Thursday, February 2, 2023

An “Isshinryu Concentration the Blog” news update.

The time has come,' the Walrus said,

To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

And whether pigs have wings.'


A month ago I opened some martial site posted on FaceBook and was hit with an infections. My PC system defaulted to black background on every application. Likewise all my PC passwords where wiped out. It took time to locate and reenter those passwords to access outlook, youtube bogspot and many other sites.


However Facebook was the most difficult.


Now I had been using Facebook daily for over a decade.


But it took me two days to enter a new password, then the kicker was Facebook needed additional verification that I was me. Very personal things, I chose not to give them to Facebook, because I did not want Meta to have access to them.


In reality I do not like the way Meta does business. For example several times they kicked me off for two days for posting news stories from the British press. Their doing so was to intimidate me from allowing others to think about those things.


For those reasons I choose not to go back with Facebook.


A friend posted that for me on FB, he also sent messages to other friends informing then what I was doing, suggesting they send me their email address.


The reality out of all those I  was sharing with on Facebook only 2 individuals took the time to send me their email addresses.


I enjoyed seeing what people were sharing, but the truth is none of it means much to me in reality. Instead I turned to files I saved over 30 years ago and discovered what I already knew.


Back then on the prior Yahoo Groups there were far more interesting discussions. Individuals went into far greater depth than anything on FB. And many of them had serious time  training on Okinawa in multiple systems. Giving a much more detailed idea of what they experienced on the ground.


I have not looked at those files in over 20 years.


I have more than enough to keep me busy for a long time. Some for my Isshinryu Concentration the Art blog. Some for my former students for private messages (I am up to 393 at this time. Some I am not sharing because I promised long ago to never do so.) Only 2 individuals choose to  share their email address with me.


I started my Blog just for 10 of my students. To remember and to share the many things I never  had time in Class (even 35+ years) because their own training was always more important every class.


They did not need what I shared for their own training was really enough. But it was shared in case some future date that knowledge would become useful.


However I believe information  need not be kept secret ( for the most part) and have always allowed others to view it.


To date I have shared 2,236 posts, and as I shared many of them on FB many have viewed them (now  1, 079,235 individuals have checked them out) I never made money on them. I just wanted to give others to think about.


Now being off FB the daily viewers have dropped from 500-600 a day considerably lower,  Just reality.


But a lesson I learned on YahooGroups long ago, when I shared much information from my inquiry into the meaning of the Bubishi, while there were a few serious individuals who did share with me, for the most part people never asked questions of remarked about that. Of course for all I shared most never did so either. In this Facebook share the same.


I have never looked for students. I only would train those who actually trained with me.  I never wanted followers. Only hoping I would encourage discussion.


I do not consider myself a great martial artist, just that I tried to do an honest job with my own students. Many know more than I do, but reality is few share what they really know.


I still am making entries to my blog, I still have much to share, And I continue to give more private information directly to my students.


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.


 My facebook account still exists, however  I can no longer access it.

My email address remains


Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Motobu Chōki Kumite



Motobu Chōki 本部 朝基 Todejutsu techniques.



Photos come from two Motobu Chōki 本部 朝基 books.



These books are


"Okinawa Kempo Todejutsu Kumite Hen Motobu-1926"

& "Watashi no Todejutsu - 1932"



Most of these techniques draw from the Nahanchi kata series and mostly Naihanchi Shodan.



I re-organized the photos (left to right) so as to make it easier for Western readers

A Glimpse Of Old Karate From Hohan Soken By Christopher Caile


Fighting Arts. com a martial arts site buile by Christopher Caille contains great information on many arts. At times I was a contributor.


This is a very interesting article from that site.


A Glimpse Of Old Karate From Hohan Soken

By Christopher Caile

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Different views of our Smybol




Kannon avalokiteshvara riding shishi-tibe

Ryuzu  Kannon

On Nakazato Joen and Kyan II


 > In Shorinji-ryu does something similar exist, as separate set of application studies (I'm not trying to get copies just understanding the older tranmission of the art) in addition to kata studies.

