To begin an accurate investigation on martial
arts, we must search on the origins of the human kind,
for martial arts reflect the sense of self preservation
of the human being. First, we should not forget that
human beings are meant to live in society; this is
the reason why, since its appearance, human beings
have gathered to subsist. It is a well known fact
that self preservation is instinctive in every living
being, and men have had to search for means of defense
to overcome the adversities, fighting against the
many dangers existent, day by day. So mankind strived
to develop their abilities through planned training,
which, however, where first used for hunting, and
only later for defense against those of their own
kind. In primeval times, warriors belonged to family
casts, and devoted themselves to the development of
fighting techniques, with weapons and with there bare
hands. The gradual enlargement of human communities
implied, in most cases, the appearance of leaders,
with enough power to create large organized group
of warriors. This was the beginning of armies as we
now understand them, and their efficiency lent heavily
on the training they undertook. Naturally, the political
leader (kings, emperors, etc.), had to be himself
a skillful warrior, hence those who had detached on
battle could became teachers of the most powerful
man. So consecrated, their fighting system would be
preserved and passed many generations on, evolving
to art. The Real Academia Espaņola defines art as
"the implementation of human faculties, prepared by
previous experience", and fighting methods, of every
kind, individual or collective, fulfill this definition,
becoming known as Martial Arts. Certain facts about
the origin of Martial Arts are very hard to establish,
for we count only with folklore, and very few written
documents. However, it is an established fact that
martial training eventually occurred in a well differentiated
fashion, among peasants, who sought self defense;
and militias who owed their loyalty to the head of
the established power, where trained systematically,
and served the purpose of defend and control society.
It should be noticed that martial training sought,
in both stamens of society, not only a high development
of physical aptitudes, but also to obtain moral discipline.
It cannot be said for sure when the first army appeared.
The oldest documentation of martial training is found
in Egyptian mural paintings, about five thousand years
ago, and, more recently, the Greek pankration. This
is indicative of the fact that, wherever society exists,
martial arts are constantly being developed. Nonetheless,
it can hardly be denied that Asia has witnessed the
highest development on Martial Arts. To name a few,
the Indian Vajra Musti, which can be traced back to
the year 1124 B.C., from Birmany, the Bandy, Letwei,
and Banshai, Thai box, a national sport in Thailand,
the Pentjak Silat from Indonesia, the Arnis from the
Filipinas Islands, Chinese Wu Shu, Tae Kwon Do, Hwaran
Do, Subak, Chabi y Chariwk from Korea, and last but
not least, Japanese Judo, Aikido, Kendo, Sumo, and
THE INFLUECEOF BUDDHISM
Asiatic martial arts were, in their origin,
highly influenced by the many religions existent in
the region. But a historical event of paramount religious
importance unified the landscape, and remains fundamental
to the core of martial arts philosophy to these days.
Hence we shall devote a few words to recall this event.
Siddartha Gotama, son of the king of the Sakyas, Suddhodana
Gotama, was born in North India, in the year 553 B.C.
Siddartha grew up locked up in his father’s
palace, surrounded by luxury, and highly protected
from any exterior menace. He was trained for war and
government since he was a child, being prepared for
the royal succession. He is forced to marry princess
Yasodhara, at the age of sixteen. A few months later,
the young prince begins, secretly, a long journey
through his lands, and gets extremely shocked by poverty,
and the physical suffering of his people. Pain was,
to that point, unknown to him. He returns to his father,
but at the age of 29, little after his only son, Rahula,
is born, he leaves his father’s home for ever.
He is decided to find truth on existence and means
to avoid any pain. He walked through the Ganges valley
for six years, met many religious wise men, and devoted
himself to the spiritual and physical exercising that
they demanded to him, but found no satisfaction or
glimpse of truth. He abandoned all religious tradition,
and searched for his own path. Illumination came to
him at the age of 35, when hi was meditating under
a tree. It was the year 528 b.C. (Illumination is
sometimes described as the perception of absolute
truth, and the end to all suffering.) From know on,
he will be called Buddha, who has waken to truth,
and will devote himself to propagate a new doctrine
, which is to this days, still known as Buddhism.
In the year 520 B.C., in the course of one of his
voyages, crossed the Himalayas on foot, and arrived
to the north of China. Seeking refuge, he asked for
shelter on the temple Shaolin (little woodland). He
was received kindly, and taught his doctrines to the
monks. But they where week, and could not devote themselves
properly to meditation. So Buddha complemented spiritual
guidance with physical exercises, which he had learnt
in India, during his martial training. This routine
of exercises taught by Ta Mo, so was Buddha called
in this country, to the Shaolin monks, was divided
into Ensankyo, the art harmonically developing the
body by ordered exercises, and Senzuikyo, the art
of keeping pure and clean the body, as foundation
of spiritual purity . Ta Mo`s teachings, true knowledge
can only be obtained by a strong mental and physical
discipline, were carefully followed by the monks.
