba tsuki no sasu nari."If a window is opened, the light of the moon will enter.
"Mizu no shizuku ni utsuru tsukikage."The light of the moon is reflected in the drop of water.
These are the words for teaching the secret of budo. People made this word the hint and were told to understand the secret of budo.
I have to mention Oriental philosophy in many cases. I will carry out by carrying out, and I will stop at this juncture now, and speak of Karate.........
Anko Itosu created karate with the duel purpose of improving one's humanity and physical strength. This is how karate began.
Educational Karate is the original and the true karate. This is the biggest difference between the original karate and the karate we have today that attached style names.
Matsumura-Te, later to be known more commonly as Shuri-Te, is the mother of the original karate.
Shuri-te differs from that which was known simply as Te. Shurite, thanks to Matsumura, has a most excellent fighting technology (maniau) that was incorporated into karate. The purpose of Shurite was self-defense.
This is not the home page of pure "Budo." I would need to cover other elements such as, "Bushido, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism". Each of these could fill a book or even several books.
This is for considering karate and its relationship to the term karate-do. There are many errors in this regard as many Japanese are ignorant about these matters and in particular, karate teachers.
Another problem is that the term "zanshin", which even Japanese people do not understand is also becoming out of control.
Is anything related to karate and zanshin?
I aim to provide you with information about Budo to help with your understanding of karate.
Generally it is said that "Karate is Budo" and not a sport.
However a part of karate is a sport, some hold the view that it is not a common sport, so what is karate?
Although this is a general view in Japan, what is the view in the world?
Seemingly, sport karate and Budo karate both exist in foreign countries. Is karate aiming to be a tournament sport? Then, what is Budo Karate?
Does Budo mean the art of self-defense?
What thing is Budo really? It cannot be argued whether karate is budo or is not if we do not know what Budo is.
If I express my opinion, I will only be involved in an argument without a conclusion or worse, it may also become the cause of karate war.
If I listen to the opinion of people in Japan about Budo, I will be surprised at their misunderstanding and ignorance. What is the situation in the world?
The opinion about karate is very confused. In Japan, it is because karate people are ignorant.
In the world, the difference of culture is a large barrier.
Originating in the difference in philosophy cannot overlook the difference of this culture, either. Probably, a word, an intention, besides feeling, etc. will be difficult for understanding the essential difference in culture.
I will explain Budo, Japanese culture, Oriental philosophy, especially Zen, and I will provide information about them.
I have been engaged in karate for a half-century. At the graduate school, I studied Budo.
I was also the karate teacher of a public high school in Chiba Prefecture. My junior students dominated in the All-Japan tournament for many years.
My dojo is known as the strongest dojo in Tokyo and Japan. I am the student of Hiroshi Kinjo. I know a few things about karate.
Present-day Japan is Japan, and is not Japan. It is also difficult in the environment of Japan today to understand budo or karate.
Is Karate Budo?
I explained what budo was from various angles. I want to ask you this "Is karate budo?"
I think that karate should be raised to budo in the future, but I feel it is very dangerous to be taken to task by people who do not understand budo, if karate is budo. What do you think?
Conditions to discuss karate as budo :
1. Demonstrate an understanding of Budo.
2. Understand Zen and Taoism correctly.
3. One does not have a huge ego.
4. Understand karate correctly.
Wouldn't many karate teachers fail in an examination such as this?
The present condition of the Karate community :
People who do not know karate make noises about karate. People who do not know Budo express an opinion about Budo. Michi (Do) is discussed without understanding Oriental philosophy.
These things trouble me very much.
Degeneration of karate : A church depraves Christianity. A temple depraves Buddhism. That is because a religious group is organized and class is introduced.
This is the side on which the human world became dirty. The same will be said of the karate community.
Karate is not about Dan level. Karate is not a Kata list.
Karate is not the status and referee license in a federation.
I will mention several books. If you study Bushido, I will recommend "Bushido" of Nitobe in the first place. This is the best starting point for Europeans and Americans and it is written in English.
Although the study of Confucianism is not necessarily required, read "Rongo" if you are keen. This is a book about outstanding morality. Since it is not carried out by not learning about Zen, a book is not needed.
Zazensan which I mentioned is one piece of paper.
You do not need to learn about Taoism in my opinion.
Many English books are published about the above and you can begin research at any time. Although Zazensan may be difficult to locate, there are to many unnecessary books of Zen published.
The budo document called "Neko no myojutsu"(Skill which was excellent in the cat), "Teng Geijutsuron"(A tengu's artistic discussion ), etc. is also published in English. "Neko no myojutsu" is the jujutsu book which enables one to understand Taoism.
The book “Ken to Zen” is another. I do not know whether there is any English translation of this book, but this is an outstanding Budo book which explains the essence of Budo pleasantly and intelligibly.
The author is Sogen Omori and he is the priest of Zenshu. Furthermore, he is the specialist of Kendo. His kendo is Jikishinkage-Ryu. He is Soke of the 16th generation Jikishinkage-Ryu.
Probably, all, such as Budo, Zen, and Bushido, are known with this one book.
Attaching a 'style' name is meaningless with karate.
I have always said that style karate is not true karate.
Karate was performed in the radius 500m or a little less in a narrow area in Okinawa.
There was no style etc. there.
But the martial art of a Japanese mainland is another story. Although it is a small country, Japan compared to Okinawa is huge.
Many styles were born there. Like karate, kata of the same name did not exist in a different style. People of each area produced the characteristic original styles.
Mitani Kazuya, President Okinawa Seito Karate-do SeitokukaiChiba, Japan
About the Kata of Karate
By Mitani Kazuya (edited by Bob McMahon)
There is big misapprehension in foreign countries that Japanese people study a large number of kata. Perhaps a few did a long time ago but our seniors (sempai) were happy to study just two or three. It is not useful to learn a great number of kata.
Kata is not technology (waza) but a style (yoshiki). It is not the style but the technology of fighting that is useful to us.
Technology is in a style but the style itself is not technology. Many Japanese karate teachers do not know this.
Thus the great difference in the relationship between a style and technology is not usually known. Traditional karate differs greatly from other karate at this point. Although nobody knows it, this is the difference between Shurite and other karate.
I do not agree with kata competition. There are very few kata that relate to kumite. The only karate kata that I teach my students are Naifanchi Shodan and Pinan Nidan. I use the technology from these kata in kumite competition.
The technology of a kata competition is mostly the technology of dance. This is the reason I do not favor kata competition. I teach other kata only for kata competition. This is not karate but more like freestyle dance. I teach the following kata for this purpose: Nipaipo, Oyadomori Passai, MatsumuraPassai, Anan, Heiku, and some others.
On Pinan Nidan:
Pinan Nidan is the simplest kata. It is the stepping punch (oi-zuki) and the correct timing and proper distance (maniau) that I teach from Pinan Nidan. I do not know any others that teach this. Maybe there are no other teachers in mainland Japan who understand Pinan Nidan.
The stepping punch is delivered before the foot lands. It is the method of putting weight into a punch. There are few people who can understand oi-zuki from the instruction of many Japanese karate teachers.
When I see the Pinan Nidan (Heian Shodan) of Shotokan, Shitoryu and Wadoryu, I have to believe that Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Hironori Ohtsuka could not have understood karate. It is clear to me!
There is no oi-zuki in the kumite lesson from Naifanchi. One of the features is not switching the body. It is “ushiro-te sabaki maete-zuki” that is demonstrated. It means that kizami-zuki is carried out, by defending with the rear hand. This is difficult waza in a kumite tournament. Therefore, I only teach this to experienced adult competitors.
I teach neither sanbon kumite nor ippon kumite. I do not teach ido kihon either. This kihon is for kata, not for karate. These are all methods developed by Shotokan. In the Japanese mainland, karate is wholly based on such training. I think it is a big mistake and will not lead to understanding karate.
I carry out the methods for practicing original karate. Karate practice methods are not about learning kata. Karate practices fighting techniques by using a makiwara. This is the difference between true karate and other karate. The “10 teachings of Itosu” is our textbook.
About Kumite and Tuite
I have already written on Kihon-gata and Kihon for Kumite. If Kumite and Tuite are the actual techniques, then kata is the Kihon.
This is the theory of Karate practice as written in Itosu's 10 lessons, i.e. to learn Kumite through Kata and to practice on the Makiwara. I also learned this way, but I was interested in how styles other than Karate did things as well. Especially the competitive format as developed by the JKA.
As I watched this format, I believed that Karate could also be used in this arena, so I participated in the modern arena. I believed that 70-80% of Karate techniques could be used there. And, just as I thought the athletes from my organization showed the power of Karate. I also have interest in other styles fighting techniques.
Leaving this alone for a while, I also hear that Karate is based on kata, or that it is a Budo passed on through kata. I have believed this way of thinking was a bit odd over the years. The different kinds of Te probably had this tendency, but the Te of Matsumura had to have been Kumite and Tuite. The concept of "being in time" that Matsumura passed on shows this.
Karate uses Kumite and Tuite as its central practice as well, according to Itosu's 10 precepts. Hanashiro Chomo Sensei (Kinjo Sensei's teacher) wrote his "Karate Kumite" in 1905, the year Karate was established, so Kumite existed right from the very beginning.
Leaving Tuite alone for a while, this means that Kumite was a central theme in Karate. Hanashiro Sensei was one of the originators of Karate, and he learned Matsumura's Te, meaning that the same was true of Matsumura's Te. Also, as we can see from the 10 Precepts, Tuite was also used in Karate.
Karate was practiced mainly solo, but it was not Kata practice. Even if you practice kata every day you will not improve at Karate. This is also generally misunderstood.
Itosu Sensei distinguished between Kumite and Tuite, but I believe this distinction is comparatively recent. I believe that they were considered the same in the past.
On the "Oshima Hikki," Te is referred to as Kumiai-jutsu. The person who was responsible for bringing it to Ryukyu was Koshankin. Thinking on the existence of Kushanku Kata, then it must have been Koshankin who disseminated the Kumiai-jutsu on which this kata is based. This Kumiai-jutsu may have been dying out or lost by the time Matsumura came around (this is why Matsumura's Te was created), but it was the first art transmitted.
This Kumiai-jutsu, as we can see from the kata, must have considered Kumite and Tuite as the same thing. Looking at Motobu Sensei's "Watashi no Karate-jutsu" and "Okinawa Kenpo Karate-jutsu" (he says Karate but it is really Shuri-te), he shows many photos within grappling range, showing that Kumite and Tuite were not clearly distinguished. (Comparing these photos with the Kumite photos in later books, we can see that Motobu Sensei was actually good at what he was showing).
Kinjo Sensei is the same in this regard: when facing him and exchanging blows, you are invariably grappled and tied up. Thus, Kumite and Tuite are actually one in the same, but they were broken up for the purposes of analysis.
When we hear the word "Karate"
When we hear the word karate, we are apt to fall into the illusion that we are to be carrying out punches and kicks.
However, kumite (striking at each other) leads into toride (grappling) and concludes with nage (throwing).
