View Full Version : Humble origins?

30th May 2003, 22:29
This post was originally posted under "unarmed arts" but I think this is the proper forum.
I have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"? I would be happy if someone could tell me more about this.

12th November 2003, 04:46
I don't think that's the case but TTT for a more expert perspective.

12th November 2003, 07:55

25th November 2003, 23:07
'have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"? I would be happy if someone could tell me more about this'.

It depends on the Te, if it was a local Te system (Tomari, Shuri or Naha)it was practised by people of humble birth and was eventually absorbed into Okinawan Kobudo and Karate.

However if it comes from Shuri and is related to the castle then it might be Motobu Undun Te (as it is now known) the alternative name for this is Go No Te in which case it is Palace hand, passed down via the Motobu Family who were martial arts instructors to the Ryukan Kings based at Shuri castle.

But note that the Motobu Undun Ryu Te also uses some slightly different weapons from the humble ones you are referring to (I assume you mean Nunchuka, Tonfa etc of Okinawan Kobudo).

Hope this answers your question

Chris Norman

26th November 2003, 18:19
Thank you for the information!
So it can be said bo, tonfa, kama, tenbi and nunchaku is of "humble" origin and the sai is not. When were the simpler weapons incorporated by the wealthier practitioners? I also wonder if there is a theory why knives, swords and longspears are left out of the okinawan arts?

27th November 2003, 00:55
Did not say that the Sai was not of humble origins (there are various types and forms, some may be more humble in origin than others) nor that the Bo was of humble origins (it depends on form, same with Jo).

As regards incorporation of humble weapons into the arts of wealthier practitioners and the reason why certain weapons were left out of the Okinawan arts, this is a point of debate and may relate to the Satsuma clans raid on Okinawa in 1609 with complete changes on the Island by 1699.

It certainly appears to be the case as regards the Sword (Katana), Knife (Tanto) and Long Spear (Yari) and even Halberd (Naginata) that these simply were not part of the more common Te systems of Shuri, Naha and Tomari which were combined with or influenced by Chinese arts to create Tode and eventually Kobudo.

However the Motobu Udun Te which was associated with the Royal Court at Shuri castle does use Katana, Tanto, Yari and Naginata as well as the more humble weapons.

Hope this goes some way to answering your question.

Chris Norman

27th November 2003, 10:49
Hello to all,

very interesting stories.

First I would like to ask who spread the story of the peasants developing fighting techniques with everydays tools?? Well, the one who did so was wrong. It is not the case that Ryukyu Kobudo was developed by peasant class, so it would be not correct to point out a "noble origin" like it is an exception.

It is very interesting how it works to point out some "formerly secret tradition" or some connection to the royal court. It gets the westerners very interested it seems; soon everybody wants to be part of it.

The name Udun - the Kanji can be pronounced Goten also - means palace. It is similar to Dunchi. Udun and Dunchi denote the homes and houses of high nobles of the Ryukyu Kingdom class system, such like Anji or Oyakata.

One often finds the terms Udun (Goten) and Dunchi in the names of Ryukyu nobles, for example Ginowan Dunchi, one student of Sakugawa. Udun and Dunchi denotes someone of higher rank like a lord or something. It seems that both Udun and Dunchi are affiliated not with the Ryukyu Samurai class (Pechin), but with the Ryukyu Daimyo class (Oji, Anji, Oyakata!!!). The Kata Yaka no Sai is also called Hama Goten (Udun) Yakaa no Sai, meaning Sai Kata of the Beach Palace.

In order to make it not too long: the earlist protagonists of historic Ryukyu Kobudo were of rank in Ryukyu kingdoms class system.

Sakugawa was Satunushi Pechin, Chatan Yara also is said to have been nible. Ginowan was a lord, Soeishi was also called Udun as well as Dunchi. Hama Higa was a Pechin. Members of the early Kogusuku (Kojo) were Oyakata and Pechin.

From low to high:
Samurai class
- Chikudun Pechin (like Chinen Anadaya)
- Satunushi Pechin (like Sakugawa)
- Pechin (like the person Hama Higa Pechin)
Daimyo class
- Oyakata
- Anji (feudal lords)
- Oji (kings sons and brothers or so)

All those often had quasi-military functions within the Ryukyu kingdom. There is no evidence that peasant class developed anything of that. It's just a modern tale, made in Japanese mainland or even in the West.

When Ryukyu kingdom had been abolished amd Okinawa-ken established in 1879, Ryukyu officials lost their rank and with this their functions and duties.

At least Eku, Bo, Sai and Tunfa (!) are old Ryukyu Kobudo implements.
Kama, Tinbe, Surujin, Nunchaku came only later, already at Okinawa-ken times. For example, Kanegawa no Gibu, the grandather of Taira Shinken developed Tinbe-jutsu, and developed the techniques for Kama, Surujin, Nunchaku, Tekko. He is said to have been of rank, and lost it with the dissolution of Ryukyu kingdom.

The Ufuchiku Den also has a connection to higher ranks, as well as Bushi Matsumura had. Tawada was also a Pechin.

Also one cannot simply say that Shuri was the palace town and so there the noble Kobudo evolved. In Naha's Kumemura not only the 36 families lived, but also many people worked and lived there, like Nago Oyakata, Shitahaku Oyakata, the Kojo - who were in charge of guarding Shuri's castle gates, and so on.

Peasant or humble origin??? No!

27th November 2003, 18:55
Thanks for a very informative reply.
As I said it was a point of debate (as you state much made up in west or on mainland) especially in relation to peasants and agricultural tools and about the history of Ryuku Kobudo weapons and their so called 'humble' origins. Did not say where I stood on this debate, I was just following the original thread when I referred to the possibility of 'humble' origins.

My understanding is that the 36 Naha families (Originally Chinese Merchants and Artisans, and so as you state they were certainly not peasants)had a very strong Chinese basis in style and technique as would be expected from their origins and that the Kojo family(originally named Sai) used Chinese based Kobudo weapons, with Kojo Uekata's grandson having studied weapons and a grappling art or at least an art that involved grappling in China for a while.

Be interested to know if the traditions you are referring to/study (Kojo and Oyakata and other Naha traditions) make use of Katana,Yari, Naginata and Tanto as does the Motobu Udun Ryu which was associated with the castle at Shuri (At least as taught by the present headmaster Seikichi Uehara at his Seidokan and his former Uchi-deshi Seitoku Higa at his Bugeikan).

Chris Norman

1st December 2003, 07:43
I was just following the original thread

completely my fault: didn't read carefully enough... :)

Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto

I didn't knew that Katana and Tanto were in use, even not in the ending final Ryukyu Dynasty. I think pictures of Ryukyu kingdom officials with swords are rare and they would only have been allowed to learn with Japanese permission.

However, there are accounts on weapons similar to Yari or Naginata in Ryukyu Kingdom time, used by a student of Sakugawa.

But usually Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto are associated with mainland Japanese styles. So what is the reason for Motobu Ryu having a Kenjutsu Ryu (and others) and where did it stem from? Did they develop it by themselves? And if yes, when did they develop it? Or was it the heritage of those Ryukyu people who studied Jigen Ryu Kenjutsu, like Matsumura Sokon???

(Note: Uekata is the same as Oyakata, the same Kanji, the same meaning)

1st December 2003, 08:58
Hm... interesting stuff. But I have always found it strange that common weapons such as spears (except for the short tenbi) and daggers are overlooked in okinawan arts.

1st December 2003, 11:34
Well, Basil Hall told Napoleon that Okinawans had no weapons. However, Basil Hall's completely positive view of Okinawa has not been affirmed by following visitors. By the way, that was the visitors own fault; they did things the Okinawans didn't want, for example freely visiting certain places they wanted etc. They also wanted to bring christianity to the island people. So it is clear that they were not dealt like Basil Hall was. But Basil Hall's account only shows what Okinawans played act to him; and that was not all reality.

Charles Gutzlaff in his "Journal of Three Voyages" (London 1834) wrote:

"They are, however, by no means those simple and innocent beings which we might at first suppose them to be. Upon inquiry we found that they had among them the same severe punishments as at Corea; that they possessed arms likewise, but are averse to use them."

Gutzlaff's account also shows the Okianwan awareness concerning the Metsuke, or Japanese spies. Gutzlaff didn't know what that meant but it gets clear through his descriptions of certain behaviour.

Non of the Pictures in the old narratives show Okinawans wearing weapons, at least as far as I have seen. On the other hands, it seems like suicide to travel to China by sea with a ship full of gifts to the Chinese court and Emperor without having men armed with sharp weapons.

