Do Okinawan Kata Have Military Origins

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K-Man wrote:

The question becomes, what came first? My feeling would be the answer is contained in the name. Kare (empty) te (hand) is relatively recent. Prior to this it was simply te and linked to its region of origin, hence Naha-te Shuri-te and Tomari-te. If the karate we know had developed with a weapon, such as the spear, why would it regress to open hand? I do not doubt there are many links to military training in the MAs but I feel that karate was designed to use when there was no weapon available.
Thank you for taking the time to share this. Funakoshi has a good description of this is his text Karate-Do Kyohan. Right at the beginning of the text he describes his role in changing the meaning of kara from "Chinese" to "empty".

Karate-do is a martial art peculiar to Okinawa in its origins. Although it has in the past tended to be confused with Chinese boxing because of the use of "China" (I will use "China" for the character for Tang/China/Chinese.), in its earlier name, in fact, for the past thousand years, the study and practice of masters and experts, through which it was nurtured and perfected and formed into the unified martial art that it is today, took place in Okinawa. It is therefore, not a distortion to represent it as an Okinawan martial art.

One may ask why the "China" has been retained for so long. As I discuss in the section, "The Development of Karate-do", I believe that at the time the influence of Chinese culture was at its peak in Japan, many experts in the martial arts traveled to China to practice Chinese boxing. With their new knowledge, they altered the existing martial art, called Okinawa-te, weeding out its bad points and adding good points to it, thus working it into an elegant art. It may be speculated that they considered "china" an appropriate new name. Since even in contemporary Japan, there are many people who are impressed by anything that is foreign, it is not difficult to imagine the high regard for anything Chinese that prevailed during that period in Okinawa. Even at the time of the present writer's youth, lack of a full set of Chinese furniture and furnishings in one's home was a serious impediment to the social influence of any leading family. With this background, the reason for the choice of the "China" character meaning "Chinese" as a simple case of exoticism is apparent.

Following tradition, the writer has in the past continued to use the character "China". However, because of the frequent confusion with Chinese boxing, and the fact that Okinawan martial art may now be considered a Japanese martial art, it is inappropriate, and in a sense, degrading, to continue to use "China" in the name. For this reason, in spite of many protests, we have abandoned the use of "China" to replace it with "empty."
Please note that the time of Funakoshi's writing, 1942, the Japanese had been at war with China, and to appreciate the magnitude of the hostility the Japanese military rulers viewed the Chinese, just five years earlier the Japanese massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians in what is known as the Rape of Nanking.

Funakoshi clearly was under pressure to sanitize the Okinawan art of Karate, to make it not so overtly Chinese and more Japanese. In that effort, he not only changed the name from Chinese hand to empty hand, (which had occurred earlier that the writing of this text,) but changed a number of names of kata away from Chinese names to Japanese names. Pinan became Heian, Naihanchi became Tekki, Seisan became Hangetsu, Chinto became Gunkaku, Wansu became Empi, Kusanku became Kanku.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.
 

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Right at the beginning of the text he describes his role in changing the meaning of kara from "Chinese" to "empty".
Funakoshi had no role whatsoever in the changing of those characters! He was probably one of the most influential in popularizing it, if not the most influential, but he did not make the change. The first time those characters were used was already back in 1905, nearly 40 years before Karate do Kyohan, which means that the meaning was most likely known and widely used even before that. Also, the "official" decision to switch to kanji was done in 1936, at a meeting where Funakoshi most certainly was not present.
 

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SahBumNimRush wrote:



My good doctor:

These are two of my favorites. Are you talking about what in Shito Ryu are practiced as Bassai Dai and Chinto? (Shotokan Bassai Dai and Gunkaku)

Do you practice these? You might be curious to see how well they can propel a spear.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA

Yes Mike, these are the forms I was referring to, and yes I do practice them, they are 2 of my 3 favorite forms (the other being kang song goon, also known as kanku/kusanku). I was told once that Bassai was originally used as a bo form. I cannot say one way or the other for certain, but I see some practical applications with a bo in it.
 

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I was told once that Bassai was originally used as a bo form. I cannot say one way or the other for certain, but I see some practical applications with a bo in it.
I have a hard time believing that. The applications I'm familiar with all point to close-in fighting and many of the moves, at least in the Shorin ryu Seibukan version that I'm practising, are just about impossible to perform correctly with a long(ish) piece of wood stuck in your hands. To do that, you would have to change the moves and, well, then it's not the same kata anymore.
 
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Timo,

I am going to review these a few statements at a time. I did say I would address all issues raised.

In response to my statement It seems obvious to me that all capable passengers would want to have some skill in fighting off pirates., you wrote
Not necessarily. Let's take a look at modern piracy. Most of the vessels that have been pirated in e.g. near Somalia have had no defences whatsoever against the pirates. I don't see why this couldn't be true back then also.
I am not sure the historical documentation would support your statement. I would be interested if you could provide any references in support of your equating acts of piracy today with acts of piracy against tribute ships in feudal times.