If the opponent comes and grabs our body, there is no need for kumite. If he grabs our arm, we perform a chudan-uke (mid level block) into a toride technique. If he grabs our shoulder we perform a jodan-uke (high block) into a toride technique. A grab is slower than a punch so it is easy to grasp his arm.
Leaving the mental aspect aside for a while, even the technical goal of karate is not to blast people into oblivion with punches and kicks. The kata (fixed exercise routines) show us this.
Without understanding the kuden (oral transmissions) and only interpreting kata in one’s own way, one will never come to understand karate.
The precepts of Itosu state this clearly:
“Attack, receive, release and grappling all have many oral transmissions associated with their use.”
I often see those who throw their opponent with a Judo or Aikido technique and then finish him off with a punch; but this is actually backwards. We can do little more than call this ‘karate for one’s own personal satisfaction’.
It is not that easy to throw a person, and as an entry, we have kumite and toride.
This is also clearly stated in the precepts of Itosu:
“Swear to not harm people with your fists and feet.”
Makiwara (target- maybe wood, punching bag or a partner) practice centers on kumite and toride, but that does not make it wrong to practice throwing as well. Matsumura Sokon Sensei developed this from an old Jigen- Ryu Kenjutsu training method.
“One must practice the outer art of karate many times, as well as study how they are used.”…. “If one were to spend 1-2 hours a day at the makiwara…”
In other words, it is necessary to practice kata many times, but it is more important to practice the techniques in the kata at the makiwara for 1-2 hours a day.
Isn’t mainland Japanese karate amiss in this aspect? I will go into more detail on this elsewhere, but the purpose of karate training is to gain the power to throw an opponent. Without understanding what karate is, this point is not easy to grasp.
Funakoshi Gichin and the Early History of Karate in Japan
edited by Bud Morgan
The great karate master Gichin Funakoshi was a key pioneer in the development of modern karate.
In fact, he was one of the instructors responsible for bringing traditional Okinawan karate to Japan. He himself was caught in the great wave of social change sweeping through Japan and its prefectures. His contributions include authoring several of the first publications describing the previously secret art of karate, strengthening the connection between character development and karate training, and the development of modern teaching methods. Master Funakoshi supported the realization that karate would evolve from a provincial fighting system to a prominent member of the modern Japanese martial arts.
Funakoshi was born at the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868), a period of considerable change throughout Japan. Meiji means "Enlightened Rule" and with the reigns of power transferring from the Shogun back to the Emperor, modernization and social change became the order of the day. This was a time of considerable social change and exposure to new ideas. This period led to a new view of Japan in the modern world.
Because Funakoshi reached adulthood during this volatile period, he had great opportunity to witness and consider the nature of change within society. By his actions, Master Azato, one of Funakoshi's primary teachers, demonstrated his insight regarding change during this period. Azato demonstrated his support for change by cutting his topknot off when they were first declared illegal. This enlightened view toward the reforms of the Meiji Period probably influenced Funakoshi.
The clandestine practice of karate persisted through the early years of Meiji. This would change also. Karate was about to come out of the dark and into the light of day. It didn't take long before many prominent and influential members of society took notice of karate and its virtues. This departure from secrecy to open contribution to society should be viewed in the context of social changes brought on by the Meiji Period. Karate was being changed from merely a fighting art to an art which improves human beings through rigorous and challenging endeavor.
The value of karate as a means of self-improvement was a key point which Funakoshi became expert at describing when lecturing about karate. He widened the scope in regards to who should practice karate. He stated that karate "should be simple enough to be practiced without undue difficulty by everybody, young and old, boys and girls, men and women." His opinion that karate training can contribute to both mental and physical health must have some genesis in his recovery from poor health during early youth.
He further described benefits of practice in the following way. "Karate-do is not merely a sport that teaches how to strike and kick; it is also a defense against illness and disease."
Because of this way of viewing the value of karate, it began to make the all-important transition from jutsu (technique) to do (way).
One of the areas were Funakoshi exhibited a pioneering outlook was in his appreciation of different styles of martial art. Azato demonstrated an open mind toward the other martial arts by encouraging Funakoshi to study them also.
There was considerable rivalry between some of the schools of karate, with some claiming superiority due to their Chinese influence (ch'uan fa) and others claiming superiority because of their Okinawan heritage (tode). One of the chief areas of contribution by Funakoshi was to look beyond this situation of inter-style competitiveness and seek a synthesis of the best aspects from the different styles.
Given the open minds of his two primary instructors, Azato and Itosu, Funakoshi was in an ideal position to appreciate the strong points of the various styles of karate and begin integrating them together. He had been exposed to the different styles of the two masters, Shorei through Azato and Shorin through Itosu, and had trained with many of the other prominent Okinawan karate masters of the day. Funakoshi had become the most eclectic karateka of his day.
Karate was to undergo an important transition during the Meiji Period. It was time to evolve away from its secretive and lethal past and move into a new phase of public interest and contribution to society. It was perceived that karate had much to offer to a rapidly changing society during the upheaval created by Meiji Period reforms. In fact, the public's interest in karate was aroused by several key events during this new phase of development.
The commissioner of public schools, Shintaro Ogawa, strongly recommended in a report to the Japanese Ministry of Education that the physical education programs of the normal schools and the First Public High School of Okinawa Prefecture include karate as part of their training. This recommendation was accepted and initiated by these schools in 1902.
So began a long, fruitful, and continuing relationship with the educational system. Funakoshi recalls that this was the first time that karate was introduced to the general public. Thereafter, karate was successfully incorporated into the Okinawan school system.
To what extent did Funakoshi, due to his background and personal familiarity as a teacher within the Okinawa educational system, play a part in this development? It seems evident that this new policy demanded an even-handed, unbiased approach to representing and teaching karate so nobody was offended by omission. Funakoshi performed the task of primary spokesman for Okinawan karate with the capability of a seasoned diplomat.
Some years later, Captain Yashiro visited Okinawa and saw a karate demonstration by Funakoshi's primary school pupils. He was so impressed that he issued orders for his crew to witness and learn karate.
Then, in 1912, the Imperial Navy's First Fleet, under the command of Admiral Dewa, visited Okinawa. About a dozen members of the crew stayed for a week to study karate. Yashiro and Dewa were thus responsible for the first military exposure to karate and brought favorable word of this new martial art back to Japan.
During the years 1914 and 1915, a group that included Mabuni, Motobu, Kyan, Gusukuma, Ogusuku, Tokumura, Ishikawa, Yahiku, and Funakoshi gave many demonstrations throughout Okinawa. This practice would have been quite unheard of during the earlier period of secrecy. It was due to the tireless efforts of this group in popularizing karate through lectures and demonstration tours that karate became well known to the Okinawan public.
In 1921, the crown prince Hirohito visited Okinawa. Captain Kanna, an Okinawan by birth and commander of the destroyer on which the crown prince was traveling, suggested that the prince observe a karate demonstration. Funakoshi was in charge of the demonstration. This was a great honor for Funakoshi and further established him as a prominent champion of Okinawan karate. It was shortly before the crown prince's visit that Funakoshi resigned his teaching position, but maintained excellent relations with the Okinawan school system.
It was the Japan Department of Education which, in late 1921, invited Funakoshi to participate in a demonstration of ancient Japanese martial arts. In order to make the greatest impression, something more than a demonstration was called for.
With significant assistance from Hoan Kosugi, the famous Japanese painter, Funakoshi published the first book pertaining to karate, Ryukyu Kempo: Karate. This book was forwarded by such prominent citizens as the Marquis Hisamasa, the former governor of Okinawa, Admiral R. Yashiro, Vice Admiral C. Ogasawara, Count Shimpei Goto, Lieutenant General C. Oka, Rear Admiral N. Kanna, Professor N. Tononno, and B. Sueyoshi of the Okinawa Times.
Soon, Funakoshi was balancing his time between early university clubs (such as Keio and Takushoku), a main dojo, and speaking and demonstration requests. His age ranged from 50 to 60 over this period -- he was supposed to be approaching the autumn of his life and was instead introducing karate to Japan!
Funakoshi's background as an educator was helpful for presenting ideas in concise and systematic fashion. Funakoshi pioneered the organization of karate instruction into three fundamental categories of practice: kihon, kata and kumite. In fact, practice of kumite was rather new and aroused great enthusiasm among the young university students. Competition between university karate clubs helped fuel the interest in kumite and the popularity of karate.
Once in Japan, the universities became fertile ground for karate study. Was this also a result of Funakoshi's educational and intellectual background? Was it because karate represented a wonderful blend of physical and mental challenge, combined with a sense of tradition and history? The popularity among the intellectually inclined was very fortunate for karate. The university groups helped transform karate from a mysterious, arcane art to a scientific martial art and modern sport.
Master Jigoro Kano, the father of modern judo, was instrumental in acknowledging karate as a valued Japanese martial art and in encouraging Funakoshi to stay in Japan. Even several sumo wrestlers became students of karate-do during this early period. They clearly recognized a noteworthy and potent martial art. During a period where Funakoshi wasn't able to use floor space at the Meisei Juku, H. Nakayama, a great kendo instructor, offered Funakoshi the use of his dojo when not in use.
Later, the time came when constructing Funakoshi's own dojo was ripe. About 1935, supporters gathered sufficient funds to construct the first karate dojo in Japan and in 1936 it was dedicated as the Shoto-kan. By now, many initial students who trained with Funakoshi earlier and had moved to other cities due to work, had also created a demand for instruction throughout the country.
With the acceptance of karate by other established martial arts and with a growing number of dedicated students, the introduction and popularization of karate in Japan was now well underway.
Funakoshi was an advocate of karate's health benefits. His strong conviction that karate training can enhance physical health must have been influenced by his dramatic recovery from poor health during early youth.
Funakoshi may have subconsciously realized that karate-do, when seen as a well-rounded and highly challenging form of exercise and health maintenance would greatly expand its public appeal and value.
Other qualities had to be learned before Funakoshi could become a successful pioneer. He gained a great sense of humility and modesty from Azato and Itosu. "If they taught me nothing else, I would have profited by the example they set of humility and modesty in all dealings with their fellow human beings." These qualities were clearly evident when, struggling to make a living upon arrival in Japan, Funakoshi swept the floors and grounds of the Meisei Juku.
The quality of humility was fostered by his two primary instructors. As Funakoshi stated, "Both Azato and his good friend Itosu shared at least one quality of greatness: they suffered from no petty jealousy of other masters.
They would present me to the teachers of their acquaintance, urging me to learn from each the technique at which he excelled." All indications are that this demonstration of humility and respect made a life-long impression on young Funakoshi.
He learned valuable diplomacy skills as a young school teacher. As an example, he was asked to mediate a dispute involving two different factions by the village of Shaka. The issue was political and stemmed from Meiji reforms. Tact and intelligent arbitration was required to resolve a vexing situation.
Also, his wife became known throughout their Okinawan neighborhood as a skillful mediator. When the neighbors grew quarrelsome, it was often Funakoshi's wife who interceded on behalf of reason and peace. He had great respect for his wife and probably learned from her diplomatic qualities.
