Other Seidokan By Roy Jerry Hobbs
Karate Kobudo By Roy J. Hobbs and Michial
Do Origin and Evolution By Michael C. Byrd
of Goju-Ryu By Michael C. Byrd
|05. The Many
Faces of Shorin-Ryu Karate Do By Roy Jerry
of Jujutsu By Roy J. Hobbs
|07. The Practice
of Iaijutsu By Roy Jerry Hobbs
|08. Thoughts on
Okinawa Kobudo By Roy Jerry Hobbs
Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do Seidokan Kyokai
Many practitioners of Okinawan Karate are familiar with Shian
Toma’s All Okinawa Seidokan Karate Kobudo Association. Few know
of the other Seidokan on Okinawa. Its headmaster is a kind
gentleman by the name of Seiki Toma. He is over 80 years old
and is a link to old-style karate. My meeting him was by
chance, but it has been to my great benefit because of the
knowledge he has so openly shared with me.
In 1993 I
returned from Mogadishu, Somalia. It had been a challenging
assignment and I was pretty much burned out when I returned
Stateside. Seeking some rest and relaxation I decided to take a
long vacation to my old stomping grounds, Okinawa. My intention
was to train, visit old friends, have fun, and just enjoy life.
efforts of a friend I had an invitation to train at the Goju-Ryu
dojo of Masanobu Shinjo. Unfortunately, when I went to Sensei
Shinjo’s dojo, I found it closed. As it turned out, he was in
the hospital and eventually passed away that same year. Seeing
the disappointment my long time Shorin-Ryu/Motobu-Ryu teacher,
Shian Toma, introduced me to Takahiro Shinjo that same evening.
Sensei Takahiro Shinjo was a very accomplished practitioner of
both Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. He graciously worked with me on
my Goju-Ryu and took me to train at the Goju-Ryu dojo of Yoshio
Kuba. More importantly, he introduced me to Seiki Toma.
Networking at its best….
Seiki Toma was
born on September 1, 1922 in Okinawa City, Okinawa. He began
his study of karate in 1934. Much of his study was done in
secret because his father didn’t think a person so young should
be studying karate. He had the opportunity of studying,
training, and receiving kata corrections from some very famous
karate teachers. Among them were:
Student of Sokon Matsumura. Sensei Tawata taught what was
simply called Okinawa Te. This particular version of Okinawa Te
would eventually become known as Shorin-Ryu. Sensei Tawata was
a very educated man. He was a schoolteacher, archeologist, and
noted botanist with an interest in herbal medicine. It was from
Sensei Tawata that Sensei Toma first learned the Naihanchi and
Kaneshima: Student of Choki Motobu, Chotoku Kyan, Shimpan
Gusukuma, and Seiken Tokuyama. Sensei Kaneshima was the founder
of Tozan-Ryu, a style closely associated with Shorin-Ryu.
Although Seiki Toma never studied directly under Chotoku Kyan,
he does remember him coming by the dojo to observe the training
Shimabuku: Student of Choki Motobu, Chotoku Kyan, Chojun
Miyagi, Shinken Taira, and Moden Yabiku. Sensei Shimabuku was
the founder of Isshin-Ryu, a synthesis of Shorin-Ryu and
Goju-Ryu. Sensei Toma became so proficient under Sensei
Shimabuku’s tutelage that he eventually became his assistant.
Shimabuku: Student of Chotoku Kyan and founder of the Seibukan.
Seiki Toma sought out Zenryo Shimabuku to have his Kyan style
Shorin-Ryu kata reviewed and corrected. It was at Sensei
Shimabuku’s dojo that he first met Seikichi Odo. Sensei Odo had
accompanied Shigeru Nakamura on a visit to Shimabuku’s dojo.
Nakamura and Shimabuku went on to form the All Okinawa Kenpo
Karate Federation as an association of diverse dojos to
demonstrate kata and fight using bogu gear.
Nagamine: Student of Chotoku Kyan, Taro Shimabuku, Ankichi
Arakaki, Chojin Kuba, and Choki Motobu. Sensei Nagamine was the
founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu, widely recognized as one of the
major branches of Shorin-Ryu. His reputation was such that
Shogo Kuniba, Terio Hayashi, and Tsutomu Ohshima visited him to
study. Likewise, Sensei Toma’s study with Sensei Nagamine was
relatively short and consisted mainly of kata training.
Student of Choyu Motobu and headmaster of Motobu-Ryu Udunti
(Palace Hand). Sensei Uehara also calls his dojo Seidokan.
Both Tomas studied from Uehara and sometime afterwards changed
their respective dojo names to Seidokan. Dr. Stephen Chan, the
Dean of Oriental and African Studies at London University, has
related that he believes Seidokan has strong Okinawan
nationalist connotations. I quote Dr. Chan: “The key here,
from my own research, is that all three men, [Seiki] Toma, [Shian]
Toma, and Uehara, are Okinawan nationalists and the term ‘Seidokan’,
apart from its normal translation, is also a barely coded
reference to the House of the Way of Sho (written also as Sei)
dynasty.” Dr. Chan obtained this rather insightful information
while accompanying Shian Toma on a tour of the restored Shuri
Castle in Okinawa.
Toma had the opportunity to study from some well-known teachers,
he too produced some well-known students in his own right. Most
famous of these were/are:
The founder of Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Karate Kobujutsu who recently
passed away. Sensei Odo was also a student of Shigeru Nakamura,
Shinpo Matayoshi, and Michuo Kakuzo. I have had the honor of
training with both Seikichi Odo and Seiki Toma, in Sensei Odo’s
Agena dojo in Okinawa, on a number of occasions. They were
obviously close friends and Seiki Toma took the passing of
Seikichi Odo especially hard. When one talks to Sensei Toma
about Sensei Odo, he doesn’t say Seikichi Odo was his student.
He humbly says they were Deshi (students) together.
The founder of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo (Kensei
Do Ko Kai). Sensei Nitta’s first teacher was Kotaro Nitta, a
tough teacher of traditional Okinawa Karate, who he studied with
from 1955 to 1960. From there he went on to study with Kaishu
Isa, of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Shudokan. Isa
Sensei is most noted as a teacher of the little known art of
Ufuchiku Kobudo. He studied with Isa Sensei for ten years
(1960-1970), achieving the grade of Yondan. Next he studied
with two famous teachers of Matsumura Seito Shorin-Ryu Karate,
Hohan Soken and Fusei Kise, achieving the grade of Rokudan.
Kise Sensei eventually went on to found the Shorin-Ryu Karate
and Kobudo Kenshinkan. Following Soken Sensei’s death, Kise
Sensei became his primary instructor until 1982. It was then
that Nitta Sensei became a student of Seiki Toma, from whom he
was eventually awarded the grade of Judan. Today, in addition
to heading up the Kensei Do Ko Kai, Nitta Sensei serves as the
Honorary Chairman of the Universal Martial Arts Association’s (UMAA)
International Board of Directors.
Kikukawa: Chairman of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate
Shinko-Kai. Sensei Kikukawa was also a student of Gibu Sokuichi
of the Butokukan. He is the 1986 Okinawa Shorin-Ryu kata
champion and took third in the 1983 All Okinawa Full Contact
Karate Tournament. Professionally Sensei Kikukawa is a trained
acupuncturist and herbalist. He presently lives, works, and
teaches in Canada.
As previously mentioned this is the individual that first
introduced me to Seiki Toma. When I trained with Sensei Shinjo
he was the leader of the Ryukyu Dento Karate-Do Hamaburu Rensei
Kai. He studied Shorin-Ryu under Seiki Toma and Fuse Kise, as
well as Goju-Ryu from Yoshio Kuba of the Kenbukan. Shinjo’s
reputation is that of a strong competitor and superb
The founder of the Seidokan Karate Kobudo, the better known of
the two Seidokans. Sensei Shian Toma was also one of Seikichi
Uehara’s most prominent students at one time. Shian Toma and
Seiki Toma are not related from a family perspective.
Additionally, Shian Toma states that he was not a student of
Seiki Toma. Some authoritative Okinawan karate
historians/writers, such as John Sells, show Shian Toma as a
student of Seiki Toma. Specifically I refer to Unante: The
Secrets of Karate, 2nd Edition, by John
Sells, the “Kyan” Shorin-Ryu lineage chart on page 213. When
asked about this controversy, Seiki Toma stated that Shian Toma
studied with him at his home dojo for about six months. As is
sometimes the case, within the Okinawan martial arts community,
there are varying perspectives as to the differences between
having “trained” with someone, as opposed to having been a
“student” of someone. It is generally accepted that Shian Toma
learned most of the kata that is now practiced within the
Seidokan group, from Seiki Toma.
karate is a dynamic blend of old Okinawa Te, Shorin-Ryu, Tozan-Ryu,
Isshin-Ryu, and Motobu-Ryu. Training with him is a truly
wonderful experience. His technique is fast and crisp. The
flexibility he displays is that of a person less than half his
age and he maintains a high energy level. All attributes which
are quite remarkable for a man now over eighty. Those of us
that know him would like to see him around for a very long time.
Note: A special
thanks to Butch Spain, on Okinawa, for conducting additional
interviews with Seiki Toma in order to answer my many questions;
to Frank Williams, Of the UMAA, for providing info on Seifuku
Nitta; to Robert Washington, in Canada, for providing
information on Masanobu Kikukawa; and to Dr. Stephen Chan, Dean
of Law and Social Sciences, School of Oriental and African
Studies, the University of London, England, for his wise council
and sanity checks.
Roy J. Hobbs and
C. Michial Jones
styles and sub-styles on Okinawa are actually composites of
older styles. Among these is Seidokan karate kobudo, whose
founder is Toma Shian. The style came into existence in 1968
when Toma called his dojo "Seidokan," meaning the "place of the
correct or proper way." In 1974, the Zen Okinawa Seidokan Karate
Kobudo Renmei was formed to better serve its growing number of
dedicated practitioners throughout the world. The style’s core
is Shorin-ryu with influences from Motobu-ryu, Okinawa Kenpo,
and Goju-ryu. To better understand the style’s development, a
more detailed analysis of the founder’s martial arts history is
Toma Shian was
born on the island of Okinawa on November 23, 1930. He first
studied karate at the age of 16 in Osaka, on the island of
Honshu (the main island of Japan), where he lived for some time
during World War II. Upon his return to Okinawa, he began to
study from policeman Shinjato Sokichi. Shinjato had studied
under Miyagi Chojun (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-ryu, and
Shimabukuro Tatsuo (1908-1975), prior to Shimabukuro’s founding
of Isshin-ryu in 1956. From Shinjato, Toma Shian learned the
kata Sanchin, Seisan, Chinto, Kusanku, and Tokumine no Kun (a
six-foot staff form).
Toma has related
on numerous occasions, that, in the early years, there was not
the wide differentiation of styles that we know today. Karate
was simply karate. Another interesting point is, in the early
days, most teachers taught only a small number of kata. In fact,
it would not have been uncommon to find a teacher who taught
only one kata. However, as there was comparison and sharing of
kata, the number grew.
With respect to
the small number of kata, it should not be concluded that there
was little kata practice. Toma notes that he spent over a year
learning and practicing kata Seisan before going on to Sanchin.
Perhaps this is one reason why many of the old Okinawan masters
are so strict as to the precise execution of the kata. A
highlight of Toma Shian’s early training was his demonstration
of kata Sanchin before Miyagi Chojun during a training session
at the police academy.
Pinan 1-5, Naihanchi, Passai-sho, basic (kihon) six-foot
staff (bo) kata, and sai (a forked, metal
truncheon) kata from a teacher with the family name of Uchima.
Uchima had been a student of Motobu Toraju, who was believed to
be a cousin of Motobu Choyu (Motobu-ryu). Toma Shian learned
tonfa (wooden grist-mill handles) kata from Odo Seikichi
(Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu) in exchange for Tokumine no Kun. He
learned a sickle (kama) kata from Ire Matsutaro.
The story behind
how he came to learn this kama kata is very interesting. He and
a couple of other relatively young karateka went to Ire, who was
noted for his sickle technique, and asked him to teach them. Ire
was very old at the time and his memory was failing, and he
eventually passed away in 1971 at the age of 92. Each time Toma
and the others trained with Ire, the kata changed. As a result,
the others gave up out of frustration. Toma stuck with it and
eventually took the varying versions and synthesized them into a
single kata, preserving the Ire’s sickle techniques for all
arts political scene has changed often over the years. Toma
Shian was a junior member of the Okinawa branch of the All-Japan
Karate Federation in the 1950’s. The federation was under the
leadership of Toyama Kanken (founder of Shudokan). Senior
members included Shimabukuro Eizo (Shobayashi Shorin-ryu),
Shimabukuro Tatsuo, Nakamura Shigeru (Okinawa Kenpo), Nakazato
Joen (Shorinji-ryu), and Kanashima Shinsuke (Tozan-ryu). Other
junior members included Toma Seiki (Shorin-ryu), Kise Fusei
(Matsumura Seito Shorin-ryu, later founder of Kenshinkan
Shorin-ryu), Kuda Yuichi (Okinawa Kenpo/ Matsumura Seito
Shorin-ryu/later, founder of Matsumura Kenpo), and Maeshiro
It has been
thought by some that Toma Shian was a student of both Toma Seiki
and Maeshiro Shuzen. However, in recent interviews with Toma
Shian, he stated emphatically that he was never a student of
either. He believes this misconception perhaps came about
because they were all members of the All-Japan Karate Federation
and they practice many of the same kata. It could also be
because some have mistakenly thought he and Toma Seiki are
related, which they are not. Lastly, to add to the confusion,
both use similar names for their respective associations. Toma
Shian calling his association the Zen Okinawa Seidokan Karate
Kobudo Renmei and Toma Seiki calling his the Shorin-ryu
Karate-do Seidokan Kyokai.
Karate Federation split into a number of factions in 1962.
Sparring methodology was one of the most contentious issues
leading to the split. The most widely accepted method of
sparring in the main islands of Japan was, and still is, the
sport-oriented "controlled contact" variety. Most All-Japan
Karate Federation members felt that this "controlled contact"
sparring should be taught, practiced, and officially sanctioned.
By utilizing this sparring method, it was hoped to create a
popular sport like judo.
This was counter
to the traditional full-contact method used by many on Okinawa,
with its main aim being combative effectiveness. Their method
employed body armor similar to that used in kendo. It was quite
brutal and knockouts were not uncommon. Since one of the
All-Japan Karate Federation’s main goals was to integrate the
karate of Okinawa, now part of Japan, with the sport karate of
the main islands, conflict naturally arose. Many, like Toma
Shian, had been brought up in the "hard" way and felt it was the
true Okinawan way.
When the split
occurred, the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei was formed, made up of
similarly traditional hard and tough individuals, led by
Nakamura Shuguru and Shimabukuro Zenryo. Other prominent members
included Odo Seikichi, Kuda Yuichi, and Oyata Seiyu (Ryukyu
Kenpo). It thrived for several years until its members
eventually drifted away to join other groups.
While a member of
the Okinawa Kenpo Renmei, Toma Shian learned additional kata
that are now part of Seidokan’s standard repertoire: Ananku,
Wansu, Passai, and Gojushiho. He also revised his Seisan kata to
bring it in line with the version practiced within this
Among the various
groups then on Okinawa, two in particular recognized the
contributions of prominent teachers by awarding them master
rank. Formed in 1961, the Okinawa Kobudo Kyokai awarded master
rank to Toma Shian, Toma Seiki, Soken Hohan (Matsumura Seito
Shorin-ryu), Shimabukuro Tatsuo, Nakamura Shigeru, Nakazato
Joen, Taira Shinken (kobudo), Matayoshi Shinpo (kobudo), Uehara
Seikichi (Motobu-ryu), Miyazato Eiko (Goju-ryu/Koho-ryu), Higa
Seiko (Goju-ryu), Kina Shosei (Ufuchiku Den Kobujutsu), Nakaima
Kenko (Ryuei-ryu), and others.
Around 1967, the
Okinawa Karate Kobudo Renmei presented master grades to Toma
Shian, Soken Hohan, Shimabukuro Tatsuo, Maeshiro Shuzen
(Shorin-ryu), Kojo Kafa (Kojo-ryu), Kanashima Shinsuke,
Matayoshi Shinpo, Nakaima Kenko, and others. It should be noted
that Toma Shian was among those receiving master ranking from
A few years
later, Toma Shian was awarded master rank by the Okinawa Kenpo
Karate Kobudo League, whose president was Nakaima Kenko.
In the early
1970’s, Toma Shian belonged to the Chubu Shorin-ryu Karate-do
Rengokai. This association was affiliated with other prominent
organizations on the island such as the All-Okinawa Karate
Renmei and the Okinawa Karate-do Rengokai. Along with Toma
Shian, founding members of the Chubu Shorin-ryu Association
included Nakazato Joen, Kanashima Shinsuke, and Aragaki Seiki.
Toma Shian went
on to become a member of the Okinawa Karate Kobudo Renmei headed
by Uehara Seikichi. He also became a personal student of Uehara.
Uehara was, and is currently, the head of the Motobu-ryu system
of Okinawa martial arts (bujutsu). Motobu-ryu, or more correctly
"Motobu Udundi ("Goten-te" in Japanese, "Palace Hand"), is
relatively little known outside Okinawa. Uehara learned his art
from Motobu Choyu, the older brother of the renowned Motobu
Choki. Motobu Choyu originally learned the techniques, both
weaponry and unarmed methods, that eventually became known as
Motobu-ryu, from "Bushi" (warrior) Matsumura Sokon. The art is
referred to as "Palace Hand" because of its association with the
royal court of the Okinawan kings. To the untrained eye, it can
resemble aikido in its unarmed methods. However, the throwing
and joint-locking techniques are more similar to Japanese
aikijujutsu or Chinese Qinna. The style’s weaponry includes such
things as Chinese broad swords, Japanese long sword (katana),
spear (yari), and halberd (naginata).
From Uehara, Toma
Shian learned the throwing, joint-locking, and quick-draw sword
techniques (iai waza) that he often teaches in his
classes today. With the inclusion of these techniques, Seidokan
became a more complete fighting art consisting of punching,
striking, kicking, throwing, joint locking, and a variety of
weapons. It is this unique composite system, along with his
willingness to teach all comers that has lead to the growth of
Seidokan karate and kobudo.
The respect he
garners on Okinawa was made apparent when he became a founding
member of the Zen Ryukyu Butokukai and the Okinawa City Karate
League. He is also widely recognized for his contributions to
the international martial arts community. This is demonstrated
by the high demand for him to teach courses throughout the
United States and Europe. Shian Toma is truly a martial arts
pioneer who has developed a rich tradition that is now taught
throughout the world.
Note: A special
thanks to Boulahfa Mimoun Abdel-Lah, Dr. Stephen Chan, Jody
Paul, Dave Bardi, and Ron Nix for their assistance in providing
should not be confused with the Motobu-ryu karatejutsu of Motobu
Choki, the younger brother of Motobu Choyu. The Motobu-ryu
Karatejutsu Association is under the leadership of Motobu
Chomei, Choki’s son, who is now a student of Uehara Seikichi and
learning the Motobu-ryu udundi.
Prior to that, Shimabukuro referred to his style as either
Shorin-ryu or Chan Mi-gwa-ryu. Chan Mi-gwa was the nickname of
Shimabukuro’s teacher, Kyan Chotoku, and meant Kyan "Small
Odo’s primary kobujutsu instructor was Matayoshi Shinko
Seiki studied under Kaneshima Shinsuke, Nagamine Shoshin (Matsubayashi
Shorin-ryu), and Shimabukuro Tatsuo. He also received kata
corrections from Shimabukuro Zenryo (Seibukan Shorin-ryu).
Indications are that Toma Seiki studied with Nagamine about the
same time as Kuniba Shogo (Shito-ryu), Hayashi Teruo (Shito-ryu),
and Oshima Tsutomu (Shotokan) visited Nagamine for special
instruction. An interesting aside is that Odo Seikichi, the
founder of Ryukyu Hon Kenpo Kobujutsu, is a former student of
Origin and Evolution
Karate-dô is the
name for a collection of styles of martial arts that come from
Okinawa and Japan. Karate even from its ancient beginnings has
always had one main stay – self-defense. It is said there is no
first attack in karate, and that is true, all training is based
on defense of one’s self and defense of another. Now begins the
story of Karate-dô’s Origin and Evolution, showing its ancient
beginnings, its development in Okinawa, the adaptation of the
name ‘Karate-dô’, and its spread to Japan.
The historical origins of Karate-dô can be traced back to China
in the form of Kung-fu (to endure much). According to legend,
the Zen Buddhist monk Bodhidharma traveled to China around 500
A.D. He spent nine years at the Shaolin temple, where he taught
the monks different breathing exercises, including the Luohan
Form (18 step exercise). Bodhidharma also taught the monks how
to develop their mental and physical strength, so that they
could endure their very grueling meditation exercises. Kung-fu
remained in this basic form for the next eight hundred years
until an invasion from Manchuria, lead by the Ching Family. This
subsequent invasion and takeover ended China’s Golden era and
the removal of the Ming family from power.
In 1647, the
Honan temple of Shaolin was utterly destroyed by Ching loyal
troops. Most monks stayed and were slaughtered, a few, however,
escaped; this marked the beginning of the transformation of
Kung-fu into a more militaristic art. The Shaolin were
supporters of the old dynasty of the Ming and wanted to see them
put back in power, which eventually led to the Boxer Rebellion
in 1901. The Shaolin monks, over many years, began to revise and
strengthen their art, often even studying the movements of
animals for inspiration. During this evolutionary period of
Kung-fu it was divided into two main styles: the Northern and
the Southern styles.
styles were predominantly characterized by linear and hard
techniques. The Northern styles were more acrobatic than the
styles of the South; this was due partly to the geography of the
two regions. In the North, the ground was generally harder and
flatter; therefore a lot of emphasis was often placed on kicking
styles were more often completely opposite of those in the
North; the terrain in the South was more marshland and water,
and the ground softer. Hand techniques were heavily stressed
along with more circular and softer techniques, and there was
more of a focus on chi (internal energy). These two main styles
were broken down into a variety of subsystems and styles. In
fact a particular style was often a family style, which was
taught to each member of the family; and all secrets were
usually passed down to the oldest male child.
Kung-fu in Okinawa dates back as far as 1372 when King Satto of
the Ryűkyu Dynasty sent his brother Taiki as an envoy to China
with tributes for the Chinese Emperor Chu Yuen Cheang of the
Ming Dynasty. This marked the beginning of a cultural exchange
between Okinawa and China. Every other year the Emperor sent
envoys to Okinawa to promote a cultural exchange. These envoys
continued to the year 1866.
Among those sent
were many masters of Kung-fu, and during their stay at Shuri and
Naha, taught their art to members of the nobility and others of
their class. During this time there were also sent nobleman of
Okinawa to mainland China. A number of the Nobles remained in
China while others returned home to Okinawa after extended
invaded Okinawa in 1609 the ban on carrying weapons that was
originally in acted by King Sho Shin in 1477 continued. In
addition, the Japanese also banned the practice of martial arts.
This act forced the Okinawans to continue their martial arts
training in secrecy. During the next three hundred years the
Okinawan martial arts developed into its own unique entity and
became referred to as ‘Okinawa te’, It was split into three
main styles, Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te, all named for the
town in Okinawa in which they were developed.
influenced by the hard techniques of Kung-fu and characterized
by an offensive attitude. Naha-te was influenced by the softer
techniques of Kung-fu including breath control and chi. It was
characterized by a more defensive attitude with grappling,
throws, and blocking techniques. Tomari-te was influenced by
both the hard and soft techniques of Kung-fu.
eventually evolved into what we know today as Karate-dô (China
Hand Way) and was split into three main styles along with many
other styles and sub systems. These styles were Goju-ryű,
Uechi-ryű, and Shorin-ryű.
Soft Style) evolved from Naha-te. This particular system of
Naha-te can be traced back to a style of White Crane Kung-fu and
may also have been influenced by the Dragon, Hawk, Mantis, and
Lion systems of Kung Fu. In November 1868/69, an Okinawan named
Kanryo Higaonna traveled to Foochow in Southern China, where he
studied a system of White Crane Kung-fu for approximately 13-15
years under Master Ryű Ryűko. Higaonna brought this art back to
Naha Okinawa, (the modern day capital of Okinawa) and he, along
with his chosen disciple Chojun Miyagi, taught and adapted some
of the techniques that were indigenous of the Okinawan martial
arts to this Chinese martial art, creating an art that was
unique but, in many ways, still very Chinese.
Higaonna died in 1916, Miyagi (one of his most senior students
and disciples) was left in charge of the style and passing it
on. After his teacher’s death Miyagi traveled to China and
trained with various Kung-fu masters. During Miyagi’s travels
and training is most likely where the style (that was to become
known as Goju-ryű) was influenced by the Hawk, Mantis, Lion, and
Dragon. Miyagi changed the name of the art from Naha-te to
‘Goju-ryű,’ which was taken from the third precept of Kung-fu
written in the Bubishi (manual of military preparation). Master
Miyagi continued to develop his art and did many demonstrations
in front of audiences and government officials not only in
Okinawa but in Japan as well. This led to a major popularization
of the style. Thus, Kanryo Higaonna is known as the father of
Goju-ryű Karate-dô and Chojun Miyagi as the founder of the
style. Goju-ryű is still practiced today in many countries
through out the world, and has many faithful followers.
basically a type of Chinese temple fighting. Uechi-ryű and
Goju-ryű are often referred to as sister styles. To most of the
world, it is referred to as a style of karate. In China, its
formal name is Pangai-noon (half-hard, half-soft). Grand Master
Kanbum Uechi, the founder of Uechi-ryű, is responsible for
bringing this art to Okinawa and Japan from China. When Master
Uechi was 20 years old he traveled to Southern China where he
studied the art of Pangai-noon. He spent ten years studying
under his teacher Chou-tzu-ho, a Buddhist priest who had
received his training in the Shaolin temple. While in China he
received permission to open a school in Nansou.
During this time
one of his students became involved in a dispute over a land
boundary. His opponent attacked him and the student, who
instinctively defended himself, accidentally killed the
attacker. The villagers blamed Kanbum for his death since he
taught the student. Master Uechi was deeply disheartened by this
and vowed never to teach again. He closed his school and
returned to Okinawa.
Upon his return
to Okinawa, Kanbum still refused to teach, but was finally
persuaded by a friend to teach again. Kanbum opened another
school and continued to teach until his death in 1948. To honor
their teacher, his students changed the name of the style from
Pangai-noon to Uechi-ryű. Kanbum’s son is now the head of the
Uechi Family and continues to teach this most unique style of
Forest Style) evolved from Shuri-te and Tomari-te. The style
that is now Shorin-ryű was developed mainly in the ancient city
of Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, hence the name
‘Shuri-te’ its style of origin. Sokan Matsumura, chief martial
arts instructor and bodyguard for the Okinawan King, was the
individual most responsible for developing and refining the
The Shuri-te and
Tomari-te systems Shorin-ryű came from were developed from
Northern Shaolin Kung-fu, and ancient Okinawan arts simply
referred to as Okinawa-te. Shorin-ryű is truly a hybrid martial
art combining both Chinese and Okinawan methods of training.
Shorin-ryű is one of the more popular and traditional Okinawan
styles and is taught all over the world.
Karate-dô in Japan
Japan took on a somewhat different shape. One of Japanese
Karate’s differences was the meaning of Karate-dô; it was
changed from ‘China Hand Way’ to ‘Empty Hand Way’. Other
differences in Okinawan Karate and Japanese Karate were due to
the often combining of Okinawan styles, varying curricula, and
no organized standards of grading proficiency, thus seemingly
very unorganized to the Japanese mind. Additionally, the
Okinawan teachers, very often, were resentful toward the
Japanese for the treatment of Okinawans in general and thus did
not reveal certain teachings. Japanese Karate thereby evolved
and developed from its Okinawan Karate-dô roots into its own
unique form. Japanese Karate-dô includes many styles; the three
main ones are Shotokan, Kyokushin, and Wado-ryű.
Gichin Funakoshi was the founder of Shotokan; he brought
together two Okinawan styles of Karate, Shorin-ryű and
Shorei-ryű. Funakoshi standardized and blended the two styles,
by lengthening the stances, modifying the kata (formal training
exercises), and even changing the name of the kata to Japanese
names. This “Japanizing” of Okinawan Karate was imperative in
order to make it more acceptable to the Japanese philosophical
and aesthetic ideals. Gichin Funakoshi is largely responsible
for spreading karate through out Japan.
Funakoshi was asked to perform his martial art in Japan, and was
invited back in 1922 and then a third time several years later.
In 1949, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was formed of which
Funakoshi became the chief instructor. Gichin Funakoshi passed
away in 1957 at the age of 88. Shotokan Karate is one of the
most widely practiced and popular styles of karate in the world,
and is greatly supported by its practitioners.
Oyama, most often called Mas Oyama was, the founder of Kyokushin
Karate-dô. Mas Oyama studied many arts which contributed to the
formation of his style including, Chabee (Korean version of
Sumo), Shotokan Karate, and Japanese Goju-ryű. Mas Oyama’s
training was almost fanatical; his various karate exercises
lasted twelve hours every day. To prove the power of his karate,
Oyama even battled bulls, which was so awesome because he could
take off a bull’s horn with a single knife hand strike, or even
kill one with a single blow.
In 1953, Mas
Oyama opened a dôjô in Meijiro, Japan. By 1957 membership grew
to more than 700 students. Oyama eventually adopted the name
Kyokushin, which means ‘The Ultimate Truth’. Today, there are
schools in 100 countries and the total membership is said to be
around twelve million. Master Oyama died in 1995 of lung cancer
and left behind a karate legacy.