While you appear to see commonality between the two environments, I see a number of differences, several, quite significant. Tribute ships in feudal times carried 100 people, including passengers high up in the Ryukyu aristocracy. Today, cargo vessels carry a crew of perhaps a dozen, with no passengers. Ships in feudal times were suffered pirate attacks because the pirates wanted the cargo. Today pirates hold the crew hostage for ransom. The cargo is usually not even at risk and even if it were, tt is ensured. In Feudal times, as Nagamine noted, "Tribute was the singlemost important aspect of the Ryukyu's economy." A loss of a tribute ship would have been devastating.

Today, the crew has no commitment to die in defense of the shipment. That was simply not the case in feudal times. I quoted Nagamine here today that the crew had no choice but to fight pirates. I also quoted Nagamine that non-crew passengers skilled in combative arts were by order of the King, commanded to aid the crew.

As you note, the vessels off Somalia had no defenses against piracy. In contrast, in a post on this thread I quoted Nagamine: "no expense was spared when it came to ensuring the safety of cargo, passengers and crew."

My reading of the historical literature shows me that pirate attacks in feudal times was a bloody encounters. For example, Kerr quotes the the following from the Ming annals "Their discipline was stern an they fought all to death. ... As the profit was always enormous, trouble with these pirates became worse day by day."

I would be interested in any historical documentation you can provide that supports your statement "Most of the vessels that have been pirated in e.g. near Somalia have had no defenses whatsoever against the pirates. I don't see why this couldn't be true back then also."

In response to my statement: "This argument typically leads to some kind of statement to the effect that the Okinawans had their (non-military) kobudo weapons, so why would they have any reason to have use for spear arts.", you responded:

Oh please don't tell me you believe that the weapons used in kobudo were all some sort of farming tools? Most of them were weapons to begin with!
I am certainly not alone in my reference to long bladed weapons (spears and swords) as military weapons. The Japanese used the similar criteria in their weapons bans. In contrast other weapons that were not long and bladed were not considered by the Japanese to be military weapons and therefore did not fall under the decree. I refer to bo, tonfa, nunchaku, sai, tonfa, timbe as non-military weapons.

Swords, spears, bows and arrows have a long history as military weapons. Would you be willing to share any documentation you have regarding the regular military use of the common Okinawan kobudo weapons for military purposes? By military, I mean groups of armed men (often very large groups) fighting with weapons on behalf of larger communities, usually governments.

If you have any references that traditional Okinawan Kobudo weapons were commonly used in military conflict, I would be grateful if you could provide them.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA
 
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Timo,

In response to my statement: "This assumption would seem to imply that spear arts can only be practiced with a spear in hand, and that since no common Okinawan arts are practiced with spear today, they must have vanished over the years."

You replied:

There are Okinawan spear kata in existense, so that theory doesn't hold much water.
I will reiterate what I wrote. "since no common Okinawan arts are practiced with spear today." [emphasis]

First let me state that I qualified my use of the term spear early on. I find the use of the term halberd awkward and pedantic and when I refer to a spear, I am referring to a bladed spear. That being understood, I did not state, nor imply that there are no Okinawan spear kata in existence.

The question is whether the spear is common in Okinawan arts, or is found in common Okinawan arts. Of course you may claim that the spear is indeed common. However, I would imagine most of the readers here would not find that argument convincing.

I am not going to quibble about some of the minor issues you raise. But I would like to address one point you made.

because in okinawan karate, there's no need for reverse engineering. The applications are taught with the kata.
For this, I have some questions I hope you can provide some insight on. Can you validate an original source of any bunkai application you have learned. Most of your kata comes from Kyan. Can you validate whether applications were of his design, his teachers design, or do they go further back?

Can anyone validate whether Shoshin Nagamine, Joen Nakazato, Zenryo Shimabukuro, Tatsu Shimabuku and Eizo Shimabukuro were all taught the same applications by Kyan, for all the movements in all the Kyan kata? Or in general, did Kyan teach a bit of bunkai to some students and a bit of bunkai to others, leaving large section of kata up to the imagination of his students?

Were the students of Itosu all taught the same applications for all the kata they learned from him.

Mabuni amassed some 40 kata while on Okinawa. Does anyone believe that he was taught bunkai for every one of the hundreds of movements contained within. Does anyone believe that all these applications flowed without interruption from the originators of the kata. Could Mabuni even teach the applications found in all these kata in any way that would be useful for his students?

Following is a clip of bunkai practiced by the students of Seikichi Iha, a student of Shinpan Gusukuma, and Katsuya Miyahira, two mainstream Okinawan teachers. Would anyone argue that this bunkai goes back to Itosu, Matsumura or further. Chinto is a very old kata.


Regarding kata bunkai, we can look at movements practiced by a whole range of Okinawan schools. Following is a clip of a discussion of some Naihanchi movements.

