Dialogue between Chōshin Chibana and Shōshin Nagamine


This dialogue between Chōshin Chibana, Shōrin (Ko-Bayashi) Ryū Karatedō Shihan, Okinawa Karate Federation Chairman, and Shōshin Nagamine, Shōrin (Matsu-Bayashi) Ryū Karatedō Shihan, Okinawa Karate Federation Vice-Chairman, was first published in the Okinawa Times in 2 parts in 1957.
The article was originally sent by Andreas Quast to Lara Chamberlain and was translated in September 2020 by Aritomo Ito and published on Thekaratepage.com by Olaf Steinbrecher in November 2021, after consultation with Andreas Quast and Aritomo Ito.

Ancient Tī and Tōde (Chinese hand) integrated Kata of Kyan and fighting ability of Motobu

Nagamine:
It seems that Karate existed before it came from China.

 

Chibana:
This is what I heard from my teacher, Ankō Itosu (deceased at 95 years old in Taishō 5[1916]), there was an Okinawan indigenous art called "Tī". Heroic episodes of Uni-uhugushiku and such can support that notion. It is said that Tōde (Chinese hand) came in later on, and "Tī" of Chatan-Yara and Kenpo of Tōde Sakugawa were integrated and developed into Karate. Kenpo (Chuan-fa) taught in Okinawa by a Chinese man called Kūsankū became the Kata Kūsankū, three Naifanchi and five Pin'an were also taught by Chinese people who resided in Tomari, and Itosu sensei modified these Kata upon learning directly from those Chinese people.

 

Attending Dojo in secrecy

Chibana:
I am one of the direct disciples of Itosu sensei. I started my training at sensei's house in Ishimine, Shuri when I was 15 years old. When he had a visitor, I had to hide in a bush wet with rain around his residence, and restart the lesson after the visitor left. Back then, the general public thought of Karate as a tool for fight. I kept my training as a secret for at least 2-3 years because I could've gotten ambushed if they found out about my karate training. Around that time, there were a lot of thugs in Torihori, Akata or Sakiyama (Shuri). Many came to my house requesting a duel, but I gently made them go home.

 

Nagamine:
Which masters were in Shuri area back then?

 

Chibana:
Everyone was over 80 years of age. For civilian class, Yamane Usumē and Ufuchiku Usumē. For samurai class, Ishimine, Kaneshiro, Kiyuna Pēchin, Chōshō Chibana, Sakihara, Ryōsei Kuwae, Tabata Mēgantō and Ankō Itosu. Of all these sensei, I have met Kuwae, Yamane Usumē and Chōshō Chibana.

*知念三良 Sanra Chinen 1842-1925

**金城大筑 Kinjō Ufuchiku 1834-1916 (大筑Ufuchiku = 警察署長Police captain)

ウスメ― 御主前 Usumē = civilian class old man

 

Nagamine:
Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te were mostly same but Naha-Te was different. Matsumura sensei from Shuri was…

 

Chibana:
Oh, yes. Matsumura sensei passed away when I was 9 years old. Tall and thin. His eyes were big and as if they were popping out.

 

Nagamine:

Yes, I heard that Umē (madam) was also a Bushi (Karate master) …

ウメ― 御前 Umē = Madam, Mrs.

 

Chibana:
Yes, Umē (madam) was Tsurū from Yonahara, who was said to be very strong. Tanmē (Matsumura sensei) was famous for his technical talent, and Umē (madam) was also famous for her sheer power.

タンメー 父之前 Tanmē = samurai class old man

 

Power 50 and technique 50

Nagamine:

It is said that Naifanchi uses all power, Passai uses half power and half skill (technique and agility), and Kūsankū uses free body movements.

 

Chibana:
There is a story. Back then, a strong man named Magī Ōshima came to Okinawa and bullied around Tsuji town every night. Three Bushi, Ukuta, Matsumoto and Chān Makabi, challenged this Magī Ōshima, but Ōshima defeated lightweight Makabi by pushing him around and defeated powerful Ukuta by even more powerful brute force, but Matsumoto finally defeated Ōshima by power 50 and technique 50.