One must assume that edged weapons have been used by certain people of Ryukyu class system. If the Rochin originally really was a short halberd or spear is questionable. Many things developed later. For example, Hayashi Teruo sometimes used a Tanto as the Rochin and used Tonfa against life swords... Did the Okinawans in Ryukyu Kingdom time did also??? :rolleyes:

And what about Kata? Bo, Sai, and Tunfa all have old Kata. I wonder if Katana, Tanto, Naginata only were adapted after the abolishment of samurai ranks in Japan, and also after the abolishment of Ryukyu kingdom. And I wonder if the former Ryukyu Pechin and higher class people would have become Shizoku - like in mainland japan - or only have been made "normal" people and were forced to become peasants and such??? Waht did the officials of Ryukyu kingdom become after the abolishment of the Kingdom??? This maybe would have been a reason for the upcoming of such weapons like Tinbe/Rochin, Kama, Nunchaku, Tekko...

1st December 2003, 22:18

'But usually Katana, Yari, Naginata and Tanto are associated with mainland Japanese styles. So what is the reason for Motobu Ryu having a Kenjutsu Ryu (and others) and where did it stem from? Did they develop it by themselves? And if yes, when did they develop it?'

I must admit when I first came across this I was a little sceptical,
and I do wonder about and suspect that there is a strong influence of Jigen Ryu on the development of the Motobu Ryu.

My understanding of the history of Motobu Ryu's development is as follows:
It apparently (allegedly) takes root with the sixth son of King Sho Shitsu (died 1688), it was Prince Sho Koshin who reigned as a puppet King under the Satsuma's between 1648-1688 who inherited what was to become the Motobu Ryu. Prince Sho Koshin is apparently where the origins of the Motobu family begins (So it would appear to have Satsuma Influence given these dates).

Although there have been some claims as to earlier origins and an introduction from the Japanese mainland prior to 17th Century (even as early as 650AD!??) but these have obviously been dificult to substantiate except perhaps through the similiarity of some court dances (Especially the Seven womens Classical court Dances with some court dances on the mainland) which are part of the Motobu Ryu that the current headmaster Seikichi Uehara teaches. The story goes along the lines that Motobu Ryu was always a weapons based system introduced from the mainland.

In my opinion there could easily be a Jigen Ryu influence on Motobu Ryu as the photographs that I have seen of Jigen Ryu weapons and empty hand grappling techniques seem to have some very close resemblance to the Motobu Ryu that I have had contact with, though some of the subtleties of the Motobu Ryu may be missing.

There may also be some distortions of the Motobu Ryu history, especially as regards the use of Japanese weapons as the three senior members of the Ryu Seikichi Uehara, Seitoku Higa (Seidokan) and Seiki Toma (Bugeikan) all appear to be Okinawan Nationalists at least according to Stephen Chan's research on the islands.


Chris Norman

2nd December 2003, 13:13
Hi Chris,

thanks for your description, it was very helpul.

It apparently (allegedly) takes root with the sixth son of King Sho Shitsu (died 1688), it was Prince Sho Koshin who reigned as a puppet King under the Satsuma's between 1648-1688 who inherited what was to become the Motobu Ryu. Prince Sho Koshin is apparently where the origins of the Motobu family begins (So it would appear to have Satsuma Influence given these dates).

THIS PAGE (http://www.usankfva.com/GNline.html) states that one lineage goes back to Matsumura Sokon and Sakugawa, whom both are said to have been exposed not only to Chinese arts, but also to Jigen Ryu Kenjutsu and maybe Jigen Ryu Bo-odori. Choyu Motobu, who would have been the forefather of the style, is given there as a student of Matsumura. As Matsumura was security person to the kings family, it would be no wonder that Motobu Ryu is called palace hand. And if the origin is traced back to Prince Sho Koshin (reigned 1648-1688): this era would also be possible for Sakugawa, thus the dates could correspond.

THIS PAGE (http://www.karate-dojo-speyer.de/Texte/geschichte/die_entwicklung_des_karate/entwicklung_motobu_ryu.htm) claims one Motobu Udun as the forefather of the style. Udun (simply the Okinawan pronunciation of the Japanese Goten) would again most likely would be some kind of knickname pointing to a palace or as it is also translated a stately home!!! And there were more than only one such stately homes. For example there was an Udun for the entertainment, tea ceremony etc. of Chinese tributary officials. Yama Goten Yakaa no Sai can also be pronounced Yama Udun Yakaa no Sai, meaning the Sai kata of the princes of the beach palace.

The Japanese translation (Goten = palace) seems not to be perfectly correct in this case. In fact, Udun is the term that described the palace or stately homes of the Anji (feudal lords) and princes, and not explicetly the palace of the king, alos it maybe could have been some sort of refuge to him.

I guess that Okinawan gentry at that time was a small world and that all those old protagonists somehow stood in some connection. And they all did something what we now call Karate and Kobudo, simply because of their duties.

With this coming back to the initial post:

I have heard somewhere Te was not usually practised by people of "humble" birth if you look at their names. If so, why is the weaponry in the Okinawan arts so "humble"?

Both were developed by the same men. The names of the early protagonists are given with the suffixes for ranked people: Chikudun, Satunushi, Pechin, Oyakata (same as Uekata), and may be others. Of course, those ranks were lost with abolition of the Ryukyu Han in 1879 (or 1872). However, it would be easier to show those Okinawan karate and kobudo lineages which can NOT be traced back to ranked people of the Ryukyu Kingdom than to show those which clearly go back to such people.

2nd December 2003, 21:54
I would be very wary of any lineages that include Rod Sacharnoski in relation to Motobu Ryu, his claims are rather (extremely) dubious and cannot be substantiated except in relation to those that relate to Shian Toma. I have had contact with some of Sacharnoski's people and did at one point train under the vice President of his organization, but what they do does not resemble Motobu Ryu in any way whatsoever.

Shian Toma has recently posted a disclaimer on his Seidokan web site claiming that he has no relationship to Mr. Sacharnoski or his organization.

Shian Toma did train for a while at Seikichi Uehara's Seidokan Dojo in Ojana, but the Seidokan organization of Shian Toma is very, very different from the Seidokan Dojo's practising Motobu Udun Ryu Te as ran by Seikichi Uehara (who has never taught Karate), Seiki Toma (The latter is no relation of Shian Toma and is not his teacher) and Seitoku Higa, (who was originally taught basic Te techniques by Kishimoto Sokon and who only began training seriously with Uehara in 1967).

Shian Toma's karate organisation does have some Motobu Ryu influence, he trained under Seikichi Uehara for a while at the Ojana Dojo. But what Shian Toma does lacks the subtleties of Motobu Ryu and the weapons are very different (i.e Shian Toma does the more traditional Okinawan weapons).

My understanding is that Shian Toma calls his organisation Seidokan after Uehara's Dojo out of respect for one of his teachers (but there may be other highly complex political issues involved as well).

I had a long conversation a few years back with Dr. Stephen Chan who heads the Seidokan Style of Shian Toma's organization in the UK (and who is now Dean where I did my postgraduate studies in Anthropology)and I have had some contact with the Shian Toma's Seidokan style and their version of Te.

The difference between what Shian Toma does (essentially Karate) and what is done by Motobu Ryu as taught and practised by Seikichi Uehera (Seidokan at Ojana), Seitoku Higa (Bugeikan) and Seiki Toma (Seidokan Goya Rd, rumour has it this was recently destroyed in a storm) is that the latter employs a lot of grappling techniques with some subtleties not seen in Shian Toma's Seidokan organization which has a very strong Naha influence. The Motobu Ryu weapons are also very different, though I believe that there may be some Jigen Ryu influence.

For a variety of reasons Karate and kobudo is taught alongside/at Motobu ryu Dojo's to appease the karate fraternity on the island, this is in part due to Seitoku Higa's involvement with the style from 1967 though. Seitoku Higa holds a 7th Dan from the JKA from some time on the mainland and had an organisational structure that helped to popularise the Motobu Ryu.

The Motobu Ryu Udun Te is a family system pased from father to eldest son, Choyu's teacher was his father Choshu Motobu. The system is not simply a system for body guards it was taught by the Motobu Udun Family to successive Ryukan Kings. I.e. Chosho Motobu taught Sho Ken/Sho Kai ((d. 134) and Sho Tai (1841-1901) and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).

Choyu Motobu opened a dojo in Naha in 1924 but this was not successful, the system differed too radically from what is usually seen on the island.

I have also seen some lineage charts that suggest that Choyu Motobu was taught by Sokon Matsumura, but this is different from the Motobu ryu lineage.

Motobu Ryu in no way looks like karate it is very, very different in weapons employed and techniques and Seikichi Uehara the current headmaster of Motobu Udun Ryu does not as I understand it teach any form of Karate.


Chris Norman

3rd December 2003, 10:18
Hi Chris,

would be very wary of any lineages that include Rod Sacharnoski in relation to Motobu Ryu, his claims are rather (extremely) dubious and cannot be substantiated except in relation to those that relate to Shian Toma.