The actual application begins at 2:00. At 2:20 the sensei shows the application of the cross strike found in Naihanchi, which ends just past the torso in the kata. In the application, he fundamentally modifies the movement by extending it fully. The movement he teaches simply is not found in the kata. He has turned a movement that punches a short distance and freezes, to a full blown reverse punch that extends fully and snaps back to chamber. It has been my experience that this is the norm of kata bunkai, there is often quite a bit of modification needed to make the kata movements work in realistic fighting applications.

Here are a couple of clips of Seibukan movements that I would like to comment on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKBo5wcAzwo&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vAnhxndLLw&feature=related

I will begin with some quantitative observations about the types of attacks and defense sequences found in the two videos. I counted 28 attacks demonstrated (counting the synchronized pair movements in the first video as a singe attack). Of these attacks, there was one only one two-strike combination (right then left). There was one combination of a strike then a kick. There was one combination of a grab then a kick. Out of 28 attacks, only three had what I would consider two parts to them. Of the remaining 25, four were grabs, four were kicks. The remaining attacks were single strikes. There was one right reverse punch. The remainder involved a step then strike movement, 10 being the traditional karate step then strike, right lunge punch. There were a wide variety of counters, with a number of interesting combinations utilizing strike, then lock sequences. But the majority of counters were a single strike response.

Among those that train in fighting-oriented arts, I am certainly not alone in the opinion that many of the concepts I have pointed out just don't model the way empty-hand fighting works. In general, a very common attack from fighter with just basic training would involve the attacker shuffling in, not stepping forward, withdrawing his punches immediately, and using punch combinations. Also even a beginner fighter learns not to leave his jaw exposed by keeping one hand on his hip.

Regarding defenses, it is well known that against larger attackers, a person usually needs more than one counter to stop them. Yet, as noted, many of these defense sequences shown demonstrate a single counter.

I chose Seibukan to evaluate for several reasons. First, I would argue that the applications in Seibukan (and in these videos) contain far more realism than the bunkai taught by a variety of other traditional Okinawan systems. Seibukan is a great example of a rock-solid Okinawan system. It's roots are in Zenryo Shimabukuru and Chotoku Kyan, two renowned Okinawan karateka. To use an American phrase, Seibukan is as old-school as it gets.

Another observation is that it appears to me that the kata combinations at the end of the second clip, don't always correlate all that well to the sequences kata sequences shown just before the applications. Starting at 3:24 in the kata sequence of Passai, the student begins with a shuto technique, takes one step forward with a second shuto, and continues advancing with three distinct shuffles forward. The kata has the two arms raising on the first shuffle, falling on the second sequence, and finishing with a lunge punch on the final shuffle.

In contrast, the student demonstrating the bunkai does the initial left shuto block, but instead of using another shuto going forward, followed by the rising arm movements, the downwards strikes and the lunge punch, he does what appears to be a single strike (the camera angle was sufficient to see the hand counter), followed by a rising knee to the abdomen, and ending with a standing choke. There was a single step forward during the sequence, but none of the three shuffling movements found in the kata. It would seem to me that if the kata student demonstrates a sequence with four movements forward, that the student showing the bunkai should show those movements.

I saw another concept I found a bit odd. In the Passai sequence beginning at 3:15 in the 2nd clip the student shows three repetitive movements coming forward, right, then left, then right. In the application coming forward, the defender comes forward to the attacker with the first movement in the air, then the 2nd movement in the air, then the third is used to grab. Over the years, I have seen a lot of bunkai from a lot of systems. This was the first where I saw that sequential set of kata movements used to wave the hands in the air while one walks towards the attacker.

Again, I do not mean to single out Seibukan, because I really enjoyed these clips and recognized immediately the quality of their training. These are good karateka, and the Sensei is outstanding.

I showed the Chinto application above, because of the concepts I see in common with the Seibukan clips. That is the movements, while very good karate applications, in general have a quite a bit that does not map to the kata. Despite the mainline heritage of this Itosu/Chibana system, these bunkai sets were not developed by either Itosu or Chibana, but by a senior student of Miyahira. But that is what is practiced for Chinto bunkai in this Chibana system.

I bring up these issues for a number of reasons. There are some Okinawan systems that have done better than others at teaching bunkai. Seibukan is an example of effective karate fighting, and good bunkai. But the notion that all Okinawan systems teach useful movements for all of their kata movements would strike many students of the arts as a bit of an exaggeration. Much is simply ignored, and good bunkai applications often reach outside the kata for movements to add to the combinations to improve their utility.

I have stated here that I will present fully on all movements of each kata that I examine. One useful approach would be a comparative analysis with the approach to kata of a mainstream Okinawan karate school.

I would imagine that Seibukan Finland teaches the Pinans. I would appreciate the opportunity to compare my reverse-engineered empty hand and spear applications with some of the traditional applications that may have come out of Okinawa as part of the Seibukan system. I am hopeful that Timo would like to participate in such a comparison?