Nothing formal. To get kinda deeper real quick I think this speaks to transmission methods (in oral cultures) which is actually my own sphere of interest as much as anything.

I asked Nakazato sensei about this area of teaching bunkai. He said no, Kyan taught kata. I could get longwinded here but I'll try not to. I am not saying that no form of applications was ever shown - as guidance - but the thing is ultimately for the student to interpret the kata (the texts) to his own level of understanding.. and be led or helped based on his own level.. this way your level is entirely yours.. the problems you solve are yours. This i think is the reason things are NOT shown or spoon fed. It is up to you. I think this is why all these formal drills are post-classical period. 
This is connected to not showing bunkai.. or rather not spoon feeding but advising based on where the student is.. in that if you have a "sensei says its this" (*without* it being based on something the student is already doing) you get a situation your students will copy you rather than develop their own understanding. Nakazato suggests that is the way it was with them; they used to practice the kata, then pair up and look at some kind of ippon kumite.. this was based not on what Kyan was telling them to do drill-wise, but based on "if you see something in the kata" (JN words).. in other words it came from the student ..but guided by and led by the kata.. and then helped by the techer if he saw the need.. but I suspect Kyan was very simlar to JN, in that the emphasis is on not stepping in except in correcting a basic done incorrectly during *your own* interpretation.
Nakazato's view appears to be that it was really up to the students what they make of it and how they view it.. The texts (the kata) are neutral and this is what is transmitted. This is why you see kata of old folks "looking crap" (!).. Its just a matter of printing versus beautiful personal handwriting (JN uses this thing borrwed from the nomenclature of calligraphy as a direct analogy). The transmission level (kaisho - block printing) kata is shown with very little emphasis beyond suggested weighting and context of individual technique within a group of techniques.. You interpret the words not the other guys handwriting. Eg Zenryo's handwriting is the full squat shiko dachi  whereas really all this is fundamentally is 50/50 weight distribution.. It is intersting to realize that this is also the way Calligraphy is developed, and that the most beautiful is often that that is so abstract that even Japanrsr cannot read it, but can only decipher it by knowing (ie having been taught) the order that Kanji characters are constructed. I believe this contextual understanding is also a clue as to the context of moves in kata.. ie If they were flowing, the kata would only be a mere shadow, or outline skeletal form of what you were doing.. As in the calligraphy example, the techniques become blurred but imbued with the same principles of movement/weight shift.. but there the similarity ends.
 So these kata are (were?) transmitted in a neutral way ie without personal bias or emphasis. As are all texts within eastern traditions it seems, or even in transmission of other cultural lineages, such as theatre or ceramics... though these are subject to "commentaries" by teachers/practitioners, expanding on the bare texts.. This is why even when doing a kata students of the same teacher do not look the same. Its not that they were taugtht differently, becuase the same neutral kata was taught to each, but there is/was leeway to do with them what you want stylistically.. though not teach personal variations that are your own except as illustrations as to what the student might do to make things their own...  the same template is there with no thought to "performance" until the modern era when the emphasis shifted to imitating teachers.. So there are personal variations (eg the angle of punch) but this does not count as a kata change per se. its just persoanl variation.. but actually according to Nakazato this shouldnt be transmitted. He cites specifics of his own but there is also a story about Tatsuo on his mid 60s visit being asked about the fact that his punch was being imitated (incorrectly?) by his students.. he supposedly said something to the effect of " i dont give a shit what they do, this is mine and what they do is up to them" 
Sorry.. I said I'd try not to get longwinded, but failed miserably!
 Harry Davis

Saturday, January 28, 2023

When Joe Swift was the Uke – revised


Joe-san Swift is my earliest friend on the internet. Years ago he even visited Derry one day. I’ve had this article on Koju-Ryu from a Japanese magazine from about 2003.  The author was Mizuguchi Rakuya, editor in chief of the Karate-do Monthly magazine, and features Hayashi Shingo Sensei, the last known teacher of Kojo-ryu..