Because of his study with the other prominent karate masters of the day, his integrity and fairness, and his respected position as an educator, Funakoshi evolved into the primary Okinawan karate "public relations" spokesman. He represented a unique blend of well-rounded physical expertise, intelligence, foresight, and conviction. He was articulate, sensitive to tradition and propriety, appropriately humble, and conveyed a sense of balance. Funakoshi felt the pull of Japan and found a nation fertile with eagerness for a martial art with the depth of challenge that karate-do represented. This is surely part of the reason Funakoshi had difficulty ever leaving Japan to return to his family in Okinawa.
The Meiji Period represented a time of great social change in Japan and consequently Okinawa. With the covert aspect of karate practice no longer necessary, it was soon perceived that karate had much to offer to a rapidly changing society. Karate underwent a profound change -- it evolved from merely a fighting art to an art which improves the character of its practitioners. This adaptation from a purely self-defense art to a method of self-improvement was probably a response to the social changes initiated by Meiji reforms.
Master Funakoshi described the new notion of karate in the following manner. "Karate is not only the acquisition of certain defensive skills, but also the mastering of the art of being a good and honest member of society."
This statement indicates the importance of self-improvement and contribution to a better society. No longer could "good" karate be defined simply as a fast punch or powerful kick. Qualities of character were also now a part of the equation. This concept is captured concisely by Funakoshi's statement that "Karate begins and ends with courtesy."
Funakoshi performed the task of primary spokesman for Okinawan karate with the capability of a seasoned diplomat. He expertly guided karate through a transition from a clandestine, provincial, feudal period, fighting system to a modern, widely-practiced member of the Japanese martial arts. His efforts and foresight provided the foundation for the wide appeal and eventual internationalization of modern karate.
The importance of Master Funakoshi's accomplishments and contributions cannot be understated. Rather, events such as described below seem to poignantly capture Funakoshi's sense of achievement.
"I still vividly recall every single moment of that day when I, with half a dozen of my students, performed karate kata in the imperial presence. The impoverished Okinawan youth who used to walk miles every night to his teacher's house could hardly have foreseen, even in his dreams, such a high point in his karate career."
At the end of his life, Funakoshi remembered this event as significant. Events such as this came to signify the emergence of karate as a traditional Japanese martial art. Events such as this also signify the pioneering role that Master Funakoshi so expertly performed. Master Funakoshi died on April 26th, 1957, leaving behind a legacy that continues to this day. He will always be remembered for the role he played in securing Karate for the entire world.
Shinken Taira, the great Okinawan Kobudo Master
Shinken Taira was born in Okinawa on June 12th, 1897. His birth name was Maezato Shinken, but it was his mother’s maiden name of Taira which he would become known by.
He was the second son in a family of three boys and one girl, and it has been said he was given up for adoption as a child, (not an uncommon practice in old Japan), and that he was somewhat a mischievous child. At some point in his early life he took on his mother's maiden name of Taira, and would be known as such for the remainder of his life.
As a young man, Taira Sensei worked in the sulfur mines in Minamii-jima. He suffered a badly broken leg when he was trapped in a mine collapse, having to dig his way free.
This accident caused permanent damage to his right leg, and much hardship for Taira Sensei. It is said that he would carry a limp in his right leg for the remainder of his life.
In 1922, after traveling to Tokyo to find work, he was introduced to Funakoshi Gichin, a fellow Okinawan and Karate instructor who was just settling permanently in Japan. Taira Sensei became a deshi (student) of Funakoshi Gichin in an effort to properly learn Karate-do.
In 1929, Taira Sensei began his studies of Ryukyu Kobudo under Master Yabiku Moden. Yabiku Sensei, who like his colleague Funakoshi Sensei, was working for the promotion of Karate-do as well as Ryukyu Kobudo on the Japanese mainland.
In fact, both Yabiku Sensei and Funakoshi Sensei were quite well acquainted having both received instruction in Shuri-te from Ankoh Itosu Sensei on Okinawa.
During his study under Yabiku Sensei, Taira Sensei mastered the use of such weapons as the Roku-shaku Bo (six foot staff), Eiku (oar), Sai (metal truncheon), Tonfa (right angled hand truncheon), and Nunchaku (wooden flail).
In 1932, after studying Kobudo for approximately three years and Karate-do for 10 years, he received permission from his masters to open his own Dojo. Taira began to teach Karate-do and Kobudo in the quaint hot springs resort town of Ikaho, within Gunma Prefecture, Japan.
Taira Sensei had an insatiable appetite for Budo knowledge. He continuously trained, and researched, finally assimilating his findings into a Kobudo system that remains to this day.
It was because of this constant search for knowledge that, in 1933, Taira Sensei was introduced by Master Funakoshi to Karate and Kobudo master, Mabuni Kenwa . In 1934, Taira Sensei would invite Mabuni Sensei into his home, where he became a deshi, or personal student of Mabuni Sensei.
Mabuni Sensei graciously accepted Taira's invitation and taught him Karate and Kobudo up until Taira Sensei would return to Okinawa in 1940.
During those six years, Taira housed and paid Mabuni Sensei for his instruction and under the close scrutiny of Mabuni Sensei, Taira expanded his knowledge of both kata and techniques of the Bo and Sai.
In 1940 Taira Sensei returned to Okinawa and shortly after the death of Yabiku Sensei in 1941, he established the beginnings of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai.
The curriculum of Taira's Hozon Shinkokai included instruction in the use of nine different weapons and their respective kata. These included kata which he had learned throughout his years of instruction, as well as kata which he had created himself.
He also continued to make frequent trips to both the Kanto and Kansai areas to teach and promote Okinawa Kobudo on the Japanese mainland. His students on the mainland and in Okinawa were a virtual "who's who" of Karate greats.
Karate giants such as Sakagami Ryushou (Shito-ryu), Hayashi Teruo (Shito-ryu), Kuniba Shogo, Eizo Shimabuku and his brother Tatsuo Shimabuku, as well Mabuni Kenei (son of Shito-ryu founder Mabuni Kenwa) were all frequent practitioners of Taira Sensei’s Kobudo.
In 1955 he officially established the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, to promote the Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts as passed down to him by so many great masters.
In addition, in the early 1960's Taira published the first comprehensive book on Ryukyu Kobudo in Japanese entitled, "Ryukyu Kobudo Taiken" which added greatly to popularize the art on Okinawa.
Later in the 1960's Taira Sensei formalized and strengthened his association by appointing his students to different positions within the Shinko Kai and established testing and licensing standards for his students.
Also in 1963, to further the growth of Karate-do and Kobudo at an international level, the Kokusai Karate-do Kobudo Renmei was formed with Higa Seiko as Chairman, and Taira Shinken as Vice-Chairman.
Later in 1964 Taira Shinken was recognized as a master teacher of Kobudo by the All Japan Kobudo Federation and was awarded his Hanshi certification.
Taira Shinken is credited with bringing together many of the Okinawan's oldest and most prominent weapons traditions into one comprehensive system of weaponry training.
He left behind a legacy as an innovator of combining unarmed and armed combat, and as an inventor who developed the Manji-Sai. He was by all accounts a truly brilliant martial artist.
Taira Sensei was succeeded in Okinawa by Eisuke Akamine of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai, and in mainland Japan by Inoue Motokatsu of the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Hozon Shinkokai.
Although there is some dispute as to who was the senior student of Taira Sensei, it is the opinion of this writer that this is an issue of political nature only. These two masters have had the greatest influence on the world-wide preservation of the ancient weapon traditions collected by Taira Sensei, and respectively, they continued the traditions of their teacher in the best way they saw fit.
In the same way that Itosu Ankoh Sensei had formalized the exercises of karate (kata) to establish a more comprehensive system of training, so too did Taira Shinken bring together many of Okinawa's oldest and most prominent Kobudo traditions.
Taira Sensei also developed his own innovative training exercises (kata), many of which themselves later became standardized Kobudo Kata.
They included kata for the Nunchaku, and the Sansetsu-kun, a three sectioned staff.
With such an extensive collection of Bojutsu knowledge (more than twenty separate traditions) Taira Sensei also decided to create a single kata, which embodied the central elements of cudgel fighting.
This creation, his kata Kongo-no-kun, best illustrates his mastery of the art of Bojutsu.
In an effort to teach the principles of Tekko-jutsu (knuckles dusters), Taira Sensei also developed another kata called Maezato no Tekko. The unique configuration of this kata is believed to have been based upon the foundation developed while learning under Funakoshi Sensei, and is an excellent example of kata. The kata can be performed both with Tekko, and as an empty hand form.
After many years of dedicated work bettering the art of Kobudo, the great master Taira Shinken died at his home in September of 1970 from stomach cancer.
Although gone now from this world, Taira Shinken will not soon be forgotten. His efforts to research, preserve, and promote the ancient fighting traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom shall live on forever through the enormous legacy he has left behind.
The Shuri-te of Gusukuma Shinpan
Considerations for kicking:
1. When kicking in kata or kumite, the back must be straight and true so as to allow you to punch if blocked.
2. The quickest kicks are of the snapping variety.
3. The kata kicks are performed with the toe-tipped foot.
4. The most important kick is that done to the chudan (middle) area.
5. Consider the knee the "hinge" of the kick.
6. The ankle must be strong in kicking as the wrist is strong in punching.
7. The leg is loose and flexible while the toes are tight. Just like a punch, the arm is loose while the fist is tight.
8. When kicking, kick with both legs.
Considerations for punching:
1. The large knuckle finger and the thumb squeeze the index finger in a good fist.
2. In making a strong fist, the index finger is folded first.
3. Punching is done with a loose arm and tight fist.
4. You strike with the index knuckle first.
"Messages from Within"
The following email excerpts, and/or articles of information, are documented here as they may contain important historical and/or technical data that may be used for reference......Bud Morgan
( One )
Dear CD Members, Over the last three weeks there have had many posts concerning the Hakutsuru methods being propagated outside of Okinawa by many that do not seem to have a solid, verifiable background in the crane methods. I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the origins of the Hakutsuru methods on Okinawa and how they have come to be of such great importance to some proponents outside of Okinawa. IMHO you can break down the modern day influence of the crane methods on Okinawa to two sources: 1) Go Kenki and 2) Hohan Soken.
The Go Kenki influence can be traced to Matayoshi Shinko and Matayoshi Shinpo along with Kyoda Juhatsu. It appears that only the Kingai Ryu of Matayoshi and To’oon Ryu of Kyoda Juhatsu have kept kata that are credited to Go Kenki either through transmission or creation from his influence. The influences of Go Kenki in these methods are documented and have a long history of crediting the crane influence on their training methods. The Hohan Soken influence on the crane methods practiced today is unclear of where the methods came from. Some sources indicate that Soken learned these methods from a "Nabe" Matsumura or perhaps while he was in Argentina. A third possibility is that Soken learned some crane methods from Go Kenki before his departure to Argentina. The crane methods of Soken are not well documented and the crane kata methods do not appear to have a long history with Soken.
