The History of Japanese Karate
Masters of The Shorin Ryu
Shorin-ryu is the most traditional of karate styles and one of the most important historically. Yet because it has not been promoted as strongly as other styles its practice has been pretty much limited to Okinawa. (Although there are quite a few dojos in the U.S.A.). This makes the study of its history difficult since most of the research material is available only in Japanese.
Over the years I had collected a fair amount of this material but there was always a problem - translations. During the past year, however, Professor N. Karasawa and Ian McLaren have been working on this and I am now able to put together this article because of their heroic efforts. The translations took many hours of hard, slogging work, often with material which, because of its archaic and technical nature, was extremely difficult. Anyway, we now have for the first time in English, full translations of the writings of Masters Matsumura, Itosu and Chibana, and much new information on other Okinawan karate masters such as Chotoku Kyan. My function has been to organise the scattered materials and add a personal gloss where necessary.
The study of karate history was neglected for generations. In the last couple of decades however some fine work has been done by Okinawan and Japanese karateka and we have made full use of the following writers' works: Shoshin Nagamine ("Okinawa-no Karate-do", 1975. Valuable historical material was omitted from the English edition of this work, "The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do"); Hoshu Ikeda ("Karate-do Shogui", 1977); Katsumi Murakami, ("Karate-do to Ryukyu-Kobudo", 1973); Tetsuhiro Hokama ("Okinawa Karate-do-no-Ayumi", 1984) and Hiroyasu Tamae (a chapter he contributed to "Karate-do", Sozo Co., 1977). Also useful were Gichin Funakoshi's "Ryukyu Kempo Karate" (1922) and the magazines "Kindai Karate" and "Karate-do Monthly".
Modern-day Okinawan karate has three major styles: Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu. Of the three, Shorin-ryu has the longest history and may in fact be considered the traditional style of Okinawan karate.
The name "Shorin" refers to the Shaolin style of Chinese boxing, though the relationship between the two forms is only tenuous. The first recorded usage of "Shorin-style" was in Ankoh Itosu's "10 Teachings" of 1908. Itosu distinguished between two forms of Tode (karate): Shorin-style and Shorei-style. Itosu was not specific in describing these two forms but Gichin Funakoshi used the terms later to classify his kata into two groups, (confusedly, I think).
Shorin-ryu was used in these cases as a general classification of kata. The first person to use Shorin-ryu specifically as the name of his style was Choshin Chibana, around 1933. After the war other schools which traced their lineage back to the old Shuri- and Tomari-te used the name Shorin-ryu too.
Shorin-ryu has also been the most important style historically. At the start of the century most of Okinawan karate was in the form of Shorin-related forms and when karate was introduced to Japan it was mainly by masters of these styles. The original forms of Taekwon-do, back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, were in turn based on these Japanese styles. I think there must have been something within the system which led to its world-wide spread, albeit in modified forms. Shorin-ryu has natural stances and breathing, and basic techniques which are easily assimilable and lend themselves to the development of kumite (sparring).
This is not a technical treatment of the style, although practitioners of major Japanese systems such as Shotokan, Shito- ryu and Wado-ryu will be familiar (in their versions) with the Shorin-ryu kata: Pinan (Heian), Naihanchi (Tekki), Kushanku (Kanku), Passai (Bassai), and so on. Of course, differences have arisen over the years and compared to Shotokan for example, the Shorin-ryu stances are higher and the kata are not performed in such an openly forceful way.
This is not a general history of the style either; but an idea of the development of Shorin-ryu might be gained from a look at the lives of its experts. The early history of Okinawan karate is obscure and will probably never be elucidated. Although its antecedents may go back to the 18th century the first solid figure in Shorin-ryu's history is Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura.
Master Sokon Matsumura
There is a school of thought which likes to trace all modern Shorin-ryu back to Matsumura, but I think this is pushing things a little too far. Matsumura was not the only expert in "te" in the early 19th century, and of the thirty or so kata practiced in Shorin and Shorin-related styles, only a few can be traced back to him. Nevertheless, Matsumura was the most famous bushi of the time and his influence on karate development was profound.
Until this century scarcely any records were kept on karate's development and this makes any biography of Matsumura difficult. He was born in Yamagawa, Shuri in ... well, here you can take your pick. His date of birth has been given by various writers as 1796, 1798, 1800, 1806 or 1809. The last date, given by Shoshin Nagamine in his book "Okinawa-no Karate-do" is probably the correct one. As Nagamine explains: "In Japan, when a man reaches the age of 88, a special ceremony is held to celebrate this lucky and special age. We know from records which still exist that a woman took her child to Matsumura Sensei for a "lucky embrace" on the occasion of the celebration of his 88th birthday. This was in 1896 so we can say that he was born in 1809. He lived for some years beyond his 88th birthday but we have no accurate date for his death." There is a tradition that Matsumura lived to 92 years of age so that would just take him into this century.
Similarly, uncertainty surrounds his teachers. Gichin Funakoshi stated that he studied with the Chinese attache Iwah, but Nagamine writes that we have no information on who his teachers were. Instruction must have been available from Okinawan teachers and since he was closely associated with the Royal Palace it is quite possible that he learned something from Chinese officials during their tour of duty there. In an official capacity he visited China (twice), and Satsuma in Japan. It is said that he visited Satsuma in 1832 and may have stayed there as long as two years. If so this could have been a strong formative influence on his development as a bushi. Some writers have stated that he studied Jigen-ryu, the fencing style of the Satsuma clan, under Yashichiro Ijuin. However, Hoshu Ikeda could find no trace of Matsumura's name in the records of Jigen-ryu.
Sokon Matsumura was of noble birth (Shizoku). He passed the examinations to become an official of the old Ryukyuan Government and he was skilled in literature. He was best known however as a bodyguard to three kings of Ryukyu: Shoko, Shoiku and Shotai. He first became the bodyguard of Shoko, the 17th king of the Ryukyu Dynasty, when the latter retired to a palace in Minatogawa. That was in 1827 so Matsumura would have been quite young when he was first selected for this responsibility.
We do not have a clear idea of what Matsumura's "te" looked like - the art has changed considerably since his time. We cannot even be sure what kata he practised. He taught several students however and something of his karate must have been passed down to us.
Matsumura was normally known as Bushi (warrior) Matsumura, and he sometimes called himself Bucho. He once put down some notes for one of his students Ryosei Kuwae. Fortunately these have been handed down by the Kuwae family and published in several Japanese karate books. Because of their archaic style they are difficult to understand, but Ian McLaren and Prof. Karasawa were eventually able to come up with the following translation:
The Precepts of Master Matsumura
You must first resolve to study if you wish to understand the truth of martial arts. This resolve is very important.
Fundamentally, the arts and the martial arts are the same. Each has three fundamental elements.
