I believe it was around 1987 when I found a copy of Patrick McCarthy’s” Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate”. What I found most interesting was the outline of that Okinawan document of the Bubishi. Several years later I obtained a copy of the ‘Penland and Alexander” translation, and eventually a copy of Patrick McCarthy’s publication of same. (I was later to learn he had done previous editions of the translation for his Unchinadi organization members.) Around 1997 a relatively new member of the internet I discovered that there was little discussion taking place about this book.
Living in New Hampshire, not reading Japanese, I began an analysis of the available Bubishi translations and information that was then available on the CyberDojo discussion group. And saved it then on my Funkydragon web site (built by a friend). Mostly seeking wider discussion which never really resulted, though I made some very good new and knowledgeable acquaintances. Of course I also was misunderstood by a few, thinking I was attacking individuals. Not my intention.
Subsequent to this, I authored several articles on the Bubishi at FightingArt.com, at the request of Patrick McCarthy translated Roland Habsetzer’s book of the Bubishi, and was asked to provide an introduction to Patrick McCarthy’s latest Bubishi edition.
With the support of Joe Swift I obtained copies of Mabuni’s work on Seipai Kata which contained some of the Itosu Anko version drawings, and other Japanese translations.
While not encompassing everything written, it did leave with a lot to think about. To preserve this discussion, I am placing this analysis here. There is a lot to consider. When this is complete, I will add some further comments.
Rather than talk around the issue, I'd like to take a closer look at it.
First off I'm going to make several assumptions, because I have no information to consider otherwise. They're based on trying to logically look at the impact of the Bubushi and understand what it represents.
[BTW I'm very willing to change any of these assumptions. I only request documented proof, not opinion as to why they should be changed.]
1. Assume All translations of the Bubushi are correct. I have no knowledge that the translators are using the same text. And there may be great differences between the texts. But I couldn't read any of the originals myself.
2. Assume All Okinawan instructors had their own copies. I likewise have no knowledge who did or didn't have the Bubushi, so why argue about it. Instead let us consider how it may have influenced their instruction and art.
3. Assume All Okinawan instructor’s had equal knowledge of the 'archaic' Chinese used in the Bubushi and fully understood the text.
4. I assume the Alexander translation, as a closer source to what was in the original Bubushi. He doesn't appear to restructure the text. McCarthy often is the easier text to understand, whether do to better translation or the addition of subsidiary material in his understanding of the Bubushi. Both Alexander and McCarthy both include extra material on the Meridians and their point location, which was not in the original, as I've been able to ascertain.
5. I will keep the discussion as close to the text of the Bubushi as possible. Without evidence, I won't assume an Okinawan instructor had other information available to combine with this tradition.
As a historical text, whatever/whoever/whenever the origin of the Bubushi, it apparently represents a personal text(s) of one (several) individual(s). It may have come from one source of training. It may have come from several sources that an individual gathered together.
From my perspective, it appears to be an adept's personal notes. The art (techniques) of the person aren't recorded in great detail, but rather in a key word type of code describing techniques.
The Bubushi appears to be a reference notebook for someone who had extensive training. As a source book of where and when to attack a body, it does not go into detail as to the how the attack is carried out.
It shows the 36 vital points, as well as the 'delayed death touch' theories.
One would assume the individuals training had covered that in great detail, and they didn't need that recorded. Especially in reference to the 'delayed death touch' aspect of the art being presented.
As the charts show only specific places to be struck at specific times, without any explanation, one can assume that the points are 'Vital' by themselves, or that the points are 'Vital' in conjunction to a combination of attacks cumulating with their being struck. There is NO evidence in the Bubushi as to the correct answer.
The Bubushi as a medical reference, likewise doesn't go into preparation detail. I would assume because the practioner had the hands on experience preparing the remedy's. In fact, it strikes me as a quick reference guide incase you mess up and get struck, how to counter what was done to you or your students.
The tactical analysis, sayings, etc. likewise appear to me reminders to key word extensive prior training. Things that should be a part of the art, but a quick reference to remember all of the details behind the art. The technical sections demonstrated, likewise, appear to be just a quick reference guide to different sources.
Looking at the Bubushi as a whole, I would expect it would be of the greatest interest to Chinese Style Martial Artists from South East China. A historical reference from one practioner in that region.
Now looking at Okinawa several possibilities present themselves.
1) There may be a direct tradition of the original instruction to one of the Okinawan systems.
2) The Okinawan instructors may have directly used the Bubushi to provide focus to the system(s) they were developing.
