Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Thoughts on International Education
Having been swamped under with work - a positive swamp, as working on what I believe to be some very important issues - I have been unable to keep up on my wee blog. Thankfully, I have come across the wonderful and clear thinking of John McWhorter linguist and social commentator. His work may be found HERE . Professor McWhorter has authored numerous pieces on a range of topic but I encourage, those of you who have not read his work, to read it. He calls for clarity in a time where myopia appears prevalent.
As someone once said ' divided, we fall; united we stand.'
I say - The past is there to guide us to a better future not to BE our present.
As someone who studies Japanese budo you may have heard and wondered what is the difference between Jitsu, Jutsu and Jyutsu. While in English the words are used interchangeably in Japanese the difference is obvious. Jitsu (実) or to read it in the Japanese kana じつ actually means something real or whole and as such is not the word that should be associated with budo.
On the other hand, Jyutsu (術) in the Japanese kana is read as じゅつand can mean technique, method of art and IS the Japanese word associated with budo. Where some of the confusion comes from is depending in the Romanisation system being used (e.g. Hepburn, JSL, Nihon-Shiki etc). In this case, the extended vowels, such as じゅ can be written as ‘jyu’ or ‘jū’. In the latter case the long vowel is indicated by a dash above the given vowel or it is translated directly from the Japanese kana notation. Strictly speaking the 'ju' sound does NOT exist in Japanese - only 'jyu'.
To make things just that more confusing sometimes, as in the case of ‘judo’, although it should be written as Jyudo or Jūdo, it has moved into common English as Judo. But specifically speaking “judo’ is wrong as it ‘jujitsu’ - which should be written as jyujyutsu (柔術).
This all makes from mass confusion, especially if you are trying to have a conversation in Japanese and your sense hears you say Jitsu (実) when you actually mean Jyutsu (術)!!! So remember even if others don’t use the ‘jyu’ sound when talking about budo jyutsu, your sensei and those of us with a finicky Japanese disposition will appreciate your efforts at clarity.
There again, I live in ToKeyYo and practice kerayte!
Stay well, stay clear. Remember intercultural competence starts with trying our best to communicate clearly.
Depending on your lineage of karate, the role of the 'hips' rests somewhere on a spectrum from absolutely necessary to not needed at all. In Chito Ryu, the use of the hips is significant but not always understood. This shortcoming may be partially due to the ‘lost in translation’ as karate moved from Okinawa to Japan and then into the English speaking world.
Starting my karate training in Canada, I was always told to rotate my hips to help generate a whipping motion; thus, when the word ‘hip’ was used, it meant the skeletal structure. Later I moved to Japan, where koshi (腰) was used. However, koshi referred to the lower back; waist; hips; lumbar region - so a bit more than the bone focus I had understood in Canada. This was a far broader region and appeared to use the large muscles of the lower back and buttocks to generate power, stability and movement. Yet, all was not done as I soon learned that in Okinawa they use the Okinawan dialects’ gamaku (横っ腹) which entailed the entire skeletal system of the core region, ligaments, tendons and muscular structure of the midsection of the body.
Moreover, in most cases also included the use of the diaphragm to regulate breathing. This notion of using the core of the body to stabilise balance, cultivate power and enable breathing, in theory, should lead to a concentration of power called Chinkunchi (ちんくんち). Oh, and let’s not forget a ‘punch’ is better understood as a thrust (tsuki) to generate ‘atifa’ (衝撃波) which is a shock wave of energy given to the opponent (although to be fair I have hardly ever heard this term used).
Confused? It's OK. Where I work our head nurse is Okinawa and she was not overly familiar with the term gamaku. She heard the older people using it, but when she was growing up her seniors always told her to speak mainland Japanese and not the local dialect. She is saddened now as the dialect is dying out and with it some of the beauty that is Okinawa culture.
So next time at training when someone tells you to ‘rotate your hips’ - ask them what exactly they mean!
For more interesting ideas on Okinawan dialect and karate-do visit the site:
Below is an article written by fellow Budoka and researcher Mark Tankosich. Mark lives in Japan where he works at writes out of a university in Southern Japan. He holds a 6th dan, Renshi in Jodo. His home page is: http://www.marktankosich.com/
Please visit Mark's page as he has many excellent, well researched papers on Japan, Okinawa and Budo culture.
Karate Ni Sente Nashi:
What the Masters Had to SayIntroductionPerhaps no Japanese phrase is more familiar to karate practitioners around the world than “karate ni sente nashi.” Typically translated as, “There is no first attack in karate,” this maxim has become known primarily through the teachings of Gichin Funakoshi. The founder of Shotokan and, according to many, the “father of modern karate-do,” Funakoshi made the principle the second of his Niju Kun (“Twenty Precepts”), following only the directive to not forget that “karate begins and ends with courtesy” (Funakoshi, “Karate-do nijukajo”).
Clearly, for Funakoshi, the maxim karate ni sente nashi was of great importance. In addition to including it as one of his “Twenty Precepts,” he stated in a 1935 magazine article that he “view[s] it as [expressing] the essence of karate-do” (Funakoshi, “Karate no hanashi” 65). Nor is he alone in this view: Shoshin Nagamine, respected founder of the Matsubayashi school of Shorin-ryu karate, wrote that, “This phrase [. . .] embodies the essence of Okinawan karate” (Nagamine 13). Similarly, Masatoshi Nakayama, longtime head of the Japan Karate Association, stated that, “[. . .] it is not an exaggeration to say that it is these words that succinctly and fully express the spirit of karate-do” (Nakayama 80).
With such esteemed masters as these expressing such strong sentiments regarding the significance of the sente nashiprinciple, one can only assume that the principle represents a way of thinking that is — or at least should be — profoundly important for those who consider themselves to be serious practitioners of the art of karate-do. Specifying just exactly what that way of thinking is, in all of its subtleties, would perhaps be a difficult task, but obviously, at its most basic level, the maxim at least clearly proscribes the use of any “first strikes” on the part of karate-ka. Or does it?