As far as Art is concerned they are Shisho-no-Gaku, Kunko-no-Gaku and Jussha-no-Gaku.
Shisho-no-Gaku is the art of creative writing and reading - in a word, literature.
Kunko-no-Gaku means to study the past and gain an understanding of ethics by relating past events to our way of life.
Both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku are incomplete until supplemented by Jussha-no-Gaku, (the study of the moral aspects of the teaching of Confucius).
Have a tranquil heart and you can prevail over a village, a country, or the world. The study of Jussha-no-Gaku is the supreme study over both Shisho-no-Gaku and Kunko-no-Gaku. These then are the three elements necessary for the study of the Arts.
If we consider Budo, there are also three precepts. They are Gukushi-no-Bugei, Meimoko-no-Bugei and Budo-no-Bugei.
Gukushi-no-Bugei is nothing more than a technical knowledge of Bugei. Like a woman, it is just superficial and has no depth.
Meimoko-no-Bugei refers to a person who has physical understanding of Bugei. He can be a powerful and violent person who can easily defeat other men. He has no self-control and is dangerous and can even harm his own family.
Budo-no-Bugei is what I admire. With this you can let the enemy destroy himself - just wait with a calm heart and the enemy will defeat himself.
People who practice Budo-no-Bugei are loyal to their friends, their parents and their country. They will do nothing that is unnatural and contrary to nature.
We have "seven virtues of Bu". They are:
Bu prohibits violence.
Bu keeps discipline in soldiers.
Bu keeps control among the population.
Bu spreads virtue.
Bu gives a peaceful heart.
Bu helps keep peace between people.
Bu makes people or a nation prosperous.
Our forefathers handed these seven virtues down to us.
Just as Jussha-no-Gaku is supreme in the arts, so Budo-no-Bugei is supreme in the martial arts.
"Mon-Bu" (Art and Martial Arts) have the same common elements. We do not need Gukushi-no-Bugei or Meimoko-no-Bugei - this is the most important thing.
I leave these words to my wise and beloved deshi Kuwae.
Sokon Matsumura's deshi (pupils)
Matsumura's fame attracted young men who wanted to learn martial arts and he had quite a few students, such as Ishimine, Kiyuna, Kuwae, Tawada, Azato and Itosu. In a historical sense Itosu was the most important. The others did not found their own styles and little is known of their lives or special qualities.
Chosin Chibana used to tell a story about Ishimine. Ishimine was about 4 or 5 years older than Ankoh Itosu. He was thin and might only have weighed around 120lbs., but he had very strong and sharp kicking technique.
Anyway, one day a big 200lb. man named Tamanaha, wanting to test Ishimine, picked a fight with him. He attacked with a powerful tsuki (punch) but Ishimine blocked the attack and countered with a kick to Tamanaha's side. He collapsed, was revived by Ishimine, but died three days later. So said Chosin Chibana.
Tawada was an expert in the use of the sai and we still have his kata 'Tawada-no-sai'. Kuwae, a tall man with strong kicks, was the last follower of Matsumura. Kiyuna was a big, strong man with powerful striking techniques. He developed his power by striking trees, and practiced 'Passai' and 'Kushanku' kata. Taro Shimabuku, who studied with him as a schoolboy said that "Tanme Kiyuna's atemi (striking) was so strong and done in such a way that a small man like I could never follow." He is probably the Master Kiyuna referred to by Gichin Funakoshi ("Karate-do. My Way of Life") as being able to strip bark from trees.
Ankoh Azato was the first teacher of Gichin Funakoshi and so we know a little more about him. According to Funakoshi, Azato was not only a master of te, but expert in horsemanship, Japanese fencing (Ken-jutsu), archery, and a brilliant scholar to boot. In appearance he was tall and broad-shouldered, with sharp features. He was an astute judge of other martial artists and kept notes on the other masters of Okinawan te. It was Azato who told Funakoshi that a karateka should regard his arms and legs as swords.
Funakoshi also wrote that Azato, unarmed, once defeated the best swordsman in Okinawa Yorin Kanna, "an enormous, muscular man with great bulging arms and shoulders". Funakoshi's story is that Kanna attacked the unarmed Azato with a sword (a katana presumably) but Azato evaded the attack and brought Kanna to his knees. But I doubt it happened just like that; personally I wouldn't give much for any karateka's chances against a swordsman armed with a sharp katana (the longest of the Japanese swords).
Gichin Funakoshi also referred to an occasion when someone asked Azato about ippon-ken (one-knuckle fist). He told the questioner to try and attack him. As he did Azato blocked the blow and countered with an ippon-ken thrust with a speed that astonished Funakoshi. Fortunately for the questioner, Azato stopped the blow just short of contact.
Maybe Ankoh Azato liked ippon-ken because it figures in another story about him. At one time the young men of his village liked to try to test their fighting ability by jumping out and attacking passers-by at night. Azato was so concerned about this that one night he put on ordinary walking clothes and walked along the street. Sure enough, he was suddenly attacked as he walked along. He immediately struck the attacker on the forehead with ippon-ken. The man reeled back, then ran away.
On the following morning Azato assembled all the young men of the village, but one was missing. They found him at home, with a large swelling on his forehead. He was surprised to find out the man he attacked was Azato - and he never attempted anything like it again.
Maybe we could use a few Ankoh Azatos today. . .
Master Ankoh Itosu
"We have to thank Sensei Itosu for the development of karate not only to mainland Japan but also to the rest of the world", wrote Katsumi Murakami. Of course Itosu, who died in 1915, was not personally responsible for this development, but so much of modern karate can be traced back to him. When karate fully emerged from the shadows he was its most important teacher and the impulse for karate's spread in the first three or four decades of this century came primarily from his students. Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Anbun Tokuda, Chodo Oshiro (Ogusuku), and Shinpan Gusukuma taught throughout Okinawa. Of the four primary styles of Japanese karate, three can be traced back to Itosu: Shotokan and Shito-ryu were founded by his students Funakoshi and Mabuni, and Wado-ryu was originally an off-shoot of Funakoshi's teaching.
Ankoh (Yasutsune) Itosu was born in Yamagawa-muri, Shuri, in 1832. He came from a fairly high-ranking family and was trained in both Chinese and Japanese literature. He was a fine calligrapher and became a secretary at the Royal Palace.
He is always referred to as a student of Sokon Matsumura but Gichin Funakoshi throws a slight spanner in the works here in his first book "Ryukyu Kempo Karate". Funakoshi states that Itosu was a student of Gusukuma: "It is a historical fact that Okinawans learned from Chinese teachers ... Matsumura in Shuri and Miyazato in Kume were taught Shorin style by Iwah ... Gusukuma in Tomari and Matsumura, Yamazato, Nakazato and others studied with some Chinese experts who were shipwrecked in Okinawa ... Tomigusuku of Akata in Shuri preserved the line of Sakiyama and Azato kept the line of Matsumura, while Itosu kept the line of Gusukuma". "Ryukyu Kempo Karate" was the first published book on the subject of karate (in 1922) and Funakoshi's short section on its origins the first attempt to give a history of the art. So he is the nearest in time to the old experts and his opinions are worthy of consideration.