Criticism of my ideas is welcome. But readers here could really benefit from a comparison that will allow them to judge for themselves the relative effectiveness of empty hand kata for empty hand self defense, or for the military art of spearfighting.

Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA
 
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SahBumNimRush

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I have a hard time believing that. The applications I'm familiar with all point to close-in fighting and many of the moves, at least in the Shorin ryu Seibukan version that I'm practising, are just about impossible to perform correctly with a long(ish) piece of wood stuck in your hands. To do that, you would have to change the moves and, well, then it's not the same kata anymore.


I am inclined to agree with you Timo, as I find it hard to extract bo techs out of the majority of the form. I keep an open mind about these things, since I believe that many things change within the forms over time for various reasons. When styles are crossed between nations, they are adapted to the indigenous styles. When styles are passed from teacher to student over generations, aspects are undoubtedly lost and some added. Because traditionally styles were passed verbally and little was ever written, it is difficult for me to say for certain what the "original" intent of these forms truely are.

I would very much love to be enlightened to the original purposes of these, but all I can find is interpretations. This is both a curse and a blessing, IMHO. Skilled martial artists may find very effective insights within their practiced forms, some which may have not been the original intent, but work none-the-less. But from a historical and priciple aspect, the true intent is near impossible to ever decipher.
 

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Interesting work.

In the style I train in, the weapon hand and empty hand are inter-related. The same body dynamics and principles apply, though their expression may change slightly as you add or remove a weapon. You can certainly do any basic empty hand weapon form with a weapon, though you very likely will have to change some steps and movements, and you can perform many of the same movements unarmed that you find in our weapons forms. However, you'd be going too far if you said that the empty hand forms were derived from weapons -- or vice versa.

I think that you're starting from some assumptions about the nature of a battlefield that may not be accurate, and about the tactics and strategies on the battlefield. Polearms were indeed often primary weapons on a battlefield, for a lot of reasons including range and power. I doubt that there were many places where staffs, however, were used in preference to some sort of bladed weapon...

I have to wonder if perhaps you haven't found that there are indeed underlying principles of movement and body dynamics that are common to the Okinawan armed and unarmed fighting systems more than that one derived from the other.
 

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Swords, spears, bows and arrows have a long history as military weapons. Would you be willing to share any documentation you have regarding the regular military use of the common Okinawan kobudo weapons for military purposes? By military, I mean groups of armed men (often very large groups) fighting with weapons on behalf of larger communities, usually governments.
Because okinawan kobudo weapons never were battlefield weapons, that would be impossible to provide. They were weapons of law enforcement, bodyguards, aristocrats etc.
 

TimoS

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Of course you may claim that the spear is indeed common
Of course it is not common, because a) even in modern kobudo styles, nunti is an advanced weapon and (more importantly) b) before the advent of kobudo as a separate style, the masters knew maybe one or two weapons kata. Then later Taira Shinken and Matayoshi Shinko went to all these masters, learned the kata and put them together into kobudo systems.
Can anyone validate whether Shoshin Nagamine, Joen Nakazato, Zenryo Shimabukuro, Tatsu Shimabuku and Eizo Shimabukuro were all taught the same applications by Kyan, for all the movements in all the Kyan kata?
Yes, I can, based on what I've seen with my own eyes last summer in Okinawa. Joen Nakazato's students were demonstrating Passai and although the moves looked a bit different, the applications were the same. As to where they originated from, nobody knows. However, the content remains the same. Even in Goju Seisan, many of the applications are exactly the same as in Shorin Seisan.
Or in general, did Kyan teach a bit of bunkai to some students and a bit of bunkai to others, leaving large section of kata up to the imagination of his students?
Do you know how the kata was (most likely) taught when Kyan sensei was still teaching? Because your question, to me, shows that you think they were taught in the modern way, i.e. the kata as a whole and then maybe some applications here and there and that quite simply is not the case. The way those students were taught was they would be shown a move and then shown the application to the move. Next time they might be shown the next move in kata or they would drill the ones learned. So, using this method there wasn't much need for leaving things to students' imagination. Of course how they applied the kata in a real-live situation is something that couldn't be taught, they were shown principles and they drilled those with a partner.
Were the students of Itosu all taught the same applications for all the kata they learned from him.
I wouldn't know. We are not in Itosu's lineage.
Does anyone believe that all these applications flowed without interruption from the originators of the kata.
Why wouldn't they?
Could Mabuni even teach the applications found in all these kata in any way that would be useful for his students?
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The point is, those who taught him the kata surely would've known the applications. Whether Mabuni passed those on, I don't know.
Following is a clip of bunkai practiced by the students of Seikichi Iha, a student of Shinpan Gusukuma, and Katsuya Miyahira, two mainstream Okinawan teachers. Would anyone argue that this bunkai goes back to Itosu, Matsumura or further. Chinto is a very old kata.
Chinto isn't a Matsumura kata, it is a Matsumora kata. Two totally different persons.
The actual application begins at 2:00. At 2:20 the sensei shows the application of the cross strike found in Naihanchi, which ends just past the torso in the kata. In the application, he fundamentally modifies the movement by extending it fully.
Fundamentally? Not even close.
Here are a couple of clips of Seibukan movements that I would like to comment on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKBo5wcAzwo&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vAnhxndLLw&feature=related
BTW, I am very familiar with those videos and all the persons on the video :) I shot those videos and I train as often as I can with all the persons on the clips. They are all from various cities here in Finland, so I don't get to meet them too often.
But the majority of counters were a single strike response.