They found this exercises wonderfully effective, and
so trained every day, tirelessly.
Buddha dies in the year 483. He leaves to human kind
a new religion that will influence most martial arts,
and is full of concepts that we still found enlightening.
THE MARTIAL ART IN CHINA
The techniques taught by Ta Mo constituted the art
Shi Pa Lo Han Sho (the eighteen hands of Lo Han, so
called because the original body of exercises divided
naturally in eighteen items). This techniques, the
origin of most modern Asiatic martial arts, where
not originally meant as a mean of self defense, as
we have already explained. Legend tells that, nearly
forty years after Ta Mo`s death, the Shaolin temple
was attacked by common thieves, as would we usual
till the twentieth century, but this time, one of
the monks, called the mendicant, defended himself
applying the movements hi had learnt from Ta Mo, killing
some of the enemies, and forcing the others to flee.
Moved by this experience, he continues to develop
the exercises into a method of self defense, which
would be later known as Ch` uan Fa (the first method).
The other monks quickly appreciated the importance
of this development, and accepting the guidance of
the mendicant monk, soon became excellent fighters.
Besides religion, from that moment on they also devoted
to the development of fighting methods, and it is
believed that, to this days, they are responsible
of nearly 400 martial arts. A few tenths of years
later, a Ch`uan Fa teacher rediscovered the original
Shi Pa Lo Han Sho, which had gradually been forgotten,
and augmented the number of techniques from eighteen
to seventy two. Not satisfied with this development,
he continued his search in collaboration with another
teacher of Ch`uan Fa. The discipline that finally
emerged consisted of one hundred seventy techniques,
ordered in five groups .Each group was named after
an animal, for the exercises it comprehended reflected
the instinctive movements of self defense of that
animal, and was meant to develop specific human skills.
So the tiger movements allow the strengthening of
bones and muscles, the dragon movements give temple
and spiritual development, the leopard, speed an accurateness,
the crane, flexibility, equilibrium, and patience,
and the snake movements, the chi (inner energy, in
Japanese, ki). A warrior trained in the five animals
would have a solution to any situation in weaponless
fighting, making him or her potentially unbeatable.
But it became tradition that each monk should specialize
in the animal that suits best his aptitudes.
Their religious philosophy urged the monks to leave
the temple and share their knowledge with the peasants.
Simultaneously, noblemen and soldiers, who were mostly
Taoists, used to practice Chinese boxing. This fighting
method was absorbed by the new methods that were being
spread all over the country by the monks, and Chinese
boxing became highly popular. From that moment on,
it evolved in two different styles: an internal, Taoist,
line that would be known as Shang Wu, and an external,
Buddhist, style, known as Shaolin. Both are known
under the generic name of Wu Shu (Martial Arts), and
are known to us, erroneously, as Kung Fu (continuous
work). This last term was used by Chinese teachers
to explain their art to occidentals, and so the confusion
aroused. The Shaolin Martial Art evolved from the
year 600 for over one thousand years to become the
most complete Wu Shu in China. The monks developed
the inner power, the exterior strength, meditation,
methods of fighting with weapons, and medicinal skills,
as massage and acupuncture. .
MARTIAL ART IN JAPAN
In Japanese culture, Martial Arts play a prominent
role. They are of paramount importance in the social
history of Japan, and, to some extent, it may be said
that the history of Japan is the history of its martial
arts. The origin of modern Japan can be traced back
to the year 660 b.C., when a large mass of Mongolic
people, under the leadership of a man called Jimmu,
migrated to the archipelago. They displaced a small
native population of Caucasian origin, called the
Ainus. These immigrants brought with them their own
martial arts, prominently centered on the use of the
spear. Their fighting style is that of infantry. But,
in the I century, iron makes its appearance, and in
the VII century, already with a centralized political
power, the importation of the Mongolic horse will
definitely change their methods to cavalry. In the
VIII century, the political power in the archipelago
declares its independence from China, and the first
Japanese Emperor is proclaimed. Japanese Martial Arts
begin to evolve independently from their Chinese counterparts.
The use of the sword, and the arrow and bow, came
to the fore, while innumerable wars for the dominion
of the archipelago were taking place. But a fighting
system without weapons, which had been brought from
India and was called Jiu Jitsu, was also very much
exercised when during the battle, the warriors lost
their swords. Near the end of the Kamakura period,
diplomatical relations with China are reestablished,
by the recognition of Japan as an independent state.
The military governor of the archipelago, Minamoto
Yoritomo, gives himself the supreme title of Shogun
(greatest general). He codifies the duties of a warrior,
and those who specialized themselves in the use of
the sword, bow and arrow, or Jiu Jitsu, were called
Samurai (he who serves). The Samurais, essentially
prepared for war time, became, however, of the greatest
importance in Japanese society. They become also scholars
and artists, devoted to their Lord with absolute loyalty,
and are regarded as examples of moral statue. They
developed their own lifestyle, and it was commonly
said that "As the cherry flower stands
first among all other flowers, the Samurai stands
first among men".
