III – The Shorin-ryu School
It’s by the intermediary of Chotoku Kiyan that the course of Tomari-te has been transmitted until our days. The three names Tomari-te, Naha-te and Shuri-te appeared towards the end of the 19th century for ‘well’ marking the differences between the forms of karate attached to those localities. Let us note that these three localities are only located a distance of several kilometers from each other, and these three are also the social hierarchy of the ancient society. Let us recall that Shuri was the capital of Okinawa where officers and nobles resided, Naha was a shopping village which included Kume, and Tomari was a village close to these two cities. Although this classification wasn’t used until the end of the 19th century, how there exist very few ancient documents on karate, it forms part of a collective memory with the illusion that it goes back several centuries.
We could enumerate on several characteristic traits of the course called Tomari-te. From the technical point of view, it close to Shuri-te. The adepts of Tomari-te were often renowned for the skill of their kicks; that was the case of C. Kyan. The techniques of Tomari-te comprised of added movements which were without effectiveness directed towards the point of view of combat and they existed from reciprocal influences between Tomari-te and local dances. Let us note that C. Kiyan was a renowned dancer.
1 – The Itinerary of Chotoku Kiyan (1870 – 1945)
Chotoku Kiyan didn’t give a particular name to his school, however several masters of the Shorin-ryu school considered it like the reference of their school. More ever, the transmission of most kata is passed by his intermediaries, it is why it is considered that he played an important role in the line of the Shorin-ryu school. He is known on Okinawa under the name of Chian Mi Gua, the surname which signifies Kyan ad two small eyes. The kata Tomari no Chinto is transmitted today under the name of Chian Mi Gua no Chinto, which is a mark of respect which he acquired with his surname.
C. Kiyan was born in 1870 in Shuri. His father, descendent of a noble family, was an officer of the last king of Kyukyu in which he had of him great confidence. He had the responsibility to conserve the important documents and was versed in Japanese and Chinese literature. In 1882, he went with is son to Tokyo in charge of a mission for the ancient king. C. Kiyan was weak and small, his father imposed on him daily exercises to reinforce his body, in winter and summer, he trained in the garden in karate and wrestling. However, the winter in Tokyo is painful for those who are habituated to the soft climate of Okinawa. Shoshin Nagamine, one of the students of C. Kiyan, born in 1907 recounts:
“When I was a police officer, our Police Chief often spoke to us of the life that carried the Kiyan’s, father and son to Tokyo, for he had lived in Tokyo himself during his infancy. He said: “When it was cold, the winter and that I was near the heating, my father criticized me and to encourage me, cited the example of Kiyan and his son. He said to me, “The same as the day as cold as today, the father and the son Kiyan were both outside and training so hard they were perspiring. You also, you are the son of a family of the same blood as Kiyan, you must therefore be more courageous.” “
The father and the son Kiyan returned to Okinawa after four years of stay in Tokyo. A day the father of C. Kiyan said to him:
“Listen well that I stay today, it is my testament. You are small, but your spirit is strong. Same small as you are, you must develop you capabilities in the art of combat by good training. You must learn to access some techniques which are most appropriate for you from the kata. If you get deeply into them you will always be able to leave those who are adversaries. General Kabayama of the Satsuma during the war of Keicho (1609) is agood example. He didn’t measure one meter 50 (cm.), but he was a hero of incomparable bravery and had the surname of “Demon General”. After this war a popular expression appeared. ‘The General Kabayama is a needle, who would be able to swallow a needle?” “ [translators note, this ‘you’ is the personal one as from father to son, instead of the more global ‘you.]
“There are some people who take themselves for great adepts, and become arrogant towards their groins (screwing their groins?), some of them are a little strong. It is this that one must avoid throughout the process of getting deeper into karate. If you wish to become a veritable adept, you must always keep present the spirit of the seven precepts given by the grand master Sokon Matsumura:
Withdraw the soldiers,
Protect the people,
Develop the qualities of each person,
Give tranquility to the people,
Create a harmony between groups, and finally
Contribute to enrich society,
This is the goal of the martial arts.
