Monday, December 9, 2019

A glimpse of Shirman Shimpan in Nakasone's "Karate-Do Taiken"

When I talked about Genwa Nakasone’s book “Karate-Do Taiken” I forgot that a year ago I wrote a bit about Shimpan Shiroma and his contribution on the use of karate technique. This is what I posted, and I have added a photo from the book. In the body of the piece these discussions were accompanied with diagrams.

Thought these words by Shiroma Shimpan from the 1938 Nakasone text Karate Do Taiken might be more interesting than talking about something carved on a monument on Okinawa. He wrote:

 9. Use of the right knee parry of a right kick (interior line of defense) and a left knee parry against a right kick, then place the left foot down (spinning off the attacker) and double palm strike to their spine (exterior line of defense).


Alberto Cruz Photos are not in the right order, Japanese books are read from right to left but also the lower right photo must go in the top right and vice versa with the other photo
Victor Donald Smith The more interestng thing was he was a student I believe of Itosu, one of the original instructors of youth in the Okinawan schools, and what he wrote about the use of karate technique crossed systems, even incorporating discussion about Sanchin, Apparently in his time Okinawan karate was not thought of as being style specific (of course my assumption).

Sunday, December 8, 2019

An idea what to read

There are times I really wonder if many really take the time to read the books written in the 1930’s, when a sincere effort was made to explain Okinawan karate to the Japasese martial order, and is the closest most of us can come to getting direct source material. I so rarely find anyone discussing these works.

Now some of them are available only in Japanese, but even for those books the illustrations are extremely revealing. Others have been translated into English (by McCarthy, Swift, McKenna and others), and I know some have bought them, but I wonder if more to glance through and then placed on a shelf.

There are such wonders contained therein, often presenting a clearer picture of older karate by individuals who lived it.

One such book is the 1938 publication by Nakasone, “Karate Do Taiken”.

Then in english we have Mario McKenna’s translation of the book translated title “An Overview of Karate”

The table of contents might give you an idea what is there.

Chomo Hanashiro Performing Jion
Shiroma Shimpan Performing Kata Application
Kenwa Mabuni Performing Sochin
Sochin Applications by Kenwa Mabuni and Shinken Taira
Passai Kata Performed by Choshin Chibana
Bowing Ceremony
Dagger disarming the First Seven Techniques
Shinken Taira Performing Staff Techniques: Kongo no Kata
Juhatsu Kyoda (back toward camera) teaching Karate-dó
Memorial Photograph of Dan Promotion
Takushoku University Karate Club Winter Training
Juhatsu Kyoda (Center) Leading Students
Shimpan Shiroma (Center) Leading Students
A Letter Left by the late Karate Master Anko Itosu I
A Letter Left by the late Karate Master Anko Itosu II
The Writings of Anko Itosu
‘Karate Kumite’ by Chomo Hanashiro
Photograph Commemorating the Establishment of Standardized Karate-dó Kata
Calligraphy by Gichin Funakoshi Sensei
The Life of Genwa Nakasone by Mario McKenna
Foreword by Genwa Nakasone
The Ten Lessons of Toudi by Anko Itosu
Explanatory Words and Notes for Novice Karate-dó Students by Genwa Nakasone
Magnanimity by Soko Yamaga
Strong Commitment by Soko Yamaga
The Twenty Precepts of Karate-dó: An Explanation by Genwa Nakasone
Prepatory Training for Karate-dó by Genwa Nakasone
Karate-dó Kata and their Meaning by Shiroma Shimpan
Basic Karate-dó Kata by Genwa Nakasone
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 1
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 2
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 3
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 4
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 5
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 6
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 7
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 8
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 9
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 10
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 11
Basic Karate-dó Kata Number 12
An Outline of the Kata Jion by Chomo Hanashiro
An Outline of the Aragaki-ha Kata Sochin by Kenwa Mabuni
An Outline of Passai kata(Matsumura-line) by Choshin Chibana
An Outline of the Art of the Staff: Kongo no kata (Shushi no kon) by Shinken Taira
Dagger Disarming: The First Seven Techniques by Hironori Otsuka
Tales of Karate-dó by Genwa Nakasone
It is probably one of the best glimpses in the range of Karate at that time.
Of course it is more aligned to the karate that descended from Itosu lineage, IMO.
But there are other works from that same period that answer many other lineages too.
I have just thought of a new way to look at the Shimpan Shiroma material in the book, and am working on that.
Let me offer one example, I know you have seen this photo many times but did you realize the context of it.