By the end of the XIII century, the Samurai lifestyle
has evolved into a moral code, known as "the rode
of the bow and the horse". But Samurais had been slowly
decaying as warriors, and this was painfully felt
when the continental attempts to conquer the archipelago
reappeared with renewed strength. This forced them
again into intensive martial training. At the same
time, Zen Buddhism, which had been introduced in China
by the monk Boddhidarmha (called in Japan Daruma Taishi),
arrived to the archipelago, and influenced Samurais
strongly. The "rode of the bow and horse" evolved
to become the Bushi Do ( the road of the warrior).
In those times of perpetual war, this new moral code
became soon universally accepted among Japanese warriors,
and for many years, no battle, no matter how violent,
would escape the rules set by the Bushi Do. The core
of the Bushi Do has survived to our days, and lays
at the foundation of all modern Japanese Martial Arts.
Fire guns were introduced in Japan around the year
1543, by Portuguese merchants. The Samurai fighting
method became seriously threatened, and many of them
were killed by fire guns in the battle field. In the
year 1550, the Emperor commands the Daimyos (general)
Nobunaga Oda, to pacify the state. He pacts with the
Portuguese to obtain fire guns, and is killed for
this reason in the year 1582. His successor, Hideyoshi
Toyotomi, take away the weapons from the peasants.
The reunification will be finally achieved by Ieyasu
Tokugawa in the year 1600. This is the beginning of
the long, peaceful, and culturally brilliant Edo period.
Ieyasu Tokugawa organized Japan as a feudal monarchy.
He carried two swords, signal of his hierarchy, and
had power over the lives of his inferiors. It is in
this epoch that ritual suicidal becomes a codified
matter. Samurais should commit seppuku for fidelity
to their Lords, or as punishment for having committed
any fault. Samurais lost the right to be anything
but warriors. So, in this period of peace, they devoted
themselves to the various forms of art. Samurais will
now train themselves not to be efficient warriors,
but to be spiritually efficient, they will no longer
be men doing the art of war, but martial arts will
build the men. In the year 1639, the Tokugawa closed
Japan to the world. No one could enter the country,
and no Japanese could leave. Moreover, in the year
1699, the Daimyo Satsuma de Kagoshima, forbids the
importation of fire guns. The Edo Period, characterized
by the Tokugawa peace, ended in a terrible Civil War,
the result of the confrontation between the Emperor
Mutsuhito, who wished to reopen Japan, and the Shogun
of the Tokugawa. Under the pressure of Europe and
the United States of America, the Emperor assumed
the military power, and forced the last Shogun to
submission. This victory of the Emperor reopened Japan
to the world in the year 1868, the beginning of the
Meiji period. Samurais were no longer obliged to carry
their swords, and nearly four hundred thousand of
them were practically relegated to a complete inactivity.
Of course, many small rebellions occurred among them.
The greatest of them took place in the year 1898,
lead by Satsuma, but was finally suffocated by the
government. This was the end of Samurais as a real
power. From this point, they will become legend. In
the year 1882, Higoro Kano , great master of Jiu Jitsu,
creates Ju Do, by eliminating from the ancient art
its most dangerous aspects. This is the beginning
of the sportive aspect of martial arts. To close this
short review of Japanese history, let us mention that
Japan enters WWII under the leadership of Emperor
Hirohito, and surrenders to the Americans in the year
1945. Now the archipelago is under military government,
the leader being General McArthur. The new democratic
constitution is proclaimed in the year 1946, ending
the true power of the Emperor, who remains only as
a symbol. General Mc Arthur retires from the power
in 1951, but the military occupation by USA will not
end until the year 1972, when the last American troupe
THE MARTIAL ART IN OKINAWA
Karate Do is original from Okinawa, main island of
the Ryu Kyu, group of sixty islands that extend from
the southern extreme of the island of Kyushu till
the island of Taiwan, over 1300 kilometers of sea
. The Ryukyu have always been closely connected, politically
and economically, to Japan. In spite of this, the
central government never paid attention to the Ryukyu.
A fortuitous accident in 753, an imperial delegation
which was returning from China, with a famous Buddhist
monk among them, was dragged by a furious storm to
the Ryukyu, attracted, for the first time, the attention
of the imperial court to them.
The history of the Ryukyu is extremely agitated. Near
the 1300 , with the local King in decadence, the main
island, Okinawa, was divided in three kingdoms: Nanzan
(southern), Chuzan (in the middle), Hokuzan (northern).
In the year 1350, Satto was crowned king of Chuzan,
who, taking advantage of the natural ports, established
the first commercial treaty with the Ming emperor
of China. This situation soon established Chuzan as
the most powerful Kingdom in Okinawa, though the other
two managed to maintain political independence till
the year 1429. This is the year of the reunification
of the Ryukyu by King of Chuzan Sho Hashi, who establishes
the dominant class (shishoku) in the new capital Shuri.