While I do not have a translation of the article. The photos clearly show Joe-san taking the beating. And there is a relationship to Isshinryu useage. Not that Isshinryu has any kinship to the rare Koju system.



This is shared with Joe Swift’s permission. Joe  was originally an Isshinryu black belt and over years studied Mushikan in Kanazawa ,besides his profession in Weather Casting he is currently the head instructor of the Tokyo Mushikan  and has trained with many instructors in Okinawa and Japan. He has made frequent appearances on Japanese television, and a participant in several Japanese magazine articles. He has friends around the world frequently sharing articles and translations, has been a frequent contributor to FightingArts.con and many other places. He has also translated works for many Japanese and Okinawan authors.  


He is also one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure to work with.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Bunkai-itis the use of the word




It is very likely you will never read this because you will find this too obscure to make sense. However because of my studies, translations and personal research I became interested in the use of the term Bunkai made sense in older Okinawan karate.


Some of my suppositions are dated as time and other material came to light, but  for me this discussions I had long ago with Harry Davis  (then going by Harry Skeeter on the internet) is IMO still relevant.


I saved this discussion back in 2008 but I am sure this took place a decade earlier.


So this allows you to enter my mind a bit showing what interested me.


Harry was English , later moving to Washington state. He pretty much kept to himself on the nets (often using a pseudonym). The only reference I could find on the nets follows.

Harry Davis – Joshinmon Shorin-ryu Karate and Okinawan Kobudo.

We have our own dojo facility in Callington, Cornwall, which is 14 miles north of Plymouth, in S.W.England. All karate-ka are welcome.
Contact Sensei "Harry" Davis on 01579 383491 for class times




Hi Victor

I'm not sure how much I can help you with this one, but I'll try. I'm not sure where we'll end up, but that's fine isn't it? :)

I say this because I think the whole subject - and the hence the language used in describing it - is somewhat dependent on the entire teaching philosophy employed by the teacher and, on top of that, the learning philosophy as far as what is sought by the student, i.e. what he feels he has the right to know definitively about the forms, and how much he expects to be shown or told something, as opposed to a greater level of self-discovery. A lot of this is based on the expectation of the student, as imparted by the master, and how 'traditional' the master is in allowing the student to make their own decisions.


 What I mean by this is that I would say the modern use of terms (or even the meaning sought by students) is based on the assumption that something is intrinsically 'there' in the kata forms (and is there really anything intrinsic?) and that this meaning can be conveyed or even should  be conveyed during transmission, master to student. All these things affect what subtle meanings there are to the words used throughout the process. In a way, all this and seeking to be 'correct' is in the eye of the beholder. 

I suppose an example would be Joen Nakazato's public criticism of the kanji Nagamine (and, incidentally, McCarthy) commonly used for kata practice itself. This 'debate' between the two occurred when terminology of karate was being 'upgraded' and standardized post war - where there had been no universal terms used previously, no names for techniques or teaching regimens .. prior, it had just been "do like this!". That was all there was.


The implications for defining the entire approach to kata practice was that a subtle change, even a statement of appropriate kanji, can imply something that would change the emphasis of practice, as a 'false tradition' was being retro-fitted that maybe didn't quite fit or able to express the subtleties of prior cultural transmission... and all this being imposed or projected onto an essentially orally transmitted tradition practiced in isolation. 

