Monday, February 10, 2014

Bubishi A Close Look Redoux Part 10

Joe Swift’s contributions -

Victor-san has been posting some provocative literature on the Bubishi as of late, and has really got us all (I think) thinking. Although I may not agree with all of his assesments, based upon different experiences, but nonetheless, he has brought to light some important issues.

I would like to offer the following information that I have been able to glean from my own studies and experiences. Some of it may directly or indirectly address Victor-san's posts, but mostly it is just for your information and perhaps to stimulate thought and discussion on this very important topic.

My article shall be posted in three separate sections, part one on an alternative theory as to the historical development of the Bubishi, part two on the 36 vital points, and part three on the 48 diagrams and their possible connection to the defensive themes present in the orthodox kata of Okinawa karate.

Part One: Is the Bubishi Really "Chinese"?

The actual origins of the "Okinawa" Bubishi are shrouded in mystery. The most popular theory is that it was transmitted from Fujian to Okinawa sometime in the 19th century. It is often described as a "Densho" or a kind of textbook of the Fujian White Crane system that emerged from Yongchun Village.

However, there is another theory, this one not often addressed, especially in English. It is just as plausible as the Chinese Origin Theory (my words). I will call this one the Okinawan Origin Theory. Although I make no claims as to its authenticity, it is presented here for your consideration...

Noted Okinawan karate teacher/historian/researcher Kinjo Akio (#1) presents this theory in his 1999 book Karate-den Shin'roku or the True Record of Karate's Transmission. Kinjo states that due to several reasons, all of which are found in the Bubishi text itself, the Bubishi is not really of Chinese origin, but rather seems to have been compiled in Okinawa.
First of all, the old Shorin vs. Shorei theory... in the versions of the Bubishi that are available in Okinawa and Japan, these two style names(?) are listed, as Shorinryu and Shoreijiryu. Taking a look at the kanji as presented in the Bubishi for these terms, we can see that Shorin would be pronounced as Zhaolin or Shaolin in Mandarin (PinYin romanization) whereas Shorei would be pronounced as Shaoling in Mandarin (#2).

However, there are two problems with this, that make it seem as if the Bubishi is not Chinese, but rather Okinawan in origin. First of all is the fact that Chinese martial arts do not use the term -Ryu as a style name. This is a Japanese custom. The Okinawans were heavily influenced by the Japanese and their culture from 1609 onwards. And second of all, it is clear (at least to me) that the Shorin vs. Shorei theory, looking at the PinYin pronunciation, are both bastardizations of the word Shaolin. However, the real kanji for the Shaolin Temple is not shown in the Bubishi. They seem to be arbitrary kanji designed to fit pronunciation instead. It is highly unlikely that a Chinese book on the martial traditions would have spelled Shaolin wrong, especially since one of the main components of the Bubishi seems to be Luohan Quan (Monk Fist Boxing), one of the major Shaolin systems.

And, while we're at it, why would the secret textbook of the Fujian White Crane Boxing devote so much time to descriptions of Luohan Quan, and actually go into describing four of their hsing (kata)? This indicates to me anyway that the Bubishi is more of a personal journal of some sorts, and not a secret textbook of a martial system.
And another point for the Okinawan Origin Theory would be: why would the Chinese White Crane masters even show their secret treasure to Okinawans who were only there for a short time, let alone allow them to copy it...? It is doubtful that the many Okinawan stalwarts who made the arduous journey to Fujian had stayed long enough to pick up an entire fighting tradition. Even Uechi Kanbun's system seems to be an ecclectic hybrid of Tiger & Crane Boxing. Recent research by Tokashiki Iken in Okinawa also indicates that Higaonna Kanryo may have only stayed in Fujian for 3 years, enough to learn Sanchin, but not much else...

The 48 self defense diagrams also seem to provide another clue. Whereas the diagrams of Uncle & Aunt Jang and the Black & White Servants clearly show Chinese style hair-dressings and clothing, the 48 diagrams seem to indicate something different. Kinjo says that the hairstyle alone seems to rule out the possibility of Chinese people in action. During the time frame the Bubishi is believed to have been written, all Chinese males, except maybe the Daoists, had shaved heads except for the long queue. The top knots of the Bubishi seem to be more along the lines of the upper classes of the old Ryukyu Kingdom.

SO, you may be asking, if the Bubishi is actually of Okinawan origin, why is it written in Chinese?! Well, if we look at the village of Kume in Naha, we can see a sort of Okinawan China Town. Kume Village (called Kuninda in the Okinawan dialect) was the site of the 36 Chinese families who settled from Ming China in 1392. There were many people in Kuninda who could read/write Chinese, and several were employed as translators by the Royal Government (#3). Even Itosu Anko of Shuri was fluent in Chinese, and served as the King's secretary (#4).

Well, enough for now, as I probably bored you all to death! :-)

Be on the lookout for Part Two soon!


#1. Kinjo Akio has travelled to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong well over 140 times in the past for the express purpose of training, researching, and finding the roots of the Okinawan kata.

#2. As the list prohibits attachments, any interested party please contact me privately for an attached BMP of the kanji.

#3. Aragaki Seisho (1840-1920) was one such person. Aragaki was the first teacher of Higaonna Kanryo, one of the people from whom the Bubishi is thought to have originated.

#4. Mabuni Kenwa, in his 1934 publication entitled "Seipai no Kenkyu" (study of the Seipai kata), published portions of the Bubishi that he claims he copied from Itosu.

1 comment:

Garrett said...

True, Okinawan Bubishii. Soken Hohan Shinshii had one handed down by Sokon Matsumura, with Nabe Shinshii notes added in on top of older script. Same day photo of tuite on limb
Fantastic work, and sharing.