In those times, martial arts in the Ryukyu were mainly
represented by a few Samurais. But the prohibition
by King Sho Shin of the use of weapons, and even of
the practice of any martial art, causes a slow decadence
in the field. Only a few members of the Shishoku escaped
the prohibition. They traveled to China to be trained,
and slowly developed a variant of Chinese box.
The Kingdom of Ryukyu kept its independence till the
year 1610, when Shogun Tokugawa invades the islands
and forces King Shonnei to accept tutelage from Japan
, to tribute yearly a cargo of rice and to maintain,
under death penalty, the prohibition to use weapons.
Many historians agree in that it is this second prohibition
which most stimulated a tremendous development of
methods of self defense. The local peasant are know
exposed to the soldiers of the emperor and common
thieves, and must resource to martial arts of empty
hands, and even to their tools(origin of Kobudo),
for their defense. On the other hand, the King used
to send clandestinely members of the Shishoku of his
confidence to China for martial training. Clandestiny
is evident in that we find in folkloric dances of
that time clear indices of martial movements. This
prohibition lasted to the Meiji period, and as a secondary
effect, we have no written documentation on the development
of Karate Do.
THE "HIDARI GOMON" (Legend
on the origin of the symbol of Okinawa)
It is said that a few years, during the Edo Period,
Okinawa suffered a great lack of rain, to the point
that the yearly tribute of rice could not be sent
to Kagoshima. Forced by the circumstances, the Lord
of Ryukyu decides to ask for liberation of that year’s
tribute. The messenger of the lord of Ryukyu, followed
by two bodyguards, was received by the Lord of Kagoshima.
But he felt angry, for he found extremely disrespectful
that the Lord of Ryukyu had sent an emissary without
the rice, and ordered their Samurais to slain them
all. But, to his surprise, the unarmed bodyguards
easily dominated the Samurai who attacked the messenger.
The Lord thought his Samurais where invincible. At
this point, the messenger says that, if he cannot
feel pity for the suffering of the people, he should
at least respect their courage, which they were not
using against his power. Meanwhile, the fight drives
the two warriors and the Samurai to fall to a large
cauldron where oil for the lamps was boiling. Moved
by this gesture, the lord of Kagoshima accepts to
dialogue with the emissary of the Lord of Ryukyu,
and not only forgives that’s year tribute, but
send rice to diminish the needs of the people of Ryukyu.
In return, he asks for masters in the martial arts
to be sent to teach his warriors.
Back in Shuri, the emissary `s recollection of the
events moved the Lord of Ryukyu: thanks to those men,
a new paradigm in the relations between the two feuds
was beginning. To tribute the memory of those warriors,
he commanded the creation of the Hidari-Gomon, which
is, since then, the symbol of the islands.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF KARATE DO
As has already been mentioned, the commercial relation
of Okinawa with China allowed the mixing of Chinese
martial arts, especially those developed in the Shaolin
temple of Fu Chou, in the province of Fu Chien, with
the local fighting techniques. This mixing would evolve
into Karate Do, but the process took hundred of years,
and careful research by many great masters. In the
meantime, the art of fighting with the bare hands
had many names. It is said that in the islands, the
fighting methods of Chinese origin were first known
as Ti, the Chinese word for hand, or Tu Ti (Chinese
hand). But, in time, Ti changed to Te, the Japanese
word for hand. A King of the islands, Satunuke Satugawa,
traveled to China to learn the martial secrets of
the masters of Fu Chuan. He was missing for many years,
and was even thought dead. But eventually he returned,
and taught what he had learnt under the name of To
Te. With time, the art of fighting with the bare hands
developed into three main styles, named after the
main cities in Okinawa where they were practiced:
Naha Te, from the city of Naha, Shuri Te, from Shuri,
and Tomari Te, from Tomari. Being very similar, eventually
Tomari Te and Shuri Te fused into a common style,
known as Shorin Ryu (shorin is the Japanese word for
shaolin, and ryu means school ). Well differentiated
from the other to, Naha Te is now known as Shorei
Ryu. Naturally, both styles are nonetheless, highly
Goyu Ryu and Uechi Ryu are styles that originate on
On the other hand, Shorin Ryu gave place to many styles,
which, however, differ very little among them, but
for the way in which the various katas are learnt.
Even though the schools from the villas Tomari, Shuri,
and Naha, have their common origin in the Shaolin
temple of Fuchou, Shorin Ryu maintains the predominance
of the fist, as a mean to preserve the traditions
of the island (techniques of the old Ti and ancient
fighting style of the island). Old masters used to
say that the characteristic features of Shorin Ryu
are due to the fact that Tomari and Shuri lay in mountainous
regions. This favored the strength of the legs, and
hence quick, sharp movements. In contrast, Shorei
Ryu retained to a larger extent the techniques of
Chinese boxing, full of movements with open hands,
and very demanding for respiration, for Naha lays
in a region were rice grew, and it was not unusual
that the training would take place with half body
in the water, a situation suited for higher thoracic
development and concentrated movements.