Differing OpinionsCertainly many of today’s karate practitioners would argue that striking first is a violation of karate ni sente nashi. Iain Abernethy notes, for example, that when he published an article in some British magazines advocating the use of pre-emptive striking in certain situations:
[. . .] I received a markedly increased level of correspondence. Some were very supportive of [my position] [. . .]. Of those who contacted me in the positive, many stated that their immediate peer group were wholly opposed to the idea [. . .].
The ones who responded in the negative were often VERY strong in their opposition. Their objections were essentially based on moral grounds, but a number cited “karate ni sente nashi” as if I was encouraging the breaking of an 11th commandment! (Abernethy, “Striking First?!” Emphasis in final sentence added.)
Similarly, in his book Steady Training, Antonio Bustillo notes:
I’ve heard many instructors quote the [sente nashi] slogan stating it means you must first wait for an opponent to attack and strike out before you retaliate. As verification to their testimony they use the katas as examples. “Every kata starts with a block. [. . .]” (Bustillo 247)
Yet, there are also those karate-ka who disagree with this position, who believe that the sente nashi principle does not necessarily rule out all first strikes. These practitioners typically argue that a “first attack” can also consist of something other than a physical blow and that once an opponent has engaged in such an attack the karate-ka is free to “defend” himself by striking first. Abernathy, for instance, says:
I believe that ‘karate-do ni sente nashi’ and the pre-emptive strike are in no way mutually exclusive and can exist side by side. To my mind, once an assailant has decided to attack us, the attack has begun. We are then well within our rights to use whatever methods are appropriate to ensure our safety. [. . .] If an individual is behaving in an aggressive way whilst attempting to invade our personal space then there is a strong possibility that their verbal aggression is about to escalate to the physical. This verbal assault is an attack in itself and waiting until the attack becomes physical is foolhardy in the extreme. (Abernethy, Bunkai-Jutsu 122)
Similarly, an anonymous author, after describing a hypothetical situation in which a female karate-ka dispatches three men who accosted her on the street late at night, writes:
Only when we factor in the intent of your opponents do we get a better picture of “karate ni sente nashi.” [. . .] They surrounded you at midnight. They closed mae (sic) [i.e., engagement distance]. They assumed kamae [i.e., fighting postures] even if only American streetgang type nonchalant kamae. [. . .] Their intents were probably violent for such actions as the above can hardly be interpreted as altruistic.
If you felt your life was in danger by their intent your first attack is defense. The war broke out when they stepped across the line of intent and into your personal protected space. [. . .]
When you feel the breach in peace it is time to strike. [. . .] The war has begun. The person who throws the first strike is immaterial (sic). The war began with mobilization, entrapment and perceived intent. [. . .] You would be foolish to delay until after the first physical strike is thrown at you [. . .]. [. . .]
The well-trained martial artist [. . .] may find certain situations [. . .] as conditions where she justifiably throws the physical first strike without breaching “karate ni sente nashi.” (Karate Ni Sente Nashi)
What the Masters Had to Say
Kohaku Iwai lists four Okinawans — all of them legendary martial artists — as “the warriors who introduced karate-jutsu to the [Japanese] mainland”: Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, Chojun Miyagi and Kenwa Mabuni (Iwai 187-211). What, one wonders, did these men have to say about interpreting the karate ni sente nashi maxim? A future paper will examine Funakoshi’s thoughts; here, let us look at some of the writings of Miyagi, Motobu and Mabuni.
To the best of this author’s knowledge, there were three documents produced by Chojun Miyagi (or at least three have been made public): Goju-ryu kenpo, Ho goju donto and Karate-do gaisetsu (“Outline of Karate-do”) (1). The first two of these, written in 1932 and 1942 respectively, contain no reference to sente nashi. In Karate-do gaisetsu, Miyagi does briefly mention the sente nashi principle, but not in any way that is particularly helpful to our discussion. In the version that appears in Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts, we find the following paragraph:
Folklore contends that the teaching methods of long ago focused mainly upon self-defense, with little emphasis placed upon training the mind, or cultivating the precept “karate-do ni sente nashi” (there is no first attack in karate-do). I have observed the neglect of this diligent principle, although, with the passage of time, teaching policies have gradually improved to where that imbalance has, for the most part, been corrected. My conviction is that the fist and Zen are one of the same (sic). Together, this balance cultivates intellect ahead of strength. The transmission of budo’s essential precept must be fostered. (Miyagi, “Karate-do Gaisetsu” 50) (2)
Other than in this passage, Miyagi makes no mention of the sente nashi maxim.
Choki Motobu, in his 1932 publication Watashi no karate-jutsu (“My Karatejutsu”), expresses his thoughts on sente nashiin a way that is directly relevant to the question being asked here. In a one-paragraph section titled Karate ni sente nashi, he writes:
There is an expression, “karate ni sente nashi.” Apparently some people interpret this literally and often profess that “one must not attack first,” but I think that they are seriously mistaken. To be sure, it is certainly not the budo spirit to train for the purpose of striking others without good reason. I assume that you already understand that one’s primary purpose must be the training of mind and body. The meaning of this saying, then, is that one must not harm others for no good reason. But when a situation can’t be helped, in other words, when, even though one tries to avoid trouble, one can’t; when an enemy is serious about doing one harm, one must fiercely stand and fight. When one does fight, taking control of the enemy is crucial, and one must take that control with one’s first move. Thus, in a fight one must attack first. It is very important to remember this. (Motobu 58- 59) (3)
Indeed, on at least one occasion Choki Motobu did demonstrate his willingness to strike first, if a story told to karate researcher Charles Goodin is to be believed. Goodin reports that he heard the story from Motobu’s son, Chosei, who in turn had heard it from Chozo Nakama, a former student of the elder Motobu (4). According to the account provided Goodin, Choki Motobu, in his seventies at the time, was attending a large party when a former student burst in and, waving a knife, challenged Motobu. Goodin reports:
“I can use this,” [the student] declared stabbing the knife into Motobu’s table, “I will never lose the fight.” (sic)
[. . .] “I won’t fight with any weapon,” [Motobu] stated calmly. “I won’t fight with a knife.” Although he tried his best to convince the student not to fight, the student insisted. “Are you really that determined to fight me with a knife?” asked Motobu.