I only intented to point to the Sakugawa - Matsumura thing.

The Motobu Ryu Udun Te is a family system pased from father to eldest son, Choyu's teacher was his father Choshu Motobu. The system is not simply a system for body guards it was taught by the Motobu Udun Family to successive Ryukan Kings. I.e. Chosho Motobu taught Sho Ken/Sho Kai ((d. 134) and Sho Tai (1841-1901) and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).

And Matsumura was body guard to the last three kings. And the famous later Hama Higa Pechin (Machu Hija) was an assistant to the last king Sho Tai, and died unhappy knowing that their efforts to keep up Ryukyu Kingdom have been useless. King Sho Tai saw the Japanese take away his kingdom.

...and Choyu Motobu taught Sho Ten (1864-1921).

I'am pretty sure that Sho Tai was the last king!?1? Assuming that Sho Ten never was king, Motobu Udunti was taught to the last two kings... while Matsumura was (at least) body guard of the last three kings. Anyway, this is not what one can call a very old lineage in Ryukyu Kobudo.

Motobu Udun Ryu does not as I understand it teach any form of Karate

Don't they call it Motobu Ryu Bujutsu??? Also we do not know how Karate at that time looked like, I wonder if King Sho Tai had ever performed other than maybe some court celebrations like dances, if at all.

I can't see from this lineage what makes Motobu Ryu more sophisticated than any other style of Ryukyu Kobudo. And I am not able to derive from it humble origins of Ryukyu Kobudo styles, because those I can easily trace back to high ranks of Ryukyu kingdom at least 100 years earlier. Furthermore it sounds more like Motobu Ryu belongs neither to Karate nor Kobudo.

Best regards

3rd December 2003, 11:40
To specify a Ryu, usually the sorts of training employed are given to it (like it is done in Bugei Ryuha Daijiten). So one can go and state (for example):

Tawada Ry (Saijutsu)
Yamane Ry (Bjutsu)
Matsumura-ha (Karate, Kobujutsu)
Ufuchiku-den (Kobud)
Soeishi Ry (Bjutsu)
Shuri-te (Karate)
Naha-te (Karate)

and so on.

Maybe it would be correct to say:
Motobu Ry Bujutsu (Kenjutsu, Naginatajutsu, ... Odori, ...)???

4th December 2003, 01:47
Hello Andreas,
I figured that may have been your point as stated with regards the lineage that included Sacharanoski, but was unsure.

Also accept your point about Matsumura being bodyguard, definitely undisputed and was quite possibly a Tode (tuti) instructor to them.

Sho Tai was last King, Sho Ten was his son (as you correctly state he was not King he was just Crown Prince/Marquis).

The Motobu family can be traced back to Prince Sho Koshin (Sixth son of King Sho Shitsu who reigned as a puppett king from 1648 until 1688 this was the period following Satsuma invasion) who taught King Sho Tei (d.1709)others include a Motobu Choku who taught King Sho Kei (d. 1751), A Motobu Chokyu who taught King Sho Boku (d 1794). Motobu Chosho (Father of Motobu Choyu) taught last 3 Ryukan Kings and as you state Sokon Matsumura was body guard to them. Hence why I suspect that there is some Jigen Ryu influence.

Motobu Udun Ryu is as you correctly state is a Bu Jutsu and does not belong to Karate or Kobudo. Perhaps as well to point out here that it was actually Seikichi Uehara (13th headmaster) who named the system Motobu Ryu after his teacher Choyu Motobu out of respect for him and the Motobu family system. Seitoku Higa before he trained with Uehara had studied a system of Te under Kishomoto Soko.

There are some Okinawan weapons in Motobu Ryu as well as Japanese ones that are taught at bot the Seidokan and Bugeikan, whether this is due to Matsumura influence on the style or Higa's own involvement or even due to the okinawan Tode Research club formulated by Choyu Motobu in 1924 is to my mind open to question. The weapons in Motobu Ryu these days include: Goshaku jo, nijo tanbo, uchi bo, jo, nunchaku, tonfa, kai or eku, nicho kama,sai, yari, naginata, katana and tanto and also Tessen.

After Uehara became successor to the style he promoted firstly with a demonstration at Kumamoto Prefectures Okinawan Festival (this was in 1964 he was assisted I believe by Seiki Toma) and then in 1969 formulated the Motobu Ryu Kobu-Jutsu Association as an umbrella to popularise the style, this organization became part of Seitoku Higa's organization the All Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Association set up in 1967, Higa had at this time just become a serious student of Uehara).

Kobu jutsu in this context means old (ko) martial (bu) art (jutsu), .
The article written by anither of Uehara's student Miyagi Takeo for the Okinawan times (september 1974) is headed Motobu-Ryu Te. The system includes what is called Tori Te (Taking hands) this same term has often been used to describe a forerunner of Ju Jutsu on the mainland, though there are other Te's included in Motobu Ryu i.e. moto te and ogami-te. Motobu Ryu certainly does involve softness and throwing with hand grappling techniques which are performed against both armed (using the weapons stated above) and unarmed opponents.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

4th December 2003, 23:56
Hi Chris,

there were many new things for me in your posts, enough for lenghty research for me. So I felt responsible to give something back; took me quite a fiew hours :cool: So here are my thoughts (Hope the Kanji thing is ok).

I have notices that there are differencies between Karate, Kobudo and Motobu Ryu. Concerning Torite: At THIS PAGE (http://homepage2.nifty.com/motobu/rekishi.htm) is given that Uehara Seikichi was originator of Motobu Udundi 本部御殿手(上原清吉宗家) and that he introduced Moto-de (?) 1 and 2 元手1・2, Kassen -bō 合戦棒 and ! Torite 取り手. However, it is an organization called Seidoukai and is basically a Karate lineage.

In the following I have cut a quote out of the context because I found it interesting and fitting to the topic: Meik Skoss wrote in the The Iaido Newsletter Vol 10/12 #97 Dec 1998: Questions and Answers. Ryukyu Kobudo vs Nihon Kobudo:

The last ten years of so, Uechi Seikichi of Motobu-ryu udundi (that's how it's said in Okinawan dialect, the characters read quite differently) has done a number of demonstrations that involve all manner of weapons. The major problem is (I'm looking at it from a Japanese weapons arts-trained point of view) though, that it looks really lame. Maybe they *did* actually train with a sword, glaive, spear like that. But if that were so, they sure never faced a trained warrior. If they had, the Motobu family line would've been nipped in the bud. The second problem is that there's very little historical evidence to back up his party line that it's a legitimate system that's been passed down over the years.

Motobu Udundi may not be viewed in common terms of Karate or Ryukyu Kobudo, but as the title of a book written by Uehara Seikichi shows - also not in terms of Nihon Kobudo. The book is called:
Bu no Mai. Ryukyu Oke hiden Bujutsu. Motobu ryu Udundi 武の舞. 琉球王家秘伝武術. 本部流御殿手.
Bu No Mai 武の舞 means as much as martial dance or dance of the Martial arts. And I guess that this martial dance was not meant for fighting the Satsuma or something like that. One needs to consider the unique Okinawan history and their resulting point of view etc. in certain times of history. Apart from it all, I guess (again) the Ryukyu princes of 19th century were not much better than the pathetical figures of Japanese Daimyo (as Erwin Baelz has taught us), so maybe it was just their kind of work-out.

As was pointed out, King Shō Shitsus (尚質, reigned 1648-1668) 6th son was Shō Kōshin (尚弘信). He was the 5th prince of Shō Shitsus family, simply because Sh Shitsus first and eldest son Sh Tei 尚貞 became king (from 1669-1709). Shō Kōshins complete name is given as Shō Kōshin Motobu Ōji Chōhei. This seems to mean that Shō Kōshins normal name was Chōhei and that he was the Prince of Motobu.

Two more pieces of information are:
On June 15th, 1672, the Shō family prince Chōhei of Motobu was employed as Ufuya (lit.: great father, some kind of administrative post I guess).

In March 1750 (year of the horse), the Shō family prince Chōryū of Motobu was employed as Ufuya. In the same year on 13th of May Chōryū withdraw from this because of illness.

Although the Ryukyu Shimpo (http://www.ryukyushimpo.co.jp/special/jinkoku/j980107.htm) gives the same story of the royal family lineage and the differences to Karate and Kobudo styles, it also states: 継承の裏付け史料が不十分との指摘もあるが, which I would translate as the supporting historical records are insufficient, but of course I could be wrong. This, however, would be no wonder, because much had been destroyed in WWII. All the Dunchi 殿内 of the Ryukyu samurai class ( if I may call it this way) and the Shuri Kizoku (nobles, aristocrats) have been destroyed. The only residence of the Ryukyu samurai class left in its original state was Miyara Dunchi 宮良殿内 (みやらドゥンチ), located in Ishigaki City 石垣市, Ishigaki Island, and which was built in the second year of Bunsei (1819) by the Yaeyama leader Miyara Pechin 宮良親雲上.