Whatever. I think it is likely that Itosu, who had an intense interest in the art, studied te with several experts, Matsumura and Gusukuma being the main two.
In time Ankoh Itosu became an outstanding expert in te and his teacher Matsumura told him that he was the strongest practitioner of the art in Okinawa. He was quite short but strongly built and very powerful. "He was certainly strong enough to kill an enemy with one blow," writes Katsumi Murakami. Gichin Funakoshi thought that Itosu had a body like iron.
Itosu originally taught karate in secret to several students. By the early years of this century however, there was a new openness in teaching the art, and when karate was adopted as part of the curriculum of the Okinawan Middle School, and Teachers School, Itosu himself was invited to teach. This was probably in 1909. He was 79 years old, and although some of the instruction was taken over by his assistants Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro, he himself taught there till the early years of the Taisho era, (1912-1926). "Master Itosu was over 70 years old and we called him 'Honourable Itosu'," remembered one of the students. "He was short but stoutly built and had a warm and sincere personality." He died, aged 84, in 1916.
It seems that the 'Pinan', the fundamental kata of most modern karate styles were developed by Itosu for use in the Okinawan educational system. There is a school of thought which says that many of the harmful ("killing" etc.) techniques of the old karate were omitted from these kata to make them suitable for teaching schoolchildren. I don't know about that, but the possibility of using karate as a means of physical education may have brought about a change of direction in Itosu's teaching. In an article in the Japanese "Karate-do Monthly" magazine, Okinawan-born karate expert Hiroshi Kinjo wrote:
"... It was in 1908 that Itosu Sensei formulated modern karate. In short, that fact that Itosu Sensei established a modern form of karate-do points to the co-existence at that time of old karate and modern karate. I should add kempo (i.e. Chinese-based styles - G. Noble) so that there were three styles of karate co- existing. Sensei Itosu taught at the Okinawa prefecture school for teachers and it was modern karate he taught there, not the old style. Except for a few experts who realised he was teaching the modern form, most of the people thought he was teaching the old style, and this misunderstanding exists even today. This is a serious misunderstanding."
When Itosu Sensei established modern karate, there were no ryu. He established a collective form of karate so that it was a matter of course that there should be no ryu established."
This is something that needs further research. It does seem true though that Itosu was trying to develop a "collective" style of karate, whilst keeping the distinctive nature of Shuri-te. And this aspect of his karate was underway long before 1908, when, after all, he was 76 years old and not about to go through a major restructuring of his style. I think that for many years he had been collecting, restructuring and standardising kata, something for which clearly he had a gift. He left around twenty- five kata to his followers, and at a time when a well-known expert might know only three kata, that was a lot. We do not know where all these kata came from. Quite evidently he reformulated many of them and often grouped them together in sets, such as 'Naihanchi' and 'Rohai' (3 kata each), 'Passai' (dai and sho) and 'Kushanku' (dai, sho and shihokushanku). Some kata, such as the 'Pinan', seem to be all his own. Ryusho Sakagami thinks that 'Jion', 'Jiin' and 'Jitte' may be reformulations of Tomari kata, now lost. Chosin Chibana said that Itosu originally learned 'Naihanchi' from a Chinese living in Tomari, and evidence that Itosu restructured 'Naihanchi' is given in an anecdote told by Kenwa Mabuni:
One of my servants Morihiro Matayoshi once taught me kiba-dachi-no kata. It was different from the kata I learned from Itosu Sensei, so one day I showed him the kata that Matayoshi had taught me. He said that was the original form of the kata; he had studied and improved it following his own research."
We are fortunate to have Master Itosu's notes, discovered after his death. They were originally published in Genwa Nakasone's book "Karate-do Taikan". The reference in paragraph 2 is, of course, to the quote attributed to the Duke of Wellington following the Battle of Waterloo ("This victory was won on the playing fields of Eton') - and isn't it surprising to find it in notes written eighty years ago by a karate expert on the obscure little island of Okinawa?
Itosu's Ten Teachings
Karate does not derive from Buddhism or Confucianism. In olden times two styles, called Shorin style and Shorei style, came from China. We consider that both have distinct advantages and should not be altered or combined - they should be left as they are. I leave the following precepts:
The aim of karate is not only to train the body. If you train at karate eventually you will gain the spirit to be able to sacrifice yourself for your ruler or nation. Never fight over insignificant matters; do not fight ruffians or villains. Avoid such people as often as possible.
Training in karate will make your muscles powerful and your body strong. As a result you will develop a courageous spirit. If you train at karate from childhood you will find that you are able to make a great contribution to society, even as a soldier. For example, the Duke of Wellington said after his victory over Napoleon the First, "Our victory was because we exercised and played disciplined games when we were at school.
You cannot master karate easily, or in a short time. The process is like a herd of cows grazing across a field. No matter how slow the herd moves it will eventually reach the end. Even if it moves slowly it could cover 100 miles. If you train one or two hours every day, your body will change after 3 or 4 years - you will get to the core of karate.
The most important point in karate is "Ken-soku" (fist-foot), so use the makiwara to develop these weapons. Keep your shoulders down, expand your chest and develop your power. Root your stance to the ground. What you have to do is 100 to 200 zuki every day.
In the upright stance of karate you must keep your back straight and your shoulders down while keeping your legs strong and then focus your attention on the tanden.
There are many movements in karate. When you train you must try to understand the aim of the movement and its application. You have to take into account all possible meanings and applications of the move. Each move can have many applications.
When you train in karate you must study in advance whether the application of each move is more useful for training or defence.
When you train in karate you should train as though you were in the battlefield fighting the enemy. You should keep your shoulders down and fix yourself in the stance. When you block or thrust you should picture the enemy. In so doing you will gradually master how to fight in a real battle.
Your training must be according to your bodily strength. If your training is too great for your condition, it is not good for you. Your face will turn red, as will your eyes, and you will damage yourself.
People who train at karate usually enjoy a long life. This is because the training strengthens muscles, improves the digestive organs, and strengthens the blood circulation system. I think that from now on karate should be introduced to the curriculum of the Elementary Schools and in doing so we could produce men capable of defeating ten enemies single-handed.
If you keep these precepts at the Elementary Schools then in 10 years karate will have prevailed, not only in Okinawa, but all Japan. Karate would also be able to contribute to military society.
Ankoh Itosu. 41st year of Meiji.