“I am,” proclaimed the student defiantly. “I won’t change my mind!”
“All right then,” said Motobu finally. “I will take you up on your offer, but we should not fight in the house.”
The student grabbed the knife and headed for the door. Motobu followed closely behind. Just before the student reached the door, Motobu kicked him in the back, shattering his backbone. (Goodin 12)
Assuming that the above account is accurate, whether or not the situation in which Motobu found himself can truly be called one in which physical conflict was unavoidable is, perhaps, open to debate. Motobu’s willingness to strike first, however, is clear.
Additional information regarding Motobu’s thoughts on striking first can be found in Motobu Choki sensei: Goroku (“A Collection of Sayings of Sensei Choki Motobu”) (5). There, listed as saying number nine, we find a statement that seemingly contradicts the karate ni sente nashi principle: Karate wa sente de aru (“karate is the first attack”). (Nakata 42). Given the opinion that he expresses in Watashi no karate-jutsu (see above), it seems reasonable to conclude that with these words Motobu meant to stress the importance of striking first when trouble is unavoidable.
Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of the Shito-ryu school of karate, produced a number of publications during his lifetime. Among them, and co-authored with Genwa Nakasone, was the book Kobo kenpo karate-do nyumon, about which noted karate historian Patrick McCarthy has written:
Considered his best work of all [. . .]. [. . .] this [. . .] was considered by one writer to be the real “Master Text” of karate-do. [. . .] Mabuni Kenwa won widespread recognition during that pre-war era with this book and, considering the magnitude of this work, it is surprising to hear that it has never been translated into English. (McCarthy, “Standing” 30)
In this book, in a section of Chapter 10 entitled “Correct and Incorrect Understanding of the Meaning of ‘Karate ni Sente Nashi,’” we find the following extremely relevant comments:
There is a precept “karate ni sente nashi.” Properly understood, this indicates a mental attitude of not being eager or inclined to fight. It is the teaching that just because one has trained in karate does not mean that one can rashly strike or kick others. It seems that there are two types of mistaken interpretations regarding this precept, and [I’d] like to correct them.
The first is a mistaken understanding held by some people who are not karate practitioners. Such people say, “In all fights the opportunity for victory is seized by getting the jump on your enemy; a passive attitude such as sente nashi is inconsistent with Japanese budo.” Such a view forgets the essential purpose of budo: Bu (6) takes as its ideal the stopping of the spear (7), and its aim is the maintenance of peace. Those who make such statements do not understand that the true spirit of Japanese budo means not being bellicose.
When faced with someone who disrupts the peace or who will do one harm, one is as a warrior gone to battle, and so it only stands to reason that one should get the jump on the enemy and preempt his use of violence. Such action in no way goes against the precept of sente nashi.
Second is a mistaken understanding found among some karate practitioners. It is a view that does not see sente nashi as an attitude, but rather as a literal, behavioral rule to be rigidly followed. As noted above, when absolutely necessary, when one is already facing a battle, it is an accepted truth of strategy that one should try to take sensen no sen (8) and forestall the enemy’s actions.
In conclusion, the expression karate ni sente nashi should be properly understood to mean that a person who practices karate must never take a bellicose attitude, looking to cause an incident; he or she should always have the virtues of calmness, prudence and humility in dealing with others. (Mabuni and Nakasone 82-83) (9)
Examining the writing of Chojun Miyagi reveals little regarding his interpretation of the karate ni sente nashi maxim. Our look at the thoughts of two other legendary karate pioneers, though – Choki Motobu and Kenwa Mabuni – clearly shows that they strongly believed that striking first does not necessarily violate the sente nashi principle. Indeed, both men seem to have felt that a first strike is, under certain conditions, the only reasonable course of action for a karateka to take. It is interesting to note that, just as is true today, when Motobu and Mabuni were writing their books (in the 1930s), there were apparently those who viewed sente nashi as being a prohibition on striking first; both masters unambiguously condemn such literal interpretations.
Given his (assuming here for the purposes of discussion, well-deserved) reputation as somewhat of a ruffian who had more than his share of fights, one might argue, perhaps, that Choki Motobu’s views on the properness of striking first should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. What of Kenwa Mabuni and his views, though? In what light should we see them? According to McCarthy, Mabuni was “a staunch advocate of the moral values established to govern the behavior of karate-do practitioners” (McCarthy, “Standing” 34). If this is true, then one could hardly “explain away” Mabuni’s expressed willingness to strike first as the view of someone not particularly concerned with whether or not karate-ka behaved in a morally-proper manner. Apparently, when Mabuni (with Nakasone) stated that, “[. . .] when one is already facing a battle, it is an accepted truth of strategy that one should try to take sensen no sen and forestall the enemy’s actions,” he did so with complete awareness of the moral issues involved.
AcknowledgmentsThe author would like to express his heartfelt gratitude to his wife (and best friend), Yasuko Okane, and to his colleague and friend, Izumi Tanaka, for their patient Japanese language assistance. He would also like to thank leading karate researcher Joe Swift for his helpful email correspondence, and martial arts author Iain Abernethy for his kind help. Any and all errors are, of course, solely the fault of the author.
Translated by Aodhan and James M. Hatch
Sept. 12, 2020
Below is a translation of a newspaper article from the Kumamoto newspaper Kumamoto Daily News, first published in September 1973. In it, Chitose Sr talks about his life in karate and highlights some key events. The heavy lifting of the translation was done by my son Aodhan Hatch, with minor tweaks made by myself. Any mistakes will be a result of these tweaks and as such are my fault.
