Remarks: Chojun Miyagi
Sensei wrote this article for a lecture in Osaka on
May 28, 1936 and it was translated by Toshio Tamano
and others under the direction of Seikichi Togushi
What Is Karate?
Karate is an art which cultivates courage and develops
physical and mental health through its practice. In
addition, karate training enables the individual to
defend himself against physical aggression without reliance
upon weapons. It is also possible, however, to use certain
tools or instruments in one's defense depending on the
often see the breaking of many thick boards or the smashing
of several roof tiles with the bare fist and mistake
these feats for the true purpose of karate training.
This technique is only a minor one. For just as in any
other martial art, the essence of karate training is
the eventual attainment of enlightenment.
History of Ryukyu Kempo (Karate-do)
The name karate is a special term in Okinawa, and if
we look for its origin, we find it can be traced back
to Chinese boxing. Due to the lack of literature on
the subject, the birthplace of Chinese boxing cannot
be definitely established. According to one theory,
it originated In Turkey and the Middle East with the
rise of civilization and slowly spread to India and
China. There are, however, many theories. It is said
that Chinese boxing was already in existence about 5,000
years ago during the Kou Dynasty, which built a great
civilization along the basin of the Yellow River. In
any case, Chinese boxing belongs to ancient times, and
it is not hard to imagine that it came from man's fighting
or competitive nature.
branches of Chinese boxing were all designed to imitate
the fighting movements of animals and birds. This is
evident from the fact the different styles have the
names tiger, lion, monkey and crane. Later, Chinese
boxing was divided into the southern and northern forms.
Furthermore, both styles branched out into two types
of boxing: naika kempo (internal family boxing) and
gaika kempo (external family boxing). The main characteristic
in naika kempo was its softness. Buto kempo represents
naika kempo. The main characteristic of gaika kempo
is hardness. Shorinji kempo (Shaolin Temple boxing)
was typical of gaika kempo. In the Tou and Sou dynasties,
there a golden era of Chinese boxing in which many great
martial artists appeared.
was Chinese boxing introduced to the Ryukyu islands?
There is no definitive historical evidence, but there
are many theories. The three main theories are:
1. The 36 men theory. This theory asserts that in
1392, Chinese men came to the Ryukyu islands and introduced
Chinese boxing to the Ryukyu people.
2. The Oshima Note theory. in l762, a Ryukyu ship
bound for mainland Japan was forced ashore by a storm
at Oshin Tosa, a province of Shikoku island. Among the
crew was an intellectual named Shiohira Pechin Seisei,
who ta about the Ryukyu Islands and their people to
a new scholar of Tosa Province, Choki Tobe. The latter
recognized the conversation in a notebook which was
titled Oshima Hikki (Oshima Note). In the third volume
of the Oshima Note, a section of gossip entitled "Skillful
boxer" relates that a Chinese boxer by the name of Kusanku
traveled the Ryukyu Islands with his students and practiced
what was at that time, called kumiai-/utsu (combat techniques)
This book, then, contains some of the most reliable
literature about the origins of karate in the Ryukyu
3. The after Keicho theory. In the year Keicho 14(1609),the
Satsuma Clan conquered the Ryukyu Islands and established
a regime based on brutal repression. Official policy
prohibited ownership or use of weapons. One theory has
it that for lack of a better means of protection, the
art of karate developed naturally among the defenseless
Okinawans. Another theory asserts it was during this
time of crisis that karate was actually introduced.
One thing is certain: a martial art combining the foreign-introduced
boxing and the native te (hand) style developed rapidly
under the unique circumstances of the times.
are several other theories, but they are popular versions
that are not very reliable. As we can see, there is
no one proven theory, only the fact: karate was evolved
from the past into its present form.
The Karate World In the Past
The origin of the name "karate" in Okinawa is uncertain,
but it is true that it was named not so very long ago.
In the past, it was called te. in those days karate
or te was practiced secretly according to forms which
were passed down from the master to only the best and
highest student. If there was no qualified student,
a form was never passed down and was lost with the passing
of the master's generation. As a result of this practice,
many forms have disappeared. After the late 19th century,
with the advent of many experts and a new teaching method
more suited for the times, the old policy of secrecy
was abandoned and training was conducted in the open.
karate was recognized by the public, and for the first
time there was a ray of hope for karate in the future.
Karate was accepted as part of advancing civilization;
its physical, educational and cultural values were confirmed.
It had completely won public approval.
1904, karate was adopted as part of the physical education
program in Shuri elementary school. This was the first
group instruction in karate history. In April, 1906,
karate clubs were established at Okinawan prefectural
middle schools, Naha Municipal Commercial High School
and Okinawan prefectural school. During the same period,
karate clubs were also established in Okinawan agricultural,
technical and fishery schools. In 1922, karate was first
introduced at the Okinawan police academy and then officially
accepted as a regular curriculum subject like other
Japanese martial arts such as Judo and kendo. In March,
1926, the Okinawan Karate Club was established. On November
21, 1930, it was assimilated to the Okinawan Athletic
Society and became one of that organization's departments.
The Dai-Nippon Butokukai (the Greater Japan Martial
Virtues Association) approved karate as one of the Japanese
martial arts on December 26, 1933. In mainland Japan,
karate clubs were also founded in various schools after
is noteworthy to tell of the honorable events which
have occurred in the karate world: Hirohito, the present
Japanese emperor, then prince, stopped by Okinawa en
route to Europe and watched our karate demonstration
in the Okinawan teacher's school on March 10, 1921.