The above comments make natural to accept that the
main differences between Shorei and Shorin Ryu lay
in the basic movements and the respiration technique.
For Shorin Ryu, a step is executed by moving the feet
on a straight line, the speed and strength of the
strokes are well synchronized between defense and
attack, respiration proceeds naturally, and the bases
are as comfortable as advisable, so as not to produce
unnecessary tiredness. For Shorei Ryu, in contrast,
a step is executed by moving the feet on half-circles,
and respiration is forced in accordance with the particular
In 1868, end of the reign of the Tokugawa in Japan,
the Ryukyu become part of Japan. After this Meiji
restoration, the Sho dynasty, which had governed the
Ryukyu for two generations, disappears when, in 1879,
the last King Sho Tai is forced into exile to Tokyo.
The Meiji government defines the archipelago as a
province called Ryukyu Han, and the main island is
officially known as Okinawa. All threads of political
relations to China and Taiwan are definitely cut.
After all this profound social and political changes,
Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu become jointly known as
Okinawa Te, maybe as a mean to enhance cultural identity,
and only some years later, some instructors begun
to speak about Kara Te. However, kara is the lecture
of the ideogram for China and the ideogram for empty.
Hence it is very likely that that the original idea
was to speak about “Chinese hands”. It
is to be noticed that, to this point, the art had
no stable name. Each instructor named it to his own
accord, and it was still common to call it Te, or
Bushin no Te (hand of the warrior). It is also likely
that the name Kenpo (from ken, fist, and po, method)
gained popularity in those days, as a generic denomination.
This state of affairs finally ended in 1930, when
the instructor Gishin Funakoshi was asked by the University
of Keio to create a research team on Karate. He proposed
to call the art he had been asked to investigate Dai
Nippon Kenpo Karate Do (literally, road of the empty
hands and method of the fist of the great Japan).
Karate Do became the universally accepted name, meaning
Why was empty favored over Chinese? In the words of
Funakoshi:” to favor empty hands is justified
by the fact that the karate we practice nowadays is
very different from the old art of Chinese boxing,
and from the evident fact that this art of self defense
does not use weapons, but the bare hands and feet.
Moreover, those who practice this art seek to empty
their hearts and minds of vanity and earthly burdens,
and is for believing, like Buddhists, that emptiness
lays at the foundation of matter and all creation,
that I have always insisted on using that particular
character to denominate this art.”
Due to close contact between Funakoshi and the father
of Judo , Higoro Kano, Gishin creates the sportive
karate that will become popular all over the World.
In 1949 is created the Japan Karate Association, but
it is not till 1957 that the first competition among
all styles will take place in Japan.
THE GREAT MASTERS FROM OKINAWA
It is a well known fact that there were no Karate
Do schools in the old times, due, of course, to the
prohibition to practice martial arts. Instructors
chose their pupils carefully, and taught to them secretly.
This makes very hard to obtain any certain fact on
the oldest great masters of the Ryukyu. In the following
we shall, however, sketch briefly the biography of
those great masters about whom something is known
with some certainty.
Chatan Yara (1670- 1746).
He was of great importance for the diffusion of Karate
Do in Okinawa. It is said that the remarkable strength
of young Yara convinced his uncle, a successful merchant,
about that he could become a great martial artist.
Hence he suggested to the boy’s parents that
he should be sent to China for martial training, and
so was done. Under the tutelage of Chinese instructors
he became an outstanding martial artist, particularly
devoted to the art of the Bo and the twin swords.
He returned to Okinawa twenty years later and soon
became of great importance for merchants and government
officers, for he could read and write Chinese. His
many duties obliged him to practice during the earliest
ours of the morning.
It is said that one night, he saved a young lady that
was been attacked in the beach. The event impressed
the old men from the village, commonly assaulted by
Japanese merchants and Samurais, and hence they proposed
to Yara to become martial instructor of the young.
The main disciple of great master Yara was Pechin
Takahara, monk from Shuri at the service of the King,
instructor of Samurais in martial arts and writing,
and first designer of an official map of Okinawa.
History preserves the name of the instructor from
the islands Teijunsoku (also known as Nago Oyakata),
for a poem hi has written, were the Chinese Ti is
Satunuke Sakugawa (1733- 1815).
Great master Sakugawa started his martial training
with the instructor Pechin Takahara, moved by a piece
of advice his father gave to him little before dying.
He became an excellent martial artist, to the point
that Takahara himself advised him to travel to China
to be trained by Ko So Kun. He spent many years in
China , but eventually returned to Okinawa, were he
became martial instructor. He called his art To Te,
and is remembered to our days for being the creator
of Dojo Kun, the principles of the Dojo. It can be
said confidently that Sakugawa is the first instructor
of the so called true karate from Okinawa.