Wado-ryű (Way of
Peace style) was founded by the late Grand Master Hironori
Ohtsuka. Ohtsuka studied for many years the art of Jujutsu
(Shindo Yoshin- ryű) and combined it with Okinawan Karate. By
the time Master Ohtsuka became interested in karate in 1922, he
was already a master in Jujutsu. Ohtsuka started his study of
karate under Gichin Funakoshi and by 1928 he was assistant
instructor to Master Funakoshi.
In 1931, Ohtsuka
founded the Wado-ryű style of karate. In 1972, Ohtsuka Sensei
was awarded the title Shodai Karate-dô meijin Judan from the
Imperial Japanese family. This means first generation karate
master of the 10th dan (highest level possible). Ohtsuka was
also to be the first non-Okinawan to make a style of karate in
the form of a Japanese martial art, thus making it a true
Japanese martial art. Master Ohtsuka died in 1982, a highly
respected and enlightened master. Wado-ryű is taught all over in
the world and is very popular among its followers.
Karate training, in general, is made up Kata (formal training
exercise), Kumite (sparring), and Kihon (basic techniques).
usually starts their training in the form of body conditioning
and is taught basic techniques, such as basic blocking,
striking, and kicking techniques. Body conditioning varies from
style to style and from school to school. This body conditioning
widely varies among the different styles. Goju-ryű and Kyokushin
take body conditioning to a level almost unheard of in other
styles. This conditioning includes striking posts or trees,
rocks, what ever is readily available. This particular type of
training builds up calluses on the knuckles and hands, which
makes the practitioner’s strikes more deadly. Other body
conditioning includes pushups, sit-ups and almost every
Some styles have
more kata than others. For example Goju-ryű has 12 kata, but
Shotokan has 26. A kata is a series of logical blocking,
striking, and kicking techniques. The purpose of the kata is to
teach the application of techniques and also so a student can
practice their art by themselves.
the application of self-defense techniques contained in the
kata. Kumite at first is basically one opponent attacking
another with the attacker applying one attacking technique, and
the defender blocking and countering. From this point it goes
into more depth. Self-defense techniques often include grappling
techniques as wrist locks, joint locks, throws, take downs,
sweeps, punching, kicking, choking, blocking, grabbing, etc.
Some styles do not teach all of these things; some teach more,
Karate-dô is an
involving subject, from its ancient beginnings, development in
Okinawa, transformation into Karate-dô (China Hand Way), and in
Japan as Karate-dô (Empty Hand Way), and finally its training
techniques. Karate-dô will forever leave its mark on society,
some good some bad. There are always those who will use
something meant for good for evil. However, as stated in a
principle attributed to Gichin Funakoshi: Karate ni sente nashi
– There is no first attack in Karate.
|Noble, Graham "Shorin
Ryu Karate" Dragon Times 1998 Vol. 12: 15
Bujutsukan "Kungfu History" (N.D.): n.pag. On-line
Internet 13 Dec. 1998 Available www:http://members.tripod.com/~Bujutsukan/Kungfu.txt
Bujutsukan. Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate do: History
Fort Walton Beach, Fl. Emerald Coast Bujutsukan,
(N.D.): n.pag. On-line. Internet. 12 Dec. 1998
"Goju-Ryu History and Traditions"
(1996) n.pag. On-line. Internet. 6 Dec. 1998.
Traditional Karatedo Fundamental Techniques 1
Tokyo, Japan: Sugawara Martial Arts Institute, Inc.
Kyokushin" (N.D.): n.pag. On-line. Internet. 3 Dec.
Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Federation "History of
Bushi Matsumura" (1996): n.pag. On-line. Internet. 3
Dec 1998. Available
History and Traditions" (April 17,1996): n.pag.
On-line. Internet Dec. 2 1998. Available
Institute. "The History of Shaolin" (N.D.) n.pag.
On-line. Internet 8 Dec. 1998. Available
|"Sosai Oyama Story"
(N.D): n.pag. On-line. Internet 4 Dec. 1998
|"The History of Shao
Lin Kung Fu" (N.D.): n.pag. On-line. Internet 5 Dec.
Information" (N.D.): n.pag. On-line. Internet 8 Dec.
(1996): n.pag. On-line. Internet 6 Dec. 1998
|"Wado Ryu Karate"
(1996): n.pag. On-line. Internet. 6 Dec. 1998.
The History of
Michael C. Byrd
The history of
Goju-Ryu can not be presented in an exact or precise summation.
Some things have been lost with the passage of time along with
other contributing factors such as what Sensei you talk to or
what book you read. I will try and present as historically
accurate and unbiased account as possible.
Sensei has come to be known as the father of Goju-Ryu, what you
may not know is that he also fathered it’s "sister" style
To’on-Ryu, but that is another story. Kanryo Higaonna was born
in 1853 and was the fourth son of Kanyo Higaonna. Sensei
Higaonna’s training began under Seisho Arakaki when he was 20yrs
to Fuchou China in 1868 in search of a Kung Fu teacher. In China
he made wicker baskets for a living and became an uchi deshi of
Ryu Ryu Ko. The time he spent in China was anywhere from
10-13yrs. In China Higaonna learned the foundation of what is
now known as Goju-Ryu.
The first few
years of the training primarily consisted of Sanchin kata,
weight training, kakie and other forms of kumite. The other kata
he brought back is left somewhat up to conjecture. It is the
author’s opinion that in addition to Sanchin he also learned
Sanseru, Sesan, and Suparinpei. (these are also the four core
kata of To’on-Ryu)
eventually returned to Naha in Okinawa where he taught in the
court yard of his parents’ home. The art he taught was generally
referred to as Naha-te. (Naha for the town in Okinawa he taught
and te meaning hand). Higaonna Sensei’s most notable students
were that of Chojun Miyagi the founder of Goju-Ryu and Juhatsu
Kyoda the founder of To’on-Ryu. Kanryo Higaonna passed on at an
early age because of illness at the age of 63.
Chojun Miyagi the
founder of Goju-Ryu karate was born in Okinawa in 1888. At the
age of age of fourteen he was introduced to Kanryo Higaonna
Sensei and was eventually accepted as Higaonna Sensei's personal
disciple. Miyagi continued to train and refine his technique
under Higaonna Sensei until his death in 1915. After his
master's death Chojun Miyagi traveled to China to develop his
knowledge of the martial arts.. It is here I believe that Miyagi
learned the other kata that make up Goju-Ryu. These kata
include, Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin, Sepai, and Kururunfa.
After his return to Okinawa he began to teach in his home, where
he turned the garden into a dojo. During the 1940’s Miyagi
Sensei developed 3 Kata: Gekisai Dai Ichi, Gekisai Dai Ni, and
Tensho. He put great effort into spreading his knowledge with
the ambition to give karate the same status as judo and kendo.
In 1933, the karate was officially accepted by Butoko Kai, the
Japanese center for martial arts. After WWII Miyagi Sensei began
to teach karate at the Police Academy of Okinawa and also at his
home. Chojun Miyagi Sensei's life was devoted to karate. He
structured Higaonna Sensei’s system of Naha-te and helped make
it available for all to learn this most unique martial art.
One of Chojun
Miyagi Sensei disciples, Jinan Shinzato, was once on mainland
Japan to demonstrate Naha-te. After the performance he was asked
to what school of karate he belonged. He was unable to answer
the question, since "Naha-te" was not the name of a style. At
his return he told Miyagi Sensei about the occurence who thought
about the problem and decided that it should be good to have a
name for his martial art system in order to promote and spread
it. He chose the name "Goju-Ryu" (hard-soft style), inspired by
the "Eight precepts" of Kung Fu written in the Bubishi
Goju-Ryu is a
true treasure of the island of Okinawa. Many of Miyagi’s
students among them, Eichi Miyazato, Masonbu Shinjo, Seikichi
Toguchi, Gogen Yamaguchi, Meitoku Yagi, Seiko Higa, and many
others all went on to teach Goju and spread it to the masses.