Also, Prince Chichibu no Miya saw a karate exhibition
at the same school in May, 1925, when he stopped in
Okinawa on his way to England. In 1930, karate people
participated in an exhibition of the Japanese martial
arts on the occasion of the opening festival of Meiji
Jingu Shrine In Tokyo. In May, 1932, there was also
a karate demonstration at the martial arts festival
of Saineikan. In April, 1933, Prince Fushi no Miya and
Prince Kuni no Miya visited Okinawa by a combined fleet
of the Japanese Imperial Navy; we had a great honor
to demonstrate karate for them.
Present State of Karate Instruction
According to traditional legends, karate was taught
in past mainly as a self-defense art, indicating only
slight its content through the slogan: karate ni sente
shiai (There is no first offense in karate). But in
reality, I now observed the neglect of this kind of
spirit constantly. However, with the stream of time,
that teaching policy has wrongly improved and now the
old erroneous report of the body being main and the
mind being next has vanished. Kao training has now reached
the stage of having the ares of faith, unity, fist and
Zen; that is, mind being main and body being next. This
gives hope that karate will receive acclaim of a true
people now teaching karate in Japan include:
Okinawa-Kentsu Yabe, Chomo Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan,
Anbun Tokuda, Chohatsu Kyoda, Choshin Chibana, Jinsei
Kamiya, Shinpan Gusukuma, Seko Higa, Kamato Nakasone,
Jinan Shinsato, Chojun Miyagi.
Okinawa-Gichin Funakoshi, Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni,
Masaru Sawayama, Sanyu Sakai, Moden Yabiku, Nisaburo
Niki, Koyu Konishi, Shinji Sato, Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke
Higaonna, Shinjun Otsuka, Ryoshin Taira, Koki Gusukuma,
About Karate Styles
Presently there are many who theorize about styles of
ryukyu karate, but they are all without firm research
and almost all of their claims are vague speculations.
It seems like fumbling in the dark. One of the popular
theories states that there are shorin-ryu and shorei-ryu
karate, the former suitable for fat people with large
physiques, the latter suitable for people with small
physiques and slight physical strength, people who are
as thin as a willow tree. However, the only theory in
which we can trust is that, in the year Bunsei 11(1879),
Chinese fukien style was brought to Okinawa (by Kanryo
Higashionna) and became goju-ryu karate boxing after
continued improvement. The group which is heir to that
legitimacy still exists with regular succession on Okinawa
CharacteristIcs of Karate
The advantages of karate are as follows:
It can be practiced in a small space.
It can be practiced alone or In a group.
It does not take a long time to practice.
It can be practiced according to body strength, choosing
appropriate forms regardless of sex and age.
It can be performed with simple utensils which do no
quire great expense, or can be conducted while empty
It is effective as a means of exercise for maintaining
As a result of mind and body training, it can build
an indomitable spirit.
Future of Karate-Do
The era of secrecy in karate-jutsu (art of karate) is
already gone, and the time for public training in karate
(way of karate) has come. However, the method of this
approach is still unformed. We should stop calling karate
secret martial art which has been hidden in the small
world of the Ryukyu islands. Karate should be open to
the public and should ask for criticism and study by
all martial artists. Also in the future, hope for the
completion of the long term task of providing protective
equipment for competition. I strongly feel karate must
reach the stage of being able to compete at the same
level as other martial arts and join the general Japanese
the present time, deep interest Is nationally shown
toward karate-do. The enthusiastic study of karate has
sprung all over Japan: in Tokyo and Osaka especially
and from the north of Hokkaido to southern Taiwan (then
occupied by Japan). There are also tendencies among
the martial artists to study karate competitively.
enthusiasm abroad is unexpectedly high. And there is
a person who has gone to Europe to advertise karate-do
and devote himself to its study after graduating from
a university in Tokyo. Furthermore, karate enthusiasm
in Hawaii is extremely vigorous. And in May, 1935, at
the invitation of residing influential people and a
newspaper company, I went there to spread and develop
karate. Already we are witnessing the establishment
of study circles on many of the Hawaiian Islands. As
I have stated, karate-do has already reached the state
of flourishing and developing from a martial art peculiar
to Japan to a worldwide martial art.
Methods of Karate Instruction
The development of man's muscles is varied according
to the way in which they are used. Because of this,
in the beginning of each karate session, one should
do warm-up exercises to prepare and develop the muscles
so that it will be easier to do karate movements. Next,
one should be taught the basic forms, complementary
exercises, open-hand forms (classical kata) and kumite(sparring)
exercises, in that order. Following is the general explanation
of this method:
1. Preparation exercises. Exercise various parts
of the body to soften the muscles and, at the same time,
to develop strength and durability. These exercises
lead to the understanding of karate's basic forms of
sanchin, tensho and naihanchin. Then, after practicing
other forms, perform the exercises again to relax the
muscles, and rest quietly by doing the breathing exercises
2. Kihon kata (basic forms). Sanchin, tensho and
naihanchin are all basic forms, their object to develop
a strong build and martial art spirit by harmonizing
the breath and the power in a correct posture.
3. Complementary exercises. These are exercises
designed to help the student learn forms better, since
the movements are the various techniques taken from
kata (forms). These are done with many kinds of equipment
to develop the body strength and muscles necessary for
4. Kaishu kata (advanced forms). There are between
20 and 30 kinds of these forms. Many named according
to their originators. Kata consist of many gymnastic
movements which various offensive and defensive techniques
that are arranged harmoniously. The movements allow
the student to understand the relationship between spirit
and body, since forms are designed to develop them effectively.
5. Kumite (sparring exercises). After having mastered
several kata, the student should study the true meaning
of the forms' movements and then proceed to apply those
techniques in sparring exercises as if he is in an actual
summation, the teaching method of karate is designed
to cultivate a good martial art spirit through practicing
the materials such as kihon kata (sanchin, tensho and
naihanchin), kaishu kata. and kumite exercises.