I have somewhere a copy of the paper/article written by Nakazato, which he claimed had been publicly acknowledged by the karate community as a more subtle understanding of kata and its purpose than was being forwarded by Nagamine, who Nakazato disliked as someone he saw as cashing in through social class and connections, while not really having undergone the intensive day to day master/student contact through which traditional transmission of values would be made. Nagamine, for his part was incensed that in doing so Nakazato was an upstart who should have more respect for his social seniority than to question him. Incidentally Zenpo Shimabukuro gave his own view that Nagamine was "a snob" :) ..I only say this to indicate that "karate" and its terminology have been subject to numerous different "seizures of tradition" by whatever prevailing school or leadership, but that merely illustrates that common understanding is subject to change through popularizing what was for generations something practiced on a very small scale and through intimate relationships, master/student - hence different undestandings of terminology and methods of practice have emerged.

To return to this kanji issue, last time on Okinawa I was going between the dojos of Nakazato in Chinen and Zenpo Shimabukuro in Chatan. They hadn't spoken in years though they weren't in any kind of dispute - they had grown apart after the death of Zenryo back in '69 as Zenpo had ploughed his own furrow. According to Dan, Zenpio hadn't visisted Nakazato in 30 years. Anyway, when Zenpo asked me what I had been speaking to Nakazato about, this subject came up of the kanji and debate Nakazato v Nagamine.. He was unaware of the issue, but when I showed him the article he thought about it and said, yes, I agree with Nakazato sensei as to the interpretation of the kanji for "kata". Yes that is interesting! So the subtle differences between the two characters suggested a subtle difference in understanding practice.    

Hence, to sum up this long pre-amble, I think the language used - and indeed the meaning sought - are very much subjective.   


As to details of this or that for 'bunkai,' you say :


>I realize it is a Japanese term, and I personally feel it is incorrect to simplify Okinawan Karate potential the way most use it. I simply use application analysis versus application potential and so forth.


I think you'll find in eastern traditions an extreme caution expressed by (genuine) master-teachers as to how much (and what) of the results of their own practice. The idea is to transmit the forms (texts) neutrally, with little meaning super-imposed, and then equip the students with the tools of analysis to evaluate them according to their own ability/level of practice. The way Nakazato expressed it was that under Kyan what the student was shown was a basic "it can be used this way" or showing the student "like this"... (sorry I forget the Okinawan term.. for "like this!" perhaps this is the one Dan alludes to? I know he'll know what you mean if you ask him)...  So it was more physically showing an action and then, as Nakazato describes, it was the up to the students, working in pairs, to work on what they themselves could "see" in the kata (his term 'see') I would say this process of 'visualization' (as a technique) is really what is engaged in in personal kata analysis by the advanced practitioner. But you see what is 'seen' really is based on understanding the forms and hence your forms are not some cleaned up slick kata, but reflect where your body would be to effect some technique or other, with an emphasis on footwork and weight shifting/ launching/ falling. Having said this, ones 'personal kata' would not be the one transmitted; what is transmitted is a neutral kata blueprint for personal study.

So I think the term used for bunkai/oyo/whatever as extremely dependent on so many different understandings and lineage (or lack of!) that I think we should say that more than one might be valid to that particular groups practice methodology, and the sense of purpose imparted by a particular master to a particular student, and how the student interprets it.   


..but, long and the short of it is, given Nakazatos understanding, I don't have one simple word I could say one way or the other which of the crop of possible candidates would fit best! Personally I think its more about 'reading and knowing' than 'showing'

Hope I understood your letter enough to have helped any through my response :)



Love harry 




One of my sentences I noticed was incomplete during re-reading:

when I said

>"I think you'll find in eastern traditions an extreme caution expressed by (genuine) master-teachers as to how much (and what) of the results of their own practice.."

should have continued:

"..they convey to their students"


By this I mean a teacher, having taught the 'text' (kata) would tend to re-clarify the tools of analysis rather than solving the problem for them by showing them.


I guess an example of this in karate would be where kata segments (or kata broken down into small pieces) may have ambiguity of use, and that ambiguity might be that a different application is revealed by analysis of a technique used at different range or relative position to an opponent


Does the same term 'application' apply to this form of analysis of a kata broken down into small pieces ? :)


I think we can use all these terms help to understand the process - i.e. what is going on during a path a study.

