Do Okinawan Kata Have Military Origins

TimoS

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So, your historical "proof" lies basically on those two sentences, neither of which mention anything about spears? Or empty handed fighting or any other kind of fighting for that matter. Wow!
Also, you haven't dealt with why all the other weapons and many of their kata survived for all these years, some maybe even centuries, but the spear fighting skills just vanished.
But hey, feel free to ignore me, after all, I'm the non-sensical one :lfao:
 

SahBumNimRush

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I am by no means a hyung/kata/form historian, but the majority of the forms that I practice Pyung Ahn (Peinan/Heian), Jin Do(Chinto), Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) were all developed either after or near the end of this tribute system. I am not as familiar with the dates of origin of Bassai or Naihanchi (Tekki) forms, but i also practice these forms.

Do you believe that spear kata would have came into existance earlier in the history of tribute system, or do you believe these forms were created as a way to pass this on.

Personally I have serious doubts and see some holes in your theory, although I am no historian. If taking your history as the truth, as I am sure you have done your research, it is interesting to me that the spear techniques have been lost while other kobudo weapons have been passed on. This fact is a very interesting question, and I am interested to read/hear what you find in the course of your research. However, I think many, if not all, of these katas were designed as open handed forms, although techniques of many weapons apply the same principles that we are taught from empty handed techniques. I think that it is from this principle that you will find your correlation between the techniques in these katas and the use of the spear, because many of the movements apply similar mechanics.

Just my thoughts.. .
 

dancingalone

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But hey, feel free to ignore me, after all, I'm the non-sensical one :lfao:

I value both of your contributions to the forum. Could we perhaps end the snideness on both sides? It's fine to disagree, but let's do it in a fashion that will let the thread continue.
 

TimoS

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I am by no means a hyung/kata/form historian, but the majority of the forms that I practice Pyung Ahn (Peinan/Heian), Jin Do(Chinto), Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) were all developed either after or near the end of this tribute system. I am not as familiar with the dates of origin of Bassai or Naihanchi (Tekki) forms, but i also practice these forms
Actually, we only know to a certain degree of certainty (i.e. a scope of few years) when Pinan kata were created. As for all the others, their origins are lost in history, although many theories of their origin are available. Pinan kata were created by Itosu Anko sensei sometime early 1900 (or very late 1800). He took techniques from at least kata Kushanku, but also other kata into them (I think one of them was Jion, although this is not readily visible in all the current versions. I am not familiar with Jion myself, so I can't be certain), mixed them up and originally called it/them Channan. As many know, Channan has been called a lost kata and some people even claim to have found it. Interesting to note that none of these persons are okinawan or even japanese, so it is anybody's guess how or where they've actually learned it. However, there is evidence, although mainly anecdotal, that Channan was just a working title and Itosu later dropped the name in favour of Pinan.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I am familiar with the history of Anko Itosu, and his creation of the Pyung Ahn (Pinan/Heian) forms. I have read that the forms were created prior to his teaching Karate in school systems, which supports the idea that they were in fact created in the late 1800's - early 1900's. I have also read that he drew from both Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) and a form named Jae Nam (Chiang Nam in Chinese I believe). I cannot find any information about this form, and I am curious if it is the Channon kata you are speaking of.

As for the histories of Jin Do (Chinto) and Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) I will offer the information that I have learned through reading various texts.

The methods and techniques found within the Jin Do Hyung are thought to have originated approximately 300 years ago. The originator is unknown, but it belongs to the So Rim Sa School of martial arts.
The form is said to have been created by Sokon Bushi Matsumura (1809-1902 A.D.), a royal bodyguard to three Okinawan Kings and a key proponent in the development of Karate-Do. Matsumura studied under Tode Sakugawa, Iwah, Ason, Kushanku (Kong Sang Koon), and Jin Do. Jin Do was a Chinese martial artist that became shipwrecked on Okinawa during the 1800s. Jin Do, in need of shelter, settled in a cave, and being stranded without resources, To survive, Jin Do began stealing produce and livestock from local farms at night to feed himself. This activity did not go un-noticed and was reported to the Okinawan king, who sent Matsumura to deal with the problematic Jin Do.
Matsumura was a very skilled fighter, as with any bodyguard of the king, and normally defeated his foe with ease. However, Matsumura engaged Jin Do and found himself to be equally matched in skill and the battle quickly stalemated. Matsumura, intrigued by the sailors skill, made a deal with Jin Do; in exchange for Jin Dos protection and safe return to China, Jin Do would teach Matsumura his fighting method.
Matsumura created the hyung, naming it after the originator of the methods it contained, so that the methods were recorded and passed successfully to future generations. As mentioned before, Matsumura was a very skilled fighter, but he was enamoured with the techniques of Jin Do due to their effectiveness and uniqueness. Therefore, it is safe to say that the Jin Do Hyung is a record of the unique or unusual techniques in Jin Dos repertoire, and the applications in this hyung are all advanced in nature. Matsumura is credited with integrating the Chinese Kung Fu with the Okinawan Te to create Tode , which evolved into Shuri-te (1830), which evolved into Shorin Ryu (1870).