You must also examine seriously the veritable sense of this phrase of our predecessors:
“How can one commit an error while resisting discreet? Those who are on top and those who are on the bottom, all must accomplish their work.” “
These words let us foresee the atmosphere in which Chotoku Kiyan was raised.
A little time after his return to Okinawa, he went to knock on the door of master Sokon Matsumura who was already nearly 80 years (of age). The documents report that C. Kiyan had received instruction from S. Matsumura. But, in reason of age of the master, this teaching could not have been that one imagines today in presenting the course of karate. He probably received criticism and counsel on his karate and listened to S. Matsumura’s experiences or his fundamental thoughts on his art. The sole fact from the encounter with the greatest master of his time was to stimulate the youthful will of C. Kiyan, and also to bring to him the essential indications that were his guide in his long itinerary on the way of karate. Recommended by his father, he was admitted as a student by Anko Itosu who lived in Shuri, as they did. C. Kiyan also went to receive training from Kokan Oyatomari, a known adept of the art of Tomari. We don’t know that last master except from some vage recollections. He was born about 1828 and a kata was transmitted under the name of “Oyatomari no Bassai”. In all cases, it is thanks to the recommendation and help of his father who was himself a follower of karate that C. Kiyan receive training from several many masters, the most important ones of this period.
C. Kiyan, trained himself with diligence to surmount the inferiority that he conferred on himself because of his small size. The intensity of his investment prolonged the education that he gave got from his father. He developed his practice to arrive at the way to dominate an adversary large and more powerful than himself. He thus practiced while placing himself as if he had just behind him his back to a river, or the parapet of a bridge and he worked to develop his personal techniques. In these techniques he does not move back, but that does not say that that he always enters into a collision with his adversary. By a continual effort, he developed his methods of moving and of the legs (use) and little by little gained the reputation of a frightening adept of combat called kake-dameshi, combat which would leave from a challenge. His surname ‘Chan mi gua” became celebrated among the adepts of karate.
An ironic poem of the period said:
In the old system, he was a trusted noble from Ryukyu,
Today he draws a carriage, hiding his face under his hat,
What all this is misery, isn’t it?
Kyan was himself a victim of unemployment; indeed he effectively worked to draw a carriage to transport agricultural products and he knew economic difficulties for a long time. It was during this period, the most difficult of his life, that he encountered master Chantanyara, stableman of the family of former Ryukyu kings. S. Nagamine told an antidote, that he heard from Ankichi Arakaki, the oldest pupil of the school of Kiyan, who had heard it directly from C. Kiyan.
Master Chantanyara was since childhood, with exceptional agility and had very strong legs and hips. It is said he jumped from one side of a bridge and immediately got back up on the other side like a bird would do while flying. But when I received his teaching age had weakened him and he walked with a cine. But one day at dusk, we were three students, he explained to us the technique and began to climb. All of a sudden, he shook his cane with power, then he pointed to me and said: ‘What would you do against this guard?” I was pushed back by the power of his glance, his body has an immovable stability, and he maintained a distance with rigorous justice and his cane didn’t present any fault (opening). I couldn’t do anything, I lost by breath and I was fallen in place with cold perspiration. Until this day, I was somewhat presumptuous and I thought that my art was already nearly sufficient. The master then gave me a lesson. That of him who has forged his art unto the point of a mysterious power which is other than simple physical force. He veritably gave off a formidable energy. I recalled my fathers precepts and I am training more.
C. Kiyan had constituted his karate on several personal kata. The kata Chantanyara no kushanku, favorite kata of Chantanyara that he transmitted to him, and the kata Chanmigua no Chinto et Oyatomari no bassai are the kata preferred. Contrary to those schools that have known a large expansion to the center of Japan, the school of Kiyan remains discretely in the island of Okinawa, and these kata have undergone few formal modifications. They conserve then most faithfully the form practiced at the end of the 19th century, the period of C. Kiyan.