Among those that train in fighting-oriented arts, I am certainly not alone in the opinion that many of the concepts I have pointed out just don't model the way empty-hand fighting works. In general, a very common attack from fighter with just basic training would involve the attacker shuffling in, not stepping forward, withdrawing his punches immediately, and using punch combinations. Also even a beginner fighter learns not to leave his jaw exposed by keeping one hand on his hip.
Did our guys at any stage imply that these were realistic self-defence combinations? What you've looked at are for example our formal ippon kumite drills and while they teach us some of the tools in kata, that's not the most important lesson to learned from those. Those would be timing, stepping out of the line of attack, etc.
Regarding defenses, it is well known that against larger attackers, a person usually needs more than one counter to stop them. Yet, as noted, many of these defense sequences shown demonstrate a single counter.
Like I said, ippon kumite and other more of less formal exercises meant to teach you some of the basic tools and how to apply them. When we practise kata in a more free-form way, we are taught to continue with something. E.g. the opening moves on Naifanchi. First you block a punch and then you strike with your elbow. If the first strike isn't successful, you continue with a second, third, fourth etc. or you switch to something else.
Another observation is that it appears to me that the kata combinations at the end of the second clip, don't always correlate all that well to the sequences kata sequences shown just before the applications. Starting at 3:24 in the kata sequence of Passai, the student begins with a shuto technique, takes one step forward with a second shuto, and continues advancing with three distinct shuffles forward. The kata has the two arms raising on the first shuffle, falling on the second sequence, and finishing with a lunge punch on the final shuffle.
Those aren't the basic bunkai we're taught. Jani, the guy in the middle defending, is using more "free-form" applications.
It would seem to me that if the kata student demonstrates a sequence with four movements forward, that the student showing the bunkai should show those movements.
If they were demonstrating the basic bunkai, then yes. In this case, they weren't.
I saw another concept I found a bit odd. In the Passai sequence beginning at 3:15 in the 2nd clip the student shows three repetitive movements coming forward, right, then left, then right. In the application coming forward, the defender comes forward to the attacker with the first movement in the air, then the 2nd movement in the air, then the third is used to grab. Over the years, I have seen a lot of bunkai from a lot of systems. This was the first where I saw that sequential set of kata movements used to wave the hands in the air while one walks towards the attacker.
Oh that one. That's supposed to simulate groping in darkness and when you finally find your opponent, you strike. Whether that's a realistic scenario or not, I cannot comment.
I showed the Chinto application above, because of the concepts I see in common with the Seibukan clips. That is the movements, while very good karate applications, in general have a quite a bit that does not map to the kata. Despite the mainline heritage of this Itosu/Chibana system, these bunkai sets were not developed by either Itosu or Chibana, but by a senior student of Miyahira. But that is what is practiced for Chinto bunkai in this Chibana system.
Could be. I am not familiar with Chinto myself, as it is taught to us only after reaching 2. dan. Also, there was talk on this forum previously that in the Itosu lineage there is much wider dispersion in the applications.
I would imagine that Seibukan Finland teaches the Pinans. I would appreciate the opportunity to compare my reverse-engineered empty hand and spear applications with some of the traditional applications that may have come out of Okinawa as part of the Seibukan system. I am hopeful that Timo would like to participate in such a comparison?
We are, but those are considered additional kata, so many of the people here don't know them too well, myself included. I've been taught Pinan 1-3, but I can't remember how those go, as I don't usually practise them.
 
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Timo,
You wrote:

Chinto isn't a Matsumura kata, it is a Matsumora kata. Two totally different persons.

I must admit I was a bit surprised by this statement. You have made claims regarding the general nature of karate instruction in Okinawa. It appears that your knowledge may be somewhat limited to Kyan-based systems. For what it is worth, Chinto is a kata found in systems that descend from Sokon Matsumura, both in the common lineages of Itosu/Azato (Chibana, Mabuni, Toyama, Funakoshi) as well as the Matsumura Seito school descending from Nabe Matsumura (Soken). While we cant prove that Itosu learned Chinto from Sokon Matsumura, (since there is no documentation) we do know that Soken practiced it and we know that Soken has stated he learned his kata from Nabe Matsumura. That would be pretty sound evidence that Chinto comes from Sokon Matsumura. I think most would be very surprised to find that Itosu learned Chinto from Kosaku Matsumora.