As for Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku)

. The hyung is said to be a record of combative techniques and concepts formulated by a Chinese martial artist named Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku in Okinawan). General Kong Sang Koon, along with other military advisors, came from China to Okinawa in the 1750s at the request of Okinawas king. Kong Sang Koon was a master of So Rim Sa Kung Fu, and brought some of his students with him to Okinawa. Tode Sakugawa was one of Kong Sang Koons students during his stay in Okinawa, and Tode Sakugawa is considered one of the most influential people in Karate-Dos history. Tode Sakugawa began studying martial arts under a monk named Peichin Takahara, and it was Takahara who gave Sakugawa the name Tode (an ancient term for karate). It was Peichin Takahara that encouraged Sakugawa to train with Kong Sang Koon, because he believed him to be the most skilled martial artist to have come to Okinawa from China.
Tode Sakugawa trained under Kong Sang Koon for many years, and it was he who created the Kong Sang Koon Hyung as a record of his teachers fighting method. It should be noted that Tode Sakugawa was the first teacher of the legendary Sokon Matsumura, who created the Jin Do Hyung. Furthermore, Matsumura was the teacher of Anko Itosu, who created the Pyung Ahn Hyungs. Anko Itosu was Gichin Funakoshis teacher, and it was Gichin Funakoshis book on karate-do that Hwang Kee began studying these sets of hyungs.


I know this is a bit off topic, but since it does deal some with the history of the katas I guess it is still somewhat on topic. I would gladly start a separate thread regarding these historic topics. I also welcome any comments on my research, because as I said, I do not claim any expertise in Japanese/Okinawan martial history, but it is something that very much interests me. After all, much of my Korean art traces its lineage back to these island nations.

Respectfully,
 

Tez3

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I do both TSD's Kong Sang Koon and Wado Ryu's Kushanku and find them quite different from each other.
Just a thought I had while reading thread as I have no idea why they are different.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I do both TSD's Kong Sang Koon and Wado Ryu's Kushanku and find them quite different from each other.
Just a thought I had while reading thread as I have no idea why they are different.


It is interesting to me that some forms practiced across many different Okinawan, Japanese, and Korean styles are very similar in nature (i.e. Pyung Ahn, Pinan, Heian) and some are so radically different (i.e. Kong Sang Koon and Kushanku)

I have no solid explaination for this, but it is a very interesting and valid observation!
 

TimoS

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I am familiar with the history of Anko Itosu, and his creation of the Pyung Ahn (Pinan/Heian) forms. I have read that the forms were created prior to his teaching Karate in school systems, which supports the idea that they were in fact created in the late 1800's - early 1900's. I have also read that he drew from both Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) and a form named Jae Nam (Chiang Nam in Chinese I believe). I cannot find any information about this form, and I am curious if it is the Channon kata you are speaking of.
Most likely it is the same. The name "Channan" is, I've been told, more or less meaningless in japanese (and, if I remember correctly, also in uchinaguchi, the native language of Okinawa), therefore Itosu named it Pinan, meaning "peaceful mind" or something similar. In a way, it can be said that Itosu used Channan kata to create Pinan kata, because, as I said, Channan was a working title and it was one of Itosu's students or friends who suggested the name change. I can try to dig the name up, I should have it someplace. The Pinan kata were evolving a bit when e.g. Funakoshi was learning them. This can be attested to by some moves in Pinan (4, I think) in at least some branches of Shotokan, as those moves are not present in the versions of e.g. Shito ryu. This, to me, is one proof that Channan was just a working title. Then there's the fact that when Motobu saw the Pinan, he said something like "they resemble the Channan that Itosu was practising". Hmm, well, actually, here's the article.
As for the histories of Jin Do (Chinto) and Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) I will offer the information that I have learned through reading various texts.