While every attempt has been made to translate the document the nature of working between Japanese, a high context language, and English often makes the intended subtly missing. In such places as where we have expanded beyond the written text, I have added italics.
A special thanks to my Norweigan colleague Dr Rune Ingebrigtsen for passing a copy of the original of this article to me.
68 years living with karate: Kumamoto City’s Chitose-san
The soft sounds of a jabisen (Okinawan musical instrument) float across the morning air in Shimizu-Cho, in Kumamoto city. The musician, still alert and healthy is a 68-year-old man who has lived with karate as a core of his life for 68 years. This is Chitose-san, a worldwide know exponent on the traditional Okinawan practice of karate. As he begins to speak his deep-seated passion for karate is evident.
A major turning point in Chitose's karate life took place shortly after the end of the war in downtown Kumamoto. In a local side street off the main thoroughfare, a large brawl broke out, involving approximately 30 people between returned Japanese troops and locally stationed American troops. The fight was causing a large commotion and there was a danger to bystanders. Annoyed with this disturbance Chitose entered the fray alone. Using only his fist and legs he sent the ruffians flying and peace returned. Having quelled the situation, he left silently.
The next day Chitose received a call to attend the local police station and they wanted to have a ‘chat’. Shocked and somewhat worried he was fearful he was going to be arrested for quelling the disturbance, despite it having been a good act for the public. Upon arrival at the station he was ushered into the Head of Police’s office where, to his utter surprise, he was presented with a letter of thanks form the police for his role in resolving the previous day’s altercation. Furthermore, the Head of the USA’s MPs came by the Chitose household and asked Chitose is he would be willing to teach all the MPs stationed locally, approximately 45 people. He agreed and life was to change dramatically.
Chitose was born in Kumioji, on the outskirts of Naha city, Okinawa. When he was 20 years old he joined the imperial guard (Konoe Shidan) but was ‘kicked out’ after 18 months as he had contracted typhoid. He returned to Okinawa where he worked for 18 months as a substitute teacher. However, he wanted to follow the path of medicine so he returned to Tokyo where he worked in a Tokyo hospital as a gynaecology doctor for about 20 years.
However, due to the war, Chitose decided to leave Tokyo and headed to Kumamoto where he worked as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten. The year following his move to Kumamoto, the war ended (i.e. 1945). He settled down near his wife’s (Makie-san) family home in Kikuchi city. Nevertheless, with the urging on a friend he decided to open the Chitose Hykaten, a department store. Sadly, the business was poor and he was forced to close the store after five years of operation. At this time he was also running a small dojo for locals.
Chitose’s karate history goes a long way back. He started karate while at elementary school (7 years old). He learned Shorin Ryu (i.e. Shuri no Te) and also the Shoreiryu (i.e. Naha no Te). While operating his dojo in Kikuchi city he combined both these styles into a new style called Chito Ryu. This style was based on Chitose’s long years of research into the physiology and anatomy of humans.
The kanji uses for wa (唐) is the same used for the traditional kanji of ‘kara’ used originally in Okinawa. Chitose expressly selected this kanji as he wanted to ensure the tradition of karate was passed on.
In 1953 he moved his dojo to Kumamoto city, Shimizu-Cho (area). From 1964 until the present (i.e. 1973) Shimizu-Cho in Kumamoto-city has served as the headquarters of the Chito Kai Association. Chitose is a 10th-degree blackbelt, the Saiko Shihan (leading instructor) and Soke (i.e. founder) of Chito Ryu. The Hombu dojo currently has approximately 150 members, aged between 8-60 training regularly. From this coming Spring (1974) Chitose’s only son, Yasuhiro (4th dan in karate) will graduate from Tokai Dai (Tokai University) and begin his preparation to inherit the Chito Ryu system. The young Chitose will continue to learn from his father and to teach the depths of Chito Ryu.
Chito Ryu is spreading rapidly across the globe with approximately 200,000 practitioners n japan, 15,000 in Canada and 4,000 in the USA. Currently, there are about 150 people in Austalia, 100 in France practising Chito Ryu and it is expected to see a branch open in Germany soon. In Canada Masami Tsuroka ( a second-generation Japanese) oversees the organisation. In the USA, a former MP and one of Chitose’s original groups of MP’s William Dometrich works to spread Chito Ryu. Chitose has now visited both Canada and the USA a number of times and is always lionized by the local media as the ‘Chitose, the Karate-Japan man’.
Last month he visited the USA with his favourite student Kugizaki Eido (Shihan Renshi 6th dan). He also took this opportunity to visit Canada during this trip. In all places, he is treated well and received a hearty welcome from the governor or mayor. visit Chitose and Kugizaki witnessed the Chito Ryu karate tournament. He shares that while on his recent trip to Canada he took an opportunity to have a medical check-up at a location where a Chito Ryu practitioner works. The result showed he had the body of a 35-year-old “They said that I will be guaranteed another 25 years of life, which means I will live to be 100 years old’ Chitose laughs.
The mentality of Chito Kai is summed up in the characters for wa (harmony) and nin (perseverance). The aim if for peace with others and also to have pateince in your life. The Chito Ryu logo personifies this central tenet. On the symbol two empty hands (written as kara and te) with the circle in the middle symbolising the whole world. The message is to unite the whole world with peace and perseverance. Chito-Ryu produces a monthly newsletter with the goal of deepening bonds between practitioners across the globe.
Returning to Japan a 10th Dan from Okinawa was the happiest day of my life
The devastation of Okinawa at the end of the pacific war deeply torubled Chitose. As a means of helping his homeland he set up a charity group in Kumamoto city which sent funds and relief supplies to Kumamoto. For Chitose, Okinawa remains his homeland and posses many fond memories. Thus, he continues to play his jabisen as the memory of his hometown floats before him and remains forever in his mind’s eye.