On another topic, while Nunti is a pointed spear, I have written here that when I refer to the term spear, I refer to a bladed spear, rather than use the awkward, little-known term halberd. Bladed spear forms are not found in common Okinawan karate systems.

You and I could debate further the usefulness of basic bunkai and the more free-form applications that often diverge greatly from movements found in kata. But without visual evidence, readers here would never be able to evaluate the merits of our arguments.

Your claim that my hypothesis cannot be correct seems to be based, in large part, on the argument that the applications you have learned for kata are really good fighting applications, and therefore the kata movements could not possibly have been designed for a spear. Perhaps you would be willing to provide evidence in support of that claim by posting video of these applications.

I propose a comparison. You demonstrate/teach your empty-hand applications, I demonstrate/teach my spear applications. That will provide readers of the forum the information necessary to draw their own conclusions. Let me start with a disclaimer. My karate training has almost uniformly been in systems that practice Itosu/Higashionna kata. Aside from a couple of visits to Matsubayashi dojos, one ten years ago, the other 25 years ago, I have never trained in a dojo in the Kyan lineage.

I would be eager to review any Seibukan Kyan kata of your choosing for use with a spear. We could provide a comparative analysis, move for move, of one kata of your choice, in its entirety. I am hopeful that you will be willing to provide evidence of the great fighting applications of a Seibukan kata, since this would let the readers of Martial Talk be the judge of the relative effectiveness of the empty hand kata movements in versus spear movements in combat applications.

One important criteria would be the fidelity with which bunkai applications conform to kata movements. I propose we use the Kyan videos of Zenpo Shimabukuru found on youtube as the standard to which our movements should conform.

And there would be no need to rush on the delivery. Kata isn't taught in a day. We could take a section or two each week.

I would appreciate your participation in this effort. Thank you.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA
 
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Timo,

I made two statements regarding Funakoshis role in the changing of the name from Chinese hand to Empty hand.

Funakoshi has a good description of this is his text Karate-Do Kyohan. Right at the beginning of the text he describes his role in changing the meaning of kara from "Chinese" to "empty". Funakoshi clearly was under pressure to sanitize the Okinawan art of Karate, to make it not so overtly Chinese and more Japanese. In that effort, he not only changed the name from Chinese hand to empty hand, (which had occurred earlier that the writing of this text,) but changed a number of names of kata away from Chinese names to Japanese names. Pinan became Heian, Naihanchi became Tekki, Seisan became Hangetsu, Chinto became Gunkaku, Wansu became Empi, Kusanku became Kanku.
To which you replied:
Funakoshi had no role whatsoever in the changing of those characters! He was probably one of the most influential in popularizing it, if not the most influential, but he did not make the change. The first time those characters were used was already back in 1905, nearly 40 years before Karate do Kyohan, which means that the meaning was most likely known and widely used even before that. Also, the "official" decision to switch to kanji was done in 1936, at a meeting where Funakoshi most certainly was not present.
I find this an odd point you make. On what historical evidence do you make this claim that Funakoshi had no role whatsoever? It seems that you imply that Funakoshi had to have been at the 1936 meeting for him to have had any influence. It seems that the name change took place only at the 1936 meeting. On what evidence do you make such a statement? First, regarding Funakoshis lack of attendance, even as early as 1936, there was such a thing as mail.

But more important, I think you are not clear on the order of events here. Funakoshis Karate-Do Kyohan publication was 1935, a year before the meeting took place in which the formal name change occurred. By 1935, in Japan, but not Okinawa, toudi was replaced with karate, and the term became widespread. It appears you are arguing that Funakoshi had no role in the the widespread use of the term karate, in Toykyo, the year before the 1936 meeting. On what historical documentation, do you make that claim?

I assume from your argument that there was no pressure from Toyko on the karate community that they needed to change its name. Are you arguing that the Okinawan karate seniors just decided this by themselves in a vacuum.

On the contrary, the pressure was most likely to be felt, at least initially, not in Okinawa, but in Tokyo. This change occurred in large part because the Japanese people were being whipped up in an anti-China war hysteria. And in Tokyo, Funakoshi was likely more involved with more Japanese than practically the entire Okinawan karate community back home. He taught privileged members of the Japanese society. He taught at universities. If there was pressure to change the name, Funakoshi would have borne the brunt, as would have Mabuni in Osaka, and Motobu during his teaching there.

The historical record is rather clear. Funakoshi published his book in 1935, and that name Karate was quickly adopted all around Tokyo. The following year, it was time to bring the Okinawans along with the program and Genwa Nakasone was sent to make this happen.

Some of the participants in the 1936 who were from Japan, makes these points clear.

Kita Ezio: Before I came to Okinawa, I, too, believed that the pronunciation of kara meant empty.

