The History of the Tomari-te
Tomari-te is not a school or a style, but a tradition where
the old Okinawa Tode-jutsu is preserved. In the Shoreijikan
Association, Tomari-te from the Oyadomari family – Nakaema Seikichi
(from Nago, Okinawa) has been preserved and recently it was
founded the Zen Minami Hankyo Okinawa Tomarite Koukai to preserve
the Nakaema-ha, and Sensei Fernando Cāmara was appointed by
the nephew of this master as the head of the organization.
Many of the information
of this articles was obtained by oral tradition, when some published
work was used, it will be mentioned in the text.
from Tode-jutsu, name that the Chinese Quan Fa took when it
was introduced in Okinawa in the late 18th or earlier 19th Centuries.
This Chinese martial art was introduced by Chinese merchants
that settled down in Okinawa, by Chinese officials in diplomatic
missions, and by the shizoku, youngs of wealthy families that
went to China to improve their studies, culture, and also learn
some martial arts, that in that times took part of education
of noble class. These cultural exchanges continued until the
last half of the 19th Century.
developed particularly in the cities of Shuri, old capital of
the Ryukyu Kingdom, Naha, the current capital, and Tomari. Actually,
what was practiced in Okinawa until the beginning of the 20th
was Chinese Quan Fa (Kung Fu). The modern karate began with
a movement promoted by Itosu Ankoh to prepare physical and psychologically
the students of the Junior and High Schools to serve the Japanese
army. Tode-jutsu was strongly modified for this purpose, that
is, to be teaching in large groups as physical and sporting
practice, being removed all lethal aspects of this fighting
method. Itosu followed the example of Jigoro Kano's modification
of Ju-jutsu in Ju-do, and Tode-jutsu began to be called Karate-jutsu
for emphasize that this new art was now Okinawan, and not Chinese.
Later, when Karate/Tode was introduced into Japan, it started
to integrate the disciplines of Budo and was known officially
With Itosu and
Higashionna, karate become a civilian art of self-defense. The
fall of the feudal structure of Okinawa and the unemployment
of the chikundun Peichin class, leave these men to seek resources
to their survival, and they become to teaching Tode or to work
Karate was organized
in Shuri and in Naha. Tomari also had its masters but they didn't
take participation in this process, perhaps because they were
simple people (Tomari was a city of fishers). However, most
of the Itosu knowledge came from a Tomari master called Gusukuma
and from the Naha master Nagahama, and not from only Sokon Matsumura.
Gusukuma was a disciple of Annan (see below) and of Jion, a
budist monk, who learned the kata of the same name. Aparently,
Gusukuma to Itosu Naifanchi I & II, Rohai, Wanshu and Chintei,
and from Jion he would the personal form of this later, Jion,
and two Sai kata, Jitte and Jiin, that he adapted to empty hand
The most famous
Tomari-te masters were both the chikundun peikin Kosaku Matsumora
(1829-1898), Kokan Oyadomari (1827-1905) and Gikei Yamazato
(1835-1905). They were also disciples of the Chinese Annan (also
Ahnan or Anan) and of Ason, a Chinese sergeant. According Tomari-te
tradition, Annan was a castaway from a shipwreck in the Okinawa
coast. Being a pirate, he that took refuge in the cemetery of
the Tomari's mountains, starting to live in a cave (a tradition
says that this was the master that taught the kata Chinto to
Sokon Matsumura). Matsumora and Oyadomari were also disciples
from two local masters, Kishin Teruya (1804-1864) and Giko Uku
(1800-1850). From Teruya they would learn Passai, Rohai, and
Wanshu, and with Uku the kata Naifanchi. According Shoshin Nagamine
(in "Tales of Okinawa's Great Masters", Tuttle Pub, Boston,
2000), Teruya was considered by Matsumora as his true master.
Matsumora was also an expert in Jo-jutsu (fight method with
a short staff) from Jigen-ryu.
A history repeated
in several Okinawan sources teaches that the successor of Anan
was Kosaku Matsumora. A little before coming back to China,
Anan gave to Matsumora a parchment with a drawing of a woman
in a fighting posture holding a pine tree branch in one of the
hands. According this tradition, that symbol resume the secret
of the Tomari-te school. Now, this symbol attests a transmission
from master to disciple, a succession, being a type of diploma.
But, what means this symbol, what does it transmit? The woman
means lightness, cunning, an agility, that is a light style,
full of feints. She is the spirit of the school. The pine tree
branch represents the transmission of the knowledge through
generations, and symbolizes full knowledge and ability in the
Oyadomari were close friends, and Yamazato followed both, and
by this reason he exchanged kata and techniques, and each one
ordered its students to workout with the another, so Tomari-te
become a unique system. There are small differences between
the Tomarite of Matsumora and Oyadomari, for example, this later
had his own version of Passai (known as Oyadomari-no-Passai)
while Matsumora preserved the original Tomari Passai, that is
shorter (we preserve these two versions as Tomari-no-Passai
Dai and Tomari-no-Passai Sho).
In that time karate
was then a civilian art for self-defense used also to maintain
the good physical condition and to preserve health. In fact,
this was the main reason for which the parents ordered their
children to workout with a master. The master taught in his
house (there are not dojo in that age) by payment or friendship.
There was not open class to the public, because practice of
fights were forbidden as measure of maintaining the public order,
but the authorities did thick views for this activity type.
The masters choice carefully their students because they were
responsible for any problems that their students could casue
to the people. In fact, no rarely a young karateka, feeling
expert in the art after two or three years of training, died
ot kill someone during a challenge.
As a method of
empty hand fight, Tode-jutsu took part of the training of the
imperial guard's members, but it was also spread among the civilians,
particularly those of the classes nobleman and merchant that
could pay to have instructions with a master. These were generally
the chikundun peichin, persons entrusted of maintaining the
public order and the law in the small kingdom of Ryukyu. With
the extinction of the Okinawa’s Kingdom and its annexation to
Japan as a prefecture, an unemployment crisis and poverty took
care of Okinawa and some of these chikundun peichin began to
teach Tode-jutsu to any people to get some money. The purpose
continued being the same: self-defense, health, and philosophy,
according to the Chinese tradition.
The Chinese physicians
introduced physical exercises as universal practice for the
development of the discipline and health. In the Chinese culture
the best medicine for all malaises are breathing exercises and
rhythmic body movements. To this philosophy, the universal cause
of all diseases is the inactivity. Thus, the Chinese doctors,
from the highest antiquity had already observed the value of
these exercises. It is also part of this culture the fact that
the best form of doing physical and breathing exercises is through
imitation of animals movements in fighting. These exercises
were not vigorous as the athletics today. The Tode-jutsu, as
the old Karate incorporated this principles, and had nothing
to do with the modern karate, now a competitive sport and athletics.
the best name to call the old karate before the Japanese Age,
was not a competitive sport, but an ability where survive in
a hostile scenario and to have health to work was the rule.
The lineage of the Tomari-te
The masters of the Tomari-te best known in the century XIX was
Kosaku Matsumora, Kokan Oyadomari and Gikei Yamazato.
From these thre
great masters from Tomarite, the following masters generation
was formed: Nio Sueyoshi (1846-1920), Kinin Kinjo (1856-1897),
Giki Yamazato (1866-1947, son of Gikei), Seikichi Nakaema (1866-1932),
Koho Kuba (1870-1942), Kamado Higa (1871-1930) and Kotatsu Iha
(1873-1928). Kosei Nakamoto (1890-1967) was the Koho Kuba successor.
From Kotatsu Iha, were formed the following sucessors: Seiyu
Nakasone (1893-1967), Gisei Maeda (1899-1983), Kosei Iha (1891-1967),
Koko Oyadomari (1882-1908), Seijin “One-Eyed” Toguchi (1895-1937),
Chojin Kuba (1904-1989), Shoshin Nagamine (1906-). Seikichi
Nakaema sucessor was his brother and from this his son, Moritoshi
Nakaema, living in Brazil and the founder of Zen Minami Hankyo
Okinawa Tomarite Budo Koukai, that made Fernando P. Cāmara,
the present head of this organization. Nakaema family is from
karate was preserved by his two sons, Kotsu and Konin, and Seikichi
Hokama was disciple of both. The name of Chotoku Kyan and Motobu
Choki are also associated to Tomari-te tradition, as also the
name of Shimabukuro Tatsuo. This later and Soshin Nagamine,
have trained also with Motobu. Seyu Nakasone, disciple of Iha,
was the master of Tokashiki Iken (founder of Gohakukai), Nakamoto
Seiko, Fukichi Isao and Hokama Tetsuhiro. Tokashiki Iken teaches
what he was taught by Nakasone, the katas Naifanchi I, II, III,
Passai, Wankan, Wanshu Dai and Sho, Rohai, Kusanku, Chinto and
Rinkan. This later kata was a creation of Nakasone to be his
personal kata (Mario McKenna, personal communication). Although
the Naifanchi series, Passai, Kusanku and Chinto taught by Nakasone
be similar to the Oyadomari equivalent katas, the Nakasone’s
Wankan, Wansu and Rohai resembles Goju style and techniques.