NB: Below is a copy of the original article.
A powerful, if not well-known article by sociologist Bourdieu and Wacquant (1999) entitled On the Cunning of Imperialist Reason argues that imperialism is most potent when it takes palace at a level of ideas and control of media by those who come from a similar political, national and economic background. As someone with a vested interest in inter-race relation and international schools who wish to deliver an authentic global education the past months have been a time of critical energy.
Early in 2020, the energy appeared to be an increasingly global awareness of the need to curb single plastic use. Indeed we seemed to be making some progress when Covid-19 hit, followed by the Australian bush-fires and more recently the spectre of racial violence in the USA.
It is to this latter issue I wish to turn and offer some thought on a way forward that is global rather than national in focus. I draw upon the central thesis of Bourdieu and Wacquant. I argue that a simplistic acceptance of the #balcklivematter has the potential to simplify and stifle the complexity of issues around prejudice, of which race, gender, economics etc. are all part and parcel.
#blacklivematter, as we know, started in 2013 with the shooting of Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) to draw attention to the issues surrounding police brutality toward American citizens based on skin colour. Sadly, such incidents continue and are far too familiar. Indeed the murder of George Floyd further emphasized the need for changes to take place. While the movement has helped encourage some meaningful change on some fronts, it does nonetheless run the risk of becoming a form of cultural imperialism whereby the experience of black Americans is presented as a template for all 'blackness' globally. If this does happen, I believe we may miss a very profound opportunity to enable all those who suffer under the yoke of oppression.
That we need a hashtag and a movement to remind us that black lives indeed do matter is testament to our failure. For almost a century, the USA has remained the pinnacle of power in the world, yet it has failed to address the issue of race within its borders. Shameful. Yet here is the rub. This is not just a US problem. Prejudice and its sidekick, discrimination remain global issues and must be tackled both locally and globally.
I hold that several issues being raised by the #blacklives movement are not furthering the discussion meaningfully as a result of the creation of a pan-blackism that does not export effectively beyond the confines of the unique settings of the USA.
For example, it is arguable that the USA has remained stuck in its post antebellum era division of 'race' permitting only for a black/white divide. Other post-slavery societies in the same region practice colourism where the varying colours of their skin define one. While still racist such an approach permits for a more nuanced exploration of colour and power which a black/white dichotomy may be incapable of addressing.
Of course, by focusing on the lives of black (a highly vague and contentious term) citizens what happens to others who do not fit this duality may risk being 'white'washed. For example, Canada will often celebrate its openness to black citizens claiming that it never had slavery. It did (Walker, 1997). However, its treatment of Asian was and remains an issue causing 'squeaky bums' among wielders of power.
Additionally, the treatment of indigenous people remains sadly a topic given little public voice yet the ravages of modernization and globalization continue to destroy lives in the Pacific Islands, the Americas, China, and Japan to name but a few. In other places, the prejudice takes on religious or ethic guises as seen on the treatment of Roma in Europe or the on-going Protestant/Catholic tensions on my native Ireland. Post-colonial tensions in Zimbabwe have seen violent and political backlashes against its white citizens. The status of British citizens of Indian descent living in the UK has and continues to be an issue in need of addressing; however, the BLM marchers have arguably forgotten such voices.
It is however powerful to witness that the social justice, rather than it's purely political, aims of the BLM movement have begun, in most quarters to include ALL people of colour under its expectation of ending systemic racism. Witness the name change of the Washington NFL team, the local movements to review business practices and indeed, closer to home, the desperate need for international's schools to explore hiring practices and curriculum - matters I addressed in my article ' The Elephant in the Room' in IS Magazine, Spring 2020.
At the same time, the horrors of the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans or Rwanda offer painful reminders of work that needs to be done to prevent such catastrophes which were not grounded in 'race'.
Furthermore, tensions such as those between Pakistan/India and Israel/Palestine arguably do not share a colour coding codex but are grounded in prejudice, history and heuristics which the BLM movement cannot be expected address. Such issues are beyond the ability and resources of one movement and have roots which are centuries old (and maybe even go back to those first few steps we all took when our ancestors left Africa).
In a similar vein issue around gender inequality, sexual orientation rights remain matters of grave concern on a global scale.
The USA is not the only place on the globe where issues of prejudice require immediate addressing. Nor may the framework being offered by the BLM political agenda (e.g. such a defunding police) be best suited to address such concerns. Indeed, there is a very real possibility that the political frameworks being offered by the BLM drawing upon USA centric experience are not capable of addressing issues outside of its political, social and economic time/space.
While there is a genuine need to unveil, learn and act upon the history and consequences of American slavery, we must not be lulled to cognitive numbness - the stakes are too high! It is nevertheless, to our collective shame that such issues remain under addressed, explored and discussed within schools claiming the 'International' or 'global moniker'.
However, rather than focusing on one country's experience in addressing 'race', I believe it is essential that international schools and their communities MUST realize these are issues of global concerns. Likewise, there are alternative views such as that of Such Africa, Uganda, Brazil and Canada on other means of dressing 'race'.
It is our collective responsibility as 21st century educators to provide the correct environments and structures which enable our students and community to explore, think and act globally and locally.
While we may choose to support BLM and its political agenda, we must must believe that the social justice issues raised are relevant to all.
It is now the 21st century and to remain caught in a vicious cycle of racism, systemic and otherwise is testament to our need for real growth and moral development.
That being said we must also not be lulled into believing that the solutions and issues raised within a given country are universally exportable to others. These are complex issues that require commitment over the long haul, not just a passing has-tag on social media.
When will we recognize that we, as a species, are in this together?
Hughes, Conrad., (2017). Understanding Prejudice and Education: The challenge for future generations.
Walker, James St.G., (1997) Race, rights, and the law in the supreme court of Canada: Historical case studies.
Bourdieu, P., and L. Wacquant., (1999). On the Cunning of Imperialist Reason.