Goju-Ryu has become a renown style the world over and will
forever leave its mark on Budo.
The Precepts of
1. The mind is one with heaven
2. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of
the sun and the moon.
3. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
4. Act in accordance with time and change.
5. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
6. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
7. The eyes do not miss even the slightest change.
8. The ears listen well in all directions
1. It should be known that
secret principles of Goju-Ryu exist in the kata.
2. Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is a manifestation within one's own self
of the harmonious accord of the universe.
3. The way of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do is to seek the way of virtue
The Many Faces
of Shorin-Ryu Karate Do
Roy Jerry Hobbs
The Karate styles of Okinawa are sometimes described by
referring to the particular districts or areas in which they
developed. These districts were named Shuri, Tomari, and Naha.
Some of the styles normally associated with the Naha district
are Goju-Ryu, To’on-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Ryuei-Ryu, Kojo-Ryu, etc.
While some of the styles normally associated the Shuri district
are Shorin-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu, Tozan-Ryu, Motobu-Ryu, etc. The
styles most often associated with the Tomari district are
Okinawa Kenpo and Ryukyu Hon Kenpo. These district styles are
also often referred to, using a broader brush, as Shuri-Te
(Shuri Hand), Tomari-Te (Tomari Hand), and Naha-Te (Naha Hand).
Shorin-Ryu lineage charts usually begin with two 18th Century
teachers: Peichin Takahara and Kusanku. Takahara was a respected
teacher of the day and Kusanku was a Chinese envoy. These two
teachers taught Kanga “Tode” Sakugawa who taught Sokon “Bushi”
Matsumura. Matsumura went on to teach many others from which the
various Shorin-Ryu groups flowed.
The style can vary considerably from one group to another. This
is largely the result of influences from other teachers outside
the main Bushi Matsumura line. Because of these differences the
style is often divided into several schools or methods, as a way
of distinguishing its several variances. These
schools/methods/variances are Kobayashi, Shobayashi,
Matsubayashi, Sukunai Hayashi, Matsumura Seito, and other
Kobayashi: A version of Shorin-Ryu founded by Chosin Chibana
(deceased). He was a student of Anko Itosu; who was in turn a
student of Bushi Matsumura. Of interest is Itosu was the teacher
of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan, and Kenwa Mabuni,
the founder of Shito-Ryu.
Shobayashi: A version of Shorin-Ryu founded by Eizo Shimabuku.
He was a student of Chotoku Kyan. Kyan was a student of Bushi
Matsumura, but he also studied Tomari-Te with Kokan Oyadamori
and Peichin Maeda. Thus the Shorin-Ryu of Kyan retained a strong
Tomari-Te influence. Additionally, Eizo Shimabuku studied from
Chojun Miyagi, the founder of the Naha-Te style of Goju-Ryu.
Eizo Shimabuku’s unique brand of Shorin-Ryu contains elements
from Shuri-Te, Tomari-Te, and Naha-Te.
Matsubayashi: A version of Shorin-Ryu founded by Shoshin
Nagamine (deceased). He was a student of Kyan and Choki Motobu.
Motobu was a student of Kosaku Matsumora, a Tomari-Te teacher.
Thus, this version of Shorin-Ryu also retains a strong Tomari-Te
Sukunai Hayashi: A version of Shorin-Ryu founded by Zenryo
Shimabuku (deceased). He was a student of Kyan. This is yet
another Shorin-Ryu sub-style that retains a strong Tomari-Te
Matsumura Seito: A version of Shorin-Ryu founded by Hohan Soken
(deceased). He was a student of Nabe Matsumura, who was in turn
a student of Bushi Matsumura.
Composites: Sub-styles such as the different Seidokans of Seiki
Toma and Shian Toma respectively. Both of which are principle
combinations of Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te with minor influences
Alexander, George W., Okinawa: Island of Karate, Yamazato
Publications, Lake Worth, Florida, U.S.A., 1991
Bishop, Mark, Okinawan Karate: Teachers, Styles and Secret
Techniques, A&C Black (Publishers) Limited, London, England,
Nagamine, Shoshin, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do, Charles E.
Tuttle Company, Inc., Rutland, Vermont, U.S.A. and Tokyo, Japan,
No Named Author, Okinawa Karate “Kobudo” Graph, Okinawa
Prefecture Board of Education, 1995
Sells, John, Unante: The Secrets of Karate, 2nd Edition, W.M.
Hawley Library, Hollywood, California, U.S.A., 2000
To understand the
Dentokan style of Ju-Jutsu one must first travel back to ancient
Japan. It was in that bygone era that one of the most famous
schools of Ju-Jutsu had its beginning. The style was called
In The Hidden
Roots of Aikido: Aiki Jujutsu Daitoryu (pages 13 and 14),
Shiro Omiya describes the history of Daito-Ryu as follows: "The
DAITORYU is believed to have originated within the family of
Emperor Seiwa (reigned A.D. 858-876) and to have been greatly
developed by one of the emperor’s descendants, Shinra Saburo
Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, in the eleventh century. Yoshikiyo, his
eldest son, settled in the village of Takeda in Koma (in
present-day Yamanashi Prefecture) and founded the Takeda branch
of the Minamoto clan. The Daitoryu tradition of Yoshimitsu was
thereafter handed down in complete secrecy to successive
generations of the Takeda family. It was not until the
nineteenth century - when martial art genius Sokaku Takeda began
to teach the Daitoryu to the public - that the art became widely
Sokaku Takeda had
many students. Among these was Toshimi (Hosaku) Matsuda. It was
Matsuda who was Yoshiji Okuyama’s (1901-1987) first and primary
Daito-Ryu teacher. Okuyama later became a direct student of
Sokaku Takeda for a short time. This is important because
Okuyama would go on to form his own ryu/ha (style/method) of
Ju-Jutsu called Hakko-Ryu as a derivative of Daito-Ryu.
In addition to
Daito-Ryu Ju-Jutsu, Okuyama also studied Iai-Jutsu (quick draw
sword), Ken-Jutsu (fencing), Jo-Jutsu (short staff),
Kusarigama-Jutsu (sickle and chain), So-Jutsu (spear), and
Kyu-Jutsu (archery). Equally as significant, he made a study of
oriental medicine. The study of which would greatly influence
the development of his particular style of Ju-Jutsu.
received his Daito-Ryu teacher’s license in 1936 and opened his
first Daito-Ryu school in 1938. Succumbing to the nationalistic
fervor of the time he actively supported the ideals of Imperial
Japan. It was in 1941, the same year as the attack on Pearl
Harbor, that he founded his Hakko-Ryu Ju-Jutsu. It was a style
that combined the physical techniques of Daito-Ryu with elements
of oriental medicine. But, it was also firmly grounded in the
state religion of the day. Upon the founding Hakko-Ryu, in a
Shinto ceremony, Okuyama took on the name of "Ryuho" which
literally means "Spine of the Dragon".
translates to "Eighth Light Style". This name was based upon the
belief that there is an eighth band of light in the spectrum.
This band of light is much weaker than the others, almost
invisible, but actually very strong, like x-rays. As an analogy,
Hakko-Ryu’s techniques may appear weak, but are actually strong.
