Origins of Karate-Do

Shotokan_Tiger_2020

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I know that Fujian White Crane boxing helped inspire Karate-Do.

But did Xingyiquan also contribute to the origins of Karate-Do? What about other styles of Kung-Fu?

I want to research any/all sources that deal with the history of Karate-Do.
 
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hoshin1600

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It might be helpful to remember that the majority of karate styles we know today are relatively new. Also the styles of Chinese arts that may have contributed to Okinawa karate would be few in number and mostly from Fukian Provence. The problem arises from the fact that most okinawan masters of old have a very fuzzy history. So Goju could be from White crane but it could also be a derivative of whooping crane, Feeding crane, 5 Ancestor, Luohan it could also be from a Tiger style or even a Hakka style. We really don't know. Karate is not a Chinese style and with the exception of one or two old masters the karate they did was not a direct lineage from Chinese arts. To put it bluntly, most often the old masters didn't really study and train with the Chinese or in a formal fashion. Choki Motobu admits in his biography that the bulk of his early training came from peeking through a crack in a fence. Early karate was " ad hoc" at best.
 

hoshin1600

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I know that Fujian White Crane boxing helped inspire Karate-Do.

But did Xingyiquan also contribute to the origins of Karate-Do? What about other styles of Kung-Fu?

I want to research any/all sources that deal with the history of Karate-Do.
Karate is not a homogeneous art. Are you interested in shotokan specifically? Every style has a different historical path. Choosing a specific style would help narrow your search.
 

isshinryuronin

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with the exception of one or two old masters the karate they did was not a direct lineage from Chinese arts. To put it bluntly, most often the old masters didn't really study and train with the Chinese or in a formal fashion.
(Note-All Chinese referred to will be in italics, all other names are Okinawan)

It's a lot more than that. "Toudi" Sakugawa Kanga (Toudi refers to Chinese hand) is reputed to have studied with Kusanku and was also taught by Takahara, to whom Chatan Yara passed on teachings from Wong Chong Yoh. Sakugawa's student, Matsumura (who taught Kyan, Funakoshi and Itosu) also had training from Iwah and Ason, or otherwise had significant Chinese influence.


So Goju could be from White crane but it could also be a derivative of whooping crane, Feeding crane, 5 Ancestor, Luohan it could also be from a Tiger style
You're on the right track here. Pan Yuba took the white crane he learned from Lin Shixian and modified it into his whooping crane. Pan taught Ryu Ru Ko who taught both, Arigake Seisho (who was also taught by Wai Xinxian) and Higashionna Kanryo, who spent a decade in China. Higashionna taught Miyagi Chojun (who also spent some years in China) who originated Goju.

Uechi Kanbun studied Pangai No'on in China for over a decade from Zhou Zi He and taught this art in Okinawa. This art became known as Uechiryu.

It is clear that most all styles of Okinawan karate have strong Chinese lineage .
 

hoshin1600

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(Note-All Chinese referred to will be in italics, all other names are Okinawan)

It's a lot more than that. "Toudi" Sakugawa Kanga (Toudi refers to Chinese hand) is reputed to have studied with Kusanku and was also taught by Takahara, to whom Chatan Yara passed on teachings from Wong Chong Yoh. Sakugawa's student, Matsumura (who taught Kyan, Funakoshi and Itosu) also had training from Iwah and Ason, or otherwise had significant Chinese influence.



You're on the right track here. Pan Yuba took the white crane he learned from Lin Shixian and modified it into his whooping crane. Pan taught Ryu Ru Ko who taught both, Arigake Seisho (who was also taught by Wai Xinxian) and Higashionna Kanryo, who spent a decade in China. Higashionna taught Miyagi Chojun (who also spent some years in China) who originated Goju.

Uechi Kanbun studied Pangai No'on in China for over a decade from Zhou Zi He and taught this art in Okinawa. This art became known as Uechiryu.