There are conflicts of the validity with both sources: Go Kenki, with certainty, a historical figure that lived on Okinawa and had appreciated Chinese crane methods left little in the way of a following outside of what we see in To’oon Ryu or Kingai Ryu. The Hakucho of Matayoshi and the Happoren and Nipaipo kata of To’oon Ryu are credited to Go Kenki but other than these two sources no one else is documented to having relationships with Go Kenki that have survived after the war. One of the mysteries of Go Kenki is why did he come to Okinawa other than to sell tea and what were the circumstances behind his premature death. Go Kenki has been reported to have been a Chinese agent, which was his purpose of being on Okinawa, and he was killed by the Japanese military in 1939 when the Japanese army occupied Okinawa for the purpose of prosecuting the war through Indochina. How close are these methods of those of Go Kenki’s white crane methods? How much were they influenced by the Kingai Ryu methods learned by Matayoshi Shinko while in China or by Kyoda Juhatsu’s training with Higaonna Kanryo. We have no way of knowing but it would appear that only one generation has passed from the transmission of these methods so the probability is great that the methods are close to what Go Kenki transmitted. Hohan Soken’s crane methods on the other hand cause some concern as to their validity due to several reasons:
1. The Hakutsuru methods that are claimed to have come from Matsumura Soken prompts the question why did the other senior students of Matsumura Soken not receive these methods or at least have some reference to them?
2. Hohan Soken did not study with Matsumura Soken but an unknown figure that is only referred to as "Nabe" Matsumura. "Nabe" as is widely known, means uncle or older relation. The problem is making a claim of gaining transmission of the Hakutsuru methods through someone that no one has been able to document through their full name, where they lived, etc, etc causes concern over the validity of the claims. There are no records of a Matsumura Soken relative that carried on his teaching. While Soken may have received significant instruction from someone in the Matsumura lineage before leaving for Argentina there has been no documentation of who that person was other than "Nabe" Matsumura.
3. Soken received the crane methods while in Argentina. If this were so it would seem that he would have given credit to his teacher and had a full system of crane methods to propagate upon his return to Okinawa versus the one kata that is demonstrated on video.
Over the last few weeks the discussions have led to trying to identify the promoters and backgrounds of the crane methods on Okinawa. Other than the identified sources above there appear to be no other crane influences known today. I have asked several times for contact information that I can follow up with during my April visit to Okinawa but as yet have not had any input. Please contact me at email@example.com_ (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any contact information or source information that I can research.
I have tried to look at these sources objectively without the influence of my relationships with various teachers on Okinawa but it appears to me that there is no evidence that would lead me to believe that there is a credible source on Okinawa connecting Shorin Ryu to the White Crane Methods.
Gambatte Dan Smith
( Two )
Dear CD Members, Pat's suggestion that I visit Kuda (deceased) and Nishihara is appreciated. I visited Kuda sensei several times over many years to observe his training and agree with recent post that he did not have a Hakutsuru kata.
I have seen Nishihara's karate over the years and only in the last few years has he been pushing the crane kata theme along with Yabiku. It appears to me that they also developed their crane theme sometime after a Patrick McCarthy visit to Okinawa. Perhaps this was coincidental but either they had their interest piqued by Mr. McCarthy or perhaps there was another precursor that caused their sudden dissemination of the crane methods.
I am not in any way trying to come across as having seen all methods on Okinawa but I think after living on Okinawa for several years and having visited Okinawa, arguably, as much or more than any other foriegner over the last 38 years (I recently had to get a new passport as it was 10 years old and as I was going through the old one I counted that I had made 17 trips to Okinawa in the last 10 years) I would have seen the crane methods that are on this small island.
I can say without question that the only crane methods I have observed before the last few years were those demonstrated by Matayoshi Shinpo, who I studied Kobudo and a small amount of Kingai Ryu, the Happoken and Nipaipo of the Goju Ryu lineage of Juhatsu Kyoda and in the last few years that of Fuse Kise (I observed Kise's karate for more than 30 years before there was any crane methods included).
The point I am making is that after watching many island wide demonstrations at various events I have yet to see any of the crane methods demonstrated to the Okinawan karate public. It would appear to me that as all the karate elements come together several times a year that someone would demonstrate these crane methods. Someone will counter this and say that these methods are kept secret, etc but if that is true why are there so many present video and demonstrations of crane methods and organizations in the US that are centered around crane methods.
My question remains. I request that the crane method people in the US provide me the names and addresses of where I can find the crane teachers on Okinawa and I will visit them in April and provide documentation to what I find to the CD.
As some of you may recall I made a similar offer several years ago about the lineage of Seki Toma and Mr. Roy Hobbs. I went with my teacher to visit Mr. Toma to find out exactly what the relationship was and then reported to the CD.
Another time we were discussing a certain teacher on Okinawa and his methods so I was able to go and train with him. He did not take foriegn students. On the second day of training he looked at me and one of my students and said, "the only reason you are here is how could I refuse a request from Shimabukkuro sensei." He then specifically requested that I not share with anyone back in the US that we trained with him for reasons that he explained.
Again, the point is that not only myself but others who go to Okinawa regularly can follow up on subjects raised on the CD and share what we find. Why continue with discussions based on second hand information and claims by people who have little or no connections with Okinawa?
On a last note. A recent post by one of Kuda sensei's students mentioned that Kuda sensei had stated that Hakutsuru was found in all the Shorin Ryu kata. I agree with this statement if in fact the Shorin Ryu kata have the principle of "whipping action" but one element does not mean that you have to find a crane method in every movement. Obviously, some methods of Shorin Ryu were influenced by methods from China but Okinawan karate became a distinct method within it's self.
Gambatte, Dan Smith
( Three )
Kuden no Uke Waza
1) Uke waza, like keri waza and tsuki waza, are impacting waza by nature. However the design of uke waza was meant to be used along with body change waza as a method of removing yourself from the line of attack, while at the same time aligning yourself for the counter attack, from a position of advantage.
2) Of primary importance is understanding that unlike keri waza and tsuki waza, the uke waza do not remain static as they appear in kata. Kicks, punches, and strikes symbolize "final" ending positions, while uke waza does not imply that at all. The position you see in kata reflect the "interim" position, or intermediate movement of uke waza only.
3) To not understand that uke waza allow you to lead the opponent to the application of torite waza, would be a shortcoming in fighting strategy.We have all heard the maxum, "There are no blocks in Karate", but this does not imply that they must only be strikes.
4) Also in this light, keep in mind the "movement analysis" (Bunkai) of all uke waza include the motion of the head, body, shoulders, upper arms, and elbows, waist and legs....not just the forearm and fist area of the blocking appendages.
5) Gedan Barai (as a waza) is descriptive of a "movement" (lower level sweeping). This movement once analyzed, plays many important roles, the least being a "blocking" tool (as viewed from the end of the fist/hand). IMHO far too much emphasis is placed on looking at the "end placement" of the hand/fist, and not on the action of the arm itself.
6) Its usefulness in karate should be observed as an "interim movement" that is continued into another waza, ie. lifting, sweeping, grabbing, pulling, throwing, and striking. From this perspective the Gedan Barai becomes a waza of prime importance, one that has a multitude of possibilities, and that is the reason that it is was always taught as one of the first techniques learned. It is really that important, and it is somewhat a shame that it has been relegated to such a lowly status in many modern styles.
7) The basic premise of receiving the attack includes body movement/shifting, which may or may not be the first action, as the controlling factor is/was/will be the speed/velocity of the attack itself, coupled to the surprise factor, and your individual readiness and capability to respond to it.
8) The uke/blocking/parrying action may actually come at the same time, or in front of, or behind the body shift. This will be determined by your response time, and therefore your actual ability at perceiving the threat in real time.
9) This is why I like to block with the whole arm vs just the wrist or hand, and I for one am a mawashi-uke style receiver when/if my attacker allows me to be. This is a blocking and/or receiving method that has great flexibilty, and can be used at all levels and with several directions.
10) What happens next is what determines the outcome of most attacks. Are you able to utilize your response as a bridge to allow you to control the situation further to it's conclusion?
Bud Morgan, Shotoshinkai Karate Dojo
( Four )
Karate Combat with "Kiseme" by Kenji Tokitsu Sensei
It is necessary to acquire an enhanced sense of the space we occupy during combat in order to tell what the adversary's intentions are. We often express this through an image: turn your upper limbs into a radar scanning the field of combat. In order for the body to obtain this heightened sense, you first need to be able to sense the body itself in its entirety, and then extend sensation of the body to surrounding space. There are exercises that cultivate and develop these internal and external skills, and which also serve to strengthen the body from the inside. Examples include certain currents of Chinese Qi Gong and Japanese introspective breathing exercises.
"Modern" karate is almost entirely lacking in these exercises, however, since for the most part, its practice is structured round competition and is often basically incompatible with these principles.
In any case, when facing an adversary, you sense the movement of his will through his gestures and the energy that emanates around him. When he is about to launch a tsuki against you, you sense his intention to do so before he executes the move. If you succeed in reacting against this mental movement, your action will precede his. You are ready to respond as soon as the adversary decides to attack. As for him, if he's able to sense your potential response, he'll withhold his attack because he'll realise that it's already been rendered useless. If he's not able to sense your reaction, he'll follow through with his attack and will receive your response, which most likely will be successful because it is guided by a perception that precedes that of the adversary.
If both one and the other are at a sufficiently advanced level, and if each is capable of perceiving and sensing the adversary's intentions, the match will unfold implicitly before each attack is executed. In order for this type of combat to take place, both combatants must be open to perception. If it is blocked in one of them, such a match cannot occur.
( Five )
The Kyoshi Dan Smith Letter's
LETTER 1. - Kata & bunkai
In response to some of the post on bogus bunkai and some Okinawan instructors and dojo not having bunkai that seem to be anything but block/punch.
I would agree that there are dojo on Okinawa that fall into the above category. Please remember that we are discussing human beings and the frailties and shortcomings are the same whether you live in Okinawa, Japan or the USA.
I believe that Goshiki (sp) is right in relating other's observations to him that their is a lack of bunkai understanding in Okinawa. But there is some very good reasons behind the lack of the focus on bunkai training.
I believe the most important factor was the dissemination of karate to Japan. The entire method of training was changed to cater to the teaching karate as physical exercise in the public schools.
The next factor was the rapid development of karate styles in Japan. It is hard to imagine that from 1922 to 1937 there was no less than a dozen different styles developed by Japanese on the mainland. So, in 15 years you had this many people move up to the position of leading their own school. Why there are countless of us in the USA and Okinawa that have been with the same teachers for thirty years and if we started our own group we would be soundly criticized.
How did this effect the bunkai of the kata ? They did not stay with the Okinawans long enough to learn and the karate that was taught in the beginning was kihon only.
The Japanese had a strong desire to use what they were learning and they developed the jiyu kumite as a supplement for not knowing the bunkai. The sparring matches became their method of measuring their karate skills whereas the Okinawans had only used the measurement of being able to defend themselves and live long lives.
The Okinawans became victim to this same thought process after the war. Why? Because only a handful of the older teachers were left and many of the teachers who began teaching after the war were trained in school karate where the emphasis was on body and spirit development.
The method of training on Okinawa followed the Japanese for many years with the emphasis on bogu jiyu kumite. The training methods were changed or adapted in many dojo to improve the ability to free spar vs. actual combat.
