Sensei Matsu Higa0
Style – Chuan Fa and Okinawa-te
Higa (1647–1721) is a legendary martial artist in Okinawan history
who was a direct influence on the development of karate and kobudo,
especially with respect to bojutsu. (1) A resident of the island of
Hama Higa, he was perhaps a student of the Chinese emissaries Zhang
Xue Li and later Wanshu, who would have taught him techniques of chu'an
In 1683 the Ching government sent a large ambassadorial contingent
led by Wanshu (Wang Ji) to Okinawa. (2) He was a diplomat, writer,
calligrapher and skilled martial artist. Wanshu taught Higa techniques
of Chuan Fa (Shorinji kempo). These techniques were modified and transmitted
into "Tode", Okinawa Te. Matsu Higa was a short man and
had very strong forearms. Often he fought against bandits visiting
his home island. Matsu Higa along with Peichin Takehara is considered
responsible for the shift in the Okinawa Te to Bushi no Te.
In 1683 the Ching government sent a large ambassadorial contingent
led by Wanshu (Wang Ji) to Okinawa. (2) He was a diplomat, writer,
calligrapher and skilled martial artist. Wanshu taught Higa techniques
of Chuan Fa (Shorinji kempo). These techniques were modified and transmitted
into "Tode", Okinawa Te. Matsu Higa was a short man and
had very strong forearms. Often he fought against bandits visiting
his home island. Matsu Higa along with Peichin Takehara is considered
responsible for the shift in the Okinawa Te to Bushi no Te.
What is known, however, is that Matsu Higa was the teacher of Peichin
Takehara, who in turn taught Sakugawa Kanga. Matsu Higa was one of
the first to codify a system of kata and techniques. His contributions
live on in several weapons katas, especially for tonfa, sai, and bo.
Sensei Chatan Yara0
Style – Chuan Fa and Okinawa-te
Chatan Yara (1668 – 1756)
from Chatan village that served a Shuri castle. (1) Original name
Yara Pehchin, later also called Uekata, which is highest rank for
samurai in the former Kingdome of the Ryu Kyu. He is said to have
studied martial arts in China for twenty years. He was an expert in
fighting with Sai, Tonfa and Bo. His style and Kata greatly influenced
Ryu Kyu Kobujutsu. Techniques of Sai was used by Chikusaji - ancient
Ryukyuan policemen. It is also said that Ufuchiku, or the ancient
Ryukyuan chief police officer, always carried and used Sai (iron truncheon)
for the purposes of directing his policemen, guarding VIPs, regulating
the crowd and so forth. Pehchin class of feudal Okinawa made arrests,
took custody of prisoners and ensured that court sentences were carried
out in Kingdome. They were cultivating Sai jutsu. Jutte used in Japan
is a modified truncheon.
Sensei Peichin Takehara0
Fa and Okinawa-te
Peichin Takehara (1683-1766),
from Akato, was born to the Kogusuku family of Kumemura. He was a
priest, mathematician, cartographer and astronomer. He was samurai
as well, learned martial arts from Matsu Higa and later brought a
meditation practice to Okinawa martial arts system. Peichin, Pechin
or Pehchin is a title of status and they served Ryu Kyu dynasty since
1509 until 1879. As officials they were largely responsible for civil
administration and law enforcement. One of his student was Sakugawa
Chikodun Peichin Kanga who later became very famous warrior.
Sensei Shinjo Choken0
Style – Chuan
Fa and Okinawa-te
Shinjo Choken is a "Dai Jo"
or an important figure in Shorin Ryu's history. Not much is known
about this martial artist. Again, most information is by “oral
tradition”. He is one of the earliest known practitioners of
Shuri-Te. He was active in the late 1600's and early 1700's.
Sensei Ko Sokun0
Style – Chuan Fa (Kempo)
Ko Sokun (?-1761) also known as
Kushanku, Kusanku, Kong Su Kung and Kouh Shang Kouh. He was a Chinese
Sifu (Sensei) who immigrated in 1756 to Okinawa where he served as
military attaché. It is recorded that in 1761 he displayed
Chinese boxing and grappling techniques to a delighted audience in
Okinawa. Kushanku was skilled Kempo master and he is the earliest
known ancestor of Pinewood karate style. The royal guards were permitted
to study Tode and Yara Pehchin (Chatan Yara) became his student for
sometime (?). Later he developed Kata based on training with Kushanku
sifu. Form was also developed by Sakugawa and passed to Soken Matsumura.
From him was transmitted to Chotoku Kyuan and passed to Tatsuo Shimabuku
who used Kusanku kata as foundation for kata Kusanku Sai in Isshin
ryu. There are two versions, one with and other without kicks. Kusanku
may be translated as "To view the sky".
Sensei Kanga Sakugawa0
Style – Chuan
Sakugawa Kanga (1733-1815) Satunuku
(Shungo) born in Teruya Kanga in Shuri's Torihori village. Sakugawa
became a student of Takehara, who lived in close by Akata village,
at the age of 17. His father having been beaten to death by bandits,
the young Sakugawa was determined to master the martial arts. Nickname
Tode received from hi teacher Takehara. Later he studied under Kushanku
a military attaché in Okinawa. Story says that in age of 23
Sakugawa attacked Kushanku while standing near to river bank out of
Shuri on a bridge and looking out over the water. As he moved to push
Kushanku from behind, Kushanku suddenly sidestepped the attack and
instantly grasped his wrist and said: “when you came to Shuri
ask for Kushanku and I will teach you not only How but also Why in
With Takehara's blessing Sakugawa
became his disciple. Kushanku taught him "Kumiuchi-jutsu"
i.e. fighting and grappling techniques and also principle of "Hikite".
Upon return Kushanku to China, Sakugawa followed him and remained
there for six years. According some sources Sakugawa may have been
sent to China to learn Chinese martial arts in order to better train
the Okinawa Bubishi. When Sakugawa returned to Okinawa he became the
chief Shuri official of the Yaeymama Island area. He was given the
title Satunuku of Satunoshi – samurai serving the Okinawa king.
As a reward for his service the Shuri government gave him a small
Island and names it Sakugawa. He took the name of the Island for himself
and became Sakugawa Teruya Chikodun Peichin Kanga. Sakugawa is behind
establishing the regulations and rules at Dojo. He was strict to speculation
of narrow specialization and emphasized a Chinese traditional way
of martial arts.
“Bushi” Matsumura (1792-1887) was the forefather of Shorin-ryu.
Matsumura was recruited into the
service of the Sho family (Royal family of Okinawa) and eventually
became the chief martial arts instructor and bodyguard for the Okinawan
King. At some point in his career, approximately 1830, he went to
China and studied the Shaolin style of Chinese Kenpo (fist method)
and weaponry. It is also known that he traveled to Foochow in Fukien
province, China on numerous occasions as an envoy for the Okinawan
King. After his return from China he organized and refined the Shorin
Ryu system of Okinawan Karate.
Matsumura is credited with passing
on the kata or formal exercises of Shorin Ryu Karate known as Naifanchi
I & II, Bassai Dai, Seisan, Chinto, Gojushiho (fifty-four steps
of the Black Tiger), Kusanku (the embodiment of Kusanku's teaching
as passed on to Tode Sakugawa) and Hakutsuru (white crane). The Hakutsuru
kata contains the elements of the white crane system taught within
the Shaolin system of Chinese Kenpo. Another set of kata, known as
Chanan in Matsumura's time, is said to have been devised by Matsumura
himself and was the basis for Pinan I and II. Matsumura's Ryu has
endured to the present day and the above mentioned kata are the core
of Shorin Ryu Karate today.
Matsumura was given the title
"Bushi" meaning warrior by the Okinawan King in recognition
of his abilities and accomplishments in the martial arts. In fact,
Matsumura fought many times but was never defeated. His martial arts
endeavors has been the progenitor of many contemporary karate styles,
Shorin Ryu, Shotokan Ryu, and Shito Ryu, for example. Ultimately all
modern styles of karate that evolved from the Shuri-Te lineage can
be traced back to the teachings of Bushi Matsumura. This includes
Taekwon Do (Korean Karate).
The bull story
King Sho Ko had retired to his
palace and instituted an annual festival complete with martial arts
exhibitions and a very popular bull fighting contest.
This was a period of heavy taxation
of the Okinawan people and there was much corruption in Sho Ko's court.
Sho Ko devised a scheme to root out corruption, Sho Ko would write
a poem to outline a subjects corruption and the subject would be commanded
to finish the verse. The subjects of Sho Ko's court would not obey
the kings command so he became angry and drew his sword and slew all
of the members of his court except Matsumura. Matsumura was convinced
that he must obey the King even if it meant death by the Kings hand.
The King was so impressed with this that he devised another way of
dealing with Matsumura, he order Matsumura to fight a particularly
mean bull at the upcoming festival. (Okinawan bull fighting is a fight
between two bulls, so a fight between a man and a bull was a very
Matsumura devised a plan to overcome
the bull. For five nights prior to the bull fight Matsumura visited
the bull in his pen and wore unwashed clothes and shielded his face.
He poked the bull in the nose with his pen until the bull was in a
state of frenzy. When the bull could take no more, Matsumura revealed
his face and assumed a defiant position in front of the bull. When
the time for the bull fight came, the bull was released into the ring.
Matsumura entered the ring wearing the same unwashed clothes that
he had worn each night. Matsumura uncovered his face, gave out a loud
Kia, and assumed the same defiant position that he had taken in front
of the bull each night. The bull, upon detecting the scent of Matsumura's
clothes and seeing the same face and pose as he had seen the previous
nights, turned and ran back to his pen. The King was so impressed
by this display that he gave Matsumura the official title of "Bushi".
Another person Matsumura had an
interchange of martial knowledge with was a man named Chinto, a pirate
from Southern China (according to some, he was not a pirate at all,
but a trader, and he did not plunder). He drifted ashore to Okinawa.
Something must have happened to his ship. When he got there, he began
to loot and plunder because of hunger. The king received word of this,
and sent Bushi to hunt him down and stop him. So when Bushi found
him, they fought each other but were matched. Some say that it was
because Chinto was very expert at change-body just like Matsumura.
When all attempts to apprehend the pirate failed, strangely enough,
Bushi befriended him and exchanged martial knowledge with him. Thus
we have the kata named Chinto with the techniques in it that Bushi
got from him. It is a mystery as to what Chinese system these techniques
Bushi Matsumura studied under
a Chinese master for a time by the name of Channan (Chiag Nan) who
was a diplomat sent to Shuri from China. Bushi created two kata from
what he had learned that were known as Channan Sho and Dai. Later,
the names were changed to Pinan (Ping An) Shodan and Nidan. In the
Matsumura system, these two are considered the basic, or "kihon"
It is said by some that a Chinese
master by the name of Ason taught a Chinese kata by the name of Naifanchin
in the area of Naha. Some say that the kata was taught in Naha-te
for a while but is no longer had in Naha-te styles. Matsumura studied
from Ason for a time. Later, Matsumura took this kata and broke it
up into two parts: Naifanchin Shodan and Nidan. The origin of Naihanchi
Sandan is more obscure. It is not a Matsumura kata at all, but it
may have its origin in Ason's system also.
Matsumora (1829 - 1898) was born in Tomari village, on Okinawa Island.
At the age of 15, when in those days boys began to be treated as adults,
he started to learn karate from Master Teruya of Tomari. The young
Matsumora became one of Master Teruya's main students, even though
he had many followers.
Master Teruya taught Katas which
were only practiced in Tomari, namely "Rohai", "Wanshu"
and "Wankan" (sometimes known as "Okan"). He also
placed a great deal of emphasis on good behavior, citing "Karate-ni-
Sente-Nashi" ("there is no first attack in karate").
During that era, the practice
of martial arts was never conducted in the open or beyond the confines
of the courtyard. Fighting traditions were only taught in privacy
and always cloaked in an iron-clad ritual of secrecy. There were no
training facilities or public teachers available as today. A teacher
and his student practiced secretly late at night or at dawn, usually
at one’s residence or in the forest near a village. However,
worthy disciples who swore special oaths sometimes received the privilege
of practicing at the grave site of the master.
One evening, when Master Matsumora
and others were practicing at Master Teruya's family cemetery he noticed
an outcast watching his moves intently. Master Matsumora approached
him. The man apologized for disturbing Matsumora's training and commended
him on his level of skills. He handed Matsumora a piece of paper but,
before Matsumora could finish reading the inscription, the recluse
had disappeared. Matsumora showed the note to Master Teruya, to which
he responded "exactly!". Some time later, Kosaku Matsumora
had a flash of inspiration and, in a moment, understood the deeper
meaning of the message;
of budo is to denounce immoral consideration, understand humanity,
follow a virtuous path, and devote your life to cultivating peace
During this period of Japanese
occupation, at times members of the Satsuma Clan would assault women
and children during routine inspections. Often the village men would
“pull together” and protect mistreated villagers. Oral
tradition strongly suggests that the Satsuma Clan had little or no
respect for Tomari villagers resulting in shameless acts of rape and
One day in Tomari, on Haariya
Street, between the Takahashi Bridge and Maemichi Street, in the neighborhood
of Yamazato Giki, a twenty year old Matsumora heard screams coming
from a crowd of angry people. He approached the crowd to witness a
Satsuma official in the mist of the crowd holding up his sword and
yelling profanity at a villager. Witnessing this despicable act of
oppression, he swiftly lunged at the Satsuma swordsman with a moist
towel. As the crowd scattered for their safety, the Satsuma swordsman
slashed his sword at an evasive Matsumora only to have it yanked out
of his hands by Matsumora wrapping his towel around the sword and
jerking it away. Matsumora recovered the sword, as the Satusuma swordsman
fled. However, during this struggle Matsumora lost his little finger.