It is clear that most all styles of Okinawan karate have strong Chinese lineage .
Problem being that other than Uechi, Higaonna and Matsumura, everyone before them is nothing more than mythological legends.
Case in point George Mattson the father of American Uechi and Master Ryuko Tomoyose took a crew to China back in the 1980's to find any evidence of Kanbun's supposed teacher Shu Shi Wa. They came back empty handed.
It is also all together possible that Higgaonna never met a Ru Ru Ko. The style Ryuei Ryu claims to be the first Naha Te on the island pre dating Higaonna but their teacher RuRu ko has a very different back story than Goju even tho it's supposed to be the same man. Remember as well that the entire reason Miyagi went to China was to find Ru Ru Ko. He is documented as saying all he found was an empty hut.
One has to question, if the okinawans learned Chinese arts as they proclaim why are they not teaching a second generation version of those arts with all the forms, herbal medicine, weapons and documentation in tact. There is no way around the fact that the okinawan forms are not Chinese forms and knowledge drift can not explain the difference.
Don't take my critique as meaning that I believe karate to be unique and without Chinese influence, as it clearly does. I do question however the proclaimed history professed by the styles as you laid out. Asian thought has a bias towards validation through Ancestor worship and validity goes to the one with the longer history. Thus even in Jessie Encamps video the Incense shop master claims his history begins with the southern Shaolin temple. Yeah him and a hundred other arts.
 
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hoshin1600

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I would also point out that the history of Chinese arts is not clear cut either. There were many nameless local arts that would plagiarize the name of a popular style like White Crane in order to gain more notoriety and students. YouTube back then didn't exist and people did not normally travel far so their was no way for students to know if what they were learning was really the White Crane they heard rumors about.
 

isshinryuronin

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Problem being that other than Uechi, Higaonna and Matsumura, everyone before them is nothing more than mythological legends.
Several of the early pre-karate masters were gov't officials of one type or another, meaning there was some documentation. Sakugawa was one of the Ryukyu king's security agents, as was Matsumura. There was a contemporary article re: "The Oshima Incident" in which Kusanku was mentioned. There is not 100% certainty in much of early MA history.

There is also confusion about names as the principals often had 3 or 4 names they went by at any given point in their lives. Ryu Ru Ko may have been the same person as Xie Zhongxiang, or not. Most written records involving Okinawan MA history were destroyed during the carnage of WWll. So while proof is sketchy at times, it is sufficient, IMO, to establish a strong Chinese lineage.
There is no way around the fact that the okinawan forms are not Chinese forms and knowledge drift can not explain the difference.
Most of the Okinawan forms were constructed by those returning from China, adapting what they learned to their island's style of te, or by their students, so few forms made it to the island in their original form. Often specifc techniques were extracted and put into new Okinawan forms. My understanding is that sesan (seisan) and sanchin (sa'am chien) kata can be found in a (barely) recognizable form in China today.

It is interesting to note that many Okinawan kata are written in katagana, the Japanese alphabet used for foreign words. If they were Okinawan originals, most likely they would be written in kanji/hiragana. This seems to give some credence to them being based on Chinese forms.

I wouldn't bet big money on any particular fact pre-1870 or so. I understand the possibility and power of myth. At the same time, all the stories and facts can't be wrong. I think enough of them have some basis in truth to support the major impact China had on karate's development.
if the okinawans learned Chinese arts as they proclaim why are they not teaching a second generation version of those arts with all the forms, herbal medicine, weapons and documentation
I have dealt with forms and documentation already. Chinese medicine, and culture in general, was studied by various Okinawan karate (and Japanese MA masters.) As for metal Chinese weapons, kobudo was mostly a seperate discipline from karate pre-Taira Shinken. Also, most of the guys we're talking about had some warrior background and were already trained on and familiar with the weapons they had. Metal was scarce on Okinawa, as were wars requiring them. Most were of wood, such as the bo which Sakugawa was supposedly an expert in. All this, taken as a whole, may account for the lack of traditional Chinese weaponry.

I suspect the truth lies between our respective positions on this topic. Some facts, some suppositions, some guess work, and no doubt, some mythical stories all go into the mix regarding the roots of karate. It's all good, and perhaps other bits of info will be uncovered in the future.
 
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hoshin1600

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Most of the Okinawan forms were constructed by those returning from China, adapting what they learned to their island's style of te, or by their students, so few forms made it to the island in their original form. Often specifc techniques were extracted and put into new Okinawan forms. My understanding is that sesan (seisan) and sanchin (sa'am chien) kata can be found in a (barely) recognizable form in China today.
Perhaps it would be best to again point out the division between Naha te, Shuri Te and Tomari te. People fall into thinking about karate in homogeneous terms. This would be like thinking a Lemur is a monkey, which it's not. Both are separate genetically but fall under the group of primates. In a similar way we cannot group Naha and Shuri together. I am more familiar with Naha so that is what I will stick with for the moment. Your comment that I posted above is problematic because Kanbun Uechi never taught in Okinawa. He taught in China and later in mainland Japan. He was determined to pass on the art he learned EXACTLY as it was taught to him. While it is true his son made some changes but these are negligible and we have other lineages to look to for comparison since not all lines flow through Kanei. We also have lines, Uehara, Toyama and the Japanese lines. These were not influenced by Kanei's standardization. The forms are intact as they were, when Kanbun learned them. So we would then need to look to China for further information.
 