Master Kentsu Yabu
Itosu was almost 80 years old when karate was introduced to the curriculum of the Normal School, and much of the teaching was carried out by his senior student Kentsu Yabu. Yabu is probably best known today as Itosu's assistant, yet he was an outstanding karate expert in his own right. During one of my talks with Master Mitsusuke Harada (Shotokai) he referred to the time he spent in Brazil and his discussions with Okinawan karateka in that country. I asked him which karate masters these Okinawans respected - Yabu perhaps? Yes, Harada replied, they looked back to Yabu as a great expert, and it was not just karateka who said this. Ordinary Okinawans without any experience of the art had heard of Yabu Sensei. According to Hiroyasu Tamae ("Karate-do," Sozo Co. 1977) when Shuri Castle was turned into a museum, Yabu's military uniform was put on display as one of the items.
Kentsu Yabu was commonly knows as "Gunso", or sergeant, a reference to his career in the Japanese Imperial Army. Apparently he went past the rank of sergeant to become a 2nd lieutenant, and the ability to make his way in the Japanese Army suggests a certain strength of character and aptitude for military life. The Okinawans had never been a military people and the older generation opposed all forms of military service. The conscription laws enforced throughout the rest of Japan in 1873 were not extended to Okinawa till 1898. Even then the proportion of islanders rejected for service because of illiteracy, shortness, and so on, was the highest of any Japanese prefecture. Those few who had served under the harsh discipline of Japanese army life were generally much tougher than the average Okinawan.
It is said that Yabu saw action on the Chinese battlefront during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894/5. He would have been 27 years old at the time, so that is quite possible. Unfortunately it may now be too late to dig out any details on this part of his life.
Mitsusuke Harada told me that he had talked to a Mr. Tamashiro an Okinawan who had been a lieutenant in the Japanese army in the same regiment as Yabu had served in as a matter of fact. Tamashiro said that in Yabu's time the Okinawans serving in the Army had been a lowly regarded minority. They would often be victimised and beaten. Kentsu Yabu would not stand for this and fought back. Incidents occurred which led to an official investigation. Yabu was cleared of all blame and became a hero to his fellow Okinawans.
According to Hiroyasu Tamae, when Yabu was a sergeant he was challenged to fight by another soldier. When the man attacked, Yabu struck him - killing him instantly. There was an enquiry and the investigating officer, who had heard of Okinawa's karate, asked Yabu if he had used that technique. Yabu replied that he had struck with the open palm, not the fist. If he had used his fist, he explained, the opponent's ribs would have been smashed. He was ordered to strike a nearby tree using his fist. The tree split where he had struck it, greatly surprising the investigating officer. The outcome of all this was that the cause of death was never made clear in the official report and Yabu's career was unaffected.
Tamae could not have had any personal knowledge of this story. It must have been circulating in the Okinawan karate world for some years and no doubt it grew in the telling. What the truth actually was, and whether Yabu ever did kill anyone using karate, would now be impossible to establish.
The reference to Yabu's palm strike is interesting though, because he was supposed to be an expert in open handed techniques. His favourite kata was 'Gojushiho' which contains a variety of open-hand waza: Shinken Gima recalled: "When I was a student in Okinawa my karate teacher was master Kentsu Yabu. Master Yabu showed us nukite (finger thrusts) techniques, in which he was an exceptional expert. But he told us, 'For you it is too difficult and dangerous to do as I do, so in place of nukite you are much better using the closed fist'."
Yabu, big and broad shouldered, was regarded throughout Okinawa as a powerful karateka and genuine expert. He once defeated Choki Motobu - "the feared Choki Motobu" as Shinken Gima called him - although again, the details are not clear. The American martial artist and author Dave Lowry has written that this was not in a karate contest but rather in a bout of tegumi - an Okinawan form of wrestling. In Lowry's account Yabu was able to pin Motobu after a contest lasting twenty minutes.
When he retired from the Army, Yabu Sensei became a teacher for the Cadet Force at the Okinawa School for Teachers. He taught karate to students for many years and his army experience in handling large bodies of men must have been useful in organising classes. For generations before this karate had been taught in secret and a master would have only a few students, sometimes only one. With the introduction of karate into the educational system a means had to be found of instructing larger classes, and in fact Harada Sensei suggested to me that the "militarisation" of karate teaching might be traced back to Gunso Yabu. "Militarisation" is not meant in a negative sense but rather refers to the training of large classes by repeating techniques to a count.
At any rate, Yabu's teaching was disciplined and testing. He stressed repetition and mastery of one kata before moving onto the next. Shinken Gima, who entered the school for teachers in 1911 remembered that, although he knew the order of several kata, he trained only in 'Nai-hanchi' during the five years he was there. Yabu told the students that they should do 10,000 kata per year, or almost 30 kata every day!
There should be photos of Kentsu Yabu in his prime, but so far I have not been able to trace any. He does appear in a well known group portrait taken in the 1930s, but his clothes hang loosely on his once powerful frame and he is only a shell of his former self. He was seriously ill, but here too his self-discipline and strength of character were evident.
"He retired from the teachers' school with tuberculosis," wrote Hiroyasu Tamae, "yet strangely I used to see him every morning at the same time. I say strangely because at that time tuberculosis was a virulent disease and 99% of the people who contracted it died. People who suffered from it were depressed not only physically but spiritually too. This did not happen with Yabu Sensei. Every morning he would get up and enjoy a walk. Sometimes he would have to stop to cough up blood and phlegm, and on such occasions he would shout "go to hell!" before turning back for home. I was very impressed by Yabu Sensei and how he fought this disease."
"His appearance was so lamentable at this time - he looked just like a corpse. It was so sad to see him like this, but looking back, maybe I shouldn't have felt that way. I think that in his silent walks taken the same time every morning, Yabu Sensei achieved Satori (enlightenment)."
Master Yabu died in 1937 at the age of 74.
Master Shimpan Gusukuma and others
Other students of Itosu..... Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, Kanken Toyama, Choki Motobu (a sometime student)..... they taught karate in mainland Japan and their lives have been quite well recorded.
Chomo Hanashiro, Choto Yamagawa, Anbun Tokuda, Choda Oshiro, Shimpan Gusukuma and Chosin Chibana, remained in Okinawa..... apart from Chibana they did not form their own ryu (schools) and little information has been preserved on their lives and karate techniques.
Hanashiro was senior student (with Yabu) of Itosu. Like Itosu he served in the Japanese army as a sergeant. Later he became karate instructor at Shuri High School. In 1905 he wrote a set of notes on karate kumite (sparring) which are notable for two reasons. Firstly, because kumite was underdeveloped in the traditional karate of Okinawa, and secondly because Hanashiro used the characters "Empty Hand" for karate - the first recorded usage of these characters and thirty years before Gichin Funakoshi used them for his book "Karate-do Kyohan".