Furukuma Gisaburo: For people from other prefectures (outside Okinawa), the term karate-do is appealing and has a definite ring of martial arts to it. Moreover, it appears that Toudi has lost its appeal.

Ota Chofu: I dont think that anybody dislikes the term kara; however, there are those who resent the term tou [China].

Maury Levitz has an excellent post on the topic.
http://www.newpaltzkarate.com/article/Article1SA.html

Let me quote a section.

Funakoshi was clearly not the first to use the "empty hand" (kanji) meaning for karate. He was, however, influential in popularizing this meaning by calling on his colleagues to abandon the "Chinese Hand" meaning of karate in favor of "empty hand." The change from "China hand" to "empty hand" gained immediate popularity on the main islands of Japan once it was introduced. But back on Okinawa the change seems to have taken some Japanese mainland influence to effect widespread Okinawan acceptance of the new name.

This is not the first time on this thread that you have made some sweeping statement unsupported by the historical record. Would you care to provide any historical documentation that supports your statement Funakoshi had no role whatsoever in the changing of those characters.

I look forward to your reply.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York USA

 

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I must admit I was a bit surprised by this statement

You're surprised because someone is telling you how it is?
. You have made claims regarding the general nature of karate instruction in Okinawa. It appears that your knowledge may be somewhat limited to Kyan-based systems.
Nope. Trust me on this one. I've been practising two Kyan lineage styles and I can tell you that my facts are correct.
For what it is worth, Chinto is a kata found in systems that descend from Sokon Matsumura
No it isn't. Kyan learned the kata from Kosaku Matsumora, a Tomari based master. While Matsumura may very well have been familiar with the kata, the evidence points that he didn't pass it on. From Matsumura (or most likely one of his senior students) Kyan learned only two kata: Seisan and Gojushiho.
I think most would be very surprised to find that Itosu learned Chinto from Kosaku Matsumora.
You mean you would be surprised. Look e.g. here
Itosu continued his training in the martial arts with Matsumora Kosaku and allegedly the cave dwelling "ANAN" in 1873 (Sakagami)
On another topic, while Nunti is a pointed spear, I have written here that when I refer to the term spear, I refer to a bladed spear, rather than use the awkward, little-known term halberd. Bladed spear forms are not found in common Okinawan karate systems.
Which should give you a clue as to whether they were used at all.
Your claim that my hypothesis cannot be correct seems to be based, in large part, on the argument that the applications you have learned for kata are really good fighting applications, and therefore the kata movements could not possibly have been designed for a spear. Perhaps you would be willing to provide evidence in support of that claim by posting video of these applications.

Why bother? You've already seen our demonstration from last year. I still maintain that the karate kata were not "spearfighting" (or halberd, if you will) kata. If they were, why would the okinawans stop training them? Because there was suddendly no longer a use for them, as you claimed earlier? And yet, somehow, all these other weapons kata survived, it's just that these spear kata didn't... Riiiiggghtt. How convenient.
You are also quite keen on quoting Nagamine. Well, I've read his book also and I can't remember anything there that would suggest spearfighting. After all, Nagamine did a lot of research into karate history. Wonder why he didn't think of picking up a piece of wood and start swinging it around.... He must've had no idea what he was doing...
I am hopeful that you will be willing to provide evidence of the great fighting applications of a Seibukan kata, since this would let the readers of Martial Talk be the judge of the relative effectiveness of the empty hand kata movements in versus spear movements in combat applications.
I have an even better idea: why don't you go over to e.g. Karate Underground forum and try how they like your ideas over there? Or e-budo?
 
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Timo,

Wow, what a remarkable post.

Let's start with Chinto. You reference a FightingArts reference that does not state that Itosu learned Chinto from Matsumora, and ignore a FightingArts reference that Itosu's Chinto did indeed come from Matsumura.

http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=222

There are three distinct "families" of Chinto in modern Okinawan karate: (1) Matsumura/Itosu lineage (performed front to back), (2) Kosaku Matsumora lineage (performed side to side), and (3) the Chotoku Kyan lineage (performed on a 45 degree angle). The version practiced by Funakoshi is clearly from the Matsumura/Itosu lineage.

I assume you know that a Google search of "Chinto" and "Matsumura" yields 30,000 hits. You might be surprise that they aren't all sites that state he didn't teach it to Itosu.

A quick check of some web sites of schools that descend from Matsumura shows a widespread belief that Itosu's Chinto comes from Matsumura.

You, on the other hand, argue to the contrary. And what evidence do you present with this stunning revelation? First, as noted above, you cite an article that Itosu trained with Matsumora, but makes no reference to Chinto regarding this training. An assumption on your part, perhaps?

Your second argument is, quite candidly, quite an odd twist of logic.

In a reply to my statement: "Chinto is a kata found in systems that descend from Sokon Matsumura."