The methods and techniques found within the Jin Do Hyung are thought to have originated approximately 300 years ago. The originator is unknown, but it belongs to the So Rim Sa School of martial arts.

Yes, that would be Shorin in japanese. Connection of Shorin ryu to actual Shaolin methods is, again, lost in history. There was, most likely, some sort of contact with the chinese empty hand fighting methods, but who taught what to whom and when did this happen is not known. Personally, I am quite sceptical of any karate family tree that goes beyond the time of Bushi Matsumura. For example, it is said that Matsumura was taught by "tode" Sakugawa and others, but do we really know that for sure? We don't even know when Sakugawa was born or when he died. Wikipedia gives his time of death to be 1815 (or 1837 or as late as 1843, depending on which article you read). Bushi Matsumura was, again according to wikipedia, born in 1800, so he would've been about 15 years when Sakugawa died, if he died in 1815.
Jin Do was a Chinese martial artist that became shipwrecked on Okinawa during the 1800s. Jin Do, in need of shelter, settled in a cave, and being stranded without resources, To survive, Jin Do began stealing produce and livestock from local farms at night to feed himself. This activity did not go un-noticed and was reported to the Okinawan king, who sent Matsumura to deal with the problematic Jin Do.
Yes, I've also read the same story. It may have happened, or maybe it's just a story. I actually agree with this writer: http://awhelan.blogspot.com/2009/01/chinto-fighting-to-east.html
This story, while charming, may be apocryphal: It was first published in a 1914 newspaper article written by Gichin Funakoshi who heard the story from his teacher, Itosu Anko, who heard it from Matsumura himself. Further complicating the story's authenticity is its fable-like nature. A well known and respected individual attempts to face down a challenger by physical means and is thwarted only to find success through a peaceful approach.
It should be noted that Tode Sakugawa was the first teacher of the legendary Sokon Matsumura, who created the Jin Do Hyung.
As I wrote earlier, that's what the tradition tells us. Was this actually so, we don't really know.
Furthermore, Matsumura was the teacher of Anko Itosu, who created the Pyung Ahn Hyungs.
Actually, while Itosu did study for a while with Bushi Matsumura, it should be noted that for whatever reasons Matsumura didn't like Itosu and therefore he left, quite soon as I understand. Itosu's main teacher was Gusukuma (also spelled Shiroma, but not to be confused with Shinpan Shiroma) of Tomari.

 

TimoS

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It is interesting to me that some forms practiced across many different Okinawan, Japanese, and Korean styles are very similar in nature (i.e. Pyung Ahn, Pinan, Heian) and some are so radically different (i.e. Kong Sang Koon and Kushanku)

I have no solid explaination for this, but it is a very interesting and valid observation!
Well, one reason could actually be Itosu sensei. He created e.g. the Kushanku Sho ("lesser" or small Kushanku) and kept the older version as Kushanku Dai (big or major Kushanku). He did the same with other kata also, at least Passai. Then there's the fact that many teachers modified the kata to more properly fit their style. They may have changed e.g. nekoashidachi (i.e. the cat stance, where most of the weight is on your back leg and only the ball of your front foot touches the ground) to zenkutsudachi (the front stance).
Oh, and speaking of Passai, there were numerous versions of the kata. I have a scanning of an old article from some karate magazine (no idea which) identifying 11 versions of kata: Matsumura, Matsumora, Oyadomari, Itosu, Funakoshi, Kyan, Motobu, Chibana, Ishmine, Tawada and Tomari Passai. Then there's also what we in Seibukan call Passai Guwa, and I'm not sure if it is one of those listed or something totally different :) It comes to us via Itosu/Chibana lineage (along with Naifanchi, Pinan and Jion), whereas the other kata come from Kyan (well, except for Fukyugata 1 and 2)
 
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Dr. Rush,

Thanks for taking the time to ask questions about my study. I will answer all but one in the post, and save one for a later post.

You wrote:

I am by no means a hyung/kata/form historian, but the majority of the forms that I practice Pyung Ahn (Peinan/Heian), Jin Do(Chinto), Kong Sang Koon (Kushanku/Kanku) were all developed either after or near the end of this tribute system.

