Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Thank your to Hanshi Patrick McCarthy for letting me publish this article here. For those interested why not visit the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society
Stepping/sliding & using the hips in KU
By Patrick McCarthy, KU 9th Dan
Stepping and sliding is all about footwork, leading control and balance displacement; Did you ever notice how abrupt stances are in much of modern karate? In old-school karate, the moving posture concept pre-supposes three possibilities: #1. That the effectiveness of striking can be enhanced with movement [F = M x A], #2. That evasive movement can be enhanced, and #3. In the event that the defender is being seized [*a lot of emphasis on this concept] that an opponent's balance can be more easily displaced; i.e., with an opponent seizing onto you, or your garment, the close proximity makes it easy to create a distraction [spit in the eyes, finger flick to, or seizing of, the testicles, etc.] and spin in/out or under the opponents arms and use the principles of leading control in a certain direction; hence making it easier to impact them [make them weak] before displacing their balance and finishing/or submitting them.
The vibrant hip torquing exampled in KU is about constantly training the core with macro-motion; in conjunction with posture movement, it also helps strengthen the overall ability to better generate explosive force.
oday marks the birthday of Inomoto-Hanshi who is an exceptional technician and a major contributor to my understanding of Okinawan and Japanese Budo.
Inomoto-hanshi lived down the street from O-Chitose and although not his longest student (that belongs to Kugizaki Sensei) was his 'Tori' or "Uke' for most demonstrations. Raised in KyuShu in the aftermath of the war he often told me stories of how difficult life was with especially painful experience around malnutrition and hunger.
Losing his father at a young age Inomoto-Sensei would join the Self-defense forces and become a major - the highest non-commissioned office post.
As a child he trained in judo and thus was a favourite 'partner' for O Sensei during demos. Also when O Sensei was ill, Inomoto-sensei was there to work out the kinks in the masters aching body.
During his early years in the 自衛隊 (Jieita), Inomoto met Chitose and began to train with him. At that time it was Inomoto, Kugizaki and later Sakamoto who were the deshi. Under Chitose, Inomoto would achieve the rank of Kyoshi, 8th dan. O-Chitose also gave the young Inomoto strict instructions to study kobudo and bring back his learning to the Hombu.
Hanashi also trained in Jyukendo and held dans in a few karate groups - these are displayed on the walls of his office.
Later the young Inomoto was stationed to Okinawa where he would meet O-Akamine from whom he learned kobudo. He told us of many fond memories of Akamine Sensei, with a towel wrapped around his head, making noodles and feeding his deshi after long practice. Often such dinners ended in songs! As his student you could definitely see the love and respect Inomoto has for Akamine Sensei and for kobudo. If you ever have an opportunity to see Inomoto sensei use a bo, you will understand what a 'bujin' really functions like.
It was also during these years that he met his life-long friend
whom he considered one of his truest friends and a great budoka. He use to love to tell the tale of the 'blue-eye' blonde who showed up with a big "hi" at the airport (she was in the American forces) when they met. Together they would have a massive impact on shaping the kobudo world.
Hanshi went on to form his own organization JikiShin Ryu (Original or True Lineage Way) which did not deviate from the teachings he received from O-Chitose and O-Akamine.
However, never one to rest on his laurels in his late 60s he began the serious study of iaido and became one of the top ranked and recognized swordsmen within the Zen Nippon Iaido Renmei.
His organization in under the guardianship of his youngest daughter Mami who is an exceptional budoka in her own right. Her performance of Bassai is flawless!
When sensei got promoted to 9th Dan, he was doing to throw out his very worn and 'dirty' kyoshi belt which had been one of a couple he had gotten as a present from Chitose. He was talked out of it and the belt survives.
Happy Birthday to a truly exceptional human being! I am blessed that our paths met and I still continue to explore and unpack the lesson taught
So what did you think you were practicing? - Vancouver Kowakan
I believe that ALL karate-do on Okinawa represents an amalgam of kata and training techniques introduced into the Ryukyus over a period of about 250 years. I do not know of ANY “PURE” system of karate-do (i.e. a Chinese Quan’fa lineage transferred in its entirety to Okinawa and perpetuated there by a succeeding generation of students).
