Thoughts on International Education
Musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Thoughts on International Education
The or A 6th Generation Toudi master? Lost in translation of something more nefarious?
At the outset, I would like to thank my Japanese colleague, Dr Nishimura, who has provided support for this research. Indeed, his work in unscrambling the connection between Kyan and Chitose continues to prove immensely helpful. However, although Dr Nishmura has helped and provided feedback on my ideas, what is written here must in no way be taken to infer Dr Nishimura agrees with the hypothesis or arguments herein.
Previously I have attempted to examine the myths, and exaggerated stories presented by some promoting the karate system developed and left to the world as Chito Ryu. At one level, these fanciful stories present the real-life Chitose as a version of the mythical Kwai Chang Cain and their worst, as an uncouth country bumpkin who was nothing short of a meathead.
Neither of these images, in my opinion, do the man justice. While those promoting such stories may have good intentions, what has emerged is that over time is a story that does not age well.
A central part of the ChitoRyu mythical canon is that Aragaki Ou, upon his deathbed, proclaimed Chitose THE 6th generation TouDi master. This was the first story in the canon that I heard and was impressed with, even though I had no clear understanding of what TouDi was or even who this person Aragaki was.
The above photo is from a joint publication issued by both the Hombu in Japan and the Canadian Chito Kai as part of the commemorative magazine and competition guide for the Soke Cup, 1998. In Japanese it simply states that Chitose was the 6th generation of TouDi, in English the story is significantly different. Such discrepancy between the Japanese official story and the one issued in English, may lie at the heart of the confusion.
Using this simplified version of the TouDi master lineage assertion, I will attempt to demonstrate in the following blog why this story may be as simple as something lost in translation, or indeed a fanciful assertion without much historical merit.
Fact Number 1.
Chitose`s Birthdate is listed as 1898. Aside from the fact that the Birthdate is wrong, what is of more relevance to the current discussion is that Chitose, or Chinen as he was known then, would have been between approx. 22 years old in 1920. While not unheard of, passing a designation of THE 6th generation toudi master to one so young would be highly uncommon, especially as Aragaki had more senior students, not least of whom was Gichin Funakoshi, who was preparing to move to the mainland and introduce karate there. As far as we know, Chitose was not a blood relative of Aragaki, thus making the passing on of such a title even less plausible. For those aware of the Okinawan adoption systems, Chitose was not adopted by Aragaki as either a son or son-in-law, thus furthering the distance between Arakaki and Chitose (Swift, 2015).
Who is this Aragaki O?
An oft-overlooked fact is that Aragaki O is an honorific title. It is not an actual name. It translates as honourable Aragaki (or Aragaki the older man). Therefore, Aragaki O could be many people for on Okinawa as Aragaki is a unbiquitious family name similar Tanaka on the mainland.
The assumption has been that the Aragaki referenced is Aragaki Seisho (新垣 世璋), a well-known martial artist who had traveled to China to study martial arts. As an official Ryukyu court Chinese language expert, Seisho moved in fairly illustrious circles, which included karate luminaries Ankō Asato, Ankō Itosu, and Matsumura Sōkon. Indeed, he and Matsumura are reputed to have demonstrated karate before a visiting Chinese dignitary in 1867. If we assume that this is the Aragaki to which the Chito story refers, we have a further two problems. One, while he did train in China under Wai Xinxian from Fuzhou, he only tarined six months+ hardly suffiecent to master the entire martial tradition of China. Second, and a central issue is that Arakagi has died in 1918, making the transition date of 1920 highly unlikely!
This fact demands a particular proficiency with the subtleties of the Japanese language. Indeed it was not something I had paid particular note to until my friend Joe Swift drew my attention to it. A direct translation of TouDi means ALL Chinese Martial arts, including weapons and the diversity of martial forms in China. Calling oneself THE TouDi master would appear impossible, although a master of ONE of the versions of TouDi is plausible. Even allowing for the fact that on Okinawa TouDi was an eclectic daily term, it nonetheless includes all of those Okinawan fighting systems influenced by China, such as Shorin Ryu, Uechi Ryu, GoGyu Ryu and Kojo-Ryu, to name but a few (Bishop, 1999). While there is some evidence that Aragaki played a role in the foundations of these systems none lay any claim to him as a THE TouDi master of his generation. Indeed, to state he was THE master would be fanciful, especially given that he had trained in China for only six months. Finally, nowhere do we see Aragaki referred to as THE master of TouDi. Indeed, history has passed him down as A master of TouDi along with the more other famous Meijin" (名人) such as Itosu and Matsumura.
The Kyan factor.
Thanks to research by my colleague, Dr Nishimura, we now know that Chitose was training with Kyan Chotoku by 1920. This creates a significant dent in the claim of THE Toudi master story. Why would Chitose/Chinen continue to train and learn from Kyan, who was about to embark on travels to China (Taiwan) and later Yaeyama Island to pursue a deeper budo study (https://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=4158)? If Kyan did not claim to be a master of TouDi, how could his student, Chinen, be asserted as THE master?
Chitose`s own words.
In both his penned publications Kempo Karate-Do (1957) and the largerand still untranslated All Japan Karate Federation: Chito Ryu KyoHon (1971) Chitose clearly outlines that he is a 6th generation teacher/student of a particular lineage Shorin but not THE only one. Indeed in Kempo Karate-Do, he names other Shorin Schools, which have Chibana and Motobu as the current generational leaders. A similar pattern is shared in the latter position, although with the division between Shorin and Shorei. Nowhere in either of these texts does he claim to be a master of Toudi, let alone THE master of Toudi.
The vs A - an important article
Lastly, Chitose tells us in Kempo he started training with Aragaki in 1905, and learned Sanchin. The lineage he cites and the later work all point to him being A 6th generation of Shorin and Shorei Ryu schools. Aside from the fact that his presentation of these lineages is selective, what is of more pressing relevance is he does not claim to be THE Toudi Master OR indeed anointed as such. With the latter text, Chitose suggests that when he left Arakagi is was not under the best of conditions as there appears to have been a falling out. Having learned one kata and trained for seven years, the current discourse, at least as it appears in English, asserts that Aragaki appointed a fourteen-year-old, with no blood or legal connection to him, as the inheritor and head of the Toudi system: a fourteen year old who had no legal or blood connection to the master and had stopped training with him at least two years prior to his death.
Aside from the strangeness of such a selection, why would a well-educated and well regarded public figure such as Aragaki claim it as his right to confirm such a lofty title? He was a court official not one of the well-trained bodyguards such as Matsumura.
Aragaki`s age and Location.
If we take Chitose’s starting date at face value, Aragaki would have been in his late 70s and in poor health when they started training together. Aragaki died in 1918, so Chitose would have stopped training with him somewhere between 1914-16. On-going work by Scott Mertz indicates that Aragaki did not live in Naha during these years, and thus, it would have been difficult for Chitose to train regularly with Aragaki as the road system and transportation were not supportive of such mobility. Aragaki weekly traveled to teach karate at a middle school in Naha. Therefore, he could have instructed the young Chitose at that time or in private lessons afterward (May 2021, Personal Correspondence with Scott Mertz). Again, Scott continues to dig into this aspect of Okinawan history, so hopefully, more clarity will emerge.
Other TouDi Lineage Schools?
None of the current schools which trace their lineage to Toui-di or China claim to be THE Toudi Master. Those to whom I have spoken have never heard the phrase nor have ever heard that Aragaki used it.
So where does all of this leave us?
As I said at the outset, I do not believe the vast majority of those passing along such information do so with any ill intent. However, as teachers of Chito Ryu we do have a responsibility to pass on as accurate a history and lineage as possible - especially if we claim legitimacy via such lineages.
From what I have presented herein there are sufficient grounds upon which to be skeptical of this story. Based upon the evidence we currently have, it would appear to be apocryphal. However, such an assertion based solely upon my sense-making of evidence currently available to me and others.
New evidence may emerge that completely disproves my argument, and I look forward to the hypothesis herein furthering research into this topic. However, we must no longer be lulled to sleep by stories passed down by word of mouth. There is far too much good, scholarly work being done for us to remain selectively ignorant. To be productive members of Chito Ryu and all karate, we must and should challenge old assumptions.
So what do I think happened?
As my forthcoming publication exploring the early years of Chitose`s life, Chitose`s claim to legitimacy was established in Okinawa in the 1920 and 30s. There is no need for us to assign him mythical or superhuman attributes.
Likewise, based on what appears to be a poor translation which built up a life of its own, there is NO need to assume a deliberate intent to mislead.
Regardless, of which version of history we choose to believe their is no denting that Chitose was a man of his time, who rose to leave a powerful legacy.
J. Hatch (May 2021) Personal Correspondence with Scott Mertz. Tokyo, Japan.
M. Bishop (1999) Okinawa Karate: Teachers, styles and secret techniques. Boston: Tuttle.
Bowerbank, A (1998). Spirit of the Sensei. Toronto:Morris .
Chitose, T. (2000) Kempo Karate-Do. Trans. C. Johnston. Toronto: Shindokan Interntional.
Chitose, T. (1971) All Japan Karate Federation: Chito Ryu KyoHon. Unpublished personal translation J. Hatch, Tokyo 2001.
Quast, A. and Motto, N. (2018) Okinawan Samurai: Instructions to a Royal Official to his Only Son. Germany: Private Publication.
Quast, A. (2020) Matsumura Sokon:The Seven Virtues of Martial Arts. Germany: Private Publication.
Shimabukuro, Z and Smith, D. (2012). Shorin Ryu Seibunkan: Kyan Karate. Okinawa: Private Publication.
Swift, J. (2015). The Essence of Naha-te. Tokyo: Lulu Press.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan