Onko Chishin series: Nakamura Shigeru and Higa Yusuke


Onko Chishin – to learn from the past to know the future

Read other articles of this series

 Kobudo Part3

Article 3 (Part 1)  (For part 2 of this article, click here.)

November 17, 1961

Nakamura Shigeru (67) – Niseshi

Studying with Chanmi-gwa and others

He was born in 1894 in Nago Town. When he was 15 years old, he entered the Okinawa Prefecture Junior High School (1), joined the school’s karate club and started to learn karate. From his young age, Mr. Nakamura was extremely interested in karate, listening to many tales and stories from old men and seniors. For this reason, and because he redoubled of enthusiasm, he quickly progressed in karate. During the coming demonstration, he will perform “Niseshi” kata that he learned from the nicknamed “Kuniyoshi no Tanmei” (2). The kata itself doesn’t have many transformations, however there are very few experts of it in Okinawa making this kata a precious work of art.

In the past, Mr. Nakamura zealously studied karate together with Chanmi-gwa and Motobu-zaru (3) mastering not only karate but also Bo (staff), Sai (trident) amongst others.

However, in the 50 some years of his martial art life, he had to face many hardships. He explains that he had to go to training sessions in cold winter nights and travel on many journeys in order to study karate. Such types of hardships built Mr. Nakamura’s temperament and helped him nurture an indomitable force of will that never bends in front of something. Today, he has opened a dojo in his house and has taught 1,000 students.

Nowadays in Okinawa karate, there are many various styles, however, Mr. Nakamura said that “In the past, there was no style in karate. To develop Okinawa karate, all styles must be united (4).” In the dojo of Mr. Nakamura hangs a framed picture on which is written in large letters “Jinkaku Kansei” (5). There, obeying the teaching of their master, students zealously train days and nights.

(Lives in 489 Nago Town)

(1) Today’s Shuri Senior High School was once the “1st Okinawa Prefectural Junior High School” while today’s Naha Senior High School was the “2nd Okinawa Prefectural Junior High School”.

(2) Alias for Kuniyoshi Shinkichi (1848-1926), “Tanmei” being a word that could be translated into grandpa or old man. According to the “Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia”, Kuniyoshi was born in Kumoji Village (present Naha) and learned Nahate from Sakiyama Chikudun nu Peichin (who himself studied in China with Ru Ru Ko). Kuniyoshi’s mastery was considered equal to Higashionna Kanryo’s mastery. When 60 years old, Kuniyoshi Shinkichi moved to Nago.

(3) Nicknames for respectively Kyan Chotoku (1870-1945) and Motobu Choki (1870-1944).

(4) The word “united” could also be translated in “standardized”.

(5) “Character completion” as in personality brought to perfection.

Extra note: According to the “Okinawa Karate Kobudo Encyclopedia”, Nakamura studied under Itosu Anko when in junior high school and passed away in 1969.


Article 3 (Part 2)

November 17, 1961

Higa Yusuke (70) – Tenbei

Father and son demonstrating together

As kobudo is slowly being forgotten, the only person who performs “Tenbe”(1) today is Mr. Higa Yusuke. Devoting himself to the preservation of Tenbe, the role of Mr. Higa is very important. Showing a strong volition, Mr. Higa explains: “With the fear that the art of Tenbe might cease to exist, I had some helpless feelings but today, as I am speaking with kobudo concerned people in order to restore this martial art, I am quite happy. With all people capable of performing Tenbe passing away, we cannot be ungenerous. Myself, although I am getting old, I wish to perform Tenbe as best I can.”

Tenbe is a fight between someone armed with an umbrella and a sword (2) and someone armed with a spear. During the demonstration, Mr. Higa will be armed with an umbrella and a sword while his 5th son named Yufuku will be armed with a spear. As a familial combination with good spirit, they will do their best for the resurrection of Tenbe. In the case of the sword and umbrella handler, he must jump freely over the opponent. It is said that it is because it is hard to jump high over someone that this martial art is not really popular.

Imitating the jump and speaking in Okinawan, Mr. Higa says, “When I was young, it was nothing for me to jump over you.” A small but solid and muscle tightened man, it is easy to imagine that when he was young, this energetic old man could jump freely over somebody.

Born in 1891 in Kudeken, Chinen Village, he joined the Oita Infantry 72 regiment in 1911. He was discharged in 1913. He explains than after being discharged, when he was 24 years old, he received instruction from Arakaki sensei from Shuri. The hard training he received when in the infantry helped him in the study of Tenbe, an art that he quickly mastered. After the death of Arakaki sensei, he taught the art to the youth of Chinen, Takagusuku and Sashiki but the incessant hard training was too much to cope with and many quit training, letting him with his son Yufuku as only partner.

Keeping himself busy working on a farm on one side, Mr. Higa trains hard in view of the demonstration.

(1) Also called Tinbei in Okinawa

(2) In Japanese, it simply says “kasa to katana” or “umbrella and sword”.