Disciple of Satunuke Sakugawa was Chokun Makabe,
whose pupil, Mabai Changwa, can be taken to be the
originator of Tomari Te. Other great masters of Tomari
Te were Kokan Oyadomari, Maeda Pechin, and Kosaku
Matsumura. Matsumura, direct pupil of Mabai Changwa,
trained the great master of Shorin Ryu Choki Motobu.
Choki Motobu (1871- 1944).
Choki Motobu´s family was devoted to martial
arts and training. They were considered outstanding
fighters, and devoted themselves to the protection
of their village. Choki was the youngest son, and
wished to train with his brothers even at too early
an age for his father to allow it. But Choki will
nonetheless, start to train himself, spying his family
to learn the movements. When he was discovered spying,
his father ran after him to punish him, but most of
the time Choki managed to escape the anger of the
great Motobu by climbing a high tree, so his family
used to call him “the monkey”.
It is said that the Motobu where once defied by a
very powerful and experienced Russian warrior. He
had a fame of being unbeatable. Motobu family decided
that young, inexperienced Choki should fight first,
to allow the others to study the techniques of the
impressingly big Russian. So was done, and to everyone
amazement, Choki, with extremely high speed, strikes
the Russian warrior in the chest, breaking him a rib.
The broken rib perforates the lungs of the warrior,
and so he is completely defeated by Choki. From this
moment on, Choki is considered a great warrior on
equal foot with all his family.
James Mitose, from Hawaii, was a pupil of Choki Motobu,
from 1920 till 1935 in Japan. Back in Hawaii, he creates
the Kosho Ryu Kenpo.
As a representative and precursor of Naha Te, we
should mention Kanryo Higashiona (1852- 1916). Higashiona
lived in China nearly fifteen years, where he learnt
Chinese boxing .Back from China in the year 1889,
he settles on Naha, and begins to teach his art. His
pupil Chojun Miyagi (1888- 1953), is the creator of
Goyu Ryu, and the founder of a club devoted to the
study of karate, the Okinawa Karate Jutsu Kenkyu Kai.
Also studied with Higashiona: Chutatsu Kyoda, Tsunetaka
Shiroma, and Kenwa Mabuni (1893- 1957). Mabuni is
the father of Shito Ryu, so christened to honor his
teachers, Higashiona and Anko Itosu.
Shuri Te has got, as the highest representative among
the old master,
Sokon Matsumura (1792- 1886).
Born in Yamagawa, Shuri, was already in his youth
an outstanding calligraphist and practiser of Ti.
Later he studied martial arts under the tutelage of
great master Satunuke Sakugawa, who was at the time
78 years old.
He was bodyguard of three generations of kings of
the Ryukyu. He traveled to Fouchou (China), where
he visited several schools of Chinese boxing, the
Shaolin temple, and learnt military strategy with
the great generals Ason and Iwa.
After retirement, Matsumura taught his art till his
death in Sakishama, Shuri, and named it Shorin Ryu,
the Japanese version of Shaolin.
The art of Matsumura has been kept unaltered by his
disciples Nabe Matsumura (grandson of Sokon), and
Hohan Soken (nephew of Nabe). Soken lived in Argentina
from 1920 till 1952, year in which he returns to Okinawa,
and creates the school known as Matsumura´s
Orthodox Shorin Ryu. Soken retired from teaching in
1989, and the school is maintained by his pupils Seiki
Arakaki, Mitsuo Inoue, Jushin Kohama, and Hideo Nakazato,
the heads of the Matsumura Association for Shorin
Ryu Karate Do.
Of the many students of Sokon Matsumura, two are of
paramount importance in the history of Karate Do,
being the founding fathers of two contemporary styles
of Shorin Ryu: Anko Itosu and Chotoku Kyan.
Chotoku Kyan (1870- 1945).
The son of the butler of the last King of the Ryukyu,
Sho Tai, Chotoku traveled with his father to Tokyo,
when the King was exiled. But he returned to Okinawa,
where he studied martial arts with Sokon Matsumura
(with whom he spent the largest period), Kokan Oyadomari,
Maeda Pechin, and Kosaku Matsumura , instructor of
Students of Kyan were Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku.
He used to travel with them, seeking to be defied
by other martial artists. Despite being of very small
size, Kyan was never beaten, due to his amazing speed
Among the outstanding students of Kyan is Shoshin
Shoshin Nagamine (1907- 1997).
He started to train with Chojin Kuba, Tomari Te instructor,
when he was seventeen years old. Afterwards, he became
student of Ankichi Arakaki and Taro Shimabuku. In
1931, after finishing with military duties, joins
the police force, where is trained by Chotoku Kyan
himself. Nagamine was also student of Choki Motobu,
Anko Itosu, Chomo Hanashiro, and Kensu Yabu.