It is quite common to confuse a lack of big sweeping motions
with a lack of power. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Small, direct, well-executed techniques are normally far more
effective than those consisting of a great deal of wasted
motion. This is true in virtually all martial arts.
nationalistic views changed as a result of the war. He became
more peace loving as a result of the pain the Japanese people
had to endure. This new philosophical outlook was reflected in a
change in his approach to Ju-Jutsu. Thus Hakko-Ryu took on the
characteristics of "No Challenge, No Resistance, and No Injury".
It was a move away from the brutal combative approach normally
associated with Daito-Ryu and its various offshoots. This
approach was reflected in the Ju-Jutsu taught at the new Hakko-Ryu
Hombu Dojo established in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, in 1947.
I began my study
of Hakko-Ryu in the United States in 1965. My teachers included
Carl Miller, Dr. Roy L. Creasy, Jr., and the Reverend Clement
Reidner. I also attended seminars conducted by James Benko. In
1968 I received my Shodan (Black Belt) in Hakko-Ryu Ju-Jutsu and
continued my study of Hakko-Ryu, other forms of Ju-Jutsu, and
I lived in Japan
from 1980-83, where I studied at the Hakko-Ryu Hombu Dojo. My
principal teacher was Yasuhiro Irie, a direct student of Ryuho
Okuyama since childhood. Other significant influences upon me
were Shuzan Segawa and Toshio Okuyama. Following three years of
study at the Hombu, I received my Shihan Menkyo (Master’s
Certificate). The certificate was actually presented to me by
It was also
during this period (1980-83) that I studied Aikido at an Aikikai
affiliated dojo in the Tokyo area. Aikido interested me because
of its unique footwork. Although both Aikido and Hakko-Ryu trace
their origins to Daito-Ryu, Hakko-Ryu tends to be much more
direct. It was my good fortune to also earn my Shodan is Aikido
prior to departing for my next assignment in England. While
living in England for three years I taught Hakko-Ryu and found
my knowledge of Aikido to be very useful. The reason being that
a number of Aikidoka came to study Hakko-Ryu, resulting in the
rapid spread of the style throughout much of the country.
passed away in 1987. Not long after Okuyama’s death, like a
number of the seniors, Irie founded his own ryu/ha. He named his
style of Ju-Jutsu "KoKoDo", which translates to "Imperial Light
Way". This came as little surprise to most since he had been the
chief instructor at the Hakko-Ryu Hombu Dojo for over
twenty-five years and had developed his own unique approach to
From 1997 to 1999
I once again found myself living in Japan. I again studied with
Yasuhiro Irie, becoming a part of his KoKoDo Ju-Jutsu. Before
leaving Japan I received Menkyo Kaiden (Certificate of Total
Transmission). Kaiden can also be literally translated to "All
Passed". It designates that one has learned the complete
syllabus of a particular ryu/ha.
blessing I formed Dentokan Ju-Jutsu just before leaving Japan.
It traces its origin in a continuous stream from Daito-Ryu,
through Hakko-Ryu and KoKoDo into its present form. The system
utilizes the Hakko-Ryu/KoKoDo waza (techniques) lists of Shodan
Gi, Nidan Gi, Sandan Gi, Yondan Gi, Shihan Gi, Kaiden Gi, and
Sandaikichu Gi to establish a firm base for further
understanding and development. Knowledge and proficiency is
increased by fully understanding the Henka (variations) possible
within the standard waza. Still further expertise is gained by
fully understanding the underlying Gensoku (principles). Through
the understanding of Gensoku, one is able to develop practical
Goshin (self-defense) Oyo (applications).
provides one with a full spectrum of techniques. These include
Kansetsu Waza (joint locking techniques), Nage Waza (throwing
techniques), Shime Waza (strangulation techniques), and Atemi
Waza (striking techniques). These techniques coupled with an
understanding of Henka, Gensoku, and Oyo make possible a
graduated response to any attack. One’s response can be one of
simply pinning or restraining an opponent to an all out counter
attack. It is a self-protection art developed for the
battlefields of old Japan, yet still applicable to today’s
Omiya, Shiro, The Hidden Roots of Aikido:
Aiki Jujutsu Daitoryu, Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York,
and London, 1998.
Discussions with Yasuhiro Irie and other
Hakko-Ryu Instructors, 1965 to 2003
The Practice of Iaijutsu within
Roy J. Hobbs
Dentokan Iaijutsu is not a classical form of Japanese martial arts. It is a modern method based upon the circa World War II Japanese Toyama Military Academy sword method, and by definition is a Gendai (modern) martial art (i.e., post Meiji Restoration). I came to prefer this method of Japanese swordsmanship as my study Japanese sword has progressed through the years. To understand this, I have provided below a brief history of my study of various styles of Japanese swordsmanship.
I actually began my study of the Japanese sword in 1969. My first teacher was Albert Church, a practitioner of Mugai-Ryu Iaido as taught to him by Shogo Kuniba. I later received instruction in Mugai-Ryu from Butch Velez, another senior student of Shogo Kuniba (1935-1992). Sensei Kuniba himself was a student of the 14th Soke of Mugai-Ryu, Gogetsu Ishii. He could trace his Mugai-Ryu lineage down from the style’s original founder, Tsuji Mugai Gettan (1649-1727), an accomplished master of Yamaguchi-Ryu Kenjutsu prior to founding Mugai-Ryu. Oddly enough the style also has a close association with Iga Clan Ninpo/Ninjutsu. Sensei Kuniba eventually broke from mainline Mugai-Ryu to found what he called Kuniba-Ryu Iaido.
My next exposure to a Japanese sword art came when I was living in Japan in the early 1980s. At the encouragement of Shian Toma (Kaicho, All Okinawa Karate Kobudo Association) I took up Aikido to improve my footwork. I trained at two Aikikai affiliated dojo in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Sensei Ida’s dojo in Tachikawa and Sensei Ishima’s dojo in Akashima. It was there that I learned Aiki Ken and Jo. I eventually went on to include elements of Aiki Ken, particularly the drills, into my teaching methodologies. But, Mugai-Ryu still remained the essence of my sword experience.
While Mugai-Ryu is a wonderful example of the classical systems of old Japan and provided me a solid foundation in sword use, I found it difficult to teach to westerners. The sitting in seiza, kneeling, and knee walking tends to be difficult for most westerners. At the same time, it was difficult for my Okinawan Kobujutsu students to understand how to defend against the sword without a basic understanding of its use. Fortunately for me, while living in Panama, I met Stavros Costarangos. Sensei Costarangos was a Toyama-Ryu Batto practitioner and student of Fumio Demura. Sensei Demura in turn was a student of Taisaburo Nakamura (1912-2003) (Toyama-Ryu Hanshi and founder of Nakamura-Ryu). It was from Stavros that I learned the kata of Toyama-Ryu.
Toyama-Ryu is unique in that it is all standing techniques. It was designed by a committee mostly made up of Omori-Ryu (another classical style) master teachers at Japan’s Toyama Military Academy for employment on the battlefields of World War II. I found this form to be well suited for Kobujutsu practitioners to develop a good understanding of the Japanese sword, without all the time consuming classical trappings normally associated with Iaido. Thus I eagerly accepted Sensei Costarangos’ invitation to train and even had the opportunity of studying directly with Sensei Demura on two of his visits to Panama. My students took to this method like ducks to water.