Some may argue that Kojo-ryu and Uechi-ryu represent comprehensive Chinese systems with a verifiable lineage introduced to Okinawa, but I do not agree. Legend has it that Uechi Kanbun, the founder of Uechi-ryu, received his teaching license from Shu Shi Wa (Zhou Zi He)(a tiger, crane, dog boxer). Uechi reportedly tore up his license after a fatal incident in which one of his students supposedly killed another man in some sort of dispute. Uechi reportedly felt somehow responsible for the death, tore up his license, closed his dojo in China, returned to Okinawa and vowed never to teach again. Certainly a very romantic story, but without any corroborating evidence it remains just that, a story. I am more inclined to think Uechi is an eclectic mix based on Uechi Kanbun’s studies.
Remember, Uechi referred to his “art” initially as Pangainoon-jutsu (half-hard technique). However, NO style going under this name has ever been discovered, despite lengthy research trips to Fuzhou by the Uechi Karate-do Association. It more than likely refers to a common fighting principle found in ALL Chinese Chuan’fa systems (i.e. hard and soft).
As for Kojo-ryu, I was once inclined to think that the karate practiced by the Kojo clan was a clearly delineated style originating in China. But now I am not so sure. It seems to me (at least) that its training methods and kata as well represent an amalgam of sources introduced over generations. But I stand to be corrected.
To my knowledge, I do not know of any Chuan’fa style practiced on Okinawa with the exception of those styles introduced after WWII. If indeed Okinawans studied a Chuan’fa systems in its entirety, why then do none of them have teaching licenses from their Chinese teachers?
Why do none of them refer to their art using the original Chinese names (e.g. white crane, white eyebrow, 18 Buddha hands, monk fist, yong chun (wing chun), hung gar, lau gar, five ancestor fist, etc.)? Just food for thought.
With that said however, I do not feel that because Okinawan karate-do is heavily influenced by a mixture of diﬀerent Chinese chuan’fa, S.E., indigenous sources, and Asian fighting arts, it does not deter from it as a form of civil self-defence. Through the centuries, karate has become a uniquely Okinawan and Japanese martial art in its own right.
Unfortunately, many Okinawans and Japanese would consider what I have just written as blasphemy. Having lived in Japan for eight years, this doesn’t surprise me in the least as Japan is one of the most Confucianism countries in the world. Veneration of ancestors and the past is an important part of Japanese culture. Hence a connection to these elements is very, very important and is usually expressed in the karate world as an unbroken lineage stretching back to China.
But there are teachers and researchers in Okinawa and Japan who do not take this perspective and see karate’s development in a very diﬀerent and eclectic light. These would include: Tokashiki, Hirakami, Otsuka and possibly Kinjo.
I am going to stick my neck out here a little, but what I find frustrating in the West is that there is such little information in English available on karate-do history. In the case of Goju-ryu the vast majority of this information has come from one source, Higaonna Morio sensei. I have met Higaonna sensei, and read his research. Besides being an outstanding teacher of Goju-ryu, his research is excellent. However, it represents only ONE THEORY.
Unfortunately, since they do not have access to competing theories, many Western karateka take this as gospel. It would be nicer to have more information out there so that the reader can form his or her own opinion about the facts at hand.
I honestly feel that people, for one reason or another, need to feel connected to something. Something larger than themselves. Having an unadulterated lineage provides this connection. Hence the idea that Goju-ryu (or any other system) can be traced back to the founder. This is even more so for the Japanese and Okinawans whose identity is very much dictated by group dynamics and group relations. Severing these by stating that there is no real connection would be like a form of solitary confinement. The political and social repercussions in the karate world would be severe IMHO.
Good luck in your training and in your research
So my website is celebrating its 1 year birthday!!!! To help celebrate the event I have got permission from my good friend and fellow- Japanophile Mr Mario McKenna (and fellow irishman!) to share one of my all time favorite articles.
For those of you who do not know Mario or his work he is a well renowned translator and historian of karate and kobudo primary sources. Having lived in both japan and Okinawa for over a decade Mario's work continues to inspire those who have come across it. Currently resideing in Canada Mario continues to teach and explore Kobudo and Karate.
I hope you enjoy and find as inspiring as I did this great article entitled: "So What did you think you were practicing"
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan