On October 3rd, a special karate event titled “Okinawan karate, from past to future” was held as part of the “Okinawa Prefecture book fair”. Planned by Yoju Shorin Inc., the event was composed of a presentation, a talk show and an exibition. Some 40 people came to the event. Speakers were (photo from the left) researcher Jiangwei Lu from the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, Kadekaru Toru sensei, member of the Okinawa Goju-ryu Karatedo Kyokai and presently a karate researcher at Waseda Univesity, Mr. Takeishi Kazumi from Yoju Shorin book store, Miyagi Tokumasa sensei, Shorin-ryu Kyudokan 9th dan and one of the most highly regarded karate researcher in Okinawa and our bureau’s Miguel Da Luz.
Article published in the Okinawa Times newspaper on October 7, 2012. (copyrights@okinawatimes)
Simultaneously, an exhibition of items once property of Funakoshi Gichin was organized by Yoju Shorin.
The items in the exhibition were artifacts received by the family of Funakoshi Gichin at the time Yoju Shorin was publishing a series of books on karate. The contents were as follow.
Weapons: Pairs of sai made of iron and made of bronze, handmade tonfa (made in wood), one tankon (short staff) and tichu made of wood.
Karate postcards: Tote-jutsu photographs (Pinan Shodan performed by Funakoshi Gichin)
Calligraphy related items: Set of 10 pieces in a box, made by Naito Koseki, stamp seal, etc…
Commemorative cup, Commemorative plate, etc…
Books: Karate Kenkyu Dai-ichi-go (Nakasone Genwa 1934 – Kobukan), Goshin-jutsu Hiden Karate Kempo (Mabuni Kenwa 1934 – Kobukan), Kururunfa no Kenkyu (Mabuni Kenwa 1952 Japan Rodo Press) and an unpublished manuscript by Toguchi Seikichi “Karatedo no Kyohan” (137 pages)
(based on Miguel Da Luz’s notes)
Part I: Presentation
Karate researcher and Hanshi 9th dan Miyagi Tokumasa started the talk show first introducing his encounter with Karatedo Taikan, the famous book from Nakasone Genwa that was republished digitally by Yoju Shorin book store in 2012. (See itunes preview for more)
“The first time I saw the original edition, it was through Nagamine Shoshin sensei, 50 years ago. He lent me the copy and I copied the entire book for my own research.” The photographs at the opening of the books are still today important for their significance. So are the Karatedo Kihon-gata introduced in the last part of the book. They are older than the Fukyu-gata devised by Nagamine Shoshin sensei and Miyagi Chojun sensei and I believe they should be researched deeply as they have been created by prominent masters.”
Miyagi then went on commenting the time when the book was published, speaking of its author Nakasone Genwa and other prominent masters of that time.
Then, Okinawa Goju-ryu Karatedo Kyokai member and presently a karate researcher at Waseda Univesity, Kadekaru Toru went on making a list of the tasks and problems of karate research. Following is a translation of the main topics he listed during his presentation.
1. How do you define karate (do) and what are the characteristics of Okinawa karate?
2. Technical research – what is aimed at through karate practice?
3. Budo (karate) introduction in school as part of the curriculum – what karate is being taught in school?
4. Internationalization of karate (Budo) – the many karate that have grown roots overseas
5. In an organizational point of view, what image of the future do we draw?
6. The need of gathering documents and putting in order karate history
Kadekaru also stressed that in the late 1800 – early 1900, when the Japanization of Okinawa was under way, only karate survived as an Okinawan culture and was incorporated in local schools.
Following was the turn of Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts researcher Jiangwei Lu. He went on commenting 13 newspaper articles related to karate published prior to WWII. Among them were an article of Funakoshi Gichin published in 1913, an article by Asato Anko dating of 1914, an article of 1918 announcing a karate and kobudo demonstration and an article reporting about the filming of karate in 1939. Jiangwei Lu ended his presentation by stressing that karate should be preserved as a culture of Okinawa more than just a martial art.
Miguel Da Luz was the last speaker of the first part of the talk show. Playing on purpose the devil’s advocate, Miguel Da Luz explained that even if Okinawa is recognized as the birthplace of karate, that local newspapers usually reports that there are some 50 millions karate enthusiasts worldwide and that Okinawa holds from time to time world championships, the situation of Okinawa karate in the world is not as developed as Okinawans would think it is. Indeed, there are many worldwide organizations overseas that battles for supremacy without having any connections with Okinawa. The World Karate Federation, OIC sole recognized karate federation is a completely international organization. Its headquarters are not in Okinawa but in Spain and Greece, and among its many commissions, there are only 3 Japanese members, one of them being Okinawan Sakumoto Tsuguo. He then went on speaking about karate in Europe and the predominance of Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu and Shito-ryu. He compared this with the situation of karate in the USA, quite different due to the long relation between Okinawa and the USA after WWII, but where there exist also many different types of karate (“Japanese, Korean and Okinawan” – Encyclopedia Americana). Finally, He spoke about the actual situation of Okinawa karate in Okinawa and overseas, noting that at least 40 Okinawan international organizations are recorded to have branches in more than 90 countries. He ended his remark noting that it is definitely the time for Okinawa karate to reach out furthermore to the world as many people are eager to rediscover the roots of traditional karate.
Part II: Talk show
The second part was led by Okita Miyuki as facilitator and followed various themes and topics. Here are some comments of the discussion.
- Who was Funakoshi Gichin?
Miyagi Tokumasa: I never met him but I still have the funeral announcement printed in the newspaper at that time! I asked 50 years ago my karate masters if they knew about Funakoshi sensei. Almost all said of him that he was mainly known as a school teacher. However, he may well be the most famous Okinawan worldwide for he is regarded by many as the father of modern times karate. Okinawa too should research more about his life before going to mainland Japan and his legacy.
- State of karate in China and in Europe
Jiangwei Lu: Karate is quite popular in China, but it is just another martial sport. However in Chinese villages, martial arts instructors are also experts in medicinal plants and are often visited for their medical expertise by villagers. This is also related in the Bubishi which originally introduces such herbal medicines.
Miguel Da Luz: From old time in Europe too, martial arts have been developed but with the introduction of fire weapons, only boxing and French savate have been preserved to this day. However, the huge difference with Okinawa is the society. While Okinawans have succeed in preserving a peaceful and unarmed society, it is not always the same in European cities, and many first seek the self-defense aspects of martial arts like karate before deepening their research to reach a higher level that surpasses the basic combat activity.
- What are the merits of karate?
Kadekaru Toru: Martial arts and dance have been included to the national Junior high school curriculum. While Judo and Kendo are predominant on the Mainland, many Okinawan Jr. High have chosen karate. Through this introduction, the Japanese Ministry of education has set specific educational goals like exposing children to Japan’s unique tradition and culture, developing respect towards others, etc…. This should be deeply studied and examined so that karate is correctly spread to children.
- Should “do” be added to karate?
Miyagi Tokumasa: It’s a difficult question. Karate appears written “To-te” (Chinese hand) before WWII in many publications. The suffix “do” ads more meaning to it. Another detail very important and that shouldn’t be forgotten is that Hanashiro Chomo was the first one to use the term karate (empty hand) in his 1905 text “karate kumite”.