Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Kobudo of Shimabuku Tatsuo – Tonfa of Taira

We are so fortunate to have footage preserved by the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai showing Taira Shinken performing the kata Hama Higa No Tonfa.

There is no doubt some version of this was the form originally taught.

But the footage we have of Shimabuku Tatsuo from 1966 shows an abbreviated version of this form.

This makes for debate, doesn’t it?

Did he forget the form?

Was he simply tired from travel to the States in 1966?

Was this a form that he was modifying?

I don't have simple answers to these questions. You are free to believe what you wish.

Today practitioners use versions of the original and /or the film version in practice. It keeps most of the original elements. In Bushi No Te Isshinryu we use the film version. Mr. Lewis didn’t study it on Okinawa in his time there and later it wasn’t part of Mr. Murray’s studies in Agena. We use the name for the form Chia Fa as the film indicates to not confuse it with the other versions.

The Kobudo of Shimabuku Tatsuo – Sai of Taira

We are so fortunate to have footage preserved by the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai showing Taira Shinken performing the kata Chantan Yara No Sai.

This allows us to see the source training as well as allow comparison with the Chantan Yara No Sai of Shimabuku Tatsuo.

The Kobudo of Shimabuku Tatsuo – Bo of Taira

About 1960 Shimabuku Tasuo trained in Kobudo with Taira Shinken. From that training two Isshinryu Kobudo traditions arose, Urashie No Bo and Shi Shi No Kon No Dai. Taira while the most knowledgeable Kobudo instructor sharing his knowledge was known to suggest using a systems core kata to learn a weapon (separately this may have been the genesis of Kusanku Sai) and to create new kata for study. There is no record of how he shared with Shimabuku.

For the kata Urashie No Bo there is no equivalent kata I can find on the internet. A Japanese student of Taira, Inoue Morokatsu preserved Urasae No Kon in his 3rd volume Ryukyu Kobudo. The photographs are hard to interpret but it appears to be much the same kata. As its photographs are printed in the Japanese manner Top to Bottom, left to right I am sharing some of the Urasae No Kon applications with this piece.

Thus we have Shimabuku Tatsuo’s version of the form Urashie No Bo today.

For the kata Shi Shi No Kon No Dai there is nothing similar to it in the Inoue text, Joe Swift suggests Soeishi No Kon Ni in the Taira tradition may have some of the same moves. Here is the Ryukyu Kobudo Shinokai version of this form

Another form to consider may be Sakugawa no kno sho

Where I see a similarity, as you can see both these forms are considerably shorter than that of Isshinryu.

There is no question that Taira added much depth to Shimabuku’s art.

The Kobudo of Shimabuku Tatsuo – Sai of Kyan

As the article in a recent issue of Classical Fighting Arts claims Kyan Chotoku taucht sai techniques but did not transmit kata as a study. Apparently Isshinryu’s founder was inspired enough to develop his own sai kata, which he named for Kyan, the Kyan no sai. He taught this form through the 50’s but later discontinued its use. Here is his performance of the form.

Some servicemen in the late 50’s studied the form, Sherman Harrill being one, but many didn’t as it’s use was replaced within Shimabuku training.. When Shimabuku developed his Kusanku Sai kata, part of Kyan No Sai was incorporated leaving a double Kyan influence, first with Kusanku as the base form and then as the possible originator of his sai technique. Here is Shimabuku Sensei  emonstrating Kusanku Sai.


** Notice the Kusanku Sai kata does not include kicks. Reportedly, because us of the sai was to do the fighting. **

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Kobudo of Shimabuku Tatsuo – Bo of Kyan

Source documentation for Isshinryu Kobudo must start with The article by Joe Swift. It can be found at misshinryu,ciom . The article is‘The Kobudo of Shimbuku Tatsuo’ .  I suggest you read it.

I think it is necessary to go one step further, to look as closely as possible at the possible source versions of those forms and reflect on the changes Shimabuku Tatsuo may have made. We are fortunate so many of these forms , but not all, are today shared on YouTube to allow us this privilege. This effort will not resolve questions, simply allow us to look ourself.

For a starting point I’d like to use the form Tokomeni No Kon which was taught by his instructor Kyan Chotoku. To see if I would like to share Tokumine no Kon by Nakazato Joen senior instructor of the group Shorinji-ryu and student of Kyan.

Another version of the form has been saved, performed by Nakama Haruka , a student of Okuhara Bunei who was also a student of Kyan.

Kyan was reputed to change his kata at times. Does this change reflect this or are the changes pure Shimabuku? As I said we won’t answer such questions here.

We have a video of Isshinryu’s founder performing his version in 1958 which is,

We can see the differences; some of the repetitions are gone and other changes.

The later version recorded in 1966 is

This is then much of the standard version used across Isshinryu today. But we can see that Shimabuku Tatsuo did approach bo training as pliable for his needs.

Well this is a start to understanding the sources of Isshihnryu Kobudo.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Kata Challenge

This year Mike Cassidy and I decided to hold a youth kata tournament to help them focus on their studies. Unfortunately ½ the class wasn’t due to a School event and that’s always more important. But we had a good time with those who showed up and I’m sharing videos of their efforts. I am very pleased with them. No, they’re not perfect, not the goal of the program, at this portion of their studies. They have years ahead to work towards perfect kata.

Lee Hamilton Saifa kata

Kyle Davis  Seisan kata

Cole Fortin  Annanku kata

Dave Farris  Annanku kata

Riley Hayes Annanku kata

Josh Normandin doing kata Wansu kata.

Everyone is to be congratulated.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bushi No Te Isshinryu Developmental Studies

When I was developing my Bushi No Te Isshinryu program many of the schools I would visit in NE Penna used developmental defensive traditions (often called just Wazza or techniques) in their programs.

At some schools a few techniques at other schools many techniques. I saw merit in their use but not primarily for learning offensive techniques but for movement education. I over time adopter the following traditions to our program. While a belt is indicated where they are introduced to the individual’s learning, they are all important components in their eventual Black Belt test.

The yellow belt Te (or hand) wazza. The main purpose of these drills is for the student to enter a space efficiently. The fourth one is particularly important to the Black Belt study of kata applications.

The blue belt Geri (or foot) wazza. The drills are to build skill for kick delivery. The first four drills involve stepping back to find space to kick. They also draw the abdominal muscles back stretching them. This allows them to kick faster during their contraction phase. The fifth drill is part of their eventual aikido studies from the Tristan Sutrisno drills, The last drill utilizes one of Ernest Rothrock’s Parry Blocks, works the exterior line of defense and attacks the rear leg.

At green belt the student begins a series of aikido drills taught by Tristan Sutrisno. They involve more advanced movement potential studies and teach aiki principles that tie into later kata application studies. Demonstrated is the youth version of there techniques.

Yet another challenge is learning advanced timing of the kata Chinto with a partner who is working the opposite direction. Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Lee are performing this when they were new Sho-Dan's.

The formal study of Isshiinryu kobudo does not occur until after Black Belt. The Bando staff (The Horseman’s Form) or Bando stick (1/2 of the form The Hidden Stick) instead are used to develop the student ability to use a weapon.


Again these drills while real working techniques are mainly do develop movement skills for Black Belt training.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The History behind Karate Throwing Techniques

I was reviewing the 1938 copy of Funakoshi Ginchin’s 1935 “Karate-Do Kyohan” on line at yesterday.

One of the Okinawan throwing techniques he demonstrated resembles that of Isshinryu karate’s Dumping Throw in Wansu Kata. This made me think of the article Joe Swift contributed to Fighting at I suggest you take the time to read it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Development of ISSHINRYU

We we think of the contributions made to the founding of Isshinryu Karate by our founder Shimabuku Tatsuo we should look to what he learned from his instructors too. Fortunately today we can see the actual source training that formed the basis of his development.

In Itoman Seijin (Morinobu’s) book Toudi-jutsu no Kenkyu, Itoman discussed the process in Toudi (the older Oikinawan martial tradition) where one becomes an instructor. “Following, breaking and transcending Following, breaking and transcending involve a student first copying the form of his teacher and restraining himself from making any personal changes to it. Next, he breaks or separates his practice from that of his teacher trying to exceed him. Finally he transcends his teacher’s instruction and finds his own unique military art “. I feel that this tradition is what Shimabuku Tatsuo lived to create his Isshinryu. The following show to see the sources of Shimabuku Tatsuo.