Nakasone trained with Higa Seiko (they were friends).
The Tomari-te in the the 20th Century
Seikichi Hokama left us precious information on the Oyadomari
school. This was recorded by Mark Bishop in his book "Okinawan
Karate: Teachers, Styles, and Secret Techniques" (A&C Black
Pub., London, 1989). According Hokama, the Oyadomari were very
zealous for the health, an albeit our parents made an effort
to give us and we should respect. They forbid absolutely alcoholic
drinks and smoke among their students. Kata training, two drills
men, and makiwara was their formula for the good health and
cure of most of the diseases. They also taught the prudence
("in a fight, the life of your opponent is in your hands and
your life is also in his hands, therefore, don't underestimate
your opponent and be careful") and use strategies to overcome
a disadvantage ("if your opponent goes much larger than you
and stronger, jump for the sides as a cat "). Hokama counts
as he was cured of a tuberculosis in his teenagers only following
the prescription of Oyadomari: training with makiwara daily.
After one year he was not just cured as he had won a strong
body and a strong health.
Seikichi Hokama, the old Tomari-te style had the following characteristics:
1. The training
stance was Shiko-dachi. Students walked around the dojo with
a companion on his thighs to strengthen the stance. The kata
Naifanchi was executed in this base Shiko-dachi, and not in
Kiba-dachi, as in Shorin-ryu.
2. The kata Kusanku
was very acrobatic, typically Chinese, differing a lot of its
3. The style was
light and not athletic as in the current karate. This light
and spontaneous style was forgotten by the modern karate, however,
the Chinese still practice in this concept today.
4. The current
seiken, with the all turned fist, was not used because it expose
the backs of the hand that are very vulnerable (an uraken in
this area is very painful and cause palsy). The characteristic
punch of Tode-jutsu was vertical, in a posture naturally aligned
with the opponent's center and easily adapted for ippon-ken.
Apparently this style of punching was preserved by Shimabukuro
Tatsuo, the founder of Isshin-Ryu, a Tomari-te derivative style.
5. The force of
the opponent was used against him, being enough to avoid his
strikes to counter strikes the exposed torso of the adversary
in the ribs, back, and armpits.
6. The most basic
technique was to open the opponent's attack with jodan-uke and
to attack its center with hiraken or ippon-ken.
7. All style develops
on the principle of protect the center of the body while attacking
Hokama passed on katas that he said be taught by the Oyadomaris:
Naifanchi I & II, Passai, Wanshu, Wankan, Rohai, and Kusanku
Dai & Sho, but, according Kojo Kafu the Naifanchi II and the
two Kusanku came from Itosu. Another tradition, the purest,
counts the katas Naifanchi, Passai, Chinto, Jitte, Jiin, Jion,
Chintei, Wanshu, Rohai and Wandun as the original Tomarite.
It is also said that the katas Chinpe, Chinsu, Juma, and Uenibu
are of the lineage of Tomari, however, they were probably introduced
in the 20th from Taiwan. There is also a kata known as Ananku
or Ananko that was probably an old kata of Tomari restored by
Chotoku Kyan around 1895. The Chinto passed on by Kyan is now
known as Tomari-no-Chinto, however, the original Tomari Chinto
was very similar to the Itosu’s. Wanduan is also considered
a Tomari kata, together the version of Seisan passed on by Oshiro.
Most of these kata belongs to the Fujian Monk Fist and Crane
Funakoshi and Motobu about Tomar-ite
Funakoshi was also initiated in the Tomari tradition, according
Kinjo Hiroshi wrote: “Gichin Funakoshi [...] learned Shurite
from Anko Asato at childhood. He became an elementary school
teacher and learned karate from Anko Itosu. I presume in fact
that the students of Itosu taught him. Maybe, they will be Yabu,
Hanashiro, etc. He also studied Tomari te there, when he worked
in Tomari elementary school”. In fact, the original version
of Wanshu, Seisan and Niseishi in the Funakoshi Tode-jutsu was
from Tomari. He taught also Rohai, but it was discontinued from
his system and substituted by Meikyo, that came from other source.