Shimpan Shiroma (Center) Leading Students
in Karate Practice from Shuri Students First Elementary School at Shuri Castle

Friday, December 6, 2019

An Aikido mystery posed by Hiroshi Tada



There is so much I don’t know, then I read something else and ideas come into my head. That does not make them true, but with effort thought might open a glimpse of reality.


Specifically I was reading The Aikido Journal from 1884 vol 21 no 4. The article on Hiroshi Tada when his response to a question gave an answer I had never heard before.


The interviewer:  I’ve heard that before the war and during the Iwama period, when performing suwariwaza Ikkyo which is one of our most fundamental aikido techniques, Ueshiba Sensei would bive the opponent a chance to attack, but rather initiated the movement by sending forth his own ki…”


Tawada :  “That was known as the “cultivation of magnetism”. It involved a keen sense of kokyu that draws the opponent out like a piece of steel being instantly attracted by a magnet.



There are three situations: you move first, you and your partner move simultaneously, your partner moved first, The technique is the same for all of these, really, what is important in the end if the sort of state you maintain inside.


If you look only at the outside form – for example, if you view techniques only as a means of self defense – then you won’t be able to understand their overall meaning.


They have to do with ki, not just the simple interaction of two physical bodies. Training is like a mirror reflecting your sensitivity to ki. The clearness of the mirror is the most important issue.”


I do not think I have heard of this previously, but it does cause me to wonder.

Then I found another description of this process in an interview with Kazuo Chiba in the Aikido Journal of 1995 volume 22 Number 1. Kazuo Chiba had been an uchideshi for Ueshiba Sensei for 7 years.
Interviewer: “Now would you describe O-Sensei’s ‘energy”?”
Chiba: “It was like being pressed by some invisible force. O-Sensei used to tell us to strike at him with a bokken at any time,  Whenever he stopped and turned to speak to his audience seem a good chance to do so, since he wasn’t looking our way at all, but even then nobody tried to strike at him. He simply had no openings. He wasn’t looking at us, but we could feel him holding us fast with just his ki.  It used to make me brek out in an oily sweat, so that I could hardly keep a grip on my bokken.
Still, as his opponents we would keep at it, gradually trying to close the distance. Then, for an instant, an opening would appear. O-Sensei created small openings deliberately to help with our powers of perception. He wouldn’t use people who could demonstrate the ability to perceive such openings.
The instant O-Sensei slightly relaxed the intensity of his kuokyo power we would rush in with an attack, but he was already gone. For that reason it looked pre-arranged. Actually O-Sensei was already moving by the time we began our attack. We were just too slow to or lacked the ability to perceive it. I find that sort of thing extremely interesting.
O-Sensei said that true budo should be executed so skillfull that it looks pre-arranged. He said it is not real budo if you begin your movements only after the strike is in motion. It’s only the real thing if it looks set up to outside observers.”

The closest I ever came to experiencing this was when I was training with Charles Murray. When sparring with him whenever I began an attack he would just dance away, always out of range of my attack. Or conversely he could dance in on whatever attack I was using and score on me, and I was inable to stop those attacks. It was a very difficult time for I was never able to hit him then, but he literally score on me at will. I suffered more than a few dings.
I thought he was rough on me, but one time he was able to make a tournament at the Redding Field House. I had competed in forms and weapons earlier as a brown belt. When he got there after changing he asked me to warm him up for his division. Where I thought he was tough on me, that time he was so focused that I felt I was facing a diamond. He had a theory behind what he did, teaching the theory to me, but our time together was simply too short for me to get it, I was what I was after all.
Does this description match those discussions of Ueshiba’s abilities. Not sure it was just what I experienced.

The Instructor I trained with in pre 1930s Shotokan, pre1930s Aikido and Tjimande was extremely explosive when he fought. Part of that was the extensive drills in his art (of which I only saw a few) that provided training unlike what others do for kumite. But I wonder another of his practices touches on the practice of Ueshiba described above.


I have written before of his practice of his art, at 3rd dan they switch over to reverse breathing. Inhaling on the strike, Exhaling on the following move. I have not found another practice which does this except his training program.


While this was explained to me, I was not so trained. Of course I was not a 3rd dan in his practice.


I tried to theorize what this accomplished. My best guess was that hearing accompanied this practice. If one is taught that strikes are done on the exhale, there is also IMO a subconscious component where one hears the exhale of the opponent causing one to anticipate an attack. On the other hand if the attack now accompanies an Inhalation…. That allows one to subtly mislead an opponent, providing and other opening to use advantageously.


Now I am wondering if this was a karate way to tap into what Ueshiba was doing?