I am not saying that all Okinawan schools followed this way but many of them did. I believe most of all the senior teachers had the knowledge of what karate had been but due to the changing times they designed their instruction to meet the perceived needs of the day.
I have observed over the last nine years in Okinawa a resurgence of traditional Okinawan karate. A symposium was held in August of 1990 after the Uchinanchu demonstrations to establish the direction of Okinawan karate. I was fortunate to attend this symposium and witnessed the senior teachers calling for a return to traditional Okinawan karate and kobudo.
Since that time much effort and expense has been expended to put the emphasis on re-establishing Okinawan karate as it should be. I have been to Okinawa 14 times in the last nine years and have seen a dramatic change on the emphasis being placed on training methods.
In the late 60's when I lived on Okinawa more emphasis was put on kihon, kata and jiyu kumite. One of the reasons was that is what Americans liked and enjoyed. Many of the Okinawan teachers made their livings teaching servicemen. Most of these men were only on Okinawa for 18 months so the training was geared to having them experience the Okinawan karate and enjoy their time on Okinawa.
Yes, I know that most of the servicemen who were there on Okinawa during this time will say that they learned more than just kihon, kata and jiyu kumite and perhaps some did but those that will be honest with themselves should answer just as the Japanese should have from what they learned from the Okinawans and that is they did not even hear the word bunkai from the Okinawans.
The word bunkai is not even Unchinanguchi. The Okinawans that I trained with used the term ti chi ki, which I was told meant showing what the hand is doing.
I have rambled on enough about all of this so please forgive me. The point is that the Okinawans knew and still know the bunkai of the kata. They were just emphasizing something different.
I have an acquaintenance that I have known for about thirty years. He is an 8th dan now and several years ago I had the opportunity to train in his dojo frequently over a period of a year while on business trips. He would ask me questions concerning bunkai of kata and I would give him answers thinking all along that he was just pulling my leg when he would say he had never seen the explanations of the kata like that.
He asked me how did I get this information. I told him that my teacher's father would show me during our morning classes. After a couple of months had gone by he said he thought that I must be making these applications up. He said they made sense but he knew that if his sensei (different than mine and very highly thought of on Okinawa) knew these applications he would have taught him.
Sometime after this he and I went to Okinawa together and he asked his teacher in front of me some kata bunkai questions. His teacher readily gave him similar answers that I had provided even though we are from a different school. He said why haven't you taught me this before ? The reply was that you never asked me and I thought you were satisfied with what you were getting.
I believe the point to this story is that the Okinawans were giving the Japanese and Americans what they thought they wanted. Surely this must have been easy to think because neither the Japanese or Americans ever went back to Okinawa for much training after their initial introduction to Okinawan karate.
How many Japanese that created these various schools ever went to Okinawa and trained for any length of time? What do most of the students who come into your dojo want? What are you giving them? How many times have we as teacher's wanted our students to want more, and we were willing to give it to them, but they demonstrated by their actions that they were satisfied with kick/punch.
I will close for now and hope that I have not dragged this out to much. One thing I did not discuss was the thought put forth by some that there are no blocks in karate bunkai. I would like to discuss this at a later date if anyone has an interest. Thanks for reading all of this if you did and I apologize if I took to much bandwidth. Oh, a question for the members who attended the Okinawan Rengokai seminars. Did you see any bunkai applications of the kata ?
Gumbatte, Dan Smith
LETTER 2. - Kata & bunkai
I certainly did not mean in my post to give the indication that all Okinawan schools did not continue to practice bunkai as an integral part of their training.
I wrote that there are schools in Okinawa just as any other place in the world that do not have the full curriculum that other schools have. I certainly would not mention those that I think do or don't. I know Iha Sensei's background as well as his teachers are and were well grounded on bunkai of the kata.
My comment was one of a general nature only depicting that there are bogus people all over the world. No one country or race has a monopoly on ignorance or charlatism. It just appears that the USA has more than our fair share.
Concerning the Japanese not understanding the bunkai from the Okinawans. I think I can fairly state that bunkai from the Okinawans perception was not part of their curriculum. They took the parts of the Okinawan karate that they wanted for their purposes and developed that part to a high degree.
You cannot deny that the gymnastic, athletic movements of the Japanese styles is not better developed than the Okinawans. Someone mentioned in a post yesterday that the way the Japanese had changed karate or taken the Okinawans "school" karate and spread it world wide and would we rather have karate spread out for everyone to enjoy or have kept it like the Okinawans developed it.
My response is that I would rather have the "school" karate spread through out the world if that is what it takes to build the karate-do spirit and body for so many people to have gotten benefit from.
Perhaps Itosu sensei knew that the real Okinawan karate was just for the few and school karate was for the populace. I am teaching school karate to the all of the young people that come into my schools with hopes that they will develop the body they need to grow to an adult and then began learning karate.
I hopefully will retire from my business career in a couple of more years and then I would like to teach in the middle and high schools along with the colleges in my area. I have been thinking for sometime what I would teach given the opportunity to teach hundreds of people in that environment.
I keep coming up with the same concept that Itosu used. Modern karate as developed by the Japanese with a kick start from Itosu and Funakoshi is for the masses and there has been and continues to be a great benefit from this training.
The traditional Okinawan karate is not for the masses and it was never intended to be that way. I had the opportunity when I lived on Okinawa to train in both methods at the same time and in the same school.
I trained in the morning with Zenryo Shimabukuro sensei and at night with Zenpo Shimabukuro sensei. The morning class was dramatically different. Zenryo sensei never had us line up to begin a class. The people who attended this morning class came at various times. Began training on their own in whatever part of the dojo they could find to practice by themselves. Zenryo sensei would observe us practicing kata, give corrections, instructions on how to perform the movements and demonstrate to us individually what the kata movements where.
The night time training was heavily geared toward kihon practice, kata and sparring. We did weight training and ippon kumites, which were extracted bunkai movements from the kata, and we ran. The training was geared to developing the body and the tools of karate.
After training at night many seniors would stay late and practice the kata bunkai that Zenryo sensei was teaching in the morning.
I share the above with you about my own training to show you how someone could have come only to the night training and developed only the kihon because they were training in large group classes. They did not make themselves available for the in depth training. This happens in our classes today all over the world.
Just as I mentioned yesterday the people get what they want from the training. The teacher may have much more to give but the student is satisfied with less. Sometimes because that is all they want or do not realize their is more. I hope that this clarifies that on Okinawa there is much to learn and you have to put the time in to enable the learning process.
Many Japanese and Americans stopped short due to time constraints and being satisfied with what they had so they did not learn the in depth meanings of the kata.
Gumbatte, Dan Smith
LETTER 3. - Are there blocks in Okinawan kata?
I remember when this no block question in karate began in the mid 1980's. As I recall it came about when people started being exposed to the Okinawan kata bunkai and finding out that not all blocks were for just blocking.
It is my belief that this line of thinking got completely out of control as people started trying to understand each movement of the kata and making it some exotic explanation to further their position in the world of how much they knew about the kata. Many of these people following this line of thinking were those that stated that the Okinawans were hiding all the deadly techniques from westerners and even the Japanese.
Some even went as far as saying that the Okinawan senior teachers got together after World War Two and decided not to teach the deadly art of Uchinandi again.
Are there blocks in Okinawan karate kata ? Certainly and the number of blocking techniques that are used for protecting you against attack are far greater than those that are used for release from a grab. The basic teaching of all Okinawa kata is the same regardless of style. The following three principles are taught in the same order by each teacher and is developed through the understanding of the kata. The words that I use to describe these three principles may not be the same but the actions are.
1. Get out of the way - tai sabaki. This is accomplished in varying ways depending on the teacher but it is all the same. If someone attacks you the first thing you want to do is get out of the way. (This helps disrupt the kuzushi of the opponent)
2. Protect your vital areas as you move out of the way of the attack. You do this with blocking. You may not actually block (whatever that is) the attack but you certainly want to protect your vital areas while you are getting out of the way. Addtionally by making contact with the opponents attack with a block (no matter what type of block it is) you give the opponent the feedback that they are looking for. They have made contact. (This helps disrupt the kuzushi of the opponent)
3. Attack the opponents vital areas that have been exposed by their attack, your evasion and blocking. The Okinawan concept is to do this as one movementif possible (ikkyo).
If you use these three principles in concert you should accomplish ikken hisatsu. The Okinawans spend many hours developing the blocking movements so that they can apply them as I have outlined above. It is just as important to learn how to move and block as it does to attack and is more vital to your safety. What happens when the scenario above does not work is where in the kata the techniques of escaping a grasp or your own counter attack being blocked is where the confusion can come from understanding whether a technique was a block as described above or not.
In my opinion I have answered several questions posed on the CD over the last few days.
What is kuzushi ?
How is Kuzushi applied from the kata ?
Are their blocks in Okinawan kata ?
Is there just bunkai from Okinawa that has onlyblock/punch applications ?
Is there use of blocking and striking simultaneous in Okinawa karate ?
IMHO all of these questions are answered in the three principles. Of coursethere is much more to be found in the section of what techniques are used when these three principles cannot be applied. I believe that most people want to find this answer before understanding the first three principles. Once you can apply the above principles it makes understanding the ti techniques that are woven into the kata, understandable.
I hope that this was helpful to those that are asking the questions and I hope it will interject thinking about the kata from a different perspective.Everything starts with the footwork.
Gumbatte, Dan Smith
LETTER 4. - About Hakutsuru kata.
Michael, you are right about Matayoshi teaching a Hakutsuru kata. The name is Kakuken. Even though he reserved the kata for some of his senior kobudo students in that he did not teach karate at all in his dojo.
His comments still stand, " the crane is for your health and not for killing like Okinawan karate ". Whenever you and Rand come down to Atlanta for a visit I will get the taped interview out and show it to you and let you make your own interpretations as to what he is meaning. Since I have known Matayoshi for many years I think I know when he is serious and joking. He was not joking.
Second, the reason for my question to him about the Kakuken was that I knew that he had not taught it to many people and that the popularity of the "crane" was growing in the USA. I asked him why so many people were now coming out with crane kata. He said " everyone trying to be somebody. If crane was so good for fighting then Okinawans would have kept. Not made Uchinandi." He then proceeded to demonstrate on the tape the crane movements and the bunkai that I asked him about.
Third, I did not learn the Kakuken from Matayoshi sensei. I learned this kata in 1969 from a gentleman by the name of Tomagusku. He had no students and practiced on his own. He lived in the same village that I did and knew that I
was a serious karate person. He knew my teacher and respected him. After watching me for sometime without my knowledge while I practiced at home on my makiwara he volunteered to teach me his kata. He informed me that the kata came from Go Ken Ki and that he had studied it before the war. I learned the kata and kept it all these years.
I left Okinawa in 1971 and returned in 1975 and could not find Tomagusku or his niece who had been our maid. They had
moved from the area and with my limited language skills at the time I could not find them.
Over the ensuing years I have demonstrated this kata to many Okinawans and have gotten no response from them as to it's authenticity until I demonstrated to Matayoshi sensei. He proclaimed to me that the kata came from Go Ken Ki. Until many years after I learned the kata I had no idea who Go Ken Ki was. After Matayoshi sensei verified that the kata was bonafied I then began in earnest to research the history.