Historical sources are the key to understanding the development of these arts. Regarding the origins of the movements of both Chinto and Kushanku, I have seen some of the claims, and am eager to know the sources of them. I did read your history of the Kusanku kata, "and it was he (Sakugawa) who created the Kong Sang Koon Hyung (Kusanku kata) as a record of his teacher’s fighting method." I would be interested in feedback from any MT reader regarding the historical source of this statement. I am not doubting it outright. I am just curious of the lineage. I wonder to what extent, over time, the concept of Sakugawa as the source of a version of Kusanku, may have evolved to Sakugawa as the originator of that version. In support of this I think it productive to compare his version to that of Chatan Yara, who was believed to be be another of Kushanku's students. Though there are many differences, the two kata also have much in common. Perhaps the full forms both trace back to forms taught by Kusanku.

Regarding the known documentation, there is reliable documentation that a Chinese by the name of Kushanku taught Okinawans fighting movements in the late 1700s. Funakoshi describes him as a Military Attache. I have seen other sources describe him as a Chinese sailor. Nagamine makes references to him, describing in detail his exploits battling pirates on a tribute vessel, and his ordeal in escaping death after the Chinese captured him and other pirates and concluded that he too was a pirate. Funakoshi wrote an article in the early 1900s for an Okinawan newspaper that refers to Matsumura (and quite possibly Matsumora) as being dispatched to the countryside to coax Chinto out of his cave. I would be most interested to understand what historical documentation describes Sakugawa further. I am most interested to learn the sources of further claims about this key historical figure.

As to whether Sakugawa was the originator of his version of the Kusanku kata, sources state he created a kata based on movements he learned from Kusanku. In the event that he did, the question remains, who is the source of the movements taught by Kusanku? The movements could have been of Kushanku's design, never taught to him by others. Or quite possibly he could have learned them from others. If so, it is entirely possible that they could predate him by hundreds of years. I would make the same argument regarding the sources of the movements found in the kata that descend from Chinto and his students. Chinto is the source of the movements, but we can never know whether he taught his personally developed movements, or rather that he shared with the Okinawans lessons he had been taught. We can never know.

I would make a somewhat similar argument for the development of the Pinan, though this subject is more complex. There is some evidence (from Motobu, e.g.) that some of the Pinan kata are based on Channan kata. I do not believe there is any historical record regarding the origins of these Channan kata, other than they may have had Chinese origins. Also, a review of Pinan finds many movements are quite similar, if not identical to movements found in the Passai and Kushanku kata variants, as well as Jion (Jutte, Jiin), Naihanchi, and Chinto. There is no doubt that many Pinan movements do not appear in kata that have survived until the present.

While we do know that Itosu created these kata, I do not believe there is any historical record stating which movements within these kata Itosu developed himself. It is quite possible, and based on the similarities to some kata movements, I find it quite likely, that Itosu drew extensively, perhaps almost exclusively, on movements he had learned over the course of his life studying these arts. Itosu may well have been the originator of many movements. However, it is also quite possible that he was more of a conduit to the past, to teachings that had long preceded him. If the latter were true, we are again faced with the question; what are the origins of the movements?

(On a separate note, this topic of comparative analysis has long intrigued me and sometime in the future, I will do a post on my blog that will dissect Pinan kata movement by movement for comparisons with movements found in other kata. This was inconceivable just ten years ago. Thank goodness for youtube.)

I am not as familiar with the dates of origin of Bassai or Naihanchi (Tekki) forms, but i also practice these forms.

Passai is often defined as an art regarding a fortress. Some say defending a fortress, some say penetrating a fortress. While it is true that the Ryukyu king built a castle in Shuri modeled on Chinese patterns, fortresses or castles were not that prevalent in Okinawa. They certainly were in China. The Ming engaged not only in massive castle building, but also the vast expansion of the Great Wall, which could be viewed as the longest fortress in the world.

Regarding the origins of Naihanchi, there really isn't much literature. I find it quite intriguing that many Wado Ryu dojos have an interesting definition of the term. Some sources say that Ohtsuka, in addition to training with Funakoshi and Mabuni, also trained with Motobu, who spent some years in Tokyo, and that he studied Naihanchi with Motobu. Maybe Motobu is the source of this definition, we will never know. But there are Wado schools that define Naihanchi as "battlefield" kata. (see page 9 at http://issuu.com/publishgold/docs/cjkkaratekatas). And many other sources point to the Naihanchi stance and recognize its similarity to that found by calvary soldiers. Funakoshi even renamed his kata "Iron Horse".