This allows us to review the teaching of his instructors Kyan Chotoku, Motobu Choki and Miyagi Chojun. The core of their teachings are present in Isshinryu but with Shimabuku Tatsuo’s own developments. I am just focusing on the empty hand kata at this time and leave Isshinryu Kobudo for a later date.

We are fortunate to have Nakazato Joen's Shorinji-ryu kata to review. Nakazato was a direct student of Kyan Chotoku and preserved his training I believe with little change. If you follow the link to this site which is in Japanese, you can see the following kata presented.The kata on the shorinji-ryu link are shown in this order:

1. Ananku

2. Seisan

3. Naihanchi

4. Wansu

5. Passai

6. Useishi

7. Chinto

8. Kusanku

9. Tokumine no kon

While a version of Ananku is used by my students (from the Shimabuku Ezio lineage) it is not found in Isshinryu proper.Kata Seisan, Wansu, Chinto and Kusanku are found in Isshinryu. It is evident how similar the kata Seisan, Chinto and Kusanku are to the Isshinryu versions. Of course they evidence Shimabuku’s choice of verticle striking (which was personally favored by Kyan as reported in Nagamne Shinso’s book “Tales of the Great Okinawan Masters”. You can clearly see how the Kyan core kata were adapted for Isshinryu use.

Wansu is greatly modified, and I believe it may show Shimabuku adding elements to his Isshinryu in the process. Using evasive steps, Empi strikes, and front leg kicks are among it’s changes. This may have been the starting point for the development of his Sunsu (SuNuSu) Kata.

The Nihanchi kata is not from the teaching of Kyan, but came from an Ishi, a student of Nakazato who had previous training (as reported to me by a ).friend in Nakazato’s lineage. Nakazato felt that this should be added to the Kyan studies. It’s more probable that Nihanchi’s lineage descended from Motobu Chokoi. Here we have a video of Motobu no Naihanchi Shodan - Motobu Chōsei ,Motobu Chokoi’s son. Note this version of Naihanchi kata begins by moving to the right like the Isshinryu version unlike most other versions .

Even at this there are differences in Isshinryu’s version showing Shimabuku’s personal development.

Motobu Ryu Self Defense Techniques = as originally shown by Motobu Choki

Further influence of Motobu Choki can be found within the original self defense techniques he developed. The following video of his son Motobu Chōsei performing those techniques can be found to influence the development of kata Sunsu (SunNuSu). Thanks to Joe-san Swuft for sharing this with me years ago. (Look at 9:40)

This leaves us with Passai and Useishi (Gojushiho) We do find there influence in kata Sunsu (Sun NuSu) the kata created by Shimabuku Tatsuo. Passai with few modifications is seen in the kata’s beginning. Useishi is found in Sunsu’s Nutike striking techniques. Then other Isshinryu kata techniques are found. Finally unique Isshinryu contributions show multiple empi (elbow or forearn) strikes. Open hand striking and kicking techniques resembling those in various Goju kata.

The primary influence of Miyagi Chojun is found in the kata Sanchin and Seiunchin (Seienchin).

Miyagi Chojun was known to often teach a student only two kata. In this case the Sanchin taught in Isshinryu is the one developed by Miyagi Chojun himself, which incorporates backward movement not found in the Higaonna Kanryo original. Sanchin is also used with Shime testing and in Chinkuchi training.

We can see the Miyagi version in this video of Higaonna Morio.

The next Goju kata found in Isshinryu is Seiunchin (Seinenchin and other spellings). For this kata et us look at the Yagi Meitetsu  in his Meibukan  group variation.

Again we see the variety of technique as modified by Shimabuku Tatsuo. The same application potential of the original remains present.

There is a further presence of Goju technique found in Isshinryu. You can find it in Shimabuku’s use of their kicking techniques. For example the side kicks in Wansu and Sunsu kata have Goju influence. Look closely to the applications shown by Higaonna Morio in his Seisan kata applications and you see it. Additionally,, look at the last ‘front’ kick on the video and see it’s influence in our thrusting kick in Sunsu kata.

As Isshinryu developed Shimabuku was influenced by his instructors training.  You can see their presence within our Isshinryu technique. But going back to Itoman’s description of an instructor, I feel  Shimabuku’s changes is a mark of his own thinking and development on his art.  The Isshinryu system owes his instructors a great debt,  but also is a sign that Shimabuku Tatsuo did transcend their arts too.