..And this is all before we even start looking at the greater picture: the transformational result of what daily practice itself might bring to an individual's life! :)


 So, beyond the discovery of what a kata means to an individual, I think there is the bigger picture of what practice means to our lives, and that brings up how it is applied. I think we can employ all the above terms to that level too, and that maybe no one term is adequate to cover the experience.

love harry        



Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2014 19:08:36 +0000

Bunkai-itis the use of the word


I hope you are doing well.

 Things don’t change much for me. One ongoing question I have about the term ‘Bunka;  I recall a time pre 19 78 no one used the term, then around 79 or 80 the magazines all started doing articles about this term. But nowhere I traveled was this term used. Later in 1980 I started training with Tris Sutrisno in his family version of Shotokan and from him ‘bunkai’ was a big portion of Dan studies. But of a very unique paradigm for ‘bunkai’ which I have seen no one else duplicate. Then Bunkai became all the rage, others used it, Japanese instructors, eventually some Okinawan instructors. And it became an answer for many Isshinryu groups.



I realize it is a Japanese term, and I personally feel it is incorrect to simplify Okinawan Karate potential the way most use it. I simply use application analysis versus application potential and so forth.



My personal analysis of bunkai’s rise.


The Earliest use of the term ‘Bunkai’.


For one thing bunkai wasn’t an Okinawan term. I can make the case it was used to try and explain kata to the Japanese audience.



Long ago Joe Swift challenged me to translate several of Mabuni’s books from 1933 that were translated into French. In 1934’s ‘Karate Kempo – study of Seipai Kata’ the French edition has the chapter labeled “Applications (Bunkai) Du Kata Sepai” and when I translated it I chose not to include the term Bunkai. Much later when I saw Mario McKenna’s translation of “Seipai no Kenkyu” (note the title from the original Japanese was greatly modified for the French translation – appropriate for a translator to make everything fit into the new language scheme) called the Chapter “Analysis & Explanation of Seipai”. Eventually I got around to comparing it to my French original and noticed he also hadn’t included the term ‘bunkai’, and being a friend I specifically asked him about what was in the original Japanese version.


Mario McKenna has explained to me in ‘Seipai no Kenkyu” published in 1934 Mabuni Kenwa originally uses the term "bunkai setsumei" or "breakdown/apart and explanation". When Tokitsu Kengi translated that into French for his 1989 translation he chose to just use bunkai.



I don’t read or translate Japanese, but an independent discussion with a Japanese English instructor, Takedi Haji, visiting my town and staying in my house years ago found his explanation of bunkai the same. He explained in normal Japanese usage the term bunkai might be used to explain what an automobile mechanic did to fix the care, bunkai or take it apart.



Mario then shows Mabuni used ‘bunkai’ just to take apart a section of the kata and then provides an explanation ‘setsumei’ or application.



Not a big deal, but important to understand how the specialized use of a term morphs into other usage as time passes. I might interpret this as taking apart the kata wasn’t the important part, but the application of the section was the goal.



After some recent discussions Dan Smith has reminded me that long ago he shared with me.


I wanted to share information concerning your question concerning the Okinawan language for kata application. The Uchinan gushi would have been "Ti Chi Ki", which means showing what the hand is doing. Best Regards, Dan



My question is Dan correct? For many reasons I am unsure  of his answers.



Another acquaintance has privately told me in his Goju tradition:


In my last email I wrote that I chose to not publicly state that there was an Okinawan word that is an equivalent to bunkai and that word is "wakkwiti". This word is the gerund form of the word wakkwiyun which means "To do Bunkai". This word does mean to unravel or broken into small pieces. 


I do wish this kept private but this is my condrum. Not speaking Japanese of Okinawan I can’t resolve this. Might you have a suggestion?



Feebly in your debt again.




Bunkai (分解?), literally meaning "analysis"[1] or "disassembly",[2] is a term used in Japanese martial arts referring to the application of fighting techniques extracted from the moves of a "form" (kata).