I guess (again) that the home of the Princes of Motobu was such Udun, a palace, a stately home, an administrative unit or whatever, but not the kings palace. In fact, Udun in Ryukyu times was not the palace of the king himself, but they were broad residences, in which princes or anji lived. Udun 御殿 literally means control palace, and in fact it was (also) an administrative center, and the Motobu Udun was the residence for one lineage of Ryukyu princes.

So Motobu Udun-di only later came to the royal court in Shuri, at least at the times of Matsumura; a time, when many of Kobudo traditions developed; before all nearly collapsed with the abolishion of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

The following quote should come from Mark Bishop's "Okinawan Karate" and shows one more connection between little Okinawas Kobudo protagonists: "The botanist Shinju Tawata remembered that when he was a boy he saw a ti demonstration by Chōyū Motobu in which Motobu seemed to be dancing and was totally relaxed, but whenever anyone closed on him, he would immediately throw them without interrupting the flow of his dance.
This Shinju Tawata I guess (again) was the son of Tawada Pechin (Tawada Shinboku), which was a student of Matsumura and founder of Tawada no Sai. I could be wrong. One time I ordered a book by one Tawada Shinboku at Okinawa Museum, but it was about geography and such, but not was I was looking for. ;)

5th December 2003, 02:43
Hi Andreas,
Glad that the information in my posts was useful and thanks for the information in your reply.

I Believe that Seidoukai (aka Seidokan?) may be something to do with Seitoku Higa, who has recently developed something called Seido (We could perhaps classify this as a new Okinawan religious movement, though a small and private one). Both Seitoku Higa and Seiki Toma both studied with Seikichi Uehara, and as peviously said Seidoukai/Seidokan may have Okinawan nationalist connotations.Both Seiki Toma and Seitoku Higa are karate men, and Motobu Ryu was promoted through Higa's organization, but only Seiki Toma and Uehara named their dojo's Seidokan, whilst Shian Toma (another karateka) who trained for a while with Uehara names his organisation Seidokan.

Seitoku Higa (Bugeikan) however is now allegedly making some claims about a Te that stems from Motobu Seijin (Motobu the Sage) and these date back long before what Uehara claims about his Motobu Ryu, but Higa originally trained in Te with Kishomoto Soko.

I cannot see how some of the claims Higa may be making can possibly be substantiated except perhaps through classical court dances (Odori) but this is not the way they are being substantiated.

So I agree with Meik Skoss' point about the lack of historical evidence to back up some of the claims because if they were true some of the stuff that I am aware of that has recently been claimed about Motobu Ryu would date it long before the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu (Earliest documented Nihon Ko Ryu) or even Choju Ryu (Perhaps earlier but not documented). But as you state records may have been lost in the war (rather convenient).

I Would also agree that Motobu Ryu looks lame. Though some of the empty hand techniques do resemble to a certain extent Nihon Aiki Ho Jutsu. There is also a very strong (though in my opinion strange type of) Ki emphasis.

However Mark Bishop who trained for quite a while under both Seikichi Uehara and Seitoku Higa has demonstrated some interesting and at times quite frightening subtleties in what he does (He used to come to one of the Dojo's I used to train and teach at quite regularly to teach Te). Its definitely soft in its techniques. Mark claims that much of this Te was developed through informal exchanges between Satsuma agents and Okinawan Shizoku and became a highly personalised system for both health and self defence. Another interesting point in relation to this is that some of the grips used are not dissimiliar to what is called Gakkun (a form of grip) based on Koho Shiatsu as taught in the Hakko Ryu.

Some mainland sword styles (as you are probably aware) claim their origins from sword dances and certainly some of the stuff I have seen from Motobu Ryu looks a little like some Kenbu I have seen, but some of the Okinawan Odori that I have seen is very different from some of the techniques that are based on Odori in Motobu Ryu. So any historical claims of Motobu Ryu may only be able to be substantiated through Dance. Especially as some of the Motobu Ryu footwork involves raising up on to the toes for certain techniques.

Best regards
Chris Norman

30th December 2003, 11:54
Hi Chris,

I just received a link from a buddy where I found the Motobu lineage:
Here (http://www.sakuratakekan.org/), than "Motobu Udunti" and than scroll down.
I guess it is exactly the way you stated.

31st December 2003, 17:22
Hi Andreas,

Nice link. Thanks.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

4th January 2004, 15:06
Hi Andreas,
Your last post before recnt link prompted me to dig out so old references on Uehara's Motobu Ryu lineage in answer to your point:

'Uehara's Ryukyu Oke hiden Bujutsu. Motobu ryu Udundi ???. ????????. ?????? And I guess that this martial dance was not meant for fighting the Satsuma or something like that'.

The Motobu Ryu Bu Jutsu Odori lineage (Bu No Mai) if the claim about Motobu Chokyu teaching Sho Boku are true would have to link to the following Kumi Odori:

Kumi Odori Manzai Tekiuchi
Tasato Chochoku (1733-73) wrote Manzai Tekiuchi as entertainment for Chinese Emissaries vistiting Ryuku for investure of King Sho Boku in 1756.

Story of Drama:
Takadera has killed Ojana's father following a quarell over a horse (Ojana's horse) Jana nu shi (Ojana's son) decides to slay Takadera but will need the help of his younger brother Keiun who has become a monk. Disguised as travelling musicians they visit Takedara's beach party where he is being entertained by music and dancing and slay him.

According to Ueharas Motobu Ryu lineage the Te instructor to King Sho Boku was Motobu Chokyu (and not Choku 'who was appointed Ufuya in 1750 but retired due to illness the same year'. Choku was instructor to King Sho Kei who died following year 1751).
Though I do not dispute your point about break in lineage as Court Te instructor for King Sho On (d.1882) is uknown as is Court Te instructor before Motobu Chokyo. At least according to Uehara's Motobu lineage. (I note from your recent link that they have been quite clever in the way that they seem to have kept continuity recently issued lineage documents).

Kumi ODori Manzai Tekiuchi relates to Ojana (A Family name and place of Uehara's Seidokan Dojo) some of the Odori are done outside of the Drama and are then called Takadera Manzai. These are some of the main items in the Nisai Odori (Young Mens) dance category.

I suspect strongly that the three dramas or other items in this category (Nissai Odori) represent tales of Naha, Shuri and Tomari. For example another one in the Nisai Odori category is Menuhama (Named after a beach in Naha)and is performed to Menuhama Bushi, Sakahara Bushi and Yunabaru Bushi.

The other items by this author written for the occasion were
Gishon Monogatari (Tales of Loyal Retainers)
Ogusuku Kuzure (Fall of Ogusuku castle)

There are various other tales of revenge taken from the history of families and villages prior to Satsuma invasion which have been choreographed into operatic dance dramas (Kumi Odori) under various dance commissioners appointed under Satsuma yoke. For example the dance commissioner Tamagusuku Chokun (1684-1738) who wrote Nido Tekiuchi and Shushin Kanieri for visiting Satsuma officials in 1719.
The Te is in the fight scenes of these dramas (But the Te court instructor to King Sho Eki in Motobu Ryu is stated as unknown!) .

So it is IMHO likely that if there was an Satsuma involvement in any of the martial arts techniques it would have had to have been through the Jigen Ryu, the weapons in the Manzai Tekiuchi seem to suggest this. These performances were apparently popular with visiting Satsuma dignataries.

Jigen Ryu
I Can trace Jigen Ryu back to Taisha Ryu and its earlier name Taisha Shinkage Ryu (Taisha Shinkage Ryu founder: Murame Kurodo No Suke Nagayoshi 1540-1629).

Apparently one of Murame's students trained under Kamiizumi Nobutsuna (Murame's original teacher) and then returned to Marume who then dropped Shinkage from name as the style had evolved differently. Murame sought out his teacher again but not in time before his death. So the lineage may have split into Jigen Ryu (founded by Murame's Student Togo Shigejura (1561-1643)) and something else. But as yet can not trace who this student of Murame's is who trained with Kamiizumi.

So it looks likely the Japanese weapons if they came later i.e. with Matsumura Sokon which would have been via Yashiciro Ijuin of Jigen Ryu, or possibly even Sakugawa. Wondered whether this may have reflected different interpretations of Taisha Ryu in the Jigen Ryu (?).

It was Marume (Taisha Shinkage Ryu) who assisted Kamiizumi in a demonstration before Ashikaga Yoshiteru Shogun. This is by some sources seen as the origin of Muto (Literally No Sword. Techniques performed against a swordsman whilst unarmed) and could be classified as Torite (taking hands). These were restraint and disarming techniques not battlefield techniques as such, though they claimed to be based on them.