Frankly none of the incredible martial artists I have trained with ever discussed the use of Ki or Chi. Always their discussions were around physical technical discussions. My t’ai chi instructor was no different. Over the decdes all of our discussions were pure technique, never was Chi mentioned.


I have read many times people describing Ki of Chi, but none of those words moved me to action or personal understanding.


Also frankly the existence and study of a specific manner of breathing in t’ai chi. The knowledge that this karate system chaged to reverse breathing, all of that contributed to my own study of the manner of breathing.


But this is something new to ponder.



suwariwaza Ikkyo-

Suwariwaza is the training where both tori and uke are seated on the floor, and walking on their knees. It comes from samurai days. The Japanese warrior neeeded to train defense from when seated. Nowadays, other advantages with suwariwaza emerge: it's great for learning to be balanced and stable, and to economize one's movements.

 Ikkyo is the first technique of aikido. That's even what its name means. Sort of an introduction to aikido, at least to its pinning techniques, in the continued count of nikyo, sankyo and so on.

More on The Secret Royal Martial Arts of the Ryukyu by Matsuo Kanenori Sakon

I think I will wrap this up from what I am now seeing on The Secret Royal Martial Arts of the Ryukyu by Matsuo Kanenori Sakon Translated by Joe Swift 2005.

Part Four is about Grappling techniques.

Tuide and its applications of tantodori, iaidori and kodochidori. And also a further explanation of use of Mai no Te.

Most of the grappling concepts are shown through photo illustrations.

Tuide-jutsu was originally used to subdue upstarts who took an unsavory attitude toward the king.

Tude-dori is the art of subduing with minimal injury where you exploit the opponents weak points and then subduing him through locks or throws.

Tanto-dori is where you use quick pliable motion to seize the initative against a knife wielding opponent. This also involves unique footwork and hand techniques from Undundi. Possibly disarming the opponent at will. Pressure points causing pain are utilized.

Kodachi-dori is another method used.

The methods of Iai-dori are explained, among them methods for sword disarming and use neutralization.

Part five: the Secret Teachings

Last among what was shown are the:

Uzumaki no Ken (the Whirlwind Sword)

 Tatsumaki no Ken (the Tornado Sword)

Concluding with an Index and interview

When I started looking at this book again I really did not think I would go this far. However I admit that the book now means far more than it did in 2005. Perhaps rare to obtain a view of another Okinawan system in some detail. I have seen the videos of this art on YouTube, yet this book allows me to view them again with more context.

This is not so much a ‘how to do book’ as a ‘what there is book’. I realize there is much that is now within the book, but even just realizing they do not consider themselves apart of karate from Okinawa, just another path, and within the context that what is karate has moved into the world. I believe that is perhaps more unique.

Is it perfect, alas no, but it is what it is. Useful to the day in and of itself. I have gained from reading it and I now expect it will prove useful as I move forward in my own studies.

For one thing I remain fascinated with the books from the 1930s, the initial Okinawan explanations of what karate was to the authors. Some have been translated by others (like McCarthy, Swift and McKenna) and give a lot to think about. Others await translation but have great illustrations to consider anyways.

I often have wished others would join the discussions with these works to consider. I believe many of the efforts would find the earlier explanations are still useful. But that is me.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Another look at The Secret Royal Martial Arts of Ryukyu

I return again to The Secret Royal Martial Arts of the Ryukyu by Matsuo Kanenori Sakon Translated by Joe Swift 2005.

The section on soft fist techniques, starts “Above general karatedo, there is the art of Juken, or the ‘soft fist’ techniques. First one conditions the body through rigorous training in karatedo, And the one begins training in Juken. Juken is described as flowing with the opponent’s energy and can be broken down into throws, finger thrusts to vital points, fighting hand, entangling hand and praying hand.”

It then goes on to talk about the Secrets of Stances, comparing those of the major Ryukyu Te’s.

The nage-di throwing techniques (each of which is illustrated):

      Hanten-nage Half turning throw
      Koneri-nage Twisting throw
      Kubi-nage Neck throw
      Waki-nage Side throw
      Kake-nage Hooking throw
      Eri-nage Collar throw
      Sukui-nage Scooping throw
      Okuri-nage Stepping throw
      Renzoku-nage Combinations
      Uragashei-nage Reverse throw
      Keri-nage Kicking throw
      Maite-nage Dancing throw
      Totte-nage Grabbing throw
      Katame-nagi Joint Lock throw
      Gyakute-nage Reverse Hand
      Kakae-nage Hugging Throw

The use of the Kuchi-di Spear hand

Kintai Kyusho Vital points of the human body

Medical Implications of Kyusho strikes.