In the year 1942, Nagamine opened his first Dojo,
in Tomari, which would be destroyed during the battle
of Okinawa. In 1947, he founds the Matsubayashi Ryu
(small pines forest), to honor Kosaku Matsumura and
In 1951 Nagamine is promoted to police chief inspector.
He retired from the force in 1953. That year he opened
in Naha the Dojo Kodokan, where he taught till his
Anko Itosu (1832- 1916).
Native from Yamagawa, Shuri, started his martial training
very young, he was thirteen years old, as a student
of Sokon Matsumura. He also studied Tomari Te with
Gusukuma Shiroma. He was the personal secretary of
Sho Tai, last King of the Ryukyu, until his exile.
In 1901, Itosu taught, for the first time, his art
in the primary school of Jinjo, Shuri, and in 1905
became teacher of the municipal school Dai Ichi, and
the Municipal school for the training of professors.
Itosu maintained that To Te should be taught in every
school, as the training would help to prepare the
children for military duty.
Among the outstanding students of Itosu is
Chosin Chibana (1885- 1969).
He was born in Torihori, Shuri, and begun his training
at the age of fifteen, as mentioned, as a student
of Anko Itosu, the only teacher he ever had. Chibana
started teaching at the age of thirty-four, and in
the year 1935 created the style Kobayashi Ryu (the
ideograms for Kobayashi are the same as those for
Shorin). In 1954 Chibana becomes instructor of the
police force of Shuri. He was the founding father
of the first martial arts corporation, the Okinawa
Karate Do Renmei, in 1956, which put an end to the
old tradition of transmission of leadership (Menkio)
in Shuri Te. In 1957, Chosin Chibana is awarded the
10° Dan degree by the Dai Nippon Butokukai.
Chibana creates in 1958, the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate
Do Kyo Kay (Shorin Ryu Karate Do Association of Okinawa),
and enters the Federation.
In 1960, Chibana is awarded the Okinawa Time Shinbun,
a prize in recognition to his various services to
physical culture. In 1961, the name of the Federation
was changed to All Okinawa Karate Do Federation, but
Chibana quitted the Federation the next year. Chibana
is awarded by Emperor Hiroito the Kunyonto recognition
as a Sacred Treasure in 1968.
Great master Chosin Chibana died of facial carcinoma
in 1969. He was eighty-four years old.
Chibana´s main student, Katsuya Miyahira, became
the president of the Shorin Ryu Karate Do Association
Katsuya Miyahira ( 1918- ).
He started to practice Karate Do at the age of fifteen,
as a student of Chibana. He also studied with Ambun
Tokuda, Anko Itosu, and Choki Motobu.
During WW II, Miyahira taught self defense in schools.
After the war, he taught at his home, and later moved
to Naha, where he opened his first Dojo, in Goeku.
At the same time, he was teaching at the University
of Okinawa, in Shuri.
In 1956, Miyahira built, only with wood, a Dojo behind
his new home in Tsuboya. He named it Shidokan.
In 1958 Miyahira was awarded by the Martial Arts Federation
of Japan (this is the supreme organization which regulates
all martial arts in Japan), the grade of Great Master
in Martial Arts, Kyoshingo (he who can teach), and
was designated permanent member of the jury.
Miyahira was designated Permanent Member of the Shorin
Ryu Karate Do Association of Okinawa in 1969, position
which he presently holds.
Miyahira is responsible for developments of capital
importance in contemporary Karate Do:
the introduction of analytic movements for each Kata
as an obligatory part of the practicing, and profound
studies on the philosophical foundations of Karate
Do. His principles for the Dojo are: reason, justice,
union and cooperation (goro, goho, kiodon, kioei).
Great master Miyahira , 10° Dan, is the president
of the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Do Kyo Kay.
We should also briefly mention the important instructor
Doshin Sho. He learnt his art in China, from the Shaolin
monks. In 1948, in the island Todotsu, Japan, creates
the Shorinji Kenpo.c
We would like to close this review with the
man who made karate known to the World:
Gichin Funakoshi (1868- 1957).
He was born in Shuri, only son of an unimportant functionary.
He was almost a baby when he was left to the care
of his motherly grandparents. Already in primary school,
he became close friend of the son of Tasutsune Azato,
a well known karateca, who had been taught, among
others, by Sokon Matsumura. So young Funakoshi became
a student of Azato, secretly, for the prohibition
to practice martial arts was still in force in the
Azato was close fried of Anko Itosu, who used to go
to practice to his house. So Funakoshi also had Itosu´s
In 1902, Funakoshi was invited to Kagoshima (big island
of Japan), to perform a demonstration for Shintaro
Ozawa and a school commissioner of the prefecture
of Kagoshima. He performed the first public exhibition
in Okinawa in 1906 and in Tokyo in 1917.
In 1922 Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo, again invited
for an exhibition, but this time, moved by the people’s
enthusiasm, remained in Tokyo, where, in 1936, he
opened his first own Dojo, and named it Shotokan.