I found that Go Ken Ki only had one kata. I also found out that if Matsumura had a white crane kata it would have been similar to the one Go Ken Ki had. I also found that Go Ken Ki taught at the Okinawan Kenkyu and that he did not teach the entire kata but the concepts of the kata.
Many Okinawans that trained at that time on a limited basis picked up bits and pieces and apparently have created many forms with a crane flavor. Yes, some of the Shorin Ryu kata have a crane flavor to them such as; Passai, Gojushiho and Kusanku but they do not have the crane power. The Okinawans developed their own power for these kata.
Personally I find the crane power contradictory to the Okinawans method of making power. I find just as Matayoshi sensei said, "crane is for health and Okinawan karate is for killing."
Sorry for the long winded response. I never thought thirty years ago that any of this would have any value. I kept the kata because it makes me feel good and is good to warm up with. I am amazed at the interest in something that the Okinawans do not consider important. Maybe we have missed something. I am glad I kept the kata.
LETTER 5. - About kata practice.
It is hard to disagree with most of what has been written about this subject but I have a few comments that I hope will be helpful.
I agree with Shogiki's comment about having "faith" in practicing the kata. Faith is defined as hope in what is not seen. All of us that practice the kata without knowing the complete meaning of kata are practicing faithfully with the hope that what we are practicing will produce the results that we have predisposed in our mind.
I think that this will satisfy as a definition of kata. There are so many levels of understanding kata that you cannot limit yourself to one meaning or one by product of your effort.
Again that faith word is important. All of us who have trained for some time without having to actually use some of the movements that we envision that will work are going forward on faith that the techniques will be there to provide us safety, health and well being not only form physical attack but from ourselves.
Perhaps this is what kata was designed to do. The concept of kata is an enigma as to it's origin and original purpose. Many followers of the practice of kata have continually preached it's importance but only have faith that the kata practice produces what we are looking for.
So why was kata created ? The preservation of techniques, a method of teaching techniques in an orderly fashion, a method to develop the body equally or a method of teaching the body to move instinctively ?
I think it is all of these but the latter is the end result. Based on 39 years of kata training, which over half of that was on faith alone, I have found that the purpose for me is training the body to move instinctively. To achieve this instinctive movement does not necessarily require that you have the understanding of the bunkai or principles of movement, but the more you mentally become aware of the purpose and methods the more effective the results are.
Does a beginner need to know the bunkai and principles of movement ? I have taught both ways. At first when I returned from Okinawa in 1971 I was so full of all the bunkai knowledge that is all I wanted to share with my students due to when I trained before going to Okinawa I had no clue of what bunkai was. After some months of trying to insure that "the" bunkai was taught as the kata was learned I found that the students would alter the movements of the kata to cause the effect of the bunkai and that is when I remembered my teacher stressing that there were many bunkai and not to change the kata movement to accommodate the bunkai movement.
Each kata movement has a purpose outside of the obvious and these movements are what teach the instinctiveness. If you have one bunkai in mind and do not concentrate on the perfection of movement then you will not develop the instinctive mind. The focus should be on the perfection of the movement and the applications flow from the movement and creativity of the mind or the spontaneity of the situation. "Faith without works is dead".
Gumbatte Kudasai, Dan
LETTER 6. - About Tegumi.
I think that many people are off on a tangent concerning grappling, Te Gumi, Toride, etc., etc. etc. when analyzing Okinawa karate. I understand the need some people have when they consider having to grapple with someone and the Okinawan kata takes provides for this but not in the way that is being represented. Okinawan karate focuses on the basic understanding of:
1) get out of the way of an attack. Even if you are grasped you use movement to escape not grappling.
2) Parry the attack as you move to give yourself the added protection from the attack and to create an opening to counter attack.
3)Attack the vulnerable points on the body as the openings are created through movement.
Yes, there are a few techniques in Okinawa kata that teach you how to block and grab as you apply a strike to the opponent. There are techniques in the kata that teach you how to react if your attack has been blocked and grabbed and techniques that teach you how to react when seized by the opponent but these are minimal when considering the vast number of techniques that are describe in 1 to 3 above.
My teacher on Okinawa taught four techniques against being grabbed. He stated that he only thought he would be grabbed in four ways. I thought about the many ways someone could grab you but the teacher said he only needed four because he believed that he would prepare himself to be only grabbed in the four methods that he could not guard against. Go through the kata and list how many ways someone can seize you. It is not many than four. You only have an arm, upper front body, upper back body and shoulders to defend. If someone tries to tackle you, the kata of Okinawa gives you two choices or three if you count the one move in Uechi Ryu out of Seisan.
My point is that much is being made about a small number of techniques. It is true what someone said on the CD, if you are someone who practices atemi waza then kensetsu waza is something special and if you practice grappling then atemi waza is special. IMHO the Okinawans specialized on 1 to 3 above. And while I am espousing stuff that probably causes concern. Ikken hisatsu is not an Okinawan concept. It comes straight from kenjutsu. The Okinawans simply say fight until there is no fight.
Gumbatte, Dan Smith
LETTER 7. - Sente no kata.
The context IMHO that Funakoshi was using the term "sente no kata" means that there is no first attack in the kata. Kata is ubiquitous for karate, the term we all know that has become synonymous with Uchinandi.
Can you or should you use the intermediary movements of "karate" to stop a potential attack at the moment you anticipate it ? IMHO that is up to the person. Is there a moral question as to whether you should attack the potential attacker first ? Again it is up to the individual and the circumstance.
Unless you are a mind reader how can you know someone will really attack you ? Sente no kata again IMHO is the fighting strategy of Uchinandi. In Okinawa there is two basic scenarios that a fight will take. One, a surprise attack,and two, a situation that escalates into a physical encounter. The kata fighting postures (kamae) and intermediary movements are designed for these two scenarios. These two scenarios are driven by the fact that Uchinandi is a self-defense based solution and works best when the opponent makes the first movement of attack and Uchinandi can be used in a counter movement.
In the escalation scenario the kata and two man drills are used to prepare you to defend yourself. Again the defense is seen as the best way to take advantage of the opponent. In Japan, for reasons that have been well documented by others, the Butokukai required that there be a measurement of skill of the new martial art, "karate", so therefore the ippon shobo kumite was devised. With this innovation karate introduced a new scenario to a potential fighting situation, mutual agreed upon combat.
With the addition of the mutually agreed upon combat scenario the techniques of the kata did not produce the skills needed and the kata began to change along with the kihon of "karate". Mutually agreed upon combat is not consistent with the dojo kun or the philosophy of Uchinandi so the process of change began in the kata and techniques of karate.
The purpose of the kata was changed. This change has brought on a vast misunderstanding of Uchinandi that is evidenced by numerous articles and opinions in karate magazines and internet discussions venues that discuss the relative ineffectiveness of the old ways vs. the new modern ways.
In a recent article in Black Belt Magazine a prominent personality in the world of "karate" was featured showing how the old techniques of Tang Soo Do do not work in the ring. Well I guess they should not work since they were not designed for mutually agreed upon combat and scoring points. Also in the same issue of the magazine was a gentlemen that was showing the differences of the old blocks of karate and how they had been misrepresented and now hewas showing how they really should be used. All of his demonstrations were designed against an opponent that was not attacking by surprise or and escalation of a physical situation.
I might add this article was written by someone representing themselves as an Okinawan stylist). IMHO the above has led the gross population of people practicing "karate" to misunderstand the techniques and therefore not have confidence in them.
This loss of confidence has led people to change the techniques for what they think will serve them best. The Japanese did it and the rest of the world has followed.
Sente No kata is a descriptive term of Uchinandi. It is a key that leads to the understanding of the kata.
The terms that were mentioned in some post; sen no sen, go no sen, and sensen no sen are as most of you know from Kendo. The origin of these terms are from the strategy of fighting with a sword.
Combat in Japan took the form of all three scenarios and therefore these strategies work and work well but they are not from an Okinawan perspective part of Uchinandi.
All three concepts violate Uchinandi except for go no sen, which is the moment after the initiative. Please remember the word kata was Japanese and was introduced into Okinawan karate by the Japanese. Prior to the word kata being used the Okinawans simply applied the term "di" after the name; for example "Seisan di". Just my opinion because there are no facts.
Gumbatte, Dan Smith
( Six )
Following are twenty oral transmissions (Kuden) for the understanding of kata as taught by Kubota Shozan (a student of Gichin Funakoshi), from his student, Higaki Gennosuke:
1. Countering: Motobu Choki commented that the blocking hand must immediately become the attacking hand. It is not a true martial technique to block with one hand and counter with another. When the block and counter-attack are simultaneous that is true martial technique. "There cannot be multiple attacks against true Okinawan karate, because if an attack is countered properly, there can be no further attack."
2. Immobilize the Opponent before Striking: The opponent must be rendered into such a state s/he cannot attack again, or even move, before executing a strike or kick.
3. The Names of Movements have been Disguised: Originally there were no names for the movements. It wasn’t until about 1935 that Shotokan established the terminology to teach large groups. However the terminology hid the meaning of the techniques. Many "blocks" were actually attacks.
4. There are no Techniques that End with a Block: There is no combative movement that ends with a block; there is always a counteroffensive movement. Moves that are called blocks are really attacks.
5. Block with Both Hands: In reality it is difficult to block an attack with one hand. When the hands cross across the chest, it hides a double block, which holds the true meaning. This is based on the fact that it is a natural movement to raise both hands when something comes suddenly at you.
6. Grabbing Hand and Pulling Hand: You pull your hand to your hip because that pulls the opponent into position for attack. The opponent will be pulled off-balance, you double the speed and power and the grabbing and pulling can be used for the beginning of throws and joint techniques.
7. The Front Hand is the Attacking Hand: By attacking with the front hand you attack from the closest possible
distance. (The back hand is the blocking hand).
8. Perform a Movement that Consists of Two Counts in One Count: Many movements in kata that are shown as two count are really one-count techniques, which can be explained by a switch step.
9. Switch Step (Fumi kae): Most of the movements in kata use a walking gait. To correctly use the movements, it is
necessary to change to a switch step. When this is understood, the meaning of kata will deepen. More power can be
applied to the punch when the feet slide and the distance can be adjusted between you and the opponent as well.
10. Kicks are Performed Low While Grabbing the Opponent: "Kicks are meant to be delivered below the belt." In most of kata bunkai, kicks are executed when grabbing the opponent. This helps stabilize a person when "standing on one
leg." Also, in close fighting where one can grab an opponent, the field of vision is limited, so it is difficult to defend
against a low kick.
11. There is One Opponent to the Front: Do not be fooled by the embusen (performance line). As a rule, there is only one opponent to the front. S/he is actually being dragged to the front and rear and to the left and right in a
Copernican (the method of tori maintaining the center) change.
12. Hang the Opponent to Sky: This is the same as a forearm twist (yuki chigai) in Aikido. It is represented in between techniques in kata.
13. Re-block and Re-grip: This refers to controlling the opponent by shutting down the attack by using both hands. The first three blocks of Heian Sandan cross the opponent’s arms (fushu in Chinese; juji garami in Aikido).