Karami-di the Entangling Hand is discussed and several varieties are shown.
Kasshin-di the Fighting Hand is discussed
The Secret Fist form of Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bujutsu
Oragamidi the Praying Hand

Secrets of Undundi – Mai No Te
       The Timing of Attack and Defense

Internal Energy (ki) and Combative Engatement Distance (maai)

That concludes that section, not your average karate book.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hiroshi Tata Aikido 1


When I moved to Arizona I had to delete much of the Martial Arts library I had accumulated.  I retained those books that were gifts or had special relevance to my studies. Among those I saved were some random selections from my magazines and I have just begun reading one of them. The Aikido Journal from 1884 vol 21 no 4.


I don’t expect that will be of relevance to any of you reading this. But over the years I found much interesting material in the Aikido Journal and its predecessor.  Most specifically is the interview with Hiroshi Tata  9th dan Aikikaiki shohin, who introduced aikido to Italy in the mid 60’s.


Of course him talking about his life is very interesting, but when he began to address the changes of intent in different aikido programs, how his aikido changed as he faced the changes of age, and especially how the young in Japan of 1994 were raised in a very different time from the young of before, resulting in changes to address those needs. As well as other issues.


Most interesting are his comments about how Aikido has changed, especially in Japan.


For one thing he cautions young aikido instructors, “some students are interested in becoming stronger to handle themselves better in a physical confrontation, other student are motivated by a desire for better health,  others simply may want enjoyment of trying something from a different culture.” He suggests they address all of that in their studies about how to become a better instructor.


I am aware there are aikido schools that focus on only one aspect of Aikido. But he suggests that an instructor could address all of them.


As Aikido has changed Karate has also changed especially as it has moved around the world. Many schools only focus on one aspect of their art. Not that that is bad, but we must acknowledge there are many different levelt a school may address.

He gets into the topic that the youth of Japan have been brought up quite differently from the youth of the past.


He suggests “until the Meiji period, Japanese people mastered kukyuho and  developed their “Ki” through discipline that began at a young age.In that respect Japanese people today are completelydifferentfrom Japanese people back then. “ He was “referring to the sort of discipline that begins at birth, namely the way children are taught and the nature of family life.”


Kukyuho is literally translating as breathing exercise, Kokyu ho are breathing training methods used in Aikido to develop the hara (lower abdomen). By proper breathing with a strong hara, one can achieve the principle of one point as joriki (the power of unified concentration) is developed.


Suggesting today even in Japan to develop kykyuho, essential for aikido, it must be addressed differently than was done in the past.


He goes further on this type of change was occurring in Europe, abet in different ways.


This goes for karate studies too. When I began teaching the young 40 years ago, they had been raised in a different world, than the young decades later. That meant things had to be addressed differently, some things previously not needed were now a necessary part of instruction.


Hiroshi Tada Shihan - Rare Aikido Demonstration (1957)



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Mabuni Kenwa’s comments on Blocking:

Mabuni Kenwa’s comments on Blocking:

1. Rakka (dropping flower) intercepting an attack by dropping down onto it with such force, that if it was a tree being struck all the leaves or flowers would fall from it's branches.

2. Ryu shui (running water) the ability to respond to changing conditions with circular movement. In the same way that flowing water naturally confirms to its path.

3. Kusshin (up and down) using vertical movement in order to subjugate an adersary).

4. Teni (changing position) three principles:

i. initiative
ii. combative engagement distance (ma-ai) and
iii. the space between oneself and an opponent necessary for subjugation by shifting and pivoting (tai-sabaki).

5. Hangei (countering) the principles of brief but intelligent responses also encompasses the capability to overcome an adversary with or without physical confrontation.

From Patrick McCarthy's Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts
 2 Pages 23 and 24- Mabuni Kenwa’s - 5 principles of blocking



Monday, December 2, 2019

The Bubishi Puzzle

I remember reading the chapter outline for the Bubishi in one of Patrick McCarthy’s books back in the mid 1980s. At that time the text for the Bubishi was not available.

Then a few years later there were two available editions. One by Patrick McCarthy and one by Ken Penland published with the assistance of George Alexander.

On obtaining both, I was amazed at how different they were.
I read them but can’t say I got a lot from them. Still they made me think.

Then I entered the internet age, that was about 1989.

The first thing I recall was a friend, who was also a Japanese and Chinese translator, and Patrick McCarthy having a quite heated discussion about the translation of one passage of the Bubishi. In fact that was how I met that friend.

Along the way I assisted another friend by translating some Mabuni texts that were published in France in French. Then in time Patrick McCarthy heard about it, and he asked me if I would try and translate the Habsezter book on the Bubishi, I agreed and entered a truly crazy experience. I did however complete the translation, it took me about a year.