3) The Okinawan instructors may have indirectly used the Bubushi to provide focus to the system(s) they were developing.
4) Outside of the sayings, the Okinawan instructors, may have found any practical application for the text of the Bubushi.
The only apparent evidence is:
1) The Bubushi influenced Myiagi Chojun in the choice of the name of his system.
2) It has been reported that Senior Goju practioners revere the book.
3) Funakoshi Ginchin incorporated several sections of the Bubushi in his 'Karate Do Koyhan' The code of karate he translated. The 2nd section he left in the original Chinese.
4) Shimabuku Tatsuo incorporated the 'Code of Karate' into the development of the Isshinryu system
5) Motobu Chotoko apparently incorporated similar medical information in his work on Karate.
I am unaware of any evidence that other aspects of the Bubushi are incorporated into karate training. This may be because of:
1) There are none
2) They are reserved for true senior students (say 20+ years of instructions).
3) American students did not study long enough to be exposed to the direct training.
How do we choose which is most likely?
Perhaps if we look at one portion of the text we might get some idea. [I freely admit this is supposition on my part.]
Lets take a piece of Article 21 - Delayed Death Touch 12 Hour Diagrams.
McCarthy Page 141 - Rabbit (5-7am) Death in one day can be caused by a severe trauma to the anastomotica magna of the femorial artery in the depression anterior to the semimembranosus and semitendinosus muscles posterior to the medial condyle of the tibia (LIV8), the transverse perineal artery, between the anus and the scrotum in the male (CV 1), the brachial artery (TH 11), or the anterior ethmodial artery or cranial nerve at the frontal fontanel (GV 22).
This is attended with a diagram indicating these points
Now Alexander Pg 71 - Illustration Number 22-4 Blood Gate Attacking, Dim Hsueh, U, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. to cause death within 20 days.
The diagram lists on the forehead -Anterior Ethmoidal Artery. On the biceps the Anastomotic Magan Brachial Artery, the Transverse Pernieal Public Artery, and the Right and left Anastomotic Femoral Artery.
This is also attended with a diagram indicating these points.
Notice the difference in the hours and the number of days in which death will result.
Now assuming the 'ancestor' understood the diagram, how do you strike the point, which direction, how much force? Nothing mentions whether the strike is in coordination with anything else. It likewise doesn't indicate whether each point has this potential in these hours, or whether they are struck together or in a certain order.
I understand the trauma value from the strike to the forehead, and to the CV1 area. But let's consider the diagram strike to the Brachial Artery.
I don't know how our 'Okinawan Master' would determine which precisely was the area to strike from the diagram. Do they experiment? The penalties seem rather severe if the Bubushi is correct (in either case).
As McCarthy determines this is the equivalent of TH 11, which both English translations refer to as the Brachial Artery, rather than try to struggle with my Gray's Anatomy, I'll cheat and use my "Encyclopedia of Dim Mak" - Montague and Simpson. (p 375).
Montague defines TH 11 as Qinglengyuan (cooling gulf). The direction of strike is straight in to the rear of the elbow. The damage is the point can be used to weaken the elbow joint. In fact, most elbow breaks can be made using this location.
Now it may be that breaking the elbow joint will have other trauma effects. I'm copying my surgeon, Dr. Harper on this post to get further information from Modern Western Medicine <grin>.
Consider how confused I am using English translations, additional texts and capable of referencing Medical Authorities, too.
It makes me consider how difficult it may have been for anyone not personally trained in the original tradition of the Bubushi Art(s) to make sense of all of this.
Of course remember, the Bubushi in article 11 and 22 seems to give a cure for this strike, too.
McCarthy (page 94) Article 22 - Twelve-Hour Green Herbal Remedies. These herbs should be ground into a powder with rice wine, and drank every three hours to quickly remedy related injuries.
4. Rabbit (5-7 a.m.) qing yu lian (the herbal remedy)
Alexander page 80 - Chapter 23 The Precious Stone Glass Revealed/Ancient Chinese Herb And Plant Medicines.
Hour 4 U Medicine used is Pan Pien Lien, Green Fish Lotus, Better known as One half lotus. Scientific name of "Lobelia radicans Thumb. Preparation: The whole plant is used medicinally, 1 - Liang each time, prepared as decoction.
Allow me to close (as if you haven't seen enough at this point <g>) with this. I didn't try and pick out a difficult piece of the Bubushi. I just picked one section (point) at random. But I think if we're going to try and understand the potential impact the Bubushi might have had on the development of Okinawan Karate, we have to consider what they may have thought of.