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Bubishi the karate bibleMartial Philosophy based on Bubishi, the Karate Bible

We have been practising Karate Kihon Renshu (basics techniques or PT 1), Zenshin Kottai ( moving techniques or PT2), Ippon Kumite ( one step sparring), Sanpon Kumite( three step sparring) , Kumite (free sparring)  etc., etc. . Regardless of belt and grade, we are all working on these again and again for many years to make the same even better. Indeed these efforts give us better strength, speed, mobility, good health and finally a disciplined character. But only when we apply the fundamental martial philosophy into our daily toil will it bear the real fruit – the true martial ability and morale.

Here are some martial tips directly taken from the Bubishi translated and commented by Sensei Patrik McCarthy. A few words about Bubishi : It is the collection of ancient martial arts techniques, philosophy, vital points attacks/ death touches and Chinese Medicine/ Herbal pharmacology that originated in China, brought to Okinawa, referred and studied by all stalwarts of Okinawan karate to shape their karate style. It is known as the Karate Bible.

Developing Inner strength

1) Eliminate external distractions and concentrate only upon intention.

2) Coordinate breathing and synchronize it with the muscular activity. When you extend your arm, exhale and strike but conserve 50% of air and never expel all of your air at one time.

3) Listen to your breathing and become aware of every part of your body.

4) There must be a constant but pliable muscular contraction in the deltoid, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, serratus and pectoral muscle group.

5) To encourage perfect diaphragm breathing, the spine must be parallel to the stomach.

6) Techniques are executed forward and back from where the elbows meet the waist.

Principles of Movement

1) Foot movements similar to walking. One initiates the step naturally and conclude it with firmness.

2) Smoothly make each step identical to the last, with the big toe of the rear foot aligned with the heal of the other (shoulder-width apart).

3) Foot movement, both in a forward and backward direction should correspond to the crescent shape of a quarter moon with the knees slightly bent, moving quietly.

4) Leg muscles must be firm but flexible to engender mobility.

Advice for engagement

1) Mind must be calm but alert

2) Look for that which is not seen easily.

3) User your peripheral vision.

4) Remain calm when you face your opponent.

5) Have confident body language and facial expression

6) Use a posture that will support mobility.

Using Hands

1) “Hand Techniques require the use of the body. The body generates the power and the hands serve as the instruments of the contact. Like a cat catching a rat, a tiger pulls down a wild boar with its body; the claws serve as the means of contact.”

2) “It takes great courage and skill to take out an adversary with a calm mind. True masters establish a balance between their lives and their art to a degree that their lives become as much as a product of the art as is the art, a product of their lives.”

3) “When thrusting with the tips of the fingers, maximum force is achieved only when the four fingers are squeezed tightly together and supported by the thumb. Cultivating this special technique, one can generate remarkable force.”

Balance

1) “Perfect balance is a reflection of what is within. It is also a prerequisite for combative proficiency. It is by mastering balance that one is able to easily take advantage of, or deliberately create, a weakness in an opponent’s posture. Such weaknesses must by attacked without hesitation.”

2) “If someone attempts to seize your by surprise, you might be better off to escape, re-establish your balance, and then engage the opponent. However, the circumstances dictate the means it is good to employ evasive tactics when forcefully attacked. It is a good time to launch a counter-offensive upon perceiving that the opponent’s energy is exhausted.”

3) “Like the sun’s strength, your energy must radiate outward, your eyes should be clear as moon, and your legs should be like the rolling wheels of a cart. Your postures too, from head to toe, must be evenly balanced so that foot work and hand techniques support each other. If everything is in balance, no one will be able to defeat you.”

4) “Be sure to practice according to your teacher’s advice and always be open to learn the ways of others. It takes a long time to achieve perfection based upon our experience. Do not be in a hurry; patience is a virtue. Above all be honest with yourself, do not deceive others, and live a modest life. If you do not follow these rules, you will never realize the way.”

Two Cranes and a Chinese Lady

We all know that Karate originated in Okinawa but is not very sure how this combat art took birth there. Every art or tradition takes shape through generations tuned with many cultural transitions. One prominent theory of  Karate is that it has evolved from Chinese martial arts especially from White Crane Gonfu combined with Monk fist fighting system.

The story goes like this. During the Qing Dynasty period in Yongchun, Fujian province of China,  a great Monk Fist Boxing (one version of Gongfu) master named Zaongong was killed by a mob by deception. His young daughter and disciple, Fang Qiniang (also referred as Fan Qiang Liang) was revengeful but helpless, since she had not mastered the art,her father had passed on to her. Above all, she was young, frail and alone, not able to fight with the fierce men of mob.

While living with burning vengeance in heart and always pondering about a counter, she happened to see a battle between  two white cranes.  She was amazed about the skilful defence with wings, swift but concealed pecking and the instinctive evading of the cranes which were in an intense battle. She took a long staff, tried to poke onto the cranes in order to end the fight. But she could not touch the cranes however hard she tried.  This incident gave an insight to her about the fighting tactics of the two birds.  It is not the hard, strong muscles power but the speed, softness and suppleness generated in the real martial power can be used against any opponents regardless of the body size and power. She realized that it is the combination of soft and hard technique with accurate timing as the key to real  martial power. This revelation inspired her to fuse Monk Fist boxing into a new fighting strategy, that she developed and practiced for three years.

Very soon she became popular with the new style of battle tactics and many martial artists approached her to test her skill, but were defeated.  A well know hard style boxing expert, Zeng Cishu with “fingers like iron and body like a rock” also confronted her to test her fighting ability. But he realized in dismay  that his iron finger and rocky body has no use in the battle with the soft, supple lady opponent.  After the futile fight, he became a disciple of Fang Qiniang and studied diligently her soft style of combat art. He stayed as disciple with her a long time and thus a new tradition of Hard and soft style of martial arts evolved.

When martial arts evolved in Okinawa, it was an independent kingdom called Ryu Kyu. From 14th century, many Chinese martial artists resident in Okinawa passed their native martial system into Okinawan primitive combat system called Te. The great Chinese martial artist Kusanku (Wang Ji) came to Okinawa in 1683 as a Chinese envoy and passed the Crane style form known as “Flying swallow” to the Okinawans. At that time, many other Okinawan natives like Chatan Yara (or Yara Guwa) went to China, spent many years there to study Chinese martial arts and most probably studied the  White Crane system.  He return to Okinawa in 1700 and taught the system to his county men.

Okinawan martial arts initially was called as Dou-Te or Chinese Hand. The Kangi ideogram Tou stands for Chinese and Te for hand. After a few centuries the same Kanji ideogram interpreted as Kara-te, where Kara represents ‘empty’ and te remained as the same – ‘hand’. Finally in the year 1935, a group of senior martial artist in Okinawa assembled and declared that Okinawan combat system would be called as Karate, the ‘empty hand’ or weapon-less combat system. Another reference to Chinese link of Karate is “Shorin-ryu” which translates as “Shaolin”, the great martial icon of China.

Thus we come to the conclusion that Modern karate has undeniable link and influence with many Chinese martial arts systems, especially White Crane and Monk Fist Boxing system.

 

Sha-ken Tsuki  and Shimata Dachi

In the  initial classes, you may wonder why your Sensei correct your fist to hold an uncommon angle, neither vertical nor horizontal but in between that, especially if you have some experience with Shotkan or Shito-ryu Japanese styles. Countless punches may have conditioned you and the unanswered question may be pushed aside into the oblivion.  Well, let the question awake and seek the answer once again…

Kyan’s Karate

Shorin-Ryu Seibukan Karate style is heavily based on Kyan’s Karate system for its core principles. Hanshi Zenryo Shimabukuro, the founder of Seibukan has been the  the longest period student of Sensei Chotoku Kyan(1870 -1945), one of the pioneers of Okinawan Karate and hence all the martial philosophy and application have obviously been passed down to the Seibukan system of Karate.

Hardly 4 feet 10 inch tall, frail statured Kyan sensei had to formulate many unorthodox tactics  to his style to combat against much stronger and larger opponents. He was fortunate to have a high level of education and was very fluent in Chinese, Japanese languages apart from the Okinawan native language. His education in Bio-mechanics helped him to modify scientifically many conventional Karate applications in the most effective manner.

Why  an angled first punch (Sha-ken Tsuki ) ?

Traditionally Karate punches have vertical fist punch with 180 degree rotation upon finish. Okinawans/Japanese are generally short people who cannot execute an effective upper face level punch against a taller person, since the lower part of the fist contact with the target, may result wrist injury. Kyan Sensei changed the angle of the first to 45 degree or 3/4 angle punch with a slight sidewise bend to make fist two knuckle aligned to the radial bones of the forearm. He designed the sha-ken or angled punch in such way that index knuckle hit 60 percentage and the middle knuckle hit 40 percentage on the target to neutralize the pressure on the fist. This modification of fist makes punch at any angle without inuring the wrist and execute maximum power and speed of the same.

Kyan Sensei also believed that when fist comes to 90 degree at the end of the punch, forearm muscles will tensed and it decelerate punching speed whereas the 45 degree angle is the natural angle of the hand that does not affect the acceleration.

The 3/4 twisting punch also allows the whipping action generated from the waist twist to co-ordinate with the punching motion. The full twist punch require either a recoil of the hip or a reverse twist of the hip ( ie. double twist) as punch contact with the target. This allows to gain maximum rotation of the fist without interrupting the whipping motion of the waist and hip.

Another reason may be the 45 degree protection from getting damaged to the important meridians/nerves running along the side of the forearm by the blocking hand of the opponent.  

Shimata Dachi

seibukan shiko dachi

Kyan Sensei designed a shorter Shiko Dachi (Square stance or four thigh stance) to meet the stance lower without sacrificing the mobility from the stance. The traditional Shiko dachi used in the style like Goju-Ryu is a little wider than this with the disadvantage of transition to another movement. The purpose of the smaller stance was to enable jumping into and away from an attack where low stands gives maximum stability. Due to his small size,  Kyan Sensei wanted to get underneath an attack which would provide an opening for a counter in an attack. This is a valuable contribution to Seibukan Karate system by the great teacher.

 

Let us say “Arigatou gozaimasu” to Grand Master Kyan Sensei who enriched the Okinawan karate system of   “More effect with less effort” with his unorthodox novel tactics in Karate.


 

 

Fukyugata Ichi

Ichi- A brisk left turn, down block in low stance.
Ni- Execute a middle punch in high stance…….

 

Yes, we are thorough with the movements from doing it endless times in our  white belt classes. This kata is the most basic kata for all Guju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu and many other systems of Karate. Our mind and hearts are so imprinted with the block-punch timing, know when we shout Kia… and to the final rei. Well, everything has been deeply stored in our muscle memory as well.  But how many of us know the background of this Kata? What is the meaning and how it originated….?

Fukyugata = promotional Kata

Fukyugata is the combination of two Japanese terms – Fukyu  and Kata where Fukyu means promotional or introductory. When Kata combined with Fukyu the sound changes as “gata” and finally becomes “Fukyugata”. There are two version of Fukyugata – Ichi (First) and Ni (Second). The first one of these series has been created by Hanshi Shoshin Nagamine (1907 - 1997), the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate system.

The need of a promotional Kata

In the post-war period in Okinawa, as Karate was getting popular among general public and was introduced to schools, there arose  a need for a systematic syllabus which has to be taught in every level of Karateka (Karate practitioners ). Traditional Katas being long, complex and requiring some level of dexterity to perform, a simple straight forward Kata was required for the Karate curriculum. Upon the Governor Hayakawa’s request, Sensei Nagamin developed a promotional Kata for beginners in 1940, comprises all the basic elements. However, the kata was accepted and ratified by the Special Committee in June of 1941. And this is the only Kata Nagamine sensei created in his 75 years of Karate life. From this we can understand  how carefully and strategically this Kata was created.

Kata Dissection

Kamai

:

Musubi Dachi

Movements

:

21

Directions

:

8

Stances

:

Forward Stance (Zenkutsu Dachi)

Straight Leg stance (Choku Dachi)

Punches

:

3 - lunge punches (Oi-Tsuki),

4 - Reverse punches (Gyaku Tsuki),

2 - Upper punches (Jodan Tsuki)

Blocks

:

7 - Down Blocks (Gedan Barai)

 2 - Upper blocks (Jodan Uke)

Kata Strategy

Being the first promotional kata, it was strategically designed in  defence-attack manner. That means, each of the movement in the Kata is a response-reaction or a block and punch scenario.   In order to design this first promotional kata simple and straightforward, the founder has avoided kicks and other advance techniques which needs more dexterity. Altogether there are 21 movements in 8 directions in this Kata, having basic down block, upper block, lunge punches, reverse punches with only two basic stands namely Zenkutsu Dachi (Forward bend stance) and Choku Dachi (straight leg stance).

The Kata starts with Musubi Dachi (heel touched together and toes pointing 45 degree outside) and ends with drawing the leg backwards to the Kamia position in Musubi Dachi. Unlike all other Seibukan katas, the Fukyugata is a perfect symmetrical kata, having mirrored movements on both sides, comprises of Geden barai in Zenkutsu Dachi, Jodan Uke and punches in Choku dachi. And it also addresses 8 directions of defences / attacks.

The acceptance of the Kata

Being simple and straight forward compared with Okinawan traditional katas which are longer and complex, this kata has been well accepted by the beginners, especially the foreign students, majority were American army men at that period. This helped to transport and popularize the new Karate-do into other countries like United States, Canada, South America and Europe.

Winding up this short summery with “Shomen-ni-rei” to the great Hanshi Shoshin Nagamin, the founder of Fukyugata and Matsubayashi-Ryu, author, soldier, police man and the ex-mayor of Naha, Okinawa.


KOBUDO is a Japanese word which commonly understand as “old martial arts way of Okinawa”. KO – BU – DO is also translates as “No War Way” and it is an ancient Okinawan weaponry art which has been practiced along with Karate in traditional martial arts schools in Okinawa. Karate and Kobudo are said to be brother and sister in the same family of martial arts and Kobudo practice develops the ability to fight and defend with weapons whichever it may be. Being an empty hand method, Karate may faces difficulty to handle many situation where the opponent attacks with weapons. So the practice and skill with the weaponry art like Kobudo obviously help to cope up with such situation more realistically.

Like Karate, Kobudo also has many Katas with each weapons that has been developed through the passage of time by many notable masters like Shigeru Nakamura, Chatan Yara (also known as Yara Guwa), Kanga Sakukawa (also known as Sakugawa Satunushior Tode Sakugawa), Tokumine PÄ“chin  and Shinko Matayoshi.   

Kubudo weapons are mostly agricultural tools and house hold articles which are used commonly used in China, Okinawa, Japan etc. It is said that these tools were being used as weapons when all weapons are banned for general public in Okinawa and these are confined only to military men. Martial arts practitioners in Okinawa then turned their faring tools into weapons and developed a system to train with them to protect themselves.

Most common Kobudo weapons are Bo (six feet staff), SAI (three-pronged truncheon), Tonfa (gripped by the short perpendicular handle or by the longer main shaft), Nanchaku (two sections of wood (or metal in modern incarnations) connected by a cord or chain).

Some pouplar Kobudo katas are :

  • Chatan Yara No Kon Sho
  • Sakugawa No Kon
  • Shishi No Kun
  • Tokumine No Kun
  • Choun No Kon
  • Sakugawa No Kon

 

Unfortunately worldwide practice and popularity of Kobudo is getting vanished and the same is going to be an extinct martial arts in near future. One thing is that dojos are not equipped with Kobudo weapons and the other thing is that lack of competent trainers in this art. We are lucky that we have a strong linage from International Okinwan Kobudo and our senior masters are well versed in this art, and our dojo is equipped with sufficient Kobudo weapons. A regular training sessions is going on Wednesday’s in our dojo.