Uehara's Motobu Ryu appears to have a similiar interpretation. Though this could easily have come from Aikido which Seitoku Higa's son Reiko practises.

In Motobu Ryu Modo te/moto te just means original hand. If modo te and tori te were the only techniques that were introduced by Uehara, the other others such as Ogami Te (Prayer hand) Nuki te (draw hand) would have been earlier (How much earlier remains open to question).

The only thing Uehara does resembling karate in anyway is Moto Te Sanchin (Much softer usual than Naha versions. i.e. Uechi Ryu and Goju Ryu) though his Dojo is part of a karate organization (Seidokan)though they all do what may be regarded as Karate weapons.

The dance done by Motobu Choyu that Mark Bishop describes is probably an early version of what is now called the Anjikata No Mai no Te (Dance Hand of Lords) which Uehara teaches, but its unlike a karate kata and evolves as Seitoku Higa has his own rendition.

Rojin Odori (Dances of Elderly/Longetivity)
This dance was originally called Gozenfu/Kajidefu (Before the Lords).
As regards the Ufuya, wondered if this might have something to do with Rojin Odori (Dances of Elderly)?. It was originally performed to welcome foreign dignataries and at start of any auspicious occassion by people of all ages. This dance is performed to the melody of Kajidifu Bushi and is only extant item in this category.

Onna Dori
Classical category 7 womens dances.
Kasekake Odori (thread spindle Dance) performed to Shichishaku Bushi.
Interpreted in Motobu Ryu as martial movements with thread spindle.

So what do we have here:
Anjikata No Mai no Te (Dance Hand of Fedual Lords).
Kajidefu (Before the Lords) Now Rojin Odori (Old Peoples Dances).
Takadera Manzai main item in Nissai Dori (Young Mens Dances).

Kihon Te (Basic hand: hand formations for striking)
Karami Te (Tangled hands): This involves trapping and grappling.
Ogami Te (Prayer hand):
Nuki Te (Drawing hand): This relates to drawing a Katana
Added by Uehara (I suspect on basis of Nuki Te)
Modu Te (Original hand)
Tori Te (Taking hand)

Suspect these have been added by Uehara as well:
Tori Te Gaeshi (hand grappling return)
Uragaeshi Te (hand grappling reversal)

So it seems that Uehara's Motobu Ryu cannot be traced to much earlier than 1750 through the Odori line.

So what about Seitoku Higa and his teacher Soko Kishimoto (1866-1945) who was taught by Takemura this line cant be an earlier than 1896 at least in Shuri, where the tax collector Takemura retired to. Besides Takemura was a student of Sokon Matsumura, so we are back to Sagukawa again and through him to Peichin Takemura (1683-1760), teachers unknown.

So what about Higa's claims to an earlier system that has links to main land:
I am unable to determine any other possible Japanese connections accept perhaps through the Jigen Ryu, or more specifically the Taisha Shinkage Ryu as interpreted in the later part of the Taisha Ryu, which for all intents and purposes became Jigen Ryu.

Jigen Ryu Bo Odori may hold the answer to these claims:
1. Nihon Budo Taikei volume 8 page 51: 'Lord Shimizu instructed the second generation headmaster Togo Bizen no Kami Shigekata (1602-1659) to teach self defence tactics to farmers and peasants in Satsuma' (McCarthy 1995:51). Pat McCarthy points out that these techniques were disguised as Jigen Ryu Bo Odori, a folk dance.
2. Jigen Ryu Bo-Odori includes (see McCarthy Ibid): Jo vs Katana, Bo vs Yari. Also other weapons were Eiku (Oar), Kama (Scythe), Shakuhachi (Flute).
3. Same weapons are seen in Motobu Ryu as taught by both Uehara's and Seitoku Higa's (Bueikan) Dojo's.
4. Pat McCarthy spoke to 11th generation headmaster of Jigen Ryu, but it is uncertain which (Jigen Ryu) or Okinawan indigenous fighting traditions influenced which.

If the Taisha Shinkage Ryu link could be proven and this would have to be via Jigen Ryu and Takemura, then it is possible that the Jigen Ryu Bo-Odori may have had some Hozo In Ryu influence (which seems plausible), but this assumes are strong Kamiizumi Ryu influence on Taisha Ryu and that the Kamiizumi Ryu Influence carried on in to the Jigen Ryu. This would be the only thing as far as i can ascertain that would support the claims made by Seitoku Higa about some of his Te (which is composite and includes Motobu Ryu, Higa's claims are however separate, but may be influential).

So it seems that Uehara's Motobu Ryu cannot be dated much before 1756, unless some techniques can be traced to the Odori in the work of Tamagusuku Chokun (1684-1738)but even then it cannot be before 1718. At least on the basis of the available evidence.
However Uehara is in his former students Seitoku Higa's organization and it is Higa who is making earlier claims. These claims in Motobu Ryu are supported by the descendancy of the Motobu family to King Sho Shitsu via Prince Ko Shin.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

4th January 2004, 22:06
Hi Chris,

happy new year! I'am going underground... :)

Old Dragon
5th January 2004, 05:30
Chris: great posts.

If I can add a bit of oral tradition to your posts. I have been told by a few old okinawans that during those periods of time when training in martial arts was banned and had to go underground that moves and techniques were hidden in dance. I have heard this several times from several okinawan Sensei and their family.

Two... Here is a theory about why only the Upper class trained for the most part in Okinawa.

Once again this is an oral tradition handed down but I have also heard it from several prominent western sensei who do the seminar circut. I will leave it to them to add or subtract from this story.

Think of the times, you have a military run state that has taken over your country, you are most likely starving trying to pay the taxes and to make things worse the conqurer has removed all your weapons, that means even knives to cut your food. You have a central place in the village where you have a knife tied to a post and a stump to cut your food on. Possibly there is a "constable" watching the knive on a regular basis.

Now the constable is the village sherrif, most likely a nare do well countryman of yours that is being paid by the conqurer to keep the peace. He was most likely one of the local land owners before the country was taken over, but was someone of signifigant position.

So who did the training of the martial arts in secret, the starving villagers or the local hood who was also just trying to make his way in life?

That perspective is something to think about. It takes the romance of all these villagers running off in the dead of night to train in secret, but reality would dictate they were to tired to train.

It has been suggested by some that the martial arts of okinawa were actually studied in secret by the "families of position" because they were the only ones who could afford the time and who had the energy at the end of the day.

Its an idea and I think one well worth a little thought.

Mike O'Leary

Joseph Svinth
5th January 2004, 07:47
Also look at the metaphysics. Lebra, William P. Okinawan Religion: Belief, Ritual, and Social Structure (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985) is very good.

Anyway, back in the day, before the Japanese army turned tombs into pillboxes, Okinawan grave rituals included people going out to the tomb every few months to do various rites. In between, they hired young fellows to guard the tombs from grave robbers. Somewhere, I have a Japan Times article from the 1920s on this.

In prewar Okinawa, ghosts were often believed to be real, thus the grave rites. So, you're the young guy hired to hang out in the graveyard all night. You don't really believe in ghosts, but still... So, think you might be interested in trying some of the South Chinese exorcism rituals as described in Lagerwey, John. Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History (New York: Macmillan, 1987)? Could be.

In that case, you'd be doing Southern Shaolin quarterstaff forms.

A couple other bibliographic citations:

Kreiner, Josef, editor. Sources of Ryukyuan History and Culture in European Collections (Munich: Iudicium, 1996)
Sakamaki, Shunzo. Ryukyu: A Bibliographic Guide to Okinawan Studies (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1963)
Sakihara, Mitsugu. A Brief History of Early Okinawa based on the Omoro Soshi (Tokyo: Honpo Shoseki Press, 1987)

Old Dragon
5th January 2004, 19:40

Even today, I know of families that still practice the rites at the tombs of thier ancestors. It is a big part of the Shinto religion which is a major influence in Okinawa.

Mike O'Leary.

6th January 2004, 09:40
Originally posted by Joseph Svinth
In that case, you'd be doing Southern Shaolin quarterstaff forms.
Are you saying that a certain Southern Shaolin quarterstaff form really is a form of exoricism? That would explain some strange moves you might see in Chinese martial arts. I have been told that there are similar weapon exercises in Japan but such rituals are clearly not martial.

6th January 2004, 10:31

I am not sure if the term Odo(ri) has been interpreted correctly.
There is Odo 踊 meaning dance/dancing, as most people would translate.

But as a discipline (for example Jigen Ry Bo Odo) it is sometimes listed as Odo 躍, meaning jumping. So it is quite questionable if this was really a "dance," or more
some strange moves you might see in Chinese martial arts or "weapons jumping." :cool:

6th January 2004, 22:24
William Lebra's work is very good it was one of the sources I used when doing the Ethnomusicology module on Shamanism during my Anthropology training at SOAS but seem to recall that it is mainly concerned with the female spirit mediums and local rituals and is now a little dated. That of course does not negate its value in relation to this subject as it covers a lot of interesting and relevant points. Especially in relation to the Bugeikan under Seitoku Higa and his Seido religion encouraged by his wife.
Unfortunately Lebra is a difficult work to get hold of in the UK and an expensive one.Thanks for the other references next time when I am at SOAS I will check these out.

Happy New Year.
As regards Odori there is some very springing and leaping footwork in Motobu Ryu and at the Bugeikan but they classify it as having come from dance.

As for Jigen Ryu Bo Odori I was following McCarthy's reference, who states that these Jigen Ryu Kata's were disguised as a folk dance, but I have not as far as I am aware seen these Jigen Ryu Bo Odo, though would love too. So would not be surprised at all 'if it was questionable if it was really a dance or more'especially given the Kanji.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

Joseph Svinth
6th January 2004, 22:56
Jakob --

A theory of mine is that the patterns of many traditional kata follow astrological patterns. Ever seen a Buddhist or Vedic horoscope? Check the patterns, and you'll see what I mean. There are also Chinese forms known as "star-walking," and this implies kata.

Numerology is also important.

Unfortunately, astrology doesn't tend to get much respectful academic attention, and even less in translation. This is unfortunate, as for thousands of years, it was the science of its day, and a lot of things that we would now explain in terms of physics or biochemistry used to be explained in terms of astrology.

Anyway, from Kronos, About 1275 CE:

A mathematical text called "Continuation of Ancient Mathematical Methods for Elucidating the Strange Properties of Numbers" introduces magic squares into China. Magic squares arrange numbers in such a way that the numerals along any row or diagonal always add up the same. Sample magic squares include:



The first combination of numerals is a solar pattern whose root is 5. Everything adds up to 15, and the total of all the numbers is 45. This pattern shows the full development of the five natural energies (earth, wind, fire, water, and metal), and establishes a fundament from which everything else can proceed. The second combination is a north lunar pattern whose root is the numeral 8. The columns add up to 36, and the total of all the numbers is 108. It symbolizes leadership potential and good fortune. In China, intellectuals such as Huang Kung-chin and Chiang Shu-y created "star-walks," or rhythmic moving meditations, based upon these patterns. Different planets and constellations (and hence energies) were evoked using different patterns, and the star-walks were used both for private meditation and public exorcism. Demon-slaying weapons included mallets and cleavers (butchers were often in need of exorcisms), staffs (a quarterstaff was yang, while a singlestick was ying), and sword-hands (two rigid fingers raised toward the sky). If the star-walker pointed his weapon toward heaven, the gods bowed. If the star-walker pointed his weapon toward the earth, the earth welcomed him. Finally, if he pointed the weapon at demons, they fled. Because of the quasi-theatrical nature of exorcisms, some star-walks contained flashy movement and fire-and-brimstone dialogue. Acrobatic movements and cartwheels, for instance, were used to show the perils of the priests descent into Hell, while vigorous staff and hand movements represented fights with the demons that he found there. Spins, meanwhile, accumulated the rotational energy of the Big Dipper while 90 degree turns cleansed the Five Directions. (In an article published in Black Belt in 1964, William C.C. Hu speculated that the association of kung fu, a phrase meaning "hard work," with Chinese boxing was a corruption of kang fu, a Taoist phrase meaning "Big Dipper Talisman." While an appealing theory, there is, unfortunately no way of proving or disproving the connection.) On yin days priests began their movements facing north, while on yang days, they began facing south. Spirit possession was an ever-present danger. When it happened, the movements became extremely vigorous, or even violent. Of course, violence was rarely the stated end-state objective. After all, the priest was supposed to prefer internal cleansing to external spectacle. However, people being what they are, violence was an acknowledged risk, especially for people who were not used to handling their newly discovered occult powers.


Besides Lagerwey and Hu, sources for that entry included

Boyer, Carl B. A History of Mathematics, revised by Uta C. Merzbach (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2nd edition, 1991)

Joseph, George Ghevergese. The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics (London: I.B. Tauris, 1991)

Tyrey and Brinkman, "The Luo-Shu as Taiji Boxings Secret Inner-Sanctum Training Method," Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 5:2 (1996), 74-79


As for the timing associated with death touch, something associated with African orishas is that different orishas appear at different times. Originally, the Chinese may have been trying to invoke various deities, too, and over time, this got lost, or at least left out when taught to non-believers.

7th January 2004, 12:30
Hi all,

great stuff...

A theory of mine is that the patterns of many traditional kata follow astrological patterns.

Just as you find some kind of taoist or buddhist (or mixed) symbolism in the names of Goju ry kata... The strong Chinese influence is also seen in the chronicle Chzan Seifu, for example, which uses the Chinese year-mottoes instead of Japanese (There are Chinese and Japanese versions of Chzan Seifu; I don't know if the year-mottoes differ). When Satsuma ruled Ryukyu kingdom from 1609 on, contact to China was held up, as well as Kumemura Chinese families. The Bubishi contains the considerations upon the Shizen (double-hours) and other Chinese concepts.

And the Okinawan religion is found early in history connected with martial arts: when the Shuri forces went for Oyake Akahachi in 15. century, they were not able to enter the island. Only after a Noro priestess made up a strategy (unknown to me) they were able to land on the island and overcome Oyake's forces...

Just as Taoism, Buddhism and Konfuzianuism mixed up in China over the centuries (the mixing began around 2 century A.D. or so I guess), the Okinawans mixed all that with their own religius beliefs and worship of their ancestors (the latter seems to be the real religion of Okinawa).

I have the feeling that Okinawans were always able to interpret others cultures in a very unique way. When Hirohito visited Okinawa in 19??, the Okinawans went there and stood looking; that was their interpretation of honouring the emperor. Than they went home. In Japan at that time everybody would have been to the ground when the emperor would have appeared, I guess.

To know how Okinawans handled Chinese martial art forms or Jigen Ry B odo, for example, would indeed be interesting. At least there must have been a significant change, which not always have to had been due to simple technical considerations, but also due to the obviously specific mindset they developed while dealing with "superior" cultures over the centuries.

... working on my small talk abilities ...
Andreas Quast

7th January 2004, 13:56
By the way; does any of the Okinawan styles of Karate or Kobudo made or make attempts to be recognized as a Kory by the main Japanese martial arts governing bodies???

7th January 2004, 22:43
I think I understand now (sorry if Iam late):

The lineage of Motobu Ry begins with

Sh Koshin Motobu ji Chhei

- Sh Koshin was his royal name.
- ji is the rank or titel given to the sons of a king.
- Motobu was the place where he resided.
- Chhei was his "normal" name, bearing the Ch 朝 character which all of the others princes and following first born male family members of that family also bore.

As the title ji is reserved for the sons (and maybe other relatives) of the king, the children of the ji would not bear this title anymore.

After Sh Koshin many lineages are given without titles, only the name Motobu Ch ... (Motobu Chkan, Motobu Chry etc.)

In the Bugei Ryha Daijiten on page 843 the lineage of Motobu-ha Karate is given. Although it describes the style of Motobu Chki, the lineage begins with one Motobu Chmo 本部朝茂 whose rank is given as an Aji (安司), or feudal lord.
His direct students are given as (this may not be completely correct, but the book ios from 1978):

(長男)本部朝勇 (eldest son) Motobu Chy
(ニ男)本部朝信 (second son) Motobu Chshin
(三男)本部朝基 (third son) Motobu Chki

That Motobu Chmo given in the BRD must have been one and the same person as the ones given as the teacher of the famous Motobu Chy in other lineages, because the tradition was always handed down only by and to the first son. Thus he was the father of the famous Motobu Chy.

Motobu Chmo was given with the rank of an Aji in the BRD, and as the Ryky kingdom with its rank system had been abolished at that time, he was the last of rank in the Motobu family. I suggest that all first born (male) family members of the Motobu family coming after prince Sh Koshin up to Motobu Chmo Aji must also have been of Aji rank.

(His son Motobu Chy of course had no rank anymore, because he lived from about 1865 to 1926, and the Ryky kingdom with its system of ranks had been abolished when Motobu Chy was a teenager.)


The Chzan Seifu mentions Sh Koshin as prince of Motobu (本部王子). It also mentions Motobu Chry in the first year of Yongzhen (1723) as an Aji (本部按司朝隆) and again in Qianlong 3 (1738) as an ji. Motobu Chko is mentioned 1751 as an Aji (本部按司朝恒). 1773 Motobu Chkyu is mentioned as an Aji (本部按司朝救). 1804 is mentioned Motobu Chei as an Aji (本部按司朝英). 1809 Chei is mentioned as an ji (prince), and again 1814. in 1859 Motobu Chsh is mentioned as an Aji (本部按司朝章).

(That they became ji sometimes must offer a different possibility for entering that rank apart from being the son of the king).

Of course, the Motobu family resided in the families residence in Motobu, the Motobu Udun 本部御殿. Although the name Motobu Udun-di is maybe rather pointing to this residence in Motobu than to the kings palace in Shuri, it is quite an impressive lineage.

In a modern description of a video it is distinguished between the hard techniques of Motobu Ry Tdijutsu 本部流唐手術 which is said to be meant for actual fighting - and the soft techniques of Motobu Udundi 御殿手. On the video is Moto-te 元手, Kassen-te 合戦手 (battle-hand), Kassen-b 合戦棒 (battle staff), B vs B 棒対棒, Iai 居合 und Iai-dori 居合取.

Another video deals with weapons fighting:

薙刀対箒 Naginata vs Hki (broom)
長剣対短棒 Chken (long sword) vs B
薙刀対鳥刺 Naginata vs Torisashi (bird catcher)
ヌンチャク対杖 Nunchaku vs. J
二刀対鎌 Nit vs Kama
槍対ウェーク Yari vs Eiku (oar)
長剣対山刀 Chken (long sword) vs Yamagatana (woodman's hatchet)
長剣対槍Chken (long sword) vs Yari
二刀対槍 Nit vs Yari
長剣対薙刀Chken (long sword) vs Naginata
二刀太刀 Nit Tachi
拝み手 Ogami-te (worship hand)
押し手 Oshi-te (Push/pressure hand)      
浜千鳥 Hamachidori (plover)    
槍対箒 Yari vs Hki (broom)
蛮刀対短棒 Bant (barbarian sword) vs Tanb (short b)
槍対鳥刺 Yari vs Torisashi (bird catcher)
蛮刀対杖 Bant (barbarian sword) vs J  
蛮刀対鎌Bant vs Kama 
蛮刀対ウェークBant vs Eiku
蛮刀対山刀 Bant vs Yamagatana
蛮刀対槍Bant vs Yari
蛮刀対薙刀Bant vs Naginata
薙刀対太刀 Bant vs Tachi
舞の手解説 explanation of the Mai no Te (hand dance or dancing hand)
こねり手 Koneri-te connecting/pulling hands?)
武の舞 Bu no Mai (martial dance)

When looking at that curriculum of the style, the 手 portion of Udun-di seems to show what has been said elsewhere in this forum, i.e. that Ti 手 once maybe was the name of a style which contained more than its name shows directly.

And thanks everybody because in the beginning of this thread I knew nothing about Motobu Ry. Now at least I know some Kanji, which is not bad at all. (I ordered a Motobu Udundi video...)

8th January 2004, 00:37

Just to add some references to the ones you have posted:
As for academic stuff that touches on astrology in relation to East Asian Cultures there is some stuff mostly in the realm of Religious studies and Shamanism within Anthropology and Ethnomusicology and occassionally stuff can be found in the Culture and History of Medicine.

Saso, M (1990) Blue Dragon White Tiger Taoist Rites of Passage. Washington D C Taoist Centre. Its a view on Chinese religion from a Taoist Perspective, covers some Astrological aspects from an Academic Perspective from Religious Studies. Covers some Astrological aspects and fusion of religions.
Saso was Professor Dept of religions University of Hawaii.

Unschuld, P (1985) Medicine in China: A History of Ideas. California University Press. Good chapter on Chou Period and Demonic Medicine. Other stuff on Religious healing, Buddhism and Indian Medicine and Chi.
Unschuld was and as far as I know still is Director of instute of history of Medicine at Munich University. This work is very academic and serves as a polemic against certain points in the works by Manfred Pokert.

Pokert, M (1978) The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: systems of Correspondence. MIT Press.
This covers a lot of astrology, Celestial Stems, terrestial Branhes, lunar Orbs, coupling circuit phases and energetic configurations using these.

For Chou period and adoption of the Wu from the Shang see works by Eichhorn, W.

Hori, I (1968) Folk religion in Japan: Continuity and Change. University of Chicago Press.
Covers links with Japanese and Korean folk religions. Probably one of the most important works written on Japanese folk religions.

Blacker, C (1992) The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan. Chatham. Mandala.
Blacker lectures in Japanese at Cambridge and did fieldwork in Japan among the Yamabushi (mountain Ascetics).

Korea and Okinawan Similarities in religious practices:
There is a lot of academic stuff on Korean Folk religion and Shamanism (Its been promoted as part of Southern Korean National Identity). There are some very interesting Shamanistic practices on Cheju Island of south coast of Korea, the correspondence with the stuff that William Lebra came across during his fieldwork on Okinawa is quite remarkable.

Claims of Seitoku Higa (Bugeikan Dojo of Motobu Ryu)
Now here comes the incredible claim of Seitoku Higa, founder of Seido, an Okinawan new religious movement, and former student of Seikichi Uehara and current chairman of the Motobu Ryu organization.

Apparently Te or at least a Te like martial art was taught on the site of where the present Bugeikan now stands (Higa's Dojo) by Motobu Seijin (Motobu the Sage) in 650 AD and that the first settlers who colonized Okinawa came from Nara around this time (This is paraphrased from Mark Bishop 1996:95).
Interestingly this is the same period that Statues of Buddha's were appearing from Korea in Nara.

However substantiating the claims made by Seitoku Higa is another matter.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

Joseph Svinth
8th January 2004, 02:47
Oh my. Academic German stuff. Mark Twain on that subject:

I have heard of an American student who was asked how he was getting along with his German, and who answered promptly: "I am not getting along at all. I have worked at it hard for three level months, and all I have got to show for it is one solitary German phrase--'ZWEI GLAS'" (two glasses of beer). He paused for a moment, reflectively; then added with feeling: "But I've got that SOLID!"

But, more apropos to this topic:

I [Twain] would do away with those great long compounded words; or require the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments. To wholly do away with them would be best, for ideas are more easily received and digested when they come one at a time than when they come in bulk. Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter and more beneficial to take it with a spoon than with a shovel.


8th January 2004, 09:07

only now I recognize that I never would have been able to write these posts in German!!! And even if - I would'nt have bet a penny, sorry, a German Euro Cent (DIN ISO 305427 ff etc. pp.), that I met any rule. Also, I would not use my real name to sign, but a stage name :cool:

By the way: we had a reform of the German ortography and everything is much better now. Just one example: Formerly the combined words "Sauerstoff" and "Flasche" formed "Sauerstoffflasche" written with three "f's" (of course, because a consonat followed the f's). "Schiff" and "Fahrt" made up "Schiffahrt," written with only two "f's" (of course, because a vowel follows the "f").

Now, everything is written with as many of the same consonants following one another as in the original words; Sauerstoffflasche and Schifffahrt! Truly an advancement.

It is very easy to communicate in German. One only has to disobey every rule and use ones native slang without caring if anybody understands; like the Bavarians do very succesfully. In my case this is not so easy, because I am from Duesseldorf, and if I confuse my slang with that of Cologne I may get hanged (Duesseldorf and Cologne were the archetypes of things like "east coast - west coast." In the battle of Worringen, A.D. 1288, the proud Duesseldorfer warriors conquered the barefaced Cologne). And of course, Duesseldorf has the better beer.

8th January 2004, 11:08
Really interesting stuff!

Originally posted by Shikiyanaka

蛮刀対杖 Bant (barbarian sword) vs J
Do you know if "barbarian sword" implies a European sword or a sword from some other barbarian culture:)?

8th January 2004, 11:14
European? You are trying to insult me?

Of course it's German! :p

more precisely from Duesseldorf and I am working on a lineage starting 2000 BC which directly leads to me ;)

8th January 2004, 13:01
Right! So is the "banto"-part in the kata shi-dachi or uchi-dachi? I mean, where the okinawans suspecting an invasion by the Teutonic Order or were they secrety armed by them?:D

8th January 2004, 13:28
Well, when in the 2nd century A.D. the "invasion of the barbarians" happened in Europe, there was a tribe which lost its way and finally -after some decades of traveling - reached Okinawa. That's the simple truth :D

In fact, Makiminato - the harbor of waiting - got his name not from Shunten and his mother waiting for Tametomo to return, but from the germanic tribe waiting for a ship full of beer (the Okinawan ceremonies and rituals in fact all originated from certain behaviour done by the tribe praying for the ship of beer to arrive).

One more scientific proof of that theory: Awamori is in fact a word stemming from "i-want-more" (there were some english speaking members in the tribe also).

8th January 2004, 16:01
Anyone ever heard of Killepitsch?
Andreas Quast

8th January 2004, 16:55
No, but I have had it as a drink, I think. Is it used on the attacking or recieving side? ;)

8th January 2004, 19:11
It is also from Duesseldorf, which is a hint to the fact that the Duesselorf martial arts traditions have been overseen for quite some time.