A Samurai losing a sword, especially
against a weaponless opponent, was considered a complete loss of seirei
(spirit). This was a disgrace to the entire Satsuma Clan. In complete
awe, nearby bystanders witnessed this unbelievable courageous act
by there own audacious Bushi villager standing up against Satsuma
intimidation. This courageous act not only rescued a poor defensive
villager but also inspired other villagers to stand up against Satsuma
Another fine example of his courage
occurred during the years 1843 to 1847 when British and French warships
appeared in Ryukyuan waters. Later in 1853 Commordore Perry sailed
into the port of Tomari making a pervasive appearance. China was unable
to offer military assistance; therefore Matsumora decisively formed
a coalition of leaders (his self, Oyadomari Kokan, and Yamazato Gikei).
Together the villagers called them “Tomari’s Big Three.”
Oyadomari stated, “If our Kingdom is destroyed, how can we continue
to live? We’ll die for the King.” Finalizing their pledge
realizing that this might be their final meeting, the “Big Three”
exchanged toasts of water from ceremonial sake cups. According to
Bujin code of conduct, Matsumora’s actions were justified. The
three taught the villagers self-defense techniques which gave them
needed confidence to defend themselves against potential assailing
French and British visitors.
These prodigious acts became legendary
and were commemorated at Tomari’s Arayashiki Park. A stunning
stone monument, inscribed with an epitaph in memory for chivalrous
gallant acts, was erected on May 8, 1983.
Master Matsumora had several students
including Master Choki Motobu, who became renowned for his great fighting
skill. Choki Motobu was reputed to have learned only Naifanchi Kata
from Master Matsumora, but this is not true, although he did like
the kata and so perhaps practiced it more than others. This Kata has
been handed down and practiced in Wado-Ryu because Hironori Ohtsuka,
the founder, learned it from Choki Motobu.
Anko (Yasutsune Itosu) (1831-1915) is one of the most influential
early 20th century karate pioneers. (1) For those knowledgeable in
karate history, his name to you is legend.
It was Itosu who first started
teaching karate to the public and was one of the teachers of Gichen
Funakoshi (who many know as the father of Japanese karate), as well
as many other founders of the karate we know today. He was the creator
of the Pinan Kata series, and he modified of many other kata practiced
throughout karate today.
But what is history behind this
man? What is his heritage, and what truth is there to the many legends
about this man? Itosu was born in the Gibo section of Shuri (the capital
city), Okinawa, in 1831 and died on January 26, 1915. His first name
was Anko (the Kanji for which may be alternately read in Japanese
as Yasutsune and his last name Shishu read as Itosu). He is probably
most commonly known by the name Anko Itosu. He was born to a prominent
family and was well educated in the classics of Chinese literature.
He was short by modern standards, but in Okinawa at the time his approximately
five feet of height was average. Some sources describe him as stocky
with a barrel chest and very strong. He also had immense discipline.
After taking and passing civil
service exams, he became a clerk for the Ryukyu government. At least
one source he was a secretary to the last King of the Ryukyus (the
island chain of which Okinawa was the capital), Sho Tai (the monarchy
ended in 1879 when the islands officially became part of Japan). It
was through the assistance of his good friend Anko Azato that he progressed
to a position of prominence in Ryukyu governmental administration.
This was a bond of friendship that existed throughout their lives,
and they are often described together by Gichin Funakoshi, who studied
under both of these masters. By all accounts he was built strongly,
and there are many tales of his incredible punching ability.
The early training of this martial
arts legend is shrouded in mystery. Many martial historians refer
to Itosu as having been a disciple of the Great Sokon "Bushi"
Matsumura. Matsumura was the most influential martial artist of his
time who helped bring karate into the modern era as exponent of Shuri-te
(meaning Shuri hands or art). It was Matsumura who was a student of
Tode Sakagawa (1733-1815) who in turn studied under Kusanku -- after
which the famous kata is named (Konku).
Was Itosu the link to this heritage,
an interpreter of Matsumura's karate? Upon closer examination this
appears to be incorrect, or at least overstated.
question then becomes how do we ascertain the truth when so much of
martial history is based on oral accounts and opinions? While we may
never know the truth for sure, we should look to accounts of those
who actually trained under Itosu for significant periods of time.
One such account comes from Choki Motobu (one of Okinawa's greatest
early twentieth century karate masters) who spent eight to nine years
under Itosu. In his 1932 book, "Watashi no Tode Jutsu,"
Motobu is quoted as saying: "Sensei Itosu was a pupil of Sensei
Matsumura, but he was disliked by his teacher for he was very slow
(speed of movement). There (in the dojo) for although Itosu sensei
was diligent in his practice his teacher did not care about him so
he (Itsou) left and went to sensei Nagahama." According Motobu,
while Sensei Nagahama was quite well known and very diligent, his
method or idea of teaching was entirely different from master Matsumura.
Nagahama stressed just building of the body. Apparently Itosu adjusted
well and trained hard for Motobu reports that Nagahama referred to
Itosu as his disciple and "right hand man." It must have
been a shock when Nagahama told Itosu on his deathbed (as reported
by Motobu), that he had actually only taught him (Itosu) strength
building and had never once given thought to actual combat. In other
words, his method lacked the idea of liberty in motion and alertness
in action, and therefore he wanted him to go back to master Matsumura.
Funakoshi says on page 18 of his text (reprinted as "Tote Jitsu"
in 1925), "It is confirmed through written documents and collections
that .....(2) ASATO followed MATSUMURA and ITOSU followed GUSUKUMA,
according to what has been told through generations." In his
later text, "Karate-do Kyohan" (page 8, 1973 edition), Funakoshi
says again that "It is stated that ...... (3) masters AZATO and
ITOSU were students of MATSUMURA and GUSUKUMA respectively. It is
likely that through his instruction many of the seeds were planted
for using tode (an early name for karate) as a method of physical
and mental strengthening. These seeds combined with Itosu's unique
perspective and experience came to fruition in the Okinawan school
system as a method of developing the youth of Okinawa. Itosu likely
realized, as Nagahama suggested, that he needed further training in
combative principles. It would have been highly unlikely for Itosu
to return to the Matsumura, however, since he had previously left
him. The question then becomes, "Where did Itosu go next?"
If we look at the words of Gichin
Funakoshi (the great karate pioneer who is often referred to as the
"Father of Japanese Karate.") who is regarded as a top student
of both Anko Azato and Anko Itosu, we find that Anko Itosu became
a disciple of GUSUKUMA OF TOMARI! (sometimes known as Shiroma). On
page 18 of his text (reprinted as "Tote Jitsu" in 1925)
Funakoshi states, "It is confirmed through written documents
and collections that...(2) ASATO followed MATSUMURA and ITOSU followed
GUSUKUMA, according to what has been told through generations."
In his later text, "Karate-do Kyohan" (page 8, 1973 edition),
who instructed this writer and to whom the writer is greatly indebted".
Thus through the combined weight of the statements made by two direct
long term students of Anko Itosu (Motobu and Funakoshi), we can logically
come to the conclusion that Anko Shishu (Anko Itosu) began his training
under Matsumura, left to become a disciple of Nagahama of Naha (a
seaport city near Shuri, the capital), and upon Nagahama's death became
a disciple of GUSUKUMA of TOMARI.
This would explain the inclusion
of the Tomari (a seaport village near the capital Shuri) (4) kata
Rohai and Wanshu within the Itosu curriculum. Sokon Matumura was not
known to have taught or passed on these forms. To explain the presence
of these kata in the Itosu curriculum, other historians have theorized
that Itosu, as student of Matumura, must have therefore trained briefly,
side by side, with Kosako Matumora of Tomari sometime after 1873.
But, the more logical explanation is to assume that Motobu and Funakoshi
are correct in stating that Itosu had studied with Gusukuma. He was
a Tomari instructor, and both katas are recorgnized as Tomari kata.
Itosu continued to teach Wanshu as well as Rohai, which developed
into three versions based on the original Tumaidi (Tomari te) prototype.
Then there is the kata Seisan. It was a kata taught by Soken Matsumura.
If Itosu's primary karate teacher had been Matsumura, surely he would
also have taught this kata. But he did not. An explanation for the
absence of Seisan can be found in the existing Tomari te (Tumaidi)
traditions. For example, the continuing Tomari traditions as were
passed down through the Oyadomari brothers of Tomari (5), as well
as those of the Matsumora ha Tumaidi (Tomari te) as passed down to
Tokashiki Iken (6), also lack the kata Seisan, as does the tode passed
on by Itosu. Seisan was not a Tomari kata. (7)
In any event all the forms Itosu
apparently borrowed from the Tomari curriculum appear to have been
heavily altered when compared to the existing Tomari traditions. Given
the existing Tumaidi forms, one can see that Itosu utilized the sum
of the knowledge given to him and further altered it to reflect his
experience and objectives. It is also interesting to contrast Itosu's
kata and how they are performed as compared to the kata of Tomari
(Tumaidi) as practiced today. (8)
When one compares the kata of
Tumaidi (9) with those traced to Anko Itosu, one is struck by the
greater use of open hand techniques and the more upright stances in
the Tomari tradition. The kata themselves are performed with a much
more relaxed and lighter feel. There is also greater emphasis placed
upon the use of koshi (hip area) -- the lower back/hips/pelvic girdle
move in more of a figure eight pattern and on multiple planes as opposed
to rotating around a horizontal axis as is found in the Itosu heritage.
In his book "Okinawan Karate:
Teachers, Styles And Secret Techniques," Mark Bishop contrasted
the karate of Azato (Matsumura heritage mixed with a swordsmanship
perspective) and Itosu:
"While Azato believed the
hands and feet should be like bladed weapons and that one should
avoid all contact of an opponent's strike, Itosu held the idea that
the body did not have to be so mobile and should be able to take
the hardest of blows. Chosin Chibana (a long time student of Itosu)
once said that Itosu indeed have a very powerful punch, but Matsumura
had once said to Itosu: 'With your strong punch you can knock anything
down, but you can't so much as touch me.'"
It is through the efforts of this
"Father of Modern Okinawan Karate" that many basic exercises
and forms were simplified and organized into a curriculum suitable
for the mass instruction of students. In addition to placing importance
on basics, Itosu took the Channan forms he had previously devised
(or had been taught him, according to historians), altered them slightly
and renamed them Pinan, which he thought would be more appealing to
students. This is evidenced in such journals as "Karate No Kenkyu"
by Nakasone Genwa 1934 and "Kobo Kenpo Karate-do Nyumon"
by Mabuni Kenwa and Nakasone Genwa 1938. Let it never be said that
Itosu lacked enthusiasm, for he didn't stop at the Pinans. He went
on to supplement Naifanchi by the creation of a Nidan and Sandan (Kinjo
1991, Murakami 1991) and possibly Kusanku Sho and Passai Sho (Iwai
1992) as well!
Even though questions persist
about Itosu's lineage, there is no doubt about the profound and universal
impact he had on the development of karate in Okinawa. It was Itosu
who brought Karate from the shadows into the light of public study.
(4) In 1901 he began instructing karate at the Shuri Jinjo Primary
school (Iwai 1992, Okinawa Pref. 1994) and taught at the Dai Ichi
middle school and the Okinawa prefectural Men's Normal School in 1905
(Bishop 1999, Okinawa Pref. 1994, 1995). It is perhaps one of the
greatest testaments to the skill of this karateka that he developed
such a group of superb students, who in turn promoted his art. The
karate that descended from Itosu represents one of the great Okinawan
karate heritages known as Shorin-Ryu. His students comprise a virtual
"who's who" of the founding fathers of modern karate. They
include: Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Jiro Shiroma, Chojo Oshiro,
Shigeru Nakamura Anbun Tokuda, Moden Yabiku, Kenwa Mabuni, Gichin
Funakoshi, Chosin Chibana, Moden Yabiku, and Choki Motobu (who contrary
to popular stories spent some eight years of training under Itosu).
In October of 1908 Itosu realized
it was time for Karate to reach beyond the shores of Okinawa to the
heart of Japan itself. It was to this end that he wrote his famous
letter of Ten Precepts (Tode Jukun) to draw the attention of both
the Ministry of Education as well as the Ministry of War. After demonstrations
were held for several naval vessels, the most important of which was
the 1912 visit of Admiral Dewa, karate emerged as an attractive vehicle
for developing young fighting men for the imperialistic Japanese government
of the period.
On January 26, 1915 a great light
in the martial world was extinguished when Anko Itosu drew his last
breath at the age of eighty five. It is a shame that he did not live
to see the art he so vigorously propagated achieve its world wide
popularity, and to see his crusade vigorously pursued on the mainland
by his student Gichen Funakoshi.
Sensei Gichin Funakoshi1,2
Style - Shotokan
Funakoshi (1868-1957) was the founder of the Shotokan-ryu style. Funakoshi
was born in the Okinawan capital of Shuri into a family of the Shizoku
class (upper class). Master Gichin Funakoshi was instructed by Yasutsune
Azato and Yasutsune Itosu. He was responsible for introducing Karate
to Japan in the 1920's. He was also responsible for changing (or defining,
depending how you look at it) the meaning of the word Karate-do.