Bunkai is usually performed with a partner or a group of partners which execute predefined attacks, and the student performing the kata responds with defenses, counterattacks, or other actions, based on a part of the kata. This allows the student in the middle to understand what the movements in kata are meant to accomplish. It may also illustrate how to improve technique by adjusting distances, time moves properly, and adapt a technique depending on the size of an opponent.



Some kata have another layer of application that is taught using an Oyo Bunkai, an "application of the kata in ways other than the standard bunkai."[3] Different practitioners will learn or discover alternative applications, but the bunkai, like the kata, varies based on the style and the teacher.



A single kata posture or movement may be broken into anywhere from a few to a few dozen applications, and the same sequence of kata moves may sometimes be interpreted in different ways resulting in several bunkai. Students are encouraged to consider each movement and technique in a kata in response to multiple possible attacks, for example: use of a particular movement against a kick, against a punch, against various forms of grappling. Through analysis of the move and practice in variant scenarios, the student will unlock new techniques and expand their understanding of known ones. Some martial arts require students to perform bunkai for promotion.



Bunkai can be obvious or elusive depending on the technique in question, the moves preceding and following it, and the individual practitioner. There are usually many stages of depth of comprehension of bunkai only reached through the passage of time. The terms toridai and himitsu are used to refer to techniques not readily seen to the casual observer and hidden techniques within kata.[citation needed] For example, in Gōjū-ryū karate, two-man kata training is used to reinforce bunkai and correct technique.[4] If techniques in the kata are not performed correctly they will not be effective in two man training.



Kumite  (Sparring Matches)                                          Kata Bunkai (Realistic training) 


1.    Mutual arranged combat                                          1.    Unexpected attacks


2.    Must face your opponent straight on                       2.    Attacks may come from any        




3.    Referee to control the match, beginning to end       3.    Self-control on applications to   

                                                                                                avoid injury or death


4.    A strict limitation on techniques allowed                 4.    Anything goes, absolutely no        



5.    Only impacting techniques allowed                          5.   Both Impacting and Seizing

                                                                                                techniques are encouraged


6.    Conducted with both opponents facing & ready     6.   Attacks will come from the front,

                                                                                                back or side.



7.    Particular target areas strictly enforced                   7.   All target areas allowed and

                                                                                                dangerous techniques encouraged

8.    Dangerous attacks (techniques) forbidden                8.   Specifically, encourages


9.    At least some protective gear worn                             9.    No protective gear is worn


10.  Joint strikes & kicks are strictly forbidden               10.  Joint attacks are highly



11.  Weight & age classes strictly enforced                      11.  Weight and age will seldom be

                                                                                                in your favor                                                 


12.   May strike only once when grabbing an opponent  12.  Multiple strikes encouraged

                                                                                                after grabbing.


13.   Dangerous Pressure point attacks forbidden           13.  Dangerous Pressure point                                                                                                           attacks highly encouraged


14.   Throws are forbidden                                                 14.  Throws are used and highly       ```````                                                                           encouraged



15.   Ground techniques seldom taught & are forbidden  15.   Ground techniques are

                                                                                                 taught and applied   


16.   No biting, spitting, pinching, poking, etc, allowed      16.   Simulation of biting, spitting,                                                                                                  pinching, poking, encouraged.


17.   Mind-set limited to only one opponent                        17.   Must maintain mind-set for

                                                                                                multiple opponent attacks.


18.   No need to learn break-falling techniques                  18.  Learning break-falling             

                                                                                                techniques extremely important.


19.   Kicking below waist generally forbidden.                  19.  Seldom if ever kicking above

                                                                                                the waist.


20.   Multiple techniques limited by referee                       20.  Multiple techniques allowed &



21.   Great limitations on techniques allowed.                    21.  Virtually all techniques in a

                                                                                                martial syllabus allowed.