14. Take the Opponent’s Back: This is the most difficult position for an opponent to counter attack from.
15. Crossed Leg Stance: Signifies Body Rotation or a Joint Kick
16. Jumps and Body Shifts: Represent Throws
17. Break the Balance: in a triangle whose Base is the Base of the Opponent’s Feet, and the third point being the Head, the center of balance can be manipulated accordingly.
18. Me-oto-te (The Use of Both Hands Together): An example would be morote uke. The supporting hand (against the elbow) is the grabbing and pulling hand. The "blocking" hand makes the attack.
19. Cut the Forearm: Try to use a technique similar to kendo in which the forearm is "Chopped" leaving damage to the tendons.
20. The Kamae is an Invitation: When you know where the attack will occur, it is easier to defend against it.
How The Masters Got their Rank
Throughout the course of our karatedo training, we take for granted the grading system that awards our belt ranking and titles. Sometimes this system is manifestly personal, with the headmaster--and only he--bestowing each promotion directly, according to his own standards. Often, the testing for and awarding of rank is a more bureaucratic affair, with a committee exercising a perfunctory duty in a formally standardized and even routine mannerless ceremony, yet somehow more officious.
The recent writings of Hanshi Richard Kim of the Butoku-kai (Dojo Fall 1993) taught how the dan/kyu (degree) system was adopted by modem budo systems, promulgated by the Butoku-kai, and codified in its final form for Japanese karatedo by the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organizations (FAJKO). To truly understand this ranking system, it is important to gain a clearer insight into how the various masters obtained their ranking, since that forms the basis for your rank.
This much we know for certain: On April 12, 1924, Gichin Funakoshi, the "Father of Modern Karate," awarded karate's first black belt dan upon seven men. The recipients included Hironori Ohtsuka, founder of wado-ryu karatedo, Shinken Gima, later of gima-ha shoto-ryu, and Ante Tokuda, Gima's cousin, who received a nidan (second degree) black belt. Like Gima, Tokuda had trained extensively in Okinawa before coming to Japan proper. The others were Kasuya, Akiba, Shimizu and Hirose.
This beginning was a highly personal, yet formal ceremony in which Funakoshi is said to have handed out lengths of black belting to his pupils. Still there is no evidence that Funakoshi himself had ranking in any budo under the dan/kyu system.
Actually, Funakoshi was greatly influenced by Jigoro Kano, aristocratic founder of judo, and originator of the dan/kyu system. Kano was a highly respected individual, and Funakoshi prided himself on being an educated and "proper" man who rightly believed that he was acting correctly.
Kano's system was not only being applied to judo, but to other budo as well under the aegis of the Butoku-kai and the Japanese Ministry of Education. Funakoshi, then, just adopted the order of the day: a ranking system officially sanctioned by Japan's greatest martial arts entities.
Funakoshi's own rank was of no consequence, since it seems that belt ranking was really just something for the students, not for headmasters.
For its part, the Butoku-kai issued instructor's licenses: the titles renshi (the lowest), kyoshi, and hanshi (the highest). It would be a while before the dan/kyu system became universal in karate.
By the end of the 1930s, each karate group was called upon to register with the butoku-kai for official sanctioning, and in 1938, a meeting of the Butoku-kai's official karatedo leaders was held in Tokyo. Its purpose was to discuss the standards for awarding rank within their art. Attending, among others, were Hironori Ohtsuka of wado-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni of shito-ryu, Kensei Kinjo (Kaneshiro) and Sannosuke Ueshima of kushin-ryu, Tatsuo Yamada of Nippon kempo, Koyu Konishi of shindo-jinen-ryu, and a young Gogen Yamaguchi of goju-ryu.
Most of these men were founders of their own styles, and as such automatically became the highest rank that their agreed-on respective standards allowed. Yamaguchi assumed leadership of goju-ryu because, we are told, goju-ryu's founder, Chojun Miyagi, personally asked him to take the leadership of the style in Japan. About then, Funakoshi also finalized the grading standards for use at his Shotokan dojo.
Of course, the Butoku-kai continued to sanction head teachers directly. This was not without controversy, however, since Konishi sat on the board that awarded Funakoshi his renshi and Konishi had been Funakoshi's student. Of course, Konishi had inside ties to the Butoku-kai by virtue of birth, something the Okinawan Funakoshi could not have.
Back on Okinawa, the dan/kyu system did not become universal until after World War II. It was not unknown there, however, and some individual teachers did utilize the black belt. Judo had been practiced on Okinawa at least since the 1920s. In fact, it was at a Judo Black Belt Association (Yudanshakai) meeting on Okinawa that Miyagi and shito-ryu's Kenwa Mabuni demonstrated karate kata (forms) for Jigoro Kano garnering praises from the judo founder.
Miyagi, it should be noted, became the first karate expert given the title of kyoshi (master) from the butoku-kai in 1937. Miyagi was then appointed chief of its Okinawan branch.
After the ravages of war in the Pacific, the surviving karate leaders had to begin anew. With the Butoku-kai administration shut down for years to come, each karate group was on its own. The acknowledged leaders of each faction, as well as individual dojo chiefs, gave out dan ranks based upon all original sanctioning by the Butoku-kai or mandates inherited directly from the ryu's founder.
Rushing in to fill the vacuum left by the Butoku-kai, various dojo coalesced to perpetuate the art and legitimize its members' ranks. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, each new association, including the Gojukai, Shito-kai, Chito-kai, Shotokai and Japan Karate associations codified their rules and issued rank accordingly.
Generally, several instructors created a board of directors or council to govern the association. Some officer, be it the chief instructor, president, director or chairman would have signature authority on menjo (rank certificates). In this way, the senior-most members would attain their rank by being acknowledged and "signed off" by the board or committee.
Other times, a senior member of one faction would attain high enough rank from the faction-head to then go out and form his own style or organization. Supposedly, the famous Masutatsu Oyama received his eighth dan from Goju-kai head Gogen Yamaguchi. Oyama later formed his own style that was not completely a type of goju-ryu.
Usually in a legalistic and officious way these groups would simply adopt or adhere to some even higher authority or granting agency to further legitimize their actions. Recognition by the Japanese Ministry of Education was the ultimate sanction for individuals and groups in these times. Also new associations -- both in Japan proper and in Okinawa -- appeared. These became the grantor ranking authority, much in the way the Butoku-kai had acted previously. These new organizations were to set the pattern and be the original source for today's ranking.
As with the single-style clubs, the head instructors often assumed the rank for which they were qualified, based on criteria they wrote themselves.
One of the first was the All Japan Karatedo Federation, which seems to have started shortly after World War II as a confederation of headmasters such as Funakoshi, Chitose, Mabuni, Yamaguchi and Toyama.
They regularized the dan/kyu system to some extent, and with this group the modern Japanese karate ranking system became the norm. This unity did not last however. For example, the ranking was not consistent from group to group in the upper levels. The shotokan associations such as the JKA and the Shotokai only used up to godan (fifth rank) at this time. As a result, some groups had ceased to participate by the early 1950s.
Even more reminiscent of the Butoku-kai was the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF), known as the Kokusai Budoin. Originally named the National Japan Health Association, IMAF was launched in 1952 by powerful martial artists from several disciplines.
From judo there was Kyuzo Mifune, Kazuo Ito and Shizuo Sato. From kendo came Hakudo Nakayama and Hiromasa Takano, and from karatedo there was Hironori Ohtsuka. Its first chairman was Prince Tsunenori Kaya.
From the start, IMAF was set up by senior martial artists to preserve and promote various budo to create a mutually supportive network. A ranking system consisting of first through tenth dan, as well as the title system of renshi, kyoshi and hanshi, was adopted. Now highly respected and skilled instructors could have a direct avenue for promotion themselves. Several karateka including Gogen Yamaguchi, Hironori Ohtsuka (I and II), and more recently, Hirokazu Kanazawa of shotokan, received their highest grades through IMAF.
For Okinawa, the dan/kyu system did not really take hold until 1956, with the formation of the Okinawa Karate Association (OKF). Chosin Chibana, first to name his system shorin-ryu, was the first president.
According to the historical data of the Shudokan (a Japanese group started by Kanken Toyama in Tokyo), Chibana and Toyama were officially recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education to grant any rank in the art of karate, regardless of style. Chibana helped organize the OKF, and it was then that the mainstream Okinawan groups, on a widespread basis, began differentiating their black belt ranks as other than simple teacher and student demarcations.
A talented and, some say, colorful character, Toyama gave several certifications as largess to dojo heads in Okinawa and Japan proper. These were usually shibucho ("superintendent," from the feudal area commander title) diplomas. These certifications set up the individuals so named as head of their own branch of the All Japan Karatedo Federation and, by extension, of their own groups.
Eizo Shimabuku, founder of the shobayashi-ryu/shorin-ryu faction (a Kyan-type tomarite/shurite shorin-ryu blend), traces his own tenth dan to a Toyama certification.
Shimabuku's assumption of the tenth dan, and his wearing of a red belt, was not without dispute, and it was controversies of this type that led most Okinawan leaders to eschew the red belt altogether.
The AJKF did not last as a unified group of different styles in Japan proper. Toyama's foray back to Okinawa did lead later to the formation of the AJKF-Okinawa Branch with the organizing help of Isamu Tamotsu.
Tamotsu became a student of Okinawa's Zenryo Shimabuku (of Kyan-type shorinryu) and would become known as the soke (style head) of the Japanese faction of Shorinji-ryu.
In 1960, the Okinawan branch of the AJKF organized with Zenryo Shimabuku as president. A constituent group of this AJKF was the Okinawa Kempo League headed up by Shigeru Nakamura and Zenryo Shimabuku as a loose confederation of various technique sharing dojo.
Like other associations, the AJKF Okinawa Branch provided for the ranking of its member instructors. It operated as a rival to the Okinawa Karate Federation. However, it did not last long either and its member schools drifted away and formed other alliances. Its emblem did not die, however. The same patch is still used by Tsuyoshi Chitose's Chito-kai.
The senior karate leaders continued on their own or became part of other groups, using authority inherited mostly from members of one of the original Okinawan organizations, the most significant is the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Rengokai. Formed by Seitoku Higa as a successor to the Okinawa Federation in 1967, the Okinawa detail of the emblem was used to distinguish each member group. Seiyu Oyata can be seen wearing this patch in Dojo, Fall 1993, page 13.
Chitose was a founding member of the original Japanese AJKF, but his tenth dan was issued in 1958, according to the Chitokai, by the All Okinawa Karate Kobudo Rengokai. His hanshi title was issued by the same group in 1962. This is confusing however, since the AOKK-Rengokai was not formed until 1967.
It grew out of an earlier group: the Okinawa Kobudo Federation that was organized in 1961. This later group was organized by Seitoku Higa (of various lineages related to shorin-ryu) and Seikichi Uehara (molobu-ryu). Higa had been ranked by Toyama while living in Japan and may have been connected with the original AJKF.
As we learned from Richard Kim, the most significant event in the use of the dan/kyu system in karate was the formation of the FAJKO in 1964. All the major groups and factions of Japanese karatedo were brought under FAJKO's umbrella. By 1971, a ranking structure was adopted that standardized all the systems. High rank was issued to FAJKO member instructors by the organization's board. In this way, heads of constituent organizations could be upgraded, much as in earlier attempts at confederacy. An earlier, but smaller, confederacy of schools with rank-sanctioning authority was the Japan Karatedo Rengokai, which still exists and is a member of FAJKO.
After the birth of FAJKO, the JKA upgraded its own ranking requirements to conform. Sixth and eighth dans were awarded in the JKA back in the mid-1960s, and Hidetaka Nishiyama in Los Angeles was one of those upgraded at that time. Though not all groups participate in FAJKO these days, most still are tied to that organization in terms of rank structure and sanction. Others, not so tied, have conformed to the FAJKO criteria and standards nonetheless.
Shortly after FAJKO was launched, the Okinawans formed the All Okinawa Karatedo Federation as a successor to the old OKF. Members of both the OKF and AJKF-Okinawa Branch became part of the new association. Some of Okinawa's most mainstream karate leaders formed the AOKF board. These included Nagamine, Zenryo Shimabuku, Meitoku Yagi of gojuryu, Kanei Uechi of uechi-ryu and Yuchoku Higa of shorin-ryu. They adopted a dan/kyu and renshi, kyoshi, hanshi (plus a hanshisei) system almost identical to FAJKOs.
Other karate leaders continued on their own or became part of other groups, using authority inherited mostly from members of one of the original Okinawan organizations. Probably the most significant is the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Rengokai. Formed by Seitku Higa as a successor to the Okinawa Kobudo Federation in 1967, the Okinawa Rengokai also adopted very similar standards to the AOKF. Higa's organizations had certified as hanshi--and hence supreme instructor--several who were style or group heads in their own right. These included Shinsuke Kaneshima of Tozan-ryu from shurite, Hohan Soken of matsumura shorin-ryu, Shinpo Matayoshi of matayoshi kobudo Kenko Nakaima of ryuei-ryu, Shian Toma of shorin-ryu (Kyan type) and motobu-ryu, Tatsuo Shimabuku of isshin-ryu, Shosei Kina of uhuchiku kobudo, and Zenryo Shimabuku of shorin-ryu.
It is clear that karate ranks sprang from several original sources -- a relatively modem construct on an old martial art. It was issued by individuals and institutions with set standards that were recognized by other prestigious groups and individuals.
And this is the crux of the matter: For rank to be recognized, the bestower must be recognized within karate's mainstream community. It must be based in tradition, and linked to a body or sanctioned individual who is perceived as beyond reproach.
The standards by which rank is achieved and given must be recognizable, and conform to already existing norms in the Okinawan/Japanese martial arts hierarchy. Anyone can print up or write a fancy certificate, but absent of any governmental or legal guidelines, it is the recognition and acceptance by existing groups and institutions that give each ranking group or individual its legitimacy.
The development of the ranking system is a typically human development, with rivalries and contradictions, and our own masters received their rank in different ways. The highest-ranked of the old masters did not-could not-receive the tenth dan from their "style." They were invariably ranked by someone else and applied this grade to their own group. This is still true.
As in a medieval European knighting, originally any knight could dub another, then regal institutions took over. However, it is the skill and knowledge that gains the rank, not vice versa. The quest for rank, per se, misses the point.
The Zen Beikoku Shotoshinkai Karate Dojo..... Kyu/Dan Grades and Titles
(No Rank) - White Belt
Rokyu - Yellow Belt
Gokyu - Green Belt
Yonkyu - Purple Belt
Sankyu - Brown Belt I
Nikyu - Brown Belt II
Ikkyu - Brown Belt III
1st Degree Black Belt-Shodan
2nd Degree Black Belt-Nidan
3rd Degree Black Belt-Sandan
4th Degree Black Belt-Yondan
5th Degree Black Belt-Godan
6th Degree Black Belt-Rokudan
7th Degree Black Belt-Nanadan
8th Degree Black Belt-Hachidan
The Zen Beikoku Shotoshinkai Karate Dojo will not issue, award, or receive any ranking over the rank of Hachidan. Teaching Yudansha should be addressed as Sensei, or Shihan if they are Godan or above, and hold at least the Renshi Teaching License.
For continued recognition of serious practitioners of karate, we will recognize further achievements by utilizing the time honored tradition established by the Dai Nippon Butokukai, of issuing the Teaching Titles of Renshi, Kyoshi, and Hanshi.
We will do this through the auspices of the ISKK, the (International) Kokusai Seito Karate Kenkyukai, which has the Authority to promote any member within the established Dojo guidelines.
This system of grading should support one for a lifetime of studying.
As far as time in grade goes, it should be determined by the individual, and that individual's knowledge and ability. It should however be expected, that it will take a lifetime of study.
Also included are the kata of Ryukyu Kobudo/Kobujutsu as well as the less common kata that are present with our method of Ryukyu Kempo.
Itosu no Passai/Matsumura no Passai
Chibana no Kusanku/Yara no Kusanku
Choun no Kun
Shushi no Kun
Tsuken Akachu no Eku Di
Matayoshi no Tunfa
Matayoshi no Sai
Takamitsu no Kama
Takamitsu no Nunchaku
Maezato no Tekko
Sakugawa no Kun
The Ryukyu Kempo Kata that are included at the Shojukan Dojo are a grouping of specific kata related directly to that system, and represent Karate-jutsu, or Karamiti, both older arts and methodologies that represent the beginnings of karate, from a much older time. These include:
Matsumura no Passai
Chatan Yara no Kusanku
Chudan kyusho - Middle body vital points
Shofu - Side of neck
Sonu - Base of throat
Hichu - Adam's apple
Danchu - Sternum upper level
Kyototsu - Base if sternum
Suigetsu - solar-plexus
Kyoei - Armpits
Ganchu - Below the nipples
Denko - Between 7th and 8th ribs
Inazuma - Sides, above hips
Myojo - Below the navel
Soda - Between the shoulder blades
Kodenko - Base of spine
Wanshun - Triceps
Hijizume - Elbow joint
Udekansetsu - Arm and shoulder joint
Kote - Wrist
Uchijakuzawa - Inside forearm at pulse
Sotojakuzawa - Wrist edge above pulse
Shuko - Back of hand
Jodan Kyusho - Upper body vital points
Tendo - Crown of the head
Tento - Area between crown and forehead
Komekami - Temples
Mimi - Ears
Miken - Bridge of nose
Seidon - Area above and below the eyes
Gansei - Eyeballs
Jinchu - Region below nose in middle of upper lip
Gekon - Below lower lip
Mikazuki - Jaw
Dokko - Behind the ears or the mastoid process
Keichu/nape - back of neck where it meets skull
Gedan Kyusho - Lower body vital points
Kinteki - Testicles
Yako - Inside upper thigh
Fukuto - Outside lower thigh
Hizakansetsu - Knee joint
Sobi - Base of calf muscle
Kokotsu - Shin
Kori - Instep
Kusagakure - Outside top of foot
Bitei - Coccyx/Tailbone
Ushiro Inazuma - Below buttocks at junction of leg
Nikyo - second control wrist bend to side
Sankyo - third control wrist twist
Yonkyo - fourth control wrist/arm flex
Gokyo - fifth control wrist bend inward
Yubi Dori - finger control stretch
Kote Dori - wrist press
Hiji Kime - elbow lapel lock
Hiji Ate - elbow hyper-extending strike
Ude Gatame - forearm armlock
Hiza Gatame - knee armlock
• O Goshi - major hip throw
• Hane Goshi - spring hip throw
• Harai Goshi - sweeping loin throw
• Koshi Guruma - loin wheel throw
GROUP # 2
• O Soto Gari - major outer reaping throw
• O Uchi Mata - major inner thigh reaping throw
• Ashi Barai - foot sweeping
• Tomoe Nage - stomach or high circle throw
GROUP # 3
• Seio Nage - shoulder throw
• Ushiro Nage - rearward throw
• Kata Guruma - shoulder wheel throw
• Sukui Nage - scooping throw
GROUP # 4
• Irimi Nage - entering/encircling neck throw
• Shiho Nage - four corners throw
• Kaiten Nage - arm wheel throw
• Kote Gaeshi - outer wrist twist throw
Karate Training Syllabus
Tachi Kata-The Stances
• Musubi Dachi - Heel to heel attention stance
• Heisoku Dachi - Feet together attention stance
• Zenkutsu Dachi - Front stance
• Kokutsu Dachi - Back stance
• Kiba Dachi - Horse riding stance
• Shiko Dachi - Straddle leg stance
• Fudo Dachi - Immoveable stance
• Neko Ashi Dachi - Cat stance
• Kosa Dachi - Cross legged stance
• Sanchin Dachi - Hourglass stance
• Tsuru Dachi - Crane stance
• Tai Sabaki - Body Shifting
Uke Waza - Blocking techniques
• Age Uke - Rising block
• Gedan Barai - Low block
• Uchi Uke - Inside block
• Ude Uke - Outside block
• Shuto Uke - Knife or sword hand block
• Morote Uke - Augnemted forearm block
• Juji Uke - X block or cross arm block
• Kakiwake Uke - Wedge block
• Haishu Uke - Backhand block
• Tettsui Uke - Bottom fist block
• Nagashi Uke - Sweeping block
• Osae Uke - Pressing block
• Sukui Uke - Scooping block
• Hasami Uke - Scissors block
• Nidan Uke - Two level block
• Yama Uke - Mountain block
• Mawashi Uke - Roundhouse block or circling block
Tsuki Waza - Punching techniques
• Oi Tsuki - Lunge punch
• Gyaku Tsuki - Reverse punch
• Tate Tsuki - Vertical or straight punch
• Kagi Tsuki - Hook punch
• Age Tsuki - Rising punch
• Ura Tsuki - Close punch
• Yama Tsuki - U-punch
• Morote Tsuki - Double punch
Uchi or Ate Waza - Striking Techniques
• Shuto Uchi - Sword or knife hand strike
• Haito Uchi - Ridge hand strike
• Nukite Uchi - Spear hand strike
• Uraken Uchi - Back fist strike
• Tettsui Uchi - Bottom fist strike
• Haishu Uchi - Back hand strike
• Teisho Uchi - Palm heel strike
• Empi Uchi - Elbow strike
• Ippon Kai Ni Kansetsu Uchi - Second knuckle of index finger strike
• Nihon Dai Ni Kansetsu Uchi - Second knuckle of middle finger strike
• Kote Uchi - Forearm strike
Keri Waza - Kicking Techniques
• Mae Geri - Front kick
• Yoko Geri - Side kick
• Mawashi Geri - Round kick
• Ushiro Geri - Back kick
• Hiza Geri - Knee kick
• Fumikomi Geri - Stomping kick
• Kaiten Geri - Wheel kick
• Kagi Geri - Hook kick
• Mae Tobi Geri - Jump front kick
• Nidan Tobi Geri - Double jump front kick
• Yoko Tobi Geri - Jump side kick or flying side kick
• Yoko Geri Keage - Side snap kick
• Mikazuki Geri - Crescent kick
• Ushiro Tobi Geri - Jump back kick