(For an interesting historical note on the utility of Naihanchi for self protection, the subject of much of what I will debate in the future, this source also mentions that Ohtsuka found Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan to be "almost useless". I also find it intriguing parallel in Shito Ryu. Mabuni, an important student of Itosu, was renowned for his accumulation of a broad cross section of Okinawan kata. Funakoshi says when he first began training with Itosu, 2/3 of his first 10 years were spent in the practice of Naihachi Nidan and Yondan. Despite the centrality of these kata to the older practice of beginners, Mabuni systems that descend from his sons, and from Sakagami, have also pretty much abandoned the practice of Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan. (For evidence, please refer to the kata published by the Shito-Kai (which descends from his son Kenei) (http://shitokai.com/movies/order.php). The thirty kata conspicuously omit Naihanchi Nidan or Sandan. The same is true for the kata set taught by his son Kenzo. The practice of these kata is rare at best in Demura dojos (a student of Sakagami).

Do you believe that spear kata would have come into existance earlier in the history of tribute system, or do you believe these forms were created as a way to pass this on.

Chinese military attaches were documented by Funakoshi as having been involved in the instruction of Okinawans. In McCarthy's translation of Miyagi's three hypotheses, Miyagi makes a similar statement, with the exception that they were referred to as "security" personnel associated with the Chinese community at Kume Mura in Naha. We will never know the true origins of these movements. My speculation is that they go back hundreds of years, and were not designed by Okinawans, nor by the Chinese teaching the Okinawans, and that they could be much older than the time that they were taught.

Personally I have serious doubts and see some holes in your theory, although I am no historian. If taking your history as the truth, as I am sure you have done your research, it is interesting to me that the spear techniques have been lost while other kobudo weapons have been passed on. This fact is a very interesting question, and I am interested to read/hear what you find in the course of your research.

It is fairly well documented that Okinawan kobudo is a uniquely Okinawan development, made in response to the Satsuma weapons ban, for use by the Okinawan aristocracy, and perhaps other classes, to provide for personal protection. I cannot quote the sources just now, as I am not at home and don't have access to many sources, but they are numerous. It is very well documented that the Satsuma clan banned the carrying of military weapons, spears and swords. There may have been limited exceptions. I find it unlikely that there was no armed military guard of the RyuKyu king, but it is quite possible the ban extended to Royal guard as well. (And while there are references to the study of Matsumura and Azato in Japanese sword arts, it was likely there were limitations on their ability to carry swords in public.) Essentially the weapons ban insured, almost universally, that an Okinawan could not carry a military weapon (a long bladed weapon (aka spear or sword)) in public. I think we all can accept that if a weapon can't be carried, it is of marginal use in personal protection. It's use would at best be limited to the defense of one's home.

The standard history is that in response to the ban of military weapons, the Okinawans adapted non-military objects for personal protection. I divide these objects into two groups. The first are short implements that Okinawans were justified in carrying, and therefore could be carried in the open. And importantly, they could and were carried concealed. These include tonfa (used to turn millstones), nunchaku (used as either part of a horses bridle, or to flail grain), sai/nunti sai (which were attached to long poles for spear fishing), and kama, used to harvest rice and other grains. (These are the prevalent documented uses, and I fully recognize there are others.) I would be interested to learn the extent to which some believe that these these short, (and in most cases blunt) implements were the primary weapons used to defend tribute trade against assailants armed with long bladed weapons.

In addition to these short implements, the Okinawans had a longer implement commonly carried, with obvious personal protection possibilities. The bo was used, as noted above for spear fishing, and probably, with a suitable end attached, in a variety of farming tasks. A related implement, the eku was used as an oar. But the bo was also the common mode of transportation for containers and packages of water, foodstuffs, and other goods and items that needed to be carried. There are pictures in Kerr's text showing this practice. One of my Chinese students has told me that this method is still very common today in rural Chinese communities.

These short and long Okinawan implements were not affected by the weapons bans, and could be carried and therefore used, in personal protection. The Okinawans adapted them in ways uniquely Okinawan. I do not know of any historical documentation that states that kata for these weapons were of Chinese origin. Certainly there are movements with bo/eku/nunti-bo that are common to spear arts, so there is overlap, and there may have been Chinese influence. But again, most references point to Okinawan origins for the kobudo kata, and not Chinese origins.