Chota Yamagawa, Chodo Oshiro and Anbun Tokuda I know little about. The only material I have on Shimpan Gusukama (1890-1954) is a short memoir by Hiroyasu Tamae in the book "Karate-do," (1977).
"Gusukuma Sensei used to work at the 1st Elementary School in Shuri Castle. He also gave instruction in karate as part of the gymnastic curriculum. He was more than an expert at 'Chinto' kata and was trained by Sensei Ankoh Itosu, one of the restorers of Shuri-te karate-do. He was an expert in kata-no-dozo (movements of the kata), and in this respect his training was especially painstaking."
"He used to use Shuri Castle as his dojo before the castle became a national treasure. At this time few experts had their own dojo; they would often use their own gardens at home. I trained at karate from an early age and had many instructors, but I consider Gusukuma Sensei's instruction to have been the most systematic. He used to tell us, 'Shuri-te must be systematic and efficient. It must not be wasteful, and it must not become "Inaka-te" - that is not true karate. We must strive to be true to our karate."
"Gusukuma Sensei and I worked as teachers, so we could understand each other very well. Both of us understood physiology and so he was able to answer all my questions with ease. We would also have long, friendly arguments over various points. I deeply appreciated him and I owe the fact that I am a karate expert to his wonderful character and friendship."
"After World War Two I met him in Naha and he told me that he had retired and no longer trained in karate. He said that he was supporting himself as a practitioner of moxa. He was old, with grey hair - and he seemed so lonely. I will never forget his looks at that time."
Master Chosin Chibana
Chosin Chibana was born June 1885 in Toribora-cho, Shuri. As a youth he endeavoured to train himself in te and then at 15 he went to Master Itosu, asking to become his student. "Sensei Itosu studied very hard at karate," Chibana told Katsumi Murakami. "He was not only a great karate expert but a scholar and excellent calligrapher, I visited Itosu Sensei when I was 15 years old and asked him to teach me te. Twice he refused; only at the third time of asking did he accept me..... He taught karate secretly at his home to a select band of 6 or 7 followers. They trained as Bu (as a martial art), not as sport, as they do now."
The fact that Itosu was still teaching secretly at this time (1900) shows that old habits die hard. Chibana himself kept his training secret for three years.
Chosin Chibana continued to study with Itosu until the latter's death in 1915. Late in life Chibana recalled that he had wished to leave his name in karate, and although small he had talent and perseverance. By the age of thirty he was recognised as a leading expert and, with Gichin Funakoshi, Chodo Oshiro, and others, he was part of the Karate Kenkyukai established in Shuri in 1918. At the age of 34 (1929) he opened his own dojo in Shuri, later opening another in Naha. In 1933 he named his style Shorin-ryu.
Katsumi Murakami wrote that Chibana risked his life many times during the battle of Okinawa, though unfortunately he gives no details. He returned to karate teaching soon after the war, and between 1956 and 1958 was karate instructor to the Shuri Police. In May 1956 he became the first president of the newly founded Okinawan Karate Association. In 1968, he was not only honoured by the Royal Palace, but awarded the first prize for contribution to sport given by the Okinawan Times. Chibana Sensei died of cancer of the upper jaw on the morning of October 26th, 1969, at the age of 84 years. According to Murakami after his death the surgeon said that he had the heart and organs of a man of fifty.
Chibana's death was really the end of an era. He had been a student of the great Itosu and a contemporary of Funakoshi, Mabuni, Miyagi, Motobu, Kyan and all the other experts of Okinawa karate's golden age. He tried to carry on the tradition of the old-time bushi and died a poor man. "Both Matsumura Sensei and Itosu Sensei were poor," he would say. "When I spoke of this to Itosu Sensei he told me that Bushi were poor because they should not concern themselves with the making of money."
Chosin Chibana was a student of Itosu for almost fifteen years, but he later made minor modifications to the style and I am sure that his karate is not an exact transmission of Itosu's teaching. For example he preferred the Matsumura 'Passai' to the Itosu version of the kata. He had learned this form from Tawada Sensei and often told the story of how he demonstrated the kata before Itosu. Itosu told Chibana he had rarely seen a kata performed so well and that the kata should be preserved for future generations.
Chibana's stances were very high too, even by the standards of the Shorin school's generally, where the postures are never as low as in, say, modern Shotokan. Having seen photographs of Chibana performing kata in his seventies, I originally put his high stances down to his age. However, I now believe this is an integral part of his style. He may have chosen higher stances for their naturalness and mobility, although his own small size may also have had something to do with it.
Kenyu Chinen, who is now teaching in Paris, remembered seeing Chosin Chibana presiding over a grading examination in the early 1960's. The old master got up to demonstrate blocking technique, picking up a candidate at random and telling him to attack with mae geri (front kick). The candidate attacked and Chibana said "Not strong enough. It isn't necessary to block such an attack." He called for another attacker, with the same result. This happened several times until a muscular, (and nervous), karateka delivered a kick which, according to Chinen "would have knocked down a bull," Chibana blocked, watched the attacker fall back from the force of the block, and then returned to the examiners' table. He explained to all the candidates that they must always strike strongly - especially against the old experts "This old master's spirit was really very strong!" Chinen recalled.
The following words of Chosin Chibana are taken from "Karate-do To Ryukyu Kobudo" by Katsumi Murakami.
Master Chibana's advice
"When you train you have to devote yourself only to the way of karate - think of nothing else. Do not think of others, or what they may think. You must develop the ability to focus your mind, hands and feet strongly. You must not only learn body movements but also research and study the art."
"You should develop and improve yourself before you reach the age of fifty. Your body naturally begins to deteriorate after fifty years old so you must then adjust your training accordingly. If after fifty you still train every day then you may not decline so much. I myself have noticed a slight decline at fifty, but I don't think I declined much at all between fifty and sixty years of age. Of course, you cannot help deteriorating to a degree but if you continue training you will not age so rapidly, even between seventy and eighty years of age. Therefore, train continuously."
"In the old days we trained at karate as a martial art, but now they train at karate as a gymnastic sport. I think we must avoid treating karate as a sport - it must be a martial art! Your fingers and the tips of your toes must be like arrows, your arms must be like iron. You have to think that if you kick, you try to kick the enemy dead. If you punch, you must thrust to kill. If you strike, then you strike to kill the enemy. This is the spirit you need in training."
"The effort required is great, but you can strain the body by doing too much. So keep in mind your condition."
"Years ago I wished to leave my name in karate-do and I trained very hard. Now I think my name will remain a little in karate- do."
"Not only do we need physical training, we need to think for ourselves, studying and researching the kata and their applications."
"Its is vitally important to understand kata and train your body to develop the core of karate. You can achieve a 5 or 6 times increase in body power if you train hard. Naturally, if you do this you will be pleased with the result, so train very hard."
