Okinawan Karate – World-class traditional culture.
High-level techniques and spirituality fostered in Okinawa’s own history and culture.
■History of karate, which was born in Okinawa
There are various theories about the roots of karate, but it is said that karate was originally a martial art of self-defense practiced by the samurai class of the Ryukyu Kingdom as basic education. A Chinese deputy envoy, Xu Baoguang, visited Ryukyu in 1719, and introduced a Ryukyuan word “拳頭打 (Teiichikun)” in the book “Chuzan denshin roku” which he wrote in 1721. This word is considered to be the current word “正拳 (Tidikun)”. It is speculated that the martial arts called “手 (ti)” using “Tidikun” was already born around this time.
A history book, “Kyuyo”, also introduced the fact that Bojutsu (stick fighting) had been propagated in a rural location in the early 18th century. Various kinds of “kata (forms)” were soon generated through “手 (ti)”, including a unique training method using training tools such as “Makiwara”, a martial art of self-defense with bare hands, and a martial art which uses equipment such as Bo (stick) and Sai (piercing weapon). It completed and evolved the Okinawan Karate world. Karate, which was completed in the Ryukyu Kingdom, achieved further development through efforts made by Matsumura Sokon, Higashionna Kanryo, Matsumura Kosaku, and other predecessors. After Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) in 1879, karate has been widely spread to school education and the general public through efforts made by Itosu Anko etc.
■Noble spirit fostered by training
Okinawan Karate highly values the fostering of self-defense skills as well as a noble spirit through physical and mental training. Through practice and training of kata, training tools such as “Makiwara” and face-to-face skills, one will develop Tidikun that can crush bone, a kick as sharp as a spearhead, an immovable heart that remains calm in all situations, and “Mejikara (the ability to convey strong emotions with one’s eyes)” which suppresses the actions of the attacking opponent.
Only those karate practitioners who mastered the “force of arms” obtained through practicing skills as well as physical and mental training, and a noble spirit as a person of character are called “samurai”. The noble “samurai” spirit has been passed down to the current karate practitioners.
■Origin of the spread of karate across the world
Karate has been handed down by many people from the birthplace Okinawa to all over the world. Yabu Kentsu, known as a karate practitioner in Shuri, stopped in Hawaii on his way back to Japan from Los Angeles in 1927, while Miyagi Chōjun, a pioneer of Goju-ryu, travelled to Hawaii when he was invited by a Hawaiian newspaper company, “Yokoku Jiho Sha”, in 1934. Both taught karate there. After the Pacific War, those karate practitioners who moved to South America or North America have trained many disciples maintaining coordination with karate practitioners living in Okinawa. Some of them traveled alone to Europe, to countries such as France or Spain, and worked hard to train many disciples. There is also a case where US soldiers and civilians were fascinated by karate in Okinawa under US military reign, trained and strived to spread karate in their home country.
In 1922, Funakoshi Gichin moved to Tokyo to introduce karate in the 1st Sports Athletics Exhibition held in Tokyo. Gichin settled in Tokyo and put all of his energy into spreading karate at “Meishojuku” which was the Okinawa Prefecture student dormitory. Then, in Kansai, Mabuni Kenwa, Miyagi Chōjun and others also started to spread karate. The karate form taught by Funakoshi flourished as Shotokan-ryu, while another form taught by Mabuni flourished as Shito-ryu. Both have spread around the world.
After the war, karate, including the so-called “four major schools” consisting of Shotokan-ryu, Shito-ryu, Goju-ryu, and Wado-ryu (founded by Otsuka Hironori) rapidly spread and developed all over the world, originating from Okinawa.
■Peace-making martial art and observance of courtesy
“There is no attacking first in karate.”
“Be not harmed by others, and do not harm others. No harm is the philosophy of karate.”
These wise words left by the Okinawan Karate predecessors also express spirituality as a peace-making martial art that respects courtesy. Learning of the observance of courtesy as well as techniques and technical matters is exactly the reason why many karate enthusiasts come from overseas to visit Okinawa.