What follows has taken me over ten years to both research and most importantly, to weigh-up the ramifications of my research. I am a firm believer in just because we CAN, does not mean we ‘should’. With knowledge comes responsibility. My closest friends have been kind as they listened to the wrestling between my academic training as a historian and my wish to enable Chito Ryu practitioners. Ultimately, I believe accuray is important rather than misleading people. And to this end I have decided to share my research.
There are people who wish this information to be known but due to obligation and fear of reprecussions will not. Indeed, some who know this information have already be exorcised from membership in some circles. The ability to impose such social penalties is not the sign of a healthy or enlightened orgaisation. So for those who cannot speak openly, I do hope you find carthesis in this article.
On a personal level, both a researcher and practitioner what I assert below sits uncomfortably with me. Nonetheless, it is my sincere goal that my research will further others to find evidence which contradicts my findings.
Most importantly I hope that those largest bodies with the responsibility for preserving and developing the work of Chitose Gochoku (such as the Hombu in Kumamoto, the Canadian Chito Kai and the USA Chito Kai) will take responsibility for making available in English and Japanese an historically detailed and accurate portrayal of Chitose. I sincerely believe that such bodies hold a moral obligation to provide, in English, translations of Chitose’s formal writings. Chito Ryu is a small karate RyuHa and has as many English speaking practitioners as Japanese. I firmly believe that these speakers should have access to an accurate portrayal of the thinking and life of our founder - indeed all who practice Chito Ryu should have such accuracy available to them in their native tongue. Afterall, when we all bow to show respect to OSensei, who are we bowing to?
Only Chitose's smaller work, Kempo Karate-Do is available in English thanks to the translation by Christopher Johnston with the support of Hanshi Dometrich and Michael Colling of the USA Chito Kai. The much more detailed and, in my opinion, informative Zen Nippon Chito Ryu Kyohon (shortened title) remains only in Japanese. Zen Nippon Chito Ryu Kyohon is fascinating work for in it one gets a greater understanding of how Chitose conceptualised the role of karate in leading a well-balanced and purposeful life.
While the information in the Kyohan is available via the dojos affiliated with the above three organisations, it is an historically significant work that deserves more respect and exploration.
For all who search for the historical Chitose, the information available is thin and repetitive. In Japanese, there are the above works in which Chitose in his own words outlines his martial history and variations of the information found in the Chito Ryu Kyohan text (published by the Hombu in 1975 and edited again in 1979). In English, there are general introductions provided in the Canadian Chito Kai instructor manuals, the Tsuruoka and Higashi texts in various forms. However, all these texts do not deviate much from the script issued by the Hombu.
NB: A word of caution the Kyohon means to book, whereas Kyohan means study guide - they are not the same text, and for this reason, I refer to the Chito Ryu Kyohon as the brown text hereafter, in reference to its brown, cloth cover.
There are, however, three other texts which do add to the canonical history of Chitose. There is the Unante (1995;2000) text by John Sells, which while presenting useful historical photos has numerous factual inaccuracies and assertions. More interesting are the Colling article from Dragon Times (https://www.dragon-tsunami.org/Dtimes/Pages/article33.htm) and the June 2002 article from Traditional Karate, composed by Rune Ingebrigtsen. These latter works make a sincere effort, using oral history, to fill-in-the gaps of the life of Chitose, before the 1950s. Unfortunately, when working with oral history, a central challenge is the stories often repeat the common myths passed down, not to mention the Hawthorne Effect.
As I explored the early years of Chitose’s life, I noticed a minor but, substantial discrepancy between the texts available in English and Japanese around Chitose’s medical career. For example, Colling’s asserts: ‘Chitose took up teaching for a short while at the Okinawan Teachers College, and by 1922 he was ready to head back to Japan to study medicine. He was accepted as a student at the Tokyo University Medical Center and became a doctor in 1924, then spent five years working in a hospital after graduation from medical school before he was accepted as a full doctor by the Japanese Medical Association.’ However, the text from 1975 Hombu suggests that Chitose came to Tokyo in the 1920s and was quite busy practising medicine. In other words, he was practising medicine when he arrived.
Another interesting point is that half of the English text state he graduated from medical College. In contrast, the other half stated he came to Tokyo to study medicine, but no mention is made if he graduated. In neither of the text which Chitose penned himself does he mention either his medical career or graduating from a Japanese university. There remain two other pieces of the enigma that is the Chitose medical career.
Firstly, in the 1964 article for Black Belt magazine Chitose claims to have been a gynaecologist. Secondly, in most of the English text is the assertion at one level or another that Chito Ryu was based in part on Chitose’s studies as a doctor. No such claim is made in the Japanese texts which I consulted although as I will explain later, he does consult with physicians in writing his Chito Ryu Kyohon (brown text).
As time passed and I researched more on this apparent minor issue, I uncovered that several seniors in Chito Ryu knew about this discrepancy in the medical assertions. Using their support and insight, I have spent time researching Chitose’s medical claims and based on my findings I believe he was not a medical doctor, at least in the sense of having a University certification.
Below I discuss the evidence.
Japan during the Meiji Period (circa the 1850s) did have professional schools of medicine and indeed readily caught up with their Western counterparts. The ‘discovery of the plague bacillus in 1894, the discovery of a dysentery bacillus in 1897, the isolation of adrenaline(epinephrine) in crystalline form in 1901, and the first experimental production of tar-induced cancer in 1918’ (https://www.britannica.com/science/history-of-medicine/Japan) all bear witness to the great strides Japan made in the field of medicine. The most notable school was founded in 1857 at the University of Tokyo. By Medical Act of 1874, all medical doctors had to be certified (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288623/). In other words, to be a certified doctor in Japan meant to study and to pass medical exams.