"Whether you become great depends on two factors only - effort and study. Your movements must be sharp - never be slow - and when you train at kata your eyes will get sharper and your blocking and striking will get stronger."
"Even when you reach the age of seventy or eighty you must continue your research with a positive attitude, always thinking 'not yet, not yet'."
Chosin Chibana, November 1963.
Chibana's style (Kobayashi Shorin-ryu) is one of the two major streams of Shorin-ryu in modern day Okinawa. (There are other streams, often quite important historically, such as that which was headed by the late Hohan Soken. See Roger Sheldon's article in "Fighting Arts" No. 38).
It is carried on by his students Yuchiku Higa, Katsuya Miyahara, and Shugoro Nakazoto. The other major stream comprises the schools led by Joen Nakazato, Shoshin Nagamine, and Katsuhide Kochi. This style follows the teachings of Master Chotoku Kyan, who died just after the end of World War Two. Chosin Chibana recalled "Sensei Chotoku Kyan (nicknamed Chan-Mi-Gua) was born in Shuri, moved to Kadena in his youth and died after the last war at the age of 75. He was the same age as Gichin Funakoshi and 15 years older than I. He received his karate tuition from a sensei called Oyadomari who lived in Tomari. As we both used to give demonstrations together, I came to know him very well. He used to demonstrate 'Chinto', 'Passai,' and 'Kushanku' kata. He was a great man."
The Life and Times of Chotoku Kyan
Chotoku Kyan was born into a high-ranking family in Shuri in 1870. His father Chofu was a steward to Shotai, the last king of the Ryukyus. According to Shoshin Nagamine, Chofu Kyan was of such an upright character that King Shotai entrusted him with much of the business of the royal household.
In 1871 the Japanese Government declared that the Ryukyu Islands were to become part of Japanese territory and renamed Ryukyu-han. A few years later the islands were fully integrated into the Japanese local government system as Okinawa-ken (Okinawa prefecture). As a process of 'Japanisation' began, the old Ryukyu Kingdom was swept away.
King Shotai had been deposed with the foundation of Ryukyu-han. In 1879 he was removed to Japan and kept there for five years. He took with him over 90 retainers. Chofu Kyan went with the King and took with him his young son, Chotoku.
It seems that Chofu Kyan, a cultivated man with knowledge of both Chinese and Japanese literature, had been opposed to Japan's takeover of Okinawa. Hoshu Ikeda has in his possession a petition against the Japanese measures, and one of the seven signatories is Kyan. He was a traditionalist who did not want the old ways to die out, and it seems that it was he who kindled Chotoku Kyan's enthusiasm for karate. Apparently, Chofu Kyan himself had some knowledge of "te", but although he trained his young son in wrestling to toughen him up, he entrusted the teaching of karate forms to others. Shoshin Nagamine believes that this was because he was too fond of Chotoku to train him the correct, severe way. Anyway, at age 20, Chotoku Kyan was put under the tutelage of famous experts: Kokan Oyadomari, Kosaku Matsumora, and Ankoh Itosu.
Chotoku Kyan's biographers all state that he was small and weak as a child and this we can believe, because even when fully grown he was slightly built and frail-looking. He looked more like a retiring scholar than a karate master, and as Hiroyasu Tamae wrote, "you were amazed that such a small man was so great a bujin."
Kyan however had a strong personality that belied his small physique, and by the age of 30 he was recognised as an expert in both Shuri-te and Tomari-te. He was challenged often, and as he was not a person to back down, he had to fight frequently. As far as Okinawan karate historians are aware, he was never beaten in these fights. Because of Kyan's size he did not train to trade punches with bigger men but would practice stepping and other evasive techniques by the banks of the Hija River, over and over again. His method of fighting was to defend and then counterattack immediately. He was known to be expert in kicking techniques, and altogether we can imagine him as a perfect example of the Shorin-ryu stylist as described by Gichin Funakoshi, a smaller, lighter man whose karate was marked by quickness and mobility.
He excelled in practical fighting and had great confidence and power," wrote Hiroyasu Tamae. "We all know of the famous incident when he threw the wrestler over the parapet of the bridge."
Well, as it happens... I don't know about that incident - unless it is another version of the tale told by Shoshin Nagamine. This happened when Kyan was about 40 years old and working as a wagon driver. He crossed the path of Matsuda, a big, strong fellow who was bullying the younger men of the village. When Kyan reproached him for his behaviour, Matsuda turned on him and challenged him to fight. He was aware that Kyan knew karate but felt that he would be too small and slight to make use of this in a real fight. When the two men met on the banks of the Hija river, Kyan took up a natural stance with his back to the water. As Matsuda went for him Kyan evaded the attack and countered with a kick that sent the big man into the river.
The abdication of the king and the establishment of Okinawa-ken were harsh facts of life for many Okinawans. For those of higher birth it was especially unfortunate because the government reforms led to the abolition of the old social ranking system and the loss of their privileges and financial support. Kyan's family suffered in this way, and Chotoku Kyan, whose father had been a retainer and friend of the king himself, had to make ends meet by breeding silkworms and pulling a rickshaw. Yet throughout all this his enthusiasm for karate never diminished.
Kyan taught karate at the Okinawan School for Agriculture and the Kadena Police Station, and besides this he taught many other students directly. He and his students would demonstrate karate in the region around his home of Kadena. Apart from karate he would often teach his pupils the traditional dancing seen at Okinawan festivals. Evidently he believed that these dances were related in some way to karate, and in this he was not alone. "If you go into the Okinawan countryside you will often see men performing a traditional dance to the music of the samisen," wrote Gichin Funakoshi in his first book, 'Ryukyu Kempo Karate' (1922). "This dancing resembles karate and is different from the usual maikata dancing. I think it is related to traditional Okinawa-te."
Kyan Sensei had many students but according to Katsumi Murakami his two favourites were Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku. Murakami's section on Kyan in his book 'Karate-do to Ryukyu Kobudo' throws light on another side of Chan Mi-gua's character. It is entitled "Sensei Chotoku Kyan: absorbing virtues as well as sins," meaning that here was someone who lived life to the full.
According to Murakami, Kyan not only taught Arakaki and Shimabuku karate but also encouraged them to do many other things, including drinking and visiting the local brothel - on the grounds that an experience of everything is important for martial arts development. So it was that at times he would train these two students in the brothel.
Well, Gichin Funakoshi too had as one of his precepts "Do not think karate is only in the dojo," but this was not exactly what he had in mind. Nevertheless, there was something behind Kyan's teaching. He stressed to his students that whatever they did they should keep in their minds the idea of "Busai," or correct martial way. I am not sure exactly what this involves but perhaps it means that to some extent you should remain unattached to whatever you are doing and keep a clear mind and a strong spirit, whether drinking, visiting a brothel - or even pulling a rickshaw.
Both Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku would visit Kyan Sensei's home for training at night. They carried lanterns to light their way but Kyan told them to stop using the lanterns so that they could develop their night vision. When they trained at night he chose uneven terrain and sometimes even threw water on the ground to make a foothold difficult. In this way they developed their kata.
Chotoku Kyan was fond of cockfighting and would often carry a fighting cock around with him. On one such occasion Arakaki and Shimabuku, wanting to test their teacher's ability, started a quarrel with a gang of young men and then ran off, leaving Kyan to face the group alone. The men attacked Kyan who quickly proceeded to beat them, still holding the bird under one arm. Even Arakaki and Shimabuku, who watched from a distance, were surprised at how he fought using only his feet and one free arm.
Kyan's wife had to work hard as a dyer of cloth and pig breeder, but whenever a pig was ready for sale Kyan himself always insisted on taking it to the market. Murakami writes that Kyan would often cheat his wife of the money he received and use it to pay for women and travel. He liked to travel and on one occasion took Arakaki and Shimabuku to Hokkaido where they demonstrated karate in a large tent. When a local fighter named Sampu Taku challenged them Kyan counselled Arakaki to step back carefully to the walls of the tent, then knock the challenger down if he moved on him. Unfortunately, Murakami does not tell us if a fight actually ensued or, if it did, what was the result.
It's too bad we don't have more information on this incident, but the story of another challenge match was given in a recent Japanese magazine. It occurred in Taiwan in 1930, when Kyan's demonstration of karate somehow resulted in a challenge from Shinzo Ishida, judo instructor of Taipei Police Headquarters.
Kyan would have been 60 years old at the time but he agreed to the match straightaway. The only thing that concerned him a little was that the judoka might be able to take a firm grip to apply his throwing waza (technique). Because of this Kyan wore a vest on his upper body rather than a judo jacket.
Ishida himself was wary of karate's striking techniques and when the two men faced each other they kept their distance for some time, sizing each other up with fierce stares. Then suddenly Kyan closed in, thrusting his thumb into the side of Ishida's mouth and fiercely gripping his cheek. With a kick to the knee he knocked Ishida to the ground and followed him down. Kneeling astride the judoka he delivered a tsuki (thrust) to the solar plexus, just stopping short of full contact. Ishida immediately conceded the match.
All in all Chotoku Kyan comes across to us as one of the most attractive karate masters, an interesting mixture of vices and virtues. No doubt he had his faults but he also had personal qualities which earned him the loyalty of his students and the respect of other experts and he remains one of the most important figures in Okinawan karate history. Even Katsumi Murakami, who tells us of Kyan's visits to the brothel and cheating on his wife, does not do so out of any desire to put him down. In fact he describes Kyan as one of the greatest karate experts.
Like Choshin Chibana, Kyan Sensei stressed that the way to success in karate was found only through constant practice. He continued to train and teach throughout his life. Hiroyasu Tamae remembered him giving a demonstration when he was in his late sixties. "In Showa 13 (1938) there was a demonstration of karate in which many famous experts were invited to display their kata. I was there, and many of the experts did not perform themselves - they let their students do it. Only Kyan Sensei, in spite of the fact that he was nearly 70 years old, performed his own kata."
"At that time people over 60 were considered to be old and infirm but Kyan Sensei performed the kata at full power without displaying any infirmity. Only when he stepped down from the platform did he stumble slightly. The audience was impressed."
When Shoshin Nagamine opened his karate dojo in 1942 Chotoku Kyan gave a demonstration of 'Passai' and bo kata. "His beautiful performance at the age of 73 could still exalt his audience to the quintessence of karate-do," Nagamine recalled.
In 1945, with the American invasion of the island, World War 2 truly came to Okinawa. Perhaps 60,000 Okinawan civilians were killed in the battle. Master Kyan survived all this but at 75 his body was too weak to withstand the following privations and he died in September 1945.
Kyan Sensei's kata
Kyan concentrated his teaching on seven (or perhaps eight) kata. These kata and the teachers from whom he learned them (it is believed) are as follows:
'Annanko' an un-named Taiwanese.
'Wanshu' Saneida (Maeda).
'Chinto' Kosaku Matsumora.
'Passai' Kokan Oyadomari.
'Kushanku' Chatan Yara.
'Seisan' Sokon Matsumura.
'Gojushiho' Sokon Matsumura.
Clearly, if these attributions are correct, Kyan studied with a variety of masters, most of them famous figures during their day. I have no information on Saneida, but since 'Wanshu' is always regarded as a Tomari kata we can be fairly sure that he was an expert in Tomari-te. The most famous Tomari-te master was Kosaku Matsumora, and he was one of Chotoku Kyan's teachers. Kokan Oyadomari is less well known but in the opinion of Hoshu Ikeda he was a bujin (martial artist) equally as great as Matsumora. He was an officer on the staff of the Ryukyu Royal Family and was often called Oyadomari Pechin.
Chirkata Yara, better known as Chatan Yara, was one of the forerunners of Shuri-te. He was born in 1816, but his date of death is unknown. Sokon Matsumura we all know about. Both these masters would have been old men - Matsumura about 80 years old - when Kyan began studying karate, and we cannot be sure they were even teaching at that time. Rather than learning direct, Kyan may have learned from their senior students.
There are actually two versions of how Kyan learned 'Annanko.' I have never felt particularly happy about the story that he learned it from a Taiwanese expert in Chinese boxing - mainly because the kata does not look Chinese. An alternative version is that he was taught the kata by his father. Another possibility, of course, is that Kyan developed the kata himself.
Kyan also may have taught 'Nai-hanchin,' and if he did he would have got it from Ankoh Itosu. Kyan is usually given in karate genealogies as a student of Itosu but generally his kata are quite different from the Itosu versions so I don't think the teaching here can have been very extensive. It is notable that Choshin Chibana, in listing Itosu's students, did not name Kyan. Instead Chibana referred to Kyan as a student of Oyadomari.
Kyan's favourite kata, which he often performed at demonstrations, were 'Chinto,' 'Passai,' and 'Kushanku.' They are distinctive kata with significant variations in technique from the more widely practiced forms such as those of the Japanese Shotokan, Wado, or Shito schools. For instance, rather than the sequence of forearm blocks at the beginning of 'Passai,' the Kyan (Oyadomari) 'Passai' has a quite different sequence of sharper, open handed techniques. In 'Chinto' ('Gankaku' in Shotokan), the two turns at the start of the kata are done in the opposite direction to those in the Itosu version. In the kicking techniques, rather than bringing the foot to the knee before kicking from a one-legged stance, it is brought behind the other foot into a kosa-dachi (crossed stance) and the kick is launched from this position. Hoshu Ikeda refers to these forms as "koryu," or "old style", and although Kyan may have made his own changes to the kata, much of the old style must have remained.
In his short memoir of Chotoku Kyan, Hiroyasu Tamae mentioned an interesting thing. He wrote that other Shuri karate experts referred to Kyan's kata as "Inaka-de," or "primitive." (In his translation Professor Karasawa explained that the words have something of a "country-yokel" implication.) As I said, his kata do have their own character, but there are several reasons why such a view could have arisen.
First, to anyone who was used to the more widespread Itosu versions of the kata, Kyan's forms may well have looked a little strange; but this was mainly a question of unfamiliarity.
Second, Kyan's kata showed strong Tomari-te influences and Shuri karateka tended to look down on Tomari kata as in some way inelegant or unrefined. Apart from any technical considerations this may have been part of a general feeling on the part of Shuri people that their culture was superior to that of the rest of Okinawa. George Kerr, an authority on Okinawan history, wrote: "The pre-eminence of Shuri families and the privileges and advantages conferred automatically through residence at the king's capital, created a tradition of prestige which has persisted into the 20th century, for wherever Okinawans assemble for the first time, in Ryukyu, in Japan, or in overseas communities, it is quickly but tactfully established if a man has been born in Shuri, educated in Shuri, or has married a woman of Shuri, in that order of precedence."
Third, it seemed that Kyan did make his own changes to the kata. As Tamae noted: "Even when the kata was a well known one Kyan Sensei's version had strange additions and gestures. So an expert, even if he only glimpsed part of the kata could identify it as one of Kyan's."
Well, if some other experts did refer to Kyan's kata in a rather negative way I think it was mainly a question of style prejudice - a case of his kata differing from the prevailing form. Personally I can't see that his kata are in any way inferior to other forms. In fact, in the case of 'Passai' and 'Chinto' I prefer his kata to more widely practiced versions. The opening defensive sequences in Kyan's 'Passai' for example seem less cumbersome than the series of forearm blocks in the Itosu 'Passai-dai,' and his 'Chinto' kata in particular is light, sharp, and full of vitality. I guess it all boils down to personal taste.
One last question: Why was Kyan called "Chan Mi-gua" - small-eyed Kyan? Katsumi Murakami says it was because he had narrow eyes and Hiroyasu Tamae says that he was blind, or poorly sighted, in one eye. These seem sufficient explanation but Hoshu Ikeda gives another reason for the name:
"His method of training was never to wear a gi top. This was to allow the air to temper the skin and allowed detailed observation of the muscles. This was considered to be a sophisticated attitude to training at that time. This half-naked method allowed him to make detailed observations of the movement and tension of the students' muscles, and his habit of fixing his eyes rigidly on the student to see if he was using his muscles correctly earned him the name 'Mi-gua'."
A note on Tomari-te
and Master Nakasone
Tomari is a fishing port close by Shuri. By the last century it had developed its own style of te, Tomari-te. The history of this style is extremely obscure, but we know that it produced some fine experts such as Kosaku Matsumora, Kokan Oyadomari and Yoshie Yamada, the so-called "Three heroes of Tomari".
It may well be that some Tomari-te kata have been lost. The only three present-day kata that can be traced back to Tomari are 'Wanshu,' 'Rohai,' and 'Wankan,' although the style had its own versions of other kata such as 'Passai.' According to Choki Motobu in his book 'Ryukyu Kempo Karate-jutsu, Kumite-hen' (1926), "Wanshu and Rohai were used only in Tomari until geographical reorganisation in 1871 was made as part of the Meiji Restoration. No one in Shuri or Naha learned these two forms until then, but later they were introduced to those main cities in Okinawa." It seems that as the Okinawan karate world opened up there was some transfer between styles, with the result that these three Tomari kata at least are now taught in Shorin and related schools.
In a sense Tomari-te became subsumed within the Shuri-te style which produced Shorin-ryu and Tomari-te as a separate entity ceased to exist sometime this century. Many writers consider the last expert of the style to have been Seiyu Nakasone. Nakasone is not too well known yet Seikichi Toguchi considered him to be equal to such masters as Choshin Chibana and Chojun Miyagi. "It is regrettable that Tomari-te, while producing such a master, has not shown great development," wrote Toguchi. "This may be due to lack of superior successors. In the past it was said that even cripples in Tomari knew karate.
" . . . When I was a boy, Master Nakasone was in the prime of his life, being twenty years older than I. At that time his strength was well known and his fame had reached far beyond the neighbourhood. He was the hero of boys living in that region."
"At that time in Okinawa, when a karateman's fame grew, his chances of being attacked by hooligans who hoped to defeat him and rise to fame were great. Often there were open challenges. The master, once approached by a man in such a way, treated him with indifference. Mortified, the man tried to take the master by surprise while at his work. Master Nakasone, who was a carpenter by trade, and one of Okinawa's best furniture makers, was busily working with his hammer at the moment the man chose to strike. He instantly blocked the assailant's attack with the hand that held the hammer and in the same move, struck the man on the head with the hammer. The man, knocked unconscious, was taken to the hospital. Fortunately it wasn't fatal, but Master Nakasone was questioned by the police anyway. Though he had used a hammer, it was decided that since the tool was natural to his profession, and hence likely to be in his hands at any time, his use of it was not premeditated and he was cleared of any charge of over-reaction to the attack. Nevertheless, I think Master Nakasone knew exactly what he was doing, for it is said that the assailant never bothered the Master again." (No wonder!)
Nakasone was not well versed in literature but he was a good conversationalist (although he had a stammer) and had a kind of direct perception of things. He told his students that "In training at karate-do, the ultimate aim is to attain Wa (peace)." He left a poem which translates as follows:
"You will never do a wrong thing or make a mistake as long as you have respect for others and keep a severe self-discipline."
"The most important thing is "Makoto" (sincerity). With sincerity you will respect yourself and your seniors, and take care of your juniors. . . Always keep sincerity."
Seiyu Nakasone would often say that he had the key to Tomari-te - that he had the direct transmission of the style, I suppose. He was born in 1893 and at 12 years old began taking instruction from Kotatsu Iha (1873-1928) who had been a student of Kosaku Matsumora (1829-1898) the most famous of Tomari-te masters. He later began to teach and opened a dojo to try and preserve Matsumora-ha karate. I do not know the subsequent history of the style but one of his deshi (students) Iken Tokashiki founded the Gohaku-kai, an association based on both Goju-ryu and Tomari style. Nakasone himself died in April 1983 at the ripe old age of 90. Teksuhiro Hokama has given a list of his kata as follows. Experienced karate-ka will be familiar with all the names except for the last, 'Rinkan.'
Nakasone Sensei's kata:
'Naihanchi Shodan'; 'Naihanchi Nidan'; 'Naihanchi Sandan'; 'Chinto'; 'Rohai'; 'Passai'; 'Kushanku'; 'Wanshu'; 'Wankan' and 'Rinkan'.