Flying Crane

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So Goju could be from White crane but it could also be a derivative of whooping crane, Feeding crane, 5 Ancestor,
Ok, sorry to get picky but you happened to hit upon a pet peeve of mine so I’ll just speak up quickly and then be quiet about it.

The Whooping Crane is a specific species of Crane that is native to North America and is not found in Asia. Chinese martial masters would have never encountered the Whooping Crane in China. There is no Chinese martial art called Whooping Crane.

however, I believe there is a Calling Crane style that is part of the Fukien White Crane family. I believe that is what you intended to say.

I know this seems picky, but given that they are a specific species with a very limited geographic range, and the term “whooping” is not simply a generic term for the noise a Crane makes, I feel that it matters.

thanks, and I will now return this thread to its regularly scheduled programming.
 

isshinryuronin

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The forms are intact as they were, when Kanbun learned them.
I did write "most of the Okinawan forms," so I don't think its "problematic" at all, but will agree that Uechiryu kata are closer to the style's roots than others. It seems true that Uechi did not teach in Okinawa, or anywhere, for a while (wrestling with karate's moral issues), and did not resume teaching till he moved to Japan. But, as I was not posting about Uechi, but karate in general, a number of personal anecdotal stories were not included.
Perhaps it would be best to again point out the division between Naha te, Shuri Te and Tomari te. People fall into thinking about karate in homogeneous terms. This would be like thinking a Lemur is a monkey, which it's not. Both are separate genetically but fall under the group of primates.
Not sure what any of this has to do with my post, or your reply for that matter. But, I will agree that lemurs (and tarsiers as well) are not monkeys.

I have a question, since you brought up Shuri, Tomari and Naha. You associated Uechiryu with Naha, but if Uechi did not teach in Naha, or even in Okinawa, as you state, how does this association make sense? For that matter, why is Uechiryu even considered an Okinawan style?
 

hoshin1600

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I have a question, since you brought up Shuri, Tomari and Naha. You associated Uechiryu with Naha, but if Uechi did not teach in Naha, or even in Okinawa, as you state, how does this association make sense? For that matter, why is Uechiryu even considered an Okinawan style?
I was planning to write a much more in depth post but my phone battery was low.
Kanbun taught in China and used the Chinese language when doing so for many years and had many students. He is the only Okinawan master to do so. He was also knowledgeable with Chinese medicine. It was his son and top students that brought the art to Okinawa. By strict definition Kanbuns art should be a Chinese Quan/ style. However he moved to Japan in the 1930's and so those students would have called it kara- te. Kanei also followed the popular trend and not only called his art karate but re- structured the system in about the 1950's to be more like the other karate arts.

To answer your question about Uechi being Naha Te I need to take a detour first. Something I have done ( and have often mentioned over the years here) is to apply the approach of genealogy and genetics to the styles. Forms and techniques have what I call genetic markers that are unique. We can then follow these markers through and empirically summize a genealogy by overlaying the genetic map over the oral tradition.
That being said I find Uechi and the styles passed down through Higaonna to be related. Both are lemurs, where the Shuri styles would be another primate.
Therefore we cannot speak about karate history without making this distinction since the three classical divisions of Naha, Shrui and Tomari would all be historically distinct. The earliest we can take back Naha ta is the late1800's in okinawa, while Shuri and Tomari goes back further and maybe to the original 36 clans of the Min- people in early 1400's.
 

hoshin1600

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My understanding is that sesan (seisan) and sanchin (sa'am chien) kata can be found in a (barely) recognizable form in China today.
So Sam Chien is a popular form in the styles found in the fukian province. However I have seen at least 50 variations on this form with vast differences. The okinawan kata share many genetic markers with the Chinese counter part. However the okinawan forms have a few distinct markers, like single arm thrusts (or closed hand punches). There are also direction changes not found in the Chinese forms. Which puts us in a very odd quandary. While okinawan Sanchin is most definitely a Fukian derived form, all three versions of Sanchin have identical markers that are not found in Chinese Sam Chien versions. The question is how is this possible. Ryuei Ryu, Goju Ryu and Uechi-Ryu all share genetically similar Sanchin kata along with Seisan kata. I have never found a Chinese version of the Seisan form. This points to a single source for all three okinwan styles. Perhaps a style that no longer exists in China but even this hypothesis has its problems.
 
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