One of the great myths about exploring Japanese history is that many records were destroyed either as a result of the great Kanto earthquake (1923 - famous in karate circles for destroying Funakoshi’s Tokyo Dojo) and the bombing raids that marked the end of the World War 2. However, such an assertion is simply not accurate. Japan has an excellent national archive, which is available online at https://rnavi.ndl.go.jp/research_guide/entry/theme-honbun-102014.php . Indeed the listing of doctors is complete for the 1920s and early ’30s and neither the name Chinnen nor Chitose are listed. In other words, Chitose was not a recognised doctor, at least of western-styled medicine.
The simple lack of agreement as to if it was Kyoto or Tokyo where he attended university appears to add a need for at least some level of caution when accepting the oral history passed down regarding these years.
Of course, there is the genuine possibility that Chitose attended university just never graduated. We know by the mid-1920’s he had a wife and son and would have been responsible for their care, even if they remained in Okinawa. Those responsibilities plus the massive destruction caused by the 1923 earthquake could have induced the young student to give up his studies.
I also know of two other Japanese researchers who have tried to find evidence of Chitose’s medical certification and found as I did. Likewise, I asked for the help and support of a surgeon and university lecturer who also, could find no evidence that the young Chitose ever graduated with a medical degree.
Had he been a doctor and a university-educated person one would expect him to hold a commissioned officers rank in the Japanese Imperial Army. However, I was unable to find any such standing.
A point of note here is Colling's asserts that in 1919 Chitose was part of the Imperial Body Guard however this seems highly unlikely, as he was an Okinawan. Appointing an Okinawan to serve as an imperial bodyguard in the late 1910s would have been similar to selecting an Irish national to guard George V.
Chitose would have been meeting his national conscription expectation during these years and would have served in Kyushu where Okinawan conscripts were stationed. Had he been an imperial bodyguard in 1918-19, one would have expected him to hold a position of similar status with his remobilisation in the mid-1930s. Again, no evidence was found on any front regarding such condition. Indeed most people consulted believed he was stationed in Kyushu for the duration of the war.
Japan was devastated by the war. It was a prime time to be a doctor yet we know via photo evidence that by 1946 Chitose was holding fundraisers for Okinawa (Sells, p. 136) and not working there as a doctor who was severely needed. Additionally, he married a second time in 1946, and his new wife already had a daughter. Soon other children would follow. However, rather than working as a doctor, he tried unsuccessfully to open a hardware store in Kumamoto in the early 1950s, before landing a more permanent position with local garrison as a karate instructor.
The Japanese Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology was formed in 1948 and based upon a review of the notes from this meeting and the first national meeting Chitose was not present. Membership in this Society was essential if one wished to continue to legally practice as a gynaecological doctor in Japan. Given the date and what we are told in the orthodox history of Chitose, he was still practising medicine at this time so as a gynaecologist we could expect him to attend, especially in light of the massive need for such specific medical care in the aftermath of the war.
When Chitose penned his Brown Book in 1971 he acknowledged that the following doctors had given him advice and support:
So what this does all mean? Closing thoughts
On the one hand, some may be upset for they believed that Chito Ryu was founded on Chitose’s medical training. Of course, even given the orthodox narrative, his practice as a gynaecologist would appear to have little impact on designing a karate system.
Some may believe he misrepresented himself. Perhaps? However, exaggerating the truth has been part and parcel of people trying to escape terrible poverty and find meaning in situations of utter destruction. If he did exaggerate his medical knowledge in the name of promoting his RyuHa, he would not be the first or the last to do so. Indeed, the field almost expects such.
On the other hand, of course, there is the genuine possibility that Chitose served as a medic during the war and thus gained considerable knowledge in the field, even if he was never officially certified. Also possible is he may have studied traditional Okinawan medicine, and that is what he could have been practising on the mainland during the 1920s. Neither of these practices would have enabled him to consinue practice post Wolrd War Two when under the occupation regulation of professions became increasingly documents and centrally controlled.
However, until those that know or have access to such information are willing to share, we remain in the dark.
Personally, having wrestled with this knowledge for over decade now, I realise that by focusing on the medical issue, I may have been missing the incredible and profound RyuHa which is Chito Ryu. Indeed liberating myself for the need to cling to a mythical past meant I could focus on what was important - the connection between the formal two-person drills we have been left and kata.
For me, the historical Chitose is far more appealing than the mythical one. He is a man with an incredible will to power. Someone who, despite racism, lack of opportunity, war, and unimaginable loss managed to pass-on something which has made my life much more fulfilling. For this, I am forever in his debt.
Of course, my sincere wish if for the evidence to come to light which is historically robust and proves what I assert herein is wrong. That is the whole point of research: To open conversations and questions.
There remains much research to be done in karate and Chito Ryu history.
Viable next steps for those in Chito Ryu would be to place Chitose in is Okinawan family, fill in the void of knowledge we have about his life before the 1950s and as always to preserve yet develop the rich roots he left us.
Selected Works Cited.
Chitose, T., 2000. Kempo Karate-Do (trans. C. Johnston)
Chitose, T., 1971. 生理解剖医学に立脚せる 全日本空手道連盟千唐会 教本
千唐流本部 1975 千唐流空手道 入門・基本編 全日本空手道連盟千唐会
Ingebrigtsen, R., June, 2002. Traditional Karate p. 34-38.
Sells, J., 2000. Unante (2nd edition)
I promised a few months back that I would explore the whole question if Chitose went to China, especially during World War Two. Unfortunately, due to a schedule that took a few twists and turns, I was unable to get to the matter until now.
For those who may be unfamiliar with this aspect of Chitose history, the story unfolds as follows. During World War 2, Chitose was stationed in China, where he had the opportunity to study with a Chinese Kung-Fu master whom he befriended. While I have been able to uncover any evidence either for or against this assertion, what I offer below is based upon the historical context of World War Two.