You replied:

No it isn't. Kyan learned the kata from Kosaku Matsumora, a Tomari based master. While Matsumura may very well have been familiar with the kata, the evidence points that he didn't pass it on. From Matsumura (or most likely one of his senior students) Kyan learned only two kata: Seisan and Gojushiho.

It seems what you are saying is that Kyan learned all the kata that Matsumura (or one of his senior students) had to teach. That was Seisan and Gojushiho. Kyan didn't learn Kusanku from Matsumura, therefore Itosu also couldn't have. Kyan didn't learn Naihanchi from Matsumura, therefore Itosu also couldn't have. Kyan didn't learn the kata named Matsumura Rohai or Matsumura Passai, therefore Itosu also couldn't have. The list of kata goes on.

But your argument that Chinto is "not learned by schools that descend from Matsumura." is to me quite revealing. Why would you make such a preposterous statement, one that is so patently false to anyone on this forum that trains in Matsumura systems. I do wonder what motivates you to fabricate such obvious fallacies.

I must apologize. I just don't think it productive to take the time to respond to your increasingly non-sensical statements. I do enjoy the give and take of forum discussions, but there is no point discussing matters further with a poster who so often engages in irrational dialogue.

Regarding Matsumura's version of Chinto, you could go to Youtube and type in Chinto. The first seven links from this search included a Chibana version, a Mabuni version, Hohan Soken himself, and three Wado ryu versions. Six out of seven are Matsumura systems. One is a Kyan version (Isshin Ryu)

Or you could go to this link on my web page, which includes these and also the Funakoshi (Gankaku) version.

http://cayugakarate.com/blog/?p=827

I hope you enjoy your training in the arts. I wish you well. Over the next several years I will be popping in here to share what I have learned in my study of spear arts. If you comment, please don't expect a reply. I have my training to tend to.

It's been a pleasure.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA
 

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Pat Nakata, who is a direct student of Chosin Chibana, Hironori Ohtsuka, and Gogen Yamaguchi in karate, and Fumio Nagaishi in Kobudo doesn't practice with the spear and neither does he show anything spear related in empty hand kata. I can ask him specifically about this subject, but I can pretty much guess the answer.

Another guy who would be able to authoritatively answer this would be Stephen Carbone of Detroit. He is a ninth degree black belt in Ryu Kyu Note Kobudo and Isshinryu karate. When I talked to him about the connection of empty hand and weapon kata, he said that many of the principles were the same, but they were two separate entities. Any resemblance when you put a weapon in your hand when doing an empty hand kata is coincidental.

In other words, the people made the katas really meant them to be either weapon or empty hand.
 

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No it isn't. Kyan learned the kata from Kosaku Matsumora, a Tomari based master. While Matsumura may very well have been familiar with the kata, the evidence points that he didn't pass it on. From Matsumura (or most likely one of his senior students) Kyan learned only two kata: Seisan and Gojushiho.

What about the apocryphal story regarding Matsumura and the Sailor Chinto? Perhaps Kyan only learned those two kata from Matsumura because that was all he taught him? This may be an unanswerable question, but I've always wondered why Kyan never learned Kusanku?
 

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What about the apocryphal story regarding Matsumura and the Sailor Chinto? Perhaps Kyan only learned those two kata from Matsumura because that was all he taught him? This may be an unanswerable question, but I've always wondered why Kyan never learned Kusanku?
Maybe, and this really is speculation, bushi Matsumura died before he could pass that one on to Kyan. After all, when Kyan went to Matsumura's dojo, Matsumura was already quite old. Kyan wasn't that long with Matsumura before he went with his father to Tokyo. As for the sailor Chinto, I don't know. It might very well be a story.
 

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Regarding Itosu and Matsumura, http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=1
Many martial historians refer to Itosu as having been a disciple of the Great Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura. He was most influential martial artist of his time who helped bring karate into the modern era as exponent of Shuri-te (meaning Shuri hands or art). It was Matsumura who was a student of Tode Sakagawa (1733-1815) who in turn studied under Kusanku -- after which the famous kata is named (Konku). Was Itosu the link to this heritage, an interpreter of Matsumura's karate? Upon closer examination this appears to be incorrect, or at least overstated.
The question then becomes how do we ascertain the truth when so much of martial history is based on oral accounts and opinions? While we may never know the truth for sure, we should look to accounts of those who actually trained under Itosu for significant periods of time.
One such account comes from Choki Motobu (one of Okinawa's greatest early twentieth century karate masters) who spent eight to nine years under Itosu. In his 1932 book, "Watashi no Tode Jutsu," Motobu is quoted as saying: "Sensei Itosu was a pupil of Sensei Matsumura, but he was disliked by his teacher for he was very slow (speed of movement). There (in the dojo) for although Itosu sensei was diligent in his practice his teacher did not care about him so he (Itsou) left and went to sensei Nagahama."
It is quite easy for westerners to confuse Matsumura with Matsumora.
 

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