 

Nagamine:
So, as if Makabe would be Kūsankū, Ukuta would be Naifanchi and Matsumoto would be Passai.
Who were under Itosu sensei?

 

Chibana:
Kentsū Yabu (Sergeant Yabu), Chōmo Hanashiro, Chōtoku Kyan (Chan-Mī-Guwā), Chōtō Yamakawa and Chōken Kina were senior to me (senpai) and Ntā Chinen, Kenwa Mabuni, Shinpan Gusukuma, Anbun Tokuda, etc. were my peers (Dōhai), but I'm the only survivor now. Also, Chōyū Motobu, and his brother Chōki (Sārā[=monkey]), Mōden Yabiku, etc. were also there.

 

Nagamine:
Out of ones whom I received direct instructions, two sensei impressed me the most; Chōtoku Kyan sensei for Karate Kata and Chōki Motobu sensei for his fighting ability.
(Mr. Kyan passed away in Ishikawa at 76 years old after the war.)

 

No first strike in Karate

Chibana:
It is often said "No first strike in Karate", which means to value respect and courtesy.

 

Nagamine:
There are three timings; "Sen-no-sen", "Sen" and "Go-no-sen". We should not initiate the violence, so the use of "Go-no-sen" is the ideal. In other words, it means that we are to stand up to unreasonable violence. Sōkon Matsumura (Chinese name: Wu chengda, Art name: Unyū, Secretary to three great kings Shōkō, Shōiku and Shōtai) went to China and Satsuma, learned Tōde in China and Jigenryu (sword) of Satsuma and is considered the ancestor of karate-do. There is a line "Seven Virtues of Bu [Martial Arts]" in a scroll that was gifted to his favorite disciple, Ryōsei Kuwae, which reads:
Bu prohibits violence, disciplines soldiers, keeps control among the people, recognizes achievement, gives people a peace of mind, maintains harmony among people, and makes people prosperous.
Itosu Sensei opened up Karate, which was then only for Samurai class, to the general public and proposed the 10 precepts of Budo to the government of the time in Meiji 41 (1908). He emphasized that Budo is a way to achieve long and healthy life, and should be included in the school education system.

 

Chibana:
At his cottage in Kowan, the king Shōkō ordered Matsumura Sensei to fight a bull, so Matsumura Sensei requested for a few days of preparation time. He went to the cattle barn every night wearing a piece of white cloth, and kept beating up the bull.  Seeing Matsumura Sensei wearing the same piece of white cloth, the bull hesitated. And, that is when Matsumura Sensei captured the bull's horn and took it to the ground.
Another story of him. In Tsuji-machi, a samurai of Satsuma was on a rampage with his sword drawn. Sensei told surrounding people to put the light out, and threw his cloths at the samurai. The samurai thought it was a man jumping in and tried to chop the cloths, Sensei leaped towards the Samurai and pinned him down. Such a quick wit.

 

Nagamine:
Matsumora of Tomari is often compared to Matsumura of Shuri. Matsumora Sensei was said to be first instructed Karate by a venerable old man Teruya in Tomari, and later given a secret teaching of Tōde by a Chinese man named Furufērin who came to Tomari beach on a drifted ship. Matsumora sensei always lead the Hārī boat race; one day, he saw a man ganged up on by multiple thugs, and decided to let those thugs beat up himself in the man's place without any resistance. Kōsaku Matsumora Sensei was an ideal warrior in Tomari. When a Satsuma samurai had his sword drawn and went on a rampage, Sensei picked up a rock, placed it in his towel and with which he successfully captured the sword…

(Section missing…)

... carried Tamanaha to his home. Next morning, Ishimine brought a monetary gift to Tamanaha sick in bed, and apologized that it was his fault, but Tamanaha replied that he has no regret. Tamanaha passed away shortly after this event. They took a pride in fighting with dignity in those days.

 

Nagamine:
Essence of Karate shares an element of Japanese Bushido after all, doesn't it?

 

Tough era

Chibana:
Although everything was much relaxed in the old days, the society was also quite turbulent and we had many robbery cases. It is natural for Karate to be taught as Self-protection. A man called Mēgantō of Tabata was famous for his kicks. When he was on his way back from Tsuji-machi, walking through Jukkanji road and reaching Sūkōji temple, a woman requested him to walk along to Shuri because the night walk was scary, so he accepted to do so. A masked bandit with a 6ft Bō staff showed up and tried to take money or cloths from Sensei.  Sensei told the bandit to bring it. Taking the Bō staff that was swung at him, Sensei threw the bandit on the ground and pull the mask off. It was a monk, and the woman was plotting the robbery with the monk. The monk pledged for a mend and became a disciple of Mēgantō. Also, there was an outlaw interrupting a wedding procession at night, and it was too much for the groom's men. Mēgantō was passing by and taught the outlaw a lesson. Although Mēgantō politely declined, the wedding people half forcibly brought him to the wedding ceremony. Martial discipline was very important in those days.

 

Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu

Nagamine:
Karate is said to be founded by Daruma Taishi (Bodhidharma) 1400 years ago.  While on his mission to popularize Buddhism at Shaolin temple in Fuchien province, he concerned that the physical health of his disciples deteriorated significantly so he crafted a fitness method in order to strengthen their health before continuing the Buddhism teaching. That became Shorin Kenpo (Shaolin Chuanfa) and spread around China. Later, it was developed into Karate by integrating the Okinawan indigenous martial art and the strength of Shaolin Boxing. Fist punch is not included in the striking techniques of Chinese art.  Instead, they use open hands techniques or bird beak hands (Bent fingers). Striking art that uses fist punches as the main weapon is unique to Okinawa.  Rokkishu (Six hands = usage of hands) is shown in the Chinese Bubishi (Wu Bei Zhi), but it does not show fist punches.

 

Nagamine:
In Okinawa, King Shohashi unified three mountains (kingdoms) approximately 500 years ago, and governed the nation with law and academics, but incorporated merits of Chinese martial arts. Also, Karate seems to be drastically developed for 200 years in the shade of a martial regulation by Satsuma clan. Rumor has it that Karate was handed down from Tode Sakugawa or Tode Sakiyama, but the "Ti" unique to Okinawa was already there before them. Karate had two schools, Shorin-ryu mainly of samurai class in Shuri and Tomari, and Shorei-Ryu of four towns of Naha.  Shorin-Ryu had split into Ko-Bayashi Shorin-Ryu (Choshin Chibana) and Matsu-Bayashi Shorin-Ryu (Shoshin Nagamine), and Shorei-Ryu (Kanryo Higaonna) had split into Goju-Ryu (Chojun Miyagi) and Uechi-Ryu.  These four schools came together to establish Okinawa Karatedo Renmei (federation) on May 29th, 1956. Figuring out how we can utilize this intangible cultural asset handed down from our ancestors will be the next task.

 

Kobudo shall be preserved

Chibana:
Studying recent Kata is necessary, but preserving old Kata is also important.

 

Nagamine:
Kobujutsu (self-protection method using objects instead of Karate that uses empty hands) should be preserved in parallel with Karate. One should be using some type of weapon when facing an assailant with a blade.  An attitude of going empty handed against a weapon does not give me a good impression. Purpose of Kobujutsu is self-defense as well. Bo-jutsu, Sai-jutsu, Nunchaku, Toifa, Suruchin, Tenbe, etc are currently being passed down.

 

Chibana:
Yamanni usume and Chojo Oshiro were known master of Bo.  Hohan Sokashi from Nishihara Gaja was a master of Bo, Sai and Kama. Nowadays, Shin'ei Kyan does Sai.

 

Nagamine:
About Dojo these days, Yuchoku Higa (Shorin-Ryu), Eiichi Miyazato (Goju-Ryu), Seiko Higa (Goju-Ryu), Katsuya Miyahira (Shorin-Ryu), Kan'ei Uechi (Uechi-Ryu),Shugoro Nakazato (Shorin-Ryu), Seikichi Toguchi (Goju-Ryu) and so on have their own dojo, and students are total of 1000, roughly.

 

Karate Boom in the Mainland

Chibana:
Too little for the home of karate. According to Higa, there are approximately 700,000 Karate students in the mainland, and three dojos in Hawaii too.

 

Nagamine:
So many dojos in the mainland and each dojo is giving dan as they please.  It is good that it's popular, but most are too sloppy. Since Gichin Funakoshi Sensei moved to Tokyo in 1922, his achievement of popularizing Karate is huge.  That Karate is spreading after the war, but the content is insufficient and it seems to be show-like. Many "So-and-so Ryu" are being created in the mainland.
I am not sure if it is a worthy development of Karatedo after all.

 

Chibana:
Karate in the motion pictures is like an acrobatic show.

 

Karate chop of Rikidosan

Nagamine:
People are making noise about the Karate Chop of Rikidosan, but his technique is nothing but a sumo slap performed in a vertical fashion. With such a good physique and sharpening that one technique, it would be a highly effective Shuto.

 

Chibana:
It is probably a lie that he learned it from Shikina Oki (Hawaiian pro-wrestler from Okinawa)

 

Nagamine:
I spoke with Shikina Oki when he came back to Okinawa. I think he is inexperienced in karate. Around Showa 2 (1927), Jigoro Kano Sensei of Judo visited [Okinawa] to see Atemi (Strikes) of Karate, and later crated a Judo exercise using them.

 

Gymnastics and Self-Protection

Chibana:
Karate is primarily for mental and physical training and secondly for self-protection. I have taught to roughly 2000 disciples in the last 40 years, but none of them have ever been arrested or down with tuberculosis.  I strongly believe that Karate helps strengthening internal organs. I was always weak during my boyhood with digestive disorder.  I became a disciple or Itosu Sensei, but he was reluctant in teaching me at the beginning.
"Why do you want to learn Ti?"
"Because my body is weak."
"Then, do gymnastics at school."
"I think Karate is the best remedy for health."
"Come see me next time."

 

I came home after having a discussion, and visited him again after 4-5 days.
"You would fight once you learn Ti and become strong, would you not?"
"No, I want to gain my health."
Then, he started asking me about my family, and searched my background. Again, he said: "Come see me next time."
So I felt upset, but the next time I visited him again, he asked: "Do you really want to get fit? Are you going to do it wholeheartedly?"

 

After that, he took me in as a disciple. He was confirming my seriousness, patience or temperament. So, I started strengthening my sickly weak body on the way to Primary Middle school. Itosu sensei was a gentle sturdy man. 5 shaku 4 sun (roughly 5'4" or 162cm in height),  140 kin (roughly 185lbs or 84kg), he had a very broad shoulder. He was till around 120 kin (roughly 159lbs or 72kg) when he was dying at 95.  I remember his thighs and fists were twice as big as normal person's, he had a great posture, and he ate a lot. It was said that this Itosu sensei cured digestive disorder that he suffered when he was younger.

 

Strengthening without pushing too much

Nagamine:
Because Karate is practiced according to age and physical strength, it's not overwhelming. Trying to force oneself beyond the limit is out of karatedo.

 

Chibana:
Youngsters brag about breaking roof tiles or wood board, which is a shallow idea.  Karate practitioner should be training with Kata, Kumite, Makiwara and others such as Hojo-Undo. When those training come together at high level, Karate power naturally comes out of you.

 

Nagamine:
Indeed. Pushing too much only ruins one's health.

 

Chibana:
My student named Mansho Oshiro, who suffered pleuritis, had built his health by practicing Karate and passed class A at the military draft test. He had always sent me letters from the front line saying he wished the war would end soon and hoped to get back to Karate training with me.  This young man was a company commander and died at the Burma front. Even a sickly person can train Karate. I wouldn't make such person go through a regular training, but make him train lightly as if dancing.  And, making his mind cheerful lets him forget the disease that he has. A Karate teacher should not only teach Kata, but also has responsibility to improve the health of a student. I am still studying this job as my lifelong work.