As is suggested by Colling (https://www.dragon-tsunami.org/Dtimes/Pages/article33.htm) Chitose served in the Imperial Japanese army as part of the medical corps during the war. Based upon conversations with senior students of Chitose most notably Kugizaki-sensei and Inomoto-sensei, they believe it is possible that Chitose served as part of the medical corp. However, both are quick to point out that they never had such an explicit conversation with Chitose as to do so would cross many cultural norms not the least of which is World War 2 and one’s activities in it are generally not discussed in Japan.
I explored some databases both in Japan and the USA; I was unable to verify if Chitose did serve in the medical corps. Confirming any such details about Chitose is difficult for three significant reasons:
Indeed the activities of the Japanese Imperial Army were, in 1999 during the 106th sitting of Congress, still being investigated with the passing of yet another Disclosure Acts ( see https://fas.org/sgp/congress/s1902.html).
However, for argument’s sake below, I outline why it was most unlikely that Chitose did receive training at the hands of a Kung-Fu master even if he was in China during World War 2. Under Point 3, I explain why it is my sincere hope that he was NOT stationed in China as a member of the medical corp. Had he been, I would have to consider my options as a practitioner of Chito Ryu, based on personal beliefs.
POINT 1: The Boxer Rebellion.
One of the biggest mistakes made by self-proclaimed karate historians is that they neglect to take into account the massive impact the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) had on martial arts both in China and Japan. According to Britannia ‘The Boxer Rebellion’s name comes from that used by foreigners for members of the Chinese secret society Yihequan (“Righteous and Harmonious Fists”): they were called “Boxers” for their boxing and calisthenic rituals. The society’s original aim was to destroy the ruling Qing dynasty and privileged Westerners in China. Anti-foreign forces who won control of the Chinese government persuaded the Boxers to end their fight against the dynasty and join them to destroy foreigners (https://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion).’ The boxers ascribing to esoteric Chi and Kung-Fu practices were slaughtered when their ancient martial traditions were faced with the heavily armed and professional Armies of the imperial foreign armies (including Japan).
Moreover, as Japan’s imperial Army marched triumphantly into Beijing, it was accused of stealing numerous imperial treasure from China. This assertion would continue to impact its relationship with China in the next 50 years. More importantly, within China, the practice of Kung-Fu became ridiculed as not only ineffective, but a symbolic embodiment of all that was wrong with China. One of the first acts of both the Chiang Kai Shek and latter the CCP, under Mao would be the persecution of Kung-Fu as a ‘martial art’ while its values as an embodiment of healthy citizens became the norm. In this regard, it shared a commonality with the Shin-budo movements within Japan (Zhouxiang, 2020). Indeed, this persecution would hit its apex during the Cultural Revolutions of the 1960s (Snow, 2017; Zhouxiang, 2016). Thus, we have here two forces at play. One, Kung Fu was to be used to expel not aid foreign oppressors, and two, Kung -fu was used to identify one as a Chinese national thus not something to be shared by outsiders. Of course, even if a master was met, what level of expertise would they have held which would have been of any value to the Chitose who had approx 30 years of training already.
POINT 2: Chinese/Japanese Tensions
Starting with the first Japanese incursions into Asia in the early 1900s and culminating with the outright territorial grabs in mid-1930s Japan and China’s relations had soured dramatically since the Meiji Restoration. Japan, viewed China as undeveloped and ground for its imperial desired and much needed raw materials, while China saw Japan as an up-start, wanna-be Western-styled power (Nish, 2012).
A testament to the anti-Japanese sentiment is that the Chinese Civil war between the CCP and ROC was put on hold during the Japanese occupation as both sides lay aside differences to fight against the Empire of Japan. Against such backdrop sympathisers with the Japanese were dealt with harshly, particularly in rural areas where Japanese atrocities were fule for hatred. After the conclusion of World War 2, many such sympathisers were executed by both the ROC and CPP (for an academic account of such events see https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article/113/3/731/41136)
Point 3: The Japanese Medical Corp in China
Within this romantic version of Chitose, actual history is neglected. Most importantly, the genuine atrocities imposed upon Chinese at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army and in particular its medical corp are conveniently forgotten. Starting with the occupation on Manchuria the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army (関東軍防疫給水部本部, Kantōgun Bōeki Kyūsuibu Honbu) was established to ostensibly purify the water of China as the Japanese troops progressed. However, upon this group under various units such as 731 and 100 were actively involved in medical experiments on Chinese nationals as well as POWs from USSR and Australia.
It must be stressed that all medical teams in China were expected to conduct such experiments (Gold, 2019). At the end of the war, with the Cold War hotting up, all members of these Units, at McArthur’s insistence, received pardons and were not subject to the trials for crimes against humanity at Tokyo. Indeed many of the leaders of these units such as Shiro Iishi and Ryoichi Naito would go on to help the USA and become prominent figures in Japan, with Naito founding the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan, Green Cross (Gold, 2019).
Knowing full well the extent of degradation these Units enabled, I can only hope that Chitose was never in China at least as a member of the medical corp. While indeed war brings out the worst in humanity, the entire history on these units activites in China need more public discourse and evaluation.
The mythical narrative that he was kind to the locals, and they embraced him would seem beyond the realms of possibility given Chinese animosity to the occupies and the medical corps utter disregard for Chinese life.
Of course, even if Chitose remained in Kyushu as a member of the medical corps, he may still not have escaped the clutches of Unit 731 who were actively involved in Fukuoka and surrounding areas where Koreas were the recipients of much experimentation. However, this was a far more secretive and smaller operation than that in China. There was a genuine concern that the Japanese public may not have reacted well had they know what the Army and medical Corps were doing in their name. However, this all remains speculation.
There may be a clue to what Chitose did, and in my next post, I explore this as I undertake what will no doubt be a controversial exploration of Chitose’s medical career.
Selected Works Cited:
Gold, H., 2019. Unit 731: Testament.
Snow, E., 2017. Red Star Over China: The Classic Account of the Birth of Chinese Communism
The Routledge Handbook of Sport in Asia. 2020. edited by Fan Hong, Lu Zhouxiang 2020
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan