translation is from the website of Sanzinsoo (email@example.com)
Sanzinsoo: Okinawan Gojuryu Karate and is reprinted
here with his permission. Translation copyright © Sanzinsoo.
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This short article first appeared in "Bunka Okinawa"
Vol.3 No.6 dated August 15, 1942, and re-appeared as
an appendix in the book "Chugoku Okinawa Karate Kobudo
No Genryu" written by Masahiro Nakamoto published on
April 1, 1985 by Bunbukan.
I don't know when it was changed, but "karate" is now
written with letters as "Empty Hand" instead of "Chinese
Hand". Anyway, I am happy to know that nowadays karate
is popular all over Japan as a unique Okinawan martial
arts, and even it has been officially recognized by
Dai Nippon Butokukai (=Great Japan Fighting Arts and
Moral Association) as one of Japanese fighting arts.
However, without doubt, I am sure that the roots of
karate is in China. I suppose the prototype karate might
be modified in various ways in my home Okinawa, but
I think it is worth enough as we can see the evolution
of karate which was influenced by the uniqueness of
Okinawan culture. Therefore, maybe, it is not unreasonable
to change the letters of karate as "Empty Hand" instead
of "Chinese Hand".
Anyway, this time I would like to tell you my private
opinion regarding, of course, karate as follows.
I have heard that it is not sure but there is a martial
art called "Three Hand" in India. I don't know the original
Indian name. "Three Hand" is the direct translation
of Chinese language from Indian language. I suppose
maybe such a martial art was brought to China from India
by Darma during the Emperor Wu dynasty, and it became
the origin of Shaolin Temple. It is very interesting
for me that I saw the performance of martial arts played
by a Filipino youth when I visited Hawaii last year.
I was so impressed and very delighted to find that there
is a similarity in techniques between the Filipino youth's
martial arts and our karate. Regrettably, I lost the
notebook in which I wrote down the youth's name and
the name of his fighting arts in alphabets. I suppose
it might be kept somewhere else, so I still have a chance
to tell you the names if I find it.
I think Shaolin kungfu is a newly systematized fusion
of previously existent classical Chinese martial arts
and Indian martial arts. This opinion has not been proved
yet. We require more research on this hypothesis.
I have been practicing karate for a long time, but I
have not yet mastered the core or truth of karate. I
feel as if I walk alone on a distant path in the darkness.
The further I go, the more distant the path will become,
but that is why the truth is precious. If we go forward
to find the truth of karate by all our strength of mind
and body, we would be rewarded little by little and
day by day. The truth is near but hard to reach.
My friend, Mr. Jingyu told me the maxim as follows:
"The ultimate formula to the truth is no formula. If
you wish to master no formula, you have to master a
formula. If you master a formula and no formula at the
same time, you can transcend live and death." I suppose
the ultimate formula to the truth is Tao, the Way. I
cannot understand this maxim well, but sometimes I feel
I understand it well. I think we have to master "a formula
and no formula", then we can study karate in depth and
get the truth of karate.
This is a miscellaneous essay for which I have not prepared,
so let me talk about another subject. As to karate
styles, I hear there are two types, the southern type
and the northern type. In the aspect of techniques,
the southern type specializes in upper body and hand
techniques, so it has soft, gentle and quiet features.
It is defensive in the fighting. On the other hand,
the northern type specializes in lower body and leg
techniques, so it has hard and active features. It is
aggressive in the fighting. The former steps forward
to thrust and steps back to block. The latter steps
forward to kick and steps forward again to throw down
an opponent. Of course both types thrust, kick and throw
down, but the point of view is different each other.
Now I would like to tell you about "Heishu" or "Heishu
Kata" and "Kaishu" or "Kaishu Kata" to give some information
to those who study karate. "Heishu" means fundamental
Katas. Before entering the way of karate, you have to
develop your body and mind by doing Sanchin exercise
of Gojuryu. I will explain in detail. You stand
straight firmly with stable stance of feet, and hands
positioned properly, breathing harmoniously, then you
can feel Sanchin ecstasy. It is a still version of Sanchin.
We also have active version of Sanchin which has another
name "Peppuren". Usually we call Sanchin for both versions.
Tanden (= a point a couple of inches below the navel),
the back of the head and the buttocks are three focus
points on which you have to concentrate your attention
during Sanchin exercise. Brief instructions are
the following. Tuck your chin in. Lift the back of your
head high. Focus on Tanden (= a point a couple of inches
below the navel) to charge with the energy. Your buttocks
should be tucked in. These three focus points are not
originally separated from each other, but have inseparable
relationship. In addition to them, there is another
focus point: the middle point between the eyebrows.
I have heard that principles of Zen and other sitting
meditations are the same as Sanchin.
When I see karate-do in Okinawa, I think we tend to
pay too little attention to "Heishu Kata" such as Sanchin.
What do you think of this? Therefore, even if I see
your best performance of "Kaishu Kata", I would not
be satisfied with it and I feel something is lacking
for perfection, as you do not have a stable and fundamental
base powered by Sanchin. Hearing my opinion regarding
"Heishu Kata" or Sanchin, Mr. Jingyu, my friend told
me an interesting story as follows. "I" in the story
is Mr. Jingyu himself, not me.
"Although my knowledge is limited, but I heard the following
about so-called the South style Chinese paintings namely
the paintings of the South Zong dynasty, and the paintings
of the North Zong dynasty. Strong and vital strokes
of paintings are the characteristics of Li Si-Xun who
is believed to be the founder of the North style Chinese
paintings. I feel strongness and toughness as steel
when I see his favorite painting technique called 'Cut
by Large and Small Axes'. On the other hand, pure
and gentle strokes of paintings are the characteristics
of Wang Wei, the founder of South style Chinese paintings.
His painting way is called 'the Classic Style of Playing
with Threads'. They say that Mr. Wang Wei is on a vegetarian
diet and never eats meat, so his works reveals auras
of tranquility and purity. It is not exaggerate to praise
that Mr. Dong Qi-Chang calls him the King of Paintings.
According to a certain book, the difference of both
styles is derived from the different natural environment
of the Yellow River valley in the north and the Yangtze
River valley in the south. Also according to a
certain man who traveled around China for a long time,
the difference of the North paintings and the South
ones is derived from the different character of each
natural environment. In short, the South style of painting
is idealism, light, flexible, gentle and quiet. On the
contrary, the North style of painting is strong, solemn,
magnificent and dynamic. If we apply it to Chinese
fighting arts, it is completely coincident with each
other. I think it has some hints."
The writer really agreed with Mr. Jingyu. He continued
the story as follows.
"I think the relation between 'Heishu' and 'Kaishu'
in karatedo is similar to the relation between the square
style of writing Chinese letters and the cursive style
of writing Chinese letters in the calligraphy, the Way
of Writing. 'Heishu' is 'the square style', while 'Kaishu'
is 'the cursive style'. The square style of writing
is quiet and calm, while the cursive style of writing
is active and dynamic. Therefore, obviously we can see
which one is the fundamentals. It is also clear that
we should go forward step by step from the fundamentals."
Again, I nodded and completely agreed with him. I think
all the arts originated from the same roots and have
the same Way. At the end of this essay, I will
give you a phrase which is quoted from the famous book
"Bubishi" or "Wubeizhi" written by Mao Yuan-yi in the
late Ming era, in which he commented on the martial
arts by taking examples of calligraphy and horsemanship.
"If you master how to stroke Chinese letters, then I
can teach you all the techniques of calligraphy. If
you master how to take the saddle, then I can teach
you all the techniques of horsemanship."