Until an advanced age C. Kiyan remained renowned for his capabilities in combat; they said that he never lost and they recount many anecdotes of his combats. The capability of C. Kiyan was constructed by his proper efforts. He told his students that 70% of the level of an adepts depends on his effort, and only 30% on his gifts. I cite these words which condense his attitude:
“Take the example of the fist; If you train all the day on the makiwara, you can easily break the planks and the tiles. But if you stop your exercises on the makiwara, your fist reverts to that of an ordinary person. In karate if you continue your training, you must progress, but if you take a respite, you regress from before. It is the effort without respite and not the morphology of a person who find themselves at the junction between a large success and a failure.”
C. Kiyan had personalized certain basic techniques. One habitually gives a punch (tsuki) with the fist formed horizontally, and strikes principally with the first joint of the medius, but he struck while maintaining a vertical fist (tate-ken) in privileging a strike with the first joint of the index. It isn’t a traditional mode, but it is a personal manner that he had elaborated for himself.
Here is the last give that he had given to his student S. Nagamine:
“I had constructed my dojo in 1942, and we had made the inauguration of this dojo .. I was especially touched by the presence of master Kiyan, who was already the age of 73 years.. he had executed to celebrate the inauguration of my dojo his favorite kata, Bassai, and a kata of the stick. I could not hold back my tears and felt the heat of recognition in my chest. All the audience had been struck by the precision of his gestures and the power of his will. I had never felt the grandeur of my master until that day. It was the last time that I had seen the Master in a public demonstration.”
2 – The teachings of Chotoku Kiyan
This text of C. Kiyan shows the practical attitude that makes the particularities of this adepts karate. His indications are simple, but his pragmatic spirit is extremely instructive for today’s karateka.
Instructions for training and teaching, by C. Kiyan (1930)
1 – It is appropriate to teach in the following order: explain first what is karate, what is the attitude of training, then learn the forms and the movement. Then learn the way of striking with the fist and the elbow, the way of kicking, the parries corresponding with the techniques of seizing and immobilization, and finally the kata. It is well after one has well learned a kata that one should be initiated into combat.
2 – When one trained traditionally in combat, without any protection, this was not without accidents. It will be necessary to use from now on (in the future) certain protections, like those of kendo, and to wear rubber gloves. We will then be able to avoid accidents.
3 – For training, aside from the makiwara and the protections that I have earlier mentioned, we don’t have a need of another object, nor some partners, nor much of a place. It is one of the advantages of karate.
All things considered, during the daily training it is necessary to strengthen the body, to exercise the blows of the fist and the feet, to learn how to skillfully mobilize the members, and to shift oneself with ease, all while understanding well the principles of training. While training ourselves in this manner a long time we will arrive at acquiring the subtle principles of application and how to act suitable in any situation that presents itself to us. However if one trains oneself with the techniques of the body, and neglects to quiet (dampen down) the spirit, that which is fundamental to the art will be unusable.
It is necessary to become clairvoyant in life and seek to develop modesty, the calm spirit, promptitude and bravery, at the same time that one trains the techniques of the body.
1. The martial arts aspires to prevent violence, to alleviate disorder and to protect oneself. It’s why those who take the martial arts must always have a modest attitude and reserve to comport oneself correctly with a spirit of loyalty and devotion.
2. It is essential in the martial arts, to act at the necessary time while totally investing your spirit, your force and your body. Those which their force makes haughty unto arrogant are harmful to the society, detested by others and will do themselves misfortune.
It’s necessary to hold this in account. A proverb says: “A fist strike will remain a treasure in the sleeve.” It is necessary to avoid its use without discrimination.
3. Contribute to the physical education, train oneself to the martial arts, quiet the spirit; such are the aims of karate.
4. One must keep the [one’s] posture while remaining motionless and to submerge the “ki” to the bottom of the stomach while taking care that it does not rise again. However, one must also avoid at any price from freezing [in place].