This contrasts with the empty hand forms, for which some sources state come (or likely come) from Chinese sources.

I expect many to argue that the regarding the protection of tribute ships, the Okinawans would have relied on their kobudo weapons, which were non-military in nature, to repel enemies armed with military weapons. I find this argument, especially regarding the short implements, to be unpersuasive. Nagamine mentions that no expense was spared in equiping ships to be able to withstand pirate attacks. To me it is obvious that this would mean arming sailors and crew with military weapons. Others will of course view this differently than I do, that of course the Okinawans would prefer non-military (non-bladed) weapons to defend tribute ships against assailants armed with military (bladed) weapons.

However, I think many, if not all, of these katas were designed as open handed forms, although techniques of many weapons apply the same principles that we are taught from empty handed techniques. I think that it is from this principle that you will find your correlation between the techniques in these katas and the use of the spear, because many of the movements apply similar mechanics.

I will use a separate post to address this issue. This has been yet another long post and this issue is quite complicated.

Again, thanks for the comments and questions. I hope I was able to provide you and other readers of MT with some useful information and perspectives.

-Mike Eschenbrenner
www.cayugakarate.com/blog/
 
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SahBumNimRush

For my own personal search/research, I have started with Korean (tang soo do) history, I know little about Okinawan, Japanese, or Chinese MA history. There is an overwhelming amount of information, and it is extremely difficult to sort out the right from wrong. I would very much appreciate any recomendations for a strong foundation of history in Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, and even Korean MA's that anyone here at MT would have to offer.

Regarding on-line references. I put up a post (http://cayugakarate.com/blog/?p=889) on my blog that I will add to over time. It includes Funakoshi, Nagamine, the Kerr text on part of the Chuzan period of Okinawan history, and a recent scholarly analysis of the Ming tributary system. Those are all useful references.

I also have began a post excerpting from Kerr, with a focus on Tribute trade. (http://cayugakarate.com/blog/?p=885)

Mike Eschenbrenner
Cayuga Karate
Ithaca, New York - USA


There is a large and growing body of useful sources on the web.
 

TimoS

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I've been re-reading my copy of Nagamine's Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters and I came upon this
It was the responsibility of the captain and crew to be able to defend their cargo and their vessel against attacks during a voyage. Hence, proper training in the combative disciplines was essential. Designated the official vessels of the Ryukyu Kingdom, tribute ships carried both valuable cargo and important passengers to China. Tribute was the single most important aspect of the Ryukyu's social economy, and, therefore, no expense was ever spared in ensuring the safety of the cargo, passengers and crew.

In the event of an assault, which was quite frequent during feudal times, passengers who were skilled in combative disciplines were, by order of the King, commanded to aid the crew. An example is found in the time when Sakugawa Kanga was on board such a ship bound for China. Of course, a man Sakugawa's skills was not only expected to help, but also, in spite of being unfamiliar with ship duty, serve as an assistant to the director of security.
One evening, the day before the tribute ship was scheduled to arrive in Fuzhou, both passengers and crew were enjoying a routine voyage when, all of a sudden, the ship was attacked. Savage cries shout out from the darkness and arrows found their marks. Besieged by Chinese pirates, the crew fought gallantly against the ruthless sea dogs. A master fighter, Kanga wasted no time stripping down to undergarment in an effort to enhance his combative mobility. Grabbing a rokushaku-bo (six foot staff) he bolted out on the deck of the ship under siege.
"

So, let's see now. A famous karate exponent fighting pirates on one of tribute ships, you'd think he would grap a spear or sword or any bladed weapon if one was available. However, he didn't! According to the story he used a regular bo. This, to me, raises the question that maybe those weapons just weren't there. Why else would Sakugawa use a bo? It is quite plausible that the weapons ban extended to ships also.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I've been re-reading my copy of Nagamine's Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters and I came upon this

[/b]So, let's see now. A famous karate exponent fighting pirates on one of tribute ships, you'd think he would grap a spear or sword or any bladed weapon if one was available. However, he didn't! According to the story he used a regular bo. This, to me, raises the question that maybe those weapons just weren't there. Why else would Sakugawa use a bo? It is quite plausible that the weapons ban extended to ships also.