A few years after returning from Panama I observed my good friend Bill Stockey performing a rather long sword kata named Seisui No Ken (“Sword of Pure Flowing Water”). It is an unusual sword kata because it is quite long, unlike other sword kata I had learned, which are rather short. It is also an all-standing kata. Bill had been a long time student of Tenshin Hamada, the international director of the famous Dai Nippon Butokukai, and he related an interesting story behind this long sword kata. The kata was the invention of Sensei Hamada’s father, Seishin Hamada. Seishin Hamada had been a teacher at the Butokukai and master of Itto-Ryu. Itto-Ryu is a classical form of Japanese sword founded by Ittosai Ito (1560-1628). Prior to founding Itto-Ryu, Ito had been a master practitioner of Shinkage-Ryu. The long kata I observed was Seishin Hamada’s compilation, into a continuous flowing form, of the numerous short Itto-Ryu kata. It contains the essence of Itto-Ryu, a style closely associated with modern day Kendo and Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu. Bill was gracious enough to teach me Seisui No Ken. There was a time when this kata was included in the Iaijutsu syllabus of the Dentokan. It was later removed, as it did not have the same feel as the military techniques of Toyama-Ryu. Thus, for a time, the Dentokan Iaijutsu syllabus reverted back to what was essentially Toyama-Ryu only.
Through my Aikijujutsu teaching efforts I was fortunate to have met Andy Bryant of Indianapolis, Indiana. Andy initially came to us to study Aikijujutsu, but it became readily apparent that Andy had a strong sword background as well. Andy was quite accomplished at Eishin-Ryu Iaido, as well as the Dai Nippon Batto Ho (“Greater Japan Sword Drawing Style”) developed by Hyakuren Kono (20th Soke of the Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu) in 1939. This was the sword method taught within the Japanese Imperial Navy. Thus we discovered another Japanese military sword method, which very much complimented the Toyama-Ryu. For this reason the Batto Ho kata of the Japanese Imperial Navy was added to the Dentokan syllabus.
We also made the determination to include the Dai Nihon Teikoku Kendo Kata (“Greater Imperial Japan Kendo Kata”) to the Dentokan Iaijutsu syllabus. These two-man sets are Kenjutsu forms designed to train swordsmen in the practical application of sword techniques. The sets include both katana (long sword) and wakizashi (short sword) techniques. Again, inclusion of these kata, were made possible through Andy Bryant. We owe a big thanks to Andy and all he has done to help build and mature Dentokan Iaijutsu.
While we see merit in all schools of Japanese swordsmanship, our preferred methods are those associated with the Japanese military. This is the sword method we practice within the Dentokan. Our aim is not to preserve any particular koryu school of Japanese swordsmanship. Our aim is to build highly proficient, practically oriented swordsmen utilizing the tried and tested methods developed by the Japanese military.
Our approach has been validated by the acceptance of Dentokan Iaijutsuka into the Iaido/Iaijutsu Division of the Zen Nihon Budo Renmei (All Japan Budo Federation), whose headquarters is located in Kyoto, Japan.
About the Author: Roy J. Hobbs retired from the United States Air Force in 2004 at the rank/grade of Colonel (O-6). His early military service (1971-77) was spent as an Infantry Soldier, Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), and Officer in the North Carolina Army National Guard (Mechanized Infantry) and United States Army Reserve. He was awarded Hachidan & Hanshi of Nihon Iaijutsu in 2008 by the Zen Nihon Budo Renmei (All Japan Budo Federation), Kyoto, Japan.
My Thoughts on Okinawan
Roy Jerry Hobbs
I have heard many stories as to
how the weapons systems of Okinawa have come about. An
often-repeated description is that it developed as a response to
a ban on weapons imposed by conquering Samurai from the main
islands of Japan. Lesser voices have brought to light the
strong resemblance between the weapons systems of Okinawa and
other similar systems found in China, Indo China, and Korea. I
have also been told that at least one of these systems came from
the old Okinawan Royal Court. All of this is virtually
impossible to confirm due to the time elapsed and the
devastation of World War II.
The Kobudo (Old Martial Way) /
Kobujutsu (Old Martial Art) practiced within the Dentokan is a
combination of several different Ryu/Ha (Styles/Methods) now
widely recognized and accepted within the broader martial arts
community. It should be noted that the congealing of these
Ryu/Ha, into recognized/accepted “styles,” is a fairly recent
phenomena. There are still many dojo (schools) on Okinawa that
teach kobudo/kobujutsu unassociated and unaffiliated with any
particular Ryu/Ha. This is particularly true of many dojos that
teach Kobudo/Kobujutsu as an adjunct to regular Karate
practice. I, like many other Karate instructors, also teach
Kobujutsu to provide a different perspective on timing and
distance. A sound understanding of timing and distance is
absolutely vital for effective self-defense and kumite. The use
of Kobujutsu weapons also have a direct correlation on the use
of more practical weapons such as sticks of varying length,
clubs, knives, knuckle dusters/brass knuckles, etc.
Note: For the sake of
simplicity I will use the singular term of Kobujutsu, as opposed
to Kobudo. I feel this more accurately reflects the art as a
fighting system, and not a means of personal enlightenment,
which the “Do” kanji character implies. Also, in Japan proper,
Kobudo denotes a wide variety of both armed and unarmed ancient
fighting methodologies often referred to as koryu (old style)
My first opportunity to study
the Kobujutsu of Okinawa was as a member of Shogo Kuniba’s
Seishinkai organization. Within the Seishinkai Kuniba Sensei
taught Karate (Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu, later renamed Kuniba Ha
Shito-Ryu), Kobudo (principally of the Taira method), Iaido
(Mugai-Ryu, later renamed Kuniba-Ryu), and Goshin Budo/Goshindo
(Jujutsu; a combination of Judo, Aikido, and Karate). Sensei
Kuniba had been a student of Shinken Taira. My direct Kobujutsu
teachers, within the Seishinkai, were Richard Baillargeon,
Albert Church, and Butch Velez.
My next exposure to Okinawan
Kobujutsu came from Shian Toma of the All Okinawa Seidokan
Karate Kobudo Association. Sensei Toma, like many Karate
masters, teaches a Kobujutsu syllabus consisting of kata he has
learned from a variety of sources. These include Seikichi Odo,
Matsutaru Ire, and Seikichi Uehara, as well as others.
It was through membership in the
All Okinawa Seidokan Karate Kobudo Association that I met Robert
Teller. Bob had become a member of the Seidokan following the
accidental death of his teacher Masanobu Kina, a nephew of
Shosei Kina. Shosei Kina was the headmaster of the Ufuchiku
style of Okinawan Kobujutsu. It is from Bob that I learned
Ufuchiku style Bo, Sai, Tonfa, and Techu kata. I feel a special
appreciation for having learned these kata, because they are
very unique and quite old.
Two other individuals have had a
profound impact on my Kobujutsu knowledge. They are Seikichi
Odo who was a student of Shinpo Matayoshi, and Seiki Toma who
was a student of Tatsuo Shimabuku. I had sought out Sensei Odo
to learn Kama, but went on to study a variety of other weapons
to include the Eku Bo (first taught to me by Bob Teller, which
he learned from Sensei Odo), Nunti Bo (first taught to me by
Mike Wysocki, a student of Sensei Odo), Tekko, and
Rochin-Tinbe. Seiki Toma is an expert in many of the Taira
Kobujutsu kata as taught by Tatsuo Shimabuku. He gave me some
unique insight into the kata I had previously learned as a
member of Shian Toma’s Seidokan.
Dentokan Kobujutsu is thus a
compilation of traditional kata I have learned from a number of
master teachers. I have attempted to keep what I felt were the
most unique aspects of each of their teachings, thus honoring
them for the knowledge they so openly shared. This I have
sought to do without simply compiling a long, overwhelming list
of kata. It is hoped that the study of Kobujutsu within the
Dentokan will, in general, led to a greater appreciation of
Okinawan culture and traditions.