Is it used on the attacking or recieving side?

In secret old documents Killepitsch has been traditionally described as a MPMAB (multiple purpose martial arts brewage). First it is used as a warm up and to relax the muscles of the tongue. After insulting begins, it is poured into the opponents eyes - the one who pours first has the advantage. After all participants are completely exhausted, it is used to disinfect wounds and as a anaesthesia when surgical operations become necessary. Next morning it is used against the headache! It's a vicious circle...

Of course you can also run your car with it, daze dangerous dogs, use it as a fire accelerant, kill vampires and many other useful thing for daily life.:beer:

8th January 2004, 23:56
'Intellectual food is like any other; it is pleasanter and more beneficial to take it with a spoon than with a shovel'.
I take your point, but hey I am an Academic (Sorry).

As for Academic German stuff, there were only 2 such references (Blacker is English, Pokert is American, Sasso is Chinese, Hori is Japanese, Unschuld I believe is German and all with the exception of Eichorn (who wrote in German) wrote in better English and substantiated what they were writing (using primary sources) better than a lot of academic stuff I have read by English speaking authors on the same subjects.

Just in case I was misunderstood in relation to Higa's claims:

When I say incredible claims made by Seitoku Higa I mean claims that cannot in both my humble and professional academic opinion be substantiated by any evidence whatsoever and probably never could be. 650AD indeed! That would make Higa's claims about certain things which have recently been incorporated into Motobu Ryu older than the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu (oldest Documented Japanese Ryu). Some of Higa's other claims are also dubious.

The whole thing underlying Motobu Ryu is Okinawan Nationalism, a form of nationalism that differs very little from that of Southern Korea an exemplar of East Asian Nationalistic forms (Korean Shamanism has become an intangible cultural assett through Dance).

A lot of the more recent stuff in Motobu Ryu has been added making it a composite system, or as we say in academia: 'it is a construction' and like all constructions is one with a specific purpose and in this case has a specific victim. That is what underlies the whole thing of this so called humble and not so humble origins over Te/Ti.

Best Regards

Chris Norman

9th January 2004, 10:57
What's the problem? German is so easy... I speak it fluent! ;)

Yesterday I saw a Motobu Udun-di Video.

The english translator always pronounced the technical parts of the style just the same as the Japanese speaker, i.e.
Motobu Odondi-wa
maybe I am wrong, but I guess that is quite funny :p

It is said in the beginning: "Presently Motobu Odondi-wa (:p) is not a style of karate or jd, but it is an original Ryky style..."

The practitioners wear karate-gi, some jd-gi, and one practitioner a black jacket.

The Moto-de shown looks like some kind of long Sanchin, done with both open and closed hands by different practitioners.

Kassen-te looked like a kata mainly made of Mae-geri, Nukite, Morote-nukite, Shut-uke. There was Kiai and also Rei at the end. Some Nukite may have been grips (in one of the Shut-uke Mae-geri combinations one practitioner seemed to fall into Kusanku kata).

A Bunkai seen looks compeltely like in some Karate styles.

All the weapons are trained in kata fashion. The applications or practice are mostly done against multiple attackers; this and the way it is done indeed is the thing which strongly reminds of the videos known from the old Ueshiba Morihei. It is not the techniques, it is the way it is practiced and the attackers sensible reaction.

Kassen-b also is a kata.

The J used here is more tsue (walking stick).

10th January 2004, 01:01

Is this the video called Motobu Ryu Bu Jutsu featuring Seikichi Uehara?

Best Regards

Chris Norman

10th January 2004, 17:18
Is this the video called Motobu Ryu Bu Jutsu featuring Seikichi Uehara?


the English text on it reads:
Okinawa Bujutsu. Master Seikichi Uehara.
It's a BAB Production (licensed for Nikko T. Press). 45 min.

The main Japanese title reads:
Ryky ke Hiden Motobu Odon-di
(Ryky Royal-Family Secret Motobu Palace Style)

Do you know it?

10th January 2004, 22:13
Yes I know of the video, I mentioned it to a colleague with whom I shared a Dojo and trained under for a while who teaches what he believes to be Uehara's version of Te. He tried rather unsuccessfully to get hold of a copy. Though he does have some original footage of a training session taken at the Bugeikan where his Sensei (who also trained under Uehara) trained under Seitoku Higa (So I suspect he might be doing the Bugeikan version).

'The Moto-de shown looks like some kind of long Sanchin, done with both open and closed hands by different practitioners'.

It is likely that this kata is Moto-te Sanchin (it should be a very soft version of a Sanchin Kata lacking the forceful breathing seen in some Naha based styles)its usually the first thing taught to beginners in Motobu Ryu. Its meant to help break some habits Karate practitioners have by getting them to stretch out more in preparation for the grappling aspects.

'Kassen-te looked like a kata mainly made of Mae-geri, Nukite, Morote-nukite, Shut-uke'.

These sound like the basic striking techniques that are taught to beginners along with the foot patterns after Moto te Sanchin has been learnt.

Were the hands kept in front of the body, with the rear fist held near the elbow of the leading arm in order to execute the strikes?
Was the footwork in the video low (Naha type) or Higher up (Shuri Type) with very springy footwork rising up on to balls of toes with the execution of techniques?

Reason I ask is that people in Shihan Toma's organization in their version of Motobu Ryu Te/Ti/De/Di tend to uses the lower down Naha type stances, where as Mark Bishop, who trained with Uehara and Seitoku Higa shows much higher up Shuri type stances.

This issue over footwork and stances is something that I have been trying to get to the bottom of quite some time now as each group says that their version is the correct one and that the other one is not correct.

Also did the grip on the Bo have the index finger pointing along the length of the shaft and involve a Tenkan type leaping movement with the Bo being swept low?

Did Seikichi Uehara himself demonstrate any techniques?

Best Regards

Chris Norman

12th January 2004, 11:21
Hi Chris,

first of all in the beginning - when the video showed everybody training and doing something - one person did some kata moves looking like one of the Naifanchi and the corresponding bunkai I guess. It looked like very, very long matured work to me, but I am no expert.

Were the hands kept in front of the body, with the rear fist held near the elbow of the leading arm in order to execute the strikes?

In the Karate Bunkai the older guy who did the Kata moves put emphasis on this, with both palms facing upwards.
I will check it the video if this also used in the Kassen-te.

Was the footwork in the video low (Naha type) or Higher up (Shuri Type) with very springy footwork rising up on to balls of toes with the execution of techniques?

The average posture was of comparatively high type, I mean, there were simply no deep stances! (High stances are high, low stances are real low) :)

Also did the grip on the Bo have the index finger pointing along the length of the shaft and involve a Tenkan type leaping movement with the Bo being swept low?

I saw the index finger stretched one time, but it was not like a special habit, at least not that I noticed it. The techniques shown against multiple attackers were mostly repeatet within one round of attackers. The Bo was used mostly to lever the attacker between the grip, the bo and the arm, so that he has to fall forward. And that was done to everybody in the "round." Maybe this was just an example, and indeed a good practice in terms of repetition with changing directions and changing maai.

Did Seikichi Uehara himself demonstrate any techniques?

Seikichi Uehara himself observed the trainings of the different categories. Within the technical part he showed Bjutsu against multiple attackers. The ending part of the video is Seikichi Uehara doing 3 or 4 demonstration, showing defensens against multiple armed attackers. He defended mostly armed himself, but one "round" also unarmed. One technique was called "the whirlwind," meaning that the attackers are in a circle and attack one after another, and Uehara cared for everyone. As this involves changing directions and distance, the leaping type of body movement may stems from this kind of multiple attackers training.

12th January 2004, 22:19
Hi Andreas,
Thanks for the detailed response.
Definitely be interesting to know if the same hand position is used in the Kassen-te.

As for the high stances that seems characteristic of the stuff that I have seen that has come from Uehara's Motobu Ryu.
So looks like Shihan Toma's group have just incorporate the tuite from Motobu Ryu into their Naha based Kempo and not taken it on wholesale (Which is what I figured).

The finger stretched on the Bo I mentioned may well be the Bugeikan version, seen photos of Seitoku Higa using this grip where its been labelled Motobu Ryu Te glaive versus spear.

What was Uehara's unarmed technique?
I mean was it obviously Karate or did it look like something else?

Best Regards

Chris Norman

13th January 2004, 23:45
Well, when in the 2nd century A.D. the "invasion of the barbarians" happened in Europe, there was a tribe which lost its way and finally -after some decades of traveling - reached Okinawa. That's the simple truth

Josef Kreiner: Sources of Rykyan History and Culture in European Collections, p. 19:

"A letter from Andrade dated August 10, 1518. speaks of the islands od Lequeos, 200 leagues from China, where important gold mines are to be found and all merchant wares of China are stored. The people of this island country are said to be white like the Germans."