That is a very interesting historical account. Again, I personally have no facts on the subject either way. But I wonder why the King would leave the ships vulnerable to such attacks of piracy on open seas by enforcing the weapons ban on the ships. That being said, I know that someone skilled with the bo can be a formidable opponent against anyone with a sword. I am in no way disagreeing with either your point of view or Mike's, but it is a very interesting topic of discussion.
 

TimoS

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That being said, I know that someone skilled with the bo can be a formidable opponent against anyone with a sword
First of all, metal was not very common in old Okinawa. This is attested to, among other reasons, by the abundance of wooden weapons and that there simply aren't that many weapons with metal in them. Sai are wholly metal, kama have a metal blade, nunti has a sai-like part at one end of a bo. Surujin may or may not have been metal, my guess is that they were mostly made from rope. Rochin was either a really short spear or a machete-like knife. Secondly, how skilled do you think these pirates were in (un)armed combat? I'm guessing not very skilled. They would most likely rely on surprise, ferocity of attack and simple numbers to overwhelm the defendants. If some of them got killed, well, I don't think they were overly concerned with that.
 

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Another problem I have with this whole concept that the empty hand kata are in fact spear fighting (or halberd fighting, which, to me makes even less sense. I'll come to that later on) moves in disguise is that IF this was so, surely some legends of okinawans' prowess with spears would've survived to this day, but there seem to be no such tales. Now, some might try to argue that the spear arts vanished because of the degree forbidding weapons. To counter this, consider the fact that e.g. Bushi Matsumura's training location was in the middle of woods. He didn't have a separate dojo, where he and his students could train. Now, understandably, you can pretty much train just about whatever you wanted in such a location. Why bother disguising your spearfighting moves into empty hand stuff when all you needed to do was pick up a piece of wood and use that as a mock spear? Also, as I've stated previously, it is curious that all these other weapons kata survived, but spear fighting supposedly simply vanished without a trace, only to resurface in USA in 21st century.
Now, as for the halberd theory and why I find that theory even more suspicious. Most asian halberds or halberd-like weapons I've seen use a large, usually single-edged blades. such as naginata or nagamaki, or going to China, kwan dao. Actually, just quickly checking google image search, even those asian halberds that have a spear-like part in them, also have somekind of blade on the side. Now, with such a blade the emphasis must be on cutting, but karate uses straight punches, which would mean a stabbing motion with a bladed weapon. That's not using it to it's full advantage. It can easily be compared to having a Ferrari and never using it for anything else than going to the grocery store. Sure, you could use it for that also, but that's not what it is designed to do.
 

TimoS

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No apologies for quoting Iain Abernethy again but I find his teaching down to earth and practical. His research is spot on and not fanciful
Interesting article. I do, however, suspect that he's reading too much into the name. Karate was back then read as todi, but the modern writing was not unknown during the time the Pinan were created. So, if it was also known as "empty hand", why not consider the "peaceful mind" reading of Pinan characters just means that you should have a peaceful mind when fighting? I don't see anything wrong in that idea and even that might be overinterpreting something, which is, after all, just a name. I'll show the article to my friend, I'll see what he thinks about it.
As for the bunkai sequence he shows in the pictures 4-6, that might work if you do it the way e.g. Shotokan practitioners do the kata. However, here's the version practised in Matsubayashi ryu and the sequence is quite different. In this version, the second technique is what we call chudan uchi otoshi and the bunkai shown doesn't work.
 

SahBumNimRush

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Interesting article. I do, however, suspect that he's reading too much into the name. Karate was back then read as todi, but the modern writing was not unknown during the time the Pinan were created. So, if it was also known as "empty hand", why not consider the "peaceful mind" reading of Pinan characters just means that you should have a peaceful mind when fighting? I don't see anything wrong in that idea and even that might be overinterpreting something, which is, after all, just a name. I'll show the article to my friend, I'll see what he thinks about it.

I was taught that the taught that the meaning (more of a definition rather than a literal translation) of Pyung Ahn (Pinan/Heian) is Peace and Harmony of the Mind and Body, which is the ideal that we strive for as martial artists; to be able for the mind to cause the body to react without conscious thought, a.k.a. react as second nature/instinct. I do not claim that this is the right definition or the only definition, but that is what I was taught.
 

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