Remarks: This essay was written and prepared by Master
Chojun Miyagi especially for the club members when he
gave us the lecture "About Karatedo" and its demonstration
at the lecture hall on the 4th floor of Meiji Shoten
at Sakaisuji, Osaka on 28th January 1936.
is karate? It is the art we exercise mind and body for
health promotion in daily life, but in case of emergency
it is the art of self-defence without any weapon. In
most cases we fight with our bodies - hands, feet, elbows
etc - to defeat opponents. However, in some cases, in
accordance with circumstances, we may also use weapons
(such as Bo, Sai, Nunchaku, Tonfa, Weeku, Kama etc).
often misunderstand karate. When they see someone breaking
five wooden board or a few pieces of roof tile by his
or her fist, they think it is a main part of karate.
Of course, it is not a main part of karate but a trivial
part of karate. Like other fighting arts, the truth
of karate or Tao of karate can be understood and mastered
at the ultimate goal which is beyond teachings and impossible
to describe by words.
2. How the martial arts was introduced to Ryukyu
name "karate" is a special term in Ryukyu. Karate originated
from Chinese kungfu. We have few books on origin of
Chinese kungfu, so we cannot conclude immediately, but
according to a theory, the martial arts originated in
central Asia and the area around Turkey when the ancient
civilization was developed. And then it was introduced
to China gradually. However, we still another theory.
It says that about 5,000 years ago Chinese kungfu originated
at the age of Yellow Emperor (= Emperor Huang) who built
the brilliant culture at the Yellow River basin. Anyway,
it is not difficult to imagine that the prototype of
martial arts was born by fighting spirit for struggle
which human being possess by nature. For example, most
styles of Chinese kungfu were created by mimicking fights
of animals or birds. You can see it from the styles'
names such as Tiger Style, Lion Style, Monkey Style,
Dog Style, Crane Style and so on. In the age a little
later, Chinese kungfu split into Southern school and
Northern school. Moreover, each school split into Neijia
and Waijia. The characteristic of Neijia is mainly softness,
and it is a defensive fighting arts. Wudang kungfu (=
Taichi for example) is typical of Neijia. The characteristic
of Waijia is mainly hardness, and it is an aggressive
fighting arts. Shaolin kungfu is typical of Waijia,
which was created at Shaolin Temple in Songshang Mountaion,
later, in the ages of Tang dynasty and Song dynasty,
we can find many kungfu warriors at the height of their
we consider how karate was introduced to Ryukyu (= Okinawa),
we have various opinions without any historical evidence.
We have not yet come to a correct conclusion on this
matter. There are three main opinions, namely "Thirty-six
Chinese Immigrants", "Oshima Notes" and "Importation
in Keicho Period". Simple explanation of each opinion
are as follows.
In 1392 (Ming dynasty
in China), thirty-six Chinese immigrants came to
Ryukyu from Fujian province. At that time karate
was introduced to Ryukyu by Chinese immigrants from
In 1762, the merchant
ship of the Ryukyu Kingdom was caught in a heavy
storm on the way to Satsuma (= Kagoshima prefecture
now), and cast ashore on the coast of Oshima, Tosa
(= Kochi prefecture now). Shiohira Pechin, a high
rank official of the ship, was an intelligent person.
He was helped by Choki Tobe, an intellectual who
lived in Oshima. Tobe wrote down Shiohira's interesting
stories about the Ryukyu Kingdom. His notes was
called "Oshima Notes". The 3rd volume of "Oshima
Notes" says "Koshankun, a kungfu warrior, came from
China to Ryukyu (= Okinawa) bringing his disciples
with him." According to the Notes, at that time
people called the martial arts "Kumiaijutsu" instead
of karate. This notes is the most reliable literature
in Keicho Period
In 1609 (14th year
of Keicho period), the Shimazu clan of Satsuma (=
Kagoshima prefecture now) invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom,
and they prohibited possessing weapons by people
of Ryukyu. Some believe that karate was created
spontaneously due to the cruel oppression by Satsuma.
The others insist that karate was not a domestic
creation but what was imported from China. I think
it is reasonable to consider that karate was a fusion
of a martial arts from China and "Te" a native martial
arts which had already existed, so karate was developed
remarkably and even today it is still improved rationally
and developed. We have a few different opinions
on origin of karate, but they are popular misconceptions
and not worth listening.
As mentioned above,
so far we do not have any definite and convincing
opinion yet. Anyway, karate has been developed,
modified and improved for so many years.
3. Karate circles in the past
also do not know origin of the name "karate", but it
is true that the name "karate" was made recently. In
the old days it was called "Te". At that time people
used to practice karate secretly, and a masters taught
a few advanced Kata out of all the Kata only to his
best disciple. If he had no suitable disciple, he never
taught them anyone, and eventually such Kata have completely
died out. As a result, there are many Kata which were
not handed down. In about middle of Meiji period (1868-1912),
prominent karate masters abolished the old way of secrecy.
Karate was opened to the public, so it was soon recognized
by society. It was dawn in the development of karate.
In accordance with the rapidly progressing culture,
karate was also recognized as physical education, and
it was adopted as one of the teaching subjects at school.
Therefore, at last karate has won the social approval.
4. How we teach karate at present.
to oral history, in the old days, the teaching policy
of karate put emphasis on self-defence techniques. With
just a motto of "no first attack in karate", teachers
showed their students the moral aspects. However, I
heard that in reality they tended to neglect such moral
principles. So gradually the teaching policy was improved
with the change of the times. Now we discontinued and
abolished the wrong tradition of so-called "body first,
and mind second", and we made our way toward Tao of
fighting arts or the truth of karate. Eventually we
have obtained the correct motto "mind first, and body
second" which means karate and Zen are the same.
who are engaged in teaching karate in Okinawa prefecture
and outside Okinawa prefecture at present are as follows.
(in random order)
In Okinawa prefecture:
Kentsu Yabu, Chomo
Hanashiro, Chotoku Kyan, Anbun Tokuda, Juhatsu Kyoda,
Choshin Chibana, Jinsei Kamiya, Shinpan Shiroma,
Seiko Higa, Kamado Nakasone, Jin-an Shinzato, Chojun
Outside Okinawa prefecture:
Choki Motobu, Kenwa Mabuni, Masaru Sawayama, Sanyu
Sakai, Moden Yabiku, Jizaburo Miki, Yasuhiro Konishi,
Shinji Sato, Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke Higaonna, Shinjun
Otsuka, Shin Taira, Koki Shiroma, Kanbun Uechi
5. About karate styles or Ryu
are various opinions about Ryu or styles of karate in
Ryukyu (= Okinawa), but they are just guess without
any definite research or evidence. With regard to this
matter, we feel as if we are groping in the dark.
to a popular opinion out of them, we can categorize
karate into two styles; Shorin-Ryu and Shorei-Ryu. They
insist that the former is fit for a stout person, while
the latter for a slim person. However, such an opinion
proved to be false by many studies. In the meantime,
there is the only opinion we can trust. It is as follows:
In 1828 (Qing or Ching dynasty in China), our ancestors
inherited a kungfu style of Fujian province in China.
They continued their studies and formed Goju-Ryu karate.
Even today, there still exists an orthodox group which
inherited genuine and authentic Goju-Ryu karate.
6. The feature of karate
Some good points
of karate are as follows.
(1) A large place
or a spacious area is not required for practicing
(2) You can practice
karate by yourself. You can also do it together
with other karate members by forming a group.
(3) You don't have
to spend many hours in practicing karate.
(4) You can choose
Kata suitable for your physical strength and practice
it regardless of age and gender.
(5) Without spending
much money, you can practice karate with simple
equipment (such as Makiwara) or without it.
(6) Karate is very
effective as a means of health promotion. There
are many karateka who are healthy and live long.
(7) As a result of
training in mind and body, you can cultivate your
character and acquire indomitable spirit.
7. The future of karate-do
days when karate was taught secretly was over, and has
come the new age in which we practice and study karate
publicly and officially. Therefore, the future of karate-do
is bright. Taking this opportunity, we should stop advertising
karate as if it was a mysterious and magical fighting
arts in a small island called Ryukyu. We should open
karate to the public and receive criticism, opinions
and studies from the other prominent fighting artists.
In the future, we should invent complete protectors
for a safety karate tournament like other fighting arts,
so that karate become one of Japanese fighting arts.
karate-do has become popular all over Japan, where many
people study karate-do very hard. Even outside Japan,
karate-do is popular. There is a man who graduated from
university in Tokyo. He is now propagating and studying
karate-do in Europe. In May 1934, I was invited to propagate
and teach karate-do in Hawaii, U.S.A. by Okinawans there
and a newspaper company. Karate clubs have been established
in Hawaii since then.
mentioned above, now karate-do has become not only a
Japanese martial arts but also an international martial
8. The teaching method of karate
each person has his or her distinctive character, the
muscle development is different depending on his or
her muscle use. Therefore, at first, we do "Preparatory
Exercise" to develop our muscles so that we can practice
karate exercises easier, and then "Fundamental Kata",
"Supplementary Exercise", "Kaishu Kata" and "Kumite
Training". We teach karate in this way. Each outline
is as follows.
We exercise each muscle
of our body in order to enhance its flexibility,
strength and endurance, and then we practice the
fundamental Kata, namely Sanchin, Tensho and Naifanchi.
We do again this preparatory exercise after practice
of Kata to relax our muscles. And we take a breathing
exercise and take a rest quietly.
Sanchin, Tensho and
Naifanchi are the fundamental Kata. Through practicing
them, we can take a correct posture. We can inhale
and exhale correctly. We can adjust increasing or
decreasing our power harmoniously. We can develop
a powerful physique and a strong will of warrior.
This exercise enable
us to learn and perform Kaishu Kata well. We exercise
each part of our body with a particular movement.
We also practice with various equipments to enhance
our outer whole strength and particular part strength.
Kata (= Kata except Fundamental Kata)
Nowadays we have about
twenty or thirty kinds of Kata, and their names
are various depending on their creators. Kata has
techniques of defense and offense which are connected
appropriately. It has various directions of the
movements and it is something like gymnastics. We
should perform Kata by using power of mind and body
in accordance with its technical purpose so that
we can learn the principle of untying and tying.
We untie Kaishu Kata
which we already learned, and we study techniques
of defense and offense in Kaishu Kata. Understanding
its technical purpose, we practice the techniques
of attack and defense with fighting spirit like
a real situation.