He changed the 'kara' symbol in
Karate from the old symbol, meaning 'China', to the new symbol, meaning
'empty'. In his book Karate-Do Nyumon, he writes: "Just as an
empty valley can carry a resounding voice, so must the person who
follows the Way of Karate make himself void or empty by ridding himself
or all self-centeredness and greed. Make yourself empty within, but
upright without. This is the real meaning of the 'empty' in Karate.
“Once one has perceived
the infinity of forms and elements in the universe, one returns to
emptiness, to the void.” In other words, emptiness is none other
than the true form of the universe. There are various fighting techniques
- yarijutsu ['spear techniques'] and bojitsu ['stick techniques'],
for example - and forms of martial arts, such as judo and kendo. All
share an essential principle with Karate, but Karate alone explicitly
states the basis of all martial arts. Form equals emptiness; emptiness
equals form. The use of the character [for 'empty'] in Karate is indeed
based on this principle."
The result of this change is that
Karate-do, which formerly translated loosely to 'Chinese hand', now
translates to '[the way of the] empty hand'.
Kumite didn’t appear to
interest Funakoshi, The relationship between Funakoshi’s senior
student Hironori Otsuka (later known as the founder of Wado-ryu) and
he was growing strained because of the young man's bright new approach
to teaching. Otsuka stressed Kumite over Kata, in sharp contrast to
Funakoshi, and developed many pre-arranged kumite techniques much
to the dismay of Funakoshi who believed that basics and kata were
enough. Influenced by the direction taken by kendo and also by his
new and influential friend, Choki Motobu the legendary Okinawan Karate
master, he began full contact free-sparring with students wearing
the new Kendo protective armour. This was the beginning of the modern
style Karate championship and pretty much the end of Otsuka's relationship
Motobu was born in 1871 in Akahira village in the Shuri region of
Okinawa. He was the third son of Motobu “Udun”, a high
ranking aji or lord. The Motobu family was skilled at the art of Ti
(a grappling art of the Okinawan nobility). Motobu did learn some
of the techniques of his family are fighting system, but because of
Okinawan tradition, only the first son, Choyu, was educated and choose
to carry on the family’s martial tradition. Because of this
situation, he went looking for instruction elsewhere.
Choki began training extensively
with makiwara and lifted heavy rocks to gain strength. He endeavored
to become as strong as possible and trained with ferocity. He became
known as “Motobu zaru” or Motobu the monkey because of
his agility and speed. Eventually, Motobu became the student of Anko
Itosu (one of Mabuni’s sensei). Now a young man, Choki spent
a lot of time seeking out strong looking men to challenge on the street.
He won most of his fights and learned much from these encounters.
Itosu sensei was not impressed by the young man’s bullying and
promptly expelled him form the dojo.
Motobu’s aggressive behavior
soon earned him a bad reputation and many Sensei would not teach him.
Once man, however, liked the spirit he showed and accepted him as
a student of karate. This man was Kosaku Matsumora of Tomari. It was
from Matsumora that Choki learned many Kata. Motobu still challenged
others to fights often and was eager to develop and improve his fighting
skills. He eventually asked Matsumora to teach him kumite, but Matsumora
told him to continue to learn on his own. Motobu, however, was persevering
and is said to have watched the kumite training through holes in the
fence around Matsumora’s dojo.
Motobu’s street fighting
served him well (to the detriment of many). He formulated his own
formidable style of kumite and began to get much attention in Okinawa
and in Japan on his trips to the islands. One day while in Kyoto he
witnessed a contest where people were asked to match skills with a
foreign boxer. A friend coaxed Motobu to give it a try.
What brought Motobu to the attention of
the Japanese was his victory over a western boxer in a kind of all-comers
challenge match. In the earlier part of this century such bouts were
occasionally held in Japan pitting western boxers against judo or
jujutsu men, (karate was unknown in Japan around this time). These
were not "official" bouts for any sort of legitimate title,
but something more like sideshow attractions. The results of such
bouts have even been recorded in a few cases. Boxing historians for
example are fond of pointing out that, back in 1928 in Yokohama, top
bantamweight Packy O'Gatty KO'd a Japanese jujutsu man named Shimakado
in 14 seconds. Those 14 seconds included the full count, by the way.
E. J. Harrison also mentioned in passing a couple of boxing vs. judo
shows in his book, The Fighting Spirit of Japan, first published in
1913. Few of the fighters in these events were champions in their
sports, but the shows did arouse interest in a certain section of
Anyway, this was the background to Motobu's
victory which so delighted the people back in Okinawa when they heard
about it. Soon after Motobu settled in Japan he went to watch a boxing
vs. judo show in Kyoto. A boxer beat several judomen rather easily
and then issued an open challenge. Moreover, the challenge was issued
in a boastful and derogatory way. Choki Motobu, who was sitting in
the audience, stepped up onto the stage (or ring) and in the ensuing
battle he knocked the boxer out-probably with a punch, or series of
punches, to the head. That is about as much as we can say about it
since no contemporary reports of the fight exist. Only verbal research
supports our findings.
The Japanese magazine Kingu (King) had
published a story on Motobu and the boxer back in 1925, but it was
a piece of imaginative, popular journalism rather than an accurate
blow-by-blow report. However, the importance of this feature lay not
in its accuracy as a fight report but in the publicity it gave to
what had previously been an obscure event. King was the major general
interest magazine at the time with a circulation of over a million
and this is how Motobu's exploits came to be widely reported. For
the record, the King story states that Motobu knocked the boxer unconscious
with a rising palm heel strike. On the other hand, Seiyu Oyata, a
modern day Okinawan karate expert, states that Motobu won the fight
by kicking the boxer in the solar plexus and finishing him off with
a strike to the neck. Shoshin Nagamine (Shorin-Ryu/Matsabayashi-ryu)
says that the knockout came in the third round from a strike to the
temple. Motobu hit the boxer so hard that he was knocked down and
blood came from his ears. Nagamine was told by Motobu that he had
won a hundred yen by betting on himself.
There is no doubt that Choki Motobu was
a formidable fighter. Hironori Ohtsuka, the founder of Wado-ryu, knew
Motobu in the 1930s and recalled that he was "definitely a very
strong fighter." Ohtsuka remembered seeing a fight, or maybe
it was more of a sparring match, between Motobu and a boxer named
Piston Horiguchi. Motobu blocked all the boxer's attacks and Piston
Horiguchi was unable to land a single clean punch on Choki Motobu.
Choki Motobu was over 50 years old when
he defeated the Western boxer! People on Okinawa used to say that
he liked to fight more than anything else, and certainly he did not
seem to mind a good brawl. In 1932, when he was 60 years old, a group
of expatriate Okinawans brought him to Hawaii to face the fighters
there, presumably boxers and judomen. However, no bouts took place
because the Hawaiian immigration authorities considered him an undesirable
and he had to leave almost immediately.
Motobu was born into a high ranking family
at a time when education and privilege were reserved for the first
born son. Consequently, as a third son, he was rather neglected. His
elder brothers, however (and particularly Choyu Motobu, the eldest)
were good karateka and he may have learned something of the art from
them. As a young man, Choki Motobu's ambition was to become the strongest
man in Okinawa. To fulfill this ambition he trained himself every
day, lifting stone weights and hitting the makiwara (striking post).
There are stories that he would hit the makiwara a thousand times
a day, and even if this is an exaggeration it illustrates the importance
he attached to this training drill. Nagamine recalls that Motobu would
sometimes sleep outside, (when he slept inside the dojo he would lie
on the hard wooden floor, without a mattress), and if he woke up during
the night, rather than turning over and going back to sleep he would
get up and hit the makiwara. Motobu was also very agile and quick
and he got the nickname "Motobu-saru"(Monkey Motobu) not
only because of his rough behavior but also because of his remarkable
agility in climbing trees and moving from branch to branch as nimbly
as a monkey.
Also, he was a good runner too, and Japanese
karate expert Hiroyasu Tamae writes of one occasion when Motobu was
fighting attackers then ran off, jumped nimbly onto a roof and began
tearing off the roofing tiles and throwing them at his assailants,
beating them off in this way. Tamae makes the point that Okinawan
roof tiles are secured very strongly to withstand typhoons, and it
requires powerful hands and arms to tear them loose, but for a man
reputed to be the best fighter on Okinawa it still seems a strange
way to act. I guess Motobu's behavior was just eccentric at times.
Gichin Funakoshi used to say that he never knew what Motobu would
get up to next.
Choki Motobu's idea of a good training
session was to go down to Naha's entertainment district and pick fights.
This area was well known for street fighting and Motobu picked up
valuable experience in this way. Being bigger and stronger than the
average Okinawan he usually won these fights but there was one occasion
when he tackled a man called Itarashiki and was well beaten. This
Itarashiki was a karate expert and the defeat only made Motobu more
determined to train hard and learn more about karate.
At this time, around the turn of the century,
karate was just beginning to emerge from generations of secrecy and
the senior masters were sensitive about the image of the art. They
looked upon karate as a physical art, building health, strength and
character and they did not approve of Motobu's exploits in the rough
areas of town. Nevertheless he was able to get instruction from several
leading experts. (Seikichi Toguchi has said that, because of Motobu's
upper-class birth, many karate masters found it difficult to refuse
him instruction). Motobu originally studied karate with the famous
Ankoh Itosu (1830-1915), the leading master of Shuri-te. However,
he came to feel that he was not learning enough, and growing dissatisfied
with Itosu's teaching he later studied with Tomari-te's Kosaku Matsumora
(1829-1898) and with Master Sakuma. However, Motobu's karate always
seemed to bear his own distinctive stamp, arising no doubt from his
independent nature and his fighting experiences. He always emphasized
practicality, and in time many people came to regard him as the best
fighter on Okinawa. True, he was beaten in a shiai (contest) by Kentsu
Yabu (1863-1937), Itosu's senior student and a tough character, but
we don't know the full circumstances surrounding this. Yabu was Choki
Motobu's senior in karate by several years, and at the time of the
contest Motobu may have been a comparative novice. This is something
that needs clarification, but anyway it is a fact that Motobu was
famous in Okinawa for his fighting ability.
I first read about this colorful
figure years ago in Peter Urban's book Karate Dojo. Although this
has remained one of my favorite karate books, it has little value
as a historical source and Urban describes Choki Motobu as a giant
of 7'4" "with hands and feet like monstrous hams" .
. . an early Okinawan version of the Incredible Hulk in fact, who
was almost impossible to hurt and who "preferred to grab his
enemies and chop them to death." A couple of years later the
American karateman, Robert Trias, trying to inject a note of reality
(?) into the subject, told an interviewer that the accounts of Motobu's
size had been exaggerated and that actually he was "only 6 feet
8 inches" tall.
Another myth about Motobu is that he only
knew one kata, the Naihanchin (Tekki in the Shotokan version). This
is incorrect. He also knew Passai-evidently there is a rarely seen
Motobu version of this kata-and Gojushiho, and although he may not
have practiced them he was aware of the major kata of each style-Shurite,
Nahate, and Tomarite. (He provided a list of the major kata in his
book). It would be true to say, however, that he did become attached
to Naihanchin and for all the talk about him not being good at kata,
the photographic record shows that technically his performance of
Naihanchin was quite as good-if not better-than Gichin Funakoshi's.
Choki Motobu was not against kata but he
did require that they relate to combat. In Naihanchin, for instance,
his students were taught to pay attention to various technical points.
It seems that the nami-ashi ("wave returning" foot movement)
in Naihanchin was originally interpreted as a stamping movement to
attack the opponent's leg (now it is usually taught as a foot block
against a kick) and consequently many karateka would crash their foot
down noisily on the floor while doing this technique. Motobu, however,
although he did the movement strongly with a kiai, always kept good
balance and put his foot down lightly. It wasn't that his technique
was weak, because he once broke an opponent's leg with this stamping
waza (technique). He explained to his students however that if the
technique was done too heavily and the foot was brought down with
a big crash then you might find it difficult to maintain your defense
throughout the movement. According to Yasuhiro Konishi, Motobu thought
about every detail in the kata in this kind of way.
However, where Choki Motobu really differed
from other leading karate masters such as Funakoshi, Mabuni and Miyagi
was in basing his style on the study of kumite.
Kata seemed to occupy a secondary position
with him. His karate stressed alertness, sharpness, and practicality,
and his experience in brawls and street fights showed through in his
techniques which were straightforward and effective. Some of his kumite-waza
were shown in his book Ryukyu Kempo Karatejutsu. Kumite, (The Okinawan
boxing art of karate-jutsu. Sparring techniques), published in 1926.
Incidentally, Motobu could not speak or write mainland Japanese at
all well and it is thought that someone else must have written it
under his direction, or possibly he dictated it. But at any rate the
book's philosophy is his and he posed for all the illustrations.
Judging from this book, Motobu used a natural
stance and it is noticeable that when blocking or striking he did
not pull his other hand back to the hip (the action of hikite) but
held it across his body as a guard, where it could be brought into
action more readily. He also stressed training the weaker side of
the body to bring it up to the natural side. For instance, in hitting
the makiwara he recommended doing more repetitions with the weaker,
left hand, if you were right-handed. And he also frequently told his
students to "Defend the center of the body and attack the center
of the body"; an early form of center-line theory, in fact. Motobu
also made full use of the lead hand for striking. This was rather
advanced for that time, when the orthodox method was to block with
the forward hand, and use the rear hand to counterattack. Motobu taught
that the forward hand, being closer to the opponent is quicker in
action and should be used for striking effectively (perhaps he learned
this from the boxers that he competed against).
Choki Motobu relied mainly on hand techniques,
with the feet and knees being used in a supporting but effective role,
aiming his kicks at the stomach, groin, and knee joints. He often
liked to grab and he also used basic techniques of covering or checking
the opponent's hands and arms. His attacks were directed not only
to the face and midsection, but also to the groin (striking with the
knee or foot, or grabbing the testicles) and knees (with stamping
kicks). The forefist, backfist, elbow, and one-knuckle fist seem to
have been his favorite weapons. According to Shoshin Nagamine, Motobu
attached some importance to the one knuckle fist (keikoken), and he
would train this technique on the makiwara, striking with full force.
Over the years he had found that at close quarters the orthodox forefist
punch might be smothered or unable to generate sufficient power and
that in such situations keikoken could be very effective. "No
other karateman in the history of Okinawan karate," wrote Nagamine,
"has ever matched Motobu in the destructive power of keikoken."
As for training equipment, Motobu stressed
the use of makiwara, and also recommended the use of the chishi and
sashi, the traditional tools for building the strength of the hands
and arms. He also used to practice a crude form of weight training,
lifting a heavy stone weighing about 130 lbs. to his shoulders daily.
Motobu sensei was actually the first of
the Okinawan karate masters to settle in Japan, preceding Gichin Funakoshi
by a year or so. He came to Osaka in 1921, but his purpose in coming
to Japan may not have been to teach karate. He may simply have moved
because, like many Okinawans, he believed Japan offered greater opportunities
to make a living. In 1879 the Ryukyu Islands were made a prefecture
(Ken) of Japan, and from then until 1945 this Okinawa-ken was Japan's
poorest and most neglected prefecture. Consequently, many islanders
immigrated to Japan and it was estimated that by 1940 over 80,000
Okinawans were living there. This was of an Okinawan population of
something over half a million.
Motobu had been living in Japan a couple
of years when he made the acquaintance of a judo teacher named Doi,
who encouraged him to try to teach karate in Japan. Motobu subsequently
began giving demonstrations and teaching in the Kobe-Osaka area, but
development of the art was slow. After a couple of years he thought
of giving it all up, but then in the mid-1920s interest in the art
slowly began to grow. In 1927 he moved to Tokyo where he probably
saw greater potential.
I don't know if much ever came
of all this, but there were rumors. Yasuhiro Konishi, who studied
with both masters, heard that one time when the two men met, they
began comparing techniques of attack and defense, as Okinawans often
do. In demonstrating a movement Funakoshi was unable to block Motobu's
thrust completely and moreover was knocked back several feet by its
force. Konishi heard that Funakoshi was resentful about this. There
was also a rumor that Motobu had challenged Gichin Funakoshi to a
match and when the two met, he swept Funakoshi to the floor and followed
up with a punch to the face, which he stopped a couple of inches short-just
to show who was boss, I guess. Konishi could not vouch for the truth
of this and it may never have happened. Reading all the available
material on Gichin Funakoshi, he does not come over as the type of
person who went in for challenge matches; just the opposite, in fact.
However, if the two men ever had met in a serious contest then (this
is just my opinion) Motobu would probably have won rather easily.
For one thing, Funakoshi, who was only 5 feet tall, was slightly built
and would have been heavily outweighed. For another, Funakoshi never
became involved in fights, whereas Motobu had the experience of numerous
streetfights behind him and was a fighter by nature.
But anyway, the years rolled by and "the
leadership of karate," if it could be called such a thing, did
pass to the Funakoshi school. The Motobu method does not seem to exist
today as a distinctive style. Funakoshi organized his teaching well,
he had energetic helpers (including his brilliant son, Yoshitaka),
and influential friends such as Jigoro Kano, the famous founder of
Judo. Funakoshi's first book Ryukyu Kempo Karate (1922) contained
forewords by such people as Marquis Hisamasa, the former Governor
of Okinawa, Admiral Rakuro Yashiro, Vice Admiral Chosei Ogasawara,
Count Shimpei Goto, and so on. Choki Motobu, however, never sought
out such patrons, and in fact, according to Hironori Ohtsuka he was
quite a solitary man. This agrees with the view of Konishi, who was
quite close to Motobu for several years and never once saw him in
an actual fight. Konishi felt that, although Motobu was obviously
an exceptional fighter, he would never provoke trouble and was actually
a very quiet person.
So it sounds as if Choki Motobu
calmed down quite a bit as he grew older. He seems to have been a
straightforward, intelligent, but uncomplicated type of person who
lacked Gichin Funakoshi's education and knowledge of Japanese culture
and etiquette. Motobu did not speak mainland Japanese very well-the
Okinawans had their own dialect which was often incomprehensible to
the Japanese-and even when he moved to Tokyo he had to use Yasuhiro
Konishi as an interpreter. Choki Motobu spent 19 years in Japan, teaching
karate for most of that time. In 1940 he returned to Okinawa and died
there in 1944. Detail account of the
Motobu vs the famous Russian boxer match.
The story of Choki Motobu's
contest with the boxer was featured in the Japanese magazine Kingu
(King), in the September 1925 issue (No.9), pages 195-204. It needed
quite a bit of detective work to track this down and I must thank
Mr. R. A. Scoales of the Japan Society of London, and Mr. Kenneth
Gardiner of the British Library, for their help. It was Mr. Gardner
who finally located a copy of the article for me. I am also deeply
grateful to Kenji Tokitsu, the leading authority on Japanese karate
history in Europe, who made a translation of the article.
A few observations on this old article
might be worthwhile. As I said, when I first heard about it I thought
it might give an accurate account of the contest, but although it
obviously relates to the events which occurred, both the descriptions
of the action and the dialogue are imaginative. The author, someone
writing under the pseudonym Meigenro Shujin, does not give his sources,
but he had obviously done some basic research and probably had talked
to some of the spectators or even Motobu himself. He may have even
been at the event, but somehow I get the impression that he was not
an eyewitness. In any case the article appeared four years after the
events described (if the date of 1921 is correct) and by then people's
memories may not have been too clear about what actually happened.
One point of interest is that the artist
who did the accompanying illustrations confused the two karate masters
teaching in Japan at that time-Choki Motobu and Gichin Funakoshi-and
drew the illustrations as if it had been Funakoshi and not Motobu,
who had defeated the boxerI wonder what Choki Motobu thought about
that when he saw the article?
The story is entitled, When Human Bullets
Clash: Great Contest Between Karate and Boxing, and it states that
in 1921 in Kyoto a series of contests were held between boxers and
Judoka. These gave rise to much discussion and drew many enthusiastic
spectators. These fights were often extremely violent and surprised
even those onlookers who regularly attended the annual contests at
the Butokuden, (of judo and kendo). During the action someone with
the appearance of an old countryman went over to the organizers and
asked if a late entry to the fighting would be allowed. The following
"Mmm. Who is it you wish to enter?"
"What? You?are you a judoka then, or a boxer?
"Well what have you trained in then?"
"Nothing special. But I think I could manage this type of contest.
So will you let me enter?"
"Yes, let him enter!" cried the onlookers who had been
following all this with interest. "Everybody would want to
see a surprise entrant."
"But he says he doesn't do judo or boxing. I wonder if he does
some form of provincial wrestling."
"It doesn't matter. Since he wants to enter he must have learned
something. If not he's an idiot. Let him enter!"
"Well OK!" said the promoter. "Do you know the rules?"
"Rules," replied Motobu. "What rules?"
"It's forbidden to strike with the fists and feet."
"Mm. What about the open hand?"
"Fine, let's get on with it."
"Wait a minute. What uniform are you going to wear?"
"I'll just wear my ordinary clothes."
"Those you're wearing now? You can't do that. I'll lend you
The promoter brought a judogi,
and looked at the man, still trying to make him out. As he stripped
a murmur of surprise arose from the onlookers. Although his face was
that of a man well over fifty, the muscular development of his arms
and shoulders was impressive and his hips and thighs looked extremely
powerful. Motobu was asked who he wanted to fight, a boxer or a judoka.
He replied "Whoever you like," and the organizers decided
to send him against a boxer named George. (No surname or nationality
is given in the article. The name may be invented).
As the contestants entered the arena a cry arose from the crowd. "Look!
A surprise entry, "Who is this Motobu? I've never heard of him.
He looks like an old man. What's someone like him entering a contest
like this for?”
The contrast between the two men was striking. Here was a boxer, seemingly
brimming with vitality, against a man of fifty who stood only 5 feet
three or four inches. As they began, George took up a boxing guard
and moved about looking for an opening. Motobu lowered his hips, raising
his left hand high with his right hand close to his cheek. The spectators
thought this looked like some kind of sword dance (karate was more
or less unknown in Japan at this time) but actually it was the opening
position of the "Pinan Yodan" kata.
George, the expert boxer, seemed surprised by the ability of his opponent
whose guard presented no weak spot. He contented himself with searching
for an opening, continually moving his fists round and feigning. Motobu
kept his position.
George's breathing grew
less steady and he realized that he might tire himself out if things
continued like this, he edged forward and send out a fusillade of
blows to the face. Everyone expected to see the end of Motobu but
without moving his position he parried the blows with his open hands
and forced his opponent back. Growing more and more frustrated as
the fight went on, George steadied for an all out attack. He drew
back his right hand and threw a punch with all his strength at Choki
Just at the moment when it seemed as if
Motobu's face would be crushed he warded off the punch with his left
hand. The force of the parry unbalanced the boxer, forcing his hips
to rise, and at that instant Motobu struck him in the face with the
palm of his hand. George, struck on the vital point just below the
nose with the rising palm strike fell to the ground like a block of
Everyone was shouting! "What
happened?" The organizers went to look for someone to help George
who was still unconscious. "What a formidable old character!"
Various people who went to talk to Motobu were astonished by his hands,
calloused and almost as hard as stone. Even a blow with the open hand
would be terrible, they thought, Ryukyu karate, said one.” Hmm,
I didn't know such an art existed.” In fact, you have such trained
hands that you don't need to be armed. The hands themselves are terrible
Spectators and contestants continued to talk for hours about the events
which had taken place.
--from King Magazine, Sept 1925
For other source
material the artist and author must have used Gichin Funakoshi's Rentan
Goshin Karate Jutsu, published the same year (1925), since the illustration
for "the guard of Pinan Yodan" is copied directly from that
book. Of course the posture shown is not an en garde (on guard) stance
but an intermediate position of defense before a counterattack is
launched. The writer probably chose this stance because it looked
very "karate-ish" but it is hardly conceivable that Choki
Motobu would use it. Kenji Tokitsu has pointed out it is unlikely
that Motobu knew the Pinan kata, and even if he did (i.e. the order
of the movements) he did not practice them sufficiently to apply the
techniques in combat. Anyway, we know that Motobu's fighting stance
was much more natural and orthodox than this. One point that does
emerge from the story, however, is that Motobu fought without the
use of gloves and struck the knockout blow with his bare hands-whether
with the palm or closed fist we can't really be sure. It does not
seem that Motobu used palm strikes much at other times.
The nationality of the boxer is not given
but there is a tradition that he was German, or Russian. His identity
will probably never be known, and even if it was, it probably wouldn't
mean very much to us. I mean, it is unlikely he was a well known professional
whose record we could refer to. He was probably an itinerant boxer
who found himself in Japan and was making some money knocking over
judomen. That he was the German Heavyweight Champion on his way to
the USA to fight for the (World) Championship, as has been suggested,
is extremely unlikely. There simply was no German contender for the
title at that time. The top European heavyweight was the Frenchman
George Carpentier who did fight for the World title in July 1921 and
was stopped by Jack Dempsey in four rounds. The first German boxer
to make a name for himself was Max Schmeling, but he didn't win the
German title until 1928, when he beat Franz Diener.
As for him defeating the "Russian
Heavyweight Boxing Champion, per Bruce Haines in his Karate's History
and Traditions, the Russians did not even have organized boxing until
after the second World War, when they began competing internationally
in all sports. However, he may indeed have been a Russian (or German)
who had picked up some boxing in his travels.
All this is not to put down Choki Motobu's
achievement but just to try and introduce some kind of perspective
into the stories which have grown up about this contest. l think that,
sitting there watching the action, Motobu must have realized he had
the measure of the boxers, but it still took courage and confidence
to step up in front of a skeptical crowd and accept the challenge.
When the fight actually began, he did what had to be done; and he
did it at an age--50--when most people today are happy to spend their
time in front of the television or down at the pub. What a fascinating
character he must have been!
Needless to say, Motobu quickly gained
a reputation as a master and many curious people came to learn this
mysterious new art. Soon, Motobu became a full time teacher.
During this time, Motobu gained great respect
for his fighting ability. He was hailed as the greatest fighter in
Japan. Many Sensei advised their students to go and train with Motobu
and learn his kumite techniques (for obvious reasons). He was also
asked to teach at several universities. Because of this, many of today’s
great instructors of various styles had the benefit of his instruction,
so it is clear that his was a large influence in karate.
.Motobu usually only taught naihanchi kata
to his students and it was his own version with many Ti-like grappling
and throwing techniques. However, it was his kumite that had the greatest
impact on karate. Oddly enough, there is a story of Choki, full of
confidence, challenging his brother Choyu to a fight. It is said that
Choyu threw Choki around like a rag doll. After the experience, Choki
is said to have humbled himself and adopted more of his family’s
Ti forms. In 1922, Master Motobu helped Master Funakoshi start the
teaching of Karate to the Japanese. Filled with a new outlook on his
life, Master Motobu returned to Okinawa in 1936 and began training
with Master Kentsu Yabu. Master Yabu was only man to have ever defeated
Later in life, Motobu seemed to stress
the importance of tradition in training. He strongly stressed the
importance of makiwara training and became as enthusiastic about kata
as he had always been about kumite. In 1936, at the age of 65, Motobu
left Tokyo and went back to Okinawa to visit his instructors to talk
about the state of karate in Japan and to make sure that he was teaching
the kata and techniques in their originally, unaltered form. Subsequently,
he returned and continued teaching in Tokyo. Shortly before World
War II, he returned to Okinawa and died in 1944 of a stomach disease
at the age of 73.
It is obvious that Choki Motobu was very
instrumental in the development of karate and that he was the inspiration
for many who trained in the art. It is good to see that, today, millions
of people still keep the art alive and strive to keep the fighting
spirit of karate which Sensei Motobu so dearly loved.
--From The Coslet's Karate Newsletter
Mabuni is the founder of the Shito-ryu style of Karate. Mabuni was
born in Shuri, Okinawa, son of a 17th generation Samurai called the
Bushi (warrior) class. Members of his family served Okinawan lords
for hundreds of years. During his time, the martial arts (Okinawa-te)
was known according to the village where it was practiced: Shuri-te
(the hand of Shuri), Naha-te and Tomari-te. Mabuni learned Shuri-te
from Yasutsune Itosu, was a student of Sokon Matsumura, and Naha-te
from Kanryu Higashionna. Mabuni learned some 23 kata from Yasutsune
Itosu. Mabuni also learned several empty hand katas and Kobudo (weapon)
katas from Seisho Arakaki (1840-1918), and some white crane Kung Fu
forms from Woo Yin Gue, a Chinese tea merchant in Okinawa.
During the 1920’s the insatiable
Mabuni participated in a karate club operated by Miyagi and Choyu
Motobu, with help from Chomo Hanashiro and Juhatsu Kiyoda. Choyu Motobu
was a master of Shuri-te (the antecedent of Shorin-ryu) and gotende,
the secret grappling art of the Okinawan royal court. Hanashiro was
also a Shuri-te expert, while Kiyoda came from the same Naha-te background
as Miyagi. Known as the Ryukyu Tode Kenkyu-kai (Okinawa Karate Research
Club), this dojo (training hall) was one of history’s gems.
Experts from diverse backgrounds trained and taught there, and it
was there that Mabuni learned some Fukien white crane kung fu from
the legendary Woo Yin Gue.
By this time, Mabuni had become
a highly respected police officer and made several trips to Japan
after Gichin Funakoshi introduced "Karate" in Japan in 1922,
Finally he moved to Osaka, Japan in 1928 and started to teach Karate.
Shortly thereafter, the Japanese martial arts sanctioning body, the
Butokukai, (then the governing body for martial arts in Japan) started
registration for all Karate school and Master Mabuni named his style
as Hanko-ryu (half-hard style) which later in 1930's changed to "Shito-ryu"
in honor of his two foremost teachers Yasutsune Itosu and Kanryu Higashionna
(the first kanzi character in 'Itosu' sounds like 'Shi' and that in
'Higashionna' sounds like 'to', 'ryu' stands for 'style' or 'school')..
Not everyone agreed with separating Okinawan karate into factions
through the use of style names. In fact, Shutokan headmaster Toyama
questioned Mabuni and others about their use of what he called “funny-sounding
names.” Mabuni countered that giving the style a name would
not only satisfy the Butokukai, but would give people something they
could identify with and feel a part of.
Among Mabuni’s earliest
students was Kanei Uechi (not to be confused with Kambum Uechi’s
son of the same name), who by 1935 was also teaching in Osaka. In
1950, Uechi returned to Okinawa and established the Shito-ryu Kempo
Karate-do Kai. On Okinawa, Uechi is considered the true successor
to Mabuni’s art, but internationally, Mabuni’s eldest
son, Kanei, is acknowledged as the head of Shito-Ryu and runs the
Shito-kai. Younger brother Kenzo Mabuni also acknowledged as the head
of Shito-ryu was asked by his mother to take over the style. Kenzo
Mabuni was unsure and could not decide at the time what to do. So
he went into seclusion and at the end of what became a two year retreat,
Kenzo Mabuni decided to accept this great responsibility and hence
became the inheritor of his father’s lineage. Kenzo Mabuni lives
in the original family home in Osaka, where he headquarters his organization
the Nippon Karate-Do Kai.
Kanei Mabuni and his younger
brother Kenzo head the karate programs at several universities, a
task inherited from their father. Still other early students of Mabuni
have their own distinct organizations and followings. Ryusho Sakagami,
a contemporary of Kanei Mabuni, established the Itosu-kai just after
Mabuni’s death. Sakagami’s son, Sadaaki, now oversees
the Itosu-kai from the Yokohama area. In 1948, Chojiro Tani organized
the Shuko-kai, where he taught Tani-ha Shito-ryu. Ever innovative,
the Shuko-kai, under the present leadership of Shigeru Kimura in the
United States, appears somewhat different in technique from the other
Master Mabuni, the founder of
Shito-ryu Karate, died in Osaka, Japan in May, 1952 at age 64 leaving
his name and art in every heart of each Shito-ryu Karate-ka.
Shoshin Nagamine is the founder of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu
karate. While Matsubayashi-Ryu karate did not exist before Nagamine
Sensei founded it, its beginnings had existed for hundreds of years
before. According to Patrick McCarthy of the International Ryukyu
Karate Research Society, Matsubayashi-Ryu karate can trace it's lineage
from Chinese Gung-Fu to the original Okinawan karate; Koryu Uchinadi-Ryu
karate & Yamaneryu Kobudo. This "original" Okinawan
karate then developed into Te. Te grew and divided into Naha-Te, Shuri-Te
and Tomari-Te. Shuri-Te (Also generically known as shorin-ryu) then
divided into Kobayashi-Ryu (Chosin Chibana), Matsubayashi-Ryu (Shoshin
Nagamine), Shobayashi-Ryu (Chotoku Kyan) and Matsumura orthodox Hohan
Soken). It was not until 1936 that the Okinawan masters met and adopted
the term "karate" or "open-hand" to replace the
earlier term of Tote (abbreviated to Te) which meant "Chinese
Hand". They felt the new term, karate, better reflected the art's
unique Okinawan development. Following World War II Nagamine Sensei
encountered a book by Ginchin Funakoshi, entitled "Introduction
to Karate". He later stated it was this book that helped him
make up his mind to pursue karate as a life's ambition. Although there
is no documentation of it, one cannot help but wonder if Nagamine
Sensei's service as an infantryman in China in 1928 may not also have
influenced his subsequent development of the Matsubayashi-Ryu style.
1947 was the first time the public world heard of Matsubayashi-Ryu
karate, this occurring when Nagamine Sensei opened his first dojo
and named it the "Matsubayashi-Ryu Kododan Karate and Ancient
Martial Arts Studies." Matsubayashi is the Okinawan pronunciation
of the characters for "Pine Forest." "Matsu" means
"pine" and "Hayashi" means "forest."
When the two are placed together, the "H" of Hayashi is
pronounced as "B," making it Matsubayashi. "Shorin"
is the Chinese pronunciation of the same characters. The origin of
the name "Shorin-ryu" is the Shaolin Buddhist Temple in
China. "Ryu", roughly translated, means style or system.
More literally, it can mean "river," which Nagamine Sensei
said reflected his thoughts that the art of karate, and specifically
Matsubayashi-ryu, is a living, flowing thing. Sensei Nagamine created
the name "Matsubayashi, named after two great masters who taught
two of his most influential teachers (Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motobu).
These two masters were Bushi Matsumura and Kosaku Matsumora. As a
side note, the World Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate Association website reports
Nagamine Sensei's nickname growing up was "Gaajuu Maachuu"
sometimes pronounced "Chippai Matsu", which means "tenacious
pine tree." In the years that followed its opening, his dojo
grew in both fame and size. Soon selected nearby American servicemen
began to train at his school. In 1960 the United States was introduced
to Matsubayashi-Ryu karate when James Wax, an ex-American serviceman,
became the first westerner to open a Matsubayashi-Ryu dojo in Dayton,
Ohio. Later, in 1962, Nagamine Sensei dispatched a senior student,
Ansei Ueshiro to the United States with the intent of firmly establishing
Shorin-Ryu, Matsubayashi-Ryu karate in North America. In the 1980's
Ueshiro Sensei branched off from Nagamine and formed the Shorin-Ryu
Karate USA (Matsubayashi-Ryu) branch. With the untimely death of Ueshiro
Sensei in May of 2002, Shorin-Ryu karate USA broke off into two divisions;
that headed by Scaglione Sensei (Shorin-Ryu Karate USA) and a new
organization headed by Sensei Maccarrone - Karate USA - Terry Maccarrone.
Before Nagamine Sensei's death, the U.S. Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do
Federation petitioned him to establish a federation in the United
States. The federation received his written authorization and the
federation was born, under the auspices of the parent Okinawan organization.
Nagamine Sensei, in addition to being the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu
karate, was the unifying figure that kept it together, at least until
his death in 1997. With Nagamine Sensei's death, Matsubayashi-Ryu
separated into the separate organizations seen today. Master Nagamine's
original school remains open today in Naha, Okinawa. As a matter of
courtesy, any Matsubayashi-Ryu stylist or school wishing to train
in Okinawa at Nagamine Sensei's dojo should first write the dojo and
Choshin, founded and introduced the Shorin-ryu style called “Kobayashi.”
He was the originator of shorin-ryu ("the small forest style")
was born on June 5, 1885, at Tottori-cho in Shuri City, Okinawa. He
began training with Itosu "Ankoh" in 1900, after dropping
out of the Okinawa Kenritsu Dai-Ichi Chu-gakko (high school). He was
then 15 years old.
He studied with Itosu until his
teacher's demise on January 26, 1915, at the age of 85. Five years
after his teacher's death, he began teaching on his own. His first
training hall was located at Tottori-bori and as his reputation spread,
he was able to open up a second training hall in Kumo-cho, Naha.
Chibana remained on the island
of Okinawa during World War II and narrowly escaped death when Shuri
was destroyed by the Americans in 1945. After the war, he once again
began teaching Shorin-ryu in Giho-cho which is a section of Shuri
City. During February, 1954, until December, 1958, he was also the
Chief Karate-do Instructor for the Shuri City Police Department. On
May 5, 1956, the Okinawa Karate-do Association was formed and he was
appointed its first president.
Chibana's reputation as a karate
master continued to spread, not only in Okinawa but also in mainland
Japan. By 1957, he had received the title of Hanshi (High Master)
from the Dai Nippon Butokukai (The Greater Japan Martial Virtue Association)
and in 1960, he received the First Sports Award from the Okinawa Times
Newspaper for his overall accomplishments in the study and practice
of traditional Okinawan Karate-do. On April 29, 1968, Chibana-sensei
brought further honor to Okinawan Karate-do by being awarded the 4th
Order of Merit by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his devotion
to the study and practice of Okinawan karate-do.
In 1964, Chibana was advised that
he had terminal cancer of the throat. But, because of his dedication
to the art of Okinawa Shorin-ryu, he continued to teach even though
his body began to weaken as the cancer spread. By 1966, he was admitted
into Tokyo's Cancer Research Center for radiation treatment in an
attempt to arrest the spread. After some improvement, Chibana once
again resumed his teaching of Okinawa Shorin-ryu with his grandson,
Nakazato Akira (Shorin-ryu 7-Dan).
By the end of 1968, Chibana-sensei's
condition became worse and he returned to Ohama Hospital. Despite
the doctors' efforts to save his life, he died at 6:40 a.m. on the
26th of February, 1969, at the advanced age of 83.
Chibana Sensei left five 9th Degree
Black Belts to help spread his system of Okinawan Karate-do. Katsuya
Miyahira, Shugoro Nakazato, Yuchoku Higa, and Choshin Nakama are presently
teaching Shorin-Ryu throughout the island of Okinawa and in Japan.
Kensei Kinjo, another of the 9th Dans, died in 1971 at the age of
After Chibana's death, Katsuya Miyahira became the new president of
the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate-do Association with Nakazato Sensei
assuming the title of Vice President. Nakazato Sensei later resigned
from the Association in November of 1975 and formed the Okinawa Karate-do
Shorin-Ryu Shorinkan Association.
Next, Sensei and I went to the
Yamakawa Community Center, which relocated from where Chibana Sensei’s
dojo used to be. We got there a little early, so we first ate at a
nearby hotel before returning to the community center. Since we were
on Okinawan time (similar to Hawaiian time, I guess), the 8:00 practice
didn’t start until a little while later. There we met Isa Sensei,
who is technically the successor of Chibana Sensei’s Shorin
Ryu. He took over for Nakazato Akira (Chibana Sensei’s grandson)
after Nakazato quit over 20 years ago. It was a rather mixed experience
watching Isa Sensei and his students train, as their methodology has
become rather distant from Chibana Sensei’s teachings. When
practice was finished, Isa Sensei took us out to a small bar where
he treated us to some drinks and snacks. The awamori hit me a little
hard, since I haven’t been drinking all that much lately (and
since I had some earlier in the day), but I couldn’t just go
to Okinawa without trying some, right? After a while, we excused ourselves
and turned in for the night.
Chotoku Kyan was born in 1870, to a very wealthy family in Shuri,
Okinawa, the cradle of Karate. At the tender age of five he was taught
the empty hand art of self-defense from his father Chofu Kyan and
his grandfather. Every morning Kyan was required to perform specific
exercises by his grandfather, who had a very discerning eye and required
nothing less than perfection. Being born into a rich family he was
able to devote all of his time studying the martial arts and was sent
to the best Okinawan Karate teachers available.
In those days, a Karate Sensei
had only three or four Kata, therefore Master Kyan went to many teachers
in hope of gaining a well rounded view of the art. Kyan's father was
an official of the King, and because of this Kyan was able to gain
instruction from many of the great Teachers in Okinawa. Sokon Matsumura
of Shuri was at that time the Karate Teacher of the King. Matsumura
taught Master Kyan the Kata, "Seisan" and "Gojushiho".
Kyan learned the most from Matsumora (Shorin-Ryu teacher of Tomari)
including the kata "Chinto". Another great teacher of Tomari
was Pechin Maeda. Kyan studied quite a while under Maeda Sensei and
learned the Kata "Wansu". He learned the Kata, "Passai",
under Pechin Oyadomari Kokan of Tomari. Pechin was a title, given
to someone in employment of the King. The next teacher Kyan studied
with was the small 4ft, 10 inches tall, Yara of Chatan, a power packed
dynamite of a man. Chatan Yara Sensei taught Kyan the longest and
most beautiful Kata "Kusanku". Some times known as "Yara
no Kusanku". His last teacher was Tokumine, who was reputed to
be the best Bo, (Staff) man on Okinawa. Sensei Kyan traveled to the
island of Yaeyama and studied the Bo and the Bo-Kata "Tokumine
After completing his apprenticeship
under the six famous Okinawan Shorin-Ryu masters, Kyan started to
teach the art at his home. In the 1920's Kyan traveled to mainland
Japan to promote the art. On his return he visited Taiwan on a martial
arts exchange tour of Okinawan and Chinese Martial Arts. Being proficient
in both arts, Kyan invented his own Kata "Ananku". In the
late 1920's Kyan moved to the village of Kadena due to personal and
financial problems. There he taught a small number of devoted students
who were introduced by friends and city officials. One student, Zenryo
Shimabukuro of Chatan was introduced by a school headmaster and accepted
as a student. Zenryo Shimabukuro studied 10 years under the tutelage
of Master Kyan until Kyan's death.
Food was scarce during WWII and
whatever food master Kyan obtained, he gave to the children. He felt
it was his duty to take care of those who could not take care of themselves.
In 1945 at the age of 75, grandmaster Kyan passed away from hunger.
Shimabukuro, Kyan Sensei's top student, was born in the village of
Gushikawa on April 19, 1925 was left in charge of the Shobayashi Shorin
Ryu system at the time of Kyan's death. Having received the tenth
dan red belt at the age of thirty-four in 1959, Shimabukuro O'Sensei
holds the distinction of being the youngest person to ever achieve
such an honor. His 10th dan was awarded by Kanken Toyama Sensei and
his certificate is No. 25. Toyama Sensei also made him the Chairman
of the Okinawan branch of the All Japan Karatedo League. The Japanese
government gave Toyama Sensei the title of "Master Instructor"
and the authority to award 10th dans in any system of Okinawan or
Japanese karatedo. Shimabukuro O'Sensei is currently the head of the
Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karatedo International Association (OSKIA) League
(In 1994, Shimabukuro O'Sensei changed the association name on his
certificates to indicate "OSKIA" instead of the All Japan
Karatedo League.). O’Sensei was recently honored with a Judan
(10th Dan) certificate from the Rengokai Association on Okinawa. There
are only five people on Okinawa (including O’Sensei) who hold
Shimabukuro O'Sensei studied Kobujustu
(ancient weaponry) under Shinken Taira and incorporated it into our
karate system. Shimabukuro Sensei notes that his major instructors
were Chotokan Kyan Sensei (1937), Chojun Miyagi Sensei (1938), Choki
Motobu Sensei (1943), Zenryo Shimabukuro Sensei (1955) and his brother
Tatsuo Shimabukkuro Sensei. In May of 1948, Shimabukuro O'Sensei opened
his first dojo. This was the beginning of, what came to be, over 50
years of continuously teaching traditional karate. For 20 years the
U.S. Marine Corp contracted Shimabukuro O'Sensei to teach their troops
at several different dojo. To date, Grand Master Shimabukuro estimates
he has personally trained as many as 35,000 troops including Army
and Air Force.
For all he has contributed to
karatedo, he continues to aid in its growth and development by sharing
his knowledge with other followers of the art. Eizo Shimabukuro O'Sensei
has taught hundreds of students, recording each one's name in a book
that he takes on all of his tours. Thus, our history is recorded and
the spirit of karate-do lives on.
was born Yong-I Choi, on July 27, 1923, in the tiny village of Wa-Ryongri
Yong-chi Myonchul Na Do, in Southern Korea. His family, considered
aristocrats belonged to the Yangban-clan. His father, Sun Hyang, was
the mayor of Kinje, a town near the village where Yong-I Choi was
born. As a young child, nine years of age, Oyama began studying Southern
Chinese Kempo under the instruction of Mr. Yi, an employee on the
estate owned by Oyama's father. Oyama was also an avid reader and
was deeply affected and moved after reading the biography of Otto
von Bismark (1815-1898) the Prussian Chancellor (1871-1890) of the
German empire. Bismark, Oyama read, was instrumental in unifying Germany
in a span of only two to three years, making it a nation powerful
enough to control most of Europe. The philosophy of Bismark made such
a strong impression on Oyama that he decided he wanted to be the Bismark
of the Orient. With great aspirations Oyama somehow felt his destiny
was in Japan and he left Korea at the age of fifteen. It was at this
time in Japan the young Choi changed his name. He adopted the name
Oyama from the family that befriended him and took him in, while in
In 1938, at the young age of fifteen, Oyama wanted
to serve the country he now called home and therefore joined Japan's
Yamanashi Youth Air Force Academy with the intentions of becoming
a pilot. In September of this same year, Oyama became a student of
Gichin Funakoshi, Shotokan Karate founder, at the Takushoku University.
Funakoshi, a schoolteacher from Okinawa, was credited with introducing
karate to Japan. It is this man that Oyama later would refer to as
his true karate teacher. Throughout the years Oyama always spoke highly
of Funakoshi, remarking in later recollections of his gentle yet overwhelming
presence. Oyama went on to say that of the many things he learned
from Funakoshi, kata (formal exercises) was the most important.
By the age of eighteen, Oyama had earned the rank of
Nidan in karate (second level black) rank. Oyama was still very much
a patriot and was always volunteering for special military duty. On
one assignment to an airfield near Tokyo,
a confrontation provoked by an officer, resulted in Oyama striking
the officer. Although found innocent, due to provocation from an officer,
Oyama was ordered transferred to an area in the Pacific However, the
war was just ending and lucky for Oyama, the transfer was halted.
But this luck had an ironic twist for Oyama because it also meant
that his driving quest to serve his new country was now over. The
announcement that Japan had surrendered WWII quickly ended Oyama’s
military career. The stress of losing his career and the dishonor
he felt for his adopted country losing the war created great - almost
unbearable - stress in Oyama’s life. Oyama found someone Korean
like himself by the name of Nei-Chu So. Not only was So Korean but
he was also from the same province. Nei-Chi So was a practitioner
of the Gojo-Ryu style of karate. Gogen Yamaguchi, nicknamed "The
Cat", was carrying on Goju Ryu, founded by Chojun Miyagi in 1930
in Japan. Yamaguchi commonly acknowledged that Nei-Chu So was one
of his best students. Oyama quickly resumed his martial arts training
under So and a strong bond was formed between the two. So, who was
a great philosopher and strong in character, possessed even stronger
spiritual convictions. Oyama would not only learn Goju-Ryu from So,
but would also be sanctified by him into the Buddhist faith of the
Nichiren sect. It was So who inspired Oyama to make karate his life
long dedication, propelling him to face his own challenges and develop
his own achievements and victories. At the same time he began his
training with So, Oyama earnestly took-up the practice of Judo as
well. After four years of training, he received his Yondan (fourth
level black) ranking in Judo.
Oyama liked to attend the local dance competitions
in the area in order to socialize and relax after his martial arts
training. It was at one such dance event that Oyama came to the aid
of a female who was being accosted by a local troublemaker. When Oyama
intervened, the troublemaker, a tall Japanese suspected of several
homicides, became enraged and produced a knife. Taunting Oyama, the
troublemaker made continuous slashing movements through the air in
front of Oyama’s face with the knife then lunged towards Oyama.
Oyama blocked the attack and delivered a forceful punch to the head
of the assailant, killing him instantly. Because of eyewitness accounts
of the incident, the courts as justified in using self-defense ruled
Oyama. However, the impact of the tragedy devastated Oyama. To kill
a man with a single blow was so overwhelming to Oyama that he decided
to give up his martial arts training. Learning that the man he killed
had a wife and children on a farm in the Kanto area near Tokyo, Oyama
went to the farm and worked there for several months. He did not leave
until the widow assured him that she was financially capable of maintaining
the farm and that she did not hold Oyama responsible for the death
of her husband. This became the turning point in Oyama’s life.
His Goju-Ryu instructor, Nei-Chu So advised him to go away, to train
his body and soul and to give karate a chance to control his life.
Oyama, lacking direction and a goal wondered if karate was a realistic
goal. Would karate training give him the much-needed control of his
physical strength as well as mental discipline? If karate would provide
these traits, then he would have to give himself completely to the
training. He realized it would be a long, hard journey.
1948 Mas Oyama, taking with him only his books and the basic necessities
for cooking, began an arduous training regimen atop Mt. Minobu in
Chiba Prefecture. Mt. Minobu is the same place where the famous seventeenth
century samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, received inspiration for Nito Ryu,
his celebrated double sword system. To Oyama, this was the ideal place
to train and be inspired in the same tradition as his idol, Musashi.
Of the books Oyama took with him on this journey, none were more important
than the collection on Musashi, by Yoshikawa. For eighteen months,
isolated in the mountains, Oyama tested himself against nature’s
elements with such scenarios as training and meditating under icy
waterfalls, performing countless jumps over bushes and boulders and
using trees and rocks as Makiwara to condition his hands, feet and
He would begin training at five
in the morning, running up the steep slopes. Using large rocks as
weights, he would lift the rocks hundreds of times to increase his
strength. In addition, he performed kata a minimum of one hundred
times each day as well as hundreds upon thousands of repetitions of
kihons (basic techniques), continuously pushing himself to the limits
of human endurance. At the conclusion of his daily training, he would
read various Buddhist writings and sit in zazen and meditate. It was
also at this time that Oyama began to contemplate the idea of the
circle and point for his karate. He also began visualizing himself
defeating a bull with his bare hands. If he could get strong enough
and powerful enough that he was able to defeat a bull with his karate,
he would become famous. But it wasn’t fame he was after. The
fame, he thought, would be a tool. If he could attract interest from
others, he could enlighten them on the strengths and virtues of karate
and he would succeed not only in his goal of mastering karate, but
of instructing others in the way of karate as well.
eighteen months of solitude, Oyama returned from the mountains. Shortly
after his return from the mountain training, the first karate tournament
since the end of World War II, was held in Japan. Oyama competed in
this All Japan Karate Tournament held at the Maruyama Kaikan in Kyoto
and emerged victorious - the tournament’s first champion. But
Oyama was an intense young man and still was not satisfied with his
achievement. He still felt that something was lacking in his martial
arts and that he had not truly reached his full potential. Oyama returned
to the mountains for another year of grueling fourteen-hour training
days. To this day, there is no other person who has undertaken such
a training regimen within the martial arts. After this final isolation
and training period, Oyama returned to civilization ready to apply
all that he had learned. It was at this time Oyama decided to apply
his karate expertise in a life and death battle – a conflict
that would set man against beast. Mas Oyama, in order to show the
strength of his karate, tested his strength by fighting raging bulls
barehanded. It was a mismatch from the get-go for the bulls, not for
Oyama. In all, he fought 52 bulls, three of which were killed instantly,
and 49 had their horns taken off with knife hand blows. That it is
not to say that it was all that easy for him. Oyama was fond of remembering
that his first attempt just resulted in an angry bull. In 1957, at
the age of 34, he was nearly killed in Mexico when a bull got some
of his own back and gored him. Oyama somehow managed to pull the bull
off and break off his horn. He was bedridden for 6 months while he
recovered from the usually fatal wound. Today of course, the animal
rights groups would have something to say about these demonstrations,
despite the fact that the animals were all destined for slaughter.
In 1952, he traveled the United States for a year, demonstrating karate
live and on national television. During subsequent years, he took
on all challengers, resulting in fights with 270 different people.
The vast majority of these were defeated with one punch! A fight never
lasted more than three minutes, and most rarely lasted more than a
few seconds. His fighting principle was simple — if he got through
to you, that was it. If he hit you, you broke. If you blocked a rib
punch, you arm was broken or dislocated. If you didn't block, your
rib was broken. He became known as the God hand, a living manifestation
of the Japanese warriors' maxim Ichi geki, Hissatsu or "One strike,
certain death". To him, this was the true aim of technique in
karate while the fancy footwork and intricate techniques were secondary.
These life and death struggles
brought notoriety to Oyama. Oyama used this notoriety to help establish
his Kyokushin organization. Oyama's reputation grew with each bullfight
and each challenge match, as he defeated wrestlers, boxers and judo
stylists alike in no-holds-barred bouts. He was an equal-opportunity
fighter, taking on any man from any combat system that wished to challenge
him. For nearly fifty years, fifteen million plus members of Oyama's
worldwide Kyokushin Karate organization witnessed this man's incredible
feats. Whether from the power of his strikes, the strength of his
handshake, his remarkable teachings or through the teachings of the
instructors and branch chiefs that Oyama produced, everyone associated
with him knew that this esoteric name was not inappropriate.
Oyama was a living legend until
he passed away April 26, 1994, at the age of 71. He could fight and
defeat a bull or another man with little problem; they were tangible
opponents that appeared before him. But lung cancer was a hidden enemy,
sneaking around inside Oyama's body and tearing it asunder day by
day. He couldn't beat the disease with his fists or his feet. Nor
could he devise a strategy to ward it off. For years, the cancer ate
away at his insides without him even knowing it was there. His death
was met with sadness in not only Kyokushin circles, but the rest of
the martial arts community as well.
Yamaguchi was born on January 20, 1909, in Kagoshima city on southern
Kyushu. He was named Jitsumi. Already as a youngster he showed great
interest in the Martial Arts. During his early school days he trained
kendo, (Japanese fencing) and it was during this time that he started
his karate training under the tutelage of Mr Maruta, a carpenter from
Okinawa. Mr Maruta who was a Goju practitioner was drawn to the young
Yamaguchi's serious attitude and his willingness to train hard. Mr
Maruta taught Yamaguchi all he knew about the Goju system.
He studied Law at Kansei University
in 1928 and Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto from 1929 to 1937 and
received Law Degrees. Yamaguchi established his first karate club
at the Ritsumeikan University. Soon the dojo became famous in the
city, known for its hard training and fierce breathing exercise. In
those days karate men practiced only kata (formal movements) and yakusoku
kumite (prearranged sparring) and were unable to have matches between
each other since they did not hold back their techniques. It was during
this period that Yamaguchi created the first stages towards what is
known as jyu kumite (free fighting) and established rules to decide
the winner of a match. Some of the rules are still in use today in
what is known as sport or competition karate.
1931, at the age of 22, Gogen Yamaguchi was introduced to the founder
of the Goju style, Master Chojun Miyagi. This meeting proved to have
a profound affect upon Yamaguchi's outlook on karate. Previously he
had only considered the hard aspect of Goju but after his meeting
with Master Miyagi he was determined to train himself spiritually
as well as physically. Master Miyagi thought highly of Yamaguchi who
seemed to have mastered the hard aspect of Goju so well and in 1937
gave him the nickname Gogen, meaning `Rough'. He then appointed Gogen
Yamaguchi as his successor of the Goju School in Japan.
During the years to follow
Gogen Yamaguchi often spent long stays at Mount Kurama where he subjected
himself to ascetic exercises and hard training with sanchin, meditation
Between1938-1945 he was sent
to Manchuria on government and military assignments. On several occasions
during his stay there, he could thank his skills in karate and his
mental training that he stayed alive. During the Japanese-Russian
war Yamaguchi was taken prisoner of war and sent to a prison camp
in Mongolia. He was kept there under harsh conditions for two years.
Once again his strength and skill were severely put to the test. During
all these years he still continued to train and develop Goju-karate.
In 1950, he founded the national
organization of All Japan Karate do Goju kai in Tokyo, Japan. Gogen
received 10th Degree Black Belt from Chojun Miyagi in 1951. He was
recognized as one of the greatest Karate masters in Japan. He was
the founder of what might be called modern Karate, an advanced stage
which illustrates both a technical and social elevation of the art
of Karate. From a technical point of view, he had unified all Karate
exercise by employing an extremely well organized method.
a result of the introduction of free-style sparring, the art of Karate
had become a more active and popular art in Japan as well as in other
parts of the world. Although he studied such martial arts as Judo,
Kendo, Iaido, Jo-do, and Kusari-gama (art of chain) in his younger
days, Karate had from the beginning captured most of his enthusiasm.
In the general development
of Karate, Gogen had contributed several distinguished services. First,
he formed a group of Asian martial instructors. He then succeeded
in bringing seventy Asian instructors to Japan and traveled throughout
the country, holding exchange martial arts demonstrations.
Master Yamaguchi's contributions
to Goju-karate and to karate in general have been enormous. Under
his leadership the International Karate do Goju kai Association I.K.G.A.
(kai=organization) emerged. The organization has increased in popularity
both in Japan and other Asian and western countries around the world,
today there are about 35 countries teaching Goju kai karate. Master
Yamaguchi succeeded in uniting all the karate schools in Japan into
a single union, which resulted in the formation of The Federation
of All Japan Karate do Organization F.A.J.K.O. in 1964. He added to
the Goju system the Taikyoku Kata forms, training methods for the
beginner students to prepare them for the more advanced kata's.
In combining his religious
practices with karate training, he incorporated both Yoga and Shinto
into Goju kai karate and founded in recent years Goju-Shinto. He states
that both body and mind are interrelated and through proper breathing
and concentration we will be able to understand the essence of the
Martial Arts. This is the reason why the Goju School uses the unique
breathing exercise called ibuki. This involves concentrating all the
muscular strength at one point, bringing mind and body into a coherent
He is known throughout the
world as the 'cat' because of his grace and speed in movement and
because of his favorite fighting stance which is called neko ashi
dachi (cat stance). As a further recognition of merit, he was honored
in 1969 by Emperor Hirohito of Japan with Ranju-Hosho, the Blue Ribbon
The Kokusai Budo
Renmei- The International Martial Arts Federation in Japan, whose
chairman is Prince Higashikuni of the Japanese Imperial Family had
appointed Master Yamaguchi as Shihan (master) of the organizations
karate division. Never before has a single man had such profound effect
on the development and propagation of karate do. Master Gogen Yamaguchi,
10th dan, a man of intense dedication and determination can truly
be called the last of the karate legends. A master of Yoga and a Shinto
priest, a man that truly has united both aspects of go and ju into
a concerted union.
Style - American Kenpo
Kealoha Parker (March 19, 1931–December 15, 1990) was an American
martial artist and teacher.(1) He is perhaps most famous as the founder
of American Kenpo.
Parker was born in Hawaii
and raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He began his training in the martial arts at a young age in judo and
later boxing. Some time in the 1940s, Ed Parker was first introduced
to Kenpo by Frank Chow. After some time Frank Chow introduced Ed Parker
to William K. S. Chow. Mr. Parker trained with William Chow, while
serving in the Coast Guard and attending Brigham Young University.
In 1953 he was promoted to the rank of black belt by William K.S.
Both Ed and Professor Chow
were Mormons, and Ed Parker was well known as the "Mormon Black
Belt" (Black Belt Magazine's first issue had a picture of Ed
Parker as the "Blackbelted Mormon"). (2) The General Authorities
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considered Ed Parker
to be a great missionary tool. Ed didn't preach his religion. He hadn't
gone on a mission like other young men did, and he felt an obligation
to set an example that would influence people towards the Mormon Church.
By 1956, Mr. Parker opened
his Dojo in Pasadena, California. His first black belt student was
Charles Beeder. The other black belts in chronological order up to
1962 were: James Ibrao, Rich Montgomery, Rick Flores, Al and Jim Tracy
of Tracy Kenpo, Chuck Sullivan, John McSweeney, and Dave Hebler. In
1962 one of Mr. Parker's black belts, John McSweeney, opened a school
in Ireland, which enabled Mr. Parker to create the International Kenpo
Mr. Parker was well known
for his business creativity. He helped many martial artists to open
their dojos. He was also well known in Hollywood where he trained
a great many stunt men and celebrities; most notable was Elvis Presley.
He also helped Bruce Lee gain national attention by introducing him
at his International Karate Championships. He served as Elvis Presley's
bodyguard during the singer's final years, did movie stunt work and
acting, and was one of the Kenpo instructors of martial arts action
movie actor Jeff Speakman. He is best known to Kenpoists as the founder
of American Kenpo and is referred to fondly as the "Father of
American Karate". He is referred to formally as Senior Grand
Master. As a young man, Edmund Parker, Sr. came to study at Brigham
Young University from his native Hawaii and began to teach the martial
arts. By the time he achieved the rank of brown belt, he was already
interpreting ideas he had learned from his Chinese-Hawaiian teacher,
William Kwai Sun Chow. Chow had collaborated with James Mitose, through
the Official Self Defense Club.
It was during this period
that Parker was significantly influenced by the Japanese and Okinawan
interpretations prevalent in Hawaii. Parker's Book Kenpo Karate, published
in 1961, shows the many hard linear movements, albeit with modifications,
that set his interpretations apart. While most karate instructors
were executing one- or two-move techniques, Parker was using linear
rapid fire multiple strikes as well as jujutsu-influenced grabs and
All of the influences up to
that time were reflected in Parker's rigid, linear method of "Kenpo
Karate," as it was called. Between writing and publishing, however,
he began to be influenced by the Chinese arts, and included this information
in his system. He settled in Southern California after leaving the
Coast Guard and finishing his education at B.Y.U. Here he found himself
surrounded by other martial artists from a wide variety of systems,
many of whom were willing to discuss and share their arts with him.
Parker made contact with people like Ark Wong, Haumea Leiti, James
(Jimmy) W. Woo (a.k.a. Chin Siu Dek), and Lau Bun. These martial artists
were known for their skills in arts such as Splashing-Hands, San Soo,
Tai Chi, and Hung Gar, and this influence remains visible in both
historical material (such as forms that Parker taught for a period
within his system) and current principles.
Exposed to new Chinese training
concepts and history, he modified his teachings as reflected in his
second book, Secrets of Chinese Karate published in 1963, just 2 years
after "Kenpo Karate." Parker drew comparisons in this and
other books between karate (a better known art in the United States
at that time) and the Chinese methods he adopted and taught.
Parker had a minor career
as a Hollywood actor and stunt man. His most notable film was Kill
the Golden Goose . In this film, he co-stars with Hapkido master
Bong Soo Han.
Edmund K. Parker
died in Honolulu of a heart attack on December 15, 1990. His widow
Leilani Parker died on June 12, 2006.
Pai 10 Style
– White Lotus Kenpo & Pai-Lung Ch'uan-Fa
Grand Master Daniel Kane Pai's grandfather, Po Fong, left his home
near a southern Shaolin Temple outside of Singapore and traveled to
Hawaii in 1924 with the dream of being able to give his family a better
life by using his vast martial arts knowledge. Po Fong later adopted
a Hawaiian name, Po Pai. Kane Pai, the son of Po Pai, was one of six
children and had a son, Daniel Kane Pai, born in Kamuela, Hawaii.
Grandmaster - Po Pai taught his grandson the family martial art style
which contained mainly elements of the crane and dragon movements
as well as other animal styles which where later contained within
a larger martial arts system called Pai Lum Tao. His grandmother was
a master of the white crane system and his father was a Judo expert.
During this time of training, it is said that Po Pai sent his grandson
to the White Lotus Monastery, Byakurenji, on the northern coast of
Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, to study Kobayashi-ryu karate-do, White Lotus
Kenpo and he received his black belt.
At the end of World War II, Daniel
Pai went to work on the Parker Ranch on the "Big Island"
herding cattle. During this time, Daniel Pai and Ed Parker, who would
become a famous kenpo master, worked and trained together. Pai studied
the art of Judo/Jujitsu and massage with Professor Osakis and Richard
Takamora. He was also with the Hawaiian Kenpo Association.
In 1951, Daniel Pai
joined the U.S. Army and was stationed on the Mainland. He opened
his first school in the back of his Sunset Boulevard home just before
leaving to fight in the Korean War. He re-enlisted in 1953, and spoke
of being in Vietnam in 1954. He retired from active duty in December
1955 and in May 1962 he was given an honorable discharge after completing
his military obligation. During his service to his country, Daniel
Pai was awarded 4 bronze Stars, Korean Service Medal, U.N. Service
Medal and the National Defense Medal.
Dr. Daniel Pai graduated
from the Chicago Medical College, Calcutta India on June 29, 1960,
with a degree in Homeopathic Medicine. During the 1960's he worked
at 20th Century Fox as a stuntman.
Throughout the mid-sixties
and early seventies, he opened numerous schools in the United States,
with instructors in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee,
Connecticut, Colorado, California, Hawaii and Canada. During this
time he was operating a school in Daytona Beach and assisting with
the operations across the country. This era peaked with fifty plus
Pai Lum and Fire Dragon schools operating in North America. Over the
next two decades some of these students, who trained mostly in kenpo,
stayed close to Great Grandmaster Pai as he trained new students in
Kung Fu and Tai Chi disciplines. Great Grandmaster Pai's martial arts
system became known as the White Dragon.
In 1992, Great Grandmaster
Daniel Kane Pai was in the process of organizing all his Pai Lum Tao
schools with several associated systems under an umbrella organization
called the World White Dragon Kung Fu Society.
In 1993, while in
the Dominican Republic, Great Grandmaster Daniel Kane Pai passed from
this life and was laid to rest with full military honors at the Hawaiian
National Cemetery. A legacy of knowledge and wisdom was left with
many devoted practitioners of Pai Lum Tao across several decades.
The historical legend as told above has
never been substantiated and is even considered dubious by many within
Pai Lum. Issues arise when one finds that there has never been a "White
Lotus Temple" in Okinawa and that the Okamura mentioned within
the legend's text is more likely to have been the founder of the "Okinawa
Kenpo Karate" system, namely Shigeru Nakamura. It also raises
the question as to why a master of a Chinese martial art would send
his grandson half a world away to study an Okinawan martial art system
when he could have taught him. Moreover, the date of Pai's alleged
travel to Okinawa seems highly improbable, since according to the
legend he would have travelled there in 1942, after the Second World
War in the Pacific began, which is clearly very improbable, given
that Okinawa was one of the Japanese home islands. Another controversy
is that Daniel Pai was often called "Dr. Pai" by his students
but to date, there is no record of Daniel Pai going to medical school
or achieving a doctorate from any academic institution.
Daniel Pai died in 1993. For many years
he had told many students of Pai Lum that his successor would be his
senior adopted grandson, Pai Li Lung (John Weninger). Other adopted
grandsons who were more senior to Pai Li Lung had left Pai Lum over
the years preceding his death. (Daniel Pai was married in the 1950's
to the former Betsy M. Mullins and this union produced two children,
a daughter, Pualei, now living in Florida and a son named Daniel who
resides in Virginia. Dr. Pai is also survived by 4 granddaughters,
1 grandson, 2 great granddaughters and 2 great grandsons.) This too
has raised some issues. Depending on the school and location, you
will get different responses as to who exactly should be named the
head of the system. Some contend that no one should be the head of
the system since each succeeding master develops something new. Besides
the few non-aligned instructors, such as former chief instructor,
Pai Tao Chi (David Everett), two competing factions exist within Pai
Lum, namely the World White Dragon Society and the White Dragon Warrior
The World White Dragon Society made up
of early students of Daniel K. Pai including Pai Shao Li (Steve Mathews),
Pai Li Lung (John Weninger), Pai Shinzan (Thomas D. St. Charles),
Pai Ching-Lin (David Smith), and Pai Hsin-Lung (Philip Hunter), Pai
Ying Lung (Robert L. Skaling-Pai), and Pai Bok Hok (Marcia Pickands),
and others. The other competing faction is The White Dragon Warrior
Society, which is headed by Glen C. Wilson supported by his wife Hilda
Guerrero Wilson, and students. Considering there is no set curriculum,
central authority, or standard within Pai Lum, there seems little
point to naming anyone the head of the system.
Despite the ongoing controversies regarding
the origin and authenticity of Pai Lum Kung Fu, it remains that Daniel
Pai was an enigma, both as a man and a martial arts master. Those
who spent significant time with him may all agree that his charisma
and personal energy were unmistakable and left a lasting impression
upon those who met him, even briefly. One never walked away unchanged,
and either loved him or hated him, with few feeling ambivalent.
1956 Jhoon Rhee came to the U.S. to study at San Marcos Southwest
Texas State College and as a member of the Korean Army Officer Training
Program. He was called back to Korea to complete a year of remaining
active duty before returning in late 1957. Rhee returned to the U.S.
entered engineering school in 1958. In 1959 he transferred to the
University of Texas in Austin, Texas and needed a source of income
to continue his education. He began teaching a non-credited karate
(the name tae kwon do was not known at the time) class in 1959. To
attract students he gave a demonstration where he would jump into
the air and break 3 boards 8 feet high with a kick. This greatly impressed
the audiences, especially when you consider Mr. Rhee is 5 feet 4"
One hundred and eighty four students
signed up for Rhee's first class. Of those students, only six made
it to black belt. One of those six was Allen R. Steen, who is credited
as being Mr. Rhee's first American black belt. In 1962 Rhee moved
to Washington D.C. to build a karate empire as Steen would do the
same in Texas.
Grand Master Rhee went on to open
many schools across the US and overseas (65 in Russia). He has taught
many congressmen, senators and celebrates martial arts. On Capital
Hill he created karate tournaments between Republicans and Democrats.
Rhee is credited for inviting the padded safety gear karate fighters
wear when they spar to reduce injuries. He also started musical forms,
the "martial arts ballet" - synchronized tae kwon do performed
In 1976 Rhee was named the Martial
Arts Man Of the Century by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club in 1976.
His Jhoon Rhee Foundation teaches the "Joy of Discipline"
program to public school children. Many have witnessed Rhee's demonstration
where he does 100 push-ups in 60 seconds. Pretty impressive for a
68 years young man! In 1999 Black Belt Magazine named Grand Master
Rhee as one of the 10 most influential martial arts of the century.
After Jhoon Rhee moved from Texas
to Washington D.C. Allen Steen and Pat Burleson would become the focus
of Texas karate. While Rhee was the one who planted the seed for karate
in Texas, Steen was the tree that grew from it. Even after Master
Rhee moved, Steen and Burleson provided him with top quality Texan
black belts that enabled Rhee to build his empire.
Allen Steen attended one of Rhee's
demonstrations in the fall of 1959. "He (Rhee) side kicked one
of the support beams in the gymnasium and cracked the veneer on it
all the way to the top - some 20 or 30 feet", remembers Steen.
Having done some boxing, this karate looked like something Steen wanted
to try. 90 percent of the attendees that day signed up for the $5
a semester classes.
Mr. Rhee was a third-degree black
belt when he arrived in the U.S. and in Korea first and second-degree
black belts were not allowed to teach. Rhee had little experience
in teaching, but had a lot of experience in military life having been
a captain in the Korean Army, so he ran his class like a military
boot camp. "He was a strict disciplinarian," stated Steen,"On
every exercise you wanted to quit, but Rhee would always get you to
gut out one more push-up or sit-up. We spent over two months in basic
stances before we did anything else. As a result, I was a white belt
for nine months."
that time finances were tight for Steen and he didn't have money do
much of anything except go to his classes and karate. He worked out
everyday and built himself up from 6 feet 2, 150 pounds to 200 pounds
of solid muscle. His competitiveness grew from karate and would later
help him in business. After he earned his brown belt, Steen began
to give private lessons whenever he returned home to Dallas. After
he graduated from college, he moved back to Dallas and opened his
first karate school, The Jhoon Rhee Institute of Karate, in June of
1962 close to Southern Methodist University. Shortly after that he
returned to Mr. Rhee and pasted a grueling three-hour exam to earn
his black belt. Of the original 184 students in Rhee's class, only
6 reached this level of proficiency.
In 1964 Master Rhee held the first
U.S. National Karate Championships in Washington D.C.
Rhee is largely credited for having
popularized martial arts in North America. He trained with martial
artist Bruce Lee to help him develop his kicks and he also trained
Muhammad Ali for several of his fights. Rhee eventually awarded Ali
a Blackbelt in tae kwon do. In addition, he has also trained many
U.S. senators and U.S. congressmen as well as their sons and daughters.
In 1976, he also invented protective
gear, Safe-T Equipment, made of foam-rubber for free-sparring. He
changed the face of kata well by choreographing the first kata to
music which he called Might for Right.
Sifu Dennis Brown12
Style - Shaolin Wushu
Dennis Brown is the owner of Dennis Brown's Shaolin Wushu Academy
in Washington DC. He is also the promoter of the US Capitol Classics,
a nationally rated tournament sanctioned by the NASKA circuit. He
is also a member of the board of directors for EFC (Educational Funding
Company), which is a billing and business consulting company for martial
arts school owners. Over the years he has taught more than 20,000
Training and Experience: Master
Brown began his training in martial arts in 1965. In 1982 Mr. Brown
was one of the first Americans to get the opportunity to train in
China. He initially trained in Nanjing at the Jiangsu Sports Center.
He later trained at the Beijing Institute of Physical Training. He
was certified by them in 1985. He returned to China several more time
to train in Tai Chi, Chin Na and advanced weaponry.
Accomplishments and Honors: Master
Brown was recognized by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC as the
Official Consultant of Wushu for the People's Republic of China. He
was recognized by Black Belt Magazine as one of the “25 Most
Influential Martial Artists of the 20th Century,”in May of 2000.
He was also inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame in
1999. He has many other hall of fame nominations and is recognized
as a true expert in the art of Kung Fu. Appearances in the Media:
Master Brown appeared on the classic " ABC's Wide World of Sports"
when he performed at Madison Square Garden. He has been featured on
many local and national television news broadcasts, and has been on
the cover almost every major martial arts magazine in the US.
Master Brown was also featured
on the Discovery Channel special entitled "Secrets of the Warriors
Power" which aired in 1998, and the TNT special, “A Tribute
to the Masters of the Martial Arts ”, produced by Wesley Snipes.
Sensei Herbert Heinz
Airman Heinz never became enthralled
at training in any “one separate Shorin-ryu subsystem”;
instead he diligently sought after the erudition of Okinawa-te in
its entirety. Shorin-ryu was his major martial arts influence but
also received exposure to other systems such as Jujitsu, Naha-te,
etc. Because of his wholeness approach in learning Shorin-Ryu and
other systems in martial arts his repertoire is Okinawa-te, His teaching
system involved techniques from all major and minor Shorin-ryu, in
addition to minor Nah-te, subsystems.
After attaining Blackbelt in Okinawa
and upon returning from the Vietnam conflict, airman Heinz attended
Morgan State College (later in 1975 was renamed Morgan State University)
in Baltimore, Maryland. There he and a close friend named Bob McPherson,
who was a master in Shotokan Karate & Jujitsu, instructed one
of the toughest martial arts training program one can imagine. Kumite
consisted of “bare knuckles” resulting with many student
injuries. Often kata training consisted of hours of repetitious drills
which caused several Karate-ka’s to pass out from exhaustion.
His most diligent and loyal student was a young man by the name of
Sensei Bob McPherson13
It was over five decades ago, in twentieth century, during the year 1955, Bob McPherson while serving in Hawaii with the U.S. Air Force, a then young airman, was introduced to art and science of judo. Very quickly, he became adept at judo. He enrolled at a local dojo and received instruction under a ranked nidan Blackbelt named Francisco Limbago. The following year the U.S. Air Force granted airman Mr. McPherson special permission to train for six months at the Kodokan Judo Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
The Kodokan is the world’s most famous international judo facility. It is considered as the headquarters of the “judo world.” Literally, kō means "to lecture" or "to spread information," dō means "the way," and kan is "a public building or hall," together translating roughly as "a place for the study or promotion of the way."1 During the year 1882 Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, which is a derivative of jujutsu, developed this art.
Upon returning to the island of Hawaii, in 1958, airman McPherson was awarded the Brownbelt 3rd kyu. During the same year he developed an interest in the art and science of karate. Quickly he joined a “Chinese Kempo” martial arts school. Along with judo, he practiced Chinese Kempo for nearly two years. Also worth mentioning, during 1958, he won the 150 lb division of the inter-service judo championships held in Hawaii. During the same year he received an honorable discharge in July, and returned home to Baltimore.
The following year, 1959, Mr. McPherson began instructing classes in judo and karate at the Druid Hill branch of the YMCA. During the following year 1960, he started judo instruction at Carver High School, located in Baltimore’s west side, at 2201 West Presstman Street. There, he instructed tough judo classes for three years. Only the strong survived.
In 1963 Mr. McPherson met an Air Force Sergeant by the name of Phyle. Sergeant Phyle introduced him to the Japanese art of Shotokan karate. The following year, 1964, Sergeant Phyle was reassigned service duty to Alaska and made the decision to entrust his school to Mr. McPherson. Also during this period, Mr. McPherson studied at the Shotokan Karate Club, located at the newly formed club with its headquarters at 2933 O’Donnell Street. This club was chartered by the well-known and highly regarded organization, the Japan Karate Association (JKA). It was there where Mr. McPherson studied under the tutelage of yodan, 5-time Japan champion, Sensei Teruyuki. Sensei Teruyuki was then the chief Sensei of the East Coast Karate Association and head instructor of the Philadelphia Karate Club (PKC). This prompted Mr. McPherson to return to his club and share with his students his new discovery and encouraged them to join him in acquiring new membership in the Shotokan Karate Club.
Years later, Mr. McPherson progressed in Shotokan karate earning several Obi Dan’s. In addition, he was eventually appointed as vice president of the Maryland Karate Association (MKA). Sensei’s committed martial arts leadership enhanced and spread the “true meaning” of karate throughout the state of Maryland.
Sadly, in 1999 Sensei McPherson past away. He is truly missed. Maryland martial arts lost a most respectable Sensei that only laudatory remarks can describe.
Hanshi Hawkins was born on January
4, 1944, in Baltimore, Maryland, was one of the earliest “martial
arts instructor pioneers” on the U.S. northeast coast.
SENSEI Heinz encouraged and mentored SENSEI Hawkins to instruct Shorin-ryu
the way he learned the art while stationed in Okinawa. Mr. Heinz gave
firm guidance to SENSEI Hawkins to always be open-minded concerning
learning and teaching martial arts instruction. He persuaded him to
not limit his martial arts knowledge and experience by only associating
with martial arts alliances that have a political and financial agenda
as their chief interest.
In 1965 this Bushi started instructing
the art of Shorin-ryu to his younger brothers and sisters on Brunt
Street. Later he opened his first Dojo, located on Etting Street,
on the 3rd floor, at the Sharp Street Memorial Community House. He
requested karate-ka, the neighborhood kids, to come up with a name
for the Dojo. They decided to call the Dojo “The Avengers Karate
This Bushi has been very active involving
the art of Shorin-ryu. He and his students have competed internationally,
with much success, in karate tournaments. He has trained many international
karate tournament champions and is worldwide recognized as a famous
and successful karate instructor.
Hanshi Hawkins great success in
training Avengers to be victorious in international tournament competition
is small compared to his tremendous success in teaching them “life
skills.” His martial arts instruction emphasis is focused more
so on “a way of life” versus sports competition.