As is well known, Funakoshi was forced to change to
some extent the techniques from Okinawa, to make karate
more accessible to the naturals from Naichi (big island
of Japan). As was already explained, he is also responsible
for the name Karate Do and its modern meaning.
THE KATAS OF SHORIN RYU KOBAYASHI
Kihon Kata (from ichi dan to go dan).
They where created to exercise the basic positions
by Chosin Chibana. The Kihon Kata allows the student
to combine the various basic techniques and achieve
adequate coordination. They are also useful to learn
how to stand and walk for self-defense , by demanding
an adequate positioning and a correct situation for
the centre of gravity.
Naihanchi ( from Shodan to Sandan).
It is not known who created them. These katas where
already practiced in the schools of Shuri and Tomari,
before the pignan were created. Hence they are taught
nowadays before the pignan. It is said that they were
simplified from the original form taught by Matsumura,
by Anko Itosu.
These katas are an excellent exercise for the spinal
column, the feet and the legs, and so become fundamental
to any future technical development. The position
characteristic of this katas, kiba dachi, allow us
to find the right position: straight spine, low shoulders,
hidden chin, and the strength concentrated in the
low abdominals (tandem).
With regard to self-defense, these katas represent
a fight in a small, narrow space (e.g., a corridor).
They contain ashi barai techniques and defenses from
grasping of arms and wrists.
Pignan (from Shodan to Godan).
They were created by Anko Itosu in 1907, in order
to adapt the practice of Karate do to primary school.
They are based on techniques taken from the kata Kusankuso.
(It is sometimes said that these katas were taken
from another kata, which Itosu had learnt from a Chinese
instructor, Chiang Nan, who lived in Okinawa in those
days. But Chiang Nang, being of difficult pronunciation
to the people from Okinawa, was changed to Pignan.)
The Pignan are a natural step after the Kihon katas,
and make easier to learn Kusankuso. Their applications
comprehend techniques to neutralize composite attacks
from every side.
Fukyu Kata (Dai Ichi and Dai Ni).
The Ichi was created by Shoshin Nagamine in 1941,
also with the purpose of teaching karate to children.
It has been changed to become accepted by the Karte
World Federation. These katas are not taught in Miyahira´s
Pasai (Sho and Dai).
Pasai means “to walk around the fortress”.
It is a kata of great strength, its movements are
soft and flexible, hence powerful. Both Pasai have
many crossed defenses, which demand great speed and
Sho means short, and dai, long.
Kusanku (Sho and Dai).
It is believed that this katas originate in a kata
brought to the Ryukyu by a Chinese instructor, Kusanku
or Kosokun, around the year 1761. It is told that
Satunuke Sakugawa (in those days, pupil of Pechin
Takahara), while crossing a bridge, saw a Chinese
admiring the reflection of the moon in the water.
Young Sakugawa decided to play him a joke, by throwing
him into the river; but when he was about to push
the strange, he turned around swiftly, and grasped
Sakugawa´s hand. “Why did you do that?
-asked the Chinese- You shouldn’t play this
way. But people in Ryukyu has been very kind to me,
I’ll let you go peacefully”.
Sakugawa was very surprised. Meanwhile, a man from
the village came and offered some water to the Chinese.
Sakugawa bowed his head to the the man who had just
arrived, and the Chinese asked him if he knew young
Skugawa. “Yes-answered the man- He is a student
of martial arts from the village”. Then the
Chinese looked at Sakugawa and said: “If you
ever go to Kamemura, ask for Kusanku, and I’ll
teach you not only the ways of martial arts, but also
the why.” As has already been said, Sakugawa
traveled to China under the tutelage of Kusanku, and
remained there for many years. At his return, he started
to teach a kata named after his master.
The Kusanku katas were revised by Sakugawa´s
disciple Choken Makabe.
All basic techniques are contained and developed in
the Kusanku katas, and we can find defenses against
attacks with Bo, and techniques for hiding (udetate
Chinto is the name of the Chinese monk who brought
the kata to the Ryukyu.
In Chinto, the stress is on low positions (neko ashi
dachi kudushi, siko dachi, kokutsu dachi), and demands
perfect equilibrium to perform the defense tsuruashi
(a foot hooked in the standing leg, behind the knee).
Goyushiho means 54 steps. It develops techniques of
simultaneous defense and attack. We see among its
movements many defenses and attacks to be performed
with open hands, which evokes the Chinese origin of
Teisho was created by the great master Katsuya Miyahira.
As announced in its name, it allows to practice the
hit teisho (also, shotei), very useful for self defense.
It is named after the temple Yi On in Okinawa, were
the monk who introduced it used to live. Jion is an
outstanding kata, for it develops every position and
technique, elementary and very advanced, in a balanced
fashion, to achieve perfect training of every part
of the body. This kata is not taught in Shidokan.
Old Pasai. It has recently been rescued from oblivion
by Katsuya Miyahira. Koryu Pasai is the old form of
modern Pasai katas without modifications.