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Thread: Funakoshi's Posse

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    Default Funakoshi's Posse

    I've been rereading "Karate-Do Kyohan" and it has, once more, brought up more questions than it has answered. From clues dropped in the text and other sources I'm trying to piece together the groups of karateka Funakoshi was associated with during his Okinawa days.

    Funakoshi writes that he was associated with a group of senior karateka making public demonstrations in 1914/15. The group included Mabuni, Motobu, Kyan, Gusukuma, Ogusuku (Ogosoku in Richard Kim's book), Tokumura, Ishikawa and Yabiku.

    So, here's my first stumper. If these guys were the public face of karate, and they performed all over Okinawa including Naha how come Naha-te karateka were not involved? Was it a class issue? Was it an intentional snub? It seems like the Shuri-te guys often seemed to come from higher classes than the Naha-te men. Was there some other bias present? Or, did the Naha-te people choose not to publicize their karate (note, I don't think this is true because there were Naha style public school programs)?

    Question number two: Was the Kyan mentioned in this group Chotoku Kyan or the Kyan listed as a student of Kentsu Yabu in Richard Kim's "Weaponless Warriors" (not a great source, but I haven't seen another Kyan listed anywhere else).

    Question Three: Who were Tokumura and Ishikawa? I haven't found record of them anywhere else. This group seems heavy on Itosu's students, so perhaps they were from Itosu's stable?

    Once I get these questions hashed out I have a whole other batch of mysteries related to the 1920 Okinawa Martial Arts Association and subsequent friendships and animosities exhibited by the masters, but first things first.

    Thanks for all your help!

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    Q1. My guess (and it is only a guess)? These guys were somehow connected to the group of karate men instructing the Japanese Navy. In 1912, some officers from the First Fleet studied karate for a week or so. Admiral Dewa and Captain Yashiro were among them. Having an admiral and a three-stripe captain giving you recommendations meant something in those days.

    Admiral Dewa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewa_Shiget%C5%8D

    Captain (later Admiral) Yashiro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yashiro_Rokur%C5%8D

    They got their training at Daiichi Middle School. So, again, my guess is that Funakoshi's demonstrators were people that supported teaching karate in the public schools, to non-Uchinanchu, and so on.

    What's interesting about the Crown Prince's observation of karate in 1921 is that the Japanese were saying that karate resembled Western boxing. So, they's seen boxing, but most likely had *not* seen southern Shaolin (which is definitely related).

    There is a little on this in Harry Cook's Shotokan Karate: A Precise History, but I'm guessing you'll need to read old Japanese-language papers to get any additional detail.

    Q2. Again, a guess, but my money is on Chotoku Kyan.

    Q3. No idea, not even a guess. Have you asked Patrick McCarthy?

    Not a karate man, as far as I know, but here's a fellow that may be important. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iha_Fuy%C5%AB . I'm guessing that Funakoshi based a lot of his research on the research done by Iha and other folklorists and anthropologists of the day.
    Last edited by Joseph Svinth; 5th August 2013 at 02:55. Reason: Add detail

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    Thanks, Joe.
    I'm going to look at some non-MA material to look at the differences between Shuri and Naha communities in the early 1900s. That might help answer some of my questions. I think you're right about the Middle School group being the heart of the 1914/15 demo group. Interesting that I've seen photos of Funaksohi earlier and later, but not in this group or association from this time period. Funny that except for a quick mention this group isn't really described in detail in Cook's book either. For a group of karateka this influential their association seems somewhat a mystery.

    Q. 2 I agree, probably Chotoku Kyan. The age seems right.

    Q. 3 I've never corresponded with Mr. McCarthy and know him by reputation only. But maybe I'll bother him with an email after I dig a bit more.

    I'm away for work for a few days and won't have consistent computer access, so I appreciate your quick (and, as always, erudite) response!

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    Geoff, I'm wondering about a class difference at work, in terms of who was connected to the aristocracy via either family or position. Quite possibly the style of the bodyguards of the Okinawan royal family was chosen as the representative style.
    I'm also thinking geography may have been at work - if the karate men were demonstrating in the Shuri area, it seems likely that the local system would have been favoured.
    Andrew Smallacombe

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    Andrew,

    It's interesting because these guys were the face of public karate - even in Naha. Geography didn't seem to matter that much. But I think you're right regarding class differences. Most of the group including Funakoshi were in Bushi Matsumura's lineage. He was very high class. Also, Azato, Motobu, Kyan and Funakoshi were related to various levels of the Okinawan aristocracy. Most of the Naha masters, especially those who had traveled to China for study, were from the merchant class. In Confucian society merchants were quite low-class.

    I've got some more research to do on Meiji Okinawan society in general and this group specifically. I'll post it as I get it.

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    Geoff --

    Check out the books by Lebra on Okinawan shamanism. Then follow the references, leads, and so on.

    Also check University of Hawai'i at Manoa, as the library there has as good of an Uchinanchu collection as you're likely to find without traveling too far. (Okay, it's a good distance, but I guarantee that your wife will let you go to Hawaii if you a) agree to take her, and b) let her go to the beach or shopping while you're at the library. UH Manoa also has an online karate collection (courtesy Charles Goodin): http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinaw...ctions/karate/ . Several texts are digitized.

    For Ryukyuan studies, Josef Kreiner's books and articles represent a very good starting place, especially if interlibrary loan is a possibility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    how come Naha-te karateka were not involved? Was it a class issue? Was it an intentional snub? It seems like the Shuri-te guys often seemed to come from higher classes than the Naha-te men. Was there some other bias present? Or, did the Naha-te people choose not to publicize their karate
    I believe in 1921, during the visit of Prince Hirohito (Showa) to Okinawa, Chojun Miyagi demonstrated kata.
    Guy Buyens
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    Guy, I believe you are correct. The 1921 group did include Naha-te. However, it seems like the 1914/15 group excluded Naha-te. I'm inclined to believe it was because of family/class relationships - the Shuri men were had more social standing, often better classical education and greater prestige. I'm still doing some reading on this.

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    Geoff

    Maybe it was less "exclusion for social/class reasons" and more to do with stylistic reasons?

    Maybe.
    Chris Thomas

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    Would the timing of Itosu's death have played any part? (memorial demonstration, etc. )

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    May-be it is less complicated (i.e. not driven by socio-cultural forces) and less intentional (i.e. little to do with style preference).

    Itosu and later Funakoshi enabled karate to enter the school system. They were also instrumental to get it more known to the larger public, mainly because they were the first to choose to do so.

    Other masters were still in the more select mode of teaching.

    In the period around 1910-1916 Funakoshi would publicly demonstrate a lot and of course he would do so together with his Shuri-te fellow students, followers of Itosu.
    Also Funakoshi could give demonstrations with larger groups, composed of children, since he was teaching karate in schools. I believe when giving a demonstration to the Navy (around 1912) it must have been possible through his connections with the school system (hence relationship with the Ministry of Education). Forming a demonstration team composed of children on the one hand and some of his friends with whom he demonstrated already seems logical.

    Also once involved in demonstrations (certainly associated with the school system) it is understandable that it was he who got invited by the Ministry of education to go to Kyoto in 1917 and of course he would bring along his close friends and students.

    Although the difference between Naha and Shuri (merchant versus more elite) is well documented, there was no wall between the 2 area. Certainly to get invited by a public school in Naha must have been quite acceptable for a schoolteacher in Shuri. I remember one of the first wake-up experiences when I visited Okinawa is that Naha, Shuri and Tomari are so close that they now all belong to the same city.

    A little later, in the early 20s, Miyagi certainly followed the stream of going more public and even went to mainland Japan.
    Guy Buyens
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    Didn't Miyagi actually visit Hawaii before visiting mainland Japan?
    Andrew Smallacombe

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    No, he already went to mainland Japan before, but in contrast to his friend Mabuni, he would not settle himself there.
    Guy Buyens
    Hontai Yoshin Ryu (本體楊心流)
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    I seem to recall that Yabu was also teaching karate in the school system around this time.
    Andrew Smallacombe

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    Chojun Miyagi was traveling for several months in 1915 on two trips to China. He was also in the military from 1910-1012. That makes it unlikely that he would have been available for demos in 1915. Also likely that he would still be in training-mode, rather than demo-mode, in 1914 as he had only been back in Okinawa for 2 years at that point. Kanryo Higaonna started teaching karate in public schools in 1905, and was very well respected amongst the Shuri-te practitioners, so I doubt Naha-te absence from the 1914/1915 had to do with elitism.

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