Along the way I acquired other Bubishi version, even some in Japanese.

I never really became a Bubishi scholar, however, and to this day have not attemped to memorize any of it.

What I did gain was a huge number of questions about all those translations, But when I tried talking about them on the internet, with the exception of a few friends, all I ever achieved was silence.
I did find the idea that it was a notebook of some Chinese student, interesting in the extreme.

One of my friends, himself is an instructor of a variety of Chinese arts. So I was very interested in obtaining his opinion. Then one weekend he invited me to do a clinic about the Bubishi for his kung fu students. He and I also discussed the book.

His opinion was it was a credible notebook of some Chinese adept. Of course he could not say in which system. He went a bit further and felt that the self defense diagrams shown were just the basic techniques from a wide variety of Chinese systems.

He then proceeded to demonstrate those movements to me. Against attacker after attacker, I would select a diagram, and he proceeded to use that movement. It was chilling to see those from a perspective of a Chinese martial artist. A different flow than those doing so from a karate kata perspective.

I tried to make a case, that he could make a video tape which many would find interesting.

His reply was “Why would I want to do that? I already have enough to do teaching my art to my students. I am not in the business showing karate people what the Bubishi shows.”
We never went further with that idea.

But after decades of attempts at creating discussion, and that never really happening. If anything I am sure I know less and less what the Bubishi really reveals about karate. Many of you are likely more knowledgeable than I. 
I know some have presented their own interpretations of how the Bubishi may be used. I have seen them from time to time on YouTube.

On the other hand I know of no program (say Okinawan or American to name a few) that really uses the Bubishi, for instruction on a regular basis, I am sure I am perhaps incorrect about that, but so far I have not seen any evidence that is so.

What I suspect is most of those Bubishi are gathering dust on karate book shelves.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Kyan Chotoku II

John Sells text "Unante - - The Secrets of Karate.

On page 184, we begin to get a vision of the background of Kyan Chotoku.”

“One old karateka who can be credited with preserving some of the kata of Tomari was Kyan Chotoku. This student of so many great masters disseminated in his time the tomari-chonto, wnasu and several versions of the tomari passai. Kyan introduced ananku kata into Okinawan Karate. He also taught the seisan, gojushiho and seisan as learned from Mtsumura-as well as Yara's kusanku kata. Of course each form has Kyan's own innovative stamp. This brings to light the fact that most of the old masters taught kata differently at different times in their lives. They also sometimes taught dissimilar versions to different students. Because of this factor we now have a plethora of variations of all the above kata. While this "kata customization" is often associated with Kyan, the same could be said of Matsumura himself and certainly too, of Kyan's contemporary, Funakoshi."
 Historie Du Karate - L’ecole shorin.ryu

from my translation of Kenji Tokitsu's work.
All errors of translation are proudly my own fault.

Unfortunately I translated this decades ago, no longer can find the original source, and admit the use of French for those living in France was very different from the French that was taught to me, which probably explains my translation problems.

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).


Saturday, November 30, 2019

One summer at the Scranton Boys Club



Sensei I thought you might like to see this picture I found...
it is old from 1981 or 1982 at the Boys Club in Scranton PA

Ron Hinds I think this was right after Roy and Jared left.


Victor Donald Smith Ron thank you. Any idea where this was shot I can't recall that location. After all these years much get's hazy.


Ron Hinds It was the Boys Club in Scranton PA on Ash St. I remember Roy and Jared trained with us and your wife did also. The people I remember in the pic were James and Cory Donovan, Brian conway and John Krevitz between you and me. My memory is bad ...I can't believe I can remember them. I hope you are doing well.


Victor Donald Smith Ron, now I place it, this was outside of the Club. Thank you for the identifications. I'm still moving along and still teaching 27 years now at the Derry Boys and Girls Club. After maybe a thousand or two students they all blur together. I still enjoy sharing the art. Have a great Christmas for me!


Ron Hinds You have an awesome Christmas best to you and your family for the Holidays

Remembering Kyan Sensei


Historie Du Karate - L’ecole shorin.ryu from my translation of Kenji Tokitsu's work.

All errors of translation are proudly my own fault.

 Unfortunately I translated this decades ago, no longer can find the original source, and admit the use of French for those living in France was very different from the French that was taught to me, which probably explains my translation problems.


Among Kyan’s teachings:

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.

 And Kyan was also prophetic

 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.

 However I would not expect that he would think it would be a Korean TKD instructor, jhoon Rhee, in Washington DC, who would make it happen.


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].