5. When one practices a kata, it is necessary to execute it with as much willpower and with the feelings of the moment where one would face with his enemy.
6. Speed is necessary in all the gestures and displacements [body shifts - movements].
All the displacements [body shifts - movements] owe their carry out while placing the force in the toes.
7. When one practices a kata, it is necessary to know the direction, not to be mistaken about on the goal (target) of the techniques, and distinguish the jodan (high), the chudan (middle) and the gedan (low). Training without comprehension [of the direction of the kata] is useless.
8. It is well needed to train with the makiwara, and reinforce the impact of the strike. Whatever its speed, the strike will be ineffective without force in its impact.
More ever, whatever the force of the strike, it will be ineffective if it is missing agility and speed in the techniques of the members [arms and legs] and in displacement [body shifting]. It is not necessary that missing neither force of the strikes, nor agility; they are like the two wheels of a carriage, with only one missing they are unbalanced.
9. It is always needed to endeavor to integrate the spirit, the body and the eyes.
Instructions for combat, by C. Kiyan
1. Before acting, it is necessary to discern the capabilities of the opponent. If he is powerful, he will inevitably rely on his strength and will have the tendency to attack. Then I would make an effort to parry so that he uses more and more force, and I will launch my attack at the time where he reveals a vacuum [an opening].
It is a technique by which one borrows the force of the opponent.
2. If the opponent isn’t powerful, he will be on the defensive and multiply the movements and the shifts while often moving back. In this case one should not launch an attack of a sudden strike. It is then necessary to use blows of the fist and the feet to bring him to back up and attack all from a strike. Then when I take the initiative of the attack I must take guard of unexpected responses (counters).
3. I should not attack by over-estimating my force and my speed. They who are nimble will be able to have a fast counter before I can move by divining the movements of my hand and my feet.
4. It will be necessary to hide from the technique that one will use, while concealing his own will (intentions). Whatever the capability of the adversary, one should neither advance or move back more than three steps.
5. At the moment of combat, attention should be paid to the defense of the center line, since the eyes until start from the legs [This last phrase(depuis les yeux jusqu’au depart des jambs) doesn’t seem to translate well]. One must always guard oneself agains receiving fist strikes to the eyes, from kicks to the testicles and not letting oneself be grabbed. In general, one must not use too much force in defense. If one uses too much force in parries, each gesture will be slowed down by it, which risks losing an opportune moment.
6. When one crosses the arms of the adversary, it should be done in a strong and flexible way, at the same time, but the spirit must be strong, in order to be able to react adequately to the reaction of the adversary.
7. The fist attack must be especially fast. When it is parried, and diverted from the place that was aimed for, it must carry on its way to strike anywhere. And, the same, if the attack does not have a strong impact, the opponent will become flustered. And then it is necessary to continue to give all the possible blows from the fist and the foot without stopping a moment, spontaneously and increasing.
8. It isn’t forcefully necessary to parry with the hand kicks from the opponent. On can avoid them with your legs and strike at the same time with fist strikes.
And the same if the adversary falls, one should not want to attack too easily,
because sometimes one can receive an unexpected attack.
9. When the opponent seizes our leg, there isn’t a danger if one presses the leg to the earth very strongly. But, one must pay attention not to fall when the ground is bad.
10. While facing towards the opponent, it is necessary to pay attention not to fall into his strategy. Some use the foot while striking with their hands, or while making the semblance of seizing the hand, some others utilize the fists while making ready to attack with the foot. One must never relax.
11. When one fights against several opponents, one should never fight body to body [at close range], especially one should fight at a distance.
If the attack is to my right, I will move myself to the left; As soon as I attack to the front, I attack to my opponent at the rear. It is the best way.
These instructions are fundamental for combat. But they only present a fragment [of possible tactics].
Summoning all, the variety of martial arts is subtle and without boundries, it is impossible to describe them all. Each one will be acquired by ardent training and by long research.