In a 1914’s article
to the Ryukyu newspaper, Funakoshi wrote: “Even though Tomari
was within the geographical boundaries of Naha, one reason why
so many martial artists congregated there was because Shuri
administration officially supported its practice for emergency
In this same article,
Funaksohi mention some about the Tomari-te lineage: “A Fujian-Chinese
from Annan who drifted to Okinawa taught ‘Chinto’ to Gusukuma
and Kanagusuku in Tomari [...] ‘Chintei’ to Matsumora and Oyadomari
[...] ‘Jiin’ to Yamazato [and] ‘Jitte’ to Nakazato”.
in his book Watashi-no-karate-jutsu he wrote: “[in chronological
order] from Naha there were Gushi, who was famous the time Uehara
was in Shuri, Sakiyama, Nagahama, the teacher of Itosu, and
Kuwae Ryosei, as famous as Nagahama [...]. There was also Matsumora
(Kosaku), who was a brilliant technician, Oyadomari (Kokan),
famous for his leg maneuvers and foot sweeping skills, and Yamada
(Gike), known for his body steel like Kuwae Ryosei, from Tomari”.
Karate was introduced [...] in the three principal communities
of Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom: The ancient castle capitol
of Shuri, the Chinese community of Naha, and the deep water
port of Tomari. [...] Training methods in and around the old
castle district of Shuri maintained that beginners of Karate
use only 60 percent strength [...] whereas, in Naha, 100 percent
effort was customarily regarded as the standard. In Tomari,
a unique system evolved, which, when compared to that of Shuri
and Naha, employed a more pliable training syllabus”.
[...] Kata handed
down from the old Ryukyu Kingdom include Sanchin, Useishi, Seisan,
Seyunchin, Pechurin, Chinto, Chintei, Wanshu and Rohai, with
Passai (dai/sho), Naifanchi (1-3) and Kusanku (dai/sho) being
amongst the most popular. Sanchin, Useishi, Seisan, Seiunchin
and Pechurin are all from China and, apparently, are still practiced
only in Okinawa. Wanshu and Rohai were, until the establishment
of Okinawa prefecture in 1879, only ever practiced in Tomari
and virtually unknown in Shuri or Naha”.
“[...] Prior to
Okinawa being established as an independent prefecture in 1879,
Tomari had served as the second largest deep-water port on the
island. Often trading boats from both China and Korea were found
washed ashore in Tomari. In fact, so often was this the case
that local officials in Tomari were ordered by the King himself
to erect special quarters for the victims of such incidents
in an effort to accommodate them during their indefinite visit.
It was largely because of this phenomenon that villagers befriended
foreign bujin, and ultimately established a local and highly
eclectic method of Karate. I don’t think that there are too
many people still around today who actually remember this portion
of Karate history in Tomari. In my opinion the prevailing oral
tradition that focuses upon a more fanciful story seems to be
suspect. Having learned this tradition myself, one thing I am
certain of is that the basic postures, footwork and body movements
are supported by methods no different from those found in Naha
and Shuri. Both have attributes and liabilities, and any learner
must pay strict attention to them at all times”.
The creation of the modern karate...
In a nutshell, the karate was a creation of Itosu followed
by his friend Kanryo Higaonna to adapt the Okinawan culture
to the Japanese educational philosophy, that was oriented to
motivate the youngs in the study of the sciences as well as
the practice of Budo, to develop the bravery and the patriotic
spirits. Butokukai, organization entrusted to promote Budo in
the country, had reformulated all the Japanese martial arts
transforming them in discipline to strengthen the youths' will
and loyalty to the Emperor. The old martial arts were no more
necessary in a new society with mechanized armies and the modern
polices. The old objective of to kill and to mutilate with a
punch was drastically modified to competitive sport and physical
education concepts, being removed the aspects frankly lethal.
But in Okinawa most of the masters didn't think as Itosu, Higaonna
and its followers (most of them Junior and High School teachers
motivated by the progress of the Japanese society). Tode-jutsu,
a secretive art that taught as to kill or mutilate with empty
hands, was no more acceptable among the citizens of Okinawa,
that entered now in a modern period. Was this new age spirit
that made the Itosu concept, an entirely new and truly Okinawan
martial art, become the new rule.
The karate of
Itosu and Higaonna were now a modern discipline to promote the
health and the physical development, invigoration of the will
and sporting recreation. They received the Tode masters violent
criticisms, but, after all, this new art prevailed because these
two men knew the new spirit that had